Jennifer Gibgot

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Step Up: All In Review


OK

Step Up movies are known for their trite, formulaic plots and eye-catching dance set-pieces, and this instalment in the series certainly won't disappoint the fans. What makes this one slightly more fun is the fact that the filmmakers remember not to take anything quite so seriously. The melodrama is undercut with sardonic humour, the gyrations of the plot are so obvious that the script doesn't even bother to mislead us, and the dance scenes are fantastically over the top.

After The Mob dance crew conquered Miami in Step Up 4, they moved to Los Angeles, but found fame rather fickle. When they lose another job to their rival Jasper (Stephen Stevo Jones), head of The Grim Knights, they decide to go back home. But Sean (Ryan Guzman) has nothing to return to, so opts to stay, even though it means working as a cleaner at a salsa studio. This helps him reconnect with Step Up veteran Moose (Adam Sevani), and together they concoct a plan to form a new crew and enter the reality TV competition The Vortex, hosted by the preening Alexxa (Izabella Miko). With Moose's old pal Andie (Step Up 2's Brianna Evigan) on board, they bring together an appropriately eclectic team, which they name Lmntrix. And they head to Las Vegas for the big show.

It hardly needs to be said that Lmntrix are on a collision course to meet both The Mob and The Grim Knights in the final rounds. So with no suspense in the plot we can sit back and enjoy the dancing. And the choreographers have taken the Vegas theme to heart, designing routines that are more focussed on subtle power moves than street intensity. So each successive routine looks like another themed Cirque du Soleil number, building to a climax that will boggle the mind. Fortunately, all of this is directed with a light touch by choreographer Trish Sie, so it's easy to sit back and laugh with the cast rather than at them for a change.

Continue reading: Step Up: All In Review

Step Up Revolution [Step Up: Miami Heat] Review


Weak
The Step Up franchise has never been noted for its astute screenwriting, but this instalment sets the bar so low that even its bendy cast members would have trouble limboing under it. Even so, the cut-and-paste characters and plot can't make this sweaty dance movie boring.

In a noble but poor neighbourhood under a stack of bridges by the Miami River, Sean (Guzman) and his pal Eddy (Gabriel) lead an underground dance crew called The Mob to perform flash-mob antics in picturesque locations. Their goal is to win an online competition and go pro. Then Sean meets Emily (McCormick), whose property tycoon dad (Gallagher) wants to destroy Sean's neighbourhood to build another glitzy development. While trying to make her own way in dance school, Emily hides her identity to join The Mob and take on Dad.

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Rock of Ages Review


Good
This raucous trawl through 80s power ballads, rock anthems and gigantic hair is a lot of fun, partly because it throws so many big stars into against-type roles in which they get to sing and dance. But the plot couldn't be any thinner or it wouldn't exist at all.

Small-town girl Sherrie (Hough) takes the bus to 1987 Hollywood to become a rock star. There she meets Drew (Boneta), who has the same dream and works in the famed Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip. He convinces the owner (Baldwin) to hire her as a barmaid just as diva-rocker Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) comes to play a major gig. Buzzing around him are a Rolling Stone journalist (Akerman) wanting an interview and a right-winger (Zeta-Jones) trying to protect the children from the evils of rock-n-roll.

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Going the Distance Review


Good
It might not be particularly original, but this rom-com at least takes a fresh approach to the formula. It also features two superbly winning actors in the lead roles, and the chemistry between them is utterly charming.

Garrett (Long) is struggling to get over a break-up when he meets Erin (Barrymore), a lively woman who connects with him both romantically and as a best friend. But Erin is only in New York for a summer internship, and when she returns to San Francisco their romance is strained by the 3,000 miles between them. Garrett's friends (Day and Sudeikis) aren't much help, while Erin's sister and brother-in-law (Applegate and Gaffigan) don't really get it. And as the months pass, Erin and Garrett have some difficult decisions to make.

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Step Up 3D Review


Weak
Shamelessly derivative and laughably packed with every cliche imaginable, this second sequel pushes the formula into a full-on celebration of street dance.

And through sheer exuberance, it almost gets away with it. It's not good, but it's a lot of fun.

Luke (Malambri) runs a nightclub and dance studio out of the Brooklyn warehouse he inherited from his parents. Despite the fact that the club is packed to the rafters every night, he's behind on his mortgage and really needs to win the upcoming World Jam to save his crew's home. So he challenges his team, the Pirates, to go for it against their arch-rival competitors. New members include Natalie (Vinson), who sparks a romance with Luke, and Moose (Sevani), who neglects his university studies and his pining best pal Camille (Stoner) to dance in secret.

