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Soul Surfer (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 5, 2011 by  



“Soul Surfer” is an inspiring, touching and an entertaining film based on the true story of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, who survived a shark attack.   Featuring an awesome performance by AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, to name a few, I was deeply touched and inspired by this film.  Definitely a family film worth watching!

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TITLE: Soul Surfer

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 106 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:40:1), English, French , Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Descriptive Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

RATED: PG (For an Intense Accident Sequence and Some Thematic Material)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2011

Based on the Book “Soul Surfer” byBethan Hamilton, Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh

Directed by Sean McNamara

Screenplay by Sean McNamara, Debora Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz and Michael Berk

Producer as David Brookwell, Dutch Hofstetter, Sean McNamara, Douglas Schwartz, David Zelon

Co-Producer: Ronald Bass, Becky Hamilton, Noah Hamilton, Joey Paul Jensen, Corey Schwartz, Susie Singer Carter, Jennifer Smolka, Shelley Trotter

Co-Executive Producer: Ricard S. Galindez, Roy Tjioe

Associate Producer: Rob Deege, Tiffany Hofstetter, Laurie Koris

Music by Marco Beltrami

Cinematography by John R. Leonetti

Edited by Jeff Canavan

Casting by Joey Paul Jensen, Niner Parikh

Production Design by Rusty Smith

Art Direction by Rosario Provenza

Set Decoration by Julie Smith

Costume Design by Kathe James

Starring:

AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton

Dennis Quaid as Tom Hamilton

Helen Hunt as Cheri Hamilton

Carrie Underwood as Sarah Hill

Ross Thomas as Noah Hamilton

Lorrain Nicholson as Holt Blanchard

Kevin Sorbo as Holt Blanchard

Cody Gomes as Keoki

Sonya Balmores as Malina Birch

SOUL SURFER is the inspiring true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack and courageously overcame all odds to become a champion again, through her sheer determination and unwavering faith. The film features an all-star cast, including AnnaSophia Robb and Helen Hunt, with Carrie Underwood in her film debut, and Dennis Quaid. In the wake of this life-changing event that took her arm and nearly her life, Bethany’s feisty determination and steadfast beliefs spur her toward an adventurous comeback that gives her the grit to turn her loss into a gift for others.

“Soul Surfer” is an inspiring film based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, an American professional surfer who’s life was changed after a shark attack in which she lost her left her arm.

Without her arm and media coverage from all over the world, many witnessed Bethany Hamilton return to surfing but also to compete professionally not long after her accident.  And as simple as the story may seem, many things happened during those darker days of her life of whether or not she can function without an arm, if she can ever surf again but most importantly, what made her survive the entire ordeal.

“Soul Surfer” is a film adaptation directed by Sean McNamara (producer and director of teen TV series “Beyond the Break” and “That’s So Raven”) of Bethany Hamilton’s book about her life, what happened during the day of the accident and what happened afterward.

The film begins in Kauai, Hawaii where Bethany (played by Anna SophiaRobb, “Bridge of Terabithia”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Jumper”) is a normal teenage girl who loves to surf.  She hangs out with her best friend, fellow professional surfer Alana Blanchard (played by Lorraine Nicholson, “Click, “Something’s Gotta Give”, “World’s Greatest Dad”) and for both teenagers, their dream is to become professional surfers.

But Bethany, her life is all about surfing…every day and every minute that she free time, she’s surfing.

Bethany lives with her surfing family which includes her father Tom (played by Dennis Quaid), her mother Cheri (played by Helen Hunt) and her brothers Noah (played by Ross Thomas) and Tim (played by Chris Brochu).  The family is Christian and Bethany is also active with her church youth group headed by Sarah Hill (played by Carrie Underwood).

For Bethany, life is going very well and with a good showing at a competition, both she and Alana are sponsored by Rip Curl and both are looking forward to competing at the Regionals.

But one day, Bethany went out to do some morning surfing with Alana, her father Holt (played by Kevin Sorbo) and Alana’s younger brother at Tunnels Beach and while out the ocean and talking with Alana while lying on her surfboard, a tiger shark attacks Bethany, ripping out her left arm.

Having lost 60% of her blood and thanks to the quick thinking of the Holt family and the medical services, Bethany was saved but her life would never be the same after the loss of her left arm.

The film would focus on the difficulties that Bethany would have with one arm but also her desire to surf once again.  But most importantly, how her faith in God and the support that she has received from family, friends and those who were inspired by her story to surf again, made her stronger and made her continue to compete as a professional surfer.

VIDEO:

“Soul Surfer” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  And once again, “Soul Surfer” is another film shot in Hawaii that continues my validation of how films shot at the island have looked vibrant and beautiful on Blu-ray.

The film features a good layer of grain but its the colors that are so striking.  There is a good amount of detail, the cinematography in and out of the waves are just beautiful to watch and skin tones are natural and overall look of the film is warm.

