Kenneth Elliott's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

The Fate of the Furious
59 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Can't they stop making these films already?

The Bishop's Wife
6 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

A Christmas classic, and strong performances from Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young.

The Apartment
The Apartment (1960)
9 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

A much-deserved "Best Picture" winner in 1960, "The Apartment" is, on the surface, a comedy, but at its core, it is a dark societal parody addressing common taboos avoided in much of Hollywood till this era such as extramarital affairs, divorce, and drug usage. Both realistic and idealistic, "The Apartment" has a fantastic script and some great acting. Most notable is the main protagonist Jack Lemmon who plays the over-worked and under-appreciated C.C. Baxter, an everyday man working at a New York City insurance corporation. C.C., in order to gain prestige and recognition within the company, loans out his apartment to several co-workers for discreet late-night flings. The film portrays a version of America far different from the squeaky-clean view of the everything-is-fine 1950s. Here, the very nature of the American business and opportunity is revealed to be corrupt, where the man on top will always back-stab underlings with gossip and frequently participate in the same shady underbelly activities as the underlings he disposes of. It also shows the limited and frustratingly immoral manner in which one has to climb the ladder of success to achieve an upper-management position.

"The Apartment" was very controversial at the time for its sexual overtones; no sex scenes were shown, per se, but the script was peppered with oblique innuendos such as direct mentions to "ring a ding ding" activities. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the film was not in the adulterous affairs within C.C. Baxter's apartment, but the semi-graphic portrayal of drug overdosage. Shirley MacLaine, well-mannered elevator operator and two-way lover stuck in the middle of a secret triangle between C.C. and Fred MacMurray's Mr. Sheldrake, is so distraught and ridden with rejection that she consumes an entire bottle of sleeping pills, barely getting out of the predicament alive. Even when she does recover, she is left with suicidal thoughts and nasty hangovers. Remember, this movie was made in 1960, not 1990, so much of this stuff was ahead-of-its time and shocking to witness on the silver screen.

My one and only complain with "The Apartment" is the half-assed ending. Honestly, the scene when C.C. refuses the offer of a second-in-command position at the (literal) top of the building next to Mr. Sheldrake's office would have been the most compelling finish. In such a rigged business system where corruption and secrets abound, nobody can or will stop bad boys at playing shady games, hence why corruption is so prevalent today. What happened instead, which I absolutely hated, is that C.C. suddenly grew a heart and uncharacteristically refused to be part of the system and left. Everything that followed felt like a typical, paint-by-the-numbers happy ending, including Shirley MacLaine's running through the city to get to her lover-boy. (I guess the both ended happily ever after playing cards.) I would have much preferred a darker, more realistic ending, as everything else in "The Apartment" strived to echo problems in contemporary American society.

The Jungle Book
9 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

If you are looking for one of those films that demonstrates new techniques in visual imagery, than Disney's "Jungle Book" remake is for you. It is on that same list that sets "Avatar" and "Gravity" from the dozens of other films using (or mis-using) CGI. And visually, "Jungle Book" impresses. However, if you're looking for any kind of magic regarding story and script surprises, you will be less successful. Watching this gave me strong vibes of Disney's "Dinosaur" back in 2000, which boasted (at the time) revolutionary animation, but was sorely lacking on all other fronts.

Let's start off by analyzing the favorable: the animation will flabbergast you. The creatures are so lifelike, I was under the impression that artists had superimposed CG lips and eyes over real animal footage. By comparison, they make the animals in "Narnia" look like utter garbage. But the truly awe-inspiring feat pulled off by "Jungle Book" was not in the wolves, bears, and large wild cats; no, the real stunner was the fully-photorealistic and completely believable environments these animals lived in. Trees, foliage undergrowth, rocks, streams, hilltops, and temples, every background looked like something pulled out of a Discovery Channel show. All of it looked believable.

