dance

Dance Baby Dance (2018)

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A former dancer sets to live his dream and overcome the odds in this fun dancing film from filmmaker Stephen Kogon, who also stars in the lead role.

Jimmy Percer has had a dream to become a professional tap dancer. However, a knee injury took him out of the competition and despite all efforts, his knee never has fully healed. He eventually married fellow dancer Tess and got a regular job. However, he spends his free time at the studio where his wife works to continue his dream. He learns of an upcoming dance showcase and he is determined to be a part of a touring company, whose members will be chosen through the showcase.

However, despite his determination, Jimmy finds himself having some obstacles. Hector, the owner of the dance studio, won’t sponsor Jimmy because of his age and knee injury. Tess is worried Jimmy will seriously injure himself. However, that all changes when Tess’ sister Lanie and niece Kit arrive after Lanie and husband split up and Lanie falls on hard times. Kit learns about Jimmy’s talents and the two forge a bond. With the showcase coming up, will Jimmy be able to overcome the odds and get the chance to live his dream?

Shall We Dance? Dance of a Dream. These are examples of feel good films that revolve around the world of dancing and this film, from Stephen Kogon, is a terrifically made film about overcoming the odds and living your dream through hard work. The story of a man who in his prime nearly lost the chance to become a professional only to get a second chance years later barely has a tone of anger and sorrow but instead is a film that helps bring about feeling good about what one wants to do and even helping those close to you feel good in the process.

That is truly in the case of our protagonist Jimmy, played by director Kogon. Throughout the film, Jimmy’s determination constantly makes him happy. He is perhaps the ultimate likable fellow whose aspirations and determination keeps him smiling. Kogon even does all of his tap dance scenes and his chemistry with 7th Heaven star Beverly Mitchell as his wife is great but the fun piece involves his bonding scene with Hayley Shukiar as Tess’ niece Kit. The scene plays out in a tap dance battle that soon becomes perhaps a tribute to classic Hollywood tap dancing on screen.

While there are sparse comical moments from Kogon, the real comic relief comes in the form of Hector, the owner of the dance studio, played by the hilarious Carlos Alazraqui. The well-known voice actor plays it off pretty funnily as the constantly complaining owner, who doesn’t seem to have a liking for Jimmy and does everything in his power to convince him not to get in the showcase. However, Jimmy finds support not just within his family, but his boss and even two fellow dancers, Ravon and Dex.

Dance Baby Dance truly stands out as a feel good film about facing the odds and living the dream. A likable Stephen Kogon and the tap dancing sequences are fun to watch. If you want a film that just makes you feel good without expecting something mindblowing as well as enjoy some fun dancing scenes, then this is your film.

WFG RATING: B+

Indie Rights Movies presents a Wings of Hope production. Director: Stephen Kogon. Producers: Roy Bodner, Stephen Kogon, John Kaiser, and Travis Huff. Writer: Stephen Kogon. Cinematography: Shanele Alvarez. Editing: Jason Horton.

Cast: Beverly Mitchell, Stephen Kogon, Carlos Alazraqui, Lisa Brenner, Hayley Shukiar, Clare Grant, Isaiah Lucas, Jim Nowakowski, Jim O’Heir, Ellen Kim.

The film will make its debut at the Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood on January 19, 2018.

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Besouro (2008)

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The martial art of Capoeira comes home in this Brazilian action drama that combines a historical retrospective and a taste of the supernatural.

The year is 1924. Capoeira has been outlawed and despite the abolition of slavery forty years ago, blacks are still treated like slaves. Master Alipio has been a leader to the black community in the fight for equal rights. His star students in the art of Capoeira are Besouro, Dinora, and Quero-Quero. On January 21, 1924, Master Alipio is gunned down by a member of an army led by Colonel Venancio.

