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Walking on Water (a J!-ENT Surfing DVD Review)

February 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A Christian surfing film about opportunity and faith!  Two young surfers given the opportunity to travel around the world, surf at spots they have only dreamed about and hang out with pro surfers, how cool is that?  Definitely a film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2008 Walking On Water, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Walking on Water

DOCUMENTARY RELEASE DATE: 2007

DURATION: 76 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: English Stereo, 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai

RATED: NOT RATED

COMPANY: Affirm Films/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: March 1, 2011

Directed by Nic McLean

Produced by Bryan Jennings

Executive Producers: Jim Riley, Doug Jennings, Prestoy Dyer, Kevin Palau, Leith Swanson, Roger Thompson, Pete Evans

Music Director: Brad Corrigan

Cinematography: Nic McLean, Roger Thompson, Pete Evans

Starring:

Tyler Hallen

Luke Davis

Bryan Jennings

Tom Curren

Al Merrick

C.J. Hobgood

Damien Hobgood

Bethany Hamilton

Garrett McNamara

Noah Snyder

Matt Beacham

Jesse Hines

Cheyne Cottrell

CT Taylor

Walking on Water invites you to come along and see the world through the eyes of two kids as they embark on the trip of a lifetime. Luke and Tyler are given the opportunity that most young surfers only dream about and this is their story about finding faith along the way.

Trailer – Coming Soon

Not many children get a chance to travel the world and surf.

But when professional surfer Bryan Jennings was given a shot to do that at a young age, he felt that he needed to continue that tradition and give two young surfers that opportunity.

“Walking on Water” is a 2007 documentary about Bryan Jennings giving a young Tyler Hallen and Luke Davis a chance to travel around the world, to famous surf spots but also to learn about the culture and surfers of those other countries.

Tyler Hallen is a teen who has endured his parent’s divorcing and having a very young sister who has brain cancer but his faith has kept him strong.  Luke Davis is a promising young surfer who lives to surf and wants to become a competitive surfer.

Both Tyler and Luke Davis are given the opportunity to travel the world, to hang out and surf with legends such as Tom Curren, world reknown shaper Al Merrick, WCT competitors and twin brothers C.J. and Damien Hobgood, surfers Matt Beachem, Garrett McNamara, Jesse Hines, Cheyne Cottrell, CT Taylor and Bethany Hamilton.

The kids get to travel to Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, South America, South Africa, Hawaii to experience surf but also to experience life and see how one’s belief in God has helped them through trials and tribulations.

Although this film was released on DVD back in 2008, the DVD gets its re-release to tie-in with the upcoming film “Soul Surfer” (which comes out on April 2011) based on Bethany Hamilton’s life (Bethany was one of the top young female surfers who lost her left arm during a shark attack. Bethany continues to surf and compete and win competitions despite having one arm). Bethany, like the two young surfers in “Walking on Water” are Christian and they share their faith in God.

The DVD will be released through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Christian DVD line Affirm Films.

VIDEO:

“Walking on Water” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen.  The cinematography is pretty awesome and if you surf, you can’t help but watch and just be in awe as these two young surfers get to surf at amazing surf spots all around the world.  Because of the outdoor shots, you get vibrant colors and for the most part, Nic McLean and the guys did a great job with the editing.  But for the most part, viewers should be happy with the film and its PQ.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Walking on Water” is presented in Dolby Digital stereo.  Dialogue is understandable and clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Walking on Water” comes with the following special features:

  • The Hamilton Family: A Soul Surfer Journey – Also Includes a Scene from the Film “Soul Surfer” – (8:50) Bethany Hamilton’s family and friends talk about Bethany’s rise as a surfer, what happened on the day she lost her arm and how she continues to surf and compete today.  Also, a clip from “Soul Surfer”.
  • Bethany Hamilton and Friends in Indonesia – (6:06) Featuring a clip from “Walking on Water” and extra clips featuring Bethany and her friends surfing Indonesia.
  • Walking on Water Trailer – (2:22) The theatrical trailer for “Walking on Water”.
  • Walking on Water Surf Camps – (1:00) A clip promoting Walking on Water Surf Camps with the Hobgood’s and Bethany Hamilton.
  • Christian Surfers International – (3:31) A clip promoting CSI and their core values.

As a surfer and also a Christian, “Walking on Water” is a pretty cool film as you get to see how two young kids get to see the world and surf many spots throughout the world thanks to the opportunity given to them by pro-surf Bryan Jennings.  It’s a straightforward documentary and it’s not a film where you’re going to find anything bad.  It’s two kids traveling the world, meeting new people, hanging out with pro surfers and surfing the popular surf spots.

No need to juxtapose this film and “Rio Breaks” which is also about two young surfers given an opportunity but the main difference is that the kids of “Walking on Water” did not come from a live of poverty nor do they have to fear of death because of where they live.  This is not a deep film in the sense of “Rio Breaks” but we do see how the young surfers see how life is for other young surfers in different countries.

My favorite would be when the both Tyler and Luke visit South Africa and the kids are shocked that these White kids are treating them normal and felt like they were just the same as they were in the water. Kids just having fun and each being passionate about surfing.

Of course, the other parts of the stories will probably entice those who are more familiar with competitive surfing.  There are some parts of the film that just make you want make you feel giddy.  For me, when I was a young grom, my favorite surfer was Tom Curren and the fact that you get Tom and also Al Merrick together in one film is pretty awesome.   The fact that Taylor and Luke had a chance to hang out with Curren, Merrick but also the Hobgood’s, Beacham and many other surfers and surf with them…talk about an awesome opportunity!  Also, in “Walking on Water” you get to see short appearances (from a surf competition) of Kelly Slater and the late Andy Irons as well.

But it’s important to note, as some others have said in past reviews, this is a Christian film, it is also a surfing film.  The kids in this film (especially those from other countries), including Bethany Hamilton talk about their faith in God and how that faith has kept them strong.  I know there are some viewers who find this quite troubling as they are expecting a film along the same lines of “Endless Summer” or the “Drive-Thru” surf films where people go to different countries and have fun, party and surf.  This is not that kind of surf film.

This film is more or less documenting the experience as these two young kids as they visit different countries, learn how long one travels to get to the beach, to see how the waves are (something they have only read about in surf mags or watched online) and having the opportunity to experience those waves for themselves.  Nothing less and nothing more.  It’s a straightforward film that ties quite nicely to Christian Surf International and fellow Christians who love surfing.

Also, It’s important to also note that this film was shot when Tyler Hallen and Luke Davis were young.   Both have grown up quite a bit since their appearance in this film and Tyler now surfs with Infinity and Luke Davis surfs for O’Neill.  And I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of these guys competing in the WCT (World Championship Tour) soon.

As mentioned, the re-release of this DVD is to tie-in with the April 2011 theatrical release of “Soul Surfer” based on the life of Bethany Hamilton.   Bethany is featured in “Walking on Water” talking about her faith, and we learn from the preview of “Soul Surfer” that her faith in God and also her friends from her Christian youth group were there to support her during the whole ordeal.  And this will be featured in the film (which is a big budget film starring actress AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton and also stars Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Craig T. Nelson and singer Carrie Underwood) which is based on Bethany’s book “Soul Surfer”.

Overall, “Walking on Water” is an entertaining film about surfing and faith in God.  The film is not blatant as some may feel in trying to promote religion but it’s about people who are Christians who feel that God has been with them through their most difficult times and with them now and also with others all around the world.  It’s an inspirational film and director Nic Mclean does a good job at balancing the coverage of the film on the adventure of the two young surfers but also knowing that since surfers will watch this film, they want to see surfing as well.  So, Mclean does find a fine balance in showcasing both.

I was pretty stoked to see this film and if you are looking for a surfing film with a Christian-theme, I definitely recommend “Walking on Water”.  But if you are looking for a similar surf film but shows you the the opposite side of life for young surfers (who have been given an opportunity) but live in worse conditions and are looking for a storyline that is much more deeper, I highly recommend the film “Rio Breaks”.

Overall, both films are inspirational and “Walking on Water” has a more Christian element to it and is pretty safe for families to watch.

If you love surfing and are a Christian, “Walking on Water” is an enjoyable film worth watching!

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Rio Breaks (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Captivating and awesome from beginning to end!  “Rio Breaks” is more than just a surfing documentary, its a film about children who surf to survive and Justin Mitchell has done a fantastic job in showing us the reality for many of the kids from the favela (slums) in Rio de Janeiro.  Highly enjoyable and an all-out, awesome documentary that is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Factory 25. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Rio Breaks

DOCUMENTARY RELEASE DATE: 2009

DURATION: 85 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: English, Color, 1:78:1, Widescreen: Dolby Digital, Region 0

RATED: N/A

COMPANY: Factory 25

Released Dated: August 31, 2010

Directed by Justin Mitchell

Written by Vince Medeiros, Justin Mitchell

Co-Writer: John Maier

Executive Producer: Francesco Civita, Sheri Levine, Michael Thornton

Producer: Vince Medeiros, Justin Mitchell

Music by Jeffrey Kite

Cinematography by Justin Mitchell

Edited by Rene Guerra, Justin Mitchell

Starring:

Fabio

Naama

Rogerio

Thyola

Maicon

Joyce

Picachu

Fia

Kevin

Set against the volatile and dangerous world of the favelas, Rio Breaks tells the story of two surf-obsessed friends, 13-year-old Fabio and 12-year-old Naamã.  The pair live in Rio de Janeiro’s Favela do Pavão, which is controlled by one of the city’s most dangerous drug gangs. However, their attention is focused on the waves of Arpoador Beach and on a coming surfing event that may help them become professionals and escape the world of gangs.

