Dance Movie Reviews – Step Up: All In & Make Your Move

It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for dance movies. To be fair, I’m actually a sucker for good dance in general. I don’t know what got me interested in dance in the first place when I was a little kid, but it led me to joining my high school dance team (which has now been ages ago). These days I’m just a huge dance fan, with my occasional moments of dancing in my car and dreaming up choreography to songs when I listen to them.

Dance movies are by no means the best movies in the world, but I love watching them. They’re a nice distraction and the dancing’s always amazing. So anyways, I finally got around to watching two dance movies that were released last year, Make Your Move and Step Up: All In.

Make Your Move stars Derek Hough (of Dancing With the Stars) and Korean pop star BoA as Donny and Aya, two dancers caught between their feuding brothers. It’s a Romeo and Juliet set-up that ultimately makes everything feel very forced in its attempt to be more than a generic film. I was initially excited about the movie for a few reasons: 1) Derek Hough, who is such an amazingly talented dancer and choreographer; 2) NappyTabs were one of the main choreographers; and 3) They filmed it in Toronto. Unfortunately, I was excited for nothing. While most times the dancing is enough to make you forget about the plot and even the acting, this was one of the rare times where I found everything else to be more distracting than the dancing. There was promise in the dancing (or at least you’d hope so, since it is a DANCE movie), with a tap and hip-hop fusion, mixed in with taiko drumming – that was what made it unique. To me, it seemed like there wasn’t enough dancing, especially of the fusion dances. The main feature is that Donny and Aya’s brothers, played by Wesley Jonathan and Will Yun Lee, each have their own clubs, which allows for there to be a stage for our aspiring dancers to perform. Giving them a platform to dance obviously works, even if it is a convenient story device. It’s when they start doing the intricate choreography off the stage as part of their everyday life that it starts to fall apart. There’s the obligatory “love connection” dance scene (you know that one where the two leads realize there’s a deeper connection beyond dance), wherein Donny and Aya start doing some contemporary hip-hop around his place. The scene feels forced, scripted and choreographed, not the least bit natural at all. It also doesn’t help either that, try as they may, there’s no chemistry between Derek and BoA. Honestly, the script itself was an uninspired mess, filled with typical dance movie dialogue that there was nothing anybody could do to elevate it out of generic territory.

Step Up: All In is the fifth movie in the series, and at this point is more or less of the same. Watching this movie, it’s crazy to think that it all started with the original Step Up starring Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan; it just seems so different. Here, The Mob (the crew from Step Up Revolution) are struggling in their attempt to make a career in Los Angeles, especially when another crew, The Grim Knights are booking all the gigs. Feeling that they’re just not cut out for L.A., everybody except Sean packs up their bags and heads back to Miami. When Sean finds out about a dance competition called The Vortex, he sees it as one last chance at his dance dream and with the help of Moose, assembles another crew (LMNTRIX) comprised of dancers from previous Step Up installments to compete. There’s a tiny twist with The Mob entering the competition, but you essentially know what it’s all leading up to – LMNTRIX vs. The Grim Knights. When you get five movies into a series, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that not all the installments are on the same level. While Revolution actually felt like it was trying something different in terms of storytelling, in addition to all the dance sequences, All In lived up to its title by mixing in everything/anything it could from the first four movies and see if it worked. It ended up being a little derivative and no standout dance sequence from what seemed like not very many. At the very least, the movie serves as a good feature for all the SYTYCD alums: tWitch, Marko, Comfort, Cyrus, Tony Bellissimo, Phillip Chbeeb, Emilio Dosal, Jayme Rae & Jenny Dailey, Vincent Poirier, Janick Arseneau.

Basically at the end of the day, I didn’t really like either of the movies. Both felt very bland and predictable, with nothing really spectacular about it to make you want to watch it again. I’m just a little disappointed that they weren’t better than the ended up being. So I’m just gonna go back and watch Center Stage/Step Up/Take the Lead for the millionth time.

DVD Review: Step Up Revolution

Step Up Revolution

Back in August, prior to the theatrical release of this movie, I posted a list of some of my favourite dance movies, because I am SUCH a sucker for these type of movies. Now that Step Up Revolution has released on DVD/blu-ray and I have finally been able to see it, I have 2 main things to say about it: 1) Best film in the series since the first one and 2) I regret not seeing it in theaters.

I truly mean it when I say that I feel Step Up Revolution is the second best film in the series, behind only the original. When the first Step Up was released back in 2006, it was during a time where dance was really being accepted by the mainstream again. Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance had premiered either that year or the year before, thus allowing dance to make its impact on pop culture. By today’s standards, Step Up wasn’t your atypical dance movie – the writers of that one really did try to give it some real drama and it ended up being something special. I mean, it had to be, to justify having three sequels that were released in theaters and not just straight-to-DVD. Not to knock down the legitimacy of the first 2 sequels, but watching them, you had a feeling that the filmmakers made those movies just to show off amazing dancing, with little to no attention paid to plot and characters and it was very formulaic. With Step Up Revolution, it became a nice mix of the original and the 2 previous sequels. They really outdid themselves with the choreography, something that was the focus on the sequels, but they also really tried to give the movie a decent plot line, beyond just two crews battling each other. Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman, both making their feature film debuts, paired up nicely and for their first acting gigs, weren’t too bad.

