Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Video review: "Kubo and the Two Strings"

“Kubo and the Two Strings” is my favorite animated film of 2016 so far, but it didn’t fare very well at the box office. I think people may have seen a story set in medieval Japan and dismissed it as anime. (Which in of itself is a terrible reason to avoid a movie.) So I’m genuinely hoping people will check it out on video, so more flicks like “Kubo” will be made.

Art Parkinson provides the voice of Kubo, a boy filled with loneliness and magic. With only one eye and a banjo, he trudges into town every day to spin his fantastic tales for the villagers, complete with sheets of paper that come to life, then returns to his seaside cave to care for his mother. A sorceress who fought a terrible long-ago battle with her own family, she’s nearly catatonic – but still has some magic up her sleeve

Later, Kubo is banished to the distant Farlands, placed on a quest to gather three mystic pieces of armor in order to take on the evil Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) – who happens to be his own grandfather. His aunts, known as the Sisters (Rooney Mara), are fearsome witches on the hunt.

Kubo’s only companions are Monkey (Charlize Theron), a protective charm brought to life as be his guardian, and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), a cursed former samurai trapped in the body of a bug.

The stop-motion animation is just astonishing, with a battle with a giant skeleton standing out especially. The depictions of ocean waves and crackling magic are astonishingly life-like.

Director Travis Knight and screenwriters Chris Butler and Marc Haimes continue the fine tradition of stop-motion animation – “Coraline,” “The Boxtrolls,” “The Night Before Christmas” – that’s seen a terrific run the last couple of decades.

Go see/rent/buy “Kubo and the Two Strings,” and let’s keep this ball rolling.

Bonus features are quite good, including a feature-length commentary track with Knight. The Blu-ray and DVD editions also come with three making-of documentaries, focusing the Japanese inspiration for the story, varied landscapes and the mythology behind Kubo.

Upgrade to the 3D combo pack and you add five more featurettes, including ones on monsters and music.



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