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Kubo and the Two Strings fills a void I didn’t realize had grown in the movie landscape until I was watching it— it’s an earnest adventure movie for all ages without a trace of camp. There’s very little winking at the audience, there are no topical references, and the celebrity voice actors even try not to sound like themselves. It is refreshingly straight-laced and serious about the mythology in a way that seems lost sometimes even among supposedly serious films. It’s easy to get lost in the wonder of the story because everything is pushing you to do exactly that. I’ve scarcely been so happy to be lost in a film.
Kubo is like a fairy tale that you forgot. It combines a litany of familiar tropes like evil elders, a bumbling but noble sidekick, and the enduring magical power of parental love and combines »
- Arthur Tebbel
Keep up with the always-hopping film festival world with our weekly Film Festival Roundup column. Check out last week’s Roundup right here.
– The Hamptons International Film Festival (Hiff) has announced some of the Signature Programs for its 24th edition. Hiff announced a selection of films that will screen as part of the returning Conflict & Resolution and Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights programs. Hiff will also launch Air, Land, & Sea, a brand new section of the festival that focuses on global issues of environmental conservation, clean water, and the integrity of our planet’s natural resources, with an ocean-centric focus.
“Our Signature Programs help to elevate the content of the festival’s programming with films that continue to provide audiences with thought provoking material,” said David Nugent, Hiff Artistic Director. “Our hope with Air, Land, and Sea is for the festival to embrace the global discussion on environmental issues, and build »
- Kate Erbland
“‘2016 is a bad year for film’ is just another way of saying ‘I really blew it when I chose what films to watch in 2016,'” producer Keith Calder recently said. Taking this statement to heart, as summer winds down, there’s no shortage of writing about how the season was a disappointment overall — but, on the contrary, there have been gems throughout the last four months, and we’ve set out to name our favorites.
All of the below films received at least one-week theatrical runs in the United States from May to August, and while some are still in theaters, many are now currently available to stream. Check out our favorites below and let us know what you most enjoyed this summer. One can also see our fall preview series, which just kicked off this week, here.
Despite a loose script that justifies little, »
- The Film Stage
Oscar-winning director-writer-producer Steve McQueen will receive the British Film Institute’s highest accolade, the BFI Fellowship, at the BFI London Film Festival’s awards ceremony Oct. 15 at London’s Banqueting House.
Josh Berger, chair of the BFI, said: “He is one of the most influential and important British artists of the past 25 years and his work, both short- and long-form, has consistently explored the endurance of humanity — even when it is confronted by inhumane cruelty — with a poetry and visual style that he has made his own.”
McQueen commented: “I first walked into the BFI library and cinema 28 years ago. To think that I will now be a fellow and honorary member, with such a distinguished list of people, is mind-blowing. I’m humbly honored.”
The BFI Fellowship is being awarded to McQueen “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture,” showcased in his range of artworks and three multi-award-winning features, »
- Leo Barraclough
Brick by brick, Warner Bros. is quietly constructing its universe of animated Lego movies. It’s a vision that can be traced back to the barnstorming success of Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s surprise hit, which amassed an eye-watering $469 million back in 2014.
That’s teed up a Ninjago spinoff and bona fide sequel to be released across 2017 and 2018, respectively, but not before Will Arnett’s irreverent Caped Crusader gets his time in the spotlight with February’s The Lego Batman Movie.
Hailing from Chris McKay, who served as animation supervisor on The Lego Movie two years ago, the director spoke with Empire recently regarding the upcoming offshoot, where he promised fans that Arnett’s solo outing will fully embrace the outlandish nature of the World’s Greatest Detective: “Just the idea of Batman is absurd. A guy who learns karate and dresses up at night to beat people up is ridiculous, »
- Michael Briers
Every week, the CriticWire Survey asks a select handful of film and TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday morning. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: What was the best film of summer 2016?
Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse), Rolling Stone
Gosh, where to start! It’s been a banner summer if, like me, you enjoy submerging yourself in vast unending ocean of incomprehensible bullshit at the movies. There was “Suicide Squad,” which is to plot structure what the Elephant Man is to facial bone structure. Loved me some “X-Men: Apocalypse,” an epic battle between an uncomfortable-looking ensemble of interesting-to-talented actors and a script intent on turning them all into cardboard cutouts. “The Shallows” was fun in the way that completing the maze on the back of a cereal box is fun, »
- David Ehrlich
Chicago – In our short lives, what do we most need? It’s a hard question to answer sometimes, but the new animated film “Kubo and the Two Strings” does a memorable job of answering the query. The journey of Kubo, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” leads to a place where he needs to go.
