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Stomp the Yard(2007)
When DJ (Columbus Short), a troubled youth from Los Angeles, moves to Atlanta to attend Truth University, he discovers "stepping," the age-old style of dance traditionally done in African-American Fraternities, where teams demonstrate complex moves and create rhythmic sounds by using their bodies. DJ’s raw talent and hip-hop inspired moves quickly place him at the center of a fierce rivalry between two fraternities, the winner of which will be determined in front of a sold-out arena at the annual stepping championships. But before he can help his teammates, he must battle his own demons and learn the true meaning of brotherhood.
For more about Stomp the Yard and the Stomp the Yard Blu-ray release, see the Stomp the Yard Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on March 22, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Ne-Yo, Darrin Henson, Brian White, Laz Alonso
Director: Sylvain White
» See full cast & crew
Stomp the Yard Blu-ray Review
Better than mowing the lawn, at least.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, March 22, 2010
Welcome to the wide world of stepping, and yes, I know you already know how to walk. I'm talking about the crisp form of dancing, started by African-American fraternities and sororities in the mid- 1900s, that combines collective showboating, synchronized martial moves, hand claps, foot stomps, and whole lot of group pride. Stepping is to Stomp the Yard what football is to Rudy, and basketball to Hoosiers. Meaning, what we have here is just another sports film about a group of ragtag underdogs surmounting the odds and besting the champions, only, the sport is actually a regimented dance routine, a cross between soft shoe, hip hop, and the demented vision of an R. Lee Ermey-type Marine Corp drill instructor. Stepping is fascinating to watch on a purely visceral level—like a bellicose display of tribal aggression—and a guided tour of the collegiate competition circuit would make for a must-see documentary. That said, director Sylvain White's Stomp the Yard faces the dilemma of all fictional, sports-structured movies—how to capture the intensity of the subject on film and tell a gripping story. He gets the former right using all the tricks of his music video director's trade, but the latter falters under the weight of the script's melodrama and the film's excessive length.
We open on an underground LA B-boy battle, where two krump dance clans are facing off. White shoots this sequence with a "skinny" shutter, which, to skip the technical explanation, means that the dancers' moves look artificially crisp and angular, an almost strobe-like effect. There's a palpable menace in the air as DJ Williams (Columbus Short) and his brother Duron (Chris Brown) take on the "Goon Squad," a territorial group led by a tough guy with one of those teardrop tattoos that's basically a hieroglyph for don't mess with me. And yes, after DJ's gang wins the battle's cash prize, Mr. Teardrop jumps them in a trainyard and busts a cap straight through Duron's heart.
But this is all prologue. DJ moves to Atlanta and, courtesy of some pulled strings by his hard-ass uncle (Harry J. Lennix), gets a scholarship to the fictional Truth University, where he's wooed by rival fraternities Theta Nu Theta and Mu Gamma Xi, who see him as a ticket to first place at the national step competition. He also does some wooing of his own, flirting with April (Meagan Good), the provost's daughter and the girlfriend of Gamma's best stepper, Grant (Darrin Henson), a law school student with a financially assured future. Needless to say, neither Grant nor April's richy- rich father take kindly to our from-the-streets protagonist. DJ pledges with Theta and pulls April to his side, leading to endless, plot-garbling complications that get more and more convoluted as the film wears on. There's really not much to the simple drama that plays out here, but the plot keeps throwing out tricky machinations, trying to build suspense but really only padding the runtime. And of course, we all know how these kinds of stories end: with a monumental battle that pits the longtime losers against the champions of seven years and running. I wonder who might come out on top?
There are brief flashes of School Daze, Spike Lee's treatise on the African American collegiate experience, but Stomp the Yard has been so tamped down with sports movie cliché that its narrative ground comes up barren. Though the director often tries to compare and contrast two worlds—thug life versus college life, krump verus step, even traditional step versus newfangled hip-hop flavored routines—the film is about as devoid of any substantial insight as the fictional Truth U is of actual classes. (Not much learnin' seems to go on here, though, if any did, I suppose it would needlessly add another hour to the film's already overlong length.) This is, first and foremost, a dance film, though, and Stomp the Yard at least passes that test with flying—sometimes literally flying—colors. We go frequently to The Phoenix, a bumpin' and grindin' nightclub where steppers and breakdancers alike go to practice their insane moves. We see the two frats perfecting their routines in empty pools and on top of mountains, shirts off and muscles flexed in a gift of eye candy to swooning female audiences. And the big step championship climax is as exciting as you'd hope it would be, made all the more real by a cheering crowd of 2,000 extras who were supposedly told they were watching a real competition.
