Film Review: Soul Surfer (2011)

One thing that no one can claim about Soul Surfer is that the story is not inspiring.  Like most independently-made, faith-based films, this movie can can justly be criticized for a lot of flaws, but here, they do not distract from its important message.  Those of the more picky viewers can find arguments within the wooden acting, the sappy dialogue, and the poor direction.  However, today’s audiences, less formal in their approach of watching movies, will find Soul Surfer to be a rewarding experience.  It contains a considerable amount of captivating water photography and intensifies all action and emotion well enough to prevent boredom.

The film’s only great performance, though, comes from young actress, AnnaSophia Robb.  Robb plays Bethany Hamilton, a real-life teen surfer who falls victim to a shark attack and loses her arm.  Bethany then determinedly continues to compete while strengthening her relationship with her family and her God.  But Soul Surfer does not ask for sympathy for her.  It is never somber or depressing but instead it remains a thoroughly enjoyable movie that leaves one inspired, refreshed, and actually does not leave one with a new found fear of surfing.

Above all, Bethany’s enduring optimism carries the film and allows us to have a good time.  As much as I hated all the cliches, bad performances, and horrid dialogue, there are not many family movies that seem half as worthwhile as Soul Surfer, a miraculously good Christian film.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Film Review: The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

The interesting thing about The Lincoln Lawyer is that it never gives us an inspirational courtroom speech about truth or fairness.  In fact, the protagonist, a heavy-drinking defense attorney, never expects anyone to sympathize with his search for justice, probably because he gave up on such a thing happening a long time ago.  The man’s past is never fully explained to us, but it may be correct to guess that he used to be a bright, young law student passionate about finding the truth.  Over the years, he has learned the tricks of the trade, and though he is honest and trustworthy, he knows what he can get away with to get the job done.  The events that take place in this book-based courtroom drama are not ones that are pivotal moments in Mick Haller’s life, but ones that are mysterious and intriguing, and they certainly add up to terrific results.

The screenplay, written by John Romano, shows Haller working for a few different clients, but it mainly focuses on a case in which he represents a rich, young man who can beat the system and escape the horrific charges against him.  This causes the attorney to wonder whether to get his client out of the case or secretly set him up to get caught.  Actor Matthew McConaughey takes on the job of bringing us the character of Haller and he is the one who makes the movie enjoyable.  His likability draws us into the film to begin with and his performance keeps us interested.  The film contains an excellent supporting cast with William H. Macy, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Pena, and Josh Lucas.

While McConaughey helps us enjoy The Lincoln Lawyer, there are other things that make the movie great.  The editing provides added excitement, the soundtrack perfectly expresses the mood, and the script keeps us on the edge of our seat.  It is a whodunit, a thriller, a character study, and a drama all at once.  Out of the few courtroom dramas to come out this year, this one is the most consistently entertaining.

Rating: 4.5/5

Looking Ahead: Five 2011 Films I Cannot Wait to See

There are obviously many films that I would like to see by the end of the year, but there are only a few that stand out as something that could be great.  Here are five of them:

1.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, and Mark Strong all star in this intriguing espionage thriller in which veteran George Smiley (Oldman) is brought out of retirement to find a Soviet spy hidden within MI6’s group of agents.  This is planned to come out on November 18 (the week of my birthday) and I anticipate it to be well-acted and considerably suspenseful.  It will be interesting to see how Colin Firth’s performance matches up to his previous Oscar-winning one.  I expect Oldman to steal the show.

 

 

2.  Warrior

A second movie starring Tom Hardy.  It isn’t a boxing movie, if you looked close at the poster.  Instead, we get to see Hardy do some mixed martial arts as Tom Conlon, an ex-Marine set to fight his own brother in the final round of the MMA tournament.  The fighting looks intense and the added emotions behind the fight promise to elevate Warrior above our average sports flick.  I will be ready when this is released on September 9.

 

 

 

3. Hugo

November 23, a week after the release of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Martin Scorsese’s newest film will be open for the general public.  What looks promising is that Scorsese has never done anything like this before, and this is the first film that he’s made in nine years that doen’t star Leonardo DiCaprio.  I really don’t know exactly what to expect, but if it is as enchanting as the imaginative children’s book which it is based on, then we should be in for a treat.

 

 

4. The Adventures of Tintin

It wasn’t too long ago that I was reading those wonderful illustrated adventures of Tintin.  These books were funny, intelligent, and high-spirited.  I am excited to see a hint of film noir in the trailer, along with some fascinating settings.  I doubt that Tintin will come close to winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but I would love for the French author, Herge, to get some sort of recognition.  Released on December 23.

 

 

 

5. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I do love some good, mindless action thrills and the Mission: Impossible movies are one of the best franchises at bringing us just that.  While they typically show some significant flaws in some areas, I can always depend on them if I ever want to jump off a skyscraper or be suspended in a touch-sensitive, high-security CIA vault.  I can’t wait to see what director Brad Bird has in store for us this December.

 

 

 

Trailers:

 

 

 

 

Film Review: The Conspirator (2011)

Robert Redford’s newest picture plays like the JFK of the Civil War.  The Conspirator focuses on the defense attorney of a woman accused of assisting in the assassination of President Lincoln.  This woman, perfectly portrayed by Robin Wright, is innocent, but the court is determined to judge against her.

As interesting as the story is, I was sad to find how slow the film began.  It begins with an assassination scene following the deeds of John Wilkes Booth, which already has been done the same way in numerous other films.  Then we meet Mary Suratt, an innocent woman prosecuted so that America may be able to accuse someone of the death of their leader.

What ensues is a gripping, delicious courtroom drama dedicated to documenting a hideous obstruction of justice.  Unlike JFK, The Conspirator does not reveal new information while we find the truth, but instead, we are shown the truth and how it was deliberately shunned.  Such injustice can be frustrating to watch, but Redford handles it with striking maturity.

At times, the film can be very draining; it appears to be a losing battle.  But amazingly, The Conspirator keeps us hooked.  It is difficult to predict, but easy to follow, just how a good, old-fashioned courtroom drama is supposed to be.

I originally had no intentions of seeing this movie.  Not to say that it did not appeal to me, but that I had never heard of it.  I admired Redford’s directorial effort, Quiz Show, and after first hearing of a local showing of his new film, I was, in fact, intrigued.  I am glad I went, because what I found was one of the most worthwhile films of the year so far.

Rating: 4.5/5

Film Review: Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

Director Jonathan Liebesman has created a mix of The Hurt Locker and District 9 that isn’t half as good as either one.  The script could have been written by an ambitious schoolboy and seems more suiting to be a short film, much less a two-and-a-quarter hour one.  The action and rare moments of suspense are the only things that kept me in the theater.

Filmed in a sort of documentary manner, earth is victim to an alien invasion.  One of the cities that are being attacked during this global war is Los Angeles.  This world-famous city, as you might have guessed, is where the story takes place (though filmed in Baton Rouge).

Throughout the movie, we follow a platoon of U.S. Marines who are sent on a mission to save a group of civilians taking refuge in a police station.  The cast is led by Aaron Eckhart, who isn’t as easy to take seriously as intended due to a bit of laughable dialogue.

The hand-held camera work is hard to adjust to due to the editing, which makes it impossible to observe anything for more than three seconds.  The camera also abuses the ability to zoom, trying to create a realistic feel, but viewers are forced to get uncomfortably close to the off-setting characters.

I didn’t start to dislike Battle: Los Angeles until the last half of the movie, and simply because it seemed to last to eternity.  Though the action is an intense, electrifying ride, it cannot redeem the whole film.  There are just too many obvious flaws to discuss.

Rating: 2/5