Category Archives: Animated

“Coco” Movie Review

This is just what I needed right before stuffing myself with with turkey at a table full of relatives who I only see a couple times a year. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family to death, but come on… it’s Pixar. This computer-animated fantasy musical premiered in Mexico on October 20th, 2017. Following its stateside release on November 22nd, it has grossed over $62 million, becoming the most successful film of all time in that country. Directed by Toy Story 3‘s Lee Unkrich, the story was supposedly developed over the course of several years of research. This included writers taking extensive field trips down to Mexico and taking notes from the entirely Hispanic cast. The PG-rated story follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel, whose passion for music is marred by his family’s generations old ban on it. Following a chain of events, Miguel finds that he has accidentally placed himself in the Land of the Dead. After a very unconventional family reunion, Miguel must travel across the underworld with the assistance of a hermit named Hector to find his musical idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, and return to the Land of the Living before the end of Dia de Los Muertos. It should be no surprise at this point that I’m a huge fan of Pixar Animation Studios, having produced a string of classics within a span of 15 years. And while they did stumble with the Cars franchise, they have created too many masterpieces to simply walk into a cinema with low expectations. And so I was very curious to see how they would tackle a subject like the Day of the Dead, the first time they focused on an ethnic holiday. Having seen the movie, (And suffered through an overlong Frozen short for it) I left with a big smile on my face. It’s clear that Unkrich and his co-director Adrian Molina did a lot of meticulous research for the project. I’m familiar with only a little bit of Mexican culture, but I am aware of some of the practices for Dia de Los Muertos. But the only way that the screenwriters could have done justice is if they took extensive field trips and consulted heritage experts such as Octavio Solis, who ultimately received a writing credit. And I can also tell you this movie is a leap ahead of 2014’s The Book of Life, another animated film dealing with this subject. There were concerns that this film would be too similar to that one. Not only did Coco begin pre-production before The Book of Life, it also highlights everything that the latter was missing. The respect for the Mexican culture extends to its cast, comprised almost entirely of Latin-American actors. Anthony Gonzalez may be young, but he imbues Miguel with all the naivete and wonder a child could ever possess. He represents the youth that so stubbornly believes that some family traditions are not worth keeping, a sad thing reflected in reality. By his side, Gael Garcia Bernal is excellent as Hector. His rickety movement and adventurous tone make him fun to watch. But underneath the ragged clothes and charisma lies a layered spirit fearful of being forgotten. Benjamin Bratt doesn’t appear for a large portion of the picture, but his performance as Ernesto de la Cruz is noteworthy. Without giving away much, his personality was an interesting one, seemingly bogged down by celebrity and the need to be remembered. The rest of the cast, including Renee Victor, Alanna Ulbach, Alfonso Arau, Selene Luna, Dyanna Ortelli, and Herbert Siguenza, do their parts well and contribute something interesting to the overall package. And it might seem a little cliche to say at this point with Pixar, but this movie is just absolutely gorgeous. The level of detail found in the background is astonishing, with one shot containing at least 8 and a half million lights. In particular, the film uses the colors red and orange to a great advantage, differentiating the various landscapes with a certain panache. Apparently, the skeleton characters had to be animated separately from the human ones since their bodily structure was drastically different. And that difference is seen in how the two groups move around differently. But those details really can’t be stressed enough. Every frame of the film looks as though a real photo was taken and animated characters were added over it. It’s that realistic. But it’s still imaginative in the vein of previous Pixar films. The musical score by Michael Giacchino affirms my statement about him being one of the best film composers of his generation. Beginning with a Mariachi variation on the Disney logo and containing little bits of guitar and piano throughout, it’s some beautiful stuff. It’s not his best score, but he does make the most of it. The soundtrack also has some a selection of original songs from Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the same duo behind Frozen. Of particular notion is the lullaby “Remember Me,” which perfectly encapsulates the film’s celebration of family and memory. Some other tunes are lesser in comparison, but can still admittedly initiate those man tears. And yes, this one knows exactly how to pull your heartstrings in a wholesome and natural way. It deals with some surprisingly dark themes like death and the danger of legacy. But that’s not what makes it so emotional. Rather, it’s the filmmakers’ examination of how infinitely life and death are interconnected that’s just so beautiful. The last 10 minutes of the film are particularly powerful as everything comes to a head and everything starts to make sense. I looked around in the theater and there was not a dry eye in the house. If for nothing else, kids will learn how to process death. I’d be willing to entertain arguments that this isn’t the studio’s best. It does follow familiar story beats pretty predictably. But Coco is a beautiful and respectful examination of the afterlife through another culture’s eyes. As soon as you’ve recovered from that Thanksgiving food coma, go out and head to the theater for this one. Pixar has done it again.

