It goes through all the motions of your typical dance movie " and, to be more specific, a hip-hop dance movie " but offers enough unexpected tweaks to make it refreshing.
Our heroine, Raya Green (played by engaging newcomer Rutina Wesley), is indeed an underdog trying to transcend her upbringing in a poor section of Toronto, and winning a step dance competition will help her earn the money to get there.
But there's nothing meek about her: This is a strong young woman from the start, and Wesley's no-nonsense delivery provides disarming gravitas. She's just as serious about getting into an Ivy League school and becoming a doctor as she is about winning the annual Step Monster contest.
She initially aligns with one crew (led by the smooth-talking Dwain Murphy) then gets lured into another (led by the duplicitous Cle Bennett).
So you know those two teams will end up facing each other in the finals " just in time for Raya's disapproving mom (Melanie Nicholls-King) to show up reluctantly in the audience and watch her baby shine on stage.
The thunderous, rhythmic choreography from longtime Missy Elliott collaborator Hi-Hat is pretty spectacular, though, and director Ian Iqbal Rashid is confident enough to hold a shot and not ruin the moves with unnecessary edits.
PG-13 for some drug content, suggestive material and language. 98 min. Two and a half stars out of four.
Sylvester Stallone insisted he would only do another "Rambo" flick if it was about the human condition. He stuck to his guns.
Chapter 4 in his franchise about the Vietnam vet turned one-man army is about the condition of humans " after they've been blown apart by bombs, land mines and projectiles fired from the biggest, loudest firearms you may ever encounter on screen.
The thin story is merely an excuse to turn Stallone loose so he can go Rambo on a bunch of irredeemably bad guys " soldiers who have exterminated a village and abducted American missionaries working there.
Co-written and directed by Stallone, the movie is almost degenerate in its savagery. The body count is phenomenal, and Stallone's effects team at least deserves credit for the twisted skill with which they create new and gruesome ways to show bodies being atomized amid the explosions and gunfire.
The movie might satisfy bloodthirsty action fans, but for most people, this is one Stallone do-over we could have done without.
R for strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images and language. 93 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
After all those hits and all those decades of playing together, U2 is still a tremendous live act " which makes the idea of a three-dimensional concert film seem sort of redundant.
They're so vibrant and theatrical in their performances and they sound so powerful, it's as if they're already reaching out and grabbing you. Thankfully, directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington mostly resist the urge to get all gimmicky with the 3-D effects.
Except for one moment during "Sunday Bloody Sunday," when Bono stretches his hand toward you while singing the line, "Wipe your tears away," it's as if the band members aren't even aware the cameras are there.
"U2 3D" boasts that it's "the first-ever, live-action, digital 3-D film," and while it does look crisp and clean and sharp, it's just as notable for what it lacks: any self-indulgent interviews or seemingly spontaneous moments behind the scenes.
It's just an efficient hour and a half of solid music " you're in, you're out, you're done. The technique works best when it makes you feel as if you're immersed in the audience, watching the group run through classics like "New Year's Day" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" as well as newer songs like "Beautiful Day."
The footage for "U2 3D" was shot at various concerts in Mexico and South America during the "Vertigo" tour, and it all blends seamlessly.
G. 85 min. Three stars out of four.
This is one of those deplorably gratuitous movies that wants to have it both ways, but gets nothing right.
It's about a Web site that allows you to watch " live and streaming! " as some poor sap gets killed.
The more hits that come in, the faster the victim dies. And the tactic is never quick and easy like a gunshot to the head " it's protracted and complicated.
In theory, the thriller from director Gregory Hoblit ("Fracture") is intended as an indictment of society's moral decay " of our primal and voyeuristic urges, of the fact that the boundaries that once defined what's considered shocking have long since been obliterated.
But it's actually a shameless celebration of that very phenomenon, not unlike the "Saw" movies and other examples of torture porn (which is not a preferred phrase, but it's apt).
It's no better than last year's "The Condemned" from WWE Films, about an online reality show in which viewers can pay to watch the contestants kill each other on a remote island.
The presence of Diane Lane as the FBI cybercrimes investigator on the case " who later becomes a potential victim herself, naturally " barely elevates the material.
Her innate likability, nuance and grace go utterly to waste. Billy Burke, Colin Hanks and Mary Beth Hurt also are squandered.
R for some prolonged sequences of strong gruesome violence and language. 110 min. One and a half stars out of four.