Nominated for Best Documentary at the Hawaii International Film Festival and winner of the Special Jury Mention at the San Sebastian Surfilm Festibal, this Sundance Channel co-production by Director Justin Mitchell  (Death Cab for Cutie: Drive Well, Sleep Carefully; Jenny Lewis: Welcome to Van Nuys; Ted Leo: Dirty Old Town & Songs for Cassavetes) and Writer Vince Medeiros (Surfing & Huck magazine) is an inspired and hugely original documentary that takes the surf film genre into never-before-seen territory.

“Rio Breaks” is a highly enjoyable, touching yet heartbreaking surf documentary that is highly recommended!

For many kids living in the favela (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, growing up in the area means a volatile life, a life of poverty, as many of the kids become drug traffickers or simply don’t live a long life as drug wars and wars between the police and one of the many drug gangs that are fully armed and ready to take on the police and rival gangs and many people, children end up dying.

This is the life of those living in the favela (there are around 700 of them in Brazil) and this has been going on since the 18th Century in Brazil where former slaves with no land or jobs have settled and later on, people from another town or from the countryside have moved to a larger city in hopes to find a better living and job, but for many, the good life that they have searched for have become fruitless and many have moved to the favela, where many of the poor reside.

But minutes from these Favela in Rio is Arpoador Beach and for many children, a few who grow up in the Favela do Cantagalo who are able to stay away from trouble by going to the beach, away from the favela and surf.

“Rio Breaks” is a documentary by Justin Mitchell (know for directing videos for Death Cab for Cutie) and co-written by Mitchell, Vince Medeiros and John Maier and focuses on two children who live in the favela near Arpoador Beach and surf on the beach to stay away from trouble.

Thirteen-year-old Fabio is a boy that is passionate about surfing but he is also a boy who has had a hard life.  His father who was part of a drug gang wanted out of the gang and thus he was killed and dropped over the cliff.  His mother was never part of his life and thus Fabio looks towards surfing as a way for him to get out of the favela and hopefully win competitions and earn sponsorships.    But things are not easy for Fabio, he’s doesn’t go to school and he has a short temper and can get a bit mischievous and can easily get into trouble.

Meanwhile, 12-year-old Naama is a friend of Fabio and enjoys surfing and bodyboarding.  He also has a hard life as he lives in the favela but unlike Fabio, Naama has big dreams.  He wants to study hard in school, surf, dreams of going to Hawaii because he can’t believe people surf enormous waves and also dreams of riding a helicopter.  But Naama is wise for a young boy.  His brother who was a surfer but also a drug trafficker was killed by the police when he was coming home with some detergent and a DVD.  Because his family is not making much money, his brother tried to make money selling drugs and ended up getting killed.

But this is the life of the favela.  Someone’s life is always taken, someone always dies and a child is easily corrupted and ends up joining one of the many drug gangs in the favela and ends up as a trafficker or one of their soldiers.

But there are a few people in the favela who want to make sure that all children are not corrupted and that is where surfer Rogerio and his friends come in.  Rogerio and friends run the Favela Surf Club.  They lend out surfboards to kids to go out and surf.  And also training them and preparing them for competition.  Their main rules are study hard in school and practice your surfing and they are full aware that some of the kids will stay true to those rules but also know how things are in the favela and know how some kids can easily get into trouble and can easily be corrupted.

Director/cinematographer Justin Mitchell shows us how life is for Fabio, Naama, Rogerio and a few others who surf or have had children or friends who have surfed but were easily corrupted by the drugs or joined a drug gang and were killed, shot or serving time in prison.  But to show us that no matter how bleak things are, there are people out there who are willing to show you the light, a better life if you want it. There is hope!

VIDEO:

“Rio Breaks” is presented in 1:78:1.  Justin Mitchell does a fantastic job with his coverage in the water, on the beach as he showcases the Favela Surf Club members surfing or just beautiful shots of Rio de Janeiro to give us the glimpse of the lives of those who are living in the Favela do Cantagalo.  Cinematography was very well-done and character positioning and just capturing the ups and downs of the two children were well-done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rio Breaks” is presented in Portuguese Dolby Digital with English subtitles.  Dialogue is clear and understandable, subtitles were easy to read and the documentary also features cool music!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rio Breaks” comes with the following special features:

  • Bonus Scenes – A total of eight deleted scenes: Kids on the Roof, Dengue Fever, Kevin Skips School, Favela Surf Clube, Simao Romao, Maicon, Surf vs. Study, Party at Fia’s
  • Trailers – Featuring the original fund-raising trailer for “Rio Breaks”(formerly titled “Favella Breaks”, 6:57) which was shot in 2005 by Justin Mitchell who interviews a few surfers including Rogerio (and the Favela Surf Club) on the life of people in the Favela and those who have turned to surfing to stay away from the trouble. Also, included is “Trailer 2 (Final)” (1:19), the original theatrical trailer for “Rio Breaks”.
  • ‘Living Cantagalo’ – (6:52) In 2006, Justin Mitchell spent a few days living with Rogerio in the Favela do Cantagalo to see what kind of footage he can capture on 35mm.

Although surfing films or documentaries about children who have surf and had troubled lives are nothing new for those of us in the US, rarely do we see how surfing is a way of life for many people in other countries and most of all, how surfing is a way to get people away from the volatile life of drug gangs, drug wars and showing children that they have choices.

“Rio Breaks” is a fantastic surfing documentary that really shows us the life of these surfers and children who grew up in the favela.  I have watched many surfing films and surf documentaries but this is probably the deepest surf documentary I have seen in my life.  Granted, “Dogtown and Z-Boys” was marvelous documentary of showing us how kids who didn’t have much, using their talents to become something bigger but “Rio Breaks” was something that really surprised me because I was unaware that people were surfing not only for the fun of it but also as way to escape their lives in the favela, even for a few hours a day, there are kids who do it, are passionate about it but know that they can easily be swayed to join a drug gang in the promise of money and women.

But at the same time, with so many people, especially children getting killed, it’s a daily situation where shootouts are common and so, during the day… for some kids, surfing is their life and possibly their way to get out of the favela.

As a viewer, you really want to see both 13-year-old Fabio and 12-year-old Naama come out strong from their life in the favela.  Justin Mitchell does a wonderful job in following these young children for over a year and just see how they grow up and the things they face in life, that many of us in the US can’t even imagine.

You look at Fabio and here is a kid who is stoked on surfing but yet, his father was killed by his own gang for trying to leave, his mother doesn’t care about him, he doesn’t go to school and doesn’t have anyone out there to give him that love he needed when he was a kid.  As much as his friend Naama and even Rogelio and the members of the Favela Surf Club try to help him and make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble, this boy’s life is on a thread.  He doesn’t want to be in a gang, he wants to be a better surfer like his idol Kelly Slater but he and the family are barely surviving as it is.  So, despite his short temper, by watching this film, you root for him to see if he can avoid the trouble, avoid being corrupted and watch until the end to see the result.

But if anything, the child that you root for is the young Naama.  Naama is not as passionate of surfing like Fabio but he does it.  He learns it.  But he does what it takes to make his family proud.  He goes to school, he stays out of trouble but he has a good head on his shoulders to know what is right from wrong and even criticizes Fabio for being unruly at times.

But these kids are no different from other groms out there.  They love Kelly Slater and their local hometown surfers, they play Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer on the PS2, they want to surf and have fun, they want to get better at surfing but the difference is that these kids live a life where violence is daily, where life of poverty is daily and know that the odds of them leaving and finding a good life for themselves is quite slim.

We see the two children with different dreams.  Fabio centered towards surfing while Naama is much bigger.  Wanting to ride a helicopter, wanting to get out of the favela and not ending up like his brother who was a drug trafficker and was killed by the police while carrying laundry detergent and a DVD.  It’s surprising to our eyes, as many of us who do surf are unaware of how bad things really are for other surfers especially those who live in the favela in Rio de Janeiro.

Justin Mitchell and crew did a fantastic job with “Rio Breaks” and it’s definitely a documentary that one should watch.  Beautiful cinematography, well-paced and one of the best surfing documentaries out there.

If there is one thing I have to add to this review that is related to the film, after you have watched “Rio Breaks”, I highly recommended visiting the riobreaks.com website (or by clicking here) as you get to see what happens to Naama and his family and also to those of the Favela Surf Club after Luciano Huck (one of the host of Brazil’s most popular TV shows) fell in love with the film.  A happy ending for those who enjoyed the documentary!

