Kyle Hammonds's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Queen of Katwe
8 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[Quick Review...]
So there are some inspirational movie clichés here and there, but one can't help but be entertained and inspired anyway... Mira Nair's QUEEN OF KATWE has a familiar structure that is specially executed. Nair's direction is adequate; although, it is the story / subject matter itself that shines through as being interesting. The movie is inspired by the true story of Phiona Mutesi - a poor child in Uganda who learned to love chess and who eventually experienced positive change based on her love of the game. William Wheeler's screenplay does not shy away from discussions of socio-economic hardships and Mira was sure to include associated imagery to induce discomfort in the audience. As a result, one of the excellent messages of the movie also seemed to be that temporarily throwing money at a systematic problem will not typically be enough to make a positive change in people's lives. (Mild spoiler...) While the characters experience great mental and emotional changes, their material status remains relatively the same. Therefore, this is a not movie about fame and fortune being the solution to the world's problems... rather, this is a movie about contentment with now while on the journey for a better tomorrow.
The technical elements of QUEEN OF KATWE are effective enough; however, the most clearly outstanding aspect of the picture is the quality of the performances. Particularly, David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong'o offer extremely compelling characters (as Phiona's chess coach and mother, respectively). This being the case, the movie is an excellent watch for the characters and performances alone - much less the wonderful story. QUEEN OF KATWE offers a different narrative structure than last year's sports aesthetic chess film, PAWN SACRIFICE. Instead, QUEEN OF KATWE emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and the meaning chess might have to young minds over analysis of competition in chess. Both narratives have their merits - and I'm glad both are now available to the general public. And, although previous movies may win on suspense, QUEEN OF KATWE can go toe-to-toe with any other picture on sheer passion. Mira's movie has a lot of heart: a quality not to be taken lightly.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
11 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I suppose I should begin with a disclaimer that I have not read the source material which MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is based on - my evaluation may only come the standpoint of someone who has had mere exposure to Burton's movie iteration. Those who know me well are probably already aware that, like many peers in my age-group, I have gleaned much artistic inspiration from the early work of Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns, and, more recently, Sweeney Todd are all among my favorite movies of all time). I also acknowledge that some of Burton's recent work has been less interesting in execution than it was in concept. Bearing this in mind, I stipulate that Burton's most recent picture - MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - has a few obvious (and I mean OBVIOUS) problems. I rolled my eyes - both literally and metaphorically - repeatedly during the first half hour of the movie because of the cliché dialogue and the so-obvious-its-boring exposition. Much of the CGI is also badly contrasted with the otherwise realistic environments and is jarring enough to potentially break the audience out of the story and stop suspending their disbelief. Sometimes the aesthetics of the picture just don't work.
On the other hand, I liked the movie anyway. Even though the CG is bad and the script is convoluted and occasionally cliché, it is difficult - at least for fans of Burton - not to revel in oddities of the story and the playfulness of Burton's treatment of the material. The movie is fun. And it is also creepy. And, therefore, it feels exceptionally, delightfully Burton-esque. Here's a few things to like about the picture: although finding a precise "meaning" of the text may require some effort, it is clearly about the importance of peculiarities. This theme is undoubtedly open to interpretation, but it meets a need for discussion regarding diversity and balancing individualism with group identity. That is, the movie begins to inquire about what it means to be consistent person while living in a post-modern world. I would have liked for Burton to have offered some concrete answers, but, alas, the audience is left to search for conclusions / arguments elsewhere.
Another high point is the retro-mythic elements of the narrative. Burton not only takes us back to an earlier time period in the movie, he is sometimes able to reuse earlier modes of filmmaking and story-telling. Specifically, "Peregrine" plays out like a bedtime story featuring clever, but vulnerable children, strange and slinky monsters, and a wise mentor / guardian. The myth recalls Victor Hugo stories in which marginalized and/or excluded peoples must seek refuge from "normal" peoples and the labels of "person" and "monster" are hard to place. (This theme may have been more distinct and effective to contemporary audiences if more people of color were included in the cast, though.) Burton relishes this narrative structure and the opportunity to exaggerate the strangeness of normalcy. Ultimately, the "peculiar" characters either become stronger and more empathetic because of their experiences or they transform into the monsters they fear... (As an aside, these monstrous creatures are sometimes portrayed through claymation, recalling Burton's more acclaimed previous work.)
The last high point that I will mention is Eva Green's excellent turn as the titular Miss Peregrine. Her performance was also the standout in Burton's awful reinterpretation of DARK SHADOWS. Green seems to work incredibly well with Burton, which, in my opinion, is because of her willingness to embrace weird worlds as normal while keeping her characters grounded in real stakes and emotions. Miss Peregrine has limited screen time in the movie, but Green makes every moment count - she has a stern exterior and is extremely strict and precise; but, Green also lets Peregrine's "mask" slip enough that we can see her vulnerabilities and understand her deeply rooted care for the peculiar children she takes responsibility for.
Ultimately, I felt as if "Peregrine" is more triumph than failure for Burton - it will not sit well with everyone, but it may be a lot of fun for fans of Burton and it has enough stylistic, philosophical, and performative gems to be entertaining and thought provoking (even if only vaguely).

