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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.

Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar - Christopher NolanTravel to where no man has gone before.. or has he?

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

Summary: Every story we tell, will always come back to the original one- where did we come from and where are we going to end up?

Full Review: For true modern sci-fi (not the 50s/60s comic/horror kind), everything begins and ends with 2001: A Space Odyssey. And every attempt at modern philosophical inquiry through the lens of science fiction has thus been held up to the standard that Kubrik brought us in his 1968 epic film.  Interstellar is the latest film to reach out of our realm and try to grapple with the real questions of humanity- our origins, our struggles and our destiny

Like recent touchpoint sci-fi contenders Terrence Malik's The Tree of Life, Josh Trank's Chronicle, and the Alien prequel Prometheus, Interstellar maps its path to deeper truth by unlocking some of the universe's secrets. At least that is what Christopher Nolan seems to be trying to portray as he unravels quantum physics in a bid to make his film plausible. Much of what is presented in the film is based on the premise of solving many current impossibilities regarding interstellar travel, and the writers try to achieve this by having humans contacted by a superior life form that has learned to exist and manipulate 5 dimensions. The mishmash of scientific jargon centered around relativity is less effective than I was hoping for. While the film employs a real scientific basis in its research (via theoretical physicist, Kip Thorne), aside from a few excellent graphical representations of worm holes and blackholes/neutron stars sucking in light from other cellestial objects, only a few keywords are echoed in the script. I suppose this is unavoidable, as a more indepth treatment in the film would have droned on enough to make most viewers fall into boredom (and, in any case, Thorne collects this information in an ebook spinoff The Science of Interstellar: Thorne/Nolan). That aside, little else in the film fails to lift itself out of earth's orbit. The direction is essentially focused, with Nolan undertaking the task of visualizing both a bleak earth homeworld and a transcendent star system as an explorable destination. 

But the framework of the movie is not the science fiction. Overall, the weakest part of the movie is the relational story between a father and daughter. It is kept terse with the intention of it being powerful- daughter is head strong; dad is explorer type. Dad flies off in spaceship to save the world. Girl is mad at dad. This plot feels thinner than you'd hope for, given the backdrop of human survival, but its theme is re-echoed no less than 4 times throughout the movie in various ways. The relational fabric of people's perceived connection seems to constantly get in the way of saving the human race.  It is an interesting approach and one that goes juxtaposition to Kubrick's 2001, which aims to pit humanity against the glorification of his own progress- machine.

I absolutely loved the imagery of the film. Top notch. The acting is also excellent. And while the story portends its conclusion several times it feels forgivable since humanity lies in the balance. The core story line of the movie is essential, but, in this reviewers opinion, childish. Despite this, this film crosses over the line of being gadgetry and tech sizzle into the philosophical questions we have long asked. It does not, however, answer any of these questions with the majestic power of 2001 or the raw focus of Tree of Life. In fact, Interstellar doesn't actually answer any questions about origins or destiny, except to keep alive the viceral reality that we are powerfully, humanly and wonderfully flawed. And it is at this point that Nolan seems to make the film triumph in ways that make it a strong addition to the modern science fiction art form.

Do not wait to see this film on DVD or Netflix. See it on the big screen. 169 minutes of absolute bliss to the eyes and ears. One of the best films of the year.

Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

Nebraska (2013)

Nebraska - (Alexander Payne) Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy KeachThe false dreams of Americana. It's hopes, failures and resiliency.

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

Summary: Few stories are told with impact when highlighting the mundane, the common and the broken. This film unabashedly suffuses the screen with the image, language and lives of a mid-American family. It is this unstoppable honesty that makes Nebraska not a heroic film, but an honest one. Brilliant film-making and unquestionable acting.

Full Review: Bruce Dern is in his best role ever, as Woody, an aged, honest and cantankerous father and husband who believes he has won a $1 million sweepstakes prize (as notified by a typical postal mail letter). His son, David (Will Forte), is drawn into the plot and (knowingly) acquiesces to drive Woody to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his "winnings".

