Not much is happening in new movies this weekend. Recently, however, all too much happened in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. More about that after my reviews of this weekend's offerings...
Step Up Revolution
The Watch and Step Up Revolution are the releases, and both have had or should have troubles relating to national headlines. Political correctness is often taken way too far in this country. People seem to waste time better spent with their families or cleaning belly button lint being righteously offended. That being said, let's begin this week talking dance…there's a sequence in the hyperbolically named Step Up Revolution (revolution? if Che Guevara is in it, I must have missed him) that has rightly gotten negative press for a dance scene that, given recent events, is in rarified bad taste.
The film offers the hyper-cliched story of a rich ballerina falling for a boy from the wrong side of the "trax," both of whom wind up dancing with his well-choreographed flash mob ("The Mob!") doing dances meant to bring attention to her bad dad's ill-conceived razing and re-gentrification of a poor yet colorful neighborhood. You've seen everything in this movie done before, and done with greater aplomb, with the exception of some rather dazzling dance spectacles featuring hot bods, much grinding and popping that brings to mind a communal seizure.
The dance sequences are inventive and great fun to watch. The actors and script, however, are painfully amateurish. To tell stars Kathryn McCormick (of "So You Think You Can Dance") and Ryan Guzman (of nowhere, unless you can use "looks good shirtless" on IMDB) not to quit their day jobs is to tell them to keep dancing, and they should. Their hopes of being the next Julianne Hough or Channing Tatum, though, should be crushed before they spend unwisely on a place in the Hollywood hills.
As to the aforementioned bad taste, it consists of a dance number where dozens of men in gas masks storm a room in flak jackets and toss what looks like tear gas into the audience, then proceed to stomp about menacingly, reminding audience members of last week's killing rampage in an Aurora movie theater. Did they really have to keep that in the film?
A statement from the studio Summit Entertainment said: "Because of last week's tragic events in Colorado, Summit immediately removed television advertising that briefly showcased that scene from the film. The scene also briefly appeared in a trailer released three months ago that the studio is no longer actively servicing. Having taken these steps, Summit will open this inspirational, nonviolent film in theaters nationwide this weekend as originally edited." While the scene itself is interesting, it is in no way as impressive as most of those featured throughout the movie. Audience, be warned. Summit, good luck with that.
It is worth noting Cinema Siren loves a good dance flick, from the sublime, as in Singin' in the Rain to the ridiculous as in Lambada, The Forbidden Dance. If the Step Up series is a favorite, by all means, check it out for the choreography and well toned 20-somethings. Unless you are in the mood for Booty! Up in Your Face! 3D, skip the higher cost and go 2D for the laughs, dancing, pecs and pops.
The other release this weekend, The Watch, had to have a name change from Neighborhood Watch after a member of a real-life neighborhood watch shot and killed someone, leading to a contentious court and civil case with strong defenders loudly arguing for both sides. The film stars Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and features Richard Ayoade and Rosemarie DeWitt.
Getting the obvious out of the way, if they felt the need to alter the original in light of current events, why did the studio not change the name entirely? As the movie centers on a group of men who start a neighborhood watch to find a friend's killer only to discover there are aliens not only afoot but responsible, surely dozens of other names could have lured potential viewers into theaters. Might I suggest coming up with a better title could be your fun new drinking game!
The movie is sometimes funny, with each of the leads playing an expected version of their comedic arsenal, but Richard Ayoade (multi-talented actor/writer/director of BritTV's The IT Crowd, and the upcoming film The Double) gets most of the surprise laughs. It seems to try too hard to be a hip, B-movie sci-fi comedy. Not a bad two hours in the dark, but you can save your money and see it on DVD.
If you have a hankering for a film of that ilk, rent or Netflix Galaxy Quest, Tremors or Slither (an under-seen slice of awesomeness with Elizabeth Banks and Nathan Fillion) instead.
A word about Aurora
And now, a word about Aurora. As many of us have felt compassion and sadness for those affected by the tragedy that happened on opening night of The Dark Knight Rises, some of you reading my reviews, like my family, are those who often make up the audience at the midnight releases.
We understand it could have happened to us or someone we know. This kind of event reminds us all of the community we could see ourselves as in this country. Many of the strangers in that theater helped and shielded each other, supporting each other to safety. That, I suppose, is the 1/1,000th percent that is positive in all of this.
For many of us, a movie theater is a sacred place where we go to escape and lose ourselves in another world, in at best what can be a two-hour moving piece of art. When I started writing reviews, I did it out of passion for films, and the knowledge that many of my friends and acquaintances over 25 no longer went to the movies.
Cinema Siren's tagline is "guiding film lovers through a sea of celluloid." If some readers are frustrated I don't review some of the more awful releases, it is because I want to share as many movies worthy of venturing out and into the dark for as possible for that wonderful experience.
How can I try to inspire you to do that if the cinema is no longer a safe place to be? And yet, the day after my review I went to the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises with my husband (Cinema Spouse). I won't say I didn't look around, searching for potential threats, planning a safe way out of the theater, and noting where kids might be near me in case the worst happened.
Being in the audience of a movie has changed for me, at least in the short term. I will say that my particular theater has always had bag checks and security far beyond what I ever thought was necessary for the suburbs…(kudos to the folks at Fairfax Corner, who I always thought were being paranoid and overly cautious until now).
I won't stop trying to lure you into the theaters. They need us, we adults, so that the latest talentless would-be teenage pop stars being shoved down our throats by the studios won't populate the next adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
The movie theater is my church. I will no more stop attending midnight movies than my devout friends will stop attending their Sunday sermons. I will think of those who suffered in this tragedy often. I know they loved movies too. I hope you, my movie-loving readers, will keep going or venture out from time to time at my suggestion.
After all, if you don't support Moonrise Kingdom or the communal experience of sitting in the dark being swept into another world, who will?