1. Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features, 3,260 Theaters, 101 Minutes, Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 94% Fresh [84 Reviews]: A young boy named Kubo accidentally summons a vengeful ancient spirit who sends his whole life into turmoil. In order to stop the battle of the gods–or even survive it–Kubo must find a mystical armor his father once wore. But will he get it before it’s too late?
This sounds like an ancient Japanese legend brought to life, but it is an original story thought up by the stop-motion animators at Laika, the company that brought you Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls.
In a day where cel animation is considered quaint, stop-motion can be seen as almost hipsterish. But these guys do it well, as the reviews for this film seem to bear out.
2. War Dogs (Warner Brothers, 3,258 Theaters, 114 Minutes, Rated R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time:60% Fresh [85 Reviews]: They say the younger generation is unmotivated. Here’s a film to prove them wrong.
The film is based on the true story of two young men who started a gun running business. Their company included the U.S. Government and dealt with them travelling to war zones. Pretty ambitious for a couple kids just in the 20’s.
Of course, the film takes liberties with the true story. There was no driving through battlefields for the pair, and the film leaves out the fact that the guys had connections who owned gun shops to help them out.
3. Ben-Hur (Paramount, 3,084 Theaters, 124 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing images, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time:32% Fresh [62 Reviews]: Okay, we are living in a world where remakes are going to happen. We can’t stop it, we just have to try to accept it. But Hollywood makes it very hard.
Granted, this is like the fifth version of Ben-Hur to hit the big screen. They’ve been making films out of Lew Wallace’s book since 1907. But the 1959 version is recognized as an all-time classic. It takes guts to do a live-action remake when the 1959 version is so readily available.
This film is produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the same people who brought you such Cristian fare such as Son of God, Little Boy and Woodlawn. I guess it’s good to see them invest the money from those films in a movie starring people who actually have active careers (Look! It’s the guy from Boardwalk Empire! And hey, it’s the guy who played Doctor Doom! No, not that one, the other one! And Morgan Freeman!). But still. This is a remake that is really unwanted.