New Stuff


The appearance of a movie in this review journal does not mean that the movie is endorsed by Kim.  He writes reviews of movies that he saw that he recommends people avoid as well as movies that he considers worth seeing.  Aside from just critical approval regarding the film, some movies may not be suitable for you or your family.  You must make that kind of determination on your own, and stay true to your own convictions on what is appropriate to see.  Some movies are well made, but have offensive or difficult subject matter that is questionable to many viewers. Again, the reviews listed here should not be your only filter for whether or not a film is appropriate for you and and your family.

Additionally, Kim has his own view on what movies are and why he thinks they are a worthwhile aspect of current culture to be investigated.  You certainly don't have to agree with Kim on his viewpoints of movies, and he would be surprised if you did.

Kim's thoughts on movies -

Movies are the modern art "experience" of our culture. They are transmitted in many forms, on screens in theatres, DVDs, television and even computers. They are the merge of classical theatrical acting and modern day technical set and experience creation (effects). The reason I enjoy and watch lots of movies is that they not only entertain, they communicate the nuances of our society. Of course, some have nothing to do with culture, its just greedy corporations trying to produce profits. I am a guy, and as such am not the ideal audience for romantic comedies or 'chick fliks'. However I am also a husband, and domestic bliss (as well as common sense) compels me to at least review them...occasionally.  For the most part, you will find I like (and therefor review a lot of ) action, drama, science fiction, suspense and similarly themed movies.

Free Solo (2018)

Free Solo (Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi)- Alex HonnoldThe Height of Reality

Overall Grade: A+
Story: A
Acting: A
Direction: A+
Visuals: A+

Summary: A dizzying documentary with an actual cliff hanger.

"Free Solo" is the documentary film made of one of the most unbelievable feats of mental and physical skill to ever be attempted by a human being. Alex Honnold takes on the monstrous 3,000 ft face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

I'm not a rock climber. I didn't have a lot of interest in seeing a movie about it. But I have a few friends who do rock climb and I've heard about the meticulous care, the hours and hours of preparation, the teamwork, and the years it takes to build the skills to do the most challenging climbs. But my friends climb with ropes, gear and safety equipment. Alex Honnold, and a few people like him around the world, climb without ropes, without the aid of equipment, and without the aid of other climbers. This kind of climbing is called "free solo" climbing.

This film is a documentary. And while it's clear goal is to document the iconic free solo climb up the sheer face of El Capitan, what it does in preamble is no less than perfect. Filmmaker Jimmy Chin unfolds the story of Alex Honnold in a way that allows you to see his life, his mind, his relationships and his unceasing obsession with perfection. An obsession that leads him to challenge himself to free solo the most difficult climbs in the world. But he does not take these challenges with passionate, or reckless abandon. He is an intensely detailed, meticulous athlete. And his accomplishments are brought to dizzying climax with this movie.

As I sat watching this movie, my stomach knotted up and the amazing cinematography left my heart pounding. Seeing this film on the silver screen allows you to be over-awed by the breath-taking photography and scenery only possible from the literal mountain top experiences  that our cast is challenged with. But beyond just the natural beauty of the film, the director carefully exposes the reality of what it is to be a free soloist, to be Alex Honnold, and ultimately to be human. In this context, failure, even momentary or miniscule, means certain death. The essence of this story is about what it means to literally tackle "the mountain"- to face your very real fears. And in facing those fears to let your only response be a complete surrender to accomplishing your goal.

See this film before it leaves the big screen. you won't regret it. The best movie I've seen in 2018.


Review by Kim Gentes 


Juliet, Naked (2018)

Juliet, Naked (Jesse Peretz)- Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O'DowdHardly Worth Missing

Overall Grade: C
Story: B
Acting: B
Direction: C-
Visuals: C-

Summary: A romantic comedy of sorts.

"Juliet, Naked" is just about enough to charm you into believing the money you spent was not thrown away. It is filled with all the hot-button topics that I'd think would invigorate an artsy, middle-aged movie group: 60/70's pop culture & music, a small ocean front English town, a love-starved British woman with ego-centric man finds spark of love with tragically flawed (and aged) American rock star reborn to the responsibilities and cares of others, and the banality and self-interest of online "critics" getting its "due" judgement.

Rose Byrne plays Annie- the perfect, optimistic, love-star, with warm smile and purest heart, pining against the drab world of reality that seems to have her trapped as the curator of the tiny museum in her small English port town.

