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Italian actress Arianna Nastro who plays a role in the movie ‘La Sapienza’ poses during a photocall at the 67th Locarno International Film Festival, Friday, Aug 8, in Locarno, Switzerland. The festival runs from Aug 6-16. (AP)
Laughable acting, jerky moves Dance and script fail ‘Step Up’

The “Step Up” franchise can be one of the most frustrating series in movies today — each film offers up transcendent moments featuring some truly electrifying dancing, but to get to those golden nuggets you have to sift through mounds of terrible writing and laughable acting. Even if you’ve resigned yourself to that trade-off, “Step Up All In,” the fifth chapter of this ongoing saga, doesn’t rank among the best of these. The choreography falls short of the heights of “Step Up 2: The Streets” and “Step Up 3D,” and the plot isn’t as goofily engaging as that of “Step Up Revolution.” If it’s a champion in any category — and I had arguments about this with the rest of my viewing party, “Step Up” connoisseurs all — cinematographer Brian Pearson (“Into the Storm”) uses 3-D in the dance sequences better than any of his series predecessors.
The plot, such as it is: Six months after the climactic events of “Step Up Revolution,” in which Miami dancers The Mob came to Los Angeles to shoot a Nike commercial, the crew is dispirited by one go-nowhere audition after another. They all decide to pack it in and go home, except for Sean (square-jawed, blank-eyed Ryan Guzman, “Pretty Little Liars”), who’s determined to make it in Hollywood and who feels betrayed by the abandonment of his friends, particularly BFF Eddy (Misha Gabriel).
Needing work, Sean takes a job in a dance studio run by the elderly grandparents of Moose (Adam Sevani). When VH1 host Alexxa Brava (Izabella Miko) announces a reality TV contest to find the best dance crew — with the winners getting a three-year gig in Las Vegas — Sean decides to assemble a new cadre of dancers. Moose, as a “Step Up” veteran, rounds up performers from the previous movies, including Andie (Briana Evigan, “Step Up 2: The Streets”), who immediately clashes with Sean over who’s running things. Once this new crew — dubbed “LMNTRIX” — makes it to Vegas, however, they find themselves facing off with not just the villainous Grim Knights but also The Mob.
Along the way, screenwriter John Swetnam (also from “Into the Storm”) manages to pack his script with the most handy contrivances, forced misunderstandings, and character-180s this side of “A Madea Christmas.” One could argue that the “Step Up” movies are following in the footsteps of the “Fast and Furious” franchise by throwing all of its characters together and wisely eschewing plot and character in favor of what people really came to see. That’s a good start, but “Step Up All In” makes the dialogue and storytelling from, say, “Fast 6” seem like Noël Coward by comparison.
Once the dancing happens, however, it’s easy to overlook the film’s flaws, although choreographers Jamal Sims, Christopher Scott, and Dondraico Johnson have a tendency to lean toward jerky (albeit gymnastic) movement rather allow for smooth flow. Even if the big numbers in “Step Up All In” don’t always hit the heights of its immediate predecessors, there are enough exultant moments — during the crew battles or Sean and Andie’s pas de deux on a carnival ride — to tide you over until the inevitable Part Six. It’s just too bad that the paths to the film’s predictable outcome and character couplings — hey, executive producer Adam Shankman, five movies and not a single gay dancer, incidentally? — are so clumsy and the performances so eyeroll-inducing. Here’s hoping the script for the next sequel merely reads, “They dance. Then they dance some more. Then everybody dances a lot. The End.”
 At what point are we going to stop being shocked when a movie aimed at women with a female lead breaks out at the box office? Scarlett Johansson and the sci-fi thriller “Lucy” is the latest to do it, after a butt-kicking $44 million box-office opening this weekend that was bigger than just about anyone expected. “Having a woman in the lead definitely helped,” said Nikki Rocco, distribution chief at Universal, the studio behind the Luc Besson-directed thriller that topped its production budget in its first weekend. “Scarlett was terrific and that, along with the fact that the film was an original concept, made it seem fresh, and audiences responded.”
The size of the opening — about $10 million over most analysts’ projections — was stunning, but the fact that “Lucy” connected wasn’t. Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” is going to make more money this summer than “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Godzilla.” Disney’s live-action update of its classic fairy tales has taken in more than $700 million worldwide, and with $232 million trails only “Transformers: Age of Extinction” as the season’s biggest domestic hit. The financial success of Fox’s “The Fault in Our Stars” is even more amazing. Made for about $12 million, the adaptation of John Green’s teary tale of teens with cancer starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort has taken in $122 million domestically and $133 million overseas for a staggering $256 million global total. That’s quite the return on investment. Even “Tammy,” the raunchy Melissa McCarthy comedy that underwhelmed in its opening, is up to $84 million globally for Warner Bros., or four times its budget.
Should we be shocked? Not hardly
Last year’s highest-grossing film domestically was “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. And Anna and Elsa, the ice princesses of “Frozen,” skated to $1.27 billion globally — more than “Iron Man 3.” Sandra Bullock in “Gravity” ($716 million) out-earned “Man of Steel” ($668 million) at the worldwide box office. “Moviegoers are sending Hollywood a message, and it couldn’t be more clear: they want more movies with women at the center of them,” vice-president and senior analyst Phil Contrino told TheWrap.
It’s worth noting that when assessing movies made with and for women, we’re not talking about audiences made up of just females. You don’t see the sort of blockbuster grosses that “Catching Fire” and “Maleficent” have rung up without drawing plenty of males. This weekend’s audiences for “Lucy” were split 50-50 between men and women, for example. Contrino believes that Hollywood’s tin ear when it comes to female-driven projects is in part because of its largely male leadership. There are powerful women in key studio posts like Donna Langley at Universal, Sue Kroll at Warner Bros. and Amy Pascal at Sony, but they remain a minority in the meeting rooms. (RTRS)
“It has to stop being a boys club when it comes to producing and deciding what gets made,” Contrino said. “If you have a bunch of guys in decision-making roles, that’s the direction it’s going. There has to be more diversity in leadership.” But Contrino is convinced that the recent success of projects featuring and aimed at women is making a difference. “It’s changing, and last year and this year are evidence of that. Nothing speaks louder than the bottom line, so things should get better.” So are you listening, Hollywood? “People have been mystified as to why there hasn’t been an announcement of a Black Widow movie,” Contrino said, referring to the Johansson’s superhero character in “Marvel’s The Avengers,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Iron Man 2.” “Maybe it’s one of those untitled projects that are scheduled for 2018. It should be.” (RTRS)
By Alonso Duralde

By: Alonso Duralde

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