Battle of the Year (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
November 23, 2013 by Dennis Amith
While the storyline may be a bit farfetched, it doesn’t take away from “Battle of the Year” being one of the better commercial B-boy films having ever been made but also one of the better dancing films with impressive choreography. If you are looking for a deep storyline, this is not it. But if you are a fan or supporter of B-boy culture and dancing, I definitely recommend giving “Battle of the Year” a chance!
© 2013 Screen Gems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Battle of the Year
FILM RELEASE: 2013
DURATION: 110 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1, English and French DTS-HA MA 5.1, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
COMPANY: Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: PG-13 (For Language and Some Rude Behavior)
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Directed by Benson Lee
Written by Brin Hill, Chris Parker
Based on the documentary “Planet B-Boy” by Benson Lee
Produced by Beau Flynn, Amy Lo, Tripp Vinson
Executive Producer: Glenn S. Gainor, William Packer
Co-Producer: Dave Scott, Liza Zambri
Music by Christopher Lennertz
Cinematography by Michael Barrett
Edited by Alessandra Carlino, Peter S. Elliot
Casting by Tracy “Twinkle” Bird
Production Design by Chris Cornwell
Art Direction by Charlie Campbell
Costume Design by Soyon An
Josh Holloway as Jason Blake
Laz Alonso as Dante Graham
Josh Peck as Franklyn
Caity Lotz as Stacy
Chris Brown as Rooster
Ivan “Flipz” Velez
Jon “Do Knock” Cruz as Do Knock
Anis Cheurfa as Anis
Jesse “Casper” Brown as Rebel
David Shreibman as Kid
Sawandi Wilson as Sniper
Richard Maguire as Lil Adonis
Steve Terada as Sight
Luis Rosado as Bambino
Joshua Lee Ayers as Mayhem
Sammy Soto as Samo
Richie “Abstrak” Soto as Abbstarr
Gil Brace-Wessel as Gillatine
Terrence Jenkins as Terrence J.
Jonathan “Legacy” Perez as Swat
Michael Carrasco as Kilowatt
Victor Kim as Aces
Donnie “Crumbs” Counts as Villain
J.D. Rainey as Flair
Dominic Sandoval as Grifter
Brace yourself as the world’s best B-Boy teams hit the stage in the most intense dance tournament. The Battle of the Year competition is an all out war of mind-blowing dance moves, explosive routines and electrifying displays of skill and imagination. The American team, a group of underdogs, is pitted against the world’s elite as they tear it up in their struggle for the top spot with the help of their coaches, Blake (Josh Holloway) and Franklyn (Josh Peck). Set to pumping beats and an amped soundtrack, the All-Star dream team thrills in this epic dance-off.
Filmmaker Benson Lee may be known for his documentary work on “Black Picket Fence” and “Planet B-Boy”.
Having experience of covering the international B-boy dance competition “Battle of the Year” back in 2005 and also B-boy culture, Lee now brings modern B-boy culture and competition to the big screen with his film “Battle of the Year”.
And the film will be released on Blu-ray in Dec. 2013.
“Battle of the Year” revolves around the B-boy culture (breakdancing) and how other countries have embraced it and compete at a high level at the worldwide competition “Battle of the Year”.
But in the United States, it has not been doing as great and hip-hop mogul Dante Graham (portrayed by Laz Alonso, “Avatar”, “Fast and Furious”) worries about his company’s future and the interest of B-boy competitions in the U.S., especially since the United States have not won the major competition since 1998.
Wanting to make a difference, Dante goes to an old friend, Jason Blake (portrayed by Josh Holloway, “Lost”, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”, “Paranoia”). A former b-boy that was in a crew with Dante when they were younger and also a successful basketball coach who has the gift of bringing crews together for success. The problem is that Dante lost his wife and child in an accident and since then, has become an alcoholic and unemployed for several years.
Knowing that he doesn’t have much chances, Jason takes the job on the condition that Dante lets him coach his way, no interference. Dante agrees and Jason studies up on American and foreign B-boy crew competitions and chooses Franklyn (portrayed by Joshua Peck, “Drake & Josh”, “The Wackness”), a person with a lot of knowledge of the B-Boy scene, to be his assistant coach.
But when Jason goes to watch the current American B-boy crew to compete at the “Battle of the Year” that Dante has planned for competition, he kicks them out and feels they hit their peak and that they are not going to win with this team.
He tells Dante that he wants to create Dream Team featuring the best dancers from different B-Boy crews around the country. And the goal is to pick 23 people to compete for the final 13 spots on the team that will represent the U.S. at “Battle of the Year” and has only three months to get it done.
