Thursday, August 25, 2016



From IMDB:


Kubo lives a quiet, normal life in a small shoreside village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta. This causes all sorts of havoc as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armor once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior.

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) on IMDb

Reviews 41 user | 84 critic

Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of "Game of Thrones") ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen - a magical musical instrument - Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril)
Genre: Action & Adventure , Animation , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Travis Knight (II)
In Theaters: Aug 19, 2016 wide
Box Office: $12,608,372.00
Runtime: 101 minutes

Average Rating: 8.3/10
Reviews Counted: 125
Fresh: 120 | Rotten: 5

Critics Consensus: Kubo and the Two Strings matches its incredible animation with an absorbing -- and bravely melancholy -- story that has something to offer audiences of all ages.

AUDIENCE SCORE 91% liked it
Average Rating: 4.4/5
User Ratings: 13,179

This is Kubo's mother. She left the heavens for love. ©Focus Features

From the folks that brought to life a creepy little girl born from the mind of Neil Gaiman, a story about a little kid that could see dead people and trolls who are obsessed with boxes...

So, Kubo and The Two Strings which opened in the US last week on the 19th of August. It's the latest from Laika a stop-motion animation studio located in the US. Stop-motion is where incredibly patient people create actual dolls and figures and then painstakingly animate it's movements one frame at a time. Before Laika the only other really famous stop-motion animation studio that made full-length feature films was Aardman Animations famous for their Wallace and Gromit shorts and feature films.

Kubo prepares to turn his origami creations into plain paper again by smacking them with his shamisen. ©Focus Features

Their first feature was an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novella for kids titled Coraline (2009) followed by Paranorman (2012) and then with Boxtrolls (2014). I've seen all three and enjoyed them all immensely. Each has it's own charms but the one thing that stands out about all three of them is what you see on screen. They are all visually beautiful. 

This is Hanzo. Kubo's origami spirit guide. His dad's spirit might be in it. Or not. ©Focus Features

So now after playing with box-obsessed trolls three years ago they're back and with their second original story, the first being Paranorman. So what is Kubo and The Two Strings all about? Well, if you haven't seen it or read every review about it here it is. Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy who plays the shamisen, his mother (Charlize Theron) is the daughter of the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes). His mother fell in love with a samurai named Hanzo (Matthew McConaughey). 

This is one of Kubo's aunts. The other looks just like her. ©Focus Features

Now seeing as how the Moon King is sort of a god he was against his daughter falling in love with a human especially when that human was searching for a several enchanted things that could grant him enough power to challenge him. So when Kubo's mother and Hanzo escaped together to start a family but not long after he was born the Moon King tracks the new family down and attacks them. Kubo's mother barely escapes with Kubo wrapped in Hanzo's robes but Kubo doesn't escape unharmed. The Moon King has taken one of his eyes.

This is monkey. She used to be a small charm but now she's a mean monkey. ©Focus Features

Okay, so that all happened without you actually seeing it on screen but it is explained throughout in flashbacks. The rest of the movie deals with Kubo going on a mission with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) to look for the magical armour and sword that his father once owned and along the way Kubo begins to master his innate magical abilities. 

That big guy with the cloth with a beetle on it is Beetle. He can't remember much. ©Focus Features

So here's what I like about Kubo and The Two Strings

  1. The story. It's quite surprising to find out that Kubo and The Two Strings has nothing to do with any Japanese myth or legend. It's a completely original story written by Shannon Tindle, Marc Haimes and Chris Butler. Granted they may have taken many elements from Japanese culture, legends and myths the story itself, the story of Kubo's trials and adventures is entirely original. 
  2. The fact that the story is paced so well. Scenes with dialogue are intertwined beautifully with scenes that need no dialogue. The story moving along with the aid of just the visual medium assisted perfectly with an amazing soundtrack and score.
  3. The respect that they have for the culture they've taken from. It felt like I was watching a film that was or had in a major way been produced by a Japanese team. The details were brilliant. I am no Japan expert or even remotely close to being a Japanophile, I just love Japan but I was sort of struggling trying to believe that what I was watching was done by a mostly American production team. 
  4. The visuals. Laika have constantly improved their animation and visual style and it shows. Every frame is just beautiful. And again here there are elements taken from Japanese film and animes. The use of that distinctly Japanese visual composition. 
  5. The voice acting was just perfect. Loved all of it.
  6. The music. Incredible use of the shamisen throughout. 

This is the Moon King. Everything has to be done his way. ©Focus Features

The not so like.
  1. The story at the end felt too short, as if somethings were left out. Shortcuts taken.
  2. The end. That too felt like the writers sort of couldn't figure out how to end it with a big finish. It wasn't bad but it wasn't the sort of climax that I was expecting or felt like it should have. 
This is a very large skeleton monster with an unusual hairpiece. ©Focus Features

So to sum it up. I loved it. I wouldn't mind seeing it again in fact. But here's the thing, I want to see the Japanese version with the characters speaking Japanese. I think that would be pretty cool. Anyway, Kubo and The Two Strings was so entertaining I'm giving it a solid 3.8 out of 5. This is well worth the ticket price. Laika might just be the Pixar of the stop-motion animation genre.

Check out the trailer here.



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