Review : Kubo and the two strings

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“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 very first frame of this movie, to the very last, the first words spoken, and the last muttered…this movie is brilliant. Laika, the studio that seems to want to single handed make sure we never forget the mastery of stop motion animation, brings us this new and instant classic. Kubo and the two strings takes on a whirlwind adventure across time and space, full of magic, fright and wonder enough for adults and children alike. Thats definitely one aspect of this movie that really shines, and thats is ability to tell both a story worthy of adult attention, while also being plainly entertaining enough for younger audiences. Kubo is also absolutely stunning in its visuals, and those visuals only barely win over the voice acting here as the most outstanding feature of this film. This movie combines all the best things about film making and story telling, and tells its narrative in a timely manner, keeping bloat to a minimum. When all of these things combine we are truly left with a film that I would call damn near perfect. If there is a movie you are going to see this weekend or soon, let it be Kubo, so these kind of film making doesn’t go away anytime soon.

Review Score : 9.5 out of 10

The Death of “The Birth of a Nation”

The 2016 Sundance film festival was first to debut the Nate Parker co-written and directed period drama “The Birth of a Nation”. The film was then picked up for a record fee of 17 million by Fox Searchlight Pictures, beating out an even larger bid from Netflix of 20 million. The reason Fox won out was because of there track record of Oscar nominated and winning pictures in the past, and instantly the odds favourite movie for the Best picture at the next Oscars was born. Cut to a few months later, and the highflying prospects of this movie seem have crashed, burned, died and been buried…So what happened?

In 1999, the director and co-writer Nate Parker, along with his other writer Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping a female student of their university while she was intoxicated, and also allegedly inviting other men to join them. Celestin was later convicted and sentenced, and also spent time in prison, until the case was appealed and he was released when the victim refused to pursue the case further. To make matters worst, the victim had stated that both Nate and Jean had used certain tactics to make the trail about race, and to make her life a living hell resulting in her eventual suicide.

Cut back to present day, and these allegations have come back up in a swirling storm of problems for Nate Parker and this film in general. This ads the young director (and star of the movie) to growing list of directors and the like in HollyWood, who seem to have gotten a free pass for similar transgressions in their past, which then adds racial issues to this mixing pot of madness. What it all does however, is bring back up one the oldest and hardest questions we have to answer about art…Can we and/or should we, separate art from artist? Is the story this movie tells, and the message it carries, more important than the allegations behind its creators, or are they simply too egregious to be over looked for the sake art, and what good that art might be able to do?

I personally think that no matter you may stand on this particular case, that any chance it had an Oscar win, and maybe even at a nomination are now done and dusted. And sadly, the reason for that isn’t even that it might be the right thing to do, its because the academy as a whole would always shy away from negative attention, and awarding this movie, a masterpiece it may be, could be seen as awarding a “rapist” and thats something the academy won’t have, especially after the #oscarsowhite problems of the past.

So what do you think about all this? Was this information you knew about before, and does it change your view on the project? Do you think this movie is dead in the water like I do, and should it be? Put your comments below and let me know how you feel.

Don’t Miss It!

Arrival:

What do you get when you mix Close Encounters, with The day the Earth stood still, with the director of Enemy, Prisoners and Sicario, and base it all on an award winning short story? Hopefully, Arrival.After the arrival of different and strange shaped space crafts, the people of the world stand on the brink of world war, with both each other and possibly this new alien treat. A seemingly dark complex re-telling of a story we all know too well.

The movie Arrival looks to give us a different look at what can happens when people are placed into a very stressful environment. The film looks to be down-playing the action movie tropes associated with an alien arrival, in favour for the mental and phycological aspects that may cause men to destroy themselves before the aliens ever get a chance to communicate.

It stars Amy Adams in the title role with Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker in supporting roles. Set to hit theatres November of this year, this movie seemly came out of no where dropping a teaser trailer and then a full trailer the week after. Director Denis Villeneuve did this as his last project before taking on the Blade Runner sequel and should give us a great idea of his take on Science Fiction. Check out the trailer linked below, and let me know if you think Arrival is worth not missing.

Review : Sausage Party

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“A sausage strives to discover the truth about his existence.”

Simple premiss, solid execution, but this movie is a great example of it would have been better without the trailer, but without the trailer no one would see it. If you’re like me, and the trailers for this movie had you rolling across the floor, then you will enjoy Sausage Party, but you will feel somewhat let down I think. To be clear the movie is funny, and does have funny moments, but a lot of them have already been seen, and there is also just a lot of connective tissue in this movie that just isn’t super funny. This movie is also most certainly rated R, and it goes everywhere you think it could and beyond. At points that raunchiness seems a bit forced just to push the envelope, but at other times it fits perfectly with the sick and twisted world created for these walking, talking and everything elseing grocery items. The movie does make great use of its soundtrack and those songs come in at perfect times. They also do well to play on popular stereo types and some good play on words action. All in all, Sausage Party I’d say is a success, and is funny, but if you’re going in there with high expectations like I was, be prepared for a let down.

