“Captain Phillips” Film Review

“Captain Phillips” – tense, suspenseful thriller

3 stars (out of 4)


If working opposite Hollywood star Tom Hanks is intimidating for an acting newbie, Barkhad Abdi certainly doesn’t let it show.

In his debut role as Somali pirate captain Muse (pronounced Moo-seh), Abdi portrays a man who is brutal, proud and relentless in his pursuit of American coin and the respect of his fellow marauders. He is unpredictable and desperate, yet Muse reveals tiny glimpses of his humanity beneath the violence.

In contrast, Hanks’ Captain Phillips is practical and commanding, demonstrated first by a conversation with wife Andrea – Catherine Keener in her only scene – and later by his firm interaction with his crew when their coffee break lasts a little too long. Phillips is so levelheaded, he succeeds in keeping his composure through life-threatening circumstances up until a beautifully acted moment, when the horror of what he’s been through finally sinks in.

Based on the true story of the 2009 Maersk Alabama ship hijacking by Somali pirates, “Captain Phillips” is a film about two men from different worlds, both fighting for their lives. Muse, seemingly driven by greed and poverty, becomes Phillips’ captor. Hinting at the stark disparity between life in first world and third-world countries, Phillips (referred to as “Irish” by the pirates due to his Yankee-Irish background) says to Muse, “There’s got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people.”

“Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America,” Muse replies.

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Singer-songwriter Kaye Fox

Singer-songwriter Kaye Fox.
Singer-songwriter Kaye Fox. (Official website kayefox.com)

By Sadé Carpenter

At age 7, Kaye Fox already knew what she wanted to be when she grew up – a singer. What she didn’t know though, is she would end up singing background vocals for mainstream artists Nas, Common, Rick Ross and Kanye West.

Fox’s foray into music began at west side school St. Malachy. Overheard in music class, she was asked later to sing at Sunday mass.

“I had to stand on a stool to sing and the response was so, so overwhelmingly good,” said Fox. “I instantly felt like, ‘this is probably what I’m supposed to do.’”

Now 27, Fox is pursuing her passion. Born Kim Jefferson in Charleston, S.C., Fox’s family moved to Chicago when she was 4. She grew up listening to gospel, mimicking her favorite artists to teach herself how to sing.

Fox sang in her church choir as well as gospel and concert choirs at her high school, Proviso West in Hillside. She said she is grateful for being able to attend a school with a diverse performing arts program.

“That was key to giving me an expanded knowledge on music,” Fox said.

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Chicago actress embraces diversity, imperfection onstage

Chicago Actress Niccole Thurman. Photo courtesy of niccolethurman.com
Chicago actress Niccole Thurman. Photo courtesy of niccolethurman.com

By Sadé Carpenter

Second City alumna Tina Fey hosted the premiere episode of Saturday Night Live (SNL) last Saturday, now in its 39th season.  As she introduced the six new cast members, it was hard not to notice one detail – all of them are white, and only one is female.

Following the episode, media outlets raised questions about the show’s absence of color. In an interview with theGrio, Jay Pharoah, one of the two black cast members, shared his opinion that SNL should be more diverse, and could start by hiring a black woman.

Niccole Thurman, a biracial actress, singer and improviser based in Chicago, can relate. Featured in “What the Tour Guide Didn’t Tell You: A Chicago Review” at The Second City’s UP Comedy Club, Thurman says it is noticeable when a multiracial society isn’t reflected onstage.

“It can be challenging to be a woman in comedy, it can be challenging to be a minority in comedy,” she said. “My parents are black & white – why can’t we represent that onstage or onscreen?”

There should be more diversity in theater, Thurman says, but not solely in an attempt to fill a quota. Drawn to roles that allow her to highlight a person’s imperfections, she says she embraces her differences and believes they help her stand out when she auditions.

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Chaos is the nature of the universe

Edgar Blackmon and Ross Bryant after performing their "Struggle Rap." /Photo by Clayton Hauck for Second City
Edgar Blackmon and Ross Bryant after performing their “Struggle Rap.” Photo by Clayton Hauck for Second City

VIENNA, 1918 – A young woman arrives late to her music lesson and is immediately scolded by her cantankerous music teacher, who she secretly loves. As he lectures her on the importance of being punctual, she slowly removes her broken violin from its case in preparation for the lesson.

Blind, the music teacher doesn’t know her instrument is ruined until she attempts to play. He quickly catches on, and also begins to see that she is in love with him. “He’s like my salami – a mystery inside,” she sings sweetly, drawing the bow delicately across the violin’s severed strings. “Play on, my love!” he belts out, revealing his mutual affection.

