ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE – I love a good romantic movie and I especially love it when directors approach the genre from a different angle. The reason why “Timecode” might just win an Oscar come February is because the way director Juanjo Giménez approaches the love of two people. The romance is built through technology, but not in the way you’d assume. Director Juanjo Giménez unfolds his short film with very little dialogue and a lot of acting that relies on facial expressions and heavy reactions to events that ensue.
Returning to the big screen on January 29th and February 1st for a 30th anniversary presentation from Fathom Events and Lionsgate.
“Dirty Dancing” represents a lot of what made eighties cinema so great. There’s the obsession with the sixties, Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, a pretty brilliant soundtrack, and of course a story about the guy from the wrong side of the tracks and the upper class girl above him in certain respects. Sure, “Dirty Dancing” can be silly, but it’s silly in a good way, and it’s bold in its approaching abortion as a key story element that sets the narrative in to motion. “Dirty Dancing” is one of the best movies about the love of dance and music ever made, and while it’s definitely associated with the chick flick label, it’s a movie that just about anyone can enjoy. And how can you not love “(I Had) The Time of My Life”?
You have to give it to Lucille Ball. While there are countless stories about her latter years in show business and how much of a tyrant she was, she seemed to show a lot of respect for Carol Burnett. Burnett was prompted by network executives to build a big time television special. Burnett recruited Ball, who was more than happy to co-star. Burnett, an old school queen of comedy, shared the stage with Ball, another titan of comedy.
It’s really charming how much confidence UA Pictures seems to place on the fad of roller disco. I’m assuming what with the implentation of the disco scene for John Badham’s “Saturday Night Fever,” I guess someone naturally assumed UA Pictures could market on that success by featuring a coming of age drama in the same vein but with roller disco. The problem with “Roller Boogie,” though is that while it aspires for bigger things, the film falls squarely in the middle of mediocrity. “Roller Boogie” is not a bad film, nor is it a terribly cheesy one like “Breakin’.” It’s merely a depiction of a dance fad that didn’t have a real staying power, and the gimmick isn’t used to tell a very compeling tale when all is said and done.
Not even Mark Lester could breathe a sense of life or energy behind his film, as it suffers from too much plot and a narrative that’s much too formulaic for a film with the pretense of originality. That’s a shame since Linda Blair is a very solid actress who can pull off the girl next door protagonist whenever she really wants to. Considering the film is more for teens, Blair never really sheds her clothing, but that doesn’t stop her from running around in tight tank tops, hot pants, and short skirts. Blair’s own sex appeal drowns out anything else the movie tries to push in terms of character or sub-plot, and she only comes out ahead slightly above everyone else. Blair is Terry, a young privileged teenager who is on her way to college.
She is a gifted classical musician whose posh parents have gotten her in to an upscale college but, woe is her, she wants to be a roller disco dancer. Apparently there’s a massive population of roller disco dancers in California and on the boardwalk. They travel in packs and perform tricks for tourists while riding to their every day jobs, and Terry wants anxiously to be a part of it all. Bobby James is a fast talking hustler who is also the best roller disco dancer of them all and Terry hires him to teach her all of the best dance moves and skills.
Meanwhile, Terry wants to garner her affection and become her boyfriend while teaching her how to master dance moves on roller skates. The writers also feature a sub-plot involving Bobby’s group of friends which never has a major impact on the overall resolution of the film.
The main crux of the movie is that the roller disco club Jammers is being strong armed out of business by local thugs, and the owner of the club has decided to retire. The roller disco crew want to keep it opened, though, and decide to band together to help the owner. Because disco is forever, baby! Most of the film is centered around the relationship between Terry and Bobby, and how Terry is so not your normal rich girl. She loves him, then hates him, then loves him, and then loves him more because he wants her for her body and not her money.
“Roller Boogie” wouldn’t be so bad if it managed to dig up an interesting storyline and wasn’t so concerned with being more of a safe drama comedy, with dancers suddenly banding together to save their favorite hang out and battling evil land owners. It’s such a dull premise considering there could have been so much more developed around a fascinating form of dance. Look at “Roll Bounce,” a movie about roller disco that happens to be pretty fun since it draws an interesting conflict and channels the vibe of the seventies so much better.
