“Kubo and the Two Strings” movie review

kuboAbsolutely beautiful! A dazzling display of the best that cinema can be! Laika and Focus Features’ Kubo and the Two Strings is truly a testament to the art of motion pictures! Brilliantly animated in an eye-catching stylistic way, this film provides audiences with a simple and intimate journey through a dynamically epic world of adventure, laughter, and tears. Directed by Travis Knight, from the opening to the final fade to black, Kubo is arguably the best animated feature length film to hit theaters in a long time. It contains the incredible storytelling that few films, live-action or animated, strive for but often fail to accomplish. Rarely, do audiences witness a perfect film, but this one comes very close to being perfectly written, directed, acted, shot, edited, and produced. With an A-list of vocal talent behind the characters in this immaculately animated world, Kubo will surely impress all those who watch this fantastical story. In some ways, I could argue that this film displays signs of being self-aware. Self-aware in that this simple but effective visual story is all about the very concept of storytelling. Cecil B. DeMille said, “the greatest art is the art of storytelling;” and this film proves that, in a world of high concept blockbusters that are produced to simply generate revenue at the sacrifice of storytelling, there are films with beautiful imagery, writing, and even a great message that hold true to the very idea what launched more than 100 years of cinema.

Following a daring escape from an unknown enemy across a treacherous ocean of tsunami sized waves, a young women survives a nearly fatal crash and washes upon the shore of a beach in the shadow of an imposing mountain with her infant. Many years later, Kubo (Art Parkinson) has grown up to be a young man with a passion for storytelling that he learned from his mother. Never having fully recovered from the accident, so many years ago, Kubo has the responsibility to take care of his mother. Harnessing his talent for magical origami, a stringed instrument, and storytelling, Kubo makes a little money each day for him and his mother. Little did Kubo know that his mother’s warning to not stay outside of their home after dark was for good reason. Soon, Kubo will find himself on an epic journey to unlock a secret legacy that he could have only dreamed of. Along his journey, he meets up with a monkey (Charlize Theron) and a man-beetle (Matthew McConaughey) who protect and teach him along the way. Don’t blink, even for one second, because you may very well miss something of grave importance.

The first thing you will observe in this movie is the exquisite and stylistic combination of two different animation methods. Claymation, which most are familiar with, and the lesser used papermation. Although typically used by themselves to tell an animated story, the brilliant combination of both methods to concurrently tell this epic story will leave a lasting impression upon you. There is a beauty in this film unmatched by any other in recent times. In many ways, the visual appeal of this movie reminds me of the early Walt Disney and Pixar animated films. Audiences can easily witness the absolute passion in every movement, detail, and landscape. I was completely sucked into Kobo’s fantastic world of Japanese influence. In addition to outstanding technical achievements in animation, lighting, and cinematography, Kubo is a film that is equally outstanding in its ability to tell a simple but inspirational story. It is the epitome of an ideal relationship between artists and engineers. This film successfully combines an artisan handcrafted charm with the precision of sophisticated visual storytelling technologies in a dazzling display of cinematic art that will surely be cherished for a lifetime.

Simple. The plot is so simple but yet very much profound. While so many studios are cranking out franchises, adaptations, complex plots, and young adult dramas, the Laika production company chose a different route. It chose a route that proves that the mastery of visual storytelling that showcases the art of cinema is still alive. In a world of the business of moviemaking, Kubo returns us to the art of filmmaking. Not confined to art house theaters in Greenwich Village or West Hollywood, this film is evidence that truly artistic masterpieces are still desired by the American audience. “The art of making art, is putting it together” (Sunday in the Park with George). Knowing that just the leaf ship sequence at the turning point between the first and second acts took 19 months to create, design, and produce, it is clearly apparent that a tremendous amount of time, love, and energy went into every frame of this stunning movie. As someone who has a passion for the very concept of storytelling, this film brought tears to my eyes because of the sheer beauty of the film and the experience of watching it on the big screen. Although it is an endearing film filled with love and adventure, it is also quite scary during some of the intense conflict between Kubo and those who wish to do him harm. From Kobo’s magical origami birds and samurai warrior to the playful banter between Monkey and Beetle, I was awestruck at the brilliance of the film in both writing and visuals.

I highly recommend this film for those who have not seen it yet. I only wish I had made it to the movie before last night. After hearing what others have said and written about this movie, I have come to the same conclusion that many have voiced: this film is exceptional by any known measurable means of evaluating a film. If any animated film this year is destined for an Oscar nomination or win, this one is it.

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“San Andreas” review

San_Andreas_posterA thrilling non-stop adventure! If you’re looking for a disaster movie that will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time, then check out Warner Bros., Village Roadshow, and New Line Cinema’s San Andreas starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Despite having a one-dimensional plot and completely unbelievable scenarios, this movie will keep you entertained for the entire runtime. Spend your time with a ripped helicopter pilot who’s the poster child for a ‘Jack of all trades’ and his beautiful daughter who could out Eagle Scout an Eagle Scout. No dynamic love story here–just extremely high energy, larger than life, visceral complete and utter disaster around every corner. This movie definitely doesn’t do anything to help the realtors and architects in L.A. and San Fran. If you liked the original EarthquakeVolcano, The Day After Tomorrow, and The Core, then you will most likely enjoy this film. Or, if you were the kind of kid who would build cities out of Legos then have enormous fun destroying them, then this is definitely for you.

San Andreas is about a magnitude 9.7 earthquake affecting the famed San Andreas fault line in California. Form the Hoover Dam to China Town, the extremely destructive earthquake reeks havoc in its very wake. Follow Ray (Johnson) as he and his soon-to-be-ex wife Emma (Carla Gugino) unexpectedly team up to save their daughter Blake (Alexandra Deddario) from becoming the next victim to the record-breaking earthquake. Witness the utter destruction and peril that Ray and Emma have to overcome on their way from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Banning together to survive the earthquake, Blake and brothers Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and Ollie (Art Parkinson) must get to higher ground in order to be rescued by Ray and Emma.

Like with many over-the-top disaster movies, this one really doesn’t offer that much to critique. Of course the plot could be completely picked apart–very easily–but the thing about these movies is that they are produced for pure entertainment value. The writers and director are hoping that you don’t spend too much time thinking about the sheer impossibility or unlikelihood of Ray and Emma finding the aircrafts and watercraft they do. Or, why the city of L.A. would allow one helicopter pilot to use municipal gas and a helicopter to rescue his immediate family, meanwhile, basically abandoning all other citizens to peril. You see, it doesn’t take a film critic or scholar to notice the absurd plot devices and failed logic.

That being said, this film was very entertaining to watch and follows good visual storytelling structure. You have order (very briefly), followed by disorder (most of the movie), and the circle back to order once again. Oh yeah, there is a brilliant seismologist professor and media team at Cal-Tech (California Institute of Technology) who are basically there when the director needs something else to cut to. Otherwise, that whole sub-plot could have essentially been written out. Too bad, though. That subplot of the professor and his media team could have actually been fleshed out to be an intricate part of the plot.

That’s pretty well it. This is a movie that is unapologetic in that it is fully aware of what it is: a “Michael Bay”-ish disaster sci-fi movie. I am pretty sure that the cities of L.A. and San Fran should pretty well be completely leveled after the earthquakes. The movie is released during an appropriate time because it falls after Tomorrowland and before Jurassic World. It also typifies the summer movie season because it is a great popcorn movie that most anyone will enjoy.

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