Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) Film Review


A lot of classic stories tell us that it’s not about how something looks, but rather what’s inside. Kubo and the Two Strings doesn’t take message this to heart.

First off, the animation looks great. In a day and age where CGI dominates the animated market, it’s nice to see some stop motion thrown in there. The movements flow very well and it helps that some of the environments look fantastic. Put simply, this movie is a visual treat, but as far as the story goes, it falls very flat.

On paper, it sounds simple enough. Kubo’s grandfather took one of his eyes and he wants the other one, so he and his mother go into hiding. His mum tells him not to stay out after dark, and when he (of course) does, his aunts try to attack him. Soon he’s joined by a monkey and a giant beetle, and they look for some armour to defeat his grandfather. Oh, and Kubo can play a guitar which makes paper turn into living origami, for some reason.

It’s not a bad concept, but it’s execution is incredibly poor. First issue, when the monkey and the beetle (fittingly named Monkey and Beetle) are first introduced, it’s incredibly rushed. The writers essentially go “these characters are in the movie now, deal with it” and Kubo just rolls with it, and the audience is expected to. Maybe some people did, I didn’t.

For the first half of the movie, I had plenty of questions. When it gets around to answering them, it genuinely annoyed me. The biggest question I had throughout the entire movie was “Why did Kubo’s grandfather take his eye?” The reason is supposed to be symbolic, but it doesn’t make any sense why the grandfather doesn’t just outright kill Kubo, and then it starts raising more questions like…well, that’ll be getting into spoiler territory.

Take another example, where it’s revealed that Monkey is actually [SPOILERS], it makes you wonder why she didn’t say anything sooner. Beetle asks, and the answer isn’t even a reason not to say anything, it’s a cheap cop out.

You probably assume I hate this movie, but I actually don’t. It’s visually enjoyable and the opening scenes in the village showed some promise, but once it gets into the meat of the adventure, I began to get confused and annoyed. I would’ve like it more if there weren’t so many bad excuses for character choices, but as it is, Zootropolis, a fantastic movie with a brilliantly told story, should’ve won the BAFTA for Best Animated Feature over this.


Fargo (1996) Film Review


The movie begins with a lie: “This is a true story.” Parts of it are based on real events, but most of it’s entirely made up. But from the moment the film fades out from black to show a snowy, foggy road, you forget about the opening statement and become immersed in the story and actually believe you are watching a true story.

That story is about a car salesman, Jerry Lundegaard. He’s in serious debt, so he hires two criminals to kidnap his wife, and then spilt the ransom money from his father in law. It all goes smoothly until the criminals get pulled over, and are forced to do some shooting. Enter Marge Gunderson, a jolly police chief who is sent out to investigate the murders. After that, Jerry’s scheme goes from bad to worse as…well, that would be spoiling the many surprises that follow…

Fargo runs at 1 hour and 38 minutes, and it makes every second count. From setting up the characters, to showing the plan fall apart, the outbursts of violence and the moments in-between of these people just being people, it not only manages to be an engaging thriller, but a hugely entertaining movie at the same time, supported by some brilliant acting that makes the characters feel real, the impressive cinematography, the haunting music and a tightly written script that keeps you hooked from the first scene at the bar to the final moments at Marge’s house.

Despite all the other brilliance in the film, the thing that makes it so special is that all the main characters are likeable. Yes, most of them might be murderers, but they’re still people just trying to get through the day, which makes for many entertaining and memorable moments. And then there’s the character you’re supposed to like, Marge. Amidst all the murders she has to solve, the people she has to interview and the violence she witnesses, she takes us through every other scene with a big grin and a pleasant attitude.

A few days after I first saw Fargo, I watched it again. And a third time a couple more days later. In the space of a week, it has become one of my favourite films of all time. Maybe it’s not based on a true story, but does it still make for a truly brilliant movie? Ya darn tootin’ it does!

West Side Story (1961) Film Review


Anyone else hate long films that just go on and on AND ON? I certainly do, and I’m always left thinking about glorious 70 minute long animated movies. West Side Story runs at 152 minutes, so this is gonna drag, right?

It’s a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but instead of it being rival families, it’s gangs (the American Jets VS the Spanish Sharks) who keep fighting for the turf by twirling and prancing around. At a dance, one of the Jets, Tony, falls in love with the Sharks leader’s sister, Maria. The two keep visiting each other in secret, while the fight between the Jets and Sharks escalates…

The most important part of any musical is… well, the music, and it’s absolutely cracking here! There’s plenty¬†of tunes to get stuck in your head and the dancing is consistently impressive. It’s also very well paced, with enough time between songs and building up the story to keep the viewer engaged.

