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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.

Entries in movie review (11)

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 


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.


Review by Kim Gentes 



Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler - (Dan Gilroy) Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill PaxtonWork hard. Pay your dues. Don't cut corners. Succeed.

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

Summary:  Jake Gyllenhaal assumes complete mastery of his role as fledging video news videographer, Lou Bloom. Everything you always feared about modern news reporting comes to vivid life in the most gripping persona of evil since Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh (in No Country For Old Men).

Full Review: Dan Gilroy has a stellar debut in the director's chair with Nightcrawler. A screen/TV writer for over 10 years, Gilroy commands the storyline (which he also wrote) by a vivid videography of intense "realistic" style that superimposes the kind of professional seriousness that is echoed in the obsessive protagonist of the movie.

The story is simple. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a small time thief that is looking for a focus to his obsessive energies. Through a happenstance encounter, he realizes the thrill and potential rewards of video-taping crime and mayhem in the night life of the LA basin.  Gyllenhaal's character, Lou, shows a fanatic demand for detail which results in acquiring some much sought-after footage of gruesome car crashes, bleeding attack victims and other tragic scenes. His stock with local TV station news rises sharply and he uses it to his full advantage.

At first blush, Lou appears demanding and intense, with an almost uncaring sense of fairness and justice. But his amoral sense of duty and hard work quickly are set aside for the fruits of an immoral rampage to gratify Lou's desperately hungry ego, and the accompanying monetary rewards. The film is very dark, but a couple of times grasps unrealistically at trying to convey the depravity of Gyllenhaal's character when plot twists allow him to get away with obviously criminal acts.

Nightcrawler is not a film for everyone. It will be too dark for some. But those who liked Crash or characters such as Walter White (Breaking Bad) or Dexter Morgan (Dexter) should think of Nightcrawler as the next evolution of the darkest form of antihero. Technically speaking, the cinematography, acting, directing and writing are some of the best you will see anywhere, in any year.

The language, violence and themes of this film are easily "R" in rating. But I would not allow any child under 18 to see this film. For me, the rating should have been NC-17.

This film is powerful, convincing, but very dark. For those whom it fits, it will be the single "must see" movie of the year. One which you should not wait to see on video- this is powerful, intense and important silver screen visual overload. That said, do not go if you have a queezy stomach or need a heroic and moral character. For those things you will definitely be disappointed.

Perhaps the best film this 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