Kubo And The Two Strings (2016) & Trolls (2016) Movie Reviews

Here are two reviews for the only two films I’ve seen in the cinema in the past two months. Help!!! I want to go to a grown-up movie again someday! 😦 Well, at least one of these was good…

Kubo And The Two Strings (2016)

Directed by Travis Knight

Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey

Production company: Laika

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film revolves around Kubo, who has magical powers and whose left eye was stolen. Accompanied by Monkey and Beetle, they must subdue the Sisters, Raiden the Moon King and his army of evil spirits.

My Opinion:

Yep – As you probably guessed, this is the good one of these two films. We went to this as a family and all really liked it but, of the three of us, my hubby is the one who loved it the most. He’s a big fan of stop-motion animation (probably thanks to growing up on Ray Harryhausen films) and seems fascinated by the behind-the-scenes stuff that Laika put in their end credits.

Of the Laika films so far, ParaNorman is still possibly my personal favorite but Kubo is a very close second and the one I’d actually say is their “best film” so far. I hated The Boxtrolls (can’t win them all!) but the animation was fantastic as always. I admit to falling asleep in the middle of Coraline years ago & never going back to it but that’s been due to lack of time more than lack of interest. I really should finish that one but will wait until I think the kid is old enough to watch it with me (what I saw was kind of creepy – what age would you guys recommend on that one?).

As with other Laika films, Kubo And The Two Strings is dark, serious, and slightly intense. It’s one you’re obviously not going to bring a three-year-old to or to watch for the simple, silly giggles like you get out of something like Trolls. Laika doesn’t need to make those sort of films, though – we already have studios such as DreamWorks for that. As a (admittedly sometimes too snobby) fan of film, I have a lot of respect for Laika (and Pixar) making true art for kids & grown-ups alike and for never dumbing things down for their younger audiences.

As a lover of Studio Ghibli & a lot of Japanese films, I loved the setting & vibe of Kubo (although, of course, it’s voiced mostly by American or British actors). That’s my only small complaint about the film – the voices of Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara & Matthew McConaughey don’t exactly give this film a genuine Japanese vibe. But, well… it was made in the West & we speak English, so…

Anyway – I don’t want to take away from the film as it’s a lovely work of art with an original & unique story. No, not all kids will love it and you might not want to let anyone too young watch it (mine is seven & she really liked it, though not as much as the Studio Ghibli films she’s seen. Yes! I love my kid). 😉 I’d say minimum age of six on this one but, as always, it depends on each individual kid. The evil Sisters & Moon King are quite frightening and Kubo’s eye is stolen for crying out loud (this isn’t shown)… Actually, yeah – this one is pretty scary come to think of it. But there are still light-hearted moments and my daughter seemed pretty taken with Kubo, Monkey & Beetle, who are strong main characters.

I want to give this movie a slightly higher score as I think it’s very good but there’s also something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. I think I just have yet to fully connect with any of the characters in Laika’s films in the same way I have with so many Pixar characters. I don’t get the same sort of wave of emotion that I do while watching the best of Pixar or Ghibli but I think Laika is coming closer to someday achieving that same level of genius. I feel kind of the same about this film as I do Song Of The Sea, which I also watched recently. That was absolutely gorgeous to look at but I didn’t “care” as much as I’d hoped to while watching it. Still, Kubo is another step in the right direction & I look forward to future films from Laika.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Trolls (2016)

Directed by Mike Mitchell

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden, Gwen Stefani

Production company: DreamWorks Animation

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film revolves around two trolls on a quest to save their village from destruction by the Bergens, creatures who devour trolls.

My Opinion:

Kids’ films are hard to review, which is why at one point I tried to review Cinderella (2015) in a way where I gave my daughter’s opinion as well as my own (and hubby’s – he’s actually as big of a movie nut as I am). This was because I was accused of taking kids’ films too seriously in one of my reviews and I actually got quite upset because it was a time when I cared what people thought of me. Not anymore! 😉 Screw that. I’m a movie-blogging-asshole with strong opinions & feel that even “kids’ films” should maintain certain standards. Hell, they’re even more important since what they teach (and too often preach) is going to have an impact on impressionable young minds. Which brings me to Trolls…..

I have no idea how to review this because it seriously SUCKS but my daughter LOVED it! Hahaha! I’m so conflicted!!!! My snobby self wants to trash it but, in all honesty, it’s one of my favorite trips to the cinema in ages. She giggled like crazy through this entire glitter vomit nightmare and it made me so happy that I wanted to cry. What’s better than seeing your kid happy?! So, um… Hmm.

Trolls! Ugh. Well, this movie was pretty much what I expect from DreamWorks. DreamWorks has made loads of highly successful films and I respect that as it’s far more impressive than staring at spreadsheets all day like an un-artistic loser like me but I’ll never see their films as anything more than “movies for kids”. There’s nothing wrong with this and I’m glad they’ve made so many kids happy but I prefer family films that appeal to young & old alike. And so you don’t think I’m a grumpy old fart who can’t just shut up & enjoy a simple kids’ movie, I do like some DreamWorks (I should do one of my annoying top tens! The Kung Fu Pandas & Monsters Vs. Aliens are probably my favorites while my kid seems to like How To Train Your Dragon & that weird Puss In Boots).

Trolls! Is it obvious I don’t feel like reviewing this??? Let’s see… Poppy was very cute. My daughter loved young Poppy at the beginning of the movie and, while she went too annoyingly cute at times, the character mostly stayed on the right side of the sickeningly sweet line. The kid also loved that she’s voiced by Anna Kendrick since she knows her as the Cups song girl. She also likes Gwen Stefani, who was completely wasted in a tiny role in a movie so full of music.

