Review by Jon Waterman
A young jazz dancer meets up with some street dancers. After seein’ them perform, she’s convinced that this is the way to go. But first she has to be accepted into the culture. After that, it’s just a matter of learnin’ the moves, so the bad guys (and gal) of Electro Rock will be defeated in dance battle by the good guys of TKO, once and for all – hopefully. But that’s not the only reason for joinin’ up with the break-dancers. She’s hopin’ this will be her ticket to makin’ it big time. And just maybe, her agent will help her out with some serious representin’.
I have a few problems with the whole creation of the project. It’s obviously meant to exploit this urban trend to a suburban audience. How else could you explain the main character being this delicate, seemingly sheltered white girl who dreams of being a classically trained jazz dancer? Or the fact that the movie is directed by Joel Silberg, whose previous work had been entirely made in Israel? Very street. So very street. Also, at the end, they’re already promoting the release of the sequel.
Notice that I didn’t mention the whole lame premise of break dancin’ being a driving force as a negative. I don’t really care that much. Goin’ in you sort of expect that to be a large part of its campy appeal. It’s even funnier when you consider the writin’ force. Conceivin’ the story and writin’ the screenplay are two first and last time scribes in Charles Parker and Allen DeBevoise. Gerald Scaife, whose only prior credit is as production assistant on “The Big Chill,” joins them on the script. Can you believe it took three people to churn out such a disjointed screenplay? There’s a rivalry, but not really. There’s supposed to be this huge drive to make it as dancers, but whatever. There’s something of a love story, but it’s hardly explored past crush territory.
The only redeemin’ quality would have to be the dancing. There are a pretty good variety of moves on display here. I don’t know all the technical terms, but you get plenty of floor spinnin’, tons of poppin’ and lockin’, some Kung Fu-like stuff, and of course the poetic graceful jazz. The battle scenes were pretty lame, not because the dancin’ was bad, but because both groups looked virtually identical. I couldn’t tell what made one team the winner other than the dejected looks of the losers. The audio for the movie didn’t contain any crowd reactions to help us out, either. Instead we’re given a barely audible Ice-T spoutin’ off some whack rhymes old school style.
This movie is all cheese. It’s hard for me to say this, but the unavoidable trainin’ montage didn’t capture my interest. It went on for far too long, and I didn’t see the progression that should have been there. The film is the type that’s fun to watch for the incredibly poor actin’ and the weak, unbelievable yet predictable storyline, and most importantly for the dancin’. Those kids really put on a show, especially the little kids. I’ve never seen a five year old move like that before. If you’re a fan of break dancin’, you’ll want to check it out for that and that alone.
Touching the Void
Review by Jon Waterman
This documentary tells the amazing story of Simon Yates and Joe Simpson. In 1985, they climbed up the Siula Grande (located in the Peruvian region of the Andes), something that no one else had previously accomplished. They climbed nearly four miles straight up with little unforeseen difficulty. The hard part was getting back down. Everything that could go wrong does. A nasty fall leaves Joe with a severely broken leg. Several times, Simon is faced with the unbearable decision to leave Joe to die and carry on alone (which may certainly mean death for himself if climbing without a partner), or to stay together and hope for a miracle.
Kevin Macdonald (“One Day in September”) directed this amazing tale with subtle brilliance. When you hear the word “reenactment,” I bet the first thing that pops in the mind is some cheesy forensic files show on cable or an “Unsolved Mysteries” type of situation. Yeah, me too. But I swear this time, it’s actually really really good. So good that it left me mesmerized enough to not be able to form grammatically accurate sentences to describe it. Step by step, the story plays out on screen with actors playing the roles of Joe and Simon as the real Joe and Simon tells us all about what’s going on. Sound repetitive? Well it’s not. Think of it as reading a book in class along with the teacher – except the story is actually interesting.
You get to see the whole thing transpire in front of your eyes. It’s an amazing blend of documentary style storytelling and gripping narrative visuals. Without the added punch you get from seeing these events, the story would be astonishing, but not nearly as harrowing or as exhilarating. The scenes are recreated with precise detail by cinematographers Mike Eley and Keith Partridge. You get lost in that landscape and that recreation to the point where it feels like you’re watching the events actually unfold (instead of them being copied).
The film deals with some tough issues along the way, ones that most people would never have to face. When talking about such things, Simon and Joe are sincere, analytical and blunt. That says more about their character than any of the actions taken during that ordeal. Neither of them are monsters. Neither of them are heroes. They are climbers and they did what needed to be done. This is easily one of the best documentaries to come along in a while. The story is magnificently engrossing, and you’ll be glued to your seat until the end. I’m ready to watch it again.