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“Beauty and the Beast” Movie Review

It’s a tale as old as time with songs as old as rhyme. Meaning this is probably not the last interpretation of the story we’re getting in the next century or so. This is just a warmup. The latest live-action Disney remake, this romantic musical fantasy was released around the world on March 17th, 2017, going on to gross over $1.2 billion at the box office. It likely would have made more had it not been for a certain controversy that we’ll discuss in a little bit. Initially, the studio had planned an adaptation of the Broadway musical from 1994, which never made it past development hell. However, in the wake of other successful remakes such as Cinderella and The Jungle Book, a plan was put together. Twilight: Breaking Dawn director Bill Condon signed on and the whole cast was announced, making this dream become a reality. Emma Watson stars as Belle, a beautiful young woman who is ridiculed in her small French village for reading. After rejecting the egotistical hunter Gaston, she discovers that her father has been captured in a decrepit castle, hosted by a mysterious Beast. She offers to take her father’s place and begins a strange and unexpected relationship with the Beast. The word that has been tossed around the most in regards to this movie is “unnecessary.” An unnecessary remake, an unnecessary movie, an unnecessary cash grab by Disney. I don’t entirely disagree with this sentiment, as it is extremely (almost detrimentally) faithful to the 1991 animation classic. But last year’s remake of The Magnificent Seven wasn’t really necessary, and yet I still really enjoyed that one. And it’s the same case here. Did Disney have to do a live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast? Absolutely not. But even so, Bill Condon did a fine job of reimagining this timeless story for a new generation. Like I said, this movie caused some pre-release controversy, but not because of its existence. It was because LeFou, Gaston’s plump sidekick played wonderfully by Josh Gad, was revealed to be gay. This was a landmark for Disney as their first homosexual character, but caused quite a stir in certain countries and theaters. The film was banned in Kuwait and Malaysia, was refused by a theater in Alabama, and received a very strict rating in Russia. Here was my reaction to the revelation: How could we have ever assumed that LeFou was straight in the animation? His mere behavior and the “gay moment” talked about by many pundits were very natural to the story. Emma Watson plays Belle very nicely but is nothing worth putting in the record books as an all-time great performance. Her beauty matches her character (whose name literally translates in French as “beautiful”) and her compassion is very much present. Dan Stevens, who has proven himself in the excellent thriller The Guest and Marvel’s Legion, is especially good as the Beast. He gives off a charm and wit that seemed missing the first time around. The supporting cast is filled out by a mass of big names, some of whom sing better than others. Kevin Kline plays Belle’s eccentric father, Ewan McGregor is delightful as a dancing candlelight Luminere, Sir Ian McKellen sounds Gandalf as the clock Cogsworth, Emma Thompson is warm as the teapot Mrs. Pots, while Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack, and Audra McDonald play the rest of the lively house utensils. But the obvious show-stealer here is Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome and cocky villain of the town. Seemingly born to play the role, he is so delightful and fun to watch, despite his character’s despicable nature. He absolutely looks like he is having the time of his life playing this guy up, and that energy really seeps off the screen. Whenever he was singing or riling the villagers up, I wanted to get up and dance with him at his side. Meanwhile, on the technical side of things, Disney spared not a dime of its $160 million budget. Beautiful, wide shots of the setting by Tobias A. Schliessler give it this certain feeling of being whimsical, as the story should be. It also brings out the amazing use of bright colors in otherwise drab-looking environments. Costume and production design is also gorgeous. Even when some of the CGI for the Beast or his servants isn’t very convincing, the sets and clothes of our characters are a joy to look at. The famous dance scene between Belle and the Beast was recreated to perfection here, and the design of her dress and his suit made it even more appealing to see. Alan Menken returns to compose the musical score not just for this movie but for his 11th collaboration with the studio. Virtually all of the songs from the original are present, but a few new ones have been added. Of particular note is the number “Evermore” sung by Stevens. I felt it added more depth to the Beast’s feelings for Belle and his struggles with accepting those in his hollow life. It’s possibly a contender for Best Original Song this February. Aside from that, most of the new songs are kind of flat. Even though it ultimately falls too far back on the original film, Beauty and the Beast is a lovely adventure for all ages to appreciate. Its lessons are conveyed the only way a Disney film can do it, with great characters and music to boot. If you just want a movie to watch with your whole family on a night in that’s relatively lightweight, it’s available on Netflix right now. Give it a chance.