What was evident while watching the movie was that it definitely deserved to be viewed in theaters, on the big screen, something I regret not doing. Watching the dance sequences, even in the standard way, you could see how the 3D was used and how it would’ve given a different feeling had you seen it the way it was intended.  I think it went beyond the tricks of things coming at you, and actually would have given it an extra depth, which for something like dance is pretty nice to see. If we simply get down to it, it just would’ve been really cool to see it in 3D.

Is Step Up Revolution the greatest movie of all time? No. But if you’re a fan of the previous Step Up movies or if you’re a fan of dance in general, you’ll love this movie and the great choreography featured in it.

For the Love of Dance Movies

In honour of the recent release of Step Up Revolution, the 4th movie in the Step Up franchise, I thought it would be a good idea to shine a light on the dance movie genre. It has always seemed funny to me how whenever there is a new dance movie that gets released, reviews tend to all read the same – “The dancing is great! The acting/storyline is terrible! Predictable!” To which I always say, “It’s a DANCE movie! You watch it for the dancing, not the acting!” I must admit though, I am a sucker for dance movies. [Aside: At the same time, I do see the bias in saying you only watch dance movies for the dancing, when people watch certain action movies simply for the action. But that’s neither here nor there.]

If we are honest about it, dance movies play a particular role in the landscape of films. They set out to entertain above all else and to show dance to the masses. I’m not going to go through the history of dance movies because frankly, I haven’t watched enough of the movies of yesteryear (not even classics/staples of the genre like Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Flashdance, Fame – all of which I have on my shelf but haven’t gotten around to watching. Blasphemy, I know.) My knowledge of dance movies is limited to all those movies that came out after 2000, when dance was slowly getting recognition once again, thanks to the onslaught of popstars entering the music scene, which eventually led to dancing being heavily featured on television. Even so, the past decade has given us so many dance movies, and here I offer up 5 of my favourites.

1.) CENTER STAGE

Without a doubt, Center Stage is my favourite of all the dance movies. In a way, it sort of ignited my love for the art of dance. The movie follows a group a young ballet dancers at the American Ballet Company, as they journey through the highs and lows of life associated with the ballet world. Center Stage starred real-life ballet dancers Amanda Schull, Sasha Radetsky, and Ethan Stiefel, as well as Peter Gallagher and the debut of Zoe Saldana.

2.) TAKE THE LEAD

Based loosely on the true story of Pierre Dulaine, a dance teacher who brought ballroom dance into the public school system in New York. The film stars Antonio Banderas as Dulaine and features a great ensemble of young actors including the likes of Jenna Dewan, Rob Brown, Yaya DaCosta, Dante Basco, and Jasika Nicole. I’ll always remember watching this movie on the big screen and honest-to-goodness being on the edge of my seat, almost breathless, watching that tango. I LOVE a good tango.

3.) STEP UP

It starts off with a very typical plotline with a guy and a girl from different sides of the track, meeting and connecting through a common interest – in this case, dance. But what really makes the movie is the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when they started dating and eventually got married.

4.) SAVE THE LAST DANCE

You can’t really have a dance movie list without including this one, which in a way, re-ignited the genre. Julia Stiles plays Sara, an aspiring ballerina who puts her dreams on hold after her mother dies in a car accident. She meets Sean Patrick Thomas’ Derek, who helps her re-discover her love for dance and some new hip-hop moves along the way to add to her ballet. The movie plays more dramatic than the rest of the genre, but still makes good with its dance scenes.

5.) BLACK SWAN

Definitely more psychological thriller than dance movie, but Black Swan starring Natalie Portman takes you into the somewhat disturbing side of ballet. It may not be like the other movies you would categorize as a dance movie (i.e. more about the dance sequences than plot/acting), but here’s a movie that melds the two worlds of dance and incredibly acted thriller. It’s the exception to the typical dance movie.

Honourable Mentions

  • Dirty Dancing Havana Nights: Honestly, sitting here writing this, I can’t really recall the defining dance scene in this unneccessary sequel. My love for this movie more than likely stems firmly for my love of the fantastic soundtrack above all else.
  • You Got Served: It’s got some great battle sequences and I at least have some great high school dance crew memories associated with routines and music from this movie.
  • Footloose (2011): It’s a dance movie that’s not really a dance movie. The plot does revolve around being given the choice to dance in public, but the actual dancing aspect is not over-the-top. It really drove the drama and the story, to make the point that we are free to dance so why don’t we?

Anybody else a sucker for dance movies like me? Any favourites of the genre? Hit me up in the comments!