“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Kubo and the Two Strings” adds to the arresting list of magnificent animated films hitting the screen in 2016. Released by LAIKA Films, the group that previously brought us the wildly engaging films “Coraline” (2009) and “ParaNorman” (2012), “Kubo and the Two Strings” is another adult animated film disguised as children’s entertainment.
I would caution against taking any children under the age of 8. The movie begins with Kubo, a baby, washed ashore with his mother. You soon learn that death lurks closely around everyone, something that all adults clearly understand. This film is a reminder of the importance of memories when you finally have to say goodbye to those you love.
The movie centers on the fact that young Kubo (Art Parkinson) has but one eye, learning that the other had been intentionally removed by his horrid grandfather (Ralph Fiennes) and his mother’s twisted sisters for unknown reasons. What makes matters worse is that Kubo is being hunted by these witch-like ladies (voiced in fine form by Rooney Mara) and the film follows his struggle as he seeks to help those around him survive.
Before Kubo’s dangerous journey begins, he is joined by an ornery monkey (Charlize Theron) and a humorous Samurai transformed into a huge beetle (Matthew McConaughey). They have a warm, engaging and at times very funny relationship, though our heroes know that they are dancing at death’s door.
The cinematography is splendid as you follow our endearing trio through jungles, over raging seas and battles underwater. Yet it might be challenging for younger kids to embrace a movie where they have to imagine relatives trying to kill them and a parent.
Regardless, the movie succeeds because it embraces the core nature of a family unit. The kindest parents are going to meet their maker in the end, and their children must be left with core values wrapped in splendid memories that will allow them to become adults who would make their parents proud.
Whether older kids understand that fundamental concept forming the foundation of a decent life before entering the theater, they will fully know it by the time the movie ends.
As I watched this film, I sensed that I was not alone in being reminded of my own late parents. My father, a lifelong rural mail carrier, taught me the importance of a sense of humor. My mom, a mother of five who worked part-time at a small pharmacy, instilled in me the fundamental principle that you applauded a child’s successes while embracing them with forgiveness following any mistake.
“Hell or High Water”
Director David Mackenzie’s “Hell or High Water” is the best picture to be released to this point in 2016. Set in present day West Texas, it is a powerful film that will leave you pinned to your seat from the opening scenes.
Chris Pine and Ben Foster play brothers who begin robbing branches of a bank that is attempting to foreclose on the family ranch. Pine’s character, Toby, robs because he feels he has no choice, while Foster’s character, Tanner, finds unmitigated joy in kicking ass and taking money.
In his best role in years, Jeff Bridges plays Marcus, a Texas Ranger on the edge of retirement. He leads the robbery investigation, and his relationship with his partner provides a level of satirical humor seldom displayed in a violent, R-rated film. Gil Birmingham stands out as a Texas Ranger who politely absorbs Bridges’ mocking humor while throwing it back in his face.
Woefully behind on child support, Toby is a decent soul who just wants to help his two sons overcome their father’s weaknesses. On the other hand, Tanner is riveting as an ex-con who has no affection for anyone in the world other than his brother. Both caustic and violent, he will readily assault a female robbery victim if she has the gall to throw insults his way. Unlike Toby, he doesn’t regret for a moment his mother’s death, and you learn quickly that no one will regret his.
Though Bridges has been in a series of lamentable films, he recovers the spunk and talent he displayed in “True Grit” (2010), his memorable role as The Dude in the unforgettable “The Big Lebowski” (1998), his Oscar-winning performance in “Crazy Heart” (2009) and his astonishing performance as an alien trying to escape Earth in a film you should all see, “Starman” (1984). He will again challenge for Oscar recognition with his performance in this movie.
“Hell or High Water” is a unique film that explores multiple subject matters seldom seen on the screen. While shining a bright light on a heartless banking industry that played a central role in the 2008 recession, you will also get to watch the interaction between bank robbers and police that includes civilians who may have valuable information.
There is a devastating level of satire that permeates this film, and you find yourself repeatedly laughing while quickly wondering who is going to live and who is going to die.
“Don’t Think Twice”
“Don’t Think Twice” is a hidden gem. You will treasure the performances of Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs and Mike Birbiglia, who also was the director.
A wildly funny improv group, they spit in the face of a cruel destiny. This is another film that will cause you to have a tear in your eye.
The film centers on the personal relationship of Sam (Jacobs) and Jack (Key). Wait until you see the golden moment where Sam pretends to be a bird trying to regurgitate food into Jack’s mouth as they make love.
Let me close by stating that the audience in the theater joined the audience on screen in raucous laughter.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.