Film Review : The Boxtrolls (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 75%
Metacritic Score – 61
Oscar Nominated for Best Animated Feature
Netflix Watch Instant

Directed By – Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Starring – Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Toni Collette, and Simon Pegg

A young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator. Based on the children’s novel ‘Here Be Monsters’ by Alan Snow.

One of my best friends has seen this movie like five times. He likes movies but is so busy all the time that he doesn’t get a chance to see much. He saw this film FIVE TIMES. Seeing as The Boxtrolls has recently been released on Netflix, my excuses have run dry and it was time to see the film my friend calls one of his favorite movies.

I liked it. I can’t say I liked it nearly as much as he did, but I liked it.

The Boxtrolls tells the story of Eggs, a boy growing up in the sewers and aptly named after the box he wears as weird vest/shirt thing. The Boxtrolls spend their night rummaging through the garbage while the rest of the town sleeps. This garbage is taken down below and turned into crazy inventions. They’re like little elves except stinkier and not as cute. Archibald Snatcher is a lunatic that wants to eradicate the Boxtrolls from the town in order to obtain a white hat and attend cheese parties. Yes, this film is British.

Laika, the production company that makes stop motion films, made one of my favorite animated films of all time in Coraline. The film was like a dark Grimm fairy tale and the animation was fresh and alive. Their second film, Paranorman, was also dark and surprisingly very funny. The story didn’t grasp me as much as Coraline did, but I still enjoyed it. The Boxtrolls is a bit like Paranorman but less dark. These creatures aren’t scary at all. They have animalistic little voices and are generally kind spirited and fun. All the evil and darkness comes from Archibald Snatcher, voiced terrifically by Ben Kingsley. It’s a good versus evil story arch that has been done plenty of times before, but in this case a very unique and different world. That’s what made this movie work for me. The fact that it was also gorgeously shot and animated helped out a great deal too. Kids should be able to find some great lessons tucked away in the story of the film. Pride of your personality and where you came from are themes you can’t really miss. Frankly, I just enjoyed watching the way they animated this thing, and listening to the voice acting. There was some real talent on display behind the microphone here. The three henchmen played by Frost, Morgan, and Ayoade were perhaps my favorite part of the film.

It may be my least favorite Laika film, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It’s unique, funny, and gorgeously shot and should provide for some rewatchability, but maybe not five times worth.

Also, now we know what happened to Bran Stark this season.

3.5/5




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Quick Reviews! Calvary, Headhunters, Suicide Kings, and Tusk

Yeah, That’s a lot of reviews that didn’t get full write ups. I know. I’ve been busy actually. I’d love to do full write ups on all these films but you know what? That’s not what this site is for. I’m not Roger Ebert. I’m a film hobbyist. The main goal of this blog is to hightlight and expose films that you may not want/have the chance to see. I think these small posts get the job done. Like always, films I see in the theater will be given full reviews. Films I see at home however will not always get a full write up. Honestly, they should. They’re just as important as the theater screenings. Maybe once things settle down I’ll get back down to giving each film my full attention. Not today though. Order up!

Calvary
Directed By – John Michael McDonagh

If any film I’ve seen over the last two weeks deserves its own write up, it’s this one. One problem…I HAVE to see the film again and I already sent it back to Netflix. Brenden Gleeson is a priest who is told by one of his flock during confession that he will be killed in a week, not because he’s an evil man but rather because he is a good man. Right off the bat this is a story I can get into. The fact that it stars one of my favorite actors in Gleeson is only a bonus. I saw The Guard. I liked The Guard. I didn’t love The Guard. I loved this film. It hit me emotionally towards the end of the film like nothing I’ve seen in a few months. The film has a group of great character actors in their natural state hamming up a few scenes here and there. Chris O’Dowd is particularly good in this. The scenery is beautiful and once again, Gleeson is magnificent. Only goes to prove that the McDonagh brothers are some of the best writers working today. I wish they would team up and make a film like the Coen brothers do. They could change film.

5/5

Headhunters
Directed By – Morten Tyldum

I had no idea who Morten Tyldum was when he was nominated for Best Director at this years Oscars. When I looked up his previous work I realized he directed this film, which had been sitting in my Netflix queue for oh, let’s say, four fucking years. That’s what happens when you are continually adding films to a queue. Films get buried. I pulled the trigger last night and was glad I did. The film has holes…HUGE holes…but that doesn’t take away the fact that it was entertaining as hell. There were many “holy shit” moments throughout its entirety. I hated the ending but understood that it was needed to cover up the gigantic plot holes that littered the film. Usually this would turn me off the film but I actually liked it a lot. Hell, any film that has Jamie Lannister kicking ass is good in my book.

