Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Movie Reviews- Two more dance movies

In today's movie reviews, I give you two more dance movies, and a...uh...comedy I think. As always, I post no spoilers in my movie reviews, so feel free to read them even if you haven't seen the films.

Movie: American Dreamz (2006)

Starring: Mandy Moore, Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Chris Klein

Synopsis: (fom Yahoo Movies) On the morning of his re-election, the President decides to read the newspaper for the first time in four years. This starts him down a slippery slope. He begins reading obsessively, reexamining his black and white view of the world, holing up in his bedroom in his pajamas. Frightened by the President's apparent nervous breakdown, his Chief of Staff pushes him back into the spotlight, booking him as a guest judge on the television ratings juggernaut (and the President's personal fave), the weekly talent show American Dreamz. America can't seem to get enough of American Dreamz, hosted by self-aggrandizing, self-loathing Martin Tweed, ever on the lookout for the next insta-celebrity. His latest crop of hopefuls includes Sally, a conniving steel magnolia with a devoted, dopey veteran boyfriend, and Omer, a recent Southern Californian immigrant (who just happens to be a bumbling, show tune singing, would-be terrorist awaiting activation). When both Sally and Omer make it to the final round of Dreamz -- where the President will be judging along with Tweed -- the stage is set for a show the nation will never forget.

My Review: I like Mandy Moore and think that she's a class act among the crop of "teenyboppers" she came out on the scene with, so I really wanted to like this movie. The previews I had seen for it made it sound like a quirky, funny spoof on American Idol, and I was looking forward to laughing along with it. To say I was disappointed is probably an understatement. I think there was potential there for a really funny movie, but it just never delivered. Mandy Moore was annoying but unmemorable as Sally, Hugh Grant was annoying, but actually pretty funny as the movie's version of Simon Cowell, Chris Klein was annoying but...well, no, he was just annoying. Dennis Quaid was probably the funniest as the President, but not necessarily due to his own acting, I just thought the biggest joke was how obvious it was that more than spoofing American Idol, the movie was spoofing our very own George W.'s uh...we'll call it leadership skills. Like I said, there was potential for a funny movie there, but it fell short. I'd say wait for cable, but...nah, don't bother.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Martini Glasses (and I'm being generous)

Movie: Take The Lead (2006)

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rob Brown, and a whole slew of other unknowns.

Synopsis: (from Yahoo Movies) Pierre Dulaine is a Manhattan ballroom teacher and competitor who volunteers his time to teach ballroom dancing to a group of New York inner city high school kids. Initially forced to participate as a form of detention, the kids reject Mr. Dulaine's efforts until his unwavering commitment and dedication finally inspires them to embrace the program, infusing it with their own unique hip-hop style while subconsciously learning valuable life lessons about pride, respect, self-esteem and honor.

My Review: I recently gave you a Thursday Thirteen listing my favorite dance movies. While researching to put that list together, I came across a few dance movies I had not yet seen, for one reason or another. One of those movies was Take The Lead, and the reason I had not seen this one was because I'm not usually a fan of Antonio Banderas, and couldn't imagine what he could possibly bring to a dance movie. However, in a twist of coincidence (I don't believe in coincidence by the way), Tivo decided to record Take The Lead for me last week. Well, I tell you what, I was pleasantly surprised. As far as dance movies go, this one followed pretty much the same formula they all do: A kid, or a group of kids, is on the wrong side of the law and/or wrong side of the tracks and/or wrong side of the family, etc., somewhere along the line they get introduced to an opportunity to change things via dance. Nobody thinks they can do it, least of all themselves, and yet, before all is said and done, there's a big dance routine at the end and everyone lives happily ever after. Something along those lines. OH, and there's always the star crossed lovers element thrown in for good measure as well. The twist for this particular movie was the element of the "Dangerous Minds" type movie, where a teacher goes to an inner city school to make a difference. Banderas' character is based on a real teacher, so there was that element as well. But really, in these movies, it's all about the dancing, isn't it? And I thought the dancing was great. I, of course, loved it. But, what this movie brought was actually a bit more of a story. You genuinely cared for these characters, and wanted to see them do well, and to beat the odds.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Martini Glasses. (Come on, its a dance movie)

Movie: Step Up 2 The Streets

Starring: Briana Evigan, Robert Hoffman, Adam G. Sevani, Mari Koda, and a whole bunch of other unknowns

Synopsis: (from Yahoo Movies) When rebellious street dancer Andie lands at the elite Maryland School of the Arts, she finds herself fighting to fit in while also trying to hold onto her old life. When she joins forces with the school's hottest dancer Chase to form a crew of classmate outcasts to compete in Baltimore's underground dance battle The Streets, she ultimately finds a way to live her dream while building a bridge between her two separate worlds.

My Review: I was/am a huge fan of the original Step Up. Channing Tatum aside (but really, how could you EVER put that man aside?), it was a fun movie, with great dancing, and an entertaining twist on the "dance movie formula" (see above review). So, when I heard they were coming out with Step Up 2, I was beyond excited. Yay, another dance movie. Slight disappointment set in when I realized that Mr. Tatum would not be playing a major role in the movie (he has a slight cameo, more of a "passing the torch" sort of thing), but hey, still a dance movie. Once again, we meet the basic formula, and there are few surprises as far as plot development is concerned, but the story is a sweet story, and it works within the dance movie constraints. And again, it's all about the dance anyway, right? The dancing was great. There are some surprises in terms of who the standout dancers in the movie end up being. I fell in love (as in, pinch his cheeks love) with one particular character. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and yes, I'll watch it again (and again).

Side note, if you watch this movie, let me know if you agree with my assessment that Robert Hoffman (who plays Chase Collins, the male lead) is like a younger (cuter) version of Jay Mohr. I kept seeing Jay Mohr in his expressions.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Martini Glasses (hey, it's a dance movie).

That's it, those are my reviews for today.


Julia Phillips Smith said...

Haven't seen 'American Dreamz' and probably won't (figured it would be just as you wrote.)

Saw 'Take the Lead' - and I LOVE Antonio!! He would make me watch a film all on his own. He's one of my favorite Triple Threats!

'Step Up 2 The Streets' I'll probably skip. I know what you mean about the Mini Me Jay Mohr (just from the previews.) Love Jay Mohr, by the way.

Keep these dance film reviews coming...

Beckie said...

Take the Lead sounds good - I might have to get it from Netflix. My queue is running low - I am in a rut as far as what movies to get.