Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

kubo
Image is property of Laika and Focus Features

Kubo and the Two Strings – Film Review

Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes

Director: Travis Knight

Synopsis: After a terrible accident in his past, young Kubo sets off on an adventure to retrieve some valuable items from his past to help defeat a sinister force.

Review: Animation is such a staple of modern Western cinema, largely thanks to the work of animation powerhouses like Disney and Pixar, using computer animation to create magical and exciting adventures for all generations. Yet for animation studios like Laika and Studio Ghibli, in these cases, they use somewhat more unique methods to tell their stories. For the former, the use of stop motion animation is their party piece, and their latest film reinforces their growing reputation as an animation studio that is certainly showing its credentials with each new film they release.

Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy with a magical musical instrument who is looking after his sick mother, who warns him of the perils of being out at night, as Kubo is being hunted by some deeply sinister forces who want to take something from him. Due to these sinister forces, Kubo is sent on a mission to hunt for three valuable artefacts that will enable him to defeat those that are pursuing him. Aiding him on this quest are the appropriately named Monkey (Theron) and Beetle (McConaughey).

Original films are something of a rarity in modern cinema, and this story is a wonderful breath of fresh air, that’s mysterious, magical and exciting all rolled into one. There are elements of Ancient Japanese history without any doubt and maybe a hint of influence from Ghibli, but the screenplay, written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler is rich in detail and boasts some very compelling characters, and an adventure that packs plenty of heart and humour, not to mention some absolutely flawless animation. Kubo is our young hero and Parkinson’s work bringing him to life is so stellar that you just want to root for him and defeat those evil forces who are trying to take something from him.

Along with a compelling lead, the side characters are also extremely compelling and well developed. Monkey is certainly a “take no nonsense” kind of character but she has plenty of heart and compassion for Kubo. Likewise for Beetle, though he comes across as something of a bumbling idiot, he too certainly shows spirit and a fierce desire to aid Kubo on his mission. Likewise with Parkinson, the voice work of Theron and McConaughey is so on point that as an audience, you are on the side of these heroes, and although their voice work is equally stellar, you are most certainly not on the side of Rooney Mara’s Sisters  and neither that of the primary antagonist, Ralph Fiennes’s Moon King.

Despite being an extremely well made and beautiful film to watch, the screenplay isn’t perfect, there are a few points where the film stumbles a bit, and while his voice work is great, when casting such a brilliant actor in Fiennes, who can certainly do bad guys very well, you would hope his character is sinister and terrifying, and while he can be, certain elements of his design did leave something to be desired. Nevertheless though, Kubo is another fine string to add to Laika’s bow of really well made animated storytelling. The studio is certainly on a roll right now, and definitely one to keep an eye on in the years to come.

Beautiful detailed animation, combined with an enthralling story and tremendous characters, Kubo is an animation that will tug at the heartstrings of everyone, no matter how young or old they are.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Interstellar (2014)

interstellar
Image rights belong to Syncopy, Lynda Obst Productions, Legendary Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures

Interstellar – Film Review 

Cast:  Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis:  With planet Earth dying due to a lack of food, former engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is recruited for a mission to explore new worlds in a bid to find to find a new home world for humanity.

Review: When anyone mentions a list of the best Hollywood directors working today, names like Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese might come to mind. However, one name that will surely go down in the Hollywood Hall of Fame is Mr Christopher Nolan.The man who brought Batman back to the fore of the superhero genre, and with Interstellar, brilliant science fiction story-telling is merged with brains to give what is one of the best films of the year, and certainly one of Nolan’s best.

If you had to describe Nolan in one word, it is ambition. Inception dealt with dreams and the sub-conscious, his brilliant Dark Knight trilogy dealt with order and chaos in society, and with Interstellar, his most ambitious film to date, the premise of wormholes and the theory of relativity, inspired by the work of physicist Kip Thorne. Steven Spielberg was once attached to direct the project, but left and the project fell into the lap of the Nolan brothers.

One could argue that few directors would have the bravery to take on a film of such scope. The sheer ambition of the story might have caused other directors to back off, but not Christopher Nolan. The scale of the film on show immediately and it gets your brain thinking and working, whilst at the same time, leaving you breathless with the  thrilling cinematography that is provided throughout. The launch sequence and the journey to the new worlds, it is all riveting, on the edge of your seat entertainment. Along with the magnificent cinematography and excellent directing, frequent Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer once again weaved his magic and produced a terrific score to accompany the film. The action scenes are accompanied by sweeping music that adds a great level of intensity to what’s occurring on screen.

Many great directors pick out the perfect actors for the roles they write, and Nolan is no exception. Fresh from his Oscar success, Matthew McConaughey is on hand to lead this voyage, and he does so in great style. While his accent is hard to grasp at times, you empathise with him and his struggles with his daughter and his determination to save her and his family that are trapped on a dying Earth. Anne Hathaway also gives an excellent performance as one of the fellow astronauts on their mission. Child actresses can sometimes be hit and miss on such big blockbuster occasions. Yet on this occasion Mackenzie Foy was on stellar form as Cooper’s daughter Murph. Her emotion and connection with her father is felt, you care about her relationship with Cooper and want to see them reunited. This continues when Murph has grown up and is played equally brilliantly by Jessica Chastain. Unfortunately, Cooper’s son played by Casey Affleck is left somewhat underdeveloped, as there is no connection there with his character, in comparison to that of Murph. His son is somewhat left on the sidelines, yet the emotional bond between Murph and her father drives the film, and does so to incredible proportions.

One minor fault in that the film’s run time was maybe just a bit too long, and could have potentially wrapped up sooner. However in this world of film-making, an original film that is not a sequel, or a franchise is rare and Nolan has once again brought an incredible experience to the big screen. Brains, beauty and incredible story telling, It is almost like Gravity meets 2001: A Space Odessy . In a year that has brought us some remarkable films, Interstellar  has taken off and landed among the best films of the year, and is an out of this world addition to the remarkable filmography of Christopher Nolan.

With breath taking cinematography, wonderful acting and a powerful emotional story at its core of human courage and sacrifice. Interstellar is a cinematic event will scramble your brain cells, but at the same time, it is one that will take your breath away.

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