The Rating System Defined

10/10 = Ultimate classic. Very rare rating. This movie is a must see before you die and arguably one of the best of all-time. A flawless film. See it twice in theaters.

 

9/10 = Fantastic movie by all accounts. Also a rare rating but if you happen to find a 9 then that means it’s a must see for the year it was made. Definitely worth the price of admission.

 

8/10 = Simply put, an 8 is a great movie. Not good, not unreal, just great. An 8 will never disappoint and is always a great choice to watch or pay to see in theaters.

 

7/10 = A solid movie that has certain qualities to distinguish it from your run-of-the-mill film. Better than good and may even have some awesome characteristics to it. Worth paying to see in theaters.

 

6/10 = A good movie. This is a very average film and 6 is the most common rating. Nothing standout about this movie but it certainly is not bad. You can justify paying to see this in theaters.

 

5/10 = Okay at best. This movie is hard to rate as it is pretty bad but decent at the same time. Some redeemable qualities but below average and you should not pay to see this in theaters.

 

4/10 = Bad movie. Not really worth your time at all. Might have a glimmer of hope but in the end it’s just bad. Never pay to see this is theaters.

 

3/10 = Really bad. Almost no redeeming qualities at all. Pray for some nudity and laugh at the thought of paying to see it. Do not rent it On Demand or even waste time watching it on Netflix.

 

2/10 = Terrible. This movie is a pile of dung and belongs in a sewer. Paying for a ticket is completely out of the question and you shouldn’t even think twice about skipping over it on Netflix.

 

1/10 = Utterly atrocious. Half a point away from the worst possible rating. Drive to the theater, steal 10 tickets, rip them up and drive home. Never watch this movie. NEVER.

 

0/10 = Does not exist. I would like to give a few movies this rating but solely due to the fact that they exist they cannot receive a 0.

Then & Now (2015) —– Rating: 8/10

Coming from the position of writing reviews on feature length films I find it much more difficult to share my thoughts on short films.  Not for lack of things to say, rather the dilemma exists with knowing that short films and feature length films are worlds apart.  Sure, there are many obvious similarities but the differences remain vast.  Even down to what the films try to accomplish differ greatly between the two.  A challenge like this sparks excitement in me because it breaks free from the status quo.  Especially with a film as good as Then & Now.

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Never before have I seen a movie about 9/11 that was focused outside of the U.S.  More importantly, Then & Now chooses to focus on only one subject.  This one subject is none other than Julian Glover, most prominently known for his portrayal of Grand Maester Pycelle in the ongoing, epic series Game of Thrones.  The movie, and the story, would be nothing if not for two main ingredients.  The second, but by no means less important, ingredient, is Julian Glover.  Glover’s performance as George is grossly realistic for what I can only imagine to be an earth-shattering, and horrifying, experience.  This experience is that of an old man who witnesses the death of a loved one trapped in one of the Twin Towers whilst he is helplessly confined to a chair in the “comfort” of his own home.  Glover makes this discomfort palpable and immensely difficult to watch as his body and face contort in agony.

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The secret ingredient, however, is the sensational directing by the impossible-to-tell-apart Bashford Twins.  Every decision they made, was the right one, and always, at the right time.  The way they decided to show George from his first moments viewing the footage then fluidly intertwine his followings days, weeks, months, or however long, of continuously replaying his personal nightmare as he repeats the news anchor’s words back to himself in a trance-like state was movie magic to say the least.  Massive shout out to the lighting department for their stellar contribution.  Just as we are figuring out what is happening the screen George is watching goes blank.  And, well…  I’ll leave that a surprise, because it’s just too good to spoil.  And then our screen goes dark.

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Personally, I wish the film ended here.  I did not need, nor want, more and because I was given more I feel that I unfairly judged the only other character/actor in the movie.  George’s grandson James (played by Matt Hookings) comes to visit and this happens, presumably, to bring a positive, family dynamic into the story.  Every second before this last scene was pure gold.  It was the hyper-focused story of an old man reliving the worst day of his life.  Simple and clean yet elegant and wonderful.  Granted, many people will disagree and say the ending was great, because it was, although I can’t help but feel it would have been a much more high caliber story without it.  I do, however, want to give Hookings a ton of props for his contribution as co-writer.  Bravo, sir.