Personally, I felt that “Soul Surfer” looked fantastic on Blu-ray.  I didn’t see any artifacts, nor did I see any banding, especially since this film is full of color.  Black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, PQ is absolutely pleasing and wonderful on Blu!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Soul Surfer” is presented in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and comes with an English audio descriptive track.  The lossless audio for “Soul Surfer” is primarily dialogue and music-driven.  Dialogue is crystal clear and although there are not many action sequences, aside from Bethany’s parents trying to escape from the media or hearing the waves crashing (which do sound very good), the film is not the type of film to expect immersive audio but for this type of film, the lossless soundtrack works wonderfully.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Spanish, French and Portuguese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Soul Surfer” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes  – (3:48) A total of eight deleted scenes.
  • The Making of Soul Surfer – (12:47) The making of the film, the casting of the talent, bringing in the Hamilton family to help along with the film and also Bethany’s input but also the challenges the film crew faced during shooting and more.
  • Surfing for the Screen: Inside the Action – (5:28) In order to make the film authentic and not be fake, the actual talent of the film were trained on how to surf.
  • Becoming Bethany – (3:42) AnnaSophia Robb and Bethany Hamilton talk about meeting each other and how Robb got to learn a lot from Bethany during the making of the film.
  • Heart of a Soul Surfer Documentary – (30:31) A documentary of Bethany Hamilton’s upbringing, how she became a surfer, the day she lost her arm and interviews with family and friends who talk about Bethany’s dedication to her faith and more.
  • Bethany Hamilton On Professional Surfing – (4:54) A featurette showcasing Bethany Hamilton surfing various waves.
EXTRAS:
“Soul Surfer” comes with a DVD version of the film.

Bethany Hamilton is a hero.

She inspires people with her life as a professional surfer despite having one arm, she inspires people because of her calmness and her resolve to helping others because of her faith in God and how her determination to compete with other professional surfers and not willing to be treated any differently.

Hamilton’s story has been featured in the news, she won the “Best Comeback Athlete ESPY Award, the “Courage Award” at the 2004 Teen Choice Awards and eventually in her career, taking first place in the 2005 National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) National Championships, competing full-time on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) and also for the WQS (World Qualifying Series).

As a surfer and also a person who has followed Bethany Hamilton’s progress since the accident, I couldn’t wait to watch “Soul Surfer”.  Sure, we know of how inspirational her story is from various news segments and interviews done with Bethany Hamilton and of course, there is also her book that she wrote.

But sometimes, it helps people to see things visually on how Bethany was able to overcome a lot of the things in her life and that is because of her faith in God.

For me, watching “Soul Surfer” was pretty cool in the fact that the filmmakers wanted to make a film that was authentic.  Part of the problems that many people dislike about surfing films is their unrealistic portrayal of them and seeing a body double that looks nothing like the character.  The other is shoddy acting.

First, lets talk about the acting.

With “Soul Surfer”, you have a talented actress with AnnaSophia Robb, granted, in real life, she is much shorter than Bethany but onscreen, viewers will probably not even care. Her performance was well-done!

But possibly one of the best things about this film is the casting.  You have two star talents with Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt playing the parents of Bethany and also, you have Carrie Underwood also playing an acting role.  Granted, she a newbie in the field of acting but the fact that this film was able to secure these three talents is pretty awesome.

But the next thing that made the film so much enjoyable is the fact that the filmmakers knew the criticism of surfing films and so they wanted to make sure the talent knew how to surf and they were filmed surfing.  So, AnnaSophia Robb, under the tutelage of Bethany’s coach, learned to surf for a month, picked up quickly and started surfing each time she had a chance.

As for Bethany’s parents who love to surf, Helen Hunt knows how to surf but Dennis Quaid also went through training and enjoyed surfing as well.

There is some awesome cinematography featured in the film and as mentioned, the acting is very well-done.

But I know that for some people who have criticized this film, it’s about how the film showcases Bethany’s faith in God.

It its important to note that for Bethany and her family, their faith is a big part of them as individuals and how they live their lives.  It was also instrumental in what brought them together during those darker moments but most importantly what made Bethany a stronger individual.   And a big reason of why she was able to surf again.

And while the film does focus on faith, the filmmakers know that there must be a compromise of how they can also reach a mass audience and not to deluge non-religious viewers by not overly focusing on the religious topics.

So, with that being said, the most you are going to see of any religion on film is when the film goes into Bethany attending her youth group or going to church (which are very short scenes) and when she goes to Thailand with her youth group to help those who were devastated by the tsunami.  But even those scenes, they are not preachy nor forcing religion in anyone’s throats.

If anything, the more discussion of faith especially Bethany’s faith in God is mostly featured on the special features in the Blu-ray release.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is fantastic!  I’ve been on the record of saying how outdoor shots, especially in Hawaii have looked fantastic on Blu-ray and that goes the same for “Soul Surfer”. This is a beautiful film on Blu-ray and colors are vibrant.  The lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically driven but there are good moments of hearing constant wave crashing that sounds very good on Blu-ray.  Granted, it would have been even better to give the wave crashing sounds a more immersive soundscape through all channels but for the most part, the soundtrack is appropriate for this film.  And of course, there are a good number of special features included on the Blu-ray.

Overall, there is really nothing negative to say about this film.  It’s a straightforward film about Bethany, her darker days and her return to surfing and competing and as a person who has been inspired by Bethany Hamilton’s story and now watching that story on film, I was pretty impressed by the film.  Inspiring, entertaining and yes, even brought me to tears a few times during the film.

“Soul Surfer” is definitely recommended!

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