Speaking of music, Trolls took a lot of GREAT songs and ruined them. Again, I’m conflicted as they had the good taste to pick songs by artists such as Gorillaz & Justice (!!!) but then ruined them by turning them into dumb songs about troll hair (!!!!!). Oops – I’m being bitchy again. But I thought the hubby was going to either cry or scream & run out of the cinema when the Trolls version of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love started up… Lol! (You think I’m a snob? He’s far worse than I am). To be fair, the movie’s Cyndi Lauper True Colors scene wasn’t bad. And, hey – I think the Justin Timberlake song, Can’t Stop The Feeling, is a genuinely good song and the one thing from this film that will stand the test of time. It got the biggest reaction from kids in the cinema (some even cheered). I said something positive! Yay me! Oh, I also kind of liked the cloud dude. He was weirdly funny. My daughter didn’t like him, though – she looked at me like I was a weirdo when I said he was my favorite character. He looked stoned:

Trolls! They look nothing like the classic Trolls we grew up with. That’s annoying. I want my kid to have a genuine ugly, naked troll doll – not these pink, sparkly cartoon versions! Dammit. At least the classic ones have a brief cameo, I guess. The bad guys in this, the Bergens, were stupid & got on my nerves but at least they made me like the Trolls more. Hey – there’s another positive. Yay me! I’ve said some good things about this movie! Justin Timberlake’s character wasn’t too bad, mostly since he had the right attitude (not an asshole Bergen but not annoyingly happy like the other Trolls).

This review is too long & I’m bored. I was going to write one paragraph & be done with it. Ha! I do ramble on when I’m being bitchy. Sorry about that. Trolls! It sucks but your young kid will probably love it and seeing your kid smile will melt your frozen heart (Anna/Elsa-style!). But those goddamn troll-hair songs will still make you cringe…

My Rating: 5.5/10

**Okay – I admit I was in a horrible mood when I wrote these reviews. Yesterday, however, I watched my first proper grown-up film in months and MAN was it a good one!!! So I’m slightly less grumpy now. 😉 I’ll try to review that film tomorrow…. (it was Arrival, FYI)

Sesame Street To Again Be Shown In The UK!

YES!!! Starting today, Cartoonito will be airing Sesame Street in the UK. This is a big deal to me! I grew up on this show & the characters will always be very dear to me. And I met Gordon when I was 4 or 5 (I have a picture of the two of us – it’s awesome).

It’s always felt weird no longer having some American staples like Sesame Street & Saturday Night Live on TV. Even though I didn’t always watch them, I’ve missed them no longer being around since moving to the UK. Oh, and The Young And The Restless. But don’t tell anyone that I used to watch a soap… (What’s up with Victor & the Abbott gang these days?)

Read more about Sesame Street’s comeback here: Sky News. Unfortunately, it sounds like Sesame Street has undergone a lot of changes. I know they got rid of some of the longstanding human cast members a few years ago, which is a horrible shame. I’ll still be checking it out, though. It’ll never be as good as it was in the classic, pre-Elmo days but it’s a show I’ll always support.

Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani will be guest starring in today’s comeback episode so that’s a promising start, at least. Too bad my daughter is now too old for the show but, with such big name guest stars (she’s a fan of both Williams & Stefani), I have a feeling she might not leave the room when I start watching it. 😉

Let’s end this with the classic Alligator King clip…

Music Video Friday: Gwen Stefani, Tom Petty & Jefferson Airplane (An Alice In Wonderland Special)

Today’s music videos all have an Alice In Wonderland theme to them. Here’s my thought process:

While playing Just Dance with my daughter, I often choose What You Waiting For? by Gwen Stefani because I really like the song (but my favorite Just Dance routines are the ones for This Is Halloween and for Dynamite by Taio Cruz in case you want to know). 😉 So when I last played it, it got me thinking about the Gwen Stefani video and I decided that I’d do it for my Music Video Friday. But then I of course thought of Tom Petty’s very famous Alice In Wonderland-themed video for Don’t Come Around Here No More so it made sense to post them together.

I then went Googling shit as I clearly need a life and, holy hell, there have been soooo many Alice In Wonderland-themed things. It must be one of the most widely adapted stories ever (there was also an Aerosmith video that I’d never seen called Sunshine – video HERE). I was never big on Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland (a bit too weird for me) but I can understand its appeal, especially to artists such as these.

Gwen Stefani’s What You Waiting For? video was directed by Francis Lawrence (director of The Hunger Games films Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 1 & Part 2). I’ve always really liked a lot of Stefani’s songs (and have probably always kind of wanted to be her) and I think this song is one of her very best. I love the video’s style and am sure she had a lot of fun making it and getting to wear all the clothing by designer John Galliano:

Don’t Come Around Here No More by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers is more special to me as I’ll always love videos from the Eighties above all others and I saw this one many many times in my pre & early-teen years. I’d never have called myself a big Tom Petty fan but I did really like a few songs & this one was probably my favorite. This video was directed by Jeff Stein. Stein directed The Who documentary The Kids Are Alright and the videos for Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell, Heart’s These Dreams, and… Oh no…. Warrant’s Cherry Pie. No! Not Cherry fucking Pie!!! Ugh. Well, none of them beat the Tom Petty video, which is an all-time classic:

Finally, when doing my Googling, I was reminded of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, which uses Alice In Wonderland references in order to sing about druuuuuuuugs. I’ve always loved this song since I was a hippie druggie in my past life (before I was reincarnated as a boring 80’s kid) so I had to include it. Go ask Alice!: