FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Rob Reiner |||
Rob Reiner

Son of comic genius Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner has picked up the family torch and directed some of the most memorable, quotable, and endearing comedies of the last two decades, and he’s no schmuck when it comes to dramas either.

This is a hilarious spoof filled with biting satire about a filmmaker making a documentary (or “rockumentary” if you will) about a once famous raucous British heavy metal band on a disastrous U.S concert tour, featuring the magnificent talents of co-stars/co-scripters Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. This granddaddy of the mocumentary speaks to the hard rockin’, air guitar playing 14-year-old boy in us all.

In this low-key sleeper hit based on a Stephen King story four young boys in 1959 Oregon set out on a camping trip in order to see a dead body one of them accidentally found. This is a loving memoir to a simpler time with an exceptionally talented young cast tentatively taking the steps on a road that leads to maturity.

Reiner turns a wry, even caustic, eye on men and women in friendship and in love, and that gray area in between. This is an engaging and smartly performed comedy about a pair of longtime platonic friends who turn a feud into a lasting friendship, determined not to let sex mess up a great relationship, until love threatens to ruin everything.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Step Up

By BrianOrndorf

August 11th, 2006

I don’t if I should laugh or cry about “Step Up.” This brainless dance film doesn’t aspire to be anything but a timewaster for undiscerning teens, but it’s made so carelessly, the picture can’t even live up to that simple goal. And if the screenwriting doesn’t make you scream, the acting surely will.

Step Up

Tyler (Channing Tatum, 26 years old playing 17) is a disaffected teen being pulled into the criminal underworld of his rough neighborhood. When a petty crime puts him in an arts high school to serve out his community service, Tyler is drawn to Nora (Jenna Dewan, also 26 trying to pass for a teenager), a frustrated ballet dancer without a suitable partner for her senior dance recital. Offering his services as a hip-hop dancer, Tyler and Nora begin to collaborate on the big recital, which helps brighten up the rest of their dour lives and offers Tyler hope for a better future.

At the risk of coming off as an old man, dance movies used to be about the risk, passion, or burning desire to express an artistic itch; recently, they’ve been reduced to dreadfully-written dramas meant to pimp hit soundtracks to allowance-heavy audiences. “Step Up” doesn’t feature a single mark of distinction in its entire production, and unless you’re a pushover pre-teen with a hankering for lousy acting and “this is your generation!” screenwriting that would take the label “hackneyed” as a compliment, I would suggest tangoing over to another movie worth your time.

Have you seen “Save the Last Dance” or last spring’s “Take the Lead?” Well, then you’ve already watched “Step Up.” Another attempt to shoehorn hip-hop dancing into classical ballet, “Step Up” isn’t the worst film on the subject, but is easily the most insipid. It’s a lethargic piece, strung together with clichés, and unwilling to aspire to be anything more than the established ingredients of a mild teen hit. Longtime choreographer Anne Fletcher finally gets her shot behind the camera, yet she passively watches as her film is eaten alive by the cancerous predictability of it all.

Casting clearly isn’t Fletcher’s forte either. Lead actress Jenna Dewan has a whiny quality that doesn’t portray the push and pull of real life vs. dance her character should be experiencing. And as for Channing Tatum, looks get this former male model in the door, while his enormous lack of charisma slams it shut in his face. When Tatum shakes his moneymaker, there’s a joy in his movement the rest of his performance lacks. Channeling his inner Vanilla Ice, Tatum conveys all the charm of a doormat, putting the brakes on any reason why the audience should care about his character. It’s a graceless, baffling acting job.

There should be a parade of rainbows once Tyler falls for dance, or even Nora, but Tatum can’t get past this one face he makes (think Cro-Magnon meets all too real confusion). When actual acting doesn’t work for Tatum, he falls back quickly on his old “blue steel” model poses to charm the only demo that could possibly be swayed by this movie: teen girls. The star might have liquid dance moves on the stage, but Tatum has worlds of acting homework ahead of him.

The largest sin committed by “Step Up” is when it goes for the melodramatic act of urban violence (the MAUV) to corral what it thinks passes for emotional cherry bomb. Once Tyler’s two African-American friends are introduced as car-stealing, sass-mouthed, money-lusting thugs, you know one of them is not going to be around to see Tyler dance his crooked-baseball-cap wearin’ ass off for the grand finale. Yet, even when presented with continual proof that this plot device never works (“Take the Lead” drank the same Kool-Aid), “Step Up” pads itself out 15 minutes longer to cover this subplot in punch-yourself-in-the-face detail. Who really wants to sit through that?

My rating: D