The Second City’s 101st Revue, “Let Them Eat Chaos,” is filled with humorous yet unexpectedly sentimental sketches like these. Played by Ross Bryant and Nicole C. Hastings (filling the roles normally played by Holly Laurent), the Austrian teacher and student are just one odd couple among many used to illustrate the show’s running theme, “you’re always someone to someone.”

“Let Them Eat Chaos” opens with the entire cast – Bryant, Hastings, Edgar Blackmon, Steve Waltien, Niccole Thurman (in the role normally performed by Tawny Newsome) and Chelsea Devantez (her role is normally played by Katie Rich) – appearing onstage and taking a suggestion from the audience. An audience member shouts “turtle,” and the ensemble immediately begins to improvise scenes revolving around the word. From this point on, the actors segue seamlessly from one sketch to another.

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Shops and Lofts at 47: Transforming Bronzeville or an Unlikely Solution?

Shops and Lofts at 47, Cottage Grove, 47th Street, Chicago, Bronzeville
This commercial and residential construction project, The Shops and Lofts at 47 in Bronzeville, is expected to be completed in 2014. It will feature a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market and mixed-income housing units. (photo/Ali Trumbull)

By Ali Trumbull and Sadé Carpenter

After seven years of changes and setbacks, The Shops and Lofts at 47 at the corner of 47th Street and Cottage Grove in the Bronzeville neighborhood have broken ground.

The project should be finished sometime in 2014 with a 41,000 square-foot Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, 14,000 square-foot local retail space and 96 rental apartments.

An effort to improve and transform the Bronzeville neighborhood, the rental apartments will be mixed-use with 28 units receiving both Chicago Housing Authority and Low Income Housing Tax Credit subsidies, 44 units receiving low-income tax credit subsidies, and 24 units will be market price.

“From a community perspective the deeper question is, was there or is there a community benefit from the agreement that in fact empowers the lower income community from a bottom-up perspective,” Harold Lucas, the President and CEO of Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council said. “I assure you that was not there.”

Lucas is also the Director of the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center. He’s thankful that something is happening to improve the Bronzeville neighborhood’s housing and retail options, but does not think this project is empowering the lower and middle class.

“For the city of Chicago to put an anchor project on Cottage Grove that doesn’t tell us how it fits more broadly with the other things that are happening west of there, it is to me like putting a Trojan horse into a community and taking that community over,” Lucas said.

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Tornadoes Wreak Havoc on Midwest

On Sunday, May 19, tornadoes were spotted in five states. According to the National Weather Service, as many as 26 tornadoes were reported in Kansas, Illinois, Iowa and Oklahoma. Reports show that Kansas and Oklahoma were hit the hardest, with at least one man killed and 21 injured in Oklahoma. For coverage including photos, videos, tweets and more, click the following link.

[View the story “Midwest Hit With Severe Weather ” on Storify]

Riders React to Red Line El Closure

CTA, Red Line, Chicago, Sox-35th
Terrence Woods, 16, and Frank Lewis, 14, arrive at the Sox-35th stop. They use the Red Line daily. (Photo/Sadé Carpenter)

By Sadé Carpenter

Red Line El riders are concerned about long travel delays and safety as the May 19 South Branch Reconstruction Project start date approaches.

Several riders said they fear a more chaotic commute, and some worry that additional bus and shuttle services won’t be enough to avoid a considerable inconvenience to Red Line passengers.

Frank Lewis, an Uplift Community High School student from Armour Square, takes the Red Line daily from Sox-35th. He said he travels to the Wilson stop to get to school. Lewis said he heard a month ago about the closure on the news, and is upset about the construction, he said.

“I feel bad for people who work far from home,” Lewis said. “How will they get to work?”

The Red Line Dan Ryan branch – Cermak-Chinatown through 95th/Dan Ryan – will be closed for five months, beginning May 19. During the closure, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) will completely rebuild the tracks and drainage systems in order to provide speedier and more reliable service, according to the CTA website.

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Skills of Convergent Journalists

By Sadé Carpenter

As reporting methods evolve, journalists must refresh current technical skills as well as learn new techniques in order to keep up with new roles in converged newsrooms.

The journalism basics of writing, reporting and interviewing remain, but journalists today must structure content to fit each medium – print, online and broadcast. Journalists must also understand the importance of teamwork in a converged newsroom setting.

Our textbook, “Principles of Convergent Journalism,” lists five reporting skills needed by convergent journalists today:

• Editing
• Photography
• Videography
• Graphics Design
• Web Design

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