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“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” Movie Review

I write this review with the full knowledge that not many of my readers will actually care about Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. I can live with that. This 3D computer-animated family comedy was released on June 2nd, 2017, where it grossed over $77 million against a $38 million budget. This makes this film the lowest budget animation from Dreamworks in the studio’s history. It also marks the second directorial effort of animator David Soren. Based on the long-running and recently-ended series of children’s novels by Dav Pilkey, best friends George and Harold, voiced by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch, are a pair of prankster elementary school students who love writing comic books and stories. One day, they accidentally hypnotize their mean-spirited principal Mr. Krupp, voiced by Ed Helms. They then convince him that he is Captain Underpants, the hero of their comic books, and things don’t quite go as expected for them. I remember reading some of the books in this series when I was younger and enjoying them. I wasn’t immensely impressed, but it was still fun reading. And when I heard that they were adapting it into an 89-minute feature film, my reaction was something of passable trepidation. But then, I saw on Rotten Tomatoes (A website that isn’t always accurate) the film got moderately positive reviews, and so I actually spent $11 to see this in my nearby theater. And I walked out feeling the same way as I did with the books: not particularly impressed, but still rather pleased and entertained. Kevin Hart continues his streak of family-friendly animation from last year’s The Secret Life of Pets here, which is actually surprising considering how adult-oriented his stand-up routines usually are. He and Thomas Middleditch share some nice chemistry, as their youthful voices sell the ideas that these two have been best friends since the 5th grade. Some of the pranks they pulled had me in stitches, while others felt like they were trying a bit too hard. Ed Helms more or less plays an animated version of his character Andy Bernard from The Office, as both Captian Underpants and Principal Krupp are total idiots. Thankfully, he’s able to switch between the two of them relatively easily. One’s an angry but misunderstood school supervisor, the other’s a fictional superhero who introduces himself by singing, “Tra-la-laaa!!” In the world where superheroes have brooding catchphrases like “I’m Batman” or “In brightest day, in blackest night,” it is nice to listen to something a little more lighthearted. Nick Kroll and Jordan Peele both voice the respective bad guys in the film, albeit very different ones. Peele voices the arch-nemesis of George and Harold, a child prodigy obsessed with grades. Kroll shines as a German, humor-hating science professor with a very embarrassing last name. Both are good and play fair to the stereotypes they’re with. That being said, the sense of humor found in Captain Underpants is very juvenile. Similar to the source material, several of the jokes are specifically centered around toilets and farting kids. But the main characters frequently break the fourth wall to address this to the audience, adding a great feeling of self-awareness to the overall package. Potty humor is the lowest form of wit on this Earth, and they’ll either fully embrace it or poke fun at it. Occasionally they do both at the same time. In fact, the final act of the rather short 89-minute picture is centered around the idea that the antagonist is trying to rid the world of humor and laughter from children. The way he does it? A scanning laser from atop a massively enlargened, toxic toilet. Obviously, this isn’t going to be competing with any of Pixar Animation’s finest achievements over the years in terms of visual storytelling. But when it comes to the visuals alone, Captain Underpants is pretty damn impressive. The character models are shaped and animated just as they were in the books, faithful in at least its visual adaptation. All of the animation, in general, is smooth and crisp at 24 frames-per-second. Similar to 2015’s The Peanuts Movie, the creators managed to inventively bring a two-dimensional cartoon strip series into glorious 3D computer animation with imaginative flair. So if for nothing else, give them props for that. Ultimately, though, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie doesn’t do quite enough to completely justify its cinematic existence. The humor is mostly low-brow, the voice acting is good but not award-worthy, and the storyline is as predictable as a kids movie can get. But the still gets in some good laughs in amidst nice animation. It’s great that it remains aware of what it is. If it tried to have some sort of higher meaning then it would just be too awkward. But thankfully, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a fittingly absurd round of family-friendly fun that never really impresses.

