The Boxtrolls (2014)

The BoxtrollsReleased: September 26, 2014. Directed by: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi. Starring: Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Elle Fanning. Runtime: 96 min.

For the kids, The Boxtrolls is a colourful animated film that they will remember fondly for a crazy hermit who repeatedly says “Jelly!” For the adults, it’s a clever political satire of the power one man can have over a small populous by planting a single idea in their heads.

Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) convinces the townspeople of Cheesebridge that boxtrolls are a monstrous race that eat children and steal cheeses, and that’s not okay in a town called Cheesebridge. When a boy is stolen by the boxtrolls, a city-wide curfew is put in effect. Rumours fly that the boxtrolls ate the father’s bones. Snatcher uses this as an opportunity to spark a paranoia of the unknown.

In reality, they’re a misunderstood, harmless race that steal what they need, like tiny men from The Borrowers. Their appearance is reminiscent of the annoying Crazy Frog, and their timid personalities are much like turtles (the box is their shell). The logo on the box they wear is also their name. There’s a boxtroll called Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) boy who obviously doesn’t look like the rest of his people. When Snatcher is hired by the town’s mayor (Jared Harris), Eggs tries to stop the numbers of his people from dwindling.

Snatcher’s malicious intentions find reason in motivation: To get a white hat that indicates prestige and privilege. Ben Kingsley offers memorable moments as Snatcher, a creepy, embodiment of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s villainous Child Catcher. He is perhaps out-starred by his three amusing sidekicks who are trying to snatch the boxtrolls. Richard Ayoade and Nick Frost voice a pair who bicker about whether they’re on the good or bad side of the situation. Tracy Morgan portrays the other sidekick, a sadistic Mr. Gristle. The villains use a local heartthrob, Madame Frou Frou, as a channel for propaganda.

When we get to the human “good guys,” things get less interesting. The supporting Winnie (Elle Fanning trying her best) is an uninteresting and mild brat. Her father (the Mayor) is too obsessed with the town’s main export, cheese, to pay attention to her. Cheese’s prominence in the screenplay is strange, one character even compares it to a mother’s smile on a warm spring’s day.

The character of Eggs at the film’s heart isn’t captivating. He leads a story of finding belonging. He’s at his funniest when at a public and prestigious dance. Otherwise, much like minions in Despicable Me, the boxtrolls steal the spotlight with their creative language and antics. They’re diverse (one has a pair of dentures) and amusing, particularly Shoe and Eggs’ caretaker, Fish.

The Boxtrolls boasts detailed animation and a unique visual style. For all of its faults – it’s both sporadically gross and boring – it works just fine. It will keep children entertained and it’s clever enough for adults.

Score: 63/100

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The World’s End (2013)

The World's EndReleased: August 23, 2013. Directed by: Edgar Wright.  Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman. Runtime: 109 min

Back in 2004, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (director/co-writer, star/co-writer and star, respectively) began their Cornetto trilogy with “Shaun of the Dead,” a satire of zombie flicks. The second in the trilogy came in 2007, called “Hot Fuzz,” a satire of buddy action films. This year, they are back to finish off their trilogy, with “The World’s End,” a satire of apocalyptic and science fiction features.

Gary King (Simon Pegg) is the so-called King of his friends group, when they were seniors in high school. Now, they’ve drifted and are all living individual lives. To gain a sense of achievement, he gathers his old friends to finish what they attempted 20 years ago; The Golden Mile, an epic pub crawl across twelve of their hometown pubs. The World’s End is the last pub on their tour, and reaching that pub becomes the least of their worries – as they unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival.

In King’s friends group is Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), Gary’s wingman. Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) are the two buddies who were kept around mostly for comic relief; and Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) was Gary’s rival for women’s affection. Joining the guys on their adventure is Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), who Gary and Steven constantly fight over.

The main difference between Gary and the rest of his friends is that they have responsibilities, and he is suffering from Peter Pan syndrome, because he hasn’t yet grown up. Gary’s arc is poignant and emotionally captivating, and it also makes this have a great analysis on the difficulty of aging; or in Gary’s case, not aging. He’s the same old Gary, but he is a funny guy; so that isn’t so bad for the audience.

The friendship between Gary and his wingman, Andy, is well-written. It’s heartbreaking in scenes; and possibly the most emotional relationship shared between the two stars. It’s interesting to see the shoe being put on the other foot for Frost in the trilogy. Both of the characters these stars have portrayed, they have had a lot of growing to do – but Frost’s characters have had, arguably, more memorable arcs from an emotional standpoint. They are both the main characters of each of the film, but Frost has played the slackers and Pegg has played characters that actually have ambitions. It’s interesting to see Pegg as the slacker, and Frost as the successful one.