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Then & Now is 9 minutes long.  It is a short film.  For some reason there is a stigma surrounding short films, in the eyes of the everyday moviegoer, because they either have no exposure to them or feel they are a waste of time.  Let me clear something up because, in part, I can understand the feeling of not wanting to waste time with a 9 minute movie, so here it is.  Then & Now has a runtime of 9 minutes which means only one thing.  Every single person can find 9 extra minutes in their day to watch this movie… and it would be a grave mistake not to.  8/10

 

Check out the trailer —–> https://vimeo.com/115363380

 

If You Loved Then & Now Then Check Out…

Guaranteed Winner:  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

Classic scenario of a great movie getting a bad rating.  Sure it plays heavily on emotion but when building a movie around anything 9/11 related that is tough not to do.  At least this one does it very well.

Dealer’s Choice:  Reign Over Me (2007)

Even more of an emotional movie than the first.  Obviously this time around I chose to recommend two movies strictly because they focus on the same event as Then & Now.  Reign Over Me is rated a little better than the first recommendation and it’s worth it to see Adam Sandler in his only good role in a serious movie.

 

 

 

Sully (2016) —– Rating: 7.75/10

Sully is a flight school student’s wet dream.  It’s loaded with aircraft lingo and insider secrets yet still manages to target, and be accessible to, a wide audience.  The true story alone will open enough wallets to pack the theater but the quality of the film-making is what will inevitably land this movie a great rating.

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This film is not about the people on board the US Airways flight who were saved by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.  If it were, it would just be another movie about something spectacular happening and all the miracles people associate with that and “oh my god can you believe that?” and blah, blah, blah.  An incredible true story does not equal an incredible movie.  Just look at Unbroken.  Incomprehensibly amazing story but the movie does not do it justice.

The pounding heart of this movie is the struggle of a pilot who, after 40+ years of flying planes, might be negatively judged after just one freak accident of a flight.  It’s the struggle you can see in his eyes as he impatiently waits to hear whether or not the 155 souls, who had boarded the plane, all got off safely.  They are the eyes of a pilot with the track record of never losing a passenger after 4 decades in the air, and this one, tragic experience leaves those eyes unsure that his record remains unblemished.

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Writers Todd Komarnicki and Chesley Sullenberger, and director Clint Eastwood, do a spectacular job of making this film clearly about that struggle.  It is most obvious in the scene where he is staring at the fighter plane and daydreaming back to his days in the air force.  Not only does it perfectly encapsulate the mind of Sully showing us that this mans whole life has been in the air, but it’s also a beautifully shot scene, especially when he snaps out of his daydream.

The other obvious struggle in this film is the one between the two pilots (Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles, played by Aaron Eckhart) and the NTSB.  Granted, this is much more dramatized for the sake of the movie but they managed to make it compelling and interesting.  Turning the panel of people more evil than they needed to be was a little overdone but it does naturally make you root harder for Captain Sully at the end so some people will definitely enjoy that aspect.  It makes the finale more gratifying which in some cases is fine.  I’ll certainly allow it for this film.

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The only minor problem I had was when the movie strayed away from these two focal points.  The two struggles are what make Sully a great movie.  As I said before, it’s not about the people on board the flight.  Too many times the movie showed us clips of passengers and wanted us to feel for them as well.  Although I can understand and appreciate the reason for this, the film goes overboard with the side story of the group of three men (Father, Son, Friend of Son).  Does it make the crash more emotional? Yes, it definitely can.  But this distracts from the emotional elements of the other two struggles which are vastly more important.  Not a huge deal but definitely worth mentioning.

Finally, the last line in the movie was an absolute classic.  You will not be upset about spending 3 hours at the theater for this movie.  7.75/10

 

If You Loved Sully Then Check Out…

Guaranteed Winner:  Flight (2012)

Hard to not immediately think of this movie while watching Sully.  Another epic plane crash survivor story with an incredible lead by Denzel Washington and a team of great supporting actors.  Also, the tension of a captain put on trial is even more hardcore in Flight.

Dealer’s Choice:  Captain Phillips (2013)

Tom Hanks, again, as your captain.  Only this time… he’s supposed to be in the water.

 

 

Hell or High Water (2016) —– Rating: 9.25/10

For decades to come, when I recall the Summer of 2016, I will think about Hell or High Water, and smile.

Opening the movie is an exhilarating bank robbery where we meet our “protagonists”; brothers played by Ben Foster and Chris Pine following up their recent professional relationship from the Boston-based-blockbuster The Finest Hours (2016).  Incredibly, their chemistry is even more palpable in Hell or High Water.  They had me smacking my dad’s, and uncle’s, arms next to me from laughing at times and then blowing me away with the seasoned tension of siblings who have a history of sadness and love mashing together never once allowing me to question that this movie was anything other than real life.  Some scenes give off the impression that these men are two of the most opposite people who have ever lived while others convince you that they have lived like twin brothers every day of their lives never having spent a moment apart.  In instances where they playfully wrestle you can almost picture them as children on a farm partaking in the exact same activity with the rusty, orange haze of the background Texas skylight.