But Jason’s ways are strict. He has them working out but team members which include Rooster (portrayed by music artist Chris Brown) doesn’t get along with another leader on the team because they have bad blood over a girl. Another guy who is gay is frowned upon by another crew member who wants nothing to do with gay people.
And because of the various mentalities of each b-boy member, can Jason with the help of choreographer Stacy (portrayed by Caity Lotz, “Arrow”, “Death Alley”, “Mad Men”) find a way to make these guys unite and prepare for their first test competition against the Russian B-boy crew, before going to France to compete at “Battle of the Year”?
“Battle of the Year” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is vibrant and well-saturated. But clarity is the key as we can see closeup of skin pores, hair, but for the most part, a stylish presentation. There are some parts of the scenes in which it seems the B-boy talents were given digital cameras to film their trip to France, so certain footage looks different during those scenes. Or were made to look like they were shot on different cameras, but for the most part, “Battle of the Year” looked great in HD!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Battle of the Year” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English – Audio Description Track. The film does feature quite a bit of music and for the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear while surround channels are used during large audience scenes as people boo the American team or cheer for various crews. But surround activity is mostly crowd ambiance.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.
“Battle of the Year” comes with the following special features:
- Extended Dance Sequences – (9:45) Featuring extended scenes for “gym battle”, “Inside/Outside” and “USA vs. Russia Battle”.
- This Planet B-Boy: Inside the Culture – (8:53) Director Benson Lee, Producer Amy Lo, Choreographers Dave Scott, Rich and Tony Taluega discuss what is b-boy and interviews with the cast members discussing b-boy culture.
- The Art of B-Boying: A Guide to Breaking – (7:14) A featurette about B-boy tearms such as “Commando”, “1990s,”, “2000s” and more.
- Preparing for Battle: Training and Rehearsals – (9:33) Choreographers Dave Scott, Rich and Tony Taluega discuss the grueling task they had to get the b-boy group along with music artist Chris Brown ready for the film, the hours of training. The cast talk about the 15 minutes they had to shoot the “Battle of the Year” scenes and there was no opportunity for messing up.
“Battle of the Year” comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy code.
As a guy who got into breakdancing in grade school and grew up watching films such as “The Pilot”, “Beat Street” and both “Breakin'” films, I have pretty much kept up with a lot of dance-based films since then and here we are with “Battle of the Year” from Benson Lee.
And I have to say that this was a challenge for Benson Lee to take what he learned from his documentary “Planet B-Boy” and bring that culture to the big screen. Like any film based on a sport or hobby that is appreciated by fans, there is always a critical aspect towards these films.
For example, with surfing films, many surfers dislike surfing films done by Hollywood actors and don’t portray the scene all that well, while those that surfers do like, film critics don’t like them because it avoids a storyline or anything too deep.
For dancing films, there is always a banality of competition but there is always that storyline of guy falling for a girl but the guy typically from the other side of town. “Save the Last Dance”, “Step Up”, there is always that romantic connection with these dance films and team competitions but for anyone who follows dancing films, it seems that anything related to b-boy dancing tends to receive negative ratings from the film critics.
Personally, when it comes to dance films, I try not to pay attention to the film critics. Films such as “Beat Street” and “Breakin'”, old school breaking films, the dance moves and the music inspired a generation, no matter how the film critics tend to criticize the film.
And the same can be said of “Battle of the Year”. I try not to get overly critical because the dancing is the focus and the storyline are usually of popcorn comedy affair. Nothing to really look for anything deep.
So, with “Battle of the Year”, I have to give Benson Lee some props is by taking real b-boy dancers to be part of the main cast, I have to give props to the choreographers for getting the dancers all in sync and also have that performance in the window of 15 minutes to actually perform in front of a major audience at a major dance competition.
I’ve read a few reviews from film critics about how they wish the film featured longer cuts than too many short camera cuts but as mentioned, when the performances were done in front of a live audience, this was working with the event organizers of the actual B-boy competitions to allow for enough time for these guys to do their dance and shoot the film at these events. The window of opportunity to set up props, to set up cameras and lighting was short and the crew along with the talent/dancers had to pull it off within that short window.
The fact that the film was shot
But you also have to give up for the producers for taking on a B-boy related film to showcase competition and dancing unlike the other dance films out there. When you collaborate with the actual “Battle of the Year” tournaments, it’s all good. When you use real B-boy talents in your film, even better.