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“The Lego Batman Movie” Movie Review

There is a common belief in the world of cinema that if you put Batman into anything, then it’s bound to be good. That is a completely correct statement, and movies like this are why. This animated superhero action-comedy was released on February 10th, 2017, grossing over $90 million in the first weekend alone. With the unexpected success of 2014’s The Lego Movie, Waner Bros. quickly announced its plans for an expanded franchise of films set in this buildable universe, including The Lego Ninjago Movie, which is set for a release in September. Set 3 years after the adventures of Emmet Brickowsky wrapped up, the titular hero returns to Gotham City. After their latest battle against one another, his greatest enemy The Joker is heartbroken when he realizes that Batman doesn’t think much of him- or anyone, for that matter. So he formulates a plan to take the Dark Knight, and his sidekick Robin the Boy Wonder, down in a blaze of glory. When I first saw the trailer for The Lego Batman Movie, I didn’t know what to think of it, primarily because spin-offs that focus on supporting characters have had a bad track record.. However, that fear was completely gone during the first 5-10 minutes of this movie, when I couldn’t breathe because I was laughing so hard. It set the tone for the rest of the movie, and for the remainder of its 104 minute-long runtime, it’s line after line and quip after quip of Batman spoof comedy. I’m telling you, it was exhausting. Though it does take a slight dip about halfway through, finally giving audience members time to catch a breath. It’s at that point when we start to see the family dynamic flourish, which really works for the title character’s nature. And in the lead role, Will Arnett is brilliant and hilarious in his voice role. Mimicking the rough, throat cancer-laden voice of Christian Bale from the Dark Knight trilogy, this is perhaps my second favorite on-screen portrayal of the character. Let’s be honest: There was a point where Batman could not be taken seriously anymore. *cough Save Martha cough cough* And considering the extensive lore from both the comic books and movies, there’s a lot of material to draw from and parody regarding this character. Opposite him, Zach Galifianakis brings his awkward nature to The Joker. He’s not up in the annals with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, but he is a perfect villain for what they were going for. It’s just so fun to watch him unfold his master plan, regardless of what media he’s in, and The Lego Batman Movie is no exception. He takes the help from a multitude of villains from the Batman rogues gallery. From Harvey Two-Face and Bane to Z-List villains like The Condiment Man and Mr. Pokadot, (Who, to my everlasting shame, do actually exist) chances are every Batman bad guy you can imagine is here. In the supporting cast, all the actors and actresses seem to indulge themselves in their roles. Ralph Fiennes as a wise, loyal and somewhat sarcastic butler father figure in Alfred Pennyworth, Michael Cerra reunites with his Arrested Development co-star as orphan Robin/Dick Grayson, Rosario Dawson is the strong-willed Barabara Gordon, Channing Tatum as Kryptonian goody two-shoes Superman, and Jonah Hill as the impeccably dumb guardian Green Lantern/Hal Jordan. Even without a microphone, there are still probably a dozen cameos in this film. Not just limited other DC properties like the Justice League, The Lego Batman Movie incorporates characters from all sorts of different media franchises, mostly those owned or distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. This includes Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Godzilla, and The Matrix references any fan is sure to have a field day watching. So seeing Batman and Robin throw down with multiple clones of Agent Smith while the Eye of Sauron tracks their every move is one of many scenes that is impossible not to smile at. I have to give the studio credit because it just feels like something special when they can be willing to let filmmakers make fun of their franchises, especially with all the rewrites, reshoots, and other things we’re dealing with in the DC Extended Universe. Although I probably won’t be clamoring to Best Buy to purchase the soundtrack, Lorne Balfe’s musical score is exciting and matches perfectly for the action sequences. Like The Lego Movie, the soundtrack also contains at least one original song that will keep infecting your brain and keep your foot tapping fo a while. They’re not as political as “Everything is Awesome,” but they’re definitely memorable. Overall, while it may not be as surprising or ambitious as the original, The Lego Batman Movie is still a wicked-fast and hilarious superhero romp that the genre needed like last year’s Deadpool. Like it’s predecessor, it’s beautiful and original style of computer animation, matched with a top-notch voice cast and awesome action, make it a family-friendly blockbuster adventure for all ages- something that seems too rare these days. The fact that this had a stronger opening than Fifty Shades Darker restores my faith in humanity just a little bit.

