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

I Am the Last Omega Man on Earth: A Franchise in Review

Most people don’t know that 2007’s I Am Legend was actually the third film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s  classic horror book.  All three versions are different in many ways: the leading man, the blood-thirsty monsters, and even the ending.  Here, I will review each of them, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of both, and ultimately revealing which I believe to be the best film.

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

This classic horror flick has Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan.  Price’s character is particularly haunted by memories of an old colleague who has fallen prey to the world-wide disease.  Unlike the two later performances of Charlton Heston and Will Smith, Price presents himself more as a scientist than a survival expert.  Not to say that Morgan doesn’t have some good ideas.  But his methods are usually more crude and primitive than bearing a machine gun (he uses a hammer to drive stakes into the chests of the monsters).  The creatures of The Last Man are identical to the traditional depiction of a zombie; they still wear their human clothes, their faces are hideous, and they walk slowly in pursuit of their prey.  I was surprised how entertaining this all was though.  It may have been a little corny, but if you enjoy Matheson’s story enough, you may really enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Omega Man (1971)

However much I love Vincent Price, I do believe that Charlton Heston has the role down much better.  Heston brings more confidence, and it becomes obvious that his chances of surviving should be a lot better than Price’s.  But there’s a catch: this time the murderous creatures are more of a cult than a horde of zombies.  They set traps for the doctor and constantly attempt to convert Heston to their side.  Because I have a sweet tooth for zombie pictures, the human-like intelligence of the monsters made the film less satisfying.  Even with Heston’s performance, I prefer The Last Man to this remake.

 

 

 

 

I Am Legend (2007)

It’s easy to see why I enjoyed this one: dumb-witted zombies, great suspense, an intense leading performance.  For once, I think that Mathson’s story gets the credit that it deserves here.  Smith’s determination and physicality are excellent for the part and the addition of a partner for our hero (a German Shepherd) was a nice idea.  The agility of the monsters also gives us a better sense of danger.  This is by far the darkest and most action-packed film of the franchise, bringing us closer to the doctor’s world than ever before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion:

Best Film: I Am Legend

Runner-Up: The Last Man on Earth

Best Leading Man: Charlton Heston, The Omega Man

Runner-Up: Will Smith, I Am Legend

Best Zombies: I Am Legend 

Runner-Up: The Last Man on Earth