Before he dies, Master Alipio asks Besouro to carry on his mission. However, Besouro continues to mourn and blame himself for his master’s death while he has lost respect from his friends and the community. When fellow capoerista Chico is viciously assaulted by the Colonel and his number one man, Noca, he ends up disrespecting the spirit of Exu. When the spirit of Exu confronts both Chico and Besouro, Besouro is given a wake up call.

However, when Besouro confronts the Colonel’s goons, he makes an escape and jumps off a cliff. Having barely survived, Besouro becomes empowered by the spirits of the Orixas, the forces of nature. With his late master serving as a guide, Besouro becomes one with the forces of Ossain, Oxum, and Lansa. With his Capoeira skills and his spiritual powers, Besouro begins his mission to follow his fate as a hero to the oppressed people of Brazil.

Since the 1990’s, the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira has made its way to Hollywood in the forms of films such as Kickboxer 3: The Art of War, Only the Strong, Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor, and The Quest. Even Dustin Hoffman’s Bernard Focker claims to be a student of the art in the comedy Meet the Fockers and Will Ferrell even played put it to good hilarious use in Get Hard. However, this is the first time the country where Capoeira was born, Brazil, tackles the art in film form and tells of a legend in its midst.

This is quite an interesting film and it is apparent that the film was made not only for its native Brazilian audiences, but also for an international audience to embrace the art and one of its myths. Co-writer and director João Daniel Tikhomiroff seems to have done his homework and with the help of fellow screenwriters Patrícia Andrade and Bráulio Tavares, gives a little history on Capoeira (in the opening and ending monologues) as well as gives an example of a religious belief in Brazil involving “Orixas”, the forces of nature. This is ensured to make the non-Brazilian viewer get an understanding nature of their culture and belief. The script itself fairs well, but could have done without a love story that proves to be too little too late, yet it becomes the catalyst for a shocking twist in the story.

The film is driven by an exciting lead performance by capoerista Aílton Carmo, who plays the titular Besouro (the word for “beetle” in Portuguese). Carmo plays the role as a student whose arrogance and pride costs him his master and ultimately goes on a spiritual quest to find himself as a potential hero to oppression. To achieve this, he uses his a combination of Capoeira skills and his newly empowered skills with the forces of nature. The supporting cast do fairly well in their roles, notably Jéssica Barbosa in the dual roles of Dinora and the Orixa of “bravery” Lansa and Flavio Rocha as dastardly mastermind Colonel Venancio.

The action director of the film is Hong Kong stuntman Deedee Ku Huen-Chiu. Ku, a member of Yuen Woo-Ping’s stunt team, does fairly well with the fight choreography. There is some wirework in the film, but abundantly overdosed. As a matter of fact, when Besouro does in fact “fly” and jumps over rocks (a move seen in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Krrish), it serves a purpose. The fact that Besouro has become one with the forces of nature allows him to gain this ability. However, when it comes to using Capoeira, the fights look quite well done and for the most part, done without wirework and relies more of the pure skills of the cast. This done due to the combination of Ku’s stunt team and Masters Nildo and Cascuda, who served as the film’s Capoeira consultants.

Besouro is quite an interesting film overall. Any doubts about the overabundance of wirework may see a sign of relief as it wasn’t overused and relied more on the pure skills of the art of Capoeira. The film is worth a rental.

WFG RATING: B

A Mixer and Teleimage Production in association with Globo Filmes. Director: João Daniel Tikhomiroff. Producers: João Daniel Tikhomiroff, Michel Tikhomiroff, Gil Ribeiro, Fernando Souza Dias, and Vicente Amorim. Writers: João Daniel Tikhomiroff, Patrícia Andrade, and Bráulio Tavares. Cinematography: Enrique Chediak. Editing: Gustavo Giani.

Cast: Aílton Carmo, Jéssica Barbosa, Flávio Rocha, Irandhir Santos, Macalé, Ânderson Santos de Jesus, Leno Sacramento, Cris Vianna, Sérgio Laurentino, Geíso Costa, Nilton Júnior.