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)


Starter For 10 (2006) Review


Starter For 10 (2006)

Directed by Tom Vaughan

Produced by Tom Hanks, Pippa Harris & Sam Mendes

Written by David Nicholls

James McAvoy
Alice Eve
Benedict Cumberbatch
Rebecca Hall
Dominic Cooper
Catherine Tate
James Corden

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Starter for 10 is a 2006 British comedy-drama film directed by Tom Vaughan from a screenplay by David Nicholls, adapted from his own novel Starter for Ten. The film stars James McAvoy as a university student who wins a place on a University Challenge quiz team.


My Opinion:

I decided to watch this the other day after reading a review from the lovely Emma on MovieRob’s blog (HERE). I’d known about it but hadn’t known that it was set in my beloved 1980s until I read her review so that was all I needed to convince me to watch it.


Starter For Ten is a book by David Nicholls. I’ve not read it (but Emma has & says it’s of course better than the movie). I did read One Day by David Nicholls and, although it’s very flawed, I still liked the book & the movie (despite the fact that Anne Hathaway was in it – staring at Jim Sturgess & his big brown eyes helped a little). Plus, as I said, Starter For 10 is set in the EIGHTIES! Woohoo! Well, unfortunately, the movie is a bit bland. And as for the 1980s, this is one of those movies where it doesn’t actually look or feel all that much like that decade even though they throw in as much music as possible from that era. Don’t get me wrong – I love 80’s music. At one point I looked at the hubby & said “are they actually playing my playlist?” as it’s filled with things like New Order, The Smiths, Tears For Fears and LOADS of songs from The Cure. It’s nice hearing a bunch of my favorite songs but, at the same time, it also feels very lazy on the part of the filmmakers. It’s like “See? Our movie is set in the eighties because we’re playing The Cure! Ignore Alice Eve with her big boobs & her very un-eighties clothes & blonde highlights – just listen to Motörhead!”


I will say this movie is only really worth a watch if you’re a fan of any of its stars or if you enjoy similar British films. There are some very big names in Starter For 10 so it was fun seeing them just before most of them made it really big in blockbusters like the X-Men, Star Trek & Iron Man series of films. The storyline was extremely predictable to the point of almost being annoying (I’m talking especially about the romance!) but, when the group finally appear on the game show they’ve been preparing for, the film does get a little more fun. The movie is very “British” and I couldn’t help but compare it to Nick Hornby’s books & movies. I have to say I far prefer Hornby & would recommend his stuff over this (especially the book High Fidelity). Overall, Starter For 10 just didn’t really work for me. It’s not a bad movie but the predictable plot and one-dimensional characters just left me feeling “Meh. So what?”. Watch it if you like the actors but first check out some Nick Hornby. And The Cure’s greatest hits!

My Rating: 5.5/10


Into The Woods (2014) Review


Into The Woods (2014)

Directed by Rob Marshall

Based on Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine

Meryl Streep
Emily Blunt
James Corden
Anna Kendrick
Chris Pine
Tracey Ullman
Christine Baranski
Johnny Depp

Running time: 124 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales of “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Cinderella”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, and “Rapunzel”, the film is a fantasy genre crossover centered on a childless couple, who set out to end a curse placed on them by a vengeful witch. Ultimately though, the characters are forced to rectify the consequences of their actions.


My Opinion:

I hated Into The Woods. I don’t want to do one of my bitchy reviews, though, so I’ll keep this short because I don’t need some crazy person telling me I’m on drugs for hating something (this happened recently on my review of Oz The Great And Powerful – gotta love those trolls). 😉


I know nothing whatsoever of the Into The Woods musical. I didn’t know the story in the slightest or any of the songs before watching the movie. And, after seeing the movie, I STILL don’t know any of the songs. Why? Because they’re boring! Usually you get at least one song stuck in your head after a musical. Honestly – I couldn’t tell you how even one of them goes now & I only saw this two days ago. At least a couple of the songs in Les Misérables were catchy even if I just wanted that damn movie to end (and for Anne Hathaway’s character to just shut up and die).


Speaking of just wanting a movie to end, I felt that way through the second half of Into The Woods. It’s just over 2 hours long but it really did feel like I’d been sitting there twice that long. For anyone who knows the story, there’s an “end” about three quarters of the way through. I was SO happy it seemed to be ending. But then it just went on. And on. And on. Then, when it finally ended, I didn’t feel like we actually got a good resolution for anyone. The story seemed to have no clear point. What was the “moral” of the whole thing?? Some people learned their lessons (sort of) and some didn’t. So many loose ends were left. I just felt like the whole story was messy, confusing and, well, quite stupid. THAT’S the best they could do with a bunch of Grimms’ fairy tales?! It’s pretty bad when Shrek kicks your sorry fairy tale ass and is far more clever (and I’m not really a fan of Shrek – I think those movies are highly overrated).


Did I say this would be short & non-bitchy? Damn. Well, a few things weren’t bad. James Corden, Anna Kendrick & especially Emily Blunt were all pretty good & felt right for their roles. They almost made up for how much Johnny Depp & Chris Pine sucked, I suppose. Meryl Streep was fine, but, come on – an Oscar nomination for THAT? What a joke. (I’m writing this before the Oscars – hopefully she didn’t win). I like her, though – it’s just funny how the Academy feels the need to nominate her every year for whatever she happened to be in. God I hated that Little Red Riding Hood bitch! And Jack (of Beanstalk fame) felt about as pointless as Little Red Riding Hood’s character. The Big Bad Wolf pedophile thing went a little too far over the line and, seriously – who were we meant to actually care about in this movie as the characters are all pretty hateful? I guess the baker & his wife, which makes the ending even more ridiculous. Shit – this was meant to be the paragraph where I wasn’t bitchy. I suppose the costumes were nice? What we could see of them, at least, as it’s so dark in those stupid woods.



Unlike Into The Woods, I know it’s time to finish as I’m just going on & on in the same way the film did. I didn’t go into this with high or low expectations so it can’t be blamed on that and I’m also not anti-musical as there are plenty that I do like. However, when it’s a musical I do expect at least a couple good songs that I’ll be humming afterwards. Being a movie fan first, though, I’d have at least liked a story & characters that I cared about since the songs were so bland. I wasn’t expecting to not like either element of Into The Woods.

My Rating: 4.5/10