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Review: ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is a Well-Tuned Masterpiece

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Kubo and the Two Strings Review MovieSpoon.com

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] have admired the stop-motion works of the Laika animation studio for years, but I had yet to see them break out with a true masterpiece. Sure, Coraline and Paranorman hold a special place in my heart, but they also felt closer to that of Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (especially since Coraline was directed by Selick). I kept waiting for Laika to deliver a homerun of a picture worthy of their painstaking artistic mastery of the medium. With Kubo and the Two Strings, my wait is over.

Kubo and the Two Strings Review MovieSpoon.com

Kubo’s story is filled with magic.

Based on an original story by Shannon Tindle, this tale of ancient Japan has all the mythological trimmings to make it an animation classic. The titular protagonist Kubo (Art Parkinson) is established as a one-eyed kid with incredible magic abilities. Inherited from his sickly mother, Kubo can pluck a guitar and bring his origami creations to life. He uses this power to stage street plays in town to earn some money, a feat that impressives the villagers everyday.

His ill mother (Charlize Theron) warns him against staying out when dusk falls as those are the hours for evil spirits to easily seek him out. Sure enough, Kubo accidentally stays out too late and is attacked by floating witches wielding dark magic and weapons. The only way to stop these vengeful spirits is with the legendary sword and armor that has the power to stop both the witches and the more powerful Moon King (Ralph Fiennes).

Kubo and the Two Strings Review MovieSpoon.com

The evil witches are a threat to Kubo.

On his travels, Kubo is aided by a talking snow monkey (also Charlize Theron) and a samurai beetle (Matthew McConaughey). With Monkey being a no-nonsense teacher and Beetle a dumbfounded warrior, I fully expected these characters to wear thin with their chemistry of comic relief. This is not the case as Kubo and the Two Strings proves to be a big bag of surprises.

The comedy evoked from Monkey and Beetle felt genuine and kept the picture more grounded in mythology than buzzing with frenetic modern comedy. For McConaughey voicing a character that has poor memory and a silly personality, he’s much more subtle than I expected. The same goes for Charlize Theron who hits just the right notes as the straight character Monkey, but never overplays her role.

Kubo and the Two Strings stands out from the competition because it’s not content with merely paying homage to Japanese mythology. It wants to be its own original adventure that can stand well enough on its own. The story of Kubo is one I’ve never seen told in an animated feature; perhaps in bits and pieces from more open animated short films. The relationship he has with his mother is very sweet with the way she protects him with magic that has made her come down with a severe case of memory loss. The journey Kubo embarks on has a real sense of substance to every battle and magical item acquired. No battle feels as though it’s just a battle. And that somber ending really drives home the core message of the picture in a way that I believe other animated movies wouldn’t dare touch.

Kubo and the Two Strings Review MovieSpoon.com

Kubo’s new pals help him along in his adventure.

There’s a real sense of adventure and wonder in the way Kubo embarks to strange lands of mysterious treasures and uses his magic to defend himself. He has a moment to play with his paper wielding powers as he forms birds to lift him up off the ground, but also has serious moments of real danger to save his friends with a forceful twang of his guitar. Kubo has so much power in those fingers, but he’s still plucky and chipper enough to be a likable hero throughout. His quest is easy enough to relate to that I was rooting for him throughout.

Related: Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey Talk Kubo and the Two Strings

There’s also some big surprises in this story that’s never afraid to go for a moment that might be dark or shocking. By the third act, Kubo takes a big risk with its storytelling that ultimately makes the central theme of the movie more powerful. It may be rated PG, but this is one animated movie that’s not afraid to take off the kid gloves and go for the jugular when it comes to staging an adventure.

Read more to watch the trailer for Kubo and the Two Strings:

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Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Have you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. 😉

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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