With that said, I do wonder why Disney decided to go to obscene lengths to animate all backgrounds, as the finished film did not utilize the technology to its fullest. For the most part, "Jungle Book" played like a live action film with not as many carefully-planned camera swoops and pans as I would have expected. The Kaa sequence, as an example, was a waste of potential; while the Walt Disney classic had the snake demonstrate its awesome length by coiling, turning, grabbing Mowgli and playing with its food, this Kaa was so static and unmoving it might as well have been accomplished through matte painting. The entire thing may have felt "grounded" in part because of the way filmmakers chose to bring Mowgli to life...

... And this leads me into the first major complaint I had with this film. Mowgli. I will give young Neel Sethi a break because he's a kid and I won't dwell on the fact that he was no Haley Joel Osment, but I will criticize filmmakers for not truly pushing the boundaries in animation by attempting to pull off a fully-lifelike CG character. In short: they cut corners. They didn't even try to go the extra mile in the one area of CG that needs the most innovation. Boo to Jon Favreau and team for being so paranoid of the "uncanny valley" they didn't even attempt to innovate. If they had just tried, I would have given them a full star more in my rating. I will give them credit for seamlessly blending in Neel Sethi into every background, but I do think using a live actor greatly limited the scope and vision of the overall film.

Now, for the deluge of criticism...
The story was a complete mess. The script was an even greater mess. I have criticized Walt Disney's 1967 animated film for its lack of narrative direction, as the story seemed to be a series of unrelated antics tying one scene to the next, story obstacles to prevent Mowgli from reaching the man village. Here, the events are even more random and convoluted. Kaa appears and then she exits the story forever. King Louie appears and then he exits the story forever. The elephant herd appears and then leaves the story forever (without saying a word, too!) At least the animated classic integrated these characters and had them return. For example, the animated film had several scenes with Kaa, and a very memorable and tense encounter between Shere Khan and Kaa. Not here. In the animated film, there were important interactions between Bagheera and the elephant pack. Not here. I would have forgiven these antics if they could have at least ended the story. In this version, nothing gets resolved, as far as Mowgli learning to be a man. (I assume he will be enslaved to con-bear Baloo in honey-capers for the rest of his life? What a waste of human potential.) Mowgli does not even reach man village, which defies the entire point of the plot! Wasn't the symbolic image of Mowgli wielding and controlling the "red flower" supposed to denote that he alone possessed powers and ingenuity no animal could possess? The whole film ended flatter than a popped tire. I left feeling as unsatisfied as watching part one of a two-part cliffhanger (ahem, "Deathly Hallows: Part I.")

There were so many things that I disliked about the story. The Kaa scene especially was annoying. First off, I was puzzled why Disney did a gender swap; I hope it was not because Disney realized there was only one female character in the film, and (like always) they need to have at least one evil female in movies nowadays. But even worse than gender-swapping was how Kaa hypnotized Mowgli; apparently someone in the story department thought it would be intelligent to shoe-horn a flashback sequence here-and-now, completely with mysterious Scarlett Johansson narration to remind us of Galadrial in "Lord of the Rings." Honestly, did we need to see Mowgli's past? And even if we did, couldn't somebody pick a better moment for the flashback? Another horrible aspect was the way Shere Khan was handled. I got the impression that instead of being frightened by fire, he was drawn to it, because he willingly and stupidly climbed a dead tree in the middle of a forest fire without having the foresight that a dead tree might snap. For that matter, how did Mowgli get off that same tree during the same forest fire? How was Mowgli able to run with the torch of fire all the way from the man village to the wolf den, unless the forest was only 50 feet long? And top top it off, I wish everyone would quit referring to fire as "red flower." I'm pretty sure that in Kipling's original, "red flower" referred to the physical attributes of a campfire, not a raging forest fire. If I was Shere Kahn witnessing half the forest burn down, I would not exclaim: "Look at that red flower!" Instead, my reaction would be more primal: "Ahhh!!! Red hot terror!!!!!!!!!!!" A red flower? No. Just no.

