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Step Up All In
The fifth entry in the Step Up film series (which debuted in 2006), Step Up All In reunites some of the fan favorites characters and brings characters together from several of the Step Up films into the new storyline. This entry establishes itself in such a way that returning fans can enjoy revisiting their favorite characters and new audience members can still follow along with the plotline and story.
It's been a tough time auditioning for dance gigs. Sean (Ryan Guzman) and his team of dancers continue to be passed on my professionals working in the dance industry and are struggling to make ends-meet. The latest dance audition doesn't go as planned -- they don't even get to go audition! -- and the crew decides it's time to give up and call it quits on their dance dreams.
Unlike the rest of the team, Sean decides to stick it out and look for more opportunities. He discovers the reality TV show dance competition forthcoming known as "The Vortex" and decides to get a new team of dancers to join in with him and submit a entry into the mix of Vortex competition. This includes recruiting retired-dancer Moose (Adam G. Sevani) into returning to the dancing scene (which is a comeback surely welcome by series fans as this character has been in almost every installment). Sean also is introduced to Andie (Briana Evigan, also making a return appearance in the series after her involvement in Step Up 2). Expanding upon the team, a whole host of characters wind up joining in, including other favorites of the Step Up series like Jenny Kido (Mari Koda) and the robotic-dancer who constantly 'does a robot jig'.
The new team submits an entry to The Vortex and makes it into the competition. Now it's up for them to prepare, compete, and win the competition so that they can secure a three-year Vegas show deal that will give them the security they want and the opportunity for them to keep on pursing their dreams. The competition is fierce, though. All-Out dance battles ensue and the starting revelation of a 'rigged' winner causes them to have to "step up" their game with more dance moves of remarkable skill. Can the team "win it" or will they go home empty handed?
Directed by Trish Sie (a first time filmmaker who has worked in dance and even won a Grammy for her work as a choreographer), Step Up All In is a reasonably engaging and entertaining film mostly because of the flow of the filmmaking and the choreography. The actors are decent at what they do and are likeable in their respective role so the audience will be engaged with a journey with these characters.
Unfortunately, the screenplay written by Josh Swetnam is the weak link of the picture: contrived, typical, and without any new ground to offer. It's as if the story and plotline was plucked directly from some mandatory studio-executive's handbook on how to create generic screenwriting. The screenplay won't be the main reason audiences even want to see the film (the dance numbers do seem to be the main attraction for this film series), but it's unfortunate that this particular aspect of the filmmaking disappoints. The concept of showing a team of dancers working to find their breakout is certainly appealing, but the way the script handles the dialogue and mechanization doesn't work.
The rest of the experience is generally strong, entertaining, and effective as the dance sequences are elaborately staged, well choreographed, and the brisk editing of the film manages to keep the film flowing in an enjoyable way. If one were to remove the writing, which feels uninspired, the rest of the film works and manages to be surprisingly effective. It's a fun movie but not a perfect one.
Trish Sie has done a solid job as director and has made it work as something uniformly engaging. Step Up All In doesn't break new ground but for fans of dance films (and dancing in general) it's still a film that is easily worth seeing for the impressive technical achievements on display and the inherent likeability of the core cast, who make the experience something enjoyable even in those less-than-impressive moments. And, of course, the dancing is great. For those seeking a flashy dance movie with great production merits on display, well, here's another one to fit that bill.
Step Up All In arrives on Blu-ray with an almost perfect video presentation. The hyper-kinetic colors, the jubilant cinematography, and stylistic flourishes of the filmmakers have translated over well to this 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in 1.78:1 widescreen. There is a minor amount of banding in a few scenes, and some of the photography can occasionally be filmed where some minor blurring or detail is lost in major motion. However, these slightly noticeable imperfections are barely present in an otherwise awesome presentation that is so overwhelmingly good, I'd almost give it a perfect score (but not quite). Fans will not find it disappointing.
This release includes a Dolby Atmos lossless surround sound presentation, though it's hard to tell how this was implemented onto the disc. This is one of the first Blu-ray releases to ever include this new extension of the Dolby sound design, which promises greater sonic quality and a new ability to implement additional speakers and overheard sound design. Obviously, most home theater enthusiasts won't be able to benefit entirely from all of this, but the inclusion is still noteworthy. More and more speakers and receivers will begin to implement the feature set requirements.
My receiver noted it as being a 48 khz, 7.1 Dolby TrueHD presentation. However, regardless of how the implantation of Atmos was handled, this is one of the best Dolby audio presentations I have ever heard. I am a firm believer in DTS -HD Master Audio, and back in the days of DVD audio DTS was also preferable to Dolby Digital. Dolby TrueHD can still deliver a performance that is noteworthy and pleasing but the bass implementation of DTS and higher bit-cores is one thing that I tend to consider to be in DTS's favor.
Yet I was blown away by the audio performance on Step Up All In. In a day when DTS reigns supreme with the majority of Blu-ray releases on the marketplace now, it's as if Dolby wants something to say in the matter with a potential comeback as Atmos promises a enveloping, highly detailed, and sonically splendid mix. This Dolby TrueHD track is superb. I found no faults with it and loved the way it implemented the music of the film with the sound effects generated from the dancing numbers. It was a highly detailed, sonically rich, and intensely exciting audio presentation to match the glamour of the choreography. Dolby has majorly impressed with the work done f or this superb and perfectly stellar sound design and it's presentation on home media. In no way, shape, or form will audiences walk away with disappointment from this sonic presentation.
There are quite a few supplements on this Blu-ray release and all of the video-based inclusions are presented in 1080p HD.
First up is the inclusion of a feature-length audio commentary with Step Up All In director Trish Sie and actress Briana Evigan (Andie).
All In With the Crew (10 min.) is a interview-based featurette spotlighting the way in which the new film implements returning cast members from previous Step Up film entries, and finding a way to bridge a connection between characters from various Step Up films where the characters did not previously know each other. It also discusses the work of director Trish Sie. Interviews are with the director, producers, and members of the cast.
The Vortex Dance Index (34 min.) is a re-edited compilation of all of the film's dance numbers without the rest of the plot and story.
Dance Breakdown: Final Stage (6 min.) covers the big epic dance sequence from the ending of the film.
Deleted Scenes (9 min.) features moments left on the editing cutting-room floor of the film's production.
Ryan's Favorite Dance Scenes (with optional commentary) (19 min.)
Clap, Stomp, Slide: The Sounds of Battle (4 min.)
Step Up All In is a surprisingly entertaining diversion even if it's not something that complex (especially given it's rather weak storyline). It manages to entertain mainly based on the high octane dance numbers and the personalities of the actors involved in the film series. This is a reasonably fun movie - not a great one, but one that fans of the series will likely enjoy seeing. Newcomers will also find it to be a good first entry even though it is later on in the series run.
The Blu-ray PQ/AQ are superb on this release, and there is a decent selection of supplements. If you are already a fan of this film series the release comes recommended. If you aren't sure if you'll want to revisit it, this would still make a decent rental. As the US Blu-ray release is yet another example of a US studio deciding to drop 3D support entirely for the North American release on home media (despite the film being released in 3D theatrically), 3D fans are strongly encouraged to skip this release. Universal is releasing a 3D/2D combo pack this year (though it is unclear if the 3D disc will be region free or Region B locked).
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.