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Texas is as ingrained into the fabric of this movie as any other aspect.  The Texan setting, tone, and mood is the most important ingredient to understanding the relationships and interactions between every single character in the story.  A picturesque homage to the vastness, intensity, and no prisoners attitude of The Lone Star State it is indeed and all of this done without filming a single scene in the actual state.  Among every other positive comment I can make about this movie, its beautiful imagery, thanks to the cinematographer (Giles Nuttgens) and director (David Mackenzie), is the best.

The aforementioned tone of the movie is felt best in the interactions with the seemingly kindhearted waitress from the diner as she speaks with the sheriff who wants to take her tips as evidence, and especially the waitress from later in the movie who is referred to as a rattlesnake.  Must be some sort of inside joke in Texas about waitresses.  The best display of the tone I’m describing is in moments of instantaneous, intense violence.  There are no flashy movements of the camera and the violence is not glorified.  The camera holds still in a spooky way as the viciousness unfolds in a manner that I stereo-typically associate with the no prisoner Texas attitude.  The scene with the green car at the gas station is the perfect evidence of my claims.

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Lastly, the relationship between the two sheriffs is amazing.  Almost as good as the one between Pine and Foster.  The witty exchanges of insults, especially from Jeff Bridges to Gil Birmingham are hysterical to say the least.  Hard to even call it an exchange because it was one-sided 90% of the time.  Birmingham’s monologue, towards the end, regarding the banks, is one of the best monologues, in relation to its movie, for any film made since 2000.

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Acting is the category I wanted to cover last specifically because it is too good to write about.  Every single person was too good that words cannot describe them.  Pine, Bridges, and Foster especially deserve awards associated with trophies.  I don’t even care which ones or how many.  I will build all the trophies myself, if I need to.

Hell or High Water is THE movie of 2016.  9.25/10

 

If You Loved Hell or High Water Then Check Out…

Guaranteed Winner:  Warrior (2011)

One of the best movies about two brothers ever made, starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton.  The acting is unparalleled on all fronts and Nick Nolte reminds me of Jeff Bridges, a lot.  I don’t know why.

Dealer’s Choice:  The Finest Hours (2016)

Solely recommended for the relationship between Chris Pine and Ben Foster.  But if you want some more Ben Foster in your life then re-watch Lone Survivor.  I say re-watch because if you have not seen in then you should legally not be allowed to watch any movie ever anyway.

 

 

 

 

Dead Flowers (2016) —– Rating: 7.25/10

Dead Flowers is visually beautiful and wholly unsettling, much like its wonderfully morbid poster.  I have a list of things to say so let’s jump right into this one.

Directors Pablo Riquelme and Stephen R. Scott have created a nightmarish picture they should be very proud of.  Professional, cinema-quality directing is very hard to come by in short films, and, often times, in general, but it seems to be second nature for these two.  The harsh tone and dreary look, combined with the relatively slow pace of the film, create a tense and disturbing setting which perfectly mirrors the mind of our main character, Alex.

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Anthony Nikolchev, who plays Alex and his twin brother Dani, is fantastic.  His ability to act in two completely opposite roles and carry the entire movie from first shot to credits is very refreshing to see from someone I have never heard of before.  I’ll tell you one thing though… get this guy on your radar (and if you don’t have a radar then find one) because he’s well on his way to big things.  Bravo Mister Nikolchev.

The real awards belong to the music man Francisco J. Mora Garcia, cinematographer Lucia Forner, the sound department, and the aforementioned directors for various reasons I will now quickly rattle off.  Dead Flowers is stunning in a dark, horrific way which makes the cinematography/directing even more impressive, especially in the beginning and end with the flower pot and the scene where Alex falls asleep in what can only be described as Charles Manson’s bedroom.  The shot of the door swinging closed slowly (pictured below) with a drawn-out bellowing creak laid over a mash of mortifying sounds and music stole the film, and my heart, along with it.  Even the door handle itself matches the mood of the moment.   Absolutely amazing work.

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Lastly, the sound department and Mr. Garcia crush the beginning of the film into oblivion. When Alex and his mother are sitting together in the living room and the sounds of a very faint clock ticking, a light church bell ringing, a small bird chirping, and the mesmerizing piano all mix together, my body filled with sadness and uneasiness.  A very misleading feeling falsely setting you up for the rest of the movie and proves even more so that the people behind the camera are all cunning craftsmen at work.