Review Score : 6.5 out of 10

 

Review : Suicide Squad

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“A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.”

To address the Elephant in the room, no this movie isn’t as bad as all those early reviews said, but it isn’t amazing either. So this movie really is a mixed bag. On one hand, this is genuinely the first time we get to see these kind of adaptations of some fan favourite characters, and seeing that in itself is a great thing. They also don’t hold back on the weirdness and strangeness that make a lot of these characters so compelling. Most everyone here really does a good job with their individual characters, and through one way or another we get deeper looks into most of the cast, and why they may be the way they are. This movie however isn’t without problems or faults. The biggest of those being the storytelling, not the plot, but the way David Ayer seeks to tell the story itself. That narrative execution can get pretty messy at times, giving the movie a very cut and jump feeling at times, where some scenes seem to just come out of no where and just as quickly, are gone again. When the movie is set on its path its fine, it when it takes some of it detours that it can get sloppy, which is really a shame because it keeps this movie from truly living up to its full potential. All in all, its still worth a look, especially if you’re a fan of these characters and are interested in seeing them come to life on the biggest screen.

Review Score : 7 out of 10

The Great Wall…Whitewashing?

The recent release of the up coming movie The Great Wall has come under some fire for possible whitewashing in the casting of Matt Damon in a seemingly leading role. The movie deals with the idea that the Great Wall itself, when it was built, was built to keep something out, something big and lizard like. Now there are a few different ways we can approach or look at this. The first is that maybe we shouldn’t have a knee jerk reaction to seeing Matt Damon and his whiteness at the top of the Great Wall, and there are a few different reasons why.

  1. We don’t actually know who or what Matt Damons character is right now. I think a big part, or a big reason this casting is being looked at as whitewashing is because people are looking at his character, as one that should be Chinese, but is being played by a none Chinese actor, when in fact his character may just be foreigner ( and yes I will get to the other side of this argument ).
  2. Like we’ve discussed on this blog before, there is a certain level of decision making here that is simply devoted what is most profitable. Director Zhang Yimou is probably best know for directing the movie Hero, and is one of China’s biggest directors and has been given the honour of directing this his first English language movie that also is one of the biggest budgeted film ever out of the region. The casting of Matt Damon in that regard is genuinely intended to be one to help merge the two largest pieces of cinema real estate right now.
  3. The trailer that we saw, was cut and made for a western audience, and if you’ve ever seen trailers made for western and eastern audiences, they are generally vastly different in which characters they show and what is emphasised in the movie.
  4. Other than the bits and pieces we can gleam from the trailer, we still don’t know the full plot of the movie and how Matt Damon fits in all of it.

Now on the other side of this coin, we can make many rebuttals to the points made previously.

  1. Even though we don’t know what Matt Damons roll in this movie is, just his being in a movie set in the time and place that it is set, he is taking away a role that could have gone to a Chinese actor.
  2. We’ve also previously discussed that part of the reason many studios don’t think they are bankable actors of certain races and genders, might be because they don’t ever roll the dice and give these actors a chance, and if they did they could see and have the same kind of success if not more with more culturally appropriate actors in specific roles. This movie being the financial juggernaut that it is should be all the more reason the bank on the quality of Chinese cinema, than perceived need to pander to american audiences with their own actors.
  3. This desire to bring these two movie going powerhouses together could also be represented across the advertising of the movie, in an attempt to bring as unified an ad campaign as possible, that simply plays up the movies strengths.
  4. No matter the story, it seems ridiculous to see a character like Matt Damon play such a prominent role.

And while i think there are merits to both sides of these arguments, there are even deeper ideas that i think we have to consider. Could we simply be calling outrage for people who themselves don’t feel outraged? A majority of polled Chinese movie goers, who mainly see “Chinese movies” that are made for Chinese audiences have expressed their interest in seeing other creeds and races in their own cinema. Could this be the first attempt not at just a unified Chinese American venture, but also an attempt to give the Chinese movie goers what they want, as well as give American audiences more incentive to go to the cinema and spend their money on a movie such as this? Wherever you stand on this, I don’t think their are any truly right and wrong sides here, even this editorial is meant to serve as more of an area for discussion as opposed to decision one way or the other. Even in this world where whitewashing and the like does genuinely occur, I think we could all take some times to look at things from all sides before we pick a side, and before we are so quick to vilify those who have made these decisions.