Thursday, February 28, 2008

Step Up 2, Takin' It to ......... the Rain-Soaked Alley?

We welcome our first guest contributor, STJ. He'll introduce himself in greater detail, but we here at The Popcorn Trick have a few standing policies. One of which is that anyone who willingly pays $9 to see Step Up 2 AND watches the whole thing should be given a semi-regular soapbox from which to pontificate.

If anyone else can make that claim, send us your ticket stub, and we'll send you a password.



I'd like to welcome myself to The Popcorn Trick. As a long time listener/reader, first time poster I'm pleased as a pig in shit to have been asked by the esteemed Goose and Cline to add my expertise on things pop culture. For a little introduction, I'm a young professional livin' it up in Philly who spends most of my time building buildings and playing Ultimate. Here's a brief list of the primary pop culture subject matters discussed in my PcD dissertation (Pop culture Degree):
  • Pro Wrestling (pre WWF-WCW merger)
  • Transformers
  • 80's cartoons in general
  • Chick Flicks
  • Jerry Bruckheimer movies
  • The 1993 Philadelphia Phillies
  • 8-bit Nintendo games
  • Transformers
  • Awesomely bad dance movies.
Which brings us to the topic at hand.

If you've been making a habit of tuning into the local urban stations over the past couple of weeks you might recognize some of these songs that are been played approximately once an hour.

Low - Flo Rida
Killa (feat. Young Joc) - Cherish
Hypnotized (feat. Akon) - Piles

What you might not know is the reason you've been bombarded by these rhythmic geniuses. "Step Up 2: Takin It to the Streets" the sequel to that stellar 2006 release "Step Up" came out recently. Now I know you're thinking to yourself, STJ probably saw that the day before it came out. Nay friends, that Friday I had an Ultimate game, this movie had to wait til Saturday when I saw it with a lady friend who might actually have a similarly bad taste in movies as yours truly.

The plot of this masterpiece centers around Andie who the viewer is led to believe is the step sister of Tyler Gage (from Step Up). Her name in that one was Camille. I'd say it's a gaping plot wound, but it's conceivable that she was just some tough girl he met as a foster kid. Anyway, Andie is a member of the group of dancers known as the 401. They're a bunch of street hooligans known for pulling off elaborate dance stunts, filming them, and putting them on YouTube. Their group is constantly practicing for a secret underground dance competition in Baltimore called "The Streets". One random night a year every "underground" dancer gets a text message telling them where to show up and dance their multi-cultural rear ends off for Respeck (the 'k' denotes how hard they are).

Of course Andie gets in trouble with her foster mom because she's been hanging with the 401 so much. Her mother is going to send her to live with her aunt in Texas. Andie gets pissed and leaves for the night where she runs into Tyler at a dance club (sadly his only appearance in the movie). He challenges her to a dance battle. If he wins, she has to tryout for the Maryland School of the Arts. He kicks her ass in a dance complete with trampolines in the floor and she has to try out. Damn trampolines!

Long story short, she meets the kid brother of the stuck-up teacher at her school (Chase Collins) who is also in love with "The Streets." Conveniently Andie's work as MSA causes her to be kicked out of her crew for not keeping it real. This upsets Andie. Chase, however, sees this as an opportunity. And if you didn't see where this was going, you probably watch movie in "art" theaters. They decide to form their own group comprised of all the MSA misfits who are, luckily for her, awesome street dancers.

What we as movie goers need to realize is that all these movies (Save the Last Dance, Step Up, Stomp the Yard, etc) are is a thinly veiled attempt by the music industry to allow multiple rap artists the chance to release multiple songs all at once rather than releasing one single at a time. Throw in some sweet dancing, and you've got yourself a movie made for under $10 million that will make more than that in the theaters (its already above $40 million in ticket sales). It's a brilliant move by Hollywood, really.