The energy of the dance sequences somewhat makes up for all the sagging melodrama, and despite the film's use of clichés as out of style as the Mash Potato and The Twist, Stomp the Yard does have an endearing quality that's mostly due to Columbus Short's onscreen charisma. The script wisely avoids casting him as a bad boy, all cocksure bravado, choosing instead to paint him as soulful, soft-spoken, pained by his brother's death but still capable of stepping up—so to speak —with confidence when the movie requires it.
Stomp the Yard Blu-ray, Video Quality
The film's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer looked fantastic when it first stomped Blu-ray's yard in May 2007—our apologies for the extremely belated review—and it holds up just as well today. Stylized and visually tricked out from LA to Atlanta and back again, all of director Sylvain White and DP Scott Kevan's aesthetic choices—some might call them excesses—are faithfully and impressively reproduced here. The film's color palette jumps around just as wildly as its dancers, from the stark and gritty desaturation of the opening B-boy battle, to sultry Georgian afternoons on campus, soaked with sunlight. Primaries are bold—just check out the Mu Gamma Xi crew's red jackets—and the various creamy, chocolatey skintones are warm and full of life. Contrast is intentionally pushed to give the picture eye-popping presence, but black levels are even keeled and highlights never peak and washout. Clarity is consistent, even during the shakiest hand-held dance-offs, and from the tightest close-ups to the widest angles, the image looks detailed and resolved, without any ringing or other traces of overt edge enhancement. A fine grain structure gives rich filmic texture, and aside from one or two extremely dark scenes, noise is never excessive. Finally, the technical presentation is solid, with no banding, blocking, or other compression-related issues apparent. Fans of the film who own the DVD should definitely consider this a worthy upgrade.
Stomp the Yard Blu-ray, Audio Quality
When Stomp the Yard first released on Blu-ray, it had audiophiles all worked up—in a good way—over the fact that it included both Linear PCM and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround tracks, allowing home viewers to decide for themselves whether any discernable difference could be heard in the two formats. Truth be told, they sound just about identical to me, and both are chest-poundingly, baseboard rattlingly good, with wide and hefty dynamics, continent-grinding, earthquake-producing LFE output, and tight high end clarity. I'm sure delegates of both sonic parties will have a say in the matter, but take your pick; both of these tracks are, to put it simply, solid. The surround channels supply endless amounts of over-the-top activity during the rock 'em, sock 'em dance sequences, and though much of it is absurd—flying whooshes, crowds cheering when clearly no one in the image actually is—it makes sense that a film that's so visually stylized would have equally impressionistic audio design. Expectedly, there's not as much going on during the quieter, drama-driven scenes, but there's a generous amount of on-campus ambience filling out the soundfield. The music is surprisingly varied, and all of it sounds excellent, from krunky hip-hop to the Explosions in the Sky-style instrumental rock score. Voices are sometimes overwhelmed in the mix during the party and dance scenes—realistically, I should add—but when it counts, the dialogue is always easy to understand.
Stomp the Yard Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Director Sylvain White, editor David Checel, and cinematographer Scott Kevan join forces for a low-key track that's heavy on production details and technical insights. Not a must-listen by any means, but fans of the film will likely want to give it a go at least once.
Battles. Rivals. Brothers. (1080i, 17:33)
This is your average making-of featurette, but I found it worth watching if only for the behind- the-scenes look at the film's choreography. I also thought it was interesting how director Sylvain White chose to keep the Theta Nu and Mu Gamma crews separate for most of the training and filming so as to encourage some healthy competition. Features interviews with all the key players.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (SD, 6:06)
Includes two extended dance sequences, plus a STOMP-inspired scene that takes place outside the fraternity house.
Gag Reel (SD, 1:54)
A standard montage of crack ups, slip ups, and missteps.
Includes high definition trailers for The Covenant, XXX: State of the Union, Little Man, Hitch, Into the Blue, Stealth, The Benchwarmers, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Stomp the Yard Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I have to deduct points for cliché, unoriginality, and narrative clumsiness from my scorecard of Stomp the Yard's routine, but for fans of stepping and other more street-wise forms of dancing, the film's boundless energy might just make up for it. If you're on the edge of a purchase and you're the sort who's easily swayed by technical presentation, note that the 1080p image is just as fine as Meagan Good, and the audio will make you want to get up off the couch and bust a few moves of your own.
Stomp the Yard Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Stomp the Yard: Homecoming Announced on Blu-ray - June 14, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced Stomp The Yard: Homecoming for release on Blu-ray on September 21. This direct-to-video sequel to the 2007 movie Stomp the Yard stars choreographer Columbus Short, as well as Collins Pennie and Pooch Hall. Special ...
• Casino Royale First High-Definition Title to Ship 100,000 Units - March 27, 2007
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) today announced that the blockbuster Bond title Casino Royale, released March 13 on Blu-ray Disc, has hit the 100,000 units shipped mark and is setting records at retail for greatest number of high-definition copies sold ...
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