Only the Strong Survive - A Celebration of Soul Reviews

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Cole Smithey
ColeSmithey.com
June 13, 2009

...fails to give audiences as much frame of reference for the unifying economic, political and atmospheric elements that made the Stax brand of R&B soul music so powerful.

Full Review | Original Score: C
Christopher Null
Filmcritic.com
February 7, 2004

you get the feeling that Hegedus and Pennebaker couldn't care less about soul music.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5
David Cornelius
eFilmCritic.com
January 31, 2004

I would have prefered deeper insights... [but] as a concert film, this one's a blast.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul)
St. Paul Pioneer Press
July 22, 2003

A disorganized sprawl.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Shawn Levy
Oregonian
July 11, 2003

Lacks context, depth and a sense of purpose.

Randy Cordova
Arizona Republic
Top Critic
June 26, 2003

There's no problem with a little bias, but Friedman's fan-boy perspective puts the subjects of Only the Strong Survive on too high a pedestal.

| Original Score: 3/5
Gene Seymour
Newsday
Top Critic
May 28, 2003

Content to merely serve as a cluttered, heart-shaped scrapbook, missing many more stories than it bothers to include.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
John Beifuss
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
May 15, 2003

Invaluable as a record of its subjects (including the late, great Rufus Thomas), but it doesn't cohere as a feature...

| Original Score: 3/4
Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
Top Critic
May 12, 2003

... the music is great, but as a film thumbs down.

Brent Simon
Entertainment Today
May 12, 2003

A loving look at soul's golden era that leaves you wanting more; a disappointment in some respects because it doesn't craft a more comprehensive, cohesive background.

Full Review | Original Score: C
Jeffrey M. Anderson
San Francisco Examiner
May 11, 2003

The scrappy country cousin to the high-gloss Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

| Original Score: 3/4
Marshall Fine
Journal News (Westchester, NY)
May 10, 2003

These survivors share a timelessness and a universality that remain untouched by the fickle shifts of popular culture.

Full Review | Original Score: A
Richard Harrington
Washington Post
Top Critic
May 9, 2003

Fortunately, the performances themselves are beautifully filmed and recorded.

Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
Top Critic
May 9, 2003

A film that even with its flaws should be cheered for preserving the later years of these towering musical talents.

Mike Clark
USA Today
Top Critic
May 9, 2003

Worth the time and money some of the summer's effects-driven spectacles probably won't be.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Steve Simels
TV Guide's Movie Guide
May 9, 2003

Most of the music is as fine and fierce as you could want.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
James Sullivan
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic
May 9, 2003

With Friedman, the narrator and emissary, tossing questions as squishy as Jell-O and heaping praise on the performers for their unexceptional appearances on the oldies circuit, it's a wasted opportunity.

Full Review | Original Score: 1/4
Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic
May 9, 2003

Unfortunately, it's not a great movie -- and given the filmmakers involved, that's a criminal disappointment.

Tom Long
Detroit News
Top Critic
May 9, 2003

A celebration of the under-appreciated, and if any purpose beyond that is a bit fuzzy, it's a harmless aimlessness that likely won't get in the way for fans of the music.

| Original Score: C+
Wesley Morris
Boston Globe
Top Critic
May 9, 2003

I'm not sure where you go to church, but you're unlikely to experience anything as holy as Jerry Butler doing a live version of his soul classic 'For Your Precious Love' in Only the Strong Survive.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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