The trip is a plot device from which a recital of Woody's life can be hung and revisited. In the trip, the father/son duo venture to Woody's hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska on their drive to Lincoln. In Hawthorne, all the clichés come to life- the old girl friend, the jilted business partner, the crazy relatives- in a portrayal that would seem plastic if it weren't so honest. The brilliance of this film lays at three main levels- the dialog, the direction and the acting.

The dialog here is so pregnant with rural life idiosyncrasies it might seem alien to those who haven't experienced it. But to the native-born, Nebraska will be an almost eerie nod to daily life. The speech, the references, the values and the conflicts all make pinpoint accuracy of the story of the rural mid-American family. There are several strong segments, but the most poignant is an interaction with Woody and David at an old tavern in Hawthorne. As they sit down, Woody orders a beer. David recoils, not wanting to join in. Woody says to his son, "C'mon, take a beer with your old man. Be somebody." The brevity and matter-of-fact harshness of the dialog rips open the idea that this movie is a "comedy" in the popular American comedy sense. There are some powerful things said here, and they need to be heard.

The direction and production of this film is perfect. Filmed in black and white, the nuance of texture becomes so important to understanding the people and their lives. There is no assumption of hope here, but there is always the unacknowledged homestead mentality that never quits.

Finally, the acting is absolutely perfect. Bruce Dern and Will Forte are unquestionable in their characters. This may be the best character Stacy Keach has ever played.

While I think this is a great film, it does have some foul language- commensurate with the standard verbal repertoire of its portrayed characters.  You won't want your children watching this film, as the "R" rating for language is modestly deserved. Parents who find this film to be within their tastes may well want to watch it with their older teenage children (especially father/sons), not because of the redeeming nature of the characters, but perhaps in spite of that.

If you grew up in rural towns or mid-America, this film will be as much about dealing with your issues as it will be about watching these characters wrestling with theirs.  If you haven't seen this yet, this film should immediately be placed on the top of your Netflix or Amazon Video queues. One of the few films I will buy a BluRay of. I will be watching this for many years.

One of the best films in the last decade.

Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

Disconnect (2013)

Disconnect...the dark story of digital man.

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

Summary: Lost in a world of overloaded connection, the real and virtual realms converge in four stories that are profoundly human.

Full Review: Past movies have sought to exploit the online world as the new setting for a film, but Disconnect provides us with the one of first films to go beyond demonizing the technology or showing its exploitation by purely evil antagonists. This movie is a multi-threaded quadrilogy of age-old stories of fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and the exploited and exploiters. 

Disconnect is, in many ways, a sister to the movie Crash with its dense realism and intense topics. And looking within the story lines presented here you find many of the same themes- loss, lack of communication, disconnection, isolation and pain. Disconnect is as much the exploration of these cycles in our era as it is an indictment of the technology that allows us to mask these cycles within the self-medicating world of online "connection"- a misnomer if ever one existed.

The film has a very competent cast, consisting of Jason Bateman, Jonah Bobo, Andrea Riseborough, Frank Grillo, Alexander Skarsgård, Max Theriot and Hope Davis. There are other strong characters too, and it is partly because this is an interwoven story that draws on four separate narratives that we don't have truly one or two main stars in this film. All the better. Every part is played with power and realism. Nothing seems out-of-place or contrived, save one of the closing scenes where Bateman and Grillo's characters fight only to (surprisingly) just walk away with no realistic resolution. We understand the moral and ethical truisms of their stalemate, but practicality of it belies the otherwise solid realism of the rest of the film. 

But that is a small aberration from an otherwise stellar film. I won't, though tempted, detail each storyline for you, for the simple fact that the discovry of these narratives is part of the power of the film. The presentation is as cunning as the acting is perfect. Nevertheless, the four main plots are easily seen, and they do not, as Crash and other movies do, converge on a single point in time or with a single pinnacle of resolution. Instead, these stories are interconnected, to be sure, by the realm of their happenstance- real people, work, school, relationships, pain, loss and the swirling need for connection with binds it all together.

