Posts tagged Laika
Review: The Boxtrolls

Laika is on a roll. In the past couple of years the stop-motion animation studio behind Coraline (2009) and Paranorman (2012) has created original, technically innovative, and emotionally satisfying movies with a consistency reminiscent of Pixar's heyday.

Laika's latest movie, The Boxtrolls, continues their tradition of mixing horror with family films by using a combination of beautiful stop-motion and CGI. Based on Alan Snow's children's book, Here Be Monsters, The Boxtrolls follows a young orphaned boy raised by a group of underground, trash collecting creatures. When an exterminator tries to rid the town of boxtrolls to climb the social ladder, the boy must try to save his family and discover out his own identity.

The film is a moving, funny indictment of conformity. Although there are many clever visual jokes, there are also plenty of jokes aimed at the younger audience. While children will enjoy the humor, adults will appreciate the social commentary and the incredible craftsmanship that went into the character and set design. It is truly visually stunning, and is one of the few movies that benefits from the addition of 3D.

The titular creatures are funny and speak a cute gibberish language. The animators successfully convey their sentiments through tone, facial expressions, and body language. Unfortunately, the audience never quite forms the same emotional connection with the boxtrolls as we do with the human characters. The human characters just seem to have much more depth and personality.

Laika used a method called "replacement animation," a 3D printer created over 53,000 faces of the same characters with slightly different facial expressions.

Laika used a method called "replacement animation," a 3D printer created over 53,000 faces of the same characters with slightly different facial expressions.

The voice acting is outstanding. The film compiles an amazing cast, from Elle Fanning, to Nick Frost, to Tracy Morgan, to Jared Harris.

The obvious standout, however, is an incredible performance by a cockney-accented Sir Ben Kingsley, playing the villainous exterminator Archibald Snatcher. His character's desperation to move up in society is nuanced and consistently entertaining. That mixed with his many physical transformations makes every minute he is on screen a joy to watch. 

Some of the best humor in the film comes from meta and self-aware jokes told by Snatcher's group of thugs. This film, more than any previous Laika movie, offers interesting glimpses into the behind the scenes process of making a stop-motion film. 

It took 1.5 years to film The Boxtrolls, a good day netted 2 seconds of footage.

It took 1.5 years to film The Boxtrolls, a good day netted 2 seconds of footage.

Laika has a remarkable record of progressiveness when it comes to social issues. Paranorman has a teenaged jock who came out as gay at the end of the movie, and the teaser trailer for The Boxtrolls offers a heartwarming message that families come in all shapes and sizes. In the film itself, there are a few jokes about a man cross dressing as a woman that seemed a little outdated. However, the jokes were not at the expense of the cross dresser, rather the film portrayed the cross dressing as advantageous to the character.

Overall, the film is visually stunning, offering plenty of cute creatures and jokes for children, as well as social commentary from nuanced characters for the adults. A couple minor plot twists might be obvious before the surprise is revealed and explained in full, but the journey is still fun and moving. It all comes together to make one the best animated film of the year so far.

The Boxtrolls comes out September 26, 2014

Rating: 8.5/10 Stars

Trailer Roundup: The Boxtrolls and The Interview

This week brings us Laika's latest stop-motion film and Seth Rogen and James Franco's newest comedy.

New International Trailer for The Boxtrolls

This trailer shows off the most plot we've seen yet from the movie, but fails to live up to the heights of the amazing initial teasers released (here and here). The Boxtrolls is hand-made by Laika studios, which has an amazing track record of critically acclaimed, forward thinking stop-motion films (Coraline, Paranorman). This trailer shows the incredible craftsmanship and design that goes into these films, giving us glimpses of the big bad villains and the heartwarming story about an unconventional family. I can't wait to see The Boxtrolls when it comes out September 26, 2014.

Trailer Rating: 4/5 Stars

First Trailer for The Interview

This trailer shows Seth Rogen (Neighbors) and James Franco (This is The End) attempting to assassinate Kim Jong Un when they go to North Korea to interview him. Directed by Seth Rogen and Seth Goldberg (the team that directed This is The End) this trailer shows that perhaps the concept is funnier than the execution. Then again, it didn't seem to be trying too hard to be funny, as much as it was meant to establish a dark comedic atmosphere in which Franco and Rogen can be free to improvise (what I'm sure will be) hilarious content. Because the movie has so much potential, hopefully we will see more funny content in the promotional material before The Interview comes out October 10, 2014.

Trailer Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

First Trailer for Birdman

Our final trailer is for an upcoming dark comedy where Michael Keaton (Batman) plays a washed up actor famous for playing a famous superhero. He must put his ego aside when he tries to recapture his former glory with a broadway play based on the superhero movie. The film is directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Babel) and also stars Edward Norton (Fight Club) and Emma Stone (Easy A). The visuals look pretty inventive, matching a unique visual style with a tone that suggest things will get out of control pretty quickly. Though I hadn't heard of the film before today, this trailer made me very excited for the movie. Birdman comes out October 17, 2014.

Trailer Rating: 4.5/5 Stars