Take the Lead (2006)

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Released 21-Sep-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Deleted Scenes
Additional Footage
Multiple Angles-You Take the Lead, Tango
Featurette-Meet The Dungeon Kids
Featurette-Between The Steps: A Profile Of Pierre Dulaine
Featurette-Liz, Swizz and Ziggy: The Director And Her Music Team
Audio Commentary-With Director And Editor
Trailer-Remixes-DJ Second Nature, Eclectic Method, Addictive TV
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 112:17 (Case: 117)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (32:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Liz Friedlander
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Antonio Banderas
Rob Brown
Yaya DaCosta
Alfre Woodard
Dante Basco
John Ortiz
Laura Benanti
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Swizz Beatz
Aaron Zigman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Audio Commentary
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

    Take the Lead is the latest in the steady stream of dance movies that have graced our screens over the last few years. More specifically, it's the latest in a string of urban dance movies that have been quite successfully marketed at teens in the last few years. Tenuously based on a true story, the film applies the tried and tested 'motivational mentor' formula to this urban dance story (think Dangerous Minds meets Honey). Take the Lead adds very little to either sub-genre but executes the formula well.

    After witnessing a misguided youth taking to his principal's car with a golf club, ballroom dance teacher Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) is inspired to give something back to the community. He approaches the local public high school and offers to provide a dance class to them free of charge. He wants to teach the kids to respect one another through dance. In an attempt to kill two birds with one stone, the principal (Desperate Housewives star Alfre Woodard) turns the daily detention session into Pierre's new class. The teacher and his students are from vastly different worlds and fail to get along until Pierre lets them know about a dance competition with a $5000 prize that is coming up at the end of the term... (cynics, read: "big finale")

    The writing lets the film down to a significant degree. It tries to build too many characters, but never really fleshes them out. Most of the life in the characters on screen is provided by the enthusiastic cast rather than solid dialogue or plot. The ensemble are quite good, particularly for this sort of film, but the film is carried by Antonio Banderas' charismatic take on Pierre Dulaine. You do have to accept a lot of '90210 teen' actors (in some cases, 30 year olds playing for 15) for the ensemble to work. It turns out Rufio (Dante Basco) was the cast member of Hook who never grew up - he's one of them!

    The dance scenes in Take the Lead will not disappoint anyone who is attracted to the film by the dance aspect. The dancing is bold and is fittingly captured by first time director Liz Friedlander. Her extensive background in music videos serves the film well. Much of the film revolves around kids dancing in the same room, scene after scene. The reasonably dynamic direction prevents the limited number of sets becoming tiresome. This, combined with Antonio Banderas' performance, keeps Take the Lead from growing dull, even though the film never soars.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is generally good, but not up to the high standard of many new film transfers.

    The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is generally darker than would usually be expected and lighting is often somewhat uneven, particularly in the background of darker scenes (e.g. the scene at 93:10). The detail in darker areas and shadows is acceptable, particularly given the generally dark nature of the transfer, but occasionally suffers issues (e.g. briefly at 93:36, the side of Yaya DaCosta's head through to her eye is indistinguishable from her shadow). The film does not suffer from noticeable grain. Colours throughout the film are quite bold, and consistent between scenes.

    The film is free of film artefacts but suffers from a number of MPEG compression related artefacts, particularly in out-of-focus backgrounds. Macro blocking is noticeable in a number of scenes, the most noticeable being at 80:22 where distinct light and dark MPEG compression squares are visible on an ample dancer's gut. The uneven lighting in the background of a number of scenes is more evident due to compression artefacts it has helped to introduce into those backgrounds. A large Moire pattern is visible in the background at 2:21 as the camera pans across Antonio Banderas and other smaller instances of this artefact appear occasionally in the background.

     Two subtitle tracks are available, English and English for the hearing impaired, the most noticeable difference between the two being that the hearing impaired track includes the lyrics for all the featured songs in the film.

    The layer break is at 32:01, early in the film and mid-scene. I did not notice it particularly on my equipment, but it is at an inconvenient point that would be distracting on equipment that does not handle layer transitions smoothly.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Three audio tracks are available, English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kbps), English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (192 Kbps), and an Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (192 Kbps).

    The tracks are well mixed, contain no noticeable flaws and make good use of the surrounds and subwoofer, particularly the music. The subwoofer in particular gets a great workout from the bass end of a number of the tracks. This is particularly pleasing as the music is an important part of this movie. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (192 Kbps) down-mix is quite serviceable, but not nearly as immersive as the 5.1 mix.

    Dialogue is clear throughout and in good sync.

    The music is very fitting throughout the movie, as you would hope it would be given the amount of work the special features would have you believe went into it. Towards the start of the film it is either distinctly classical or distinctly urban/hip hop, but these two styles are gradually merged as the film progresses.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    A very stylish introduction followed by above average menu animation that chops up scenes from the film.

Deleted Scenes (5:50)

    Standard deleted scenes feature with optional commentary. Virtually all the deleted scenes were cut for pacing and short of one funny scene featuring Antonio Banderas' impersonation of a "punk-ass kid" there's not much substance to this feature.

Multiple Angles: "You Take the Lead, Tango" (1:39)

    A five angle view of one of the more spectacular dances in the film. Four angles feature a different camera shot of the dance, and one has all four displayed evenly.

Featurette: "Meet The Dungeon Kids" (16:47)

    An interesting interview with the ensemble of "kids" in the movie and a brief profile of each of the actors. There's not a lot of depth to the interviews, but you probably wouldn't expect much for this sort of movie. This feature is well worth repeated viewing for fans of the movie.

Featurette: "Between The Steps: A Profile Of Pierre Dulaine" (16:59)

    A relatively brief biography of the real Pierre Dulaine, the dance instructor that inspired this film, and how the producers discovered him. The real Pierre Dulaine went from being a champion competitive dancer in his youth, came to America as a dance instructor on a cruise ship and later went on to found dance programs at hundreds of public schools across the USA. This is a good, though by no means definitive, profile of an interesting fellow.

Featurette: "Liz, Swizz and Ziggy: The Director And Her Music Team" (9:59)

    An interesting featurette on how the music of the film was developed by the director, an orchestral composer and a hip-hop producer with input from the dance choreographers.

Audio Commentary

    Director Liz Friedlander and editor Robert Ivison provide a fairly dry commentary that stays on the technical side of the fence for the most part, interspersed with some great bimbo moments ("Oh I love Person XXX so much!" and "He didn't do what I wanted, but he did what I wanted, y'know?"). A cast commentary would probably go down better with the film's fans, but it is reasonably interesting to hear how music video techniques were put to use in the production.

Trailer: "Remixes-DJ Second Nature, Eclectic Method, Addictive TV" (6:18)

    This is a very silly feature. 3 "remixes" of the trailer have been done complete with cheesy video "scratching".

Theatrical Trailer

    A mighty generic theatrical trailer that manages to include a few clips form deleted scenes as well as the final film. Mildly amusing, but not something for repeat viewing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of the film features the same content as Region 4, with the exception that it replaces the English for the hearing impaired subtitles with Spanish subtitles. I'd call this one a draw.

Summary

    Antonio Banderas carries a decent cast in this by-the-numbers urban dance drama. Take the Lead will appeal to most people that have enjoyed any of the other urban dance movies that have made their way onto our screens in the last few years, but there is nothing about it to really set it ahead of the pack.

    The video quality is reasonably good, but is reasonably dark and suffers from some noticeable MPEG compression artefacting.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The Extras package is very good and will keep fans busy for hours.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDLG V8824W, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D512
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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