THE DANCERS ON THE DANCE FLOOR looked to me like one large flower with its petals spreading apart to reveal its stamens; except in this case, the stamens were a man and woman swirling around each other. The people around them moved to the outer edges of the dance floor to give the couple plenty of room to “perform.” The event was a holiday party that was being held at a hotel’s ballroom; everyone was dressed up for the evening. This couple had been dancing together for decades and was not the least shy about being the first ones on the dance floor. Watching them dance, I had to wonder if they had either asked the DJ to play a certain song or hand him one that they brought along with them to the event. They were flawless as they let the music guide them around the floor, perfectly in synch at all times. Where some people dance to be seen; I did not sense that in this couple. They genuinely seemed to be enjoying each other as they ebbed and flowed into a variety of dance steps and movements, letting the music flow through them and come out of their feet. As I continued to watch them, I recalled a time when I used to go out dancing almost every weekend at a club. THERE WAS A PARTICULAR SPOT I liked to stand in, at this one club, where I could see everyone on the dance floor. It was an elevated area that had a long ledge made of steel to match the walls around the dance floor. From this point, I had the crowded bar to my back while I could lean on the ledge to scan the never-ending flow of people coming on and off the dance floor. After a time, I was able to recognize certain “dancers” who stood out for various reasons. There was one guy who danced to be seen. Rarely did he ever pay attention to his partner because he was too busy looking for approval from everyone around him. There was another dancer who enjoyed themselves despite rarely being able to dance on the beat. This was a person that intrigued me because I wanted to find out what they were hearing that caused them to miss the beat. What I loved about the dance floor with its dancers was seeing the utter abandonment many displayed in just letting their bodies move to the music and enjoying themselves. They were not looking for approval, acceptance or acknowledgment; they simply wanted to dance. For those interested, you can see what that looks like in this musical comedy. DURING THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS INTERVIEW HIGH school student Quinn Ackerman, played by Sabrina Carpenter (The Hate U Give, Horns), saw an opportunity to increase her chances for acceptance. The only issue was she would have to learn how to dance. With Keiynan Lonsdale (The Finest Hours; Love, Simon) as Julliard Pembroke, Liza Koshy (Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween, Freakish-TV) as Jasmine Hale, Briana Andrade-Gomes (Suicide Squad, The Next Step-TV) as Trinity and Naomi Snieckus (Saw: The Final Chapter, Mr. D-TV) as Maria Ackerman; this movie’s motivation was all due to the dancing. Though I enjoyed the dancing scenes, the story was in step with better made dance films such as Footloose and Flashdance. There was some fun, humorous scenes; but overall, the story was predictable, and I am sad to say, the acting was only average. Now despite all of this, I would not say watching this movie would be a total waste of time; however, for those who are not interested in dance, you will find this film keeps stepping on the wrong beat and on your feet.
2 ¼ stars
Each of us in the neighborhood had one special individual we wanted to be. For me it was Batman; for my friend, they wanted to be Superman. There was a girl down the street who idolized Wonder Woman. She would wear a metal bracelet on each of her wrists and pretend she was blocking any type of projectiles. During those years everyone’s idol was a superhero; no one wanted to be the neighborhood’s butcher or tailor. As far as I can remember there was only one real person I used to be somewhat obsessive about, wanting to be them. It was Bruce Lee; how I used to wish I was just like him. Seeing him as the sidekick Kato in the Green Hornet series, I was fascinated with his dual identities of being a chauffeur but also having the capabilities to take down a villain with his bare hands. Then there were his martial arts movies where I would study all of his moves and try to reproduce them in the safety of my bedroom when no on was nearby. I took a jump rope, knotting it in the center to shorten its length, so I could use it as nunchakus. My idea was to blend into a crowd but if I was ever threatened I could immediately subdue the perpetrator. Now in my adult life there has not been anyone I have wanted to be, unlike the character in this film. UNEMPLOYED Raul Peralta, played by Alfredo Castro (Post Mortem, No), was convinced he could be Tony Manero from the movie Saturday Night Fever. When he found out a contest was going to be held to find the Chilean Tony Manero, Raul would not let anyone or anything stop him from winning the prize. This film festival winner from Chile was a bit freaky for me. There was a mix of drama, comedy, nudity, with some intense violence; it took me by surprise to tell you the truth. Part of the cast included Hector Morales (Super, My Last Round) as Goyo, Elsa Poblete (A Cab for Three, No) as Wilma and Amparo Noguera (Post Mortem, A Thief and his Wife) as Cony; each of them did a good job in portraying characters who were lost, broken individuals. I do not know if it was the script or maybe just the whole concept to the story, but it kept me engaged in a warped type of way. This could be attributed to the darkness that played a part in several scenes. I would bounce from being amused to being horrified based on what was taking place in a particular scene. Obsession is not thought of as a positive thing; I can see why based on this movie. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
