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Kubo and the Two Strings Review (2016) | Bewitching Animation

Words bereave me as I try to put this one together. Kubo and the Two Strings had me mesmerized. And not just by its breathtaking realism, but by the calm in its thoughtful direction, and the peerless work that it tagged along. Very satisfying!

The movie forever carries a hint of grim element, and is not afraid to walk across dark enclaves in order to provide us with an amazing tale of a one-eyed young boy named Kubo who is on a magical quest to find his father’s armour to defeat a wicked Moon King.

Extraordinary Animation

Looking at the animation of the movie, you can’t help but wonder – Can stop motion really reach such fascinating levels of allure? Well, Kubo and the Two Strings surpasses all! Who makes that possible? None other than Travis Knight the lead animator, also the actual mind behind exceptional movies like Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls.

You can’t applaud Travis Knight enough. Apart from the fact that he can ace Herculean jobs as an animator, he can also direct better than most of the directors out there. So, he proves with his sharp presence of mind. The transition of frames happens through walking into a tree or a wall. And it does so with such a peaceful nimble snap that it is hard to tell if the frame had actually changed in that teensy swift scale.

What I also loved about Travis’s direction was how he imparted Kubo and the Two Strings with a charming gait. The movie is literally abounding with focus. It lets you feast on every single frame letting things percolate beautifully. You can perceive minuscule details in his frames, and that’s what makes his frames stunning to look at. Owing to that, even though Kubo and the Two Strings banks on a fictitious tale for its plot, the movie doesn’t falter at all at any point.

Plot of Kubo and the Two Strings

The story is more of a fantastical take set against the backdrop of ancient Japan. One-eyed Kubo takes care of his ill mother. He uses a Shamisen to bring inanimate papers to life. He performs in a nearby village to get himself and his mother by.

If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem. And please be warned, if you fidget, if you look away, if you forget any part of what I tell you, even for an instant, then our hero will surely perish.

Kubo is a storyteller and he barely knows his past. In her mother’s ephemeral jovial moments is he able to fill himself up with stories of the past. He is fascinated by tales of his father and yearns to meet him in person. But her mother warns him not to venture out when it’s dark coz that’s when the moonlight shines bright meaning the Moon King, his grandfather and his aunties might see him. His mother tells him that they are after his other eye, and that this rule be followed at all costs.

One fine day however in an attempt to rekindle with his father’s soul, Kubo ends up staying out late.

I just wish you were here, so I could talk to you, see you, find out what I should do.

A big mistake! That’s when the attack of the aunties happen. His mother pays the price for it as she intervenes just when things were about to go south. She saves him asking him to find an armour, the only way that can possibly defeat the evil Moon King.

Ensuing Magical World

still of monkey and kubo in kubo and the two strings movie

As Kubo wakes from a tumultuous backdrop, he finds a monkey voiced by Charlize Theron calling out his name. He realizes that the monkey was in fact none other than a toy he used to carry around with him at all times. The talking monkey tells him that she was brought to life by his mother before she died. The only thing Kubo is left with is a strand of her mother’s hair.

This bracelet, her hair, it’s a memory. And memories are powerful things, Kubo. Never lose it.

On their quest to find the armour they find a human soul trapped inside a beetle. He claims to be working for his father Tatsu but isn’t sure because of a memory wipe out scene.

Thus the ultimate quest begins to find armour elements that are placed at unusual places, as magic and perversion from Moon King and his mother’s sisters try to stop them from achieving that goal. In a life that had reeked of loneliness almost all the time, Kubo reflects of how amazing it was for him to be a part of someone’s company, with:

I have never had a meal sitting between anyone before.

Sentient Kubo

Kubo is so thoughtful that it syncs you instantly with his feelings. His one eye can grasp little things that are of colossal import to him and you can’t applaud him enough for that.

Sometimes I would tell my mother stories about little things. Like skimming rocks across the river or catching fireflies in the mulberry fields. And when I told those stories, I could see her eyes were mostly clear. I could tell she saw me. Really saw me. I could see her, too. Her real self. Her spirit trying to fight its way out. It was beautiful.

Tiny lippy movements of the protagonist are so beautifully done that it almost makes you feel as if he is an extant creature.

You have to give it to Tatsu voiced by Matthew McConaughey who makes his character even more lovable. The story of his mother that climaxes with:

You are my quest.

and which is soon followed by:

I had seen the wonders of the universe, but the warmth of his gaze as I looked into his eyes. That, that I had never known. It was his humanity I saw. And it was more powerful than anything in my cold realm.

brings power in his story and it makes it even more warm.

still of all characters from kubo and the two strings movie

Then it has that contemplative paragon of a song as well which is depicted by flying golden heron that are believed to carry the soul of the departed.

How do you see a song?

To which the reply goes:

You look.

That moon reflection, water droplets falling everything was beautifully imagined and executed.

Downsides

Trying to look at the downside, things escalate too quickly. For example you are not really prepared for a whimsical alteration, but then it happens which kind of kills the mood. And then the final bits with the Moon King doesn’t fill you up with wonder much since you are prepared for the cliched ending of the tale. There is nothing eye-candy like about it and you can’t help but wonder if the trouble to reach that grimy end justifies truly.

Also the fact that the gloom that comes right after when his parents get killed hasn’t been shown properly makes it even less plausible. The story however nibbles such drawbacks.

The Score of Kubo

What makes stop motion frames of Travis even better is Dario Marianelli‘s outstanding score. It imparts depth to his ethereal animation. It complements the actual story-line of Kubo, and gives much more meaning to it. Even when Kubo is simply walking down a forest or a desert there is always that beautiful composition playing wonders in the backcloth.

You can check out the trailer of Kubo and the Two Strings here:

 

Interstellar Movie Review (2014) | Yet Another Magnum Opus of Nolan

Not long ago, I watched a featurette with excerpts from the Interstellar movie, which showed the gargantuan amount of work and sweat Nolan brethren, Kip Thorne and others put in whilst exploring the behaviour of a black hole. The crisp meticulous attention and the minute details that went in their work flabbergasted me beyond limit. So, naturally hopeful was written all over my head. And boy! Nolan never disappoints.

Concept and Science

Strewn with science, Interstellar movie not only takes you on a joy ride, it educates you as well. The concept of space-time singularity pervades throughout the flick as we witness a superb simulation of a black hole, and it doesn’t stop at just that. We go into it! Yes, through the eyes of our protagonist for the first time, we witness a distinct theoretical world that finds pragmatism. An impeccable representation of Tesseract with threads of time.

still of black hole in interstellar movie

Direction of Interstellar Movie

The best thing about Nolan is the enormity of the project he takes. The script is so beautifully written that it rivets you right from the start. The concept is like magic – a miracle happening in a distant galaxy. As the story of Interstellar movie unfolds it makes you feel as if you are getting closer to finding answers to our existence finally. The plot however has something else in store for you. And it is a big fat blunt satire on our loneliness. We are alone and all we have is each other. That is the penultimate truth.

Wormhole has never been explored like this before. How time plays tricks on you, powerful representation of anomalies, the wickedness of human mind when left alone in despair(that Matt Damon bit), how the music of nature (the rain, the thunder and the cricket chirping noise) makes you feel home, the conundrum of our purpose, the humour of TARS, the physics that touches almost every part in the flick, the poetry of the brave and wise through Dylan Thomas‘s words, superb lamenting conversations, and the brain-wrecking revelations in the end – every tiny detail has been exemplified with proper logical explanations and shown on a platter of sensations.

interstellar movie still

Extraordinary Drama

Emotional surge is strong, and with a power pack performance by Matthew McConnaughey everything uplifts. Bits of a father-daughter melodrama are the most feeling kind. Shatters you from the inside, as you empathize with the protagonist’s tears. Hans Zimmer touches your heart with his profound score. Notes are so brilliant that they put you right into the flick. This too would sit amongst Zimmer’s best works.

The Final Verdict

It is one of the most ambitious projects that would be remembered in impending debates for the intricacies it touches and the science it explores. Nolan is certainly one of a kind director, a great gift to mankind, a wise man who wouldn’t go gentle into that good night. Kudos to yet another mammoth achievement!

You can check out the trailer of Interstellar movie here: