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Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

One Night in Miami…

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI… is a very good straight-to-Amazon-Prime movie in that odd genre of “What if we got to see a bunch of familiar cultural and historical figures spend a night hanging out together?” In other words, it’s based on a play, in this case written by SOUL co-director Kemp Powers, who also wrote the screenplay for first-time-feature director Regina King. Of course we’ve known King as an actress since 227 and BOYZ N THE HOOD, and then she played Huey and Riley and got an Oscar for IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK and was a Watchman, but she’s also been directing TV since 2013. Her million dollar quartet here is made up of important Black Americans of the ‘60s who really were friends, but it’s a fictional story about them getting together at a hotel after Cassius Clay (Eli Goree, “PO No. 3,” GODZILLA)’s surprise victory over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964.

In town for the fight are Clay’s spiritual advisor Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, THE COMMUTER), the singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr., RED TAILS) and NFL great Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE), there to do color commentary. After the fight they meet up at Malcolm’s humble hotel room, guarded by two Fruit of Islam, the very serious Kareem X (Lance Reddick, JOHN WICK) and young Brother Jamaal (Christian Magby), who does a really funny double take and star struck grin when he realizes the guy he’s letting into the room is Sam Cooke. (read the rest of this shit…)

Breakin’

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

I’ve written about a bunch of these corny 21st century dance movies, and I always seem to be comparing them to the BREAKIN’ movies, but I’ve never actually reviewed the BREAKIN’ movies. That ends now. I’m reviewing the BREAKIN’ movies. The world could use more focus on the BREAKIN’ movies right now.

In a certain way, BREAKIN’ changed the whole world for me. I’m pretty sure it was BREAKIN’ and/or the cultural conversation around BREAKIN’ that first opened my eyes to this movement of music, art and dancing that older, cooler kids in far away New York had been building for several years. If you weren’t alive then I’m not sure you can imagine what a phenomenon it was. I remember a music teacher giving us diagrams of moves, trying to teach us (what she said was) the moonwalk, talking about Michael Jackson being inspired by breakdancers and breakdancers being inspired by James Brown. It was the music part of hip hop culture that would become important to me, and (as I said in my review of the companion movie RAPPIN’), at that time I don’t think I even knew the word “rap.” I called it “breakdancing music.” (And, though I kind of like this soundtrack, I don’t associate it much with the type of rap I soon fell in love with.) (read the rest of this shit…)

StreetDance 2

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

“I’m just thinking. What if people don’t get it? I mean our Street-Latin fusion. Dancing with just us is one thing, but, a street dance battle, I just don’t…”

Recently I reviewed STREETDANCE 3D (2010), an enjoyable street-dancers-team-up-with-a-ballet-class movie that I saw as the U.K.’s answer to STEP UP. It didn’t go on to have as many sequels as STEP UP, but it did have one, in 2012, so it was my duty to check it out.

The sequel also reminds me of the STEP UP movies, and that’s a compliment. It sort of follows the first one in the way that STEP UP 3(D) follows STEP UP 2 THE STREETS: it introduces new male and female leads, but also elevates a younger, charmingly geeky supporting character to a more central role. Or if you prefer action movie comparisons, it’s kinda like NEVER BACK DOWN 2, which promoted Evan Peters’ character Max from nerdy underground fight fan to hotshot promoter. (read the rest of this shit…)

StreetDance 3D

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

It doesn’t seem like many people read my reviews of these 21st century competitive street dancing movies, but I have a fascination with them, so here we are. STREETDANCE 3D is a UK entry in the subgenre and it’s from 2010 – six years after YOU GOT SERVED, four years after STEP UP, two years after STEP UP 2 THE STREETS and a few months before my favorite of all of them, STEP UP 3D. I don’t think it made an impression over here (I definitely never heard of it at the time) but it was the highest grossing UK production of that year, it got a sequel and even a 2019 French remake. For the record, I had to watch it in 2D (a 3D version was included on the rental, but it’s a DVD, so it’s the crappy red and blue Freddyvision). But it didn’t have that same “Man, I have to see this in 3D” energy that STEP UP 3D has. (read the rest of this shit…)

You Got Served: Beat the World

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

“You know dancing is our only way out.”

I was under the misimpression that YOU GOT SERVED was a big franchise like STEP UP. Unfortunately it turns out YOU GOT SERVED: TAKE IT TO THE STREETS (2004) is just an hour-long instructional dance video, and YOU GOT SERVED: BEAT THE WORLD (2011) is really an unrelated Canadian dance movie that they rebranded as a YOU GOT SERVED here in the states. (Elsewhere you might find it as BEAT THE WORLD or THIS IS BEAT.) So we don’t get to find out what happens after they shoot the Li’l Kim video.

Think of how many unlikely phenomenons could’ve been cut down with an unrelated part 2! This could have easily been the fate of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, UNDISPUTED and so many others.

The good news is that this one is honestly more fun than YOU GOT SERVED. I knew that would be the case when it opened with a parkour chase across the rooftops. It seems very intense but turns out to be a demonstration. “You know we’re gonna be the first crew to bring free running to hip hop.” Yuson (Tyrone Brown, BEWARE THE GONZO) has recruited Justin (Chase Armitage, DEATH RACE 2), a freerunner from London, to help his crew, Fusion, create a unique routine for the impending Beat the World international dance competition.

(read the rest of this shit…)

You Got Served

Monday, November 16th, 2020

YOU GOT SERVED (2004) is a formula melodrama about a subculture of fiercely competitive dance crews in L.A. At night they have showdowns in what looks like a boxing gym, taking turns doing routines, the victor decided by the crowds who fill the place to the brim and cheer so loud it sounds like a stadium. In the opening scene sometimes they jump and when they land their feet seem to cause the earth to shake, as if they are Titans. But mostly the movie tries to seem down to earth.

It centers on Elgin (Marques Houston, BEBE’S KIDS, HOUSE PARTY 3) and his best friend David (Omar “Omarion” Grandberry, WRONG SIDE OF TOWN). They and their friends are incredible dancers but sadly they talk about it more as a “way out” than an art or a passion or something they were born to do, even though it must be all of those things. In the opening battle the prize is $600, but I counted at least eight people they have to split it between. I’m sure battling is way better than working an 8 hour shift, but I don’t think you could win enough of these to pay the rent. So David and Elgin reluctantly supplement it by doing deliveries for a drug dealer named Emerald (Michael “Bear” Taliferro, HALF PAST DEAD; later directed STEPPIN’: THE MOVIE). (read the rest of this shit…)

Fall Guy: The John Stewart Story

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

A few years ago I reviewed ACTION U.S.A., an indie action movie from 1989, filmed in Waco, Texas. It was the directorial debut of stuntman John Stewart, a veteran of FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, THE HIDDEN and PHANTASM II. It was clearly designed as a showcase for stunts – all kinds of hanging off of moving cars and helicopters, falling off of buildings, cars crashing and exploding, a guy’s motorcycle catching on fire and falling off a bridge. Tons of fun.

At the time it only existed as a super rare VHS tape, but beginning this week Alamo On Demand are playing a new 4K restoration in drive-ins and virtual cinemas (tickets here), which I imagine (hope) means there will be a blu-ray too at some point. Here’s the trailer Alamo made for it:

Stewart directed three more movies in the early ‘90s (CLICK: THE CALENDAR GIRL KILLER, CARTEL and HIDDEN OBSESSION) before doing 14 episodes in the first two seasons of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He continued to work in stunts (including as stunt coordinator for LEPRECHAUN 3 and CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666: ISAAC’S RETURN) but didn’t direct another feature until 2007, when he made FALL GUY: THE JOHN STEWART STORY. Yes, an autobiopic. He’s played by Jason David Frank, the Green/White Power Ranger. (read the rest of this shit…)

Top of the Heap

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Christopher St. John was a stage actor and member of the Actor’s Studio who had been in FOR LOVE OF IVY and HOT PANTS HOLIDAY and then was up for the title role in SHAFT. He didn’t get it, obviously – instead he played the supporting role of the militant Ben Buford. But that was enough to inspire him to invest his money in this independent starring/writing/directing/producing vehicle with ads billing him as “Christopher St. John, whom you last saw in SHAFT.”

Because of that connection, and because it’s a 1972 movie dealing with the Black experience, with some guns and a soundtrack by J.J. Johnson, it is sometimes lumped in with Blaxploitation. It’s not that at all. Frankly I prefer movies where the exploitable elements are more prominent, but that’s obviously not what St. John was interested in, and that should be acknowledged. This is an arty, experimental and political work that reminds me much more of Jules Dassin’s UP TIGHT (co-written by Ruby Dee), Melvin Van Peebles’ SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG and Bill Gunn’s GANJA & HESS than SHAFT or SUPER FLY. It’s more about an impressionistic depiction of societal sickness than, you know, traditional entertainment. For what that’s worth. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fast Color

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

FAST COLOR is a really well made little movie I watched on Hulu. I didn’t really know what it was about, but remembered that when it came out last year there were people lamenting that it didn’t get enough attention. They called it a super hero origin story and felt that should’ve made it more marketable.

That description isn’t totally inaccurate, but sells it a little short, I think. It’s about a woman with some telekinetic type powers, but she doesn’t wear a costume, fight crime, fight super villains, or use her powers for heroism at all. She even explicitly says “We’re not super heroes,” and doesn’t seem to later change her mind about that. The story reminds me much more of FIRESTARTER than any comic book movie. Regular person made into a fugitive by being born with unusual gifts, running through small towns to avoid being a guinea pig for some secret government project. (read the rest of this shit…)

Little Woods

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

LITTLE WOODS is the debut of writer/director Nia DaCosta, who followed it with the upcoming CANDYMAN (2020), sequel to CANDYMAN (1992). I’m not sure how much they’ll have in common, because this one’s not horror, and it takes place in a rural area, but it’s very good, and raises my expectations for the other one even higher.

Tessa Thompson (CREED) is great as Ollie (short for Oleander), who lives in her late mother’s busted up house in North Dakota and is almost done with her probation. While mom was sick she would go into Canada to get medicine for her, but she also had a whole pill-selling enterprise going, and she got caught at the border.

Now she does stuff like go out to construction sites and sell coffee and sandwiches out of the back of her pickup. People still ask her for Oxy and she explains she doesn’t do that anymore. Everybody still likes her. The local opiate pusher Bill (Luke Kirby, HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) thinks that makes her a good saleswoman and tries to get her to work for him. (read the rest of this shit…)