There are many other positives to the film but I am running out of room and I still need to explain why Dead Flowers is a 7.25 rather than a 10.  So here we go…

The music, sounds, and background noises, which could have been the most well-orchestrated aspects of the film, reached a pinnacle as the the tea kettle whistles more than 10 full minutes into the 15 minute film.  This also happens to be the very moment before the climax.  Then, BOOM, the action breaks out and the noise factor of the most dynamic scene is dropped to the level of spectators at the PGA Tour.  Almost complete silence.  Yes, there was some suspenseful music being played during the scene but it was so quiet compared to the lead up whistling that it might as well have not been there at all.  I was extremely disappointed especially after the masterful tea kettle lead up which had my heart cascading into a whirlwind of fear and anticipation only to be let down by a pathetic action sequence.

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And the absolute worst part is the action sequence was, truthfully, done very well.  The experience of viewing this scene was a cruel mixture of impressiveness with the physicality, and dissatisfaction with the accompanying sound, that I was completely turned off to the most intense segment of the picture.  That one instance then caused me to start to nitpick other moments like when the telephone is used as a weapon.  It was so apparent the force he was able to generate with it was minimal (I assume for safety purposes while filming, but still), and certainly would not have given him the ability to escape, so why not just show less and conceal the impact to build intrigue?  And then comes the scene with the swinging door superbly accomplishing exactly what should have been done with the telephone.

Needless to say, I was very un-thrilled with this part of the thriller because of this one crucial flaw.  Honestly, how are you going to have Academy Award worthy audio the entire film and then slack-off in the most vital moments?  Frustrating stuff.

Lastly, the writing/story is like a big, old hunk of Swiss cheese.  Lots of holes but very interesting.  There are a few things that don’t make sense but overall it is a big win so I’ll let it slide.  And really, this short film (like 99% of all short films) is much more about captivating visuals and killer acting, accomplished by not going overboard or doing too much, than it is about flawless writing.

Let’s conclude with some final thoughts.  This movie is great.  Plain and simple.  It’s a great thriller that had my heart pounding and filled me with jealousy.  I was, and am, jealous of these filmmakers because of their talent.  Too many good things to mention them all.  And, yes, it’s not perfect, as most movies aren’t, but I promise this is not the last you’ll be hearing of Stephen R. Scott, Pablo Riquelme, and Anthony Nikolchev.  I have few doubts they will all be household names one day.  So, next time someone asks me, “Hey Kasey, I just stumbled upon an extra 15 minutes in my day, what should I do to ensure that I don’t waste it?”  I’ll say, “Go watch Dead Flowers.

7.25/10

 

If You Loved Dead Flowers Then Check Out…

Guaranteed Winner:  Gone Girl (2014)

In terms of mysterious thrillers Gone Girl is one of the best newer movies you’ll find and all the acting is spot-on.  You really can’t go wrong.  Don’t believe me?  Click on the title and let me prove it to you.

Dealer’s Choice:  The Machinist (2004)

Another movie with even more unbelievable acting from the one, and only, Christian Bale. Also, the tone is even more bleak than with Dead Flowers which is hard to believe, but oh-so true.  

Up in Smoke (1978) —– Rating: 5.5/10

Up in Smoke is the Dude, Where’s my Car? of 1978.  Incredibly similar stories – two stoners have an adventure together and smoke way too much weed in the process – and even more similar in feel.  Up in Smoke is slightly less stupid, but, for it’s era, it was an incredibly ridiculous movie.  The biggest difference, and biggest positive attribute, for Cheech Marin (Pedro De Pacas, the film’s leading character) and Tommy Chong’s (Anthony “Man” Stoner, Pedro’s sidekick) first film is the originality of it.

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This movie is impressive because it stars the comedy/musical duo Cheech & Chong, it was written by the pair, and it was partly directed by Tommy Chong.  They created a movie that would be simple to make and has become a cult classic.  In this case, it happens to be a stoner cult but it still counts.  The movie is not that great but stoners will absolutely love it.  Plus, Up in Smoke is considered to be the film that started the stoner genre which is an applaud-able achievement in itself.  It’s also impressive because the duo have a couple original songs in the movie and one named after the title of the film itself.

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It’s biggest problem is that it does not stand the test of time.  Watching it now is kind of a drag and the jokes do not land as well as I’m sure they did in 1978.  Funny at times and entertaining, for the most part, but Cheech & Chong are for a very specific audience.  The biggest takeaways for a viewer nowadays are Stacy Keach as Sergeant Stedenko and Tom Skerritt as Strawberry.  Keach specifically is one of the few reasons to watch the movie but that reason alone will not convince many people.