The Magnificent Seven
11 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Antoine Fuqua has proved his stylistic excellence in a variety of genres and he only confirms his mastery of genre aesthetics with his entertaining re-telling of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. While this remake does not quite rise to the level of Sturges' original western epic or Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI (which inspired THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), it does take the framework and spirit of the previous stories and morph them to Fuqua's narrative interests. These interests indeed seem to warrant the updated version of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN by encouraging some awareness regarding exploitation of the poor. Sadly, the story-telling is sometimes painfully straight-forward and the themes, while relevant, are paper thin. The script is also occasionally laden with potentially over-literal adherence to the diction of the period by including various jokes about race. If these jokes were included to encourage reflexivity, that may be one thing - sadly, the diction seems to be selectively included only to solicit laughs from passive audience members.
On the upside, the charismatic cast generally do a good job of executing Fuqua's vision of the through-line narrative and aesthetic choices. Denzel Washington is reliable as always with Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo performing excellent supporting roles with unique and fascinating physical and vocal characterizations. Chris Pratt's character is clearly intended as the prominent supporting part, but, as much as I typically enjoy Chris Pratt, he comes off as playing just another iteration of Owen Grady or Peter Quill. The most truly impressive supporting performance comes from Peter Sarsgaard's nervous, but cocky exploitative villain. Sarsgaard brings physical and vocal contrast to the diction of his character which makes for a magnetizing on-screen presence.
In addition to the acting performances, the cinematography and score felt like high points of the movie to me as well. The musical score was written by the late James Horner and completed for the picture with the help of Simon Franglen. Horner's final soundtrack is delightfully appropriate to Fuqua's narrative beats and the aesthetics of this particular action/western cross-genre.
In sum, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN stumbles in writing and some of the characterization, but it is entertaining and even, at times, beautiful in its high points - namely Fuqua's direction, Hawke and Sarsgaard's acting, and Horner's clever score.

Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad (2016)
2 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

With trailers boasting a quality cast, experienced director, and enough zany spectacle to keep even the most disinterested viewer entertained, SUICIDE SQUAD was, by most accounts, widely expected to "knock it out of the park." Contrary to expectations, though, experts have generally concluded that SUICIDE SQUAD failed to deliver on practically every "promise" of the pre-release press. My own reaction was also one of disappointment... which is not to say that I didn't have some fun watching the movie. Actually, I believe that David Ayer coaxed some excellent performances out of his (mostly underused) ensemble. There are sequences of the movie with a lot of heart and where the payoffs feel earned. Although, there are also quite a few sequences where the climactic builds don't work and where the "payoffs" don't feel earned at all - which I will elaborate on to warrant my rating.
For those who may be unfamiliar, SUICIDE SQUAD is about a group of dangerous supervillains who are coerced into completing a mission impossible after the government loses control of a powerful entity that begins wreaking havoc on innocent civilians. As with this year's previous DC superhero film, BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, SUICIDE SQUAD is written with interesting concepts in mind. In this case, Ayer was clearly interested in how people would react (escalation) to the existence of Superman and the increased worldwide discovery of super-powered beings. He also seemed very interested in the humanity these super-powered beings and why they may seem relatable to so many people. Ayer gets a few lines of philosophical dialogue in here and there, but, ultimately, is not much able to explore his lofty concepts in much depth. SUICIDE SQUAD is more fun(ny) than BvS, but it lacks the visual rhetoric and (sometimes) interesting iconography of Snyder's film.
The squad, themselves, are virtually the best reason to watch the movie. In my opinion, Will Smith's Deadshot and Viola Davis' Amanda Waller steal the show. Deadshot is the true protagonist and provides the emotional heart of the movie. Waller is a formidable and fascinating antagonist - she is a much scarier person in this movie than the more highly hyped Joker character. There is a scene in which Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn asks Waller, "Are you the devil?" Waller responds, "I don't know," but the clear implication is more like, "I don't care." Waller is both intelligent and ruthless, which makes her and her (non-superhuman) powers of persuasion particularly terrifying. Robbie has a good handle on Harley Quinn - she is unpredictable, charming, and scary all at once. Ayer somewhat awkwardly handled the issue of female objectification in the movie, though - in that, while Harley is often able to turn the uninvited lusts of predators against them, the camera also ogles her body in a way that seems more for the purposes of exploiting Harley to sell movie tickets than to take a philosophical or ethical position on body politics. Even so, in personality and power, Harley is more than a match for her infamous lover.
The characters in the ensemble are hardly worth mentioning because they have so little screen time. The Killer Croc character is put to good use in action sequences and provides excellent comic relief, but other figures with great potential were hardly explored and narratively unnecessary. Jay Hernandez puts forth an excellent effort as the pyrokinetic Diablo, but the character is so underwritten that Hernandez' best efforts feel fruitless. Additionally, I can only hope that Jared Leto's Joker will have a stronger presence in future DC movies. Leto certainly invites attention when he is on-screen, but, again, has so little screen time that he hardly makes an impact.
But, with all that said, the actors are who make SUICIDE SQUAD worthwhile. Even underused, each member of the ensemble obviously put forth much effort and energy to create meaningful and fun moments out of a... challenging script. The whole squad is entertaining to watch! If your reaction is anything like mine, you'll be crossing your fingers that the film's survivors will show up again in later movies with more screen time!
The movie primarily seems to have suffered from overstuffing - not unlike the other recent DC universe films. With so many characters, the movie was bogged down in an absurd amount of exposition; so much so that there was very little rising action to the movie. Therefore, when the climax comes, we may feel emotionally cheated. Like much of the ending was unearned. Most of the characters are largely unneeded in the story and contribute solely to the making the narrative murky.
Still, amid the contrived swamp of a story, the committed viewer will find the fun in the frolic. I am happy to say that the movie's falling action and conclusion did not disappoint. Further, the peculiarities and quirks of the movie still feel endearing despite everything else. In truth, because SUICIDE SQUAD has fun and features a whole cast of excellent actors (instead of the mere handful in previous DC universe films), it is probably the best movie in DC Entertainment's arsenal so far.