Barbershop Next Cut posterBarbershop: The Next Cut is the second sequel (or maybe the third if you count the spin-off, Beauty Shop) to the 2002 surprise hit, Barbershop, about a day in the life of a barbershop on the South Side of Chicago. The shop, run by Calvin (Ice Cube) serves as a lifeline to the community. But the community is changing. And in The Next Cut, Calvin is contemplating moving his family, and the shop, to the North Side to protect his teenage son from the gang violence permeating the streets. Cedric the Entertainer is back as the comic relief, playing Eddie, a barber who can’t be trusted with scissors or a razor, but is there to tell it like it is. The movie gets a bit heavy-handed with the messaging and a few sub-plots are more of a distraction than a delight. But it means well. It’s got heart, and enough humor to prevent it from being another Chi-Raq. It ties up way too neatly in the end, given the current climate on the South Side, but overall, the movie provides an accessible and timely message worth sharing with teenagers, regardless of demographic and locale.

The Dark Horse posterThe Dark Horse is a solid indie from New Zealand (the folks who brought you the excellent Whale Rider back in 2002). It’s based on the true story of a chess champion with Bipolar Disorder who finds new purpose teaching chess to a group of underprivileged kids and taking them to the national championships. Actor Cliff Curtis could very well be remembered next award season for his excellent portrayal of the lead character, Genesis Potini. Curtis does a phenomenal job showing the depth of Genesis’s struggle to stay on his meds and not only survive, but thrive, in a complicated world where the only family he has is tied up in a violent gang sub-culture. The movie can be a bit slow at times and the accents take some adjusting to, but ultimately, this is a feel-good indie (when it’s not being dark) that should appeal to fans of chess, biopics, and documentaries like Wordplay and Mad, Hot Ballroom.

First Monday in May posterSpeaking of documentaries, there’s a new documentary out – just in time to raise the profile of the annual fundraising extravaganza for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The First Monday in May pulls back the curtain on the planning and execution of the Met Gala by tracking the creation of the 2015 exhibition, “China: Through the Looking Glass”, an exploration of Chinese-inspired Western fashions. The ‘main characters’ are the Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton and the chief architect of the gala, Vogue editor Anna Wintour who is credited with turning the event into the ‘Superbowl of fashion galas’. It’s not a great documentary. It drags a bit in the middle and takes too long to end (there are snippets that feel shoe-horned in there, likely for political reasons since the event is all about power-brokering among fashion’s elite and the celebrities who wear them – so to speak). But it’s likely to be a treat for anyone who is obsessed with red-carpet awards shows, watches America’s Next Top Model or Project Runway, or reads Vogue religiously. For everyone else, it has some interesting moments, but isn’t a must-see. That said, I will be paying a bit more attention to what transpires in NYC on the next First Monday in May.

For more on the above-mentioned movies, as well as lively discussion about this week’s other new releases including The Jungle Book and Criminal, check out the latest Cinema Clash podcast with Charlie and Hannah. You can listen each weekend on the internet radio station , usually about 5:05 p.m. on Saturday evenings and 9:05 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

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