‘The Boxtrolls’ (Review)

My first review to be featured in my school’s newspaper site. http://www.huntingtonian.com/?p=24327boxtrolls_xlg

One night in the towering town of Cheeseville, the young son of Mr. Trubshaw is kidnapped by monsters. The vile Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), a pest exterminator, makes a deal with Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) — a cheese-consuming, pompous fool — to rid the town of every one of these brutes in exchange for membership to the White Hats, a group of noble men who serve as the town council. Contrary to Snatcher’s misguided opinion, although mischievous, these creatures are actually a peaceful group of subterranean dwellers known as Boxtrolls.

“The Boxtrolls” was produced by the stop-motion animation studio Laika. This is Laika’s third animated feature, the first two being “Coraline” (2009) — which I consider a near masterpiece — and “Paranorman” (2012). Sadly, “The Boxtrolls” is most definitely the weakest of the three films.

The Boxtrolls themselves can best be described as cute but unorthodox. Every night, this silly group of trolls wander around town in search of items to use for their inventions, all the while wearing their signature cardboard boxes. Among these trolls lives a boy named Eggs (Isaac Wright), watched over by a Boxtroll named Fish (Dee Baker).

As he grows up, Eggs faces the the threat of Archibald and his men Mr. Gristle (Tracy Morgan), Mr. Trout (Nick Frost), and Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade) — a group of fumbling idiots who are ironically deeply philosophical, constantly debating the difference between good and evil. Through the years, Egg watches as more and more Boxtrolls are captured by this group. On the 10th anniversary of the Trubshaw baby kidnapping, Egg decides to surface and find out the mystery revolving around these kidnappings.

From here, “The Boxtrolls” becomes rather formulaic. At the end of the first act, I was able to predict the pace of the story nearly beat by beat. Much of the story is pushed along by our villain, Archibald Snatcher, who much like the Boxtrolls themselves, fights for his own sense of place in this world of upper class aristocracy. Eggs as our protagonist stumbles around a lot, befriends Lord Portley-Rind’s daughter Winnie (Elle Fanning), and shows us his lack of human etiquette. Even with its cliché plot line, there is still a chance it could appeal to certain audiences with its humor and visuals.

The only thing I really loved about this film was its visuals. The world is fully realized, and each character model is either strikingly grotesque or cute — in an ugly sort of way. I have always been impressed with Laika’s display of animation, and with “The Boxtrolls,” I was won over once again.

The humor of “The Boxtrolls” won’t be for everyone. The gross-out humor was dished out far too often. I definitely found myself chuckling at dialogue from time to time, but there was only one moment during the film that I heard the whole theater laughing together. Personally, I found the funniest, most genuine moments came by use of satire.

At it’s core, “The Boxtrolls” is a movie about identity and finding one’s place in the world. Few scenes really shine in this film, and as a whole, the movie doesn’t always work. However, it still gets by with its great use of stop-motion and tremendous cast of voice actors.

Is the movie worth the price of a ticket? Maybe, if you get a student discounted matinee.



‘This Is Spinal Tap’ (Review)

spinaltapThis is Spinal Tap is the first mockumentary I have ever seen and I really need to take time to search out some other ones. This film grows increasingly absurd while at the same time growing more and more truthful. The reason This is Spinal Tap truly succeeds is because it of how realistic it truly is. Even though the details may seem farcical, the over arching theme and story plays with that of many true to life bands.

Almost every band movie I can think of hits the same story beats as this hilarious mockumentary. We get the ridiculous locations for performing, the big stadium, the replacement musicians, the break up, and the final re-uniting of the band. It is so perfectly formulaic that it works tremendously well.

Story aside This is Spinal Tap has a terrific cast. Not only did these actors play convincingly comic characters, but also wrote and performed admirably. These songs and performances or so good in fact that the fictional band This is Spinal Tap has made a number of concert tours. How great is that? The songs are catchy and as long as you listen to the lyrics you will be in for a good laugh.

I will definitely be revisiting This is Spinal Tap in the future as I am sure I missed a number of jokes and physical gags. This film should and will be relevant for as long as the music industry exists. Would love to see a sequel, maybe about an anniversary concert tour.


‘Amazing Grace With Bill Moyers (Review)

Amazing Grace had sat with me as little more than a poplar hymn from my baptist going days. After watching Amazing Grace I found it to be a song with much more meaning than I ever imagined. It is a song that has inspired generation, lead many people to salvation, and brought families together for years.

Amazing Grace covers both the history and result of the classic hymn Amazing Grace. The story of Amazing Grace writer, John Newton is told to us. A former slaver and boater, Newton found God and published the song in 1779. His story is narrated by the distinctive vocal talents of Jeremy Irons, using Newton’s own words from his diary and logs. Newton’s history is kept at a minimal and so the real heart of the film is about all the people Amazing Grace has touched.

The song Amazing Grace is sung over and over throughout the film. It is a wonder I never got tired of hearing it. Each time, it is sung with such passion and feeling that I could never dismiss such heartfelt praise. We are given a number of welcoming renditions and stories about Amazing Grace from legends such as Judy Collins and Johnny Cash. Judy Collins talks to us about how Amazing Grace gave her strength through her time battling as an alcoholic. This is where Amazing Grace really hits home, when it get’s personal. But the most fascinating part about the film is not about how it has effected celebrities, but rather how Amazing Grace has defined normal lives and cultures.