One thing discussed in the film is how other countries have supported B-boy competitions especially in France, Korea, Russia, Japan. But here in the U.S., films that help expose the B-boy culture to a large audience and also giving these dancers, a chance to show of their passion, their dancing and also a chance to become part of the big screen talents had did nearly 30-years ago with Adolfo Quinones and Michael Chambers with “Breakin'”, the fact is that B-boy dancers get opportunities and one that makes it into a feature film shown in theaters all around American and all over the world, that’s a rarity.
But let’s first discuss, what I liked about the film. Despite the bad news about Chris Brown that we often see in the media, we know the man can dance and his ability to grow with the B-boy stars and be in sync is a plus. He had to play a mouthy young guy with arrogance, possibly the character is not far off from the actual person. But the fact that Chris Brown was in the film definitely adds to the star power.
The dancing is top notch on this film. The cinematography in capturing the dance moves, the battles and the intensity was well-done!
The choreographers of the film have discussed how difficult it was to take everyone’s positive aspect and their weaknesses and figure out where they fit into the film and to practice, practice and more practice until they actual became a team. So, what we saw on film, the fact that these guys trained intensely to get things right is a major plus.
Now the storyline and getting into things that I struggled with.
Well, I enjoyed seeing Josh Holloway (“Lost”) in a major film, but in a b-boy film? I don’t think I would ever picture him in a role as a coach for a b-boy team, let alone a former coach for a winning basketball team. The fact is that Josh as the coach, he seems to be more country or rock n’ roll than to play the role of a b-boy coach. Granted, he made it work but I just felt the casting for that role was off.
The other casting issue I had was with Josh Peck. He’s come a long way since “Drake & Josh” and showed great promise in “The Wackness” but he comes off trying to look too cool and each time the camera was on him, it was like looking at a guy watching himself in the mirror. Once again, he made the role work but I questioned the casting.
And the casting of Caity Lotz, actress on “Mad Men”, “Death Valley” and the Black Canary in “Arrow” as a blonde Caucasian girl hired as a choreographer for a bunch of B-boys may not seem realistic. I have no problem with Caity because one thing about Caity Lotz is that’s she’s not just a beautiful actress or some pretty face they added to the film, she is also a talented dancer who toured with Avril Lavigne and Lady Gaga, toured with the hip hop theatre production Groovaloo and danced in the web series for “The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers” and stunt-doubled for “Step Up 3D”.
But I do feel that where the film did such a great job in casting real B-boy dancers (and the film does show diversity) for the role, showing a successful African-American business-owner sponsoring the U.S. Dream Team and the fact that you have a Korean-American filmmaker in control, I was hoping to see a little more cultural diversity in the the administrative team handling the Dream Team. Even on the front cover, the people featured prominently are your Caucasian talents.
I can also see certain B-boy groups from other countries getting upset because this is a film about creating an American B-boy Dream Team to take on the countries that have dominated the scene. So, I can see as people from other countries might feel there was way too much American bravado similar to older American sports films (ie. “Rocky IV”, “Miracle”, “Victory”, etc.) but the point is to revitalize American b-boy culture and in this case, it was interesting to see a hostile crowd booing the U.S. Dream Team and to let the dancers show them the talent to help sway the audience.
But that’s just me and my personal take on things.
As for the Blu-ray release, “Battle of the Year” is a vibrant film which looks fantastic on Blu-ray, dialogue and music is crystal clear and there are special features that go into the B-boy culture but also showing the difficulties the choreographers faced in trying to get the dancers all on the same page, because some of these people cast in the film are pro B-boy competitors and some of the people featured are people they compete with. And everyone has their different style and technique, so getting everyone on the same page and to perform live in front of thousands of people with only 15 minutes to shoot at an actual live competition, they pulled it off!
Overall, “Battle of the Year” is a dance film that showcases B-boy culture and dancing and the high level of competition between various countries at the B-boy international competition known as “Battle of the Year”. It’s one of the better films to showcase dancing and one that actually utilizes actual B-boy dancers. No, this is not a romance film, nor is it a film about one person trying to make it big as a dancer. This is straight-up a film about revitalizing the B-boy scene in America, taking the best dancers from different crews to compete internationally against the best dance crews in the world.
While the storyline may be a bit farfetched, it doesn’t take away from “Battle of the Year” being one of the better commercial B-boy films having ever been made but also one of the better dancing films with impressive choreography.
If you are looking for a deep storyline, this is not it. But if you are a fan or supporter of B-boy culture and dancing, I definitely recommend giving “Battle of the Year” a chance!
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