Sunday, August 21, 2016

Theatrical Review: Kubo and the Two Strings

Date: Sunday August 21 2016
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Time: 12:30pm
Party: 2 (my sister & I)

Director: Travis Knight (1st time director, worked on "Boxtrolls" and "Coraline")
Writers: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler (wrote/directed "ParaNorman") and Shannon Tidle
Composer: Dario Marianelli


Kubo- Art Parkinson
Monkey- Charlize Theron

Beetle- Matthew McConaughey
The Sisters- Rooney Mara
Moon King- Ralph Fiennes

Duration: 101 minutes (+3 trailers... that seems to be the standard)

The Audience:

It was a decent group of people. Mostly families with kids between the ages of 8 and 13. They enjoyed it right along with us. Laughed at all the same moments.

Coming Attractions:

A Monster Calls
I had the hardest time deciding whether this was a kid-friendly movie or a horror movie. It's about a boy who goes to private school who is bullied and his mom is also diagnosed with cancer. He summons an imaginary friend, who I think at first is might be Slenderman (an Internet phenomenon that is reportedly behind some gruesome murders committed by kids). But there's more to it than that.
Plus, a monster voiced by Liam Neeson can't be all bad, right? I think this monster is a metaphor for helping this kid deal with his mom's cancer.

Looking at the first trailers of this, I thought it was a cute gimmick, but didn't know how much substance it could possibly have. Animals singing pop songs. But after seeing this full-length trailer... I think I might actually want to see it.
This singing competition was created to help save a dying theater, but there are all these animals that are just trying to achieve their dreams or change their lives. Who isn't gonna relate to that?

I'd already discussed this trailer in a previous movie. It'll be interesting to see how it goes when it's released, but I don't have a lot of expectations about it.

The Main Event:

Speaking of not having a lot of expectations...

My sister wanted to see it and I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

This movie is seriously so good that I really don't want to go into too much detail about it. I bet it probably be great in 3D with the animation. Really impressive. And you get sucked into it and it's hard to break free from it.

The story is also really good for an animated film. It could appeal to people of all ages. I'm sure people that are older than the intended age group might get a little more out of it. But I see this as the type of movie where, if you grow up watching it, it will be a different movie each time and you'll get a different message from it.

Kubo is an 11-year old boy who lives with his mother. During the day, he goes to a local village where he entertains them with stories, which he tells with his trusty guitar and the magic to make origami figures move. But he has to return home before the sun goes down. Not only to take care of his mother, but also because the two of them are hiding from her family. And they come out at night.

This family is her two sisters and her father, who murdered her husband (Kubo's father), and want to steal Kubo's remaining eye and steal him away to the heavens where they live an immortal life away from humanity.
There's a little more to it than that, but I don't want to go into it. Other than saying that there is some deep stuff here. Including what it is to be human and whether immortality is worth it when you consider what you're sacrificing.

The gist of the story is that there's the one time Kubo stays out after sunset (he wants to take part in a village tradition of honoring the spirits of loved ones and he loses track of time), his aunts find him and using her last bit of magic, his mother sends him away and brings the monkey charm he carries with him to life.
And along the way they meet this guy they call Beetle who says he was with Kubo's father's legion of samurai.
Their journey is to find the three pieces of legendary armor, which they will use to defeat Kubo's grandfather the Moon King.

The rest of it... I'll let play out as it does on the screen.
There are some funny moments, a lot of heart, some drama, action... just a little bit of everything. Something for everybody like I said before.

I'm surprised that it only made $12.6 million so far because it is definitely worth seeing.
As much as I liked "Finding Dory," this is the movie that really should win Best Animated Film at the Oscars next year. It's something special and unique.
I'm sure there will be a handful of people who will complain that, despite the fact this takes place in Japan and it deals with a lot of Japanese culture and values, none of the main characters are played by Japanese people. There are several Japanese cast members, but none play characters that are referred to by name in the actual movie.

At the same time, I think this would be a great film for my college animé club to go out and see. The values and symbolism used throughout the movie, I'd seen explored in some of the series we watched. If the movie is still playing by the time the club has its first meeting, I really hope they give it a shot.
But of course I'd been out of college for 7 years now (OMG!), so what I say really doesn't count for all that much. It's still worth a shot, though.

One final thing: stick around for some of the credits. Regina Specktor sings a really cool version of "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" while some animation plays out in the background. We also get a unique behind-the-scenes look at one of the film's big action scenes.

Grade: A
(If not for a bittersweet ending, I might have given it an A+.)

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