Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Written by Pollo Misterioso

There has been a new genre of dance films that seem to be doing very well at the box office, and to think they play like 90-minute music videos. Step Up 2 The Streets is the newest dance film that incorporates dance troupes and drama that makes for a visually entertaining film that is predictable, but gratifying.

Films that incorporated dance have been around for ages (we all remember Saturday Night Fever and Footloose), but now they are taking the most popular dance tunes and constructing them around a character that just needs to dance. Step Up 2 is not necessarily a sequel to the popular film Step Up but instead introduces a new cast and a new set of problems, but in the same setting.

Andie (Briana Evigan) is a part of a dance crew called the 410; they street dance and battle at a local club. Unfortunately, her mother has passed away and she is living with a family friend who does not want to deal with her irresponsibility and recklessness anymore. Threatened with a move to Texas, Andie auditions and gets into the Maryland School of the Arts for dance. Her time is torn between school and her crew, resulting in her getting kicked out of the 410 so she must now form her own crew to be able to show up at the streets.

The characters in the film don’t develop much past their dancing technique. We spend the most time watching Andie struggle as she tries to form a crew that she is not ashamed of. Of course there is also a love interest, but that also is most fun to watch only when they are dancing, the mild flirting that does happen is more awkward than interesting.

This film is about dance and it does not try to be something that it is not. Sure the story is calculated and the lines might be cheesy (especially the ending speech that Andie gives at the end), but that is not the point. These characters can dance and there is something so pleasing about watching professional dancers try to pull off their best moves.

The music is current and the moves are incredible. Watch out for flips and dives that happen in the background. Our main character is a pretty face to follow, but there are other dancers that shine in the film.

This film is part of a genre that combines elements of musicals and older dance films, with the fresh and competitive spirit of television shows as So You Think You Can Dance. Don’t expect to be overwhelmed by this movie, especially in comparison to older classics that combine dance and drama. Step up 2 is stimulating and easy to watch, so just enjoy it for what it is.

The DVD extras include a couple featurettes, “Through Fresh Eyes; The Making of Step Up 2” follows around the director Jon Chu and “Outlaws of Hip Hop: Meet the 410” is an interesting look at how they came up with the choreography. Other extras include music videos from the songs used and deleted scenes.

THE RUINS (Unrated)

Written by Hombre Divertido

Though it appears that all involved had the best intentions, the film was ruined.

One of the challenges of viewing films on DVD can often be the bonus features. Thus is the case with The Ruins, released in an unrated version on DVD July 8th.

The bonus features include documentaries on the making of the film and the special effects, deleted scenes, and more. In the documentary you get great insight into what the producers (Ben Stiller, Trish Hofmann, Gary Barber), writer (Scott B. Smith), director (Carter Smith), cast, etc. were striving for. This only makes it more disappointing when viewing the final result.

Based on the novel by the same name, The Ruins tracks a small group of vacationers in Cancun who decide to take a day trip to some off the beaten path Mayan ruins. Upon arriving the group is met by some hostile locals who first insist that the tourists leave, and then insist that they not only stay, but that they ascend to the plateau of said ruins. The motivation of the locals seems a bit unclear, but those watching closely will understand the transition. The same cannot be said for other subtle plot points.

Eventually it becomes clear that our cast is not only at the mercy of the hostile natives, but also the vile vines that engulf the ruins. Said fiendish foliage has apparently killed and consumed other visitors to the ruins and has its lecherous leaves set on our heroes. The pain-inducing plants begin to grow on our trapped tourists, and in them as well.

The problem here is that what should be an intense film plays out more as a collection of scenes. The lack of continuity in this ninety-minute attempt at a thriller makes it difficult to appreciate, as the soon-to-be-flora-food friends attempt to survive and devise a way out of this situation, and begin to turn on each other and themselves.

The performances are fairly one-dimensional, and it appears that the director opts for gore in an attempt to glean a reaction from an audience that should be more drawn in by the physiological aspects of the situations. The gore is some of the best seen in cinema, but it falls flat without fear-inducing scenarios.

At certain points of the film the audience will find itself laughing at what should be scary, and wondering if producer Ben Stiller had that in mind all along.

Recommendation: As a classic horror film, the editing and lack of a truly scary antagonist keeps The Ruins from succeeding. There is more potential here for a psychological thriller based on the characters dealing with the situation, but the motivations become too muddled, the decisions are too far fetched, and the situations are not given enough time to play out properly. The bonus material is more entertaining than the film itself, and the deleted scenes actually contain a far superior ending. Worth renting for the true fans of gore and the special effects that go with that genre, but just not scary enough for the rest of us.