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Retrospective: Best Films of 2016

The year has drawn to a close, and there were lots of movies to see. 2016 was perhaps the most divisive and unique year so far this decade, in terms of cinema. To select the singular best movie of the year is no easy task for a reviewer such as myself. I could have easily made a list of the Top 20 or Top 15 movies of 2016, but in the end, I had to cut it down to just 10 feature films. As I always remind my Followers, only films I actually did see this year are in the running. There were probably at least 20 movies I wanted to see that came out, but this is what I have. So here’s a list of honorable mentions of films I really wanted to see this year, or just didn’t quite make the final cut. Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Movies of 2016.

Honorable Mentions:

Hacksaw Ridge, Doctor Strange, Moonlight, Hidden Figures, The Jungle Book, Lion, Captain America: Civil War, The Edge of Seventeen, Moana, Zootopia, Finding Dory, Fences, Manchester by the Sea, Nocturnal Animals, Paterson, Green Room, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Sing Street, The Witch, The Conjuring 2, Lights Out, Don’t Breathe, Sausage Party, Star Trek Beyond 

10. “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Thought that Disney would get a spot on this list? Well, they’ll have their obligatory place soon enough, but no animation was quite as incredible as this Laika production. Beautiful animation mixed with a bravely original and melancholy story bring this to new heights. Not only that, but the world-building brilliantly establishes a mountain’s worth of rich lore to get invested in. Plus, Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron’s voice performances add a sense of sincerity and humanity to animals. That says something.

9. “10 Cloverfield Lane”

My goodness, wasn’t this an intense film? Dan Trachtenberg’s directorial debut stayed completely secret and unknown until just 2 months before release. May Elizabeth Winestead shines as the beautiful, yet determined and intelligent protagonist. But John Goodman totally steals the show from right under her, as he’s the one thing scarier than anything outside the bunker. Though it virtually has nothing to do with the original Cloverfield, the story and characters will keep you up at night for a few days afterward. Proof that excellent movies can indeed take place in one place for 2 hours.

8. “Jackie”

A fascinating portrait of one of the 20th century’s most scrutinized figures, Jackie serves as a brilliant reminder of the short yet memorable term of JFK. The first of 2 movies on this list that almost made me cry, at the forefront is Natalie Portman’s powerful performance as the titular First Lady. And given the recent happenings in the United States, this story seems very timely. A strong tour-de-force for acting, this is a heartbreaking biopic worth watching at least once.

7. “Hell or High Water”

One of the more overlooked films of the year, Hell or High Water concerns the dilemma of 2 brothers who begin robbing a string of banks and the Texas Ranger hot on their trail. The original screenplay flows along with complete confidence in the pacing of director David Mackenzie. While the 2 brothers are fabulous in their roles, it’s Jeff Bridges’ scene-stealing turn as the Ranger that makes this story so satisfying to watch. Hell or High Water is truly a neo-Western in every sense of the word.

6. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

No “Best of the Year” list would be complete without an entry in the Star Wars franchise. The first entry in the newly planned Anthology series, Rogue One concerns a group of Rebels who have to steal valuable information in order to defeat the Galactic Empire. Aside, from the great performances and stunning visual effects from ILM, this movie also helped clear up one of the biggest plot holes from the original Star Wars movie in 1977. A rare spin-off that stands on its own while tying previous elements together.