Overall, “Rio Breaks” is a fantastic documentary and is highly recommended!

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Monster Thursday (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A dramatic surfing film that manages to have some soul and also entertaining.  A solid Film Movement release!

Images courtesy of © 2006 Film Movement. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Monster Thursday

DURATION: 103 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 16:9, Aspect Ratio: 1:85:1, NTSC, Closed Captions, Norwegian Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with English Subtitles

RATED: N/A

COMPANY: Film Movement

Released Dated: 2006

Directed by Arild Østin Ommundsen

Written by Gro Elin Hjelle and Arild Østin Ommundsen

Producer: Ingrid Festøy Ottesen

Music by Nils Erga

Cinematography by Trond Høines

Edited by Eric Andersson

Costume Design by Jeanette Hoff

Starring:

Vegar Hoel as Even

Silje Salomonsen as Karen

Andreas Cappelen as Beckstrøm

Kim Bodnia as Skip

Christian Skolmen as Tord

Iben Hjejle as Sara

Marko IVersen Kanic as Markodude

Gaute Garlid as Gauadude

Lasse August Dorum Backer as Lille-Even

Even leads a directionless life. Tord, his best friend, is the opposite: a great surfer with a prestigious job and beautiful Karen as his bride. The last part is especially hard on Even, who is not-so-secretly in love with Karen. When Tord asks him to look after Karen while he is out of town, Even decides to clean up his act and master the waves to impress her. At first he’s a prime candidate for drowning, but a local surfing legend becomes his mentor, and Even, Tord and Karen end up on a collision course with the monster wave.

An entertaining surfing film from Norway, “Monster Thursday” is a cinema with a soul but also managing to balance that feeling of being stoked for the search for the big wave.

No, this is not an American film, nor is it an Australian film, “Monster Thursday” is a Norwegian film that is directed by Arild Østin Ommundsen and is one of the selection by Film Movement.  According to the company, they are a full service North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign film. From traditional film distribution methods like the theatrical release, DVD sales, DVD rentals, and television to new and unique film distribution techniques like our Film Festival On Demand channel and our first of its kind film-of-the-month-club, Film Movement is making it easier for independent and international movie lovers from Alaska to Florida to see some of the world’s award-winning cinema.

Although the DVD doesn’t have to be obtained by subscription (you can find it on Amazon.com or eBay), the fact that Film Movement is bringing independent and foreign films to the American public is fantastic.

“Monster Thursday” revolves around two best friends Even (played by Vegar Hoel) and Tord (played by Christian Skolmen).  Even is a man who is not fully depended on and doesn’t really have many ambitions but if there is one thing that he is sure of, it’s that he loves a woman named Karen.

The problem is that Karen, despite being with Even first…she ends up falling for Tord, getting pregnant and now getting married.  And for Even, the fact that his best friend is marrying the woman of his dreams hurts him emotionally but he also knows that his friend Tord is like the perfect guy.  From being a very good surfer, good businessman and also having a great body, things that Even is jealous of.

As Tord is expecting to be away for business and away from his pregnant wife, Tord is depending on his buddy to watch over Karen.  Although it may be quite awkward for these two to be together in the same room, Even has made the decision that the only way he can prove to Karen that he loves her and hopes she loves him is if he follows through with a goal and that goal is for him to learn how to surf, take place in a competition and to learn how to surf and go after the perfect wave.

And in Norway, there have been rumors about a killer wave known as the “Monster”.   Will Even be able to win Karen’s heart and surf the killer wave?

VIDEO:

“Monster Thursday” is presented in 1:85:1 Letterboxed and for a 2006 film, “Monster Thursday” tends to utilized different film stock at times.  Sometimes one scene can be very grainy and some which look natural and showcase the beauty of Norway’s west coast.

I will say that I was glad that the picture quality of the film was much better than the trailers.  The trailers were picture-boxed and included a lot of compression artifacts but “Monster Thursday” was not that bad.  I am not too familiar of how the picture quality of the majority of Film Movement DVD’s are but “Monster Thursday” was quite fine.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Monster Thursday” is presented in Norwegian Dolby Digital 2.0 with English subtitles.  Dialogue is clear and understandable through the stereo channels.  Subtitles tend to have some aliasing but can easily be read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Monster Thursday” or most Film Movement DVD releases contain a short film for the month.  For this release, a short titled “Youngster” directed by Will Canon is included.  The eight minute American short film revolves around a 12-year-old drug pusher who sells drugs to an addict and follows him to his home to get his money.  But this decision by the 12-year-old might prove to not be a good idea at all.

There is also information on the film by Director Ommundsen inside the cover.

Rarely do you see surfing films with a deep story.  Aside from the really good ones that showcase the talents of real surfers (and are released by the surfing companies), Hollywood surfing films created for the public usually have a skewed outlook on surfing.

With the release of “Monster Thursday”, I was quite pleased to see a story that included humor, drama but also an interesting take of one person determined of wanting to take on a monster wave.  But where the soul of this film lies is in its characters, of how one with no ambition or goals, looks to surfing and learning how to surf and eventually hoping that his former girlfriend will recognize him and eventually fall back in love with him.  Sure, this film is definitely a love triangle style of film combining surfing elements but it’s a film that surfers and surfing fans can easily understand (especially the discussion of Miki Dora and the surf-related lessons).

In ways, surfing fans can see a little “North Shore”, “Big Wednesday” and “Riding Giants” in “Monster Thursday”.  With the main character Even willing to learn lessons to learn how to surf from the best surfer (and shaper) from the area, hanging out with his jobless buddy (who provides the comedy relief) Beckstrom (played by Andreas Cappelen) and of course, the concept of a big wave that no one has surfed but many who are passionate about surfing, learning about surf reports and knowing the weather conditions and more.

We also get to see grommet-based errors from wearing a wet suit wrong to one not knowing how to ride a wave and thus Even learns from a former well-known surfer named Skip (played by Kim Bodnia) who teaches him how to watch the waves and eventually how to surf.

As for Even’s buddy Tord, for some unknown reason, after his wedding, he goes on business trip and never comes back until late into the film.  If anything, I was expecting some major pow-wow between Even and his best friend for neglecting a pregnant Karen.  And through this time of a Tord-less storyline, this is where Even thinks he can learn how to surf and get her attention.  In some ways, this is immature thinking for a man but if anything, it was pretty cool to see a man find purpose in life by surfing and in some ways, there is a karma will get you in the end style of storyline between Even and Tord.

And the way the film ends definitely was no surprise for me because for many surfers, many dream of trying to surf that big monster wave.  But the ending may not what be what one expects and that is the surprise that I enjoyed.  It doesn’t end in a kitschy way but an appropriate way that I was genuinely stoked about.   There is a sequence that happens at the beginning of the film which ties in to the end, so I won’t bring it up as it would spoil the film.

As for the DVD, I hope that Film Movement considers releasing the films on Blu-ray.  It would be great to see these films in HD as I would imagine “Monster Thursday” and the view of Norway’s west coast would look great on Blu.  But I really dig the fact that Film Movement also includes short films in their monthly DVD selections as well.

Overall, “Monster Thursday” was a pretty cool film and the overall performance by the talent was well done.  Definitely a DVD worth checking out!

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Riding Giants (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Fantastic! Stacy Peralta follows up “Dogtown and Z-Boys” with an awesome documentary on the evolution of big wave surfing and focusing on two of the greats: Greg Knoll and Laird Hamilton.  Featuring vintage surfing footage to even the death defying wave that Hamilton surfed at CHOPU, “Riding Giants” is a fantastic surf documentary done right and looks and sounds great on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 2002 Vans, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Riding Giants

DOCUMENTARY RELEASE YEAR: 2004

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Hindi

RATED: PG-13 (For Brief Strong Language)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RELEASE DATE: January 5, 2010

Directed by Stacy Peralta

Written by Stacy Peralta and Sam George

Executive Producer: Nathalie Delest, Laird John Hamilton, Franck Marty

Producer: Jane Kachmer, Agi Orsi, Stacy Peralta

Associate Producer: Paul Crowder

Cinematography by Peter Pilafian, Grant Washburn

Edited by Paul Crowder

Starring:

Jeff Clark

Darrick Doerner

Laird John Hamilton

Dave Kalama

David H. Kalama Jr.

Brian L. Keaulana

Buzzy Kerbox

Titus Kinimaka

Gerry Lopez

Mickey Munoz

Greg Noll

Grabrielle Reece

Evan Slater

Kelly Slater

Darryl Virostko

Mike Waltze

Grant Washburn

From acclaimed director Stacy Peralta comes Riding Giants, the story of big wave surfing. Breakingthe mold of traditional documentary filmmaking, Riding Giants uses its dynamic, cross-generational approach to profile the lives and times of the intrepid surfers who over the decades have dedicated themselves to finding and successfully challenging the biggest waves on earth. We meet Greg Noll, the pioneer, whose relentless push into Hawaii’s big surf in the late 1950s earned him the nickname “The Bull.” There’s Jeff Clark, Northern California’s lone frontiersman, who, after discovering the massive waves of Maverick’s near San Francisco, rode there alone for over a decade. And finally Hawaii’s Laird Hamilton, the prototypical “extreme” surfer, a rare breed of athlete/innovator considered as the best big wave rider who ever waxed a board. Through a fast-paced combination of mediums that include classic archival photography, spectacular movie footage – both current and vintage – and contemporary interviews with the sport’s greatest surfers, experts and storytellers, Riding Giants captures the rich visual history of one of the most dramatic athletic adventures of our time. — Sam George, Global Editor SURFER Magazine

With the success of Stacy Peralta’s (famous skater and one of the original Dogtown Z-Boys) award-winning documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys” in 2001, surfer/skater turned filmmaker Stacy Peralta went on to work on his next documentary in 2004 titled “Riding Giants”.

For this documentary, Peralta’s goal was to focus on the origins of surfing and big wave riding.

“Riding Giants” would feature plenty of classic home movie footage of surfers from Hawaii and the West Coast to show the culture and what happened when the surfers from California (who fell in love with a photo of three surfers riding 30+ foot high waves) went to Hawaii and discover the waves for themselves.

From the surfing innovators of the 1940’s to the early 1950’s when the lightweight longboard was created and paved a way for more people to take on the sport.  Featuring big wave surfers Greg Noll, Pat Curren and many other surfers who surfed Windansea and Vandenberg and then left to Hawaii and  paddled out and attempted what was thought impossible at Waimeia Bay and learning about the transition from 80 lb. boards to the creation of guns for big wave surfing.

In Dec. 1969, the greatest waves ever recorded in Oahu took place due to a massive low pressure system.  The dangerous storm created waves as high as six stories.  This segment featuring Greg Noll surfing the largest wave ever attempted at the time in Makaha.

In the 70’s, longboards became overshadowed by shortboards and Waimeia had been usurped by the Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach.  But by the 80’s, the giant wave riding experience was celebrated through tournaments and how Ken Bradshaw, Marc Foo brought big  wave riding back to Waimeia.

As the film shifts to the 1990’s, the film would also feature Mavericks in California known for its big waves, the challenges of surfing the break but also featuring the death of Hawaiian big wave rider Mark Foo in 1994 with actual footage and photos of December 23, 1994.

The film would close out with the most recognized name and face of big wave surfing and the creation of tow-in surfing, Laird Hamilton.  Featuring awesome footage of Laird Hamilton riding a tremendously insane waves including the August 2000 footage of Hamilton riding the most dangerous wave ever attempted (note: the huge swell formed an enormous amount of water under, behind and over Hamilton) and captured on film at CHOPU in Tahiti.

Peralta’s “Riding Giants” manages to showcase the progression of big wave surfing and its evolution from the 1940’s to modern times.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Riding Giants” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  Picture quality varies as classic home video footage to modern footage looks very good  but you can see the combing at times.  In certain interviews, the jump to HD increases the grain amount of certain footage but for the most part, considering that this documentary focuses on the history of surfing, specifically big wave riding and we have all this vintage footage included in this documentary, the importance is seeing this vintage footage that has only been part of someone’s home collection for so many years.

The fact that Peralta was able to obtain so much of this older footage is remarkable and you may not get the best PQ due to the age of the video footage, but it still gets a big boost in PQ compared to its DVD counterpart now that the footage is featured in 1080p High Definition.

As for audio, the documentary is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  Truthfully, I don’t expect too much from documentaries using the surround channels and that dialogue and music are typically front and center channel driven but to my surprise “Riding Giants” features audio utilizing the surround and rear surround channels.  You actually hear the waves crashing all around you and you hear the seagulls that is fantastic!  The documentary is dialogue driven but the fact that the documentary did feature lossless audio utilizing the surrounds was pretty awesome.

Subtitles are featured in English, English SDH and Hindi.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Riding Giants” comes with the following special features in standard definition, in English stereo with English subtitles. Included are:

  • Director and Editor’s Commentary – Audio commentary by Stacy Peralta and editor Paul Crowder talking about the footage and how grateful they were able to get music and footage for the documentary.  Peralta talks about how the documentary came together and interviewing Greg Knoll,  Greg Hamilton and more.
  • Writer and Surfers’ commentary – Audio commentary by Sam George, Greg Knoll, Jeff Clark and Laird Hamilton.  It’s cool to hear the surfer’s commenting on the footage and further insight from Greg Knoll surfing in Hawaii for the first time.  But everyone’s commentary when Laird surfed the killer wave in CHOPU and even to even hear from Greg Knoll and hear him stoked about that wave.  Also, to hear Laird talk about it and how it was made possible because of the straps on the board.  Awesome commentary!
  • The Making of Riding Giants – (28:04) Featuring Stacy Peralta and producer Agi Orsi talking about how the documentary came to fruition and how Stacy was inspired by Greg Knoll and Laird Hamilton to create a documentary about big wave surfing.
  • Fuel TV’s Blue Carpet Special – (20:21) Fuel TV at the premiere of “Riding Giants” and interviews with the cast and crew promoting the film.  But interesting comments from Peralta of the challenges of doing a documentary on surfing and the pressures involved.
  • Deleted Scenes – Five deleted scenes which include: Surf Talk, Wave Complexity, Half Moon Bay, the Original Ending and end credits sequence.

When I saw this film for the first time, needless to say that I was quite interested to see what Stacy Peralta had to bring after the successful documentary “Dogtown with Z-Boys”. And after watching his latest documentary, I was amazed of how much footage he was able to get for this film.

Peralta keeps his footage consistent by focusing on the evolution of big wave surfing and I thought it was fantastic how he was able to interview a good number of people for the film but also incorporate their home video footage into the film.  Similar to “Dogtown with Z-Boys”, where Peralta featured an amazing number of clips and photographs that no one has seen but the owners, he repeats it with “Riding Giants” and the results are fantastic.

As a surfer myself, I’ve grown up to read the stories featured in the film but to hear it from the people and see actual photos and video is amazing.  Greg Noll surfing a huge wave during a major storm is featured in the documentary and to hear him and friends talk about it is very cool but most of all, for those of us who were stunned by Marc Foo’s death (especially for us who watched “Prime Ticket” and see him covering the various surf competitions on television back in the 90’s) were shocked because Marc Foo was among the best from Hawaii in big wave surfing and to hear that he died at Mavericks was a shock.  But I was surprised of how Peralta was able to gather photos and even video footage from that day and to hear those who were present, those who recovered his body was indeed a shock.  But to show the memorials was fitting but also to mention other names include Todd Chesser’s death (which was another shock) was also fitting about the challenges of surfing these big waves.  People who know that they can die by attempting the large surf but know that they can’t pass it up, this is their passion.

And of course, what better than to end these film with Laird Hamilton.  An innovator and just an all-out gutsy guy that surfer’s appreciate for his humbleness but the fact that he is not afraid to conquer the largest of waves.  Also, the documentary is fitting for showcasing his talent as big-wave surfer.  Dana Brown’s documentary “Step Into the Liquid” showcases Hamilton’s innovation towards tow-in surfing but Peralta’s “Riding Giants” focuses on Laird’s mindset of conquering the wave and also featuring footage from him challenging the deadliest wave ever see in CHUPO.

The Blu-ray release of “Riding Giants” is similar to Peralta’s “Dogtown with Z-Boys” in the fact that one should not expect the great picture quality in HD for the documentary as there is so many types of footage incorporated in the film.  From home video to classic vintage footage and photography that ranges in quality.  But that is what makes this documentary so enjoyable because it is able to feature this time capsule of vintage surfing footage and those who were involved with big wave surfing from the 1930’s to the 2000’s. Audio quality is actually pretty awesome as we hear the lossless audio and the waves crashing all around us.  I definitely like how the surrounds and rear surrounds were used in this documentary.   And also, how they managed to keep all the special features intact including the FUEL TV’s “Blue Carpet Special” (unlike Dana Brown’s “Step Into the Liquid”, the Blue Carpet Special was dropped in the Blu-ray release).

Overall, “Riding Giants” is a wonderful documentary and Peralta really did his homework in gathering the materials to make sure that he managed to keep the pacing intact from the 1940’s and showing us how big wave surfing had progressed.

Of course, there is only so much that can be incorporated in this 101 minute documentary and a lot of surfers are not included.  But even in the audio commentary, Sam George explains how it would be too difficult to make this film in chronological order and feature everything especially during the 60’s and 70’s, so they tried to focus on several people.

For the most part, this “Riding Giants” is fantastic but I wished there was some inclusion of big wave surfing from the 1970’s and 80’s which was barely featured in the documentary.  But it’s a documentary done right and I think that it helped having Peralta working with Sam George, Knoll and Hamilton in order to make this film right.   So, it’s good to hear a documentary in which the people featured are all in unison so supportive of it.  But overall, “Riding Giants” was a title that I was hoping would come out on Blu-ray and sure enough both Peralta documentaries (including “Dogtown and Z-Boys”) are both being released together on the same day which is definitely awesome!

