Kubo and the Two Strings

Vampire Owl: I know this person, for I remember this name, but just can’t figure out from when and where.

Vampire Bat: Do you need to go through a memory recovery programme? It is a new method.

Vampire Owl: I know what Doctor Frankenstein does with his new series of programmes. So, let me figure it out myself.

Vampire Bat: It is a simple name, but certainly not common. You should have remembered the person if there was a chance.

Vampire Owl: Yes, I should have at least remembered the two strings.

Vampire Bat: Are you sure that you don’t need at least a memory vial?

Vampire Owl: Don’t ask me to have those chemicals made of dark matter.

Vampire Bat: Then, what would you need instead, to remember?

Vampire Owl: What about some inner peace?

Vampire Bat: The Kung Fu Panda has taken all of the same, after taking the form of the Vampire Panda.

[Gets three cups of ginger tea with a piece of ghee cake].

What is the movie about? :: Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a one-eyed young boy who spends his time in a cave near a colourful village. Living with his ill mother Sariatu (Charlize Theron), he makes a living with art of paper folding known as origami, and music with a three-stringed, Japanese musical instrument known as shamisen, both which he uses to tell the tales of a samurai warrior who is supposed to be his father. They just manage to survive, with his mother’s mental state getting worse, and they having just enough to make a living. But Sariatu keeps warning him about her twin sisters Karasu and Washi (Rooney Mara), as well as her father, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) who would take his other eye, as they had killed her husband, the samurai warrior of the tales of bravery, Hanzo (Matthew McConaughey). She forbids him from going out at night, in the moonlight.

So, what happens next in the movie? :: One day, Kameyo (Brenda Vaccaro), an old widow who loves Kubo like her grandchild, tells him about a festival which occurs at night, that involves people talking to their loved ones who had died. So, for a change, Kubo decides to stay through the darkness, and try to find the soul of his dead father, and know more of the story about them. But even with the other villagers seemingly having success over talking to the souls of their beloved, he seems to have no success at all. As he forgets to return home before the sunset, he is found by Sariatu’s evil twin sisters, who waste no time in asking him for his one remaining eye. The realisation is also upon Sariatu though, as she is quick to appear and save the boy, sending him away, while trying to go on a final battle with her sisters who will stop at nothing to get their nephew’s one remaining eye.

And what follows the same in the movie? :: Kubo wakes up later, in a land far away, with only a snow monkey to give him company, which is the last piece of his mother’s magic, and has promised to keep the boy alive at any cost. They go on hoping to find Hanzo’s armour which becomes necessary for their survival as they face a force as strong and hateful as the Moon King. On the way, they also meet a beetle in human form, which believes that it used to be a follower of Hanzo, and had fought many battles with him, even as nothing remains of those memories. But the evil twin sisters are already on their trail, and even after finding the Sword Unbreakable, they are still at a disadvantage against the strongest forces of their world. There is a long way to go, there is danger ahead – can Kubo and his two strange friends be brave and strong enough to face the threat?

The defence of Kubo and the Two Strings :: This one certainly has the story that will appeal to people of all ages. There is the tale of courage, faith, hope and belief which runs right through this movie. The sadness in the movie is beautiful, and the evil twin sisters make some nice villains in the moonlight. There are battles which will remind us that we miss Kung Fu Panda, and all main characters remain lovable, and kids are going to love the Monkey and the Beetle without doubt. There is also that variety in this world, and the visuals make another path, which is also nothing less than beautiful in its own way. There is the quest in the centre of all these, and we have one boy’s tale of courage that will keep things moving. There is also the strength of love, and the ultimate power of memories that humans hold on to, which become significant in the story of Kubo too. As you go deep, this is another animated movie which is not just for kids. There is also some humour here and there, but it is mostly for kids.

The claws of flaw :: The animation doesn’t stand a chance when compared to the other big animated movies like Moana, Zootopia, Frozen, How to Train Your Dragon, Inside Out, Epic and the rest who have made the effect of a spectacle, and Kubo and the Two Strings never even tries to do the same. The tale of the relatives and creatives seems rather too comfortable with how they end up becoming what they are. We are not much interested in the tales with monkey and beetles as warriors in a human world these days, as the turtles had found it the hard way in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its sequel. There is also that same programme, with everyone coming together and everything being brought together by the end, and there is something rather too comfortable around here. It can also be considered a little too dark for the liking of some people. Even with those strange twists, the movie is also very much predictable within its own tale, as the missing and gaining of parents doesn’t make one feel that much in such a darker animated flick – could have been more imaginative.

How it finishes :: Kubo and the Two Strings could have actually been better, with all the possibilities it has with the myth already there – not just with the story, but also with the rest of the elements, all making this a bigger visual experience. There is a lesson or two which this movie can take from Rise of the Guardians which looks similar with its characters, but is a better movie than this. We usually expect to connect to the main character more, and not as just a random kid who is special because his parents made the choice of a strange union. The movie seems to be more sincere to itself rather than its audience, and even the message sometimes feel strange – it tends to happen when there are talking monkeys and beetles who gets more importance than humans in a tale of a human child. But the importance of relationships with fellow human beings, memories, family and love are those things that come over the rest, it could be the main reason that won the flick, BAFTA for Best Animated Film and why it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, which eventually went to Zootopia.

PS: Have you watched The Mummy, Wonder Woman and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, yet at the theatres?