3.5/5

Suicide Kings
Directed by – Peter O’Fallon

This one sucked. I’m sorry. I know it’s a cult favorite but I didn’t like the film at all. Actually I take that back. I liked any time Christopher Walken or Dennis Leary was on the screen. Anything other than those two people was atrocious. The plot lingered for what seemed to be forever. The characters were annoying and most couldn’t act. I’m looking at you Henry Thomas. It also has one of the cheesiest love scenes I’ve ever seen…ever. Skip this one unless you like Walken hamming it up or Dennis Leary ad-libbing his entire dialogue.

1.5/5

Tusk
Directed By – Kevin Smith

One of the most ridiculous and bizarre films I’ve ever seen. It surfs on this monumental wave of garbage yet still is one of the more fun times I’ve had at home by myself watching a movie. I had two phone calls during the movie and in both calls I had to stop them and tell them to go watch this movie. The thing that really interests me is reading that the entire plot of teh film was thought up on Kevin Smiths podcast and put to a vote by the listeners. They played audio from it at the end of the film. They literally made a movie from a conversation. That is impressive and awesome. Not to mention the fact that Justin Long and Michael Parks dance this crazy ballet of lunacy during the entire movie. I love Michael Parks. The BEST part though, I mean the absolute best, is Guy Lapointe. I won’t say who plays him as it should be a surprise but my god, the guy needs his own film. WATCH THIS MOVIE. IT’S SO BAD IT’S AWESOME.

4/5

What I’ve Been Watching

It’s bee a while since my last review. I honestly haven’t seen anything in a theater since It Follows, reasons being that I haven’t found a single thing worth paying money near me. I’m patiently waiting for Ex Machina to come out. In the mean time, I’ll try to keep this thing fresh by writing a bit on what I’ve been watching over the last three weeks. Full reviews will start coming soon.

Tracks
Directed By John Curran

Tells the story of Robyn Davidson, a woman who walks across the Australian desert with her four camels and dog. Really atmospheric. For a movie about walking, the film was able to keep my attention for the entire run length. This can attributed to both the wonderful cinematography and the powerful performance by Mia Wasikowska. I’ve enjoyed her in pretty much everything she’s ever done and films like this only go to prove she’s one of the best young actresses working today. The film was heartbreaking as well as inspiring. It’s on Netflix and well worth it.

Noah
Directed By Darren Aronofsky

I’m not really sure why I didn’t watch this in theaters. I’ve never really been attracted to biblical films, but I’ve enjoyed Aronofsky’s last two films in Black Swan and The Wrestler. I guess the world’s oldest disaster story gave off a lot of “2012” vibes, so I decided to skip it until it released on some sort of streaming service. Netflix has answered that call. The film ended up being pretty entertaining. Sure the plot and themes were heavy handed and clumsily communicated. Sure it managed to piss everybody off. It also utilized some pretty awesome special effects and was able to draw out some great performances from Crowe, Connolly, and Watson. Most of the film was shot with CGI, which is something that I can only fully enjoy every once in a while, I enjoyed it. It’s worth the watch.

Rosewater
Directed By Jon Stewart

I’ve always been a Daily Show/Jon Stewart fan. His first film behind the camera ended up being pretty forgettable. I didn’t understand why they used Gael Garcia Bernal to play an Iranian reporter. I felt they could have been a lot more realistic with the portrayal of what was going on in Iran during the time of the elections. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t wow me at all. If you have the chance, check out the documentary Burma VJ for a real look at what documenting a tyrannical regime is really like. I did however enjoy the Fort Lee joke. Although, since I’ve lived here, I have not once seen these pleasure palaces.

Game of Thrones Season 5

Two episodes in, nobody has died yet. I don’t know if that is awesome or bad. Is that weird? I don’t want anybody to die, but I also love the fact that the show does what it pleases. We’re seeing a lot of different things with Tyrion in hiding, Jon Snow becoming more of a leader, and Dany losing hold of her power. Everything seems to be setting up for a serious season of shock and awe. I love this show.

House of Cards Season 1

What can I say? I’m late to the party. I just finished season one and I’m kicking myself for not jumping on this show earlier. Yes, I know Kevin Spacey is great in this. That’s not why I love the show. The secondary characters are all fantastic. The way these characters along with the entire show is written, gives me hope for Netflix Original content. Orange is the New Black and Bloodlines are also quality television, but this show may be the patriarch. Can’t wait to start the next season.

Quick Reviews! : The Imitation Game, Housebound, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and Old Joy

I’ve been busy getting ready for a move so I wasn’t able to give these films a dedicated full review. Here are some quick thoughts on each film.