When it all boils down, the only sequence I truly enjoyed was King Louie. It was funny, it was scary, it had an awesome remix of the classic "I Wanna Be Like You." Here, filmmakers used CG to its fullest potential, in this case turning King Louie into a 15-foot-tall ape of incredible strength,(the song cleverly incorporates new lyrics saying that he is, in fact, a gigantopithicus. Bonus points for that.) I also sense a dark humor in screenwriters when the monkey temple crushed King Louie, rendering the last remaining gigantopithicus extinct. A nice touch. The entire sequence was loaded with a level of fun and innovation the entire movie should have had, but did not. What should have been laughs throughout was constipated dialogue.

In the end, while I dig the animation, this new "Jungle Book" was too butt-kissy to the Walt Disney classic to stand on its own two feet. And yet, it was not dark and realistic enough to be a faithful adaption of the Rudyard Kipling original. It resides in no man's land. Honestly, Rotten Tomatoes, 95% fresh?

Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad (2016)
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Boy, this movie gets a lot of verbal backlash from critics. I'm not entirely sure why, as this was the most pleasant superhero movie experience I've had since Disney/Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy." What "Suicide Squad" lacks in dramatic theatrics like Nolan's "The Dark Knight" trilogy, it more than makes up for character diversity and intentional silly humor. (Humor? Oh yeah, that's right: these are based on *COMIC* books, now I remember!) I laud filmmakers for creating a superhero movie starring so many people of color and individuals traditionally marginalized within the genre: we have two prominent African American players (Will Smith's Deadshot, whose smart-ass wisecracks were the biggest surprise of the film, and Viola Davis' baddie Amanda Waller running the show from the sidelines,) and arguably the most refreshing lead to come out of a DC movie in recent years, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn.

Let me take a moment to praise Robbie's Harley Quinn performance. She is smart, sassy, completely bonkers, and wonderfully entertaining to watch and listen to. She's the type of gal who would bite your head off and then sing a song about it. This is exactly the type of Harley Quinn I was hoping we would get. Her wardrobe redesign, while not my first choice pick of clothes, did suit her. I do not know why Hollywood has deliberately stalled in bringing this character to life, (even though her boyfriend Joker has been seen in nearly half a dozen live-action incarnations,) but it is well worth the wait. Not to detract from Harley Quinn, but Jared Leto's Joker was also fun and demented. With his green hair, bling, strange teeth, and tattoos, Leto is the most mafia-gang-looking Joker we've seen in the DC film universe.

In the weeks leading up to "Suicide Squad's" release, there has been much talk regarding the film's extensive reshoots, done to bolster the film's playfulness. While this was bad news for the tough guys in the audience, (or those who aspire to be tough guys,) the reshoots added another layer for the most part, which separated it from the multitude of countless comic book flicks that seemed to forget the definition of the word "fun." ("X Men" and those new inferior "Spider Man" movies come to mind.) Most of the time, the added reshoot scenes brought much-needed laughs. At other times, however, inserted humor stuck out like a sore thumb, such as that Harley Quinn elevator scene which was stuck in for..... I'm not sure why it was stuck in, to be honest.

To say "Suicide Squad" is a perfect movie is like saying the Joker is sane. There were a number of problems, the biggest one being Cara Delevingne's Enchantress. Do not get me wrong: Enchantress was my favorite character in the film; however, this powerful and mysterious was mishandled as soon as she took matters into her own hands by becoming the stereotypical all-controlling female. Those rock-minions she concocted, as well as the swirling tornado vortex of doom was also lacking in originality. Honestly, the animated "Batman: Assault on Arkham," (which I'm sure director David Ayer watched closely beforehand,) had a more sensible plot. I would have easily given this flick another full star if only the squad had faced-off with a foe worthy of their summoning. My final complaint: couldn't somebody (anybody) do something about the numerous scenes objectifying women? Apart from the offensive butt-slapping and slut-shaming, I did not appreciate how 20% of Harley Quinn's full-body shots were of her backside wearing those microscopic bun-shorts.
"Suicide Squad" is currently killing the box office as this review is being written. I am looking forward to the sequel; hopefully, DC and Warner Brothers can pick a more original problem for the squad to face next time.