Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Dance on screen with 'Everybody' and 'Me,' just not on 'Retaliators' toes

One of 2022's most underseen documentaries, "Everybody Dance" undoubtedly must be among the year's most uplifting ones, too. 

This small-budget gem from first-time director Dan Watt highlights a brief -- and invaluably moving -- story of an equally tiny studio/school smartly called "Ballet for All Kids," as founded by a remarkable woman, who gets volunteer help from a group of secondary and college students all deserving of medals or more, too. 

Many of their dancers, you see, are special needs kids, whose own lives keep getting enriched and, perhaps, a little bit nicely frazzled, in preparing for the school's annual recital. So do some parents, whose words and faces reveal a wealth of emotions in watching their boy or girl earning his or her own unique moments under a spotlight on stage with similar dance mates. Talk about exhibiting legitimate pride, one young miss compares the moment to "like being in heaven"!

Leading up to the those deeply felt displays down the stretch, the heroic Barbara Schlachte tells us why she created her school, introduces us to this year's aspiring and uniquely inspiring talents, and discusses the well-documented benefits of teaching ballet.

"Learning a classical art supports a student in so many ways," she says. "It improves self-esteem, self-confidence, focus, motor skills. The list just goes on and on." 

So does the poignancy. Be sure to watch with a very large handkerchief ready.

Not rated by MPAA (but filled only with moments of joy and love); 1:25; $ $ $ $ out of $5

("Everybody Dance" debuted at the 46th annual Cleveland International Film Festival and is now available on VOD outlets everywhere.)

If you want to keep those feet moving, "Ask Me to Dance" just may be your ticket, not to mention a source for providing a bunch of loud and unexpected laughs.

Of course, who doesn't think that Mario Cantone is funny? I mean, the guy is always a riot, whether making a TV talk-show host fall on the floor or introducing his favorite horror movies on the TCM Network.

Cantone happily jumps in and out throughout, but also just happens to open the proceedings here on the dance floor, as a fun-loving matchmaker type, with his BFF Jill (lovely and likable Briana Evigan) somehow still single while the world around her keeps pairing up.

Well, wouldn't you know that someone named Jack (Tom Malloy) will within moments find himself up on that same floor in a souped-up dance contest, then leave quickly before meeting the potential Jill of his dreams -- at least for right now. (And wait'll you see the gypsy Jack and Jill each runs into on their way home.)

Actually, Malloy also writes, directs and co-produces the fun-loving feature that's never afraid to mix adult friskiness with the downright weird. Celebrities such as "Three's Company" legend Joyce DeWitt, as a shoot-from-the-lip Nana, and WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle, playing his smiling self, enter the fray out of nowhere and help get the mostly fast-moving rom-com to where everyone knows it's going.

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: crude sexual material and language; 1:35; $ $ $ out of $5

("Ask Me to Dance" is finding its way into select theaters around the country before a Nov. 8 release on VOD.)

And now for something completely different: It's "The Retaliators," just about perfect for hardcore-Halloweeners and with a Christmas-time message of its own, no less.

Michael Lombardi (from TV's "Rescue Me") genuinely portrays a Christian pastor named Bishop and a single dad with two daughters. What happens to the oldest one, though, becomes too much for even the most "other-cheek"-oriented man among us, no matter what faith he practices or preaches.

Getting Bishop into real retaliation mode even might mean putting him in touch with a tough homicide detective played by Marc Menchaca. If you don't recognize the name, you might know him from two memorable roles: Russ Langmore in Netflix's "Ozark" or Klansman Joe on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Then look rather quickly or you'll miss cameos from Brian O'Halloran (from the "Clerks" movies, among others), the real Tommy Lee, and probably a few more rockers, whose music screams so loudly along the way.

In fact, Lee's Motley Crue bandmate, Nikki Sixx, is credited with co-writing the movie's spiritually heavy theme song. Some might even give a big Amen to that!

Not rated by MPAA (but brimming with blood and gore, violence, language and all the rest); 1:37; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

("The Retaliators" is now available on VOD outlets everywhere.)

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