Thus far, Disconnect is the best film of the year for this reviewer. Its story, acting and presentation are all top notch. See it now. If you don't discover it until it's available on-demand or blu-ray, be sure to rent or buy it. It is well worth the cost.

For parents, this movie should be looked at in two ways. First, the movie has explicit scenes of nudity, sexual activity, explicit talk and even drug use.  The movie's MPAA "R" rating is strong and appropriate warning to its graphic nature.

That said, for those parents who might be willing, I would suggest an alternative consideration for this film- see it first, then consider seeing it with your teenager. This may come as a shock for some, as certainly the movie has difficult topics being covered, not the least of which is exploitation of minors in the sex trade. But taken from the view that this movie is a look into the pain and damage caused by the pervasive nature of our culture's enamored approach to "online technology", Disconnect provides a powerful, realistic and even hopeful view that facing the root of these problems (real relationships) may finally be in order. I do not think any parent should take their child to this film without watching it first. But having done that, I believe that children 16 and over may well learn, with a parent's pre-screening, accompanying presence and later discussion, something profound through watching this film. However, every parent must and should not leave this judgment to a movie review- see the film yourself, and consider your own children, your own situation. Most North American children at age 16 and over will likely not be shocked by the content here, but may well be impacted by the power of the story. That is my hope. Again, if my suggestion here sounds ill-advised or frivolous, ignore it.

That said, this movie (for adults able and willing to see it) is powerful, even exceptional, both as art and as narrative in the mode of film. I am not blind to the fact that Hollywood's job is normally to make money for their shareholders, not to help teach or infuse a moral compass in society. But this film seems to be ready to leave some points concluded while other points unresolved, with pain hanging at the air. And it seems this is done for the very good reason of leaving us with the belief that this might be how "real" life and relationships actually work. If you have the constitution for it, Disconnect may well be the best film you will see this year.


Amazon DVD Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

Safe Haven (2013)

Safe... for heaving your cookies.

Overall Grade: D-
Story: F-
Acting: B
Direction: F
Visuals: B

Summary: If you absolutely must see a romantic drama, I suppose you won't be committing complete artistic and intelligence suicide by watching this film. But almost.

Full Review: You know the drill. It's date night. It's time for the little lady to pick out some romantic comedy or drama squeeze to appease the cupid-impulse that seems to be prodded back to life almost monthly by silly things like Valentine's Day, Anniversaries and birthdays. This time, she picks out the latest love story that most reminds them of some even more terrible love story from past theatre visits. "Oh no", you think to yourself, remembering back to The Notebook, "I can't be the only guy in the theatre again, with all those weeping women crooning over a sappy plot." 

But you know what? You love this woman. You aren't going to sit by and let some salute to machismo keep you from showing her that she is worth a couple of hours of humility just to be by her side. So you muster up your courage and face it like a man.

"Damn it, Jim", you think, "we're putting the engines at 110%".

So off you go, driving like mad to make the movie on time. You get there. The parking leaves you about 16 football fields away from the front entrance. You sprint ahead to get the tickets. She walks calmly to the theatre entrance. You wince ever-so-slightly as they rake you for $23.00 for two tickets. You smile and let your sweetheart go sit down in the theatre while you take another beating for a small bag of stale popcorn (that someone had stored in a garbage bag, no less) and watered-down soda. After rushing into the theatre, you realize you aren't late at all. In fact, your slight happiness turns sour after 25 minutes of previews that play after the supposed start time of your feature film.

Finally, it starts. Queue the opening scene. Abused wife running away from terrible home life. Escape to stereotypical "little-town" on the Carolina coast. Start new life. Find tall, handsome, single dad who is raising two kids- and who somehow seems to know less about kids than the beautiful, run-away wife who never had kids. The whole thing unfolds like the seeming clockwork of a widget factory from the 1950's postwar industrial machine. One shiny, predictable romance coming right up!