I don’t want to compare “Kubo” to anything else, although it was done by the same animation house (Laika Entertainment) that gave us “Coraline,” “ParaNorman” and “The Boxtrolls,” and succeeds by having a simple story akin to “Finding Dory.” But where it excels beyond all those examples is in a cumulative glory – it uses the simplicity of origami, Kabuki theater, the Samurai tradition and Japanese prints to establish a atmosphere that is sometimes stunning in its grace. While the character Kubo does have a typical good versus evil conundrum, the use of »
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
With Kubo and the Two Strings, the CEO & President of Laika, Travis Knight, makes his feature directorial debut. Knight’s 3D stop-motion / CG hybrid follows a brave young hero named Kubo (Art Parkinson), as he goes on an epic quest to retrieve what’s needed to defeat Raiden the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes). Along for the samurai’s emotional […]
- Jack Giroux
Stop-motion animation studio Laika seems poised to have another critical hit on their hands with this week’s new opener “Kubo and the Two Strings,” but the vividly imagined fantasy has picked up some criticism in regards its casting. The film is set in ancient Japan, yet it features a voice cast that is dominated by Caucasian actors, from Art Parkinson as the eponymous Kubo to Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey as two of his unlikely animal pals. Other cast members include Ralph Fiennes and Rooney Mara, with smaller parts filled by George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.
When asked about his potentially controversial casting by The Wrap, Laika president and first-time director Travis Knight, spoke candidly on the subject.
Read More: Review: ‘Kubo And The Two Strings’ Is A Stop-Motion Masterpiece
“I think people can take issue with any number of choices that we make,” Knight told the outlet. “I »
- Kate Erbland
With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit the interwebs. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.
The most fascinating part of Steve Hoover‘s latest documentary Almost Holy is how its subject Gennadiy Mokhnenko parallels the life of well-known Russian cartoon Krokodil Gena. The latter deals with a lonely crocodile zoo worker named Gena and his friend Cheburashka: a young, abandoned creature rejected by the establishment employing him. The two therefore construct a home for the lonely as »
- The Film Stage
While I think all animation is a magic trick that remains just as impressive now as the first time I saw it as a child, there are certainly levels of difficulty, and stop-motion animation is a special kind of lunacy. I’ve visited enough stop-motion sets to be awed by the skill set it requires for someone to effectively bring a character to life using such a difficult and painstaking method. It is sincerely meant then as praise when I say that I can’t imagine the single-minded pursuit of vision it took to bring Kubo and the Two Strings to life, and Travis Knight is, indeed, a madman. Travis Knight is, like Megan Ellison, a rich kid doing something profoundly interesting with the position of privilege they found themselves in. Ellison has fascinating taste as a producer, and she’s become a sort of life raft for filmmakers who »
- Drew McWeeny
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. Recently, I got the chance to sit down with stars Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey, along with director Travis Knight, who also happens to be the President and CEO of Laika. Check out some of the highlights below!
- Melissa Howland
Chicago – One of the great benefits of the new Golden Age of Animation has been the emergence of other studios…like Laika Entertainment, which has released “Coraline,” “ParaNorman” and “The Boxtrolls,” all nominated for Oscars. Travis Knight directs their latest stop-motion style animated film, “Kubo and the Two Strings.”
“Kubo” is rooted in Japanese samurai myth, but is a wholly new story. A baby loses an eye in a great battle, but his mother manages to save him. In exile, the two live near the ocean, and the baby grows to the boy Kubo, who supports his mother by going into the village with a magical string instrument. With it, he is able to conjure stories that use the style and look of paper folding origami. His magic is drawing attention, from both good and evil sorcery. Kubo ends up in a journey with a Monkey (voiced by Charlize Theron »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Adam Fendelman)
“Kubo and the Two Strings” is being hailed by critics as a “masterpiece” and “the best animated film of the summer, and perhaps of the year.” Scoring 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, critics are noting the beautiful animation and filmmaking techniques as well as the voice work of actors like Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara and Matthew McConaughey. “As with any well-worn myth, what matters is not the tale but the telling, and it’s there that ‘Kubo’ outshines virtually everything that the major studios have put into multiplexes this year,” wrote TheWrap’s film critic Sam Adams. “Every frame of Laika’s. »
- Beatrice Verhoeven
Although “Kubo and the Two Strings” marks Matthew McConaughey‘s first animated film, the actor admitted that his interest in voice acting preceded his involvement in Laika’s latest stop-motion fantasy.