5. “Silence”

This has to be Martin Scorsese’s best film he’s made since Goodfellas, 26 years ago. A passion project that took decades to get off the ground, Silence follows a group of Jesuit priests who go to 17th century Japan to save their disgraced mentor. While some people may find this film frustrating and unsatisfying, the themes of holding onto your beliefs and what truly constitutes faith can resonate with damn near anyone. A beautifully filmed and acted movie, Silence may fly under your radar, but at least give it a shot.

4. “Deadpool”

We moviegoers had a bevy of comic book superhero movies to salivate over in 2016. But none of them made me laugh my ass off harder than Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds was born to play a foul-mouthed, sex-obsessed costumed crime-fighter, in a role that completely washes the bad taste from Green Lantern and Xmen Origins: Wolverine from our mouths as early as the opening credits. It may not be one to watch with your children, but damn if it isn’t so fun and hilarious.

3. “The Nice Guys”

Writer-director proves to us that buddy-action comedy mysteries are far from dead with The Nice Guys. Lost in the superhero shuffle of mid-May, this sharply written story about an enforcer and a private investigator is deliciously funny and intriguing. The two leads, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, are endlessly watchable in their banter and interactions. It’s a bummer not many people saw this picture, but that just adds even more reason as to why you should watch it.

2. “La La Land”

The most important thing we take away from this movie? Musicals can still be made in this day and age. Damien Chazelle channels his passion for jazz and classic Gene Kelly productions with La La Land. Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as 2 aspiring stars in modern-day Los Angeles, every musical number is catchy and keeps your foot tapping throughout. The gorgeous costumes and seamless cinematography help pull together La La Land into a heartwarming story about following your dreams, no matter what. A colorful, poignant masterpiece paying tribute to a bygone genre.

1. “Arrival”

After well-deserved acclaim for Prisoners and Sicario, Denis Villeneuve rounds out this list with a breathtaking piece of science-fiction. After UFOs land on Earth, a linguist played by Amy Adams is recruited to communicate with the aliens. Not only is it a showcase of beautiful visual effects and haunting performances, but what truly sets Arrival apart from other counterparts is the concept of how language is so important to human culture. There are many layered metaphors that are best seen in the theater. Heavy on speculative ideas, and a poetic “what-if” story, Arrival is not only the best movie of the year, but also arguably one of the best movies of the decade so far.

Do you agree with my list? What was your favorite movie of 2016? Be sure to let me know in the Comments, and be sure to Like this Post and Follow my blog for interesting content like you see here.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” Movie Review