If I didn’t see Selma this year, Benedict Cumberbatch would have been my lead performance of the year. He’s that good in it. You can tell how dedicated he is in portraying Alan Turing as graciously as he can and it showed. Sure Turing was a bit frustrating to work with, but the man was a genius and didn’t deserve to endure some of the hardships during the end of his life. Graham Moore, who charmed us all with his Oscar speech, deserved his moment in the spotlight after crafting an airtight and seemingly flawless screenplay. From the start to the finish the film runs effortlessly like one of Turing’s machine, turning and spinning on a heartbeat like rhythm. I can see why Morten Tyldum was nominated for an Oscar. This film is just so well put together. The score, the acting, the cinematography, and the writing are all free flowing and synchronized. The film reminded me a lot of A Beautiful Mind, both in subject matter and in storytelling. I didn’t really understand the Keira Knightley praise but it’s always nice to see Matthew Goode in stuff. I love watching him act. Good show.

4.5/5

New to Netflix, this New Zealand film from director Gerard Johnstone actually surprised me. I expected a serious horror film but what the film really excelled at was the sort of horror/humor that guys like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson gave us early in their careers. The film centers around a brat of a woman who gets in trouble trying to steal an ATM and has to be under house arrest for nine months in the house she grew up in. Stuff starts to happen that you would normally find in a movie like this but then the film takes a sharp right turn. The result is funny, original, fun, and occasionally disgusting. Give it a try if you like movies like Dead Alive of Evil Dead.

3/5

This Studio Ghibli film was recently nominated for Best Foreign Language film at this years Oscars. This is for good reason. The film is gorgeous. What seems to be colored pencil from time to time, Princess Kaguya’s beautifully animated story tells the tale of a girl born from a bamboo stalk that grows as fast as the plants she grew out of. Obviously there is some magical realism here, but that nuance is why I love Studio Ghibli films. This one was directed by Grave of the Fireflies director Isao Takahata, and features his best animation to date. Every scene leaps off the page in a colorful albeit very subtle display of animation. The simple story didn’t wow me as much as Ghibi’s other films, but its the kind of story that you can just sit back on a rainy day, like I did, and just take it all in. The music was also fantastic.

3.5/5

This was a bit of a slow watch. I’m a fan of Kelly Reichardt. I thought “Wendy and Lucy” and “Meeks Cutoff” were wonderful examples of what you can do with still images and slow burn story telling. Night Moves was a bit of a disappointment but after seeing that Old Joy was on Netflix, I decided to check it out. I didn’t realize a movie that has a run length of only 73 minutes could drag so long. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like the film. It was just the opposite of entertaining. Instead, it was a film that featured two friends going on a camping trip where their past and present only ever so slightly hits the surface of what we can see. There is a lot going on in the background of their lives that we aren’t directly told. I enjoyed it for what it was but I don’t think everybody will like it. It’s literally a car ride and a camping trip. Nice to see NJ natives Yo La Tengo doing the film score though. That helped.

2.5/5

Quick Review : Honeymoon (2014)

IMDB Score – 5.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 70%
Netflix

Directed By – Leigh Janiak
Starring – Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, and Hanna Brown

A newlywed couple finds their lake-country honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of their first night.

Gross. Let’s all I have to say after watching the last 20 minutes of this film. Gross.

You’ll understand if you watch it, and you should. I didn’t expect much from this. It’s the first film from director Leigh Janiak, who moonlighted as an assistant for a couple years. The plot is very simple. “Yay, we’re married! Let’s go up to my families old cabin in the woods. That should be fun”. Guess what, not fun. Who would have thought that? Rose Leslie was okay in Game of Thrones but the thought of her carrying a whole movie left me a bit cautious. However, I hadn’t seen a horror film in a while and Netflix just started streaming it so I gave it a go.

Pleasantly surprised.

Rose Leslie wasn’t that great. I was right in that regard. She gave the Canadian accent a good try but her true Scottish accent broke through a lot. It can be distracting at times. Treadaway however was very good. He was totally believable once shit started to go downhill for the newly married couple. The other two actors really weren’t in the film enough for me to comment. This was all Leslie/Treadaway.

I like slow burns, especially when it comes to horror films, the good ones anyway. When it comes to b-movie horror, please, up the blood and guts every minute until the film ends. The serious ones though, make it slow. I want to feel the tension. I want to get relaxed only to have something happen that puts the hair on my neck at a standstill. We got that with this film. It’s a slow descent into what seems to be madness but turns into something more mysterious and creepy. I loved how we were never given much of a glimpse of what was going on. Trust me, it was obvious what was happening, but I like the film kept it a mystery for the characters. Did I mention the last 20 minutes were gross? Holy shit, don’t watch this film is you’re going to have sex in the near future. Just don’t.

It’s totally worth the watch on Netflix.

3.5/5