Monday, October 17, 2016

Review of KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS: Stop-Motion Spectacular

October 16, 2016

An animated feature film,if it is not from a big company like Disney-Pixar or Dreamworks, they do not get the promotion and theater exposure they deserve no matter how good its quality. This film by the American stop-motion animation company Laika is one such example. This spectacular film seems bound for Oscar glory, however, it is hardly talked about in local media. In fact, it is only being shown in four cinemas of one mall chain, Robinsons. Well, at least we have them to thank or local film fans would have totally missed out on this gem.

The story is set in ancient Japan. When Kubo was an infant, his left eye had been taken from him by evil spirits. To keep him safe, his mother Sariatu brought him up in a cave and warned him never to be caught outdoors when night falls. As a young boy, Kubo spends his day in town telling stories to the townspeople with his magical paper origami figurines which come alive when he plays his shamisen. a guitar-like Japanese musical instrument. 

One day, Kubo missed his curfew, and the evil spirits came to get him. As per his mother's instructions, Kubo embarks on a quest to recover his father's armor -- sword, breastplate and helmet. He would need this armor to overcome the evil plans of his own grandfather, the Moon King. He had two constantly quarreling  traveling companions along on his quest -- a Snow Monkey and an armored Beetle -- both of whom have magic of their own.

The voices behind the characters are A-list and Oscar-caliber. Charlize Theron gave her strong yet sultry voice to Kubo's mother as well as his overprotective Monkey guide. Matthew McConaughey imparted a rougish charm to the samurai warrior-turned-Beetle, with his humorously naughty zingers. Ralph Fiennes' somber voice lent a serene evil vibe to the character of Raiden the Moon King, Kubo's grandfather. Rooney Mara voiced Kubo's two sinister Aunts, sisters of his Mother, his grandfather's ruthless executioners. Brenda Vacarro played the vivacious elderly lady who cared for Kubo when he was in town. Kubo himself was voiced by Art Parkinson, a 14-year old actor who played Rickon Stark in "Game of Thrones".

Laika had three previous feature films before this one, all of which had done well in the box-office in the US. These were "Coraline" (2009), "ParaNorman" (2012) and "The Boxtrolls" (2014), all of which earned Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature in their respective years. With its deeply eloquent script (by Mark Haimes and Chris Butler) and amazingly seamless stop-motion animation -- its inventive Japanese-inspired imagery, vivid color palette, various realistic textures, and wondrous action-packed visual effects -- "Kubo and the Two Strings" (by director Travis Knight) might just be the one which will finally win them the big prize. 9/10. 

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