Wright makes a comment through the characters that people’s hometowns don’t change over the years, but those who leave it do, and when they come back it’s really weird because it feels the same, but many can’t pinpoint why it feels different; and why they feel like strangers in a place once so familiar to them. The story is a fun way to embrace that idea, and answer it in a hilarious and creative way. The film is layered with heart, brain and hilarity – and it’ll keep you guessing throughout. The characters all get their chances to shine, whether they be comic relief or completely badass at kicking otherworldly robotic ass.

The special effects are impressive and there are tons of laughs throughout the film. It has a fun satirical edge, and it’s a blast of a science fiction film. It further complements the fact that the Wright-Pegg-Frost is one of the strongest teams in satirical comedy, and that their films are great satires and wickedly fun additions to the genre. With “The World’s End,” Wright brings his signature directing style, and makes an ambitious and worthy end to his trilogy. I really can’t wait to watch this in a marathon with the others.

Score88/100

 

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White and the Huntsman

Release Date: June 1, 2012

Director: Rupert Sanders

Stars: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron

Runtime: 127 min

Snow White, the daughter of the late King, escapes from the clutches of the wicked Queen Ravenna after years of imprisonment. She has just escaped when the Magic Mirror informs Ravenna that Snow is the only one who could defeat her, because of her innocence and purity. If the Queen obtains and eats Snow’s heart, she won’t have to feed on any being’s life source ever again, and she will achieve immortality. The Queen sends a squad of men, led by the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), into the dark forest to get her back. When the Huntsman learns he is being played like a fiddle, he turns against the Queen’s men and teams up with Snow in the process. Meanwhile, Snow’s childhood friend, William, learns that she is alive and he sets off on the road to find her and offer some assistance to the situation.

Ah, Snow White and the Huntsmen, you fulfill your purpose, and you do it well. Snow White’s purpose is to offer a nice twist on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, and it does just that. Almost so well, that I forgot what happened in the general source material (but that may because I haven’t seen it for a while), and this became a film of its own. It’s so convincing, that this may as well be the source material itself.

The character of the Huntsman is okay, because one could understand his motivations, but he wasn’t anything special. He was pretty sweet in war, and he’s likeable enough that one would be upset if he died. Hemsworth offers an okay performance at the same time, and says, “Hey! Forget Thor’s hammer, I’m pretty good with an axe, too!”

Ughck, why couldn’t the filmmakers have found a better person to cast as Snow White? Oh yeah, that’s right, Sanders wanted a good candidate to sleep with after the film finished. Seriously, Stewart is such a boring screen presence. As for the looks, she’s pretty fitting as Snow, but as for the acting skills and presence, not so much. What happened to her potential flare in 2002’s Panic Room? She has gotten so boring since that time, and she really should not have had the chance to be in another potential teen franchise. Please, Bella, stop it, and no one believed that phony accent (whatever the Hell it was) for a second. It’s sad that I liked her best when she was sleeping. Two battles were being fought in this one: the obvious one, Ravenna’s forces vs. King Magnus’ forces; but, there was also a not-so-obvious battle between Kristen Stewart and Sam Claflin (William), entitled “Who’s Going to End up Being more Boring?”[.] I think Claflin won, but not by much. That one scene where it was just those two, I almost fell asleep. The real person who truly shines through is the always-fantastic Charlize Theron. She’s just great and sometimes truly eerie as the wicked Queen Ravenna.

Most of the characters are just okay for me, Ravenna is the best. Snow White in the source material is great, but she isn’t as good now, mostly because Stewart is the face of her. The dwarfs were pretty great. There’s a number of known actors as the little people (like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, the great comedic presence Nick Frost, and Toby Jones). It was sort of cool how they made them look so small, too. I like the characters of the dwarfs, but I wasn’t a fan of the appearances. I just couldn’t help but pick on their hair. As a kid, their parents must have given each of them a bad haircut. And to add onto that, they went to Kindergarden class and a class bully took safety scissors and thought they were a hairdresser, and he made the hair even worse, and it never grew back. At least, that’s my theory.

Snow knows where it’s going, but at times it feels like it’s a struggle getting there. It does get there, but after some effort. I must add, the finale was great. It’s a little better than that battle scene of Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it pales in comparison to any battle scenes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The make-up is great, the finale is great, and the characters were just okay. The action, when it comes, is purely great, and the human Mirror thing was actually very cool. Charlize Theron steals the show, and at times, she’s almost as ugly as she was in 2003’s Monster.

70/100

Happy birthday funny lady, Kristen Wiig (39)

 

Kristen Wiig

Wiig has been voice talents for the films Despicable Me as Miss Hattie and How to Train Your Dragon; and she also showed a decent dramatic side in her small role in the romance/crime film based on true events, All Good Things alongside Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. She was in the comedy/action British comedy Paul (the poorest film from the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedy team), but Wiig is best known for her performance (as Annie) and writing for the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids. She was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for her work on Bridesmaids. I enjoy watching her perform, even in the little amount of titles I’ve actually seen her in. I do look forward to seeing more of her.