Here it’s less about the dancing and more about Terry rebelling against her upper crest wealth family. Which contradicts the tone as a whole since Lester spends a lot of time with montages of the roller disco dancers doing what they do best. For a film a little under two hours, if director Lester didn’t spend so much time filming various dancers flipping and rolling around the film would be much more compact and easier to endure. Lester has a clear idea of how to spotlight the unique dance form, but the writers have absolutely nothing to do with it. Terry wants to rebel, then she falls for her trainer, then she teams up with the other dancers to save her favorite club and there’s a very rushed climactic dance competition. Of course Terry and Bobby win the contest easily, since the lack of minorities in this movie is more frightenin than “Hell Night,” but that’s a whole other topic altogether. If anything, at least “Roller Boogie” sports a neat disco soundtrack, including a prominent playing of “Boogie Wonderland.”
Plus there’s Lester’s nigh endless footage of dancers rolling around and flipping begins to feel like a documentary, screeching any attempt at momentum with the narrative to a grinding halt. With director Mark L. Lester directing, and Blair starring, you assume we’d have an instant classic on our hands, but “Roller Boogie” isn’t anything remotely special. It’s so plainly bland and forgettable, I’d just about forgotten everything I’d seen when the credits rolled. The movie is barely at the level of “Xanadu” concerning cheese and kitsch value, which doesn’t bode well for star Blair who likely hoped this would skyrocket her as a bonafide leading lady for more youth oriented films.
It’s too bad, too, considering Blair is a solid actress with a girl next door appeal that makes her worth watching in other kinds of films that aren’t horror oriented. And let’s face it, the only reason to watch “Roller Boogie” is because of Blair who looks insanely sexy during her performance and is pretty much off the charts in hotness.
Mark L. Lester’s goofy attempt to market on the Roller Disco craze is a very non-threatening and silly movie whose main crime is being so utterly forgettable. It’s not one of the worst movies ever made, but it also never achieves heights of cult infamy like “Xanadu” and “Staying Alive.” It’s just a brutally mediocre and middling sport drama comedy that you’ll forget about, even in spite of the incredibly vivacious Lindar Blair starring.
I liken “Beat Street” to “Saturday Night Fever” in where both films, set in the Bronx, feature very talented youths with troubled home lives trying to fulfill their promise and chase the American dream. While “Beat Street” is nowhere near as timeless as the former film, director Stan Lathan’s drama is an entertaining, if exaggerated look at life in the Bronx, and the culture that would eventually die with the decade. The film produced by Harry Belafonte doesn’t have the same committee constructed, consumer pandering aesthetic that the “Step Up” movies do. But for all intents and purposes it tend to shine the light on actual minorities living in the Bronx, some of whom can barely make rent, but still drive themselves on their love for their work.
Like many people that likely watched “Grease Live,” I’m a huge fan of 1978’s “Grease.” I’ve seen it at least a thousand times and watch it every single time it’s on television. So naturally fans like me would go in to “Grease Live” comparing it to the 1978 movie, consciously and sub-consciously. It was a risky venture giving us a live broadcast of “Grease,” but FOX took a gamble, and a wise one by getting in on the live musical broadcast gimmick, starting off with one of the most entertaining musicals of all time. “Grease Live” is pretty much the same as we always knew it, seemingly taking bits and pieces from the 1978 movie and including numbers from the original musical. Surely enough while I was worried about what I was getting in to, a lot of my reservations about casting, and production were absolutely destroyed with what was a pretty damn fun, three hour broadcast.
For fans that don’t want to pay incredible amounts of money for the complete editions of “The Carol Burnett Show,” but still want to savor in a complete episode of the hit comedy series, DVD’s like “Together Again” exist for you and you alone. Though it’s a little tough to tell what kind of episodes are on these DVD releases and what they feature, these editions are fine snippets of what you’d get if you forked over money for complete season sets. For a primer course, “Together Again” isn’t too shabby for your collection.
After the pop culture explosion that Steven Soderbergh brought to screens with 2012’s “Magic Mike,” director Gregory Jacobs does a bang up job of carrying the torch. “Magic Mike XXL” is a mixed bag that sags in the middle but is overall a very entertaining road film. After three years retired from the erotic dance business, Mike receives word that former boss “Dallas” is dead. Shocked to learn that he is very alive and abandoned his former group of dancers, Mike is inspired to rejoin his old team after a serendipitous airing of the song “Pony” reminds him of his old days.