It is not to see who will win that keeps my attention at competition events; it is the way the contest does not have any discrimination that attracts me. Having been exposed to the ugliness of prejudice at a young age, I tend to seek out things that create a level playing field for all. Whether it is a singing, dancing, musical or sporting activity; I enjoy seeing people from all over the world, from all walks of life coming together to perform the same activity. I never understood why country, race, religion or even physical appearance should matter to someone. Shouldn’t being human suffice? I admire the participants in any type of physical venue due to my background in fitness. Add in some music and I love it more; so, this dance competition movie was something I was curious to see. Inspired by the documentary film Planet B-Boy, the story revolved around a premier international dance crew competition that attracted teams from all over the world. America had not won in 15 years and Dante Graham, played by Laz Alonso (Jarhead, Constantine) wanted to change that statistic. Josh Holloway (Paranoia, Lost-TV) played former championship basketball coach Jason Blake who was hired by Dante to train a team of dancers to bring home the championship. Caity Lotz (The Pact, Death Valley-TV) as choreographer Stacy and Josh Peck (Red Dawn, The Wackness) as assistant Franklyn would help Coach Blake in this quest. My biggest complaint about this musical dance film was the awful way they filmed the dance routines. I did not understand why they were filmed either in slow or fast motion, making them look cartoonish. If the idea was to bring together the best dancers to form a team then I wanted to see them actually dance. The story was completely lame with all of its stereotypical cliches and ideas. With uninspired dialog the acting was simply pathetic. Josh looked like he was about to cry in every single scene. Maybe he had a clue on how bad this movie was turning out. The two best parts for me in watching this film were not paying to see it in 3D and the enjoyment of listening to a couple of good songs that were used during a few of the dance segments. I plan on viewing the documentary Planet B-Boy and if you are interested in seeing some real dancing, I recommend you take a pass on this film and get the documentary also.
1 1/3 stars
I figured out the purpose for these Step Up movies. They are the assisted living homes for the former dancers of the television show, So You Think You Can Dance. After the dancers end their run on the TV show, they participate in these movies. Maybe some will progress to other acting roles; but the majority, I believe, will remain long term residents. In this latest version, former SYTYCD contestant Kathryn McCormack played Emily, the daughter of a wealthy property developer. Accompanying her dad to Miami where he had business dealings; Emily met Sean, played by former Calvin Klein underwear model Ryan Guzman, down by the beach. It just so happened everyone around was dancing; imagine that. Besides working at the hotel where Emily and her Dad were staying, Sean was a leader of a dance flash mob called The Mob. When her father’s development plan jeopardized Sean’s neighborhood, Emily had to choose sides. We have seen this story a thousand times, there was nothing original here. Viewing this film, I had to wonder what came first: the dance numbers or the script. Gratefully I did not have to see this movie in the 3D version, which was being heavily rotated at my theater. Why would anyone want to have a leg kick appear like it was smacking them in the face? If you just want to see an extended music video, then this is the movie for you. The wild choreographed dance scenes were lively and enjoyable, some were rather creative. But with the lack of acting skills and a tired script, my interest level was low. I think the residents of this movie franchise are in need of some desperate rehabbing.
At my elementary school, we were offered several dance lessons that were held during our lunch hour. We were taught only the basic steps such as the box step or cha-cha. Dancing was not thought of as a strong enough physical activity to warrant taking the place of scatterball or bombardment games. It wasn’t until I was of legal age that I realized dancing could be considered an aerobic activity. Many a night was spent at the clubs burning off calories to the steady beats of dance music. But my love of dance really came at a much younger age. When I was 2 years old my brothers would place me up on top of a table, place an oversized hat on my head, turn on the record player and I would dance along to the music. This documentary did a perfect job in displaying the power of dance. Seeing these New York City 5th graders being instilled with hope and confidence during the school system’s ballroom dance competition was inspirational for me. I especially admired the diversity of students, coming from various neighborhoods of the city. There are famous quotes about music being healing and soothing, but I think they could easily apply to dance. Look how popular the different reality dance shows are on television; people certainly love to dance. I am willing to bet that even the non-dancer would be hard pressed not to feel uplifted by these children as they learn more than just how to dance. If I had such confidence back then; who knows, maybe I would have gone through with my dream of becoming a go-go boy.
3 1/4 stars — DVD