You enjoy the odd cutsie line, laugh at the two or three well-placed chuckles, and smile at the real love of your life sitting next to you, knowing that the agony and pain of this scriptless, thoughtless film will be over soon. Even though the romance movie was corny, you feel like you have dodged a bullet. You might even give the film a "C-" rating just because your sweetheart liked it and you didn't completely convulse through the entire film (as you did with The Notebook).

And then it happens- the most stupid, idiotic, half-baked, tag-on ending you've ever seen. Some marketing whiz who can't be bothered to write a real book or movie script thinks they will throw a "hail Mary" in to try to make this movie about something deeper, more important. But their attempt at quasi-spiritual transcendence is so inane, so inconsistent to the plot, and so unbelievable as any real art, it makes you want to tear your jacket and bite through the plastic arm of the chair that you are sitting on.

For those who don't escape seeing this movie from just plain old common sense, (or because you think that seeing "Safe Haven" will be a requirement for your love life) I have just one recommendation- leave after the appropriate people are rescued and the story seems to be happily concluded. Don't watch the last frames of this movie where the man gives his beauty a letter. It's pure BS. You've been warned.

For parents, the danger in seeing this movie is less about the offensive material they will see- though there is threatening behavior and violence- than it is about the questionability of any parent who would allow their child to see such dumb film making. Heed the movie's MPAA "PG13" rating, if for no other reason than limiting the damage to our future artisans in the next generations.


Amazon DVD Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

 The hunt for UBL. Zero junk. Lots of dark controversy.

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


Summary: The hunt for Usama Bin Laden is the modern epitome of our hunt for evil. This is the Hollywood dramatization of that story. It is gritty, but not overplayed. It is political, but not harshly partisan. It's a very good film that stays, like the protagonist, in the hunt of its target.

Full Review: "The Hurt Locker" is one of the most intense modern war films of our era. It's director, Katherine Bigalow, is the director of "Zero Dark Thirty".  The movie is fine-tuned to present the lighting, action, and dialog of what real special ops missions are truly about. Add to that the CIA investigation and tracking of Usama bin Laden (labeled coldly as UBL throughout) and you have a convincing, engrossing and controversial movie.

I have to admit that I saw "Argo" recently and it was hard not to think in parallels of what was being attempted with this film. But in its sheer weight, action and story "Zero Dark Thirty" is a clear winner. While the plot of the movie culminates in 30 minutes of action, as the operation is engaged and UBL is hunted to his death, the main narrative centers around the character Maya. She is the CIA analyst who spends her entire career hunting down UBL from her desk and gathering evidence from interviews of others in the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. Maya becomes the hero in this film, though critics have notably downplayed the role of individuals, saying there was a huge network of information and work that made the hunt successful.

Like most based-on-reality films, "Zero Dark Thirty" is not a precise retrace of the exact story, but is supposedly very close to events. As a movie-goer, I am less interested in each and every detail of the hunt, but want to know the general storyline. Jessica Chastain (who plays Maya) is a unrelenting CIA agent, whose portrayal, while heroic, sometimes seems unbelievable in the professional/government world.  Her dialog with superiors feels unrealistic and might have well had her fired. Whether it is accurate to the word, I am doubtful. But the details of she helps to catches the mastermind terrorist and works to have action taken on the target- this feels vivid and real. The ensuing operation to finally take down Usama bin Laden also feels believable and is certainly engaging and human.

But, I am guessing the big "talking point" of this film be none of those things. Likely the big controversy will be over detainee torture methods, and the film's point of its effectiveness, will be the loud screaming topic from the follow-on conversation for this film. Even if just for that, it is an excellent film to see. You will likely not leave without an opinion.

For parents, this movie should be reserved for children that are 16 and over. While the action is haunting and violent (targets are shot to be killed, without being offering any surrender), it is the scenes of prisoner torture that are most gruesome and degrading. Parents should heed the movie's MPAA "R" rating. 


Amazon DVD Link:


Review by Kim Gentes