Ethan Hawke plays the crusty, failed but learned American rock star that has a tiny cult following reprised in internet chat rooms and blog sites.

But the best character is Chris O'Dowd's sniveling, self-absorbed, small-town college professor whose ignorance of personal responsibility plays a close third place to his single digit emotional IQ and gaping black hole of self-awareness. You don't just love hating him, you love yourself for hating him. Not since M*A*S*H's Frank Burns have we seen such a childishly devolved emotional man. But this time, it isn't for humor. At least not primarily. He gives us the reason for Annie's connection and launch into a love interest with Hawke's character.

Ah, the obvious rom-com joy...

The weaker performances in this movie are put in by the director and the cinematographer.  In a movie that has a funny and inventive script, with actually skilful acting, the director seems to be asleep at the helm. I kept thinking that juxtapositions, twists and shots would be waking me up from the sleepy surroundings of the scene settings. But nothing. And for a film set primarily on a coastal town, we see remarkably nothing of scenic vistas, charming pull-away shots or venturesome offbeat "life" shots from the supporting cast of the movie. One wonders what happened to leadership of this film .. sleep? Too many pub visits?

That said, I did like the film for what it is, a stumbling little romantic comedy that does get you to smile in the end..


Review by Kim Gentes 


I Can Only Imagine (2018)

I Can Only Imagine (Irwin Brothers)- J. Michael Finley, Madeline Carroll, Trade Adkins, Dennis Quaid, Priscilla Shirer, Cloris LeachmanA Movie of Honesty and Redemption

Overall Grade: A-
Story: A+
Acting: A
Direction: B+
Visuals: B

Summary: In the last 5 years, I've seen literally hundreds of movies. This last week I saw "I Can Only Imagine". For the first time since "Passion of the Christ", I felt like I watched a movie about the Christian faith that didn't ask me to excuse it from the expectation of high production values, strong story, well-written script, good acting and great music. I am unapologetically recommending this movie!

I both enjoyed and applaud the efforts of the creative crew who made this film. If you are someone who wants to know if a film is worth your cash, this is one I think is.

Bart Millard is the songwriter of the song, "I Can Only Imagine", an anthem that went on to become the most popular single in the history of Christian music. He is played by actor J. Michael Finley. If you don't recognize him, that's ok. Most people will not have heard of him outside of Broadway and other stage play venue appearances to his credit. This quieter public imprint doesn't stop Finley from performing admirably as Bart, a real life character that Finely portrays well and believably. And Finley is hardly alone on this film, as he is flanked by a solid support cast of screen veterans Dennis Quaid, Trace Adkins, Cloris Leachman, and Madeline Carroll.

Dennis Quaid plays Arthur Millard, the father of the MercyMe frontman Bart Millard, and puts in a performance that is both believable and powerful. The movie is a very personal story and doesn't shy away from the reality of real relationships. Ultimately the story is about redemption, not just of the spiritual kind you'd expect but between an abusive father and a searching son- both of whom become broken by life's journey.

I won't say more, except this- go see this movie. You won't regret it..


Review by Kim Gentes 


Year End Summary for 2017

While I didn't have time to write up a lot of reviews for this last year, I did manage to summarize a few in addition to writing a couple complete reviews. Here's my 2017 round up:

"The Greatest Showman" a great musical. Of the 50 or so movies I've seen in 2017,  The Greatest Showman  is the top of my list. All the presence of what Hollywood does best: great music, character and show. But without what Hollywood does worst: the pretense or self-congratulatory tone of art looking admiringly at itself.. [detailed review...]

"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" - The 2nd best, and weirdest, movie of 2017. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  is at once tragic, humorous and ridiculous. Martin McDonagh's film is a redneck myth that somehow mingles the irreverence of the Coen brothers and the strange darkness of Guillermo del Toro. Using the blunt instrument of southern prejudice, writer/director McDonagh hammers out a tale of hyperbole, irony and overstatement that cracks open the viewer for a few moments of epiphany. Note: definitely an R movie due to language. [detailed review... ]

"Darkest Hour" is the third best movie of 2017, in my opinion. Gary Oldman's rendition of Churchill is both clear and complex. He masterfully delivers the best character movie of the year, while the directory/script keep the task narrowed in on the ascension of Churchill to the Prime Minister post and the immediate handling of the initial few days of the war effort while in office. Worthwhile and enjoyable yet without hyperbole.

