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Review Round-Up: “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” And “Trespassers”

Happy Friday! As the weekend hits, we are bringing back the review round-up in order to cover a couple of new titles arriving in theaters on a limited basis. Today, we’ll be briefly discussing two particular films, both of which are quite different from each other (a pattern with these round-ups, usually). The movies in question are the documentary Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable, as well as the home invasion tale Trespassers. Both of these flicks offer up something a bit different and may or may not be worth your time this weekend. That question, in particular, is something I’ll attempt to answer right now, so let us dive in!

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

The life of surfer Bethany Hamilton is worth celebrating. After all, how many of us would respond well to being attacked by a shark, especially after losing a limb? What’s more, to succeed as Hamilton has, after the attack, in part by getting back into the water and surfing again, makes her someone to applaud. Unfortunately, the documentary Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable, never finds a compelling cinematic reason to depict her life. It’s celebratory and revelatory, but never especially entertaining or interesting. It winds up really just being fan service for those who already have a deep seated love for her. They never bring in any new converts.

The doc looks at, you guessed it, the life of surfer Bethany Hamilton. At the age of 13, Bethany lost her arm to a tiger shark while surfing. For many, this would be the last time they ventured out into the ocean. However, she’s not like that in the least. This tragedy did not stop her from continuing to actively go out and surf. In fact, she would go on pursuing her dream of becoming a professional surfer, something that got her national, and even international, acclaim and attention. Here, the film not just follows her on her quest for surf glory, but how she became a wife and a mother in adulthood, all without the use of one arm. Aaron Lieber directs, provides the cinematography, and co-wrote the flick with Carol Martori. The score comes from composer Kris Bowers.

Here’s the thing. Bethany Hamilton is an inspiring figure, but she never makes for a fully compelling documentary subject. The movie just follows along as she lives her life, never really providing any commentary or framing of why she’s important. Sure, she’s overcome odds, but what else sets her apart? She’s a relatively down to earth and normal mom, which is admirable and great to see, but not especially cinematic or compelling. It’s hard not to have boredom set in early on during the movie. The surfing sequences are nice, but not enough to give the documentary much heft. It’s ultimately a film that would have worked better as a short form special on ESPN or something of the sort.

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is certainly harmless. As a documentary, it’s light as air and too fluffy to recommend, but it’s hardly clogging up the marketplace. The thing is, it’s just offering up nothing new, nothing that brings Hamilton’s life and story any further illumination. If you’re a fan of her life and her surfing, you can do worse than this doc. It’s just not quite hearty enough to be worth a thumbs up from yours truly. Alas.


Home invasion stories can really get under your skin. “Trespassers” manages to do that with an effective and simple set up, along with some admirable style. Operating on a very intense yet not overly action packed wavelength, the film sets out to really make you feel the intensity of being on edge. For part of the movie, the characters are on edge because of more mundane reasons. Then, it turns out be because of far more sinister ones. There’s an uneven story being told, but the filmmakers do it in a compelling enough way to make it worth your time investment.

The film is a thriller centering on the terrible misfortune of two couples who have rented a big house in the desert for a long weekend. Both are dysfunctional, with Sarah (Angela Trimbur) and Joseph (Zach Avery) trying to work their way through a recent trauma. As for Estelle (Janel Parrish) and Victor (Jonathan Harrison), the former is Sarah’s friend, brought along to ease the awkwardness, while the latter is her new beau, and a real awful human being, quick with the booze and cocaine. Their plan is to relax and party, though that’s short lived. No sooner do their issues pop up, a strange neighbor (Fairuza Balk) arrives at their door, claiming she had car trouble. When the conflict their escalates, a surprising twist puts the quartet at odds, and that’s before the cops arrive, let alone some very bad men looking for something inside the house. A relationship drama then becomes a home invasion tale. Orson Oblowitz is in the director’s chair and Corey Deshon penned the script. Jonathan Snipes composed the score, while cinematography is by Noah Rosenthal. Supporting players include Joey Abril, Carlo Rota, Sebastian Sozzi, and more.

There’s a fairly effective set up here. The relationship drama is somewhat surface level, but it does let you know where everyone stands. Deshon and Oblowitz spend enough time giving you an idea about all four of our main characters, so when the body count starts, you actually care a bit. Jonathan Harrison is the standout in the cast, really digging in to the vile nature of his character. Victor is a familiar personality, unfortunately. Also of note is the look of the film, which suggests Oblowitz has a strong style that he can bring to the table over the course of his career, going forward.

Trespassers doesn’t reinvent the cinematic wheel, nor does it intend to. Mostly just a solid calling card for Oblowitz, it’s the type of movie that will satisfy those who like to be creeped out by this type of a thriller. It only turns into horror during the third act, when a few somewhat gory kills come about, but by and large, it’s more about discomfort and tension than grossing anyone out, let alone scares. Don’t go into this flick expecting anything too revolutionary and you’ll likely be more than satisfied. It efficiently does the genre job that it sets out to do, with no fuss and no muss…

Both of these films are in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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