Tag Archives: Helen Hunt

[Oscars 2013] – Predicting The Nominations

9 Jan

An actual Oscar statuette to be presented during the 79th Annual Academy Awards sits in a display case in Hollywood

I still have a few 2013 releases to catch up with, and I though I wanted to make my Oscar nominations predictions post having seen all of them, the nods are due early tomorrow morning so I’ll have to post them now.

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[Review] – The Sessions

31 Oct

Title: The Sessions
Year: 2012
Director: Ben Lewin
Writer: Ben Lewin
Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy
MPAA Rating: R, strong sexuality including graphic nudity and frank dialogue
Runtime: 95 min
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metacritic: 80

The film that came out of this year’s Sundance with the most buzz, being rivaled only by Beasts of the Southern Wild, was Ben Lewin‘s The Sessions, which was back then called The Surrogate. There it won the Audience Award and a Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting, was acquired for a huge $6 million by Fox Searchlight and has just now been released so that it can campaign it for some awards glory, and at the very least some really neat nominations are sure to come its way.

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[Trailer] – The Sessions

28 Jun

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival a film called The Surrogate got some really great buzz, and Oscar talk surrounding the lead performance from John Hawkes. The film then changed its name to Six Sessions, and now it’s just The Sessions, and a trailer has just been released, which you can watch after the cut.

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Soul Surfer

2 May

Title: Soul Surfer
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Sean McNamara
Writers: Sean McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz and Michael Berk, based on a screen story by themselves as well as Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson and Brad Gann, based on the book by Bethany Hamilton, Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh
Starring: 
AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Carrie Underwood, Jeremy Sumpter, Craig T. Nelson
MPAA Rating: 
PG, an intense accident sequence and some thematic material
Runtime: 
106 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 
52%

I’ve been known to say quite a few times that I think films written by more than two people usually turn out somewhere in the not-so-great area. I mean, two writers is fine but more than that I think usually leads to a huge clash of ideas and styles and it limits its potential, unless it’s a group of writer’s who know each others sensibilities extremely well which usually isn’t the case. So here I was looking at the writing credits for Soul Surfer before I watched it and found out that it was written by a team of 4 people, based on a story by all of them plus an additional 3 people which was in turn inspired by a book written by another different trio. So yeah, plenty of people involved in the writing of this one. Thankfully however, the book is actually based on a pretty amazing true story, so it’s not as though these ten minds were coming up with something totally new which would have probably been disastrous.

Because the story behind Soul Surfer really is quite exceptional, and it was obvious that it was going to be turned into a very inspirational tale, and had it been done the way it should have been it may have turned out quite good. But the many writers got their many hands into the story and their many different touches are felt all over because you can feel that they were trying to out-do each other or just weren’t able to mesh well together and the result is just an okay film that would have been more than decent had it not been so damn cheesy.

I didn’t dislike the film all that much, it was fine and it went by real easily, cheesy as it may have been, I just think it could have been made into something much better than it ultimately was. I mean, this is the real story of the life of a very determined and brave young woman, and to take that story and turn into something only partially better than your typical daytime soap opera is a shame. You see, Soul Surfer tells the story of Bethany Hamilton, a pre-teen surfing champ with a bright future who had her world turned upside down when a shark bit off most of her left arm. If the name or the story sounds familiar it may be because Bethany got up on the board a month after her incident, and has since won quite a few champions and remains a professional surfer to this day at age twenty-one.

I knew about Bethany’s story before, had seen a special on TV about her life and read a few articles on her struggles, I had also come across the book that she wrote and that inspired this film, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, but I never got down to actually reading, and I’m thinking that I just might after watching this film. And that’s not because the film got me really into the story, it’s kind of the exact opposite of that, the film made it all look as though it had been an easy ride for Bethany, like she just got up on the board as though that shark attack was nothing, and I want to see if the book led them into that direction or if it was just them trying to be family-friendly.

The film does illustrate how decided this girl was, the optimistic outlook of life she had, her desire of getting back on a board and the great supporting she got from her loving family. And that obviously made her journey easier, but I doubt it made it easy. It’s not like I’m a pessimist and would have liked the film to be all about the harshness of her situation, and see Bethany in those moments of frustration and impotence about her circumstance, because no one can lose an arm and be okay just like that. I’m not saying this film should have been about that, but I am saying that it sure as hell would have benefited from at least focusing a bit on that and acknowledging it.

I get why it wasn’t made like that, this is a PG-rated film meant for families to enjoy together and get young ones all inspired and such, a real feel-good movie. But if it had paid more attention to those darker times Bethany went through I think the film would have actually done a better job at getting audiences to connect. Yes the optimism is all nice and her faith is unshakable, but she went through a tragedy and not seeing her fold once makes her less identifiable in a way. And no, those few couple scenes that see her pissed off at what happened to her don’t really count because they have no real substance to them and don’t work at all.

The film is so quick to cut to the one-month-later part of it all when she gets back on the board that the dire part of her life post-attack and the stuff about her condition is just skimmed over, and it’s real nice to see a determined young woman who has support from her family and from her church, but those stories have been plastered all over the Hallmark channel for quite some time. I feel like I’m mentioning the negatives of this film too much, when in reality AnnaSophia Robb is quite good as Bethany considering the stuff she has to work with, as is the case with Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt (who I felt like I hadn’t seen in forever so she was a very welcome sight), but the script is just full of cheesy moments, many of which are aided by cheesier voiceovers, and tries to make such horrible tragedy as something easy to digest when it’s so obvious it’s not.

If you like inspirational movies you can definitely do worse than Soul Surfer, this is the sort of film that does touch upon religion but does so in a way that will both please the religious groups while not alienating those that aren’t part of them, so it does manage that nicely enough, and even though it’s full of cheesy moments it at least has some very reliable actors. I just keep going back to thinking that such a life-changing situation shouldn’t have been made to seem so easy, that’s not life and Bethany’s determination and courage would have been just as inspiring, if not more, had her story been told with hiccups and all.

Grade: C+