Screening Room: ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’

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A young boy with one eye and a magical way with his guitar. A monkey sage with a wicked sneer. A giant beetle samurai. Moon gods and legend and beautiful vistas. You can find all that and more in the magical Kubo and the Two Strings, one of the year’s great films, available this week on DVD.

My review is at Eyes Wide Open:

Coming of age stories are a dime a dozen in the animated movie business. Or at least, they used to be. In 2016, it’s all about animals. From Finding Dory to The Secret Life of Pets, The Angry Birds Movie, Storks, Zootopia and the forthcoming Sing, anthropomorphized animals riddled with highly adult worries and neuroses (particularly about their jobs; a lot of these critters work) rule the screen. Travis Knight’s mythological quest, the stop-motion animation Kubo and the Two Strings, though, ignores this trend entirely and blazes its own fabulist trail…

New in Theaters: ‘The Lego Movie’

Batman and Random '80s Spaceman Guy Battle the Forces of Evil and Conformity in 'The Lego Movie'
Batman and Random ’80s Spaceman Guy Battle the Forces of Evil and Conformity in ‘The Lego Movie’

legomovie-posterThe last few years have seen a dismal parade of brand-extension movies for toy companies like GI Joe and Battleship that barely deserved the digital space they occupied in some projection booth’s server. Now, a pleasant surprise: the anarchic, play-centric The Lego Movie, which could just be that Holy Grail of the family film: Fun for all ages.

It’s playing now pretty much everywhere. My review is at PopMatters:

The Lego Movie isn’t exactly calling for open rebellion against the corporate toy complex that provides its title: it means to sell interlocking plastic blocks. But in a world of cloud server-scheduled childhoods, proposing that kids should be left alone to play however they damn well feel like it seems at least mildly rebellious…

Overpriced coffee as tool of the oppressive state in 'The Lego Movie'
Overpriced coffee as tool of the oppressive state in ‘The Lego Movie’

Here’s the trailer:

Department of Holiday Poetry: ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’

nightmarebeforexmas1Back in 1982, when Tim Burton was an animator at Disney and directing a movie with Pee-Wee Herman was still years away, he wrote a little poem called The Nightmare Before Christmas. Years later, long after the stop-motion animated film version became an alt-parental favorite for pre-goth kids everywhere, this video was made of Christopher Lee (i.e., embodiment of stern-voiced evil as Saruman, Count Dooku, and many iterations of Fu Manchu) reading the poem itself.

The holidays are nearly upon us; enjoy: