Movie Reviews

bellview--i love movies

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

Movie Awards
2004 Roundup
2005 Roundup
2006 Roundup
2007 Roundup
2008 Roundup
2009 Roundup


"Riding Giants"

Directed by Stacy Peralta.
Written by Stacy Peralta and Sam George.
Release Year:  2004 
Review Date:  6/26/04


I loved "Dogtown and Z-Boys", so when my friend Tricia dropped a line that started with "Do you want to see 'Riding Giants' for free?", I said it's go time.  "Riding Giants" is directed by Stacy Peralta, the man that helped me learn about skateboarding with his classic skate film from two years ago, so I was eager to see what I could learn about this next endeavor--the history of big-wave surfing.

While "Riding Giants" doesn't blow you away like "Dogtown" does, it's still an awesome spectacle, thanks to tons of surf sequences--sans special effects, stunt guys & gals or CGI--that were shot as much as fifty years ago and remain intriguing even today, as we watch some of the sport's earlier stars go at it in big waves off the coast of California and Hawaii and later Tahiti.  Much like "Dogtown", Peralta does a great job of mixing the sport with its subculture (or is it counterculture?  I can never keep it straight) by showing us lots of scenes early on where men are hangin' out with other men, shooting the shit, hangin' out and passing the day for ten to twelve hours a day on their boards.  We cover some of the big names of the 1950s and '60s.  We get info on the evolution of the surfboard.  We get the progression of events from big swells in Southern California, to bigger swells off the coast of Hawaii, to huge swells at the Mavericks near Half Moon Bay in San Francisco.  We get the requisite "Blankety-blank was the biggest fuckin' wave I've ever witnessed!!" bits, as well as the "Blankety-blank was the greatest fuckin' surfer that's ever walked the earth!" bits.  (As noted in other Bellviews, I love these scenes more than any other in the modern documentary: the "holy fucking shit" scenes, like in "Standing in the Shadows of Motown", Funk Brothers bassist James Jameson, who is I think called "the greatest bass guitarist in the history of mankind" a couple of times, and it's even sweeter because he's dead, and no one even questions Jameson's greatness.

The soundtrack for "Riding Giants" is almost as good as the cinematography for many of the surf scenes; going from 50's rock to modern house music, the music is never sleepy, but when it is, it's more dreamy than drowsy; the beauty of riding a big wave is captured so well in this film, you do get caught marveling at how cool it looks in motion, especially in the later scenes with Laird Hamilton, since there are more helicopter shots available and the angles are just fuckin' cool at times.

For me, having seen "Dogtown", the setup of Peralta's current offering makes you feel like you are in familiar territory while watching "Riding Giants", and this is not a positive.  Sure, I learned a lot, but the structure just felt a little hackneyed and so the buildup to the film's big moment--a 2000 ride with Hamilton that many consider the greatest moment in the sport's history--didn't pound me like the sequence in "Dogtown" where skaters started using empty pools as half-pipes instead of roller rinks, for example.  Also, a couple of the film's talking heads seem to be saying the same thing over and over again, and then you realize, they ARE saying the same thing over and over again, just for different eras of the sport's chronology.

I went to the showing at Mazza Gallerie recently, and Peralta and a couple of the film's stars were at the Q&A session afterwards; I didn't even stay, because I just wasn't as in love with surfing as I was with skateboarding after watching "Dogtown" and didn't really have much to ask the filmmakers.  But, you should see this film for, if anything, the incredible surf footage, marked by some oftentimes colorful commentary and some cool-looking wipeouts by a ton of surfers.  As long as nobody dies, how cool are wipeouts??

(Note:  This film opens in limited release July 16th, 2004.)

Rating:  $9.50 Show


Comments?  Drop me a line at


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09