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IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT KIM GENTES MOVIE REVIEWS

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.

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..

http://www.icanonlyimagine.com/

 

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.

http://www.thegreatestshowman.com/

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

http://amzn.to/2CqZ1le

Review by Kim Gentes 

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh)- Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam RockwellThe best, and weirdest, movie of 2017

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


Summary:  "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.

From Frances McDormand as the grief-crazed mother to Woody Harrelson as the heroic hick-town Missouri sheriff to Sam Rockwell as the dimwitted, bumbling, racist officer, this perfectly fitted cast imbues this sardonic yarn with the power and credibility needed to get past its intentional awkwardness.

I began this review by saying this movie was "weird". Let me explain. It's not weird in the sense that "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" was weird. Instead of using horrific moral ultimatums, it uses the smoldering anger of a broken mother to make a point. It's not metaphorical, though it uses some metaphors. It's not enigmatic and mythical, at least not in the obvious ways "Sacred Deer" push for. "Three Billboards" is absurd, but real. You know the story can't be real, but you still believe it is talking about what real people are like and what is underneath them. It can run at two or three levels at once. As long as no one demands that everyone see it from their perspective, "Three Billboards" will be food for thought at any mental meal.

If I told you the narrative of this movie, you probably wouldn't take a chance on seeing it. But go see it.

"Three Billboards" isn't "the" new epic film but it is a completely worthwhile picture. This is an "R"-rated film that is not appropriate for children of any age. The themes and vulgar language of the movie will manage to offend many. Don't let that keep you away.

Just go. See it.

http://www.threebillboardsoutsideebbingmissouri.com/

 

Review by Kim Gentes 

 

 

Spotlight (2015) 

Spotlight (Tom McArthy)- Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley TucciThe best movie of 2015, by a landslide..

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


Summary:  Spotlight is big screen "true story" of the investigative reporting team that uncovered the systemic coverup of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests in the Boston archdiocese. This film is unflinching and powerful, while remaining emotionally responsible. The best film of 2015.

Full Review: While I was aware (through the TV news) of the scandal that had taken place in the early 2000s regarding the Roman Catholic church and molestation of children by it's priests, I did not know how the story came to light and how it had been investigated.  This movie is the brilliantly directed effort to tell that story. With one of the best acting crews in the last 5 years Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci engulf this story with passion and credibility. Each cast member rings honest and no character is turned into a faultless hero.

With horrific material details surrounding this script, it would have been easy to think the movie would have spun out recklessly on the intensity of the emotional aspect of this controversy. But writer/director Tom McCarthy (and co-writer Josh Singer) keep a disciplined hand on the script, refusing to discredit the power of this narrative by suffusing lurid details of the individual cases. Instead, the cases are represented by a few powerful interviews and the remainder of the film centers around the painstaking efforts of the Boston Globe's Spotlight team (investigative reporting group) to discover the details, perceive the dark pattern of abuse, and correlate an understanding of an even darker delusion within the Catholic Church hierarchy to cover up the evil deeds of its priests.

The acting, the script, the directing and the cinematography are all perfectly done. On a topic that deserves the very best from our creative community, it received a stellar achievement from McCarthy and his cast.

That said, for parents thinking of taking their children, they should be aware that there is some instances of strong language in this film and some brief but painfully descriptive dialog of sexual abuse. There are no graphic scenes or re-enactments, no nudity and no violence. But the topic and its nature are not shied away from. I would recommend that no child under 13 should be allowed to see this movie. The flim deserves the R rating for the subject material that underpins it.

This film just made wide release this last weekend, and I saw no advertising for it. Do not let that stop you. See this film.  If you decide you will see one movie this year, Spotlight should be it.

http://spotlightthefilm.com/

 

Review by Kim Gentes