Saturday, October 31, 2015
Whitney Carson makes a promising debut in Dancin' It's On. A young person's film made by 79 year-old actor, dancer and director David Winters (The Last Horror Film, West Side Story). Winters' film has a great deal going for it.
I must confess a fondness for what I call kitchen sink movies: movies where a bunch of themes, tones and types of character are thrown against the wall to see what sticks. Juraj Jakubisko and even Godard do this on a lot. Dancin is not at the level of the best from those to masters, but it's very good. This film has a kickboxer father who runs a luxury hotel that hires circus performers, a mime, dancing golfers, death and Shakespeare.
Not all of the themes work. The Winters character's secret is not handled well. The Romeo and Juliet comparisons are a stretch, and the two side characters display more growth and likeability than the two leads. But the themes that do work work very well.
For a film that follows a tradition of young rich girl falling for poor boy romances, Dancin displays a great deal of imagination. There are moments that are just as joyous as the musicals of old. What is wrong with breaking into song and dance once in a while?
The film also has something that most films lack, sincerity. I think it helps that the people that were hired to act in this film are dancers taken from competition shows. The film is about training for a competition and these performers add a certain depth that an actor who just learned to dance might not have. Sure, not everyone in here shines, but no one feels inauthentic. Even the father, a rich former kickboxer, was an actual kickboxer. They hired the right people to display a love of dance that Winters obviously has. The character Winters wrote for himself is the weakest in the film, but one could also see this project as an old dancer's attempt to show he still has some moves left, and that is quite touching.
My fiancee and I had the theater to ourselves, a sad situation for the film, but we had a great time, liked every montage and marveled at Jordan Clark who has big things ahead of her.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
I suspect Jon M Chu was chosen because he had taken a Hasbro production to success with GI Joe Retaliation and made two very sucessful Bieber documentaries. Much like Jem, which was once an 80's cartoon that followed He-Man, Chu's work appealed to men and teen and tween girls. Jimmy Fallon has a cameo in the film explaining that though Jem is for girls, he likes it too.
I have seen none of Chu's work, but I would say he certainly is quite good at filming musical sequences and has heartfelt and kinetic energy in this work, all of which serves Jem and the Holograms very well.
Aubrey Peeples stars as Jerrica. She has sisters and cousins and an aunt and a dead father (no mention of a mother). The whole family is musically inclined. Jerrica is the more introspective of the family and probably the most intelligent. She quietly records a song that gets uploaded on Youtube and becomes a viral hit, a great song in fact that could become a viral hit in the real world, under the name Jem. The film is litered with real Youtube videos of people trying to showcase various talents. It is a very nice touch.
The film is about hiding under names in an online, viral world, the deceptive world or marking and trying to maintain personal intergrity. A young rock girl is trying to help her aunt by signing a solo rock contract that will create tension with the rest of her family.
There are questions left on the table. Just how old is Jem's keeper and could he really run the business without it being held up in court for years? Why didn't Jem reveal her identity sooner insuring that her aunt would get some money through a TV exclusive on the story?
In the end though, it is kind of touching what Jem chooses to do with her identity. The film is sincere, has fine music and positive characters. It also has more of an 80s vibe to it then other attempts at recapturing the decade. That might sound odd because of all the Youtube references but it's there The very end, a montage of fan videos, is an obvious love letter to fans of the series. And any true fans of the cartoon should like this film.