There are not many surfing related films on Blu-ray, but finally we get one of the better surfing film’s out there with “Riding Giants”.  For those who own the previous version on DVD and have a pretty solid home theater setup at their home, then the upgrade to Blu-ray is well worth it.

Even if you have never seen this documentary before and have an interest in surfing, “Riding Giants” is definitely a title worth owning!  Highly recommended!

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Dogtown and Z-Boys (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The classic documentary about the Zephyr Competition Team from Dogtown is now on Blu-ray!  Stacy Peralta’s “Dogtown and Z-Boys” is a documentary that captures an era in time of the emergence of the Zephyr skateboard team with vintage footage of competitions and sessions and interviews with the main members from the original group.

Images courtesy of © 2002 Vans, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dogtown and Z-Boys

DOCUMENTARY YEAR OF RELEASE: 2001

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1) Full Screen, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.   Subtitles: English, English SDH,Hindi

RATED: PG-13 (For Language and Some Drug References)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RELEASE DATE: January 5, 2010

Directed by Stacy Peralta

Written by Stacy Peralta and Craig Stecyk

Executive Producer: Jay Wilson

Producer: Agi Orsi

Co-Producer: Glen E. Friedman, Stephen Nemeth, Daniel Ostroff

Associate Producer: Debra MacCulloch, Christine Triano

Music by Paul Crower, Terry Wilson

Cinematography by Sebastian Jungwirth, Peter Pilafian

Edited by Paul Crowder

Production Design by Craig Stecyk

Starring:

Narrated by Sean Penn

Jay Adams

Tony Alva

Jeff Ament

Bob Biniak

Steve Caballero

Chris Cahill

Paul Constantineau

“Baby” Paul Cullen

Skip Engblom

Steve Freidman

Tony Friedkin

Glen E. Friedman

Tony Hawk

Jeff Ho

Shogo Kubo

Jim Muir

Peggy Oki

Stacy Peralta

Jake Phelps

Nathan Pratt

Henry Rollins

Wentzle Ruml

Allen Sarlo

Craig Stecyk

Meet the Z-Boys – a group of brash street kids from Venice, California’s tough Dogtown neighborhood who revolutionized skateboarding with an aggressive in-your-face style that shredded the competition and totally influenced today’s extreme sports.

Narrated by SEAN PENN and featuring old-school skating footage, a blistering soundtrack and riveting interviews with skateboarding icons TONY ALVA, JAY ADAMS and TONY HAWK, this award-winning documentary is a historic, no-holds-barred, behind-the-scenes look at the birth of a cultural phenomenon, and the inspiration for the thrilling feature film LORDS OF DOGTOWN.

In 2001, a documentary by legendary skater and documentary filmmaker Stacy Peralta and Craig Stecyk, one of the original founders of Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions surf shop in Venice, California was released to people who have waited for this documentary with high anticipation.

A winner of the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature, the documentary focuses on life in Dogtown (Dogtown is the nickname of an area between Santa Monica and Pacific Ocean Park bridge) and the emergence of the Zephyr skateboard team back in the 1970’s.  Showcasing  the surf scene near the dilapidated ruins of the pier and Pacific Ocean Park, the beginning of Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions surf shop and the beginning of the Zephyr Competition Team and how the paid competitions came between members of the group.  But most importantly showcasing the influence the Z-Boys made in skateboarding.

From their pool skating sessions and the group doing aerials to their involvement in professional skate competitions and more.  “Dogtown and Z-Boys” featured a good number of archived footage from teenagers who wanted to become part of the Z-Boys group by filming and documenting the talented skaters and also featuring interviews with members of the Zephyr Competition Team.

The documentary was financed by Vans, Inc. with a $400,00 budget, the shoes that Stacy Peralta (director of the documentary and one of the popular members of the Zephyr Competition Team that became a professional, sponsored skateboarder) promoted back when he was as a pro skateboarder.  The documentary would feature a narration by award winning actor Sean Penn (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, “Milk”, “Deadman Walking”) and the DVD went on to sell over  a million copies and over 700,000 copies on VHS.

The story of the Z-Boys even inspired the making of the 2005 feature film “Lords of Dogtown” starring Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch, John Robinson and Victor Rasuk, a film (that was inspired by actual events but dramatized for the big screen) that would spotlight the beginning and the end of the Zephyr skateboard team but how Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta went on to become successful in their own way .

With the popularity of “Dogtown and Z-Boys” on VHS and DVD, the documentary now receives its HD release on Blu-ray.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Dogtown and Z-Boys” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1) Full Screen.  It’s important to emphasize that this documentary is not one to expect awesome picture quality.

For one, this documentary was created back in 2001 and footage featured ranges from the 1950’s through the early 1980’s and modern footage from 2001 (featured in black and white).  The documentary is in full screen, so you will see black bars at the sides.  Also, this documentary does bring out the noise and minimal dust and some artifacting from certain classic scenes.

But the excitement of this documentary release is watching it for the vintage footage of old school Venice, surfing crews and what took place at Jeff Ho’s surf shop to old school footage of the skateboard team skating at their various school hangouts to skate or at the pool.  But also footage from skateboard competitions and more.

And I will say that the vintage footage does look much better on Blu-ray than on DVD.  There are quite a good number of classic footage that looks very good despite being shot on a home video camera in the mid-70’s.

As for the audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  Dialogue is center channel driven and is clear while the front channels showcases classic rock music from Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, David Bowie, the Stooges, Peter Frampton and more.

There is some use of the surround channels, may it be subtle sounds of waves or certain sound effects but this documentary is all about the dialogue and music and for the most part, lossless audio is quite satisfactory for this documentary.

Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH and Hindi.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dogtown and Z-Boys” comes with the following special features featured in Standard and High Definition.  English Stereo and subtitles in English.  Included are:

  • Audio Commentary — Audio commentary by director Stacy Peralta and editor Paul Crowder.  A really good commentary as Peralta talks about the challenges of making the documentary, reuniting with old friends but also meeting up with Jay Adams and more.
  • The State of Pool Skaters with Tony Alva and Bucky Lasek —(13:25) Exclusive to this Blu-ray release of “Dogtown and Z-Boys”, Tony Alva talks about how he still skates every week and how he continues to skate in pools.  Bucky Lasek talks about having a large vert-sized 14 ft. deep pool built for skating and how pool skating has changed today.
  • Tony Alva Art Show —(3:31) Exclusive to this Blu-ray release of “Dogtown and Z-Boys”, Tony Alva’s art gallery for “Die Poser Die” and interviews with Tony Alva and fellow artists/skateboarding friends Jeff Ho, Steve Caballero, Chris Patras, Steve Olson, Lance Mountain and Christian Hosoi who talk about their artwork.
  • Alva 2000 Alternate Ending – (3:03) Footage of Tony Alva  hanging out with local skaters and taking part in pool sessions and showing us that he can still skate.
  • Craig Stecyk Deleted Scene – (3:26) A scene that was cut from the final cut of the film featuring Craig Stecyk and more classic photography.
  • That Question Sucked – (:28) Not exactly a blooper reel but people interviewed who didn’t dig the question being asked to them.
  • Extend “Raw” Skate Footage – While watching “Dogtown and Z-Boys”, a red Zephyr icon will show up and if you click enter on your remote, the documentary will pause and showcase several minutes of “raw” skate footage.
  • Lords of Dogtown Webisodes -(5:58) Director Catherine Hardwick introducing the webisodes for “Lords of Dogtown” featuring behind-the-scenes making of  the film.
  • Bicknell Hill Session – Featuring a photography montage from Patrick Darrin back in the early 1970’s.
  • Jeff Ho 2000 – (1:54) Video footage of Stacy Peralta visiting Jeff Ho in Hawaii (there is no audio with this footage).
  • Mar Vista 2000 – (2:35) During the filming of the documentary, Stacy Peralta and people of the film crew would grab their skateboard during breaks and just skate.
  • Previews – Trailers for upcoming or currently available Sony Pictures releases.
  • BD-Live Enabled

“Dogtown and Z-Boys” is documentary that spotlights the Z-Boys aka the Zephyr team who literally revolutionized skateboarding with an aggressive in-your-face style that shredded the competition.  Growing up in the 1970’s, the documentary is blessed with old school footage (that is great quality compared to many surfing films that came out in the early 90’s) that I just kept repeating… “sick”.

The documentary shows the kids skating as well as a few classic clips of other competitors of skateboarding in the 50’s and 60’s and how the Z-Boys just came in and shattered the image of what skateboarding was all about with their freestyle surfing way on a skateboard.   Also, footage of the group skating in emptied pools brought upon the California drought and how the friends became rivals as skateboard manufacturers started to offer contracts and get a hold of a Z-Boy and make money off them.   Naturally, the talents of the kids of that time earned them great money but not all were able to overcome the limelight that introduced a few to drugs and hard times.

From the awesome freestyle of Jay Adams, the competitor and uber talented Tony Alva (aka godfather of skateboarding) and talented Stacy Peralta (who gone on to create Powell-Peralta Skateboards, the Bones Brigade which led to some guy named Tony Hawk), we are reminded of what these three and other members of the Zephyr team brought to skateboarding.

My favorite part of the film which I can’t stop watching is the 1975 Del Mar Invitational where people saw the Zephyr team debut and saw a new style that no one has seen before. What makes it even more exciting was the footage of the skateboarding competitors of that time and then the entrance of the Zephyr team and seeing how the competitors were frustrated by the Zephyr team.

That was a definite, classic moment in my opinion from yesteryear and to see the footage today is just incredible.   The documentary features awesome footage of the group and competitions combined with a cool soundtrack, cool interviews of most of the Zephyr Competition Team and a lot of cool, in-depth information of the past and what happened to the members of the team now.   Suffice to say that this film has done really well on the film festival circuit especially at Sundance and AFI and Stacy Peralta continues to show his talent as a director.

For the Blu-ray release of “Dogtown and Z-Boys”, the HD version does make the vintage footage look much better but as mentioned, certain artifacts, dust and noise are also more evident as well.  But personally, when it comes to classic home video footage, you don’t expect anything significant in picture quality and if anything, these classic moments are like a time capsule of that time and era.   Audio definitely benefits from the lossless audio soundtrack, so the classic music is much more defined.  And you get two Blu-ray exclusives with this latest release.

But assuming you owned the original DVD release and the deluxe edition, you may be wondering if it’s all worth it to purchase all over again on Blu-ray.  For me, it is worth it because I enjoyed this documentary and if I can have the documentary with its best presentation video and audio-wise, for me… it’s worth it.  Also, you do get two new special features but if you aren’t the type who cares for special features or if you don’t own a home theater system, then you’re pretty much good with the original DVD release.

Overall, “Dogtown and Z-Boys” is one of my favorite documentaries that featured surf and skate culture of the 1970’s and it captures a time and era featuring the Zephyr Competition Team who set the bar high for skateboarding at the time and also help create the synergy that would later become this big competitive sport and hobby that is today.

If you don’t own it on DVD and have a Blu-ray player, “Dogtown and Z-Boys” is definitely worth catching on Blu-ray!

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Step Into Liquid (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“Dana Brown’s ambitious surfing project ‘Step Into Liquid’ is a great surfing film covering the passion of surfing.  Young and old, short wave to massive big waves, man, women, children and various countries… Dana Brown follows his father’s footsteps in creating a wonderful film on the positivity of surfing in many levels.  The Blu-ray transfer is pretty good and it’s great to see and hear the film in HD but for those who owned the original DVD, you may not want to give/throw it away since the Blu-ray version has half of the features that were included in the DVD release.”

Images courtesy of © 2003 Top Secret Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Step Into Liquid

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), 16×9 Widescreen Version, 7.1 DTS-HD MAster Audio, English and Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Lionsgate Pictures

RATED: PG (Some Language)

Release Date: October 20, 2009

Written and Directed by Dana Brown

Executive Producer: Bruce Brown, Ray Willenberg Jr.

Producer: John-Paul Beeghly

Co-Producer: Scott Waugh

Line Producer: Nicholas Simon

Associate Producer: C. Rich Wilson

Music by Richard Gibbs

Cinematography by John-Paul Beeghly

Edited by Dana Brown, Scott Waugh

Starring:

Robert August

Rochelle Ballard

Shawn Barron

Layne Beachley

Jesse Brad Billauer

Bruce Brown

Taj Burrow

Ken Collins

Ami DiCamillo

Kelly Slater

Darric Doerner

Brad Gerlach

Laird John Hamilton

Dave Kalama

Keala Kennelly

Alex Knost

Jim Knost

Gerry Lopez

Rob Machado

Chris Malloy

Dan Malloy

Keith Malloy

Andy Matthias

Peter Mel

Mike Parsons

Mike Waltze

Robert “Wingnut” Weaver

Larry Williams

Lee Wiliiams

From the makers of The Endless Summer, Step Into Liquid takes us from the terrifying monstrous waves of Oahu’s North Shore to the Texas waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of Ireland and Rapa Nui.  Told through the voices of legends, pros, and everyday surfers alike, it is not just a film for surfers, but for anyone with an appreciation for sport and an inkling of what it meant to be “stoked”.

Dana Brown’s ambitious surfing project ‘Step Into Liquid’ is a great surfing film covering the passion of surfing.  Young and old, short wave to massive big waves, man, women, children and various countries… Dana Brown follows his father’s footsteps in creating a wonderful film on the positivity of surfing in many levels.  The Blu-ray transfer is pretty good and it’s great to see and hear the film in HD but for those who owned the original DVD, you may not want to give/throw it away since the Blu-ray version has half of the features that were included in the DVD release.

The Brown’s…a surfing family known for Surfing films.  From Bruce Brown’s early 1958 film “Slipper When Wet” and the most popular surfing film of all time, the 1966 “Endless Summer” to the sequel in 1994 with “Endless Summer II”, “Step Into Liquid” is the second surfing film from Bruce’s son, Dana who started his career writing “Endless Summer II” and went on to direct his first film “Endless Summer Revisited” in 2000.

And as ambitious Bruce Brown was with “Endless Summer”, Dana Brown was in his 2003 film “Step Into Liquid”.

In “Step Into Liquid”, Dana Brown covers surfing in various ways.  Not just the competitive surfing that people may see on television but pretty much passion of surfing.  May it be father and son surfing together, shortboarders, longboarders, big wave, small wave surfing and more.  From Robert August who starred in “Endless Summer” who continues to surf today to Kelly Slater who at the time was a 6-time surfing world champion (and now currently 9-time champ), those who surf in a lake when wind conditions are good, women who surf, to those who surf when big freighters create a wave, to Dale Webster – a man who surfed every day consecutively for over 30 years, the Malloy family visiting Ireland to surf, a father and son who went back to surf in Vietnam and of course, big wave surfing in Hawaii to Mavericks in California.

“Step Into Liquid” is literally a film about the passion of surfing.  None of the negativity, just people who enjoy surfing and willing to help those in different countries learn how to surf and fathers and mothers who passed down their passion to a new generation and more.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

I first purchased “Step Into Liquid” when it was first released on DVD and I felt it looked fantastic.  Now, “Step Into Liquid” receives its 1080p High Definition (1:85:1) treatment.  There is fine layer of grain but virtually no Digital Noise Reduction.  But the film features awesome cinematography.  Risky cinematography.  I was very impressed when I first saw this film.  You get good detail on the water, sand, skies, scenery and for the most part, picture quality is quite vibrant.  It’s not exactly reference quality but for the most part, this is one of the first surfing films that received a High Definition transfer.

As for audio, the audio is presented in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue is understandable and both dialogue and music come out clear through the front and center channels.  There is some usage of surround channels when the waves crash but for a 7.1 track, I was expecting a bit more of an immersive soundtrack through the rear surrounds.  But for the most part, nice use of LFE during the crashing of the waves and definitely a pretty solid lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are featured in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Step Into Liquid” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Dana Brown
  • Let’s Go Surfing – (13:12) Featuring Robert “Wingnut” Weaver and Maureen Drummy discussing some basics about surfing and good advice for those who are wanting to start surfing.
  • Capturing the Wave – (13:19) Featuring water cinematographers and photographers discussing how they got involved in that career and the challenges and passion they have for it.
  • Making a Surfboard – (8:29) Featuring Robert and Sam August introducing the process of the making of a surfboard and Robert August Surfboards.
  • Deleted/Alternate Footage – (15:19) Featuring the following scenes not in the film and alternate scenes: Dana’s Angels, Dirtboarding, Surfing Rabbi, Scenics.
  • Passion for Liquid – (14:22) Interview with Director Dana Brown and surfers who took part in the film and their impression of the film and also discussing surfing.
  • Interviews – (42:39) Featuring interviews with Dana Brown, Bruce Brown, Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, Robert August, Sam August, Jim and Alex Knost, Maureen Drummy and Peter Townend.
  • Music Montages – (8:42) Featuring music montages for “Only One” by Jeremy Kay, “Windshield Wipers” by Jackpot.
  • Dale Webster – (7:53) A featurette about the man who has surfed for over 30 years, everyday consecutively.
  • Disc Production Credits – Production credits

“Step Into Liquid” is definitely one of the best modern surf films to come out post-2000 and capturing surfing in variety of different situations, different countries and most of all, different surfers of different ages, ethnicities, etc.  This film captures the passion of surfing.  May you be living in Hawaii, California or the North Central part of the United States, people find ways to get stoked on surfing their way.  May it be short or massive waves, people are enjoying surfing and I feel that Dana Brown did a great job of covering that in this film.

Seeing it and hearing it on Blu-ray in High Definition is definitely a plus but one question that those who own the original  DVD version may want to know is “if the Blu-ray is worth the double dip?”.  If you are wanting the film in 1080p High Definition and lossless audio, then yes.  Personally, I love watching films in Blu-ray and on High Definition and wouldn’t mind seeing a lot of my favorite films with the best picture and audio quality.   But it’s important to note that the original DVD from Artisan Home Entertainment has way more special features than the Lionsgate Blu-ray disc. So, you don’t want to give or throw away your original DVD.

Missing from the Blu-ray include the outtakes/behind-the scenes footage, Red Carpet Highlights from Fuel, Surfline features “The Bill of Rights and Lefts…the Final Word on Surfing Etiquette” and “Surfing Glossary A to Z”, Robert August Surfboard Outfitter and the PC version of the Kelly Slater Pro Surfer video game.  The DVD also came with a High-Definition DVD-Rom version for the PC at the time as well.

And because that footage is missing from the Blu-ray, it’s a bummer because one of my favorite featurettes on the original DVD was the Fuel TV Red Carpet Highlights.  I can understand why the Kelly Slater Pro Surfer video game was not included and the Robert August Surfboard Outfitter is more or less a stand-alone DVD software to show what kind of board is for you and how you can purchase it from Robert August Surfboards.  But to say the least, those special features that are not on the Blu-ray disc were fun and what made “Step Into Liquid” (along with the special features on the Blu-ray Disc), a super-solid DVD release at the time.  You were definitely getting your money’s worth.

But despite the Blu-ray disc having less special features, those who want it on Blu-ray are looking forward to the 1080p HD picture quality and lossless audio quality and this is where “Step Into Liquid” shines.

In 2009, years after the release of the DVD and a year after the Blu-ray was released, you can definitely find both pretty cheap these days.  But if you are a surfer or a fan of well-done surfing films/documentaries, “Step Into Liquid” is definitely a title worth having in your surfing collection.

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THE SIXTH ELEMENT: THE ROSS CLARKE-JONES STORY (a J!-ENT Surfing DVD Review)

January 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Surfer Ross Clarke-Jones had it all, was on top in the surfing world but the life of Clarke-Jones was anything but simple.  A complex individual with one hell of an interesting life!”

TITLE: THE SIXTH ELEMENT: THE ROSS CLARKE-JONES STORY

DURATION: 60 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Dolby Digital

RATED: NOT RATED

COMPANY: Westlake Entertainment, Inc.

Directed by Justin McMillan

Narrated by Dennis Hopper

Editor: Nick Tomnay

Written by Chris Nelius

Executive Producers: Luke Hannan Garry “Spurter” Wall-Chris Mater

Original Music by Peter Glendenning

Starring:

Ross-Clarke Jones

Kelly Slater

Jamie Brisick

Matt Hoy

Noah Johnson

Gary “Kong” Elkerton

Jeff Bushman

Wayne Bartholomew

Bill Cilia

Mark Occhilupo

Tom Carroll

Darrick Doener

Eddie Rothman

Peter “Joli” Wilson

Brock Little

Maurice Cole

Tony Ray

The story of Ross Clarke-Jones is at once compelling.  His manhandling of the biggest waves in the word is the same approach he applies to his life.  Full tilt, bared teeth and a hunger that cannot be sated.

He’s an adventurer who’s intrepid exploring is breaking new barriers, whether that’s in the remote corners of Tasmania of the lush corridors of the Amazon.  This film will take you as close to his life as you would want.

It’s captivating, dramatic, funny and inspirational.  This story needs to be seen to be believed! It will take you on an incredible journey through a radical life, all set against some of the biggest waves ever surfed.

I grew up watching a lot of these surfers as a young grom.  And back in the early 80’s, among the surfers that you would see occasionally on the magazines was Ross Clarke-Jones.  And of course, now the guy is known for taking on some killer big wave surfing.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen his name but back in 2006, I was pretty surprised to see a documentary on this surfer’s life.  “The Sixth Element” is derived from the fact that he was born on June 6, 1966 (6/6/66) and that this surfer’s life was nothing simple.  This guy had a complex life with quite a bit of highs but also some major lows.

The film starts off  an English explorer named Sir William Howell went to Borneo and met one of the chiefs and took the daughter back to England.  Their child met Robert Clarke-Jones in Western Australia and had a child named Ross.  Ross would surf a lot while living in Terrigal and eventually in his teens, he stayed in Bangkok, Thailand and got caught up in the partying and clubbing scene and all this experience with women.  As a teenager, when he returned back to Terrigal, he was a different man.

With so much experience, Ross Clarke-Jones grown so much from that experience that he didn’t want to go to school anymore.  Next thing you know, he moves to Hawaii and starts hanging out with a lot of the top surfers like Rabbit Bartholomew and Gary “Kong” Elkerton and focusing on his surfing career and eventually returned back to Australia where he developed a friendship and rivalry with Mark Sainsbury.

One of the most interesting features in the documentary is for the first surfing film with a storyline called “Mad Wax” featuring the top surfer at the time Gary “Kong” Elkerton, Tom Carroll, Mark Sainsbury and Ross Clarke-Jones and although the film was to feature primarily on Gary Elkerton, somehow Ross Clarke-Jones became a big star on the film.

And then you got see how Ross Clarke-Jones started to get all amped for big wave riding, how corporate sponsorship started to grow in the sport and how these athletes started to become celebrities.  They would have the fans, the women, the cars and starting to make big money.  Ross Clarke-Jones was a star.  And that stardom would lead to more partying and not focusing on the sport that made him a star.

So, then Ross learned of how he lost his focus but also gained a perspective in life and thus went to Brazil  and hooked up with Quicksilver’s Fernando and immediately he fell in love with a Brazilian woman who came with Fernando.  The two dated, they got engaged and all of a sudden, he got married.

Meanwhile in the US, his friend/rival Mark Sainsbury started to grow distance from Ross and with corporate sponsorship starting to tighten up and struggling with bad results from competitions and then Ross’ mother was fighting and eventually succumed to cancer.  He lost his mother and then all of a sudden Sainsbury died of a brain embolism not long after.  With two deaths of two people close to him, this started to change Clarke-Jones and he was not winning any competitions.   Ross then surfed at Backdoor and had one of his worst wipeouts which broke his back and had to undergo rehab.

While his career was not going well, Ross eventually started to have affairs with other women despite having a loving wife and children.  Ross continued to travel and surf but while traveling, Ross met another woman named Marcia that he would instantly fall in love with.  Ross eventually divorced his wife who he says he loved but felt that Marcia was his destiny.

When Ross returned to surfing, he started to focus on big wave surfing specifically tide surfing and then tow surfing and he was able to regain that excitement and passion for surfing and eventually accomplished another major feat in his life as the first non-Hawaiian to win the Quiksilver Eddie Akau big wave competition.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

The video features a lot of classic surfing video footage and footage in color and black and white.  If anything, the fact that you have a surfing film that does include some classic surf footage is awesome.  But don’t expect anything super clear or eye popping.

As for audio, this is a documentary and its primarily dialogue-based.  So, no need for the use of 5.1 or higher audio channels or surround sound.  If anything, dialogue is clear and you can hear Hopper and others interviewed quite well.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are really no special features ion this DVD.  You do get a Mad Wax Film promo, Red Bull surf team promo and Tracks Magazine promo but trailers or promotionals are not exactly major special features.  If anything, it would have been interesting to hear a commentary track or maybe some blooper reels.

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All in all, “THE SIXTH ELEMENT: THE ROSS CLARKE-JONES STORY” is a fun documentary.  Fortunately, there are humorous segments and so many top surfers involved in this documentary that it made the film fun to watch.  It’s one thing to have a legendary actor like Dennis Hopper narrate but Ross Clarke-Jones is quite a funny guy but knows when to be serious when discussing certain topics about his life.  And of course, you get some cool segments with Kelly Slater, Wayne Bartholomew, Tom Carroll, Gary Elkerton, etc.

Suffice to say, Ross Clarke-Jones had an upbringing that many people don’t get to experience.  Especially when he was in his young teens and got to experience some wild things in Thailand by himself.  But most of all to see how he has managed to face life despite of two major deaths, a divorce and stardom at a young age and the pressures of winning competitions.

Overall, a fun surfing documentary and surfing fans will definitely like the classic and big wave surf clips, cool music and to see some of the top surfers all taking part in this documentary.  Wish the DVD had more in terms of special features but overall, a solid surf documentary one one of surfing’s well-known surfers.

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DRIVE THRU SOUTH CENTRAL AMERICA (a J!-ENT Surfing DVD Review)

November 26, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

“If there is one thing to expect from ‘DRIVE THRU’ surfing DVD’s, always expect a DVD that is a lot of fun, some mischief, awesome locations and cool surfing footage.  Always featuring a group of the top surfers around the world who are just enjoying the country that they are visiting and having a rad time!  DRIVE THRU SOUTH CENTRAL AMERICA is just all out fun!”