As for Step Up 2, the acting is pretty horrific. Step Up (the original) worked because Channing Tatum is hot, and because he can pull off the brooding white kid from the streets of Baltimore. He is miserable in his every day life until he finds the outlet of structured dance classes at MSA and gets his life in order. In Step Up 2, Andie really can't pull off this same act. She seems like a lost girl trying to be tough. The producers went so far as to make her voice sound hoarse to add to her street persona. Also, lets be honest, when it comes to street dancing that's very reliant on explosive flipping, jumping, head spinning, etc., guys have the significant advantage of generally just being stronger. And really, girls have got lots of rhythm and can look good while dancing, but they don't really have any "dropjaw", to steal a word from Bill Simmons.

In the end, the dancing aspect of the movie were enjoyable. You get to see most of "The Streets" competition which has some pretty sick routines. And of course ***Spoiler Alert*** the MSA crew goes to the Streets (after a dramatic (or corny) show of solidarity) and the other groups don't want to let them perform. So Andie jumps up on stage and gives a ridiculous speech about how the Streets should be for everyone and if their group can't perform in the competition, they'll be outside showing their stuff where the Streets began. Conveniently it begins to rain. Some guy opens up the trunk of his Caddy to reveal a giant speaker system. They start playing "Bounce" by Timbaland, and of course the MSA crew pulls out an incredibly nasty routine that pretty much makes the whole $9 you just spent worth it.

In summary: Dance movies shouldn't center around female characters (which is why I didn't go see How She Move). White guys can dance, they just have to work a lot harder to look good doing it. And the whole movie is made worth it by the end dance scene.

When is Stomp the Yard 2 coming out?



Evan O said...

I have a problem with your final statement:

"In summary: Dance movies shouldn't center around female characters (which is why I didn't go see How She Move)."

The first and probably best dance-movie centered around, Baby, a bored teen vacationing with her well-to-do family in the Catskills. It defined the cinematic collaboration of teen-angst and dance.

Dirty-Dancing, a celebration of dance, pop 80's music, and bridging generation gaps, could be recognized as the epitome of "fish-outa-water learns to dance to prove her/himself." (Plus there's the "Swayze Factor" - An element that brings any movie up the scale.

Also Flashdance?... Come to think of it...I wouldn't watch a dance movie if the lead wasn't a woman!

STJ said...

Here would be my counterpoint to your point good sir. Dirty Dancing and Flashdance were an entirely different animal than the dance movies of today. They should be compared more with Center Stage and arguably Save the Last Dance (although that one's really a hybrid). I would lump them into two categories. Street dance and Classical dance. Both enjoyable genre's but the street dance movies shouldn't have a female lead.

And then there's the movie that brings both genre's together in beautiful symbiotic harmony. "Take the Lead." Saw that one in the theater as well.

Cat said...

I have to agree with Evan O. Dirty Dancing IS the best dance-centered movie ever and in my top 5 best movies PERIOD ever. Maybe the statement should be modified to "street-dance movies shouldn't center around female characters" or "dance movies need to still have decent actors".

Cline said...

Maybe the statement should be modified to "STJ is a misogynistic woman-hater."

At least he can kiss a little.

agc said...

Tim, you actually make a good point here. Dirty dancing and flashdance were great - but in terms of the modern dance movie, there have been few centered around women that have actually worked. that being said, id argue that step up 2 might actually be better than the first. there's no way andie is a better dancer than any of the dudes in the movie, but overall, the dance scenes are far better. like the last dance? killer. not going to lie, the final performance in step up didnt really do it for me. channing tatum had some cool moves, but it was really the story that made that movie.
have you seen how she move? i remember reading a nytimes article before it came out, talking about how it was a very different movie because 1, the camerawork watched the dancers feet a lot, which is rarely done, and 2, because it centered on a woman, which has not really been the case as of late (step up, stomp the yard, drumline...). i havent seen it actually, but im looking forward to it.
oh! and have you seen rize? now THAT's a great dance movie.