Continue reading: Step Up 3D Review

The Last Song Review


OK
Novelist Sparks turns screenwriter with this film, which combines his usual themes (beaches, grieving teens, cancer) as a vehicle for Cyrus to put her childhood career behind her. It's exactly what we expect, but it's also fairly watchable.

The summer after her high school graduation, rebellious Ronnie (Cyrus) and her precocious little brother Jonah (Coleman) are driven by their mum (Preston) from New York to the Georgia coast to stay with their estranged father (Kinnear). After sulking around in a huff, Ronnie starts to soften a bit, befriending shirtless volleyball hunk Will (Hemsworth). And as their romance grows, she starts warming up to her dad as well. But dark rumours, Will's snobby parents (Vernon and Searcy) and Ronnie's troubled friend Blaze (Chaikin) create various problems, as does the dreaded C-word.

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17 Again Review


Excellent
Zac Efron takes a lot of heat for singing high-pitched tunes and prancing around on basketball courts in the High School Musical movies, but in 17 Again he finally gets to prove that he's more than Disney's poster boy. Here, he plays Mike O'Donnell, a 17-year-old high school senior with a basketball scholarship on the horizon (not exactly a stretch for the actor). When he discovers that his girlfriend, Scarlett, is pregnant, he finds himself having to choose between marrying her and pursuing college athletics. He chooses the girl.

That was back in 1989. Twenty years later, Mike (now Matthew Perry) finds himself regretting some of those choices. He's now in his thirties, and life has fallen apart. He hates his dead-end job and wishes he would have gone to college. His two teenage kids (Michelle Trachtenberg and Sterling Knight) have nothing to do with him, and Scarlett (Leslie Mann) is in the process of divorcing him. All the while, his nerdy best friend, Ned (Thomas Lennon), has become an inventor and has more money than he knows what to do with. If only Mike could turn back the clock.

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Step Up 2 the Streets Review


OK
Despite all of the cheap, cheesy, and/or thoroughly unnecessary sequels I've seen on purpose in my time, a second helping of the 2006 dance-romance (ro-dance?) Step Up was not high on my list of potential larks, thanks to dance-movie fatigue in general and the dullness of the first movie in particular. But Step Up 2 is something of a surprise, a teen-dance movie that should please its target audience without pandering -- or without only pandering, at least.

It helps that Step Up 2 is a sequel only in the sense that it, too, is about dancing teens -- so really, you could make a case for You Got Served, Stomp the Yard, Save the Last Dance, and all the rest being a single franchise with more titles than Freddy or Jason, and closing in on James Bond. The near-complete turnover both in front of and behind the camera is healthy for the energy levels, and fans of this type of movie, too, who at least deserve more than the heavy-handed romance of the original (and I use that term loosely).

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Hairspray (2007) Review


Extraordinary
As Hairspray opens, director Adam Shankman's camera parts the clouds and peers down from the heavens on beautiful Baltimore. A star is born. Maryland's blue-collar port city deserves top billing in the Hairspray credits, for it is as much a central character to the story as John Travolta's portly and protective housewife or Michelle Pfeiffer's catty television producer.

Immediately, the music kicks in. The day-to-day sounds of the bustling town melt with Marc Shaiman's infectious doo-wop score and the camera swoops toward the modest bedroom of typical teen Tracy Turnblad, who is played to perfection by newcomer Nikky Blonsky. Another star is born. But though the angle may descend rapidly, Shankman's movie remains airborne for two full hours, bolstered by the incomparable high that accompanies the raucous joy of musical rebellion.

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Tangled Review


Grim
Hey, it's the first lame direct-to-DVD movie of 2003!

Tangled purports to describe the complicated love triangle among three college kids: She's All That hottie Rachael Leigh Cook, mysterious Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and slack-jawed yokel Shawn Hatosy (Outside Providence). Tough choices all around, for sure.

Continue reading: Tangled Review

The Wedding Planner Review


Grim
Ah, welcome to San Francisco, the place I call home. It's a city of exorbitant housing costs where we're facing two years of electricity blackouts, and it's home to some of the most ridiculously magical romances ever conceived. (See also: The Bachelor.)

In what is either a sassy updating of the fable of marriage or a vicious lambasting of its sanctity, depending on your point of view, The Wedding Planner presents us with Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey as an unlikely pair who somehow manage to get together -- against all odds, of course.

Continue reading: The Wedding Planner Review

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