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DVD:  DRIVE THRU SOUTH CENTRAL AMERICA

COMPANY: 14 Day Productions

DVD INFORMATION: Color

DURATION: 48:30 minutes

RELEASED IN 2004

Taylor Steele – Executive Producer

Taylor Steele and Matt Beauchesne – Director of Photography

Matt Beauchesne – Editor

Jeffrey Motyll/CIRRUS MOTION MEDIA – Motion Graphics

Brendan Raasch – Art Director

Jeff Browning, Chris Cote, Brendan Klein – Music Director

Greg Browning – Director

STARRING:

Shane Dorian

Benji Weatherly

Kalani Robb

Donavon Frankenrieter

Ozzie Wright

When it comes to surfing DVD’s, among my favorites are the “DRIVE THRU” series from 14 Day Productions.  It’s literally a series which puts together a group of well-known surfers and send them to surf spots in different parts of the world.

Some of these surfers know each other really well and some who don’t know each other all that well but  that’s part of the fun of watching these people together and see how they have fun, if they can put up with each other and overall enjoy the country, experience the culture and surf in cool locations.

This was a fun “DRIVE THRU” because these guys had fun, got drunk, pulled pranks on each other but it’s just how the crew covered the 14-days of traveling, surfing and just following the guys having fun.  But the enjoyability also comes from the tight editing by Matt Beauschesne.  From the beautiful scenery of South Central America (Panama, Chile and Brazil), the clips of the guys surfing and how you get these flashes of images and editing that is in tune with the music.  Pretty cool!

Speaking of the music, quite a good number of awesome music featured featured on this DVD from Blink 182’s “Easy Target”, Chemical Romance with “The Jetset Life Is Gonna Kill You”, Muse’s “Hysteria”, Modest Mouse’s “Float On”,  Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” and many others.

For DRIVE THRU South Central America, the surfing footage is very awesome but the feature also has a few cool non-surfing footage.  Here are a few of my favorite highlights:

  • Watching the guys goof off at the airport
  • Kalani getting drunk and getting hit by a bat and falling into the sea.
  • Some kid taunting Benji Weatherly
  • Donavon playing guitar and Ozzie singing “La Bamba”
  • The guys hang gliding in Brazil
  • The guys riding their ATV’s on the beach and then doing some tow surfing

The feature is about 48 minutes long.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are a good number of extras such as an alternate ending (which I preferred), three deleted scenes (which were around 5-minutes) featuring the guys looking at a sloth climbing a tree, more of the bats and more surfing footage when the guys went out with the ATV’s.

Also, included are outtakes with the guys ribbing on each other and messing around and messing up on camera.  For “Inside Out”, the guys talk about being selected for this DRIVE THRU and discussing their favorite experiences of the trip.  Then there is a 2-minute “Surf” footage featuring everyone surfing.

There are quite a good number of “DRIVE THRU” releases on DVD but it’s always cool to see the various surf spots in different countries and again, these DRIVE THRU features are quite fun because you get a good balance of surfing footage but sometimes you really don’t know anything about the surfers but what you see on TV, what you read on magazines but with this series, you get to see these surfers and watch them have fun!

It’s like hearing a story from a buddy about his surf trip in some country but instead of having to hear it, you can watch it.  You get that visual experience which made it fun.  Also, with awesome editing, DVD presentation, beautiful locations and awesome music, and again…just watching these guys just ribbing on each other, crackin jokes and having fun, everything was all good!

Last, I like the fact that this surf DVD doesn’t skimp on special features, there’s a good number of them and they are quite lengthy too.

Overall, these DRIVE THRU DVD’s are just enjoyable.  Definitely check it out!

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LEARN TO SURF the Fundamentals with 3x World Champion Andy Irons (a J!-ENT Surfing DVD Review)

November 16, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

“A fun and enjoyable surfing fundamental film featuring three time surfing World Champion Andy Irons and Chris Cote.  A fun volume in the ‘Learn to Surf’ series!”

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DVD:  LEARN TO SURF The Fundamentals with 3x World Champion Andy Irons

COMPANY: Billabong and Transworld SURF Magazine

DVD INFORMATION: Color

DURATION: 31:57 minutes

RELEASED IN 2005

STARRING:

Andy Irons, Chris Cote and friends

THREE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION ANDY IRONS hosts this revolutionary, fun and hilarious instructional DVD on the fundamentals of learning how to surf.  Volume 001 in this collector’s series focuses on the basics while all skill levels will find helpful tips on surfing better.  Filmed in Hawai’i and bro-hosted by TransWorld SURF magazine’s Chris Cote.  Learn to Surf: The Fundamentals is sure to make you think, laugh and paddle out today.

There are not too many “learn to surf” DVD’s in the market.  Well, I’ll take that back… More like, there are not too many well-produced and cool “learn to surf” DVD’s in the market.

For the first volume of the “Learn to Surf: The Fundamentals” series from Surfwear company Billabong and Transworld SURF magazine comes a cool DVD starring three time world champion Andy Irons and Transworld SURF magazine’s Chris Cote in a fun (and short) DVD on pretty much the basic fundamentals.

Join Andy Irons and Chris Cote as they go to a surf shop and show you how to select a surfboard, the accessories you’ll need, knowing about safety.  Then you get to watch how to do your stance, standing on the board and learning to paddle.

Then you get to learn how to surf, learning wave physics, attaching a leash, waxing your board and catching waves.

All in all, it’s a pretty much self-explanatory DVD that features the basic fundamentals.  What makes the DVD quite entertaining is that Chris Cote clowns around and makes the video fun.

AUDIO AND VIDEO:

Audio is pretty much all dialogue but it can be heard quite well through the speakers.  The video seems to be shot on DV.  Pretty cool cuts cenes of Andy and Chris driving through Hawaii.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Featured is the “Making of LEARN TO SURF the Fundamentals with 3x World Champion Andy Irons” and also trailers for five surf films and promo for the Billabong Surf Camp.

The “Making Of” is about six minutes long and features the staff involved in the making of the DVD.

Again, this is one of the better, well-produced DVD’s on “Learning to Surf”.  It’s a bit short at 30-minutes long but it’s pretty much teaching the basic fundamentals and for that, the DVD does its job.

If anything, it’s well-done because there are quite a bit of cut scenes, showcasing the beauty of Hawaii and just learning how to surf.  Makes it even more entertaining because of the comedy interaction between Cote and Irons.

All in all, a pretty cool DVD and you can find it for a great price these days online!  Check it out!

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aegis (a J!-ENT Skimboard DVD Review)

November 9, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

“My first skimboarding DVD that I purchased that featured really awesome and gnarly video footage of random skimboard shots.  From really trippy aerials to skimboarders just messin’ around and having fun!  One of the better skimboard DVD’s out there!”

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FILM: aegis

COMPANY: skimonline.com/South Laguna Skate & Surf

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 2002

DURATION: 48 minutes

Produced by skimonline.com

FEATURING:

Bill Bryan, George Bryan, Brad Evers, Aaron Peluso, Andy Chiavetta, Erik Christensen, Jeff Gomez, Grady Archbold, Miles Grobman, Paulo Prietto, Mike Stanaland, Dominic Prietto and many more!

Some have called Skimonline.com’s debut skimboarding video the best skim flick yet.  Buy a copy now and decide for yourself!  Aegis features more riders than any other skim video.  It also includes more locations than your average skim video with footage from as far away as France.  The unprecedented use of a water camera at spots like the wedge provides for some really great shots that everyone should see.  Buy one today and see what the hype is all about.

One of my favorite skimboard online communities that I used to venture into was Aaron Peluso’s skimonline.com.  Featuring a pretty cool community of skimboarders, the site had it’s first DVD release featuring a lot of talented skimboarders from Aaron, Paulo Prietto, Andy Chiavetta and many others.

I’ve not seen a skimboard film or DVD since most of my surfing DVD’s were typically shortboard-based.  But with my interest in the sport and even skimboarding myself, I definitely would get pumped by watching people skimboard.

“aegis” is pretty much a DVD featuring a variety of skimboarders and video clips showcasing them skimboarding in California’s Laguna Beach, Florida, Hawaii, FRANCE and a variety of areas across the world.

You get a lot of cool music and a collage of video segments of people just rippin’.  You get a few shortboard and skating shots but it’s pretty much the cool skimboard shots and people just having fun.

There is no director but several dozen people contributing their skimboarding film for this DVD.  So, you get a lot of fun clips of skimboarders from the past and some other crazy situations.

AUDIO & VIDEO:

The video is shot with a variety of different cameras.  From digital to standard 8mm it seems.  But all in all, the focus on this video was pretty much showcase some of the skimboard talents and help promote skimboarding.   Very little dialogue, mainly all music .

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The DVD features on bonus feature which is a 2:26 video featuring additional skimboarding footage.

All in all, “aegis” is a pretty cool DVD.  Pretty much respect Aaron Peluso and the other guys who helped promote the sport and even managed to turn their passion into a business.  An older skimboard DVD from 2002 but still manages to include so much footage with contribution with dozens upon dozens of skimboarders and film contributors.  So, this DVD was pretty much a cool collaborative effort and pretty fun to watch!

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