Release date: 19th August 2016
Running time: 102 minutes
Directed by: Travis Knight
Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, Meyrick Murphy, Minae Noji, Alpha Takahashi, Laura Miro, Ken Takemoto

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

47 Ronin

47roninn

Swords and martial arts :: Just a few days after I watched The Forbidden Kingdom on television, this movie finally released in India, overtaking a few other movies which are still pending to be released here. Based on the legend about the revenge of the Forty-seven Ronin based on Japan, the movie brings back the swords and martial arts into the Hollywood which has been taken over by men with the superpowers in the last two years. The movie also marks Keanu Reeves coming to the big screen in this part of the world after a long time. Well, this is the right time for release indeed, as the Christmas releases have been losing power, and with only The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Wolf of Wall Street to give some challenge, 47 Ronin does have the opportunity to do its best here, with one of the most famous actors (thanks to The Matrix) for the people here, as the critical opinions are forgotten.

What is it about? :: Kai (Keanu Reeves) is an outcast among the samurai, as he lives a life throughout which he is ignored as he is a half-breed, half-British and half-Japanese. He is in love with Mika (Kou Shibasaki), which both of them haven’t taken far, as she is the daughter of a Samurai Lord and he is the forsaken one. But as Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) with the aid of a witch Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi) murders the Lord and takes over the kingdom, the Samurai are banished from their lands and Kai is sold into slavery due to his low birth. But they vow to return and avenge their master under the leadership of Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada). 47 in number, including Kai who wishes to save Mika from being forced into marrying the new Lord, the team goes through dangerous quests in order to achieve their objective. The movie deals with their pain, hardships and questions about their possible success in their primary objective.

The defence of 47 Ronin :: Whatever the critics say, 47 Ronin is a colourful movie, and it is difficult not to get lost in the beauty of its colours as well as its use of light, darkness and shadows. There is a beautiful environment created by the movie which seeks our attention. The sword-fights are well-executed without the addition of exaggeration which has threatened to plague this one right from the beginning. There are also some interesting dialogues, some philosophical and some just being stylish. There are also a few funny moments, quite short in length. The CGI which involves some creatures as well as the shape-shifting skills of the witch turned out to be good too, and in the 3D, they looked interesting throughout, but considering the visual experiences we had last year, one can’t be too addicted to this one. The costumes are superb, and the fact that the movie doesn’t delay in getting into action sequences also helps.

Claws of flaw :: The movie takes the slower path at times, staying away from action and keeping the actors doing nothing. The story moves on through a predictable path, and there are not many things happening out there that you haven’t been expecting for a long time. Also, there are strange things happening throughout the movie – no I am not talking about the mass honour suicides, but creatures appearing just for being there and add to the overall head count of the movie, and the “outcast thing” given too much prominence. The romantic side is also less interesting, and one tends to wonder if there was any need for that, as avenging the master would have been more than enough – but they need some romance, to satisfy that kind of people who most probably won’t watch this movie. They have also made Keanu Reeves’ character not bringing that kind of fun which he is expected to take into a movie.

Performers of the soul :: Keanu Reeves is the star, despite his character being one of the least interesting Samurai ever. But as a character who can bring something into an action movie, this one works perfectly. The star from The Matrix and Constantine is quite brilliant in his portrayal of a character which might not have been even needed in this movie. Did they take that half-breed idea right out of those creatures in Constantine? Our hero is kind of there at the wrong place, but the way in which he manages it has to be appreciated. It is good to see that Rinko Kikuchi takes over so well, and that was to be expected after watching her in Pacific Rim. Kou Shibasaki is beautiful, and Hiroyuki Sanada comes up with a performance that is one step above the movie. Tadanobu Asano’s villain is less explored, even as it is an okay screen presence, which kind of fades in comparison with the witch who runs the evil side.

Soul exploration :: The movie’s story of ronin, the samurai with no master, is more of a story of emotions and honour rather than the typical swords and martial arts flick which is usually expected. The two-handed Samurai stuff reminds one of The Wolverine, and the word “half-breeds” of Constantine. There is a lot of emotional undercurrents going on, but just some of them which affects us. As we are not into the Japanese history or legends, it is almost impossible to have a perfect look into it, and it is not easy to do justice to the same. It seems to treat the same with its CGI creatures, which include a six eyed cattle-like creature, a disfigured monk-like person with superpowers, a huge Samurai figure clothed in what looks like metal and the witch’s own white wolf, weird spider and the serpent-like dragon which breathes fire. There is not much to attach the soul to, right there. One can just embrace this movie for how much it catches your attention in the movie hall.

How it finishes :: 47 Ronin is no 300, and it is not even The Forbidden Kingdom. But that doesn’t take a lot out of its pocket. We watched the movie during an almost full show at a place where English movies are not supposed to attract the viewers especially if any Malayalam movie is running, and so I would say that it is doing okay here, despite all the negativity which has been associated with it in North America and other places and also that low box-office collection which has been associated with this. After all, who can say no to a Keanu Reeves movie with sword-fights shot in 3D? There are more of The Matrix fans around here than one can imagine, and that face of Neo is not something that can easily fade away. So 47 Ronin should continue to do fine for a week, and nothing more, as none of the English movies in the theatre right now are expected to carry over to the next release date.

Release date: 3rd January 2014 (India); 25th December 2013 (US)
Running time: 119 minutes
Directed by: Carl Erik Rinsch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Kou Shibasaki, Rinko Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Jin Akanishi, Min Tanaka, Neil Fingleton, Masayoshi Haneda, Hiroshi Sogabe, Takato Yonemoto, Hiroshi Yamada, Shu Nakajima, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

47ronin! copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.