Maybe it IS the pacing that keeps the movie from becoming dull because of the run time. Something entertaining is always happening, where it be seeing where the story goes next to a big dance number, there was never a dull moment.

West Side Story is often considered one of the great movie musicals, and after seeing it for myself, it’s hard to argue with that statement. Give it a watch if you haven’t already, although be prepared to have Maria stuck in your head all day long…

Mary Poppins (1964) Film Review


Mary Poppins isn’t really the type of movie I’d like to review, so I tried to come up with a word to describe it instead, but I can’t think of the appropriate word at the moment, so I might as well talk about the film while I try to think of one…

The story (for the three of you that don’t know it) is about a magic nanny called Mary Poppins who comes to look after the Banks children, and the rest of the movie is the three of them going on several capers with the “cockney” Bert. There isn’t much of an actual story, it’s mainly Mary and the children going on some short adventure and then the next one, but when the adventures are this charming, imaginative and fun filled, the two hour length flies by.

Those two hours hold up remarkably well after 53 years, with practical effects that still look convincing, and great performances from all the cast. Yeah, Dick Van Dyke’s accent might be considered the second worst in film history (just beat by Sean Connery in The Untouchables) according to Empire Magazine, but admit it, it wouldn’t be the same without him (or Julie Andrews, for that matter).

Do I even need to tell you how good the songs are? They’ve become household tunes, with Feed the Birds, Chim Chim Cher-ee, Let’s Go Fly a Kite… and that really long word one that I can’t remember the name of…it should back to me.

Put simply, Mary Poppins is still a delight after over 50 years for all ages, that’s tons of fun and at the end, rather poignant. Needless to say, you’ll come out of it feeling- YES! I know what word I can use to describe this movie, it’s the perfect word for Mary Poppins!

It’s great.

Argo (2012) Film Review


Many people consider Argo to be the Coen Brother’s masterpiece, a film so compelling that- wait a minute, I’m thinking of Fargo… rookie mistake.

The actual movie I’m reviewing is a true story during the 80’s in which the CIA created a fake movie to rescue six members of the American embassy hiding out in Iran. The first half of the film focuses on the production of the fake movie, which is interesting to see unfold, as well as having some surprisingly good humour. It’s an entertaining time.

The second half sees the escape being put into place, but to properly fool the government of Iran, they spend an extra day there pretending they’re looking for a filming location. From this point forward, this movie isn’t entertaining any more. Argo becomes one of the most intense films I’ve ever seen. Ben Affleck absorbs the viewer into the situation and refuses to let you breath easy until [SPOILERS], but even if you know that [SPOILERS] in real life, it’s still one hell of a rollercoaster ride.

After an enjoyable first half, Argo really steps it up a notch and gives a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat for most of the vast majority of the film, and once you get to the end after all that you just went through, you can’t help but grin. What a great movie.

Jerry Maguire (1996) Film Review


Jerry Maguire is classified as a sports movie, even though the actual sports only appears a few times, particularly by the end. I’d personally classify it as a comedy and a really great one at that.

Unsurprisingly, the main character is Jerry Maguire (played by Tom Cruise), a sports agent who gets fired and decides to set up his own business, which leads to comedy, romance, drama, all that good stuff we like to see in movies.

While I don’t think this movie really had a chance of winning Best Picture (unless I’m mistaken and The English Patient is a humorous farce about an American doctor trying to understand his stereotypical British patient) but it’s still a very funny movie with lots of heart. There’s plenty of laughs to be had as well as some heartfelt moments that leaves you grinning plenty of times throughout the run time.

There’s really not much for me to say about this one except that it’s a feel good movie that’s the perfect film to sit down with a snack and just enjoy! Oh, and the kid should’ve won Best Supporting Actor. Just sayin’.

Casablanca (1942) Film Review


In one of the Big Nate comics, Francis proclaims that Casablanca is his favourite movie of all time, and after seeing it, I certainly like the character less now.

I already hear the angry film veterans writing the mile long essays on why I’m completely wrong, and I can’t blame them. The American Film Institute declared it’s the second greatest film of all time (below Citizen Kane, of course) and most people regard it as a classic. But to a 14 year old, I found it pretty “meh”

It’s set during WWII in (where else?) Casablanca where two former lovers reunite in a bar and… stuff happens… To be honest, that’s the best synopsis I can give. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman just do things, she’s with someone else, some Nazi’s also do some things, and it’s not very interesting. There’s a couple of good moments, but I spent most of the 103 minutes of run time bored.

I’m possibly not old enough to appreciate the film, and I couldn’t really think of anything artistically wrong with it (aside from a few cheesy moments) but a good movie means nothing if I was simply bored. I really don’t have a lot to say about this one but I’m with Nate and Teddy, Dumb and Dumber is better.