With a New ‘Barbershop,’ Malcolm D. Lee Blends Comedy and Commentary

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — In the 2002 comedy “Barbershop,” the most worrisome problem facing the shop owner Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube) is a duplicitous loan shark who wants to turn the neighborhood fixture into a strip club. Two years later, in “Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” Calvin’s biggest headache is competition frlightbulbom Nappy Cutz, a national franchise opening up across the street that, according to Calvin’s own clients, boasts “honeys in bikinis” serving wine to clients and live fish in the floor that customers can have fried, grilled or “fondued.”

In “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” which opens this week, Calvin’s problems are considerably worse than just evil moneylenders and rival shops. Money is still tight; to make ends meet, he’s sharing space and chairs with a beauty salon run by Angie (Regina Hall). But larger troubles are looming right outside the barbershop’s doors, on the streets of Chicago’s South Side. Kids and cashiers are getting shot over trifles; in one darkly comic scene, the denizens of the shop try to one-up one another over who’s been robbed most often.

“I wanted to do a movie about what’s really going on in Chicago,” Ice Cube explained.

But how does one begin to make a funny movie about gun violence, a devastating problem in Chicago, which has experienced a sharp rise in shootings this year? The “Barbershop” franchise (two movies and a 2005 TV series) has occasionally glanced at serious subjects. When the shop’s elder, Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), poked fun at Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. in the first film, black leaders, including Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, called for a public apology from the studio MGM. But the franchise seemed an unlikely vehicle to address the topic of gun violence on Chicago’s South Side — even if the shop’s location is at ground zero of the conflict.

To take on the challenge — and revive the series after a 12-year hiatus — a producer, Robert Teitel, turned to Malcolm D. Lee, the director of “The Best Man,” the 1999 ensemble movie, and its 2013 sequel, “The Best Man Holiday.” Both films had been box-office hits, and both required Mr. Lee to mesh comic moments with dramatic scenes revolving around topics like infidelity, work woes and cancer. “If you look at the actors that I cast in ‘Best Man,’ Terrence Howard, Harold Perrineau, they’re not comedic actors,” he said. “But they’re great actors who can embody a role and make it funny.”

He had also directed large ensemble casts on both “Best Man” films — handy experience for the latest “Barbershop,” which, at any given moment, might have more than a dozen actors (including Nicki Minaj in a major role) vying for lines in a confined space. “You’re talking about 75 percent of your movie being in one room,” Mr. Lee said. “That’s a lot of time to be in a shop with 15 people in a single scene.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Lee was in a suite at the Beverly Hilton here talking about the challenges of directing “Barbershop: The Next Cut.” In a crisp white T-shirt and black jeans, tall and goateed and (fittingly) freshly shorn, the 46-year-old director might easily be mistaken for one of the dapper, lovelorn characters in his films.

One of Mr. Lee’s main concerns was finding the right balance between humor and drama. “Tone was big,” he said. “I wanted to make sure the emotional spine was right. But I also wanted to make sure we never let the audience forget that they’re in a comedy.”

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Although the film is an ode of sorts to Chicago, with shout-outs to deep dish pizza and Oprah Winfrey, Mr. Lee is a proud New Yorker, born in Queens in 1970 and raised in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “I claim Brooklyn more than anyplace else,” he said. Growing up, he watched a lot of movies. “I was a big John Hughes fan, and I remember seeing those quirky coming-of-age movies where I wasn’t represented. I’d see that little black extra that’s walking by and go, what’s that kid’s story? That’s probably my story.”

In Miami, Cuban Culture, No Passport Required

Just when I thought I’d had enough for one evening, an Afro-Cuban-American gentleman pulled me off the bustling Calle Ocho and into a room jammed with dancers bouncing up and down to the beat of congas. No, this wasn’t a ’90s-style rave; this was the normally unassuming lounge at Top Cigars, a cigar shop in Miami’s Little Havana. I recognized the owner, Cristobal Mena, from an exchange we’d had that morning at a Cuban restaurant across the street about what constitutes a classic Cuban dish. Now, I was hopping in a sea of his patrons on the famous boulevard that is the social and commercial hub of Little Havana.

The occasion was Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays), the last Friday of each month when the storied neighborhood hosts what feels like a block party on Calle Ocho (actually Southwest Eighth Street) between 13th and 17th Avenues. The monthly festival serves as a showcase of what this Cuban-American enclave has to offer. Painters and artisans mingle with the crowds. Music from Latin bands intermixes, and double-decker buses unpack tourists while the smells of arroz con pollo, fried plantains and cafe Cubano drift from restaurants and cafecito windows. As soon as you step onto the street, lined with wide sidewalks and colorful facades, the music fairly insists that either your shoulders or your hips move, not necessarily together.

Here in this adaptation of Havana, where the thrum of the old country persists, proposed zoning changes have led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to place a portion of Little Havana on its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2015.

American Crime Story: People vs. O.J. Simpson

Tuesday’s finale of “American Crime Story: The People vs. O. J. Simpson” on FX wrapped up an addictive, multifaceted look at “the trial of the century” and how its lessons on race, gender, celebrity and social class still haunt the country more than 20 year later. It also brought a blessed end to the weekly torments visited upon Christopher Darden, the co-prosecutor who, along with Marcia Clark, fails to convict Mr. Simpson of double homicide in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

[Recap: “The People v. O.J. Simpson” Finale]

As Mr. Darden, the actor Sterling K. Brown has been the agonized face of a sure-thing prosecution gone horribly awry. Mr. Brown exposes the raw emotions of a man whose commitment to justice was answered by setbacks, ridicule and, finally, a “not guilty” verdict after only four hours of deliberation.

Though Mr. Brown has found consistent work in television and film for more than a decade, his performance stands to be the one true breakthrough in a cast loaded with familiar faces. On the weekend before the finale, Mr. Brown chatted on the telephone about Mr. Darden’s terrible poker face and the experience of being part of a water-cooler show. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

The Empowerment Campaign and its Dividends

SDM MAGAZINE

There is one image from these last few days in Colorado that is going to stick with me, and it is perhaps an unlikely one.  Gabe Cohen , a 33-year-old white guy in a Patagonia jacket, knocks on the screen door of a ranch house belonging to middle-aged black voter. “Hi there,” he says. “I’m with the president’s campaign.” The voter smiles. That’s it. What struck me right then was the power in the word “president,” and the power of what it meant, in that racially mixed neighborhood on the outskirts of Denver, for that word to mean not “them,” but “us.” And that, for a fleeting moment at least, the “us” here was a kind of community encompassing both a white Jewish kid and an older black man. It is an aspirational “us” that, as we saw last night, drove Latinos, and young people, and women, and African-Americans to the…

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Maxwell Hitting the Road for 6 Super-Sexy Concerts – Will You Be There?

SDM MAGAZINE

TUESDAY APR 17, 2012 – BY  BRITNI DANIELLE  — Just in time for summer, soul singer Maxwell recently announced that he’ll be crisscrossing the country to perform at areas in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Newark for two nights only. During his  6 show tour , Maxwell will perform each of his albums in their entirety. On the first night, the  Fortunate  crooner will perform each song from his critically acclaimed debut  Urban Hang Suite  and follow-up effort  Embrya , and he’ll tackle  Now  and his latest effort BLACKsummers’night  the second night. While the shows will definitely be all about Maxwell and his art, the singer wants to give a little something something back as well. At the concerts, fans will also be able to purchase Obama-Biden t-shirts, stickers, and other merchandise that will support the President’s reelection campaign.

Check out Maxwell doing what he does best…live! 

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New Music: Jennifer Lopez Feat. French Montana, Big Sean, Tyga And DJ Khaled ‘I Luh Ya Papi (Remix)’

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Here’s a true monster remix to set New York City off for the summer. Ms. Jenny From The Block has finally delivered her much talked about “Luh Ya Papi (Remix).” With DJ Khaled behind the wheel, JLo taps her boys French Montana, Tyga and Big Sean to turn this party up. Taking cues from Jay Z’s 2000-smash “Hey Papi,” Jennifer and the boys show out for the dancefloors. Jenny’s 10th studio album is set to be released on June 17 and features appearances from Robin Thicke, and a duet with Maxwell. Here’s a true monster remix to set New York City off for the summer. Ms. Jenny From The Block has finally delivered her much talked about “Luh Ya Papi (Remix).” With DJ Khaled behind the wheel, JLo taps her boys French Montana, Tyga and Big Sean to turn this party up. Taking cues from Jay Z’s 2000-smash “Hey Papi,” Jennifer and the boys show out for the dancefloors. Jenny’s 10th studio album is set to be released on June 17 and features appearances from Robin Thicke, and a duet with Maxwell.

Here’s a true monster remix to set New York City off for the summer. Ms. Jenny From The Block has finally delivered her much talked about “Luh Ya Papi (Remix).” With DJ Khaled behind the wheel, JLo taps her boys French Montana, Tyga and Big Sean to turn this party up. Taking cues from Jay Z’s 2000-smash “Hey Papi,” Jennifer and the boys show out for the dancefloors.

Jenny’s 10th studio album is set to be released on June 17 and features appearances from Robin Thicke, and a duet with Maxwell.

CHECK IT OUT ON SOUNDCLOUD BELOW:

https://soundcloud.com/jenniferlopez/jlo-i-luh-ya-papi-dj-khaled-remix-featuring-french-montana-big-sean-and-tyga?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=wtshare&utm_medium=Twitter&utm_content=https://soundcloud.com/jenniferlopez/jlo-i-luh-ya-papi-dj-khaled-remix-featuring-french-montana-big-sean-and-tyga