Alright, here are the facts: I have been very busy as the school year started up again. And in the last few weeks, I have seen three movies in theaters. So now, I owe you three reviews, starting with this surprising one. This 3-D stop-motion fantasy adventure debuted on August 19th, 2016, grossing just under $42 million at the international box office. A directorial debut from Travis Knight, this is the fourth feature-length stop-motion picture from Laika Entertainment. What’s it about? That’s actually kind of tough. In a spoiler-free, long-story-short version, it centers on a kid named Kubo who lost his left eye at a very young age. After his tragic past catches up to him, he must now go on a quest to find a set of impenetrable armor to protect and arm himself against those who would wish to manipulate him for evil purposes. Along the way, he is accompanied by two anthropomorphic animal companions: Monkey and Beetle. Now we have ourselves arguably the closest thing we will ever get to a good Legend of Zelda movie. I was admittedly hesitant about this film. The marketing material didn’t particularly grab me, and I’m always weary of stop-motion animation. The best one to date was Fantastic Mr. Fox. A Wes Anderson comedy in the form of talking animals? That was rad. Luckily, Kubo and the Two Strings is pretty cool. Let’s get started with the voice cast. Game of Thrones alumni Art Parkinson owns the title role. He’s relatable, fun-loving, and almost always puts others before himself. It’s interesting to see him go from this timid, quiet storyteller in his village to a heroic adventurer. Furthermore, you get to witness more and more of his powers and abilities over the course of the plot. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you. What kind of blog do you think this is? Charlize Theron shines as Monkey, who is a complete badass on this quest. At least three separate times during their adventure, I witnessed her going into action to defend the members of her party. It took me a little while to figure it out, but the character Beetle was voiced by Mathew McConaughey. I couldn’t detect a trace of his Southern twang or hear him say, “Alright, Alright, Alright.” Doesn’t matter though, because he killed it as well, delivering his lines with natural fluidity and comedic timing. I also love how the screenwriters, Marc Haimes and Chris Butler, were able to inject so much mythology into a 102-minute long feature film. Obviously influenced by East Asian culture and legends, it’s very interesting to watch all of the lore and backstory of the world unfold on-screen. The bummer is that I don’t think that it shows enough. I really want to see more of the mythology in a possible franchise. Let’s take a brief moment to talk about the villains that Kubo and Company have to face. I says villains because there are really two main antagonists presented. They had some menace and mystique surrounding them, but over all I didn’t find them very compelling. However, the voice performances, by Rooney Mara and Ralph Fiennes, respectively, were very captivating to listen to. The musical score by Dario Marianelli was an even more captivating joy to the ears. Primarily consisting of Chinese Sitars, violins, and other major string instruments, the score perfectly reflects emotional sadness in one instant and then a grand adventure in the next one. During the credits, there’s even a cover of the Beatles’ famous song, While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Lastly, the animation is gorgeous. The blending of stop-motion and computer-generated effects is both seamless and beautiful. The use of stop-motion allows for a certain physicality of the characters, while the CG gives the world and magic a lot of room to flourish. Kubo and The Two Strings surprised me this fall. Great animations, fun action, and a decidedly melancholy story elevate this Laika production to one of the best animated pictures of the year. Why I didn’t see this movie and review it much earlier, I will never ever know.

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“Sausage Party” Movie Review

CG-animation, the cast of This is The End, and sexual jokes. Gotta admit: you’re a bit intrigued. This computer-animated comedy was released on August 12th,  2016, raking in $46 million against a $19 million budget. This film has had a tumultuous pre-production, with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg trying to sell the spec script to different studios for over 10 years. But now it’s here in theaters, awaiting my objective response. The story follows the various food products in a supermarket who believe that getting chosen by human shoppers is like the Gods bringing them into heaven. The main character, a hot dog sausage named Frank, decides to go on a quest to uncover the truth about their beliefs, soon discovering that everything they’ve ever known is a lie. Now Frank has to move to save his friends. In all honesty, I was laughing really hard for the majority of the film’s runtime. First of all, the voice cast is all great. Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig lead the charge as Frank and his love interest, Brenda. Behind them is an ensemble that includes Edward Norton as a Brooklynesque bagel, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera as Frank’s two best friends who are also hot dogs, Salma Hayek as a lustful taco, James Franco as a druggie (who would’ve guessed), and Nick Kroll as a villainous douche. That’s not metaphorical whatsoever. The primary villain in this movie is an actual douche. Talk about taking things in a literal way. Michael Cera stands out from the crowd with his role as Barry. He’s always a funny actor, but his turn as a deformed yet lovable hot dog friend of Frank is easily the best part of the movie. As for the overall sense of humor, that can all be summed up in one word: offensive. Holding nothing back, the screenwriters took their sweet time in the 88-minute feature to exploit every single social and political stereotype in the book. From Nazis hunting the Juice section to street-talking chips, they certainly leave no group of people out of this equation. One minute, you could be laughing your ass off to a specific stereotype. The next, you could be taken aback by how offended a scene left you feeling. And yes, since this is a Seth Rogen movie, there is bound to be some gratuitous nudity. In fact, for a large portion of the running time, I thought, “It’s going to happen soon, and I’m not looking forward to it.” But it turned out to be a mass food orgy. Even though it was animated, it had to be one of the most graphic sex scenes I’ve seen in any movie to date. I looked over to my friend, and they were just gaping in disbelief and disgust. Oh, and in case it hasn’t been made obvious by this point, Sausage Party deserves every aspect of its R-Rating. So please do not see this movie with your children, your younger siblings, parents, or anyone you may feel uncomfortable with. For the rest of you, you are assured to have a damn funny time with this innovative and unforgettable animated comedy.

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