"The Shape of Water" is the latest movie from Guillermo del Toro (Mimic, Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim). A wonderful film of love between us regular humans, some mean humans, and a strangely alien terran whose own humanity seems to exceed that of the human persecutors he is subject to. An odd movie, for del Toro's intentionality about exposing people's quirkiness, but equally odd for its plot and character conclusions. Definitely worth seeing, if you can handle this final note- Note: an R movie due to nudity and situations.

"All The Money In The World" seems like it should be about excess and avarice. But it isn't. It's about the poverty of mind that leads the richest man in the world to despise his own flesh and blood for the sake of a few more talents of gold. Well-acted, well shot and interesting. The true story (with another "based-on-real-events" caveat) of billionaire Jean-Paul Getty and the kidnapping of his teenage grandson in the 70's. Christopher Plummer and Mark Walberg make this good enough to go to the theatre to see.

"Wonder" is a movie that doesn't lament its feel-good status. And neither should you. Good enough to watch, and honest enough to keep you watching, it does descend to emotional pleas. Still I never felt the movie absconded with reality to make you feel something. A boy changed by a birth condition takes on the world. He's changed, his family's changed and you smile at the end. If that sounds pedantic to you, you won't venture here. But if you watch it, you will discover some good scenes and characters. Only the poorly cast Owen Wilson requires any sympathy and lament, as he seems to stumble unbelievably with properly portraying emotional liminal space.

"Downsizing" has nothing to do with being fired. But one hopes that it does have that effect on whoever brought this idea to the studios. It's a movie about shrinking people to save the planet. Not actually a bad idea, but so disastrously scripted and plotted that you find out the only thing worse than saving the planet is saving human lives. We, after all, are the problem with ourselves, our planet, our universe. Yet, at the same time, if you are one of the truly "good" people inside, then maybe you shouldn't be illuminated like a bug. Hmmmm. Aside from the fascination of seeing a human as small as the size as saltine, the movie loses interest beyond that.

"12 Strong" is another "based-on-a-true-story" action flick that heralds a heroic military exploit and the people who survive it. Poorly developed characters are enabled by a "series of unfortunate events" in which a company of 12 soldiers manage to wipe out a strongly-armed but stupid adversary.  It seemed like a good, unique story put in the hands of a poor director. The only actor with possible chops to save the movie (Michael Shannon) finds his character turned into the only one who is nullified for the most important parts of the story. I am guessing the book or real story was a better read than this movie is to watch. Even the god of thunder (star C. Hemsworth) couldn't make lightning strike on this movie.

"Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is a better-than-expected redo of the 1995 original with Robin Williams. Not worth the full entrance price of a theatre, but a fun Netflix queue addition nonetheless. Funnier, more intriguing and better acted than I expected, but still a C+ film.

"The Commuter" is Liam Niessen in yet another role where he "has a particular set of skills". A collusion of "Speed" and "Murder on the Orient Express", this movie has the typical expectation of one unbelievable twist after another, none of it making for suspense or interest. The surprises are never surprises and the whole narrative ends up being a self-fulfilling, prophetic symbol of what the movie really is: a train wreck.

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi". Earth discovered the largest blackhole in the universe on the night this movie released: a galaxy sucking void left by abandoning George Lucas' legendary space epic for a few chuckles, some Disney penguin toys, visionless direction and a cast with no onscreen presence in exchange for $10.50. Goodbye Star Wars.

"The Big Sick" is easily one of the best movies of 2017, imo, but its humor language (profanity) will be uncomfortable for many. That said, it's pithy without turning into a self-absorbed "look at my struggling career” comedian introspection. Using humor, it presents the story of a Pakistani comedian who courts a white American who ends up in a coma- plenty of one liner fodder if ever there was any.

"Valarian" is a good CGI wrangle. In fact, its entre-de-force is the fact that it plays a CGI virtual movie in which the characters themselves start off in an adventure in a CGI/virtual world … and return to that kind of motif several times. The characters are shallow and the action is sporadic. The plot is predictable and uninspiring. But, hey, it's cool and has so many homages to Star Wars I stopped counting.

"Dunkirk" is a poorly rendered multi-threaded story that has great music and audio, but tries to emulate a Crash (2004) story time/line device and fails to create an actual narrative that you care about despite the very compelling possibilities in the subject matter.