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In conclusion, Up in Smoke deserves a lot of technical credit and originality points but the story is below-average and the jokes don’t quite cut it.  I would not see it again but if you like pot this could be right up your alley.  If I ignore the originality, and technical aspects, it’s probably a 3, but I’m feeling generous, and I can’t ignore those factors, so 5.5/10.

 

If You Loved Up in Smoke Then Check Out…

Guaranteed Winner:  Dude, Where’s my Car? (2000)

I already explained why.

Dealer’s Choice:  Pineapple Express (2008)

It’s one of the best stoner movies ever and a classic 2000’s comedy.

 

Jurassic World (2015) —– Rating: 7.5/10

Jurassic World is a prime example of a movie adhering to the centuries-old Chinese proverb, “Give the people what they want”.  Did I want some throwbacks to Jurassic Park?  You betcha.  They delivered many different moments, my favorite being Jake Johnson’s dinosaur-obsessed character (Lowery) wearing an old school J.P. t-shirt followed by a conversation about the old park in all its glory despite the many lives tragically lost.tumblr_nowt7z5i4z1tc05ego1_500 “Glory” referring to both the prestige of the old park combined with its commitment to breeding real dinosaurs, as opposed to genetically engineered ones which are the focus of this movie.  I could not be happier they brought this up right away by comparing the condition of the dinosaurs to the former park, and movie.  Other moments of homage I will leave out of this review so the mystery stays mysterious and you can be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

Speaking of Jake Johnson, he plays a small, mostly non-comedic part (and the instances that were meant to be funny were just that and more), and crushes it.  I love this guy.  On the acting front it’s impossible to look over Chris Pratt (Owen) who is great and exactly what you’d expect.  Sexy, funny, and badass.  The first of the three most prominently pertaining to Bryce Dallas Howard, the film’s leading female (Claire), who turns out to be just as funny and badass, if not more, than Pratt.6d92a470-e000-0133-42e7-0e89da4c2bc1  Vincent D’Onofrio is the standard villain who becomes more mischievous and conniving as the film hits its stride, and, as always, he plays the part perfectly.

At times Jurassic World is cheesy with terrible one-liners.  At other times it is mildly unsympathetic in a very refreshing way for a big-budget Hollywood movie.  It has a very weak main story line, which is two kids going to visit their aunt who is a top-dog employee at the theme park, and some better, more interesting sub-plots, like genetically altering DNA to create super-dinosaurs for malicious, corrupt, reasons.  Though they build the movie around this main premise with the two kids it remains weak because you could entirely forget it was the premise and it wouldn’t change the movie at all.  Normally, I loathe flimsy story lines, but not in this case because it’s not really about the story and the sub-plots add necessary complexity.  Regardless of any aspects of the premise, someway, somehow the dinosaurs will still get out of their cages and wreak havoc on the park, and if you think me saying that is a spoiler then you really have no movie IQ whatsoever.  It’s not a spoiler because that’s what the whole foundation of this franchise is based on.  What the hell else did you think was going to happen?  I will however call ***SPOILER ALERT*** for this next part.

The ending is amazing.  It’s the biggest, baddest mofo-dino of the new movie, Indominus Rex pitted against our old-school favorite, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, in a wonderfully surprising turn of events.Jurassic World

Jurassic WorldNot to mention, the raptors we come to love also target the new Godzilla-esque monster in battle until the fantastic finality of the scene where the most impressive creature in the movie, the water-demon Mosasaurus (pictured in the official movie poster at the top), obliterates Indominus in one fell bite n’ drag.  Just magically movie-making, especially when taking on a franchise with the magnitude of the Jurassic series knowing that all the audience really wants to see are a bunch of dinosaurs f*****g s**t up.  Bravo to director/writer Colin Trevorrow and writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver  A magnificently entertaining 7.5/10.

 

If You Loved Jurassic World Then Check Out…

Guaranteed Winner:  King Kong (2005)

You watch King Kong for the same reason as any of the Jurassic movies; to see Kong destroy everything in his path and to have special effects blow your mind.  Kong fights a dinosaur in this movie and it is possibly the best monster-fighting scene in the history of cinema.  I forgot to mention in my review that special effects are so good now that dinosaurs might as well be real because not a single atom of their bodies, in the movie, look fake.

Dealer’s Choice: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

 

Solely recommended for Chris Pratt and its level of entertainment.  It’s an unreal movie but has very little (nothing) to do with Jurassic World.  Be that as it may, you should see it right now.  Plus, it’s a Dealer’s Choice so I could have picked Chef if I really wanted to.  Did I attach two links to movies leading back to my blog, when clicked on, to boost my own views like a selfish narcissist?  Yeah, I did.  Do something about it.