“I’d been looking for a voice acting role for years. When this came along — it’s a quality production, Laika’s quality, the story’s good — I was in,” McConaughey told Variety at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. “I haven’t made many films lately, in the last 15 years, that are children-friendly so it was nice to make something that [my kids] can go to.”
The Oscar-winning actor plays a light-hearted human-turned-insect in the fantasy epic, which follows a young Japanese storyteller’s mystical quest to defeat evil and protect his family’s legacy. Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, and George Takei also lend their voices to the film, which marks Laika CEO Travis Knight‘s directorial debut. »
- Alyssa Sage
In animated feature “Kubo and the Two Strings,” a young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past. The film, directed by Travis Knight, boast a starry voice cast including Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey, and Rooney Mara. Thanks to critics’ raves, the family film has been building buzz ahead of its August 19th release.
Here’s what they’re saying:
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich gave the movie an A-grade and called it a “stop-motion masterpiece… Kubo” is “staggeringly beautiful and immensely true, the best animated film of 2016 — one of the year’s best films of any kind, really — is a stop-motion fable about a one-eyed boy in mythical Japan that was made by a team of gifted visionaries in an Oregon warehouse.”
Read More: Review: ‘Kubo And The Two Strings »
- Liz Calvario
One of cinema’s first great visionaries was George Méliès, a French magician who, where others saw a passing fad, realized the movie camera’s potential to whisk viewers away to an almost infinite range of wondrous places, from Earth’s uncharted jungles all the way to the moon. George Méliès would have loved “Kubo and the Two Strings.” Set in a fantastical ancient Japan and directed by Travis Knight, “Kubo” follows the titular young boy (voiced by Art Parkinson) on a quest to procure the enchanted armor that is his only protection against the evil Moon King (Ralph Fiennes). It’s a story. »
- Sam Adams
While there’s a distinct novelty to all of their work — whether it’s based on books by Neil Gaiman or Alan Snow — Laika have returned to genuinely original material with their fourth animation. This time around, the company’s CEO and lead animator on their first trio of films, Travis Knight, makes his directorial debut with Kubo and the Two Strings. Steeped in the mythology and fables of Japanese history, it’s another fantastical adventure from the studio with innovation and awe at every turn, despite a story that could benefit from having more specificity and focus.
The tale centers on Kubo (Art Parkinson), a young boy tending to his ailing mother and living near an ancient Japanese village. As the opening scene shows us, she wields magical powers that depleted in a fight and were partially transferred to her son. Years later, he spends his days earning attention »
- Jordan Raup
In “Kubo and the Two Strings,” a brave, one-eyed Japanese boy is faced with divergent paths to immortality: Either he can surrender his remaining eye to his supernatural grandfather, the greedy Moon King, in exchange for eternal life, or he can stand up to the magical old-timer in a manner so courageous that his story will become the stuff of legend, never to be forgotten.
Kubo, who hides his eye patch behind long black bangs, chooses the latter option, of course, which makes perfect sense for the hero of the latest stop-motion marvel from Laika, the formula-averse animation studio responsible for such breathtakingly detailed movies as “Coraline” and “ParaNorman.” Expanding upon the charms of those director-driven projects, “Kubo” offers another ominous mission for a lucky young misfit, this one a dark, yet thrilling adventure quest that stands as the crowning achievement in Laika’s already impressive oeuvre — though its Asian setting, »
- Peter Debruge
Kubo and the Two Strings is a stunningly gorgeous film, both in its touching tale and in its visual grandeur. The film is an action adventure, a samurai epic — a story that requires an ambitious scale rarely, if ever, achieved in stop-motion. It’s got sword fights and treacherous journeys across stormy seas and and all sorts of monsters. Kubo is “not the kind of story you typically see being told in our medium, in stop motion, and there’s a reason for it, because it’s really hard,” director Travis Knight told reporters during a visit to the Kubo set in June. The film ultimately achieved that epic scale by marrying both stop-motion and digital animation methods, as Oregon-based studio Laika has done on all its films since Coraline, its first feature. On both the handcrafted stop-motion side and the digital side, there’s an impressive amount of attention to detail. »
- Emily Rome
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