We are shown many fascinating life styles. Some of the most interesting come from the deep south, where churches use a special music writing script called shaped notes. This was one of the most intriguing moments for me as I had never heard of such a music writing style. From there we meet a family who every year is reunited, led by their folk singing relative Jean Ritchie. The words of Amazing Grace are uplifting and sorrowful as the celebrate family and those who have passed. Another beautiful story of Grace is told by the inmates of Huntsville Texas and later sing a beautiful all men’s a capela arrangement. One of the final stories is told about the Boys Choir of Harlem, their voices are angelic and their story humbling.

Amazing Grace is a beautiful documentary about truth, love, and the power of God’s grace. I know many will get sick of hearing the song, and may be bored of the content of the film, but I found if you just soak in each verse and chorus as if you were hearing someone’s individual story, you will be able to truly appreciate the power of this film. Each singer in this documentary deserves to have his or her story listened too. What is your story of Amazing Grace?


‘And Everything Is Going Fine’ Review

and_everything_is_going_fine_xlgAnd Everything is Going Fine is simply at it’s core a autobiographical look at Spalding Gray. I say it is autobiographical because it a compilation of Spalding speaking on himself, telling his life story through a series of interviews and spoken story telling style stage shows.

Spalding Gray was little more than a name to me before I saw this documentary. He is an actor, a performer, a father, a lover, a victim of mental illness, and at his very a core a story teller.

As the director Soderbergh is tasked with gathering hours of material and producing a self told documentary that is perfectly paced, hitting on what I thought were the most interesting and important moments in his life.

Gray goes from hilarious to personal and heart breaking without skipping a beat. He opens up to us in ways that some of our best friends never would. Why does he do this? To justify himself? To unleash his burdens on someone else? I think he does it to stay true to himself, to never lose composure. So we never see around the character, the human being that is Spalding Gray.


‘The Innkeepers’ Review

ExclInnkeepersBigThe Innkeepers scared me more than most horror films. I have never been so tense during a horror film before. I usually find it very easy for me to sit relaxed and poised while my girlfriend hides her face. But I think I may have been even more scared than her this time around.

The movie has this wonderful charm that is carried out by its lead played by Sara Paxton. There is a constant sense of humor that lasted through the whole film. The funniest moment being when Luke scares Claire by saying “I don’t want to scare you, but I’m standing right behind you.”

I would say there are no more than 10 scares in this film, but the lead up to each one absolutely terrified me. Ti West sometimes even makes us sit in agony up to 10 minutes at a time, while we wait for the next scare.

The Innkeepers was simple in every way. The plot was very straight forward. It never gets swept up in a convoluted story line that so many modern horror film fall prey to. The characters are not overly complex and we understand every characters motivation in terms of plot and development. Ti West never get’s carried away with special effects making me feel like even I could have made that film.



‘John Carter’ Review

john-carter-poster (1)EVERYONE IS WRONG!!! John Carter is one of the best Sci-fi fantasy adventure films made in the last 10 years. It doesn’t sit as highly as something like Avatar, a movie I think is a marvelous entertainment, though many take the opposite stance on my opinion. John Carter is a type a film I would have adored as a kid, back when I first saw star wars. It is an great mix of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Star Trek rolled into one very entertaining and beautifully space adventure.

The book ends for this film were used really well, character Edgar Rice Burroughs has inherited the riches of his uncle John Carter, and is most importantly left along his journal for him to have and read alone. And so John Carter’s story starts and so ends, using the book ends in a rather unique way.

Andrew Stanton’s adaption of author’s Edgar Rice Burroughs’ world of Mars was fascinating and brought together rather realistically in an amazing use of CGI.

It was really fun being invited into a world of such interesting and well thought out tribes of alien men and creatures. I loved every minute I spent on Mars. The story of grand adventure and heroism is well thought out, producing an adventure story that should make any adventure genre lover have a great time.

I think it sad that people pushed off this movie, dismissing it for nothing more than a CGI fest with a bad characters and worse story. But when I look at critics reviews, it seems that most were split in positive and negative reviews, which in my opinion can be a good representation of a film, showing that it doesn’t and shouldn’t fit everyones interests. But personally I think it could be something that people will come back to years later and appreciate it for being the grand diversion of reality it is.


‘An American In Paris” Review

Poster-An-American-in-Paris_03An American in Paris holds a very small part in my memory. I know I saw it once when I was was little, but could not remember a thing about it, and now I remember why. Unlike Singin’ in the Rain (my favorite movie of all time) An American in Paris has little for me to remember. None of the songs are particularly memorable accept for the fact that I know them since they have been used for over 60 years as jazz standards. But the film isn’t bad. It is just a very safe musical that doesn’t push the envelope in any way.

One reason that I watched the movie with strong interest because the opening scene was the best part of the whole film. For years I have loved how Gene Kelly moves, both in dance and outside. The best example I have of this, and my favorite part of the whole movie was when Gene Kelly’s character Jerry wakes up in the morning. We find Jerry in his normal morning routine, he answers his door, slinks out of bed, pull his bed up to the rafters. From here he glides around his loft grabbing clothes and shifting his furniture around in a mesmerizing, rhythmic grace that only someone who is as disciplined in movement as Gene could achieve. Now if only the rest of the movie had such nuance.

That opening scene alone kept An American in Paris from getting a less than a 6.8/10.