"War for the Planet of the Apes" is the "final” installment of the prequel or whatever they were trying to do to lead up to the original. Lots of blowing up stuff and discrimination topics. I moderately liked it. It was worth watching if you like apes acting like humans. Reminds me of home life and my 3 sons. Anyways..

"Spider-Man: Homecoming" is the 27th remake to hit the same story. Sony just can't stop cashing in on this franchise. Each time, the movie makes another swipe at the young web-slinger. Each time, it gets somethings wrong and right relative to the comic book hero I read growing up. Not worth the big screen, but fans will check out the rental/Amazon/Netflix.

"Wonder Woman" is the best superhero movie in 2017. Well done, good acting and fun. Nothing surprising here, other than the fact that they didn't screw up the character from the original comics but still managed to make her come alive and have dignity beyond the silly TV representations formerly played by Linda Carter. Both her and Gal Gadot are stunningly beautiful, but this modern movie makes much more of the comic-book accurate story of Wonder Woman's origins and her traversal into (and through) the 20th Century. DC aficionados will think this is one of the best renderings on film of any DC character. Much better than all the Superman movies, and just behind the Christopher Nolan trifecta of the Batman.

"Baby Driver" is violent, profane rich and ridiculous as an action movie-not that it would stop an action fan from liking it. It has an interesting core character and love interest with a slight disability who's inner ear ringing forces him to listen to music constantly… if car movies are your thing, throw it on the Netflix queue.

"Transformers: the Last" blah blah blah… don't go. Die first. Then still don't go. I'm glad I love popcorn and work out a lot. It's the only reason I didn't demand my money back.

"The Hero" is actually a decent character movie. Not great, but good. Old actor tries to come back. Meets with challenges on many levels. Be warned, though- some vulgarity and drug use. Despite that, I think it is worth seeing.


The Greatest Showman (2017)

The Greatest Showman (Michael Gracey)- Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, ZendayaA great musical!

Overall Grade: A+
Story: A+
Acting: A+
Direction: A+
Visuals: A+

Summary: Of the 50 or so movies I've seen in 2017,  "The Greatest Showman"  is the top of my list. All the presence of what Hollywood does best: great music, character and show. But without what Hollywood does worst: the pretense or self-congratulatory tone of art looking admiringly at itself.

Hugh Jackman plays a rose-colored-glasses version of the famous (infamous to some) P.T. Barnum, whose iconic life and business would later become what most people consider the fountainhead of American show business: The Barnum & Bailey Circus. Most movie-goers will recognize Jackman from the popular X-men movies and follow-ons like the Wolverine films. In "The Greatest Showman", Jackman brings his full talents to the silver screen: brilliant vocals, dance and stage presence. You don't have to believe the veracity of this script to be pulled into the energy of this cast's theatrical chops, of which Jackman leads with unapologetic prowess.

Without doubt the centerpiece of this film is its top notch musical score and award-winning song writing. Academy Award winning Benj Pasek & Justin Paul ("La La Land") write the melodic bliss that is the 11-song musical track for "The Greatest Showman". What I loved about this music is not only its stellar workmanship in songcraft but the lyrical honesty that comprised so many of the pieces. From "A Million Dreams" to "Come Alive", "Never Enough" and "This is Me", Pasek and Paul articulate the lines of the film's characters with the perfect balance of emotion, honesty and art. Those lyrics, set on perfect rhythms and melodies, fill film with the sinews of theatrical reality needed to make this body of work not just move but dance across the mind and enjoyment of the audience.

Where "La La Land" acquiesced to nostalgia and Hollywood penchant for self-aggrandizement, "The Greatest Showman" pushes past the time period context it is set in to blast its message into the visual and auditory space of the 21st century. Pristine songwriting and composition combine with soaring and virtuoso voices to give us the best movie soundtrack since Elton John and Tim Rice's efforts on "The Lion King". Yes. It is that good.

You don't have to agree with history of PT Barnum's life given here to enjoy the best movie of 2017 for what it is- a spectacular yarn, brilliantly sung, danced and presented.

This film is PG and that is appropriate.

While I think this is an amazing film for anyone, I'd especially recommend it to artists of all disciplines. Songwriters especially will find a near dozen top notch examples of pop-based works that demonstrate masterworks created by masters at the top of their careers.

For those who are interested in the musical sound track, definitely check out:

Review by Kim Gentes