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Friday, December 9, 2016

Blu-ray Review: #KuboandTheTwo Strings

The absolutely stunning Kubo and the Two Strings is a powerful home video experience, but loses us in its uneven storytelling.

Review by Matt Cummings

If 2016 has proven one thing, it's that the chasm of truly terrible film has never been larger. It's as if mainstream Hollywood dug itself a hole under the false impression that crap sells merely because their marketing acumen relieves all ills. So when a modestly-disappointing film arrives, we're almost ready to award it something for not failing. That's the case with Universal's Kubo and the Two Strings, an amazing visual experience surrounded by a story that almost gets it right. The home release fares much better, delivering superior audio and video, as well as a satisfying set of extras.

The Movie - 3.5/5
Having been saved by his mother (voiced by Charlize Theron) from the grips of his evil twin aunts and grandfather, Kubo (Art Patkinson) has grown up with an amazing magical talent: he can manipulate colorful paper into figures that allow him to tell deeply-involved bedtime stories. He performs to the delight of the local town, but never sticks around to accept their hospitality. You see, his aunts can track his whereabouts in the darkness, which soon sees them attack him and set the town on fire. He wakes up to learn that his mother is gone, having imbued his favorite toy with magic properties who in turn implores him to seek revenge. Wearing the robe of his murdered father, Kubo embarks on a mission to recover his father's armor, hoping to defeat his mortal enemy before they can claim his other eye. Along the way, he'll meet Monkey (also voiced by Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), both of whom offer critical insights into his past.

If Kubo could be judged by the first two acts, its win for Best Animated Film would have been assured. Intensely gratifying due to its unique structure (think of an even darker version of Pixar's Up), Kubo sets its early sights high and achieves nothing short of wonder. With so little actual storytelling presented, we learn of the mother's special powers and how her dark past has led Kubo to this point, a moment in which we grieve over his emotionally-broken mother like she might our own. As Kubo assembles his rather rag-tag team, we're granted moments of beautifully-constructed character development that make the normal animated film feel almost childish in their presentation. Kubo and the Two Strings has a lot to say about family and loss, and it's almost a heart beaker to see the boy's world so ripped apart.

But then the third act arrives, and our beautiful little stop-motion animated classic-in-the-making begins to unravel. Without giving too much away, we're treated to some of the cheapest story resolutions available, from rushed revelations about family to serious breakdowns in the story itself. The journey to secure his father's armor and sword are handled with the least care possible, making their acquisition seem like anyone could do it rather than a real and dangerous effort. When death arrives to claim Kubo's friends, the revelation of their true identities is handled so quickly that we barely have enough time to react. The climactic battle with Kubo's grandfather (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) is also resolved with lightning efficiency, as if Writers Marc Haimes and Chris Butler took on different acts without actually wondering what the other was writing. The result is a film with enormous possibility that ultimately fails to maintain its identity.

One thing that cannot be denied is the stunning stop-motion and direction by Thomas Knight. We haven't seen a film of this type in decades, and it's certainly a sight to behold. This is Wallace and Grommit on mushrooms, boasting a visual experience that must be seen to be appreciated. Based on the platform you have at home, Kubo and The Two Strings will either merely shine or absolutely floor you with its deep color palette and crystal-clear details. More about those later. But a film is more than mere visuals, which makes this one both a mesmerizing experience and a disappointing one. The MPAA might disagree, which will no doubt lead to an interesting Oscar race for Best Animated Film. But see this one for yourself, if for nothing else than to see the re-emergence of Stop-Motion and the way Eastern film-making sensibilities can be fused into American animated fare.

The Video - 5/5
Kubo and The Two Strings is lovingly presented by Universal Studios as in a gorgeous MPEG-4/AVC transfer that immediately establishes itself as one of the best transfers of the year. Clarity is simply stunning, as every element of the Stop-Motion pops with both definition and volume. Rich details prevails from Monkey's fur to Kubo's hair; fabrics and other man-made elements also shine, such as Beetle's dinged-up armor, aged sword hilts, and ship made of leaves. Outdoor settings like water look real here, showing off the depth of the ocean as Kubo's team struggles during a violent storm. Colors are pitched a tad towards saturated like The Secret Life of Pets, it never distracts from the experience. Colors never bleed, allowing those sharp details to emerge in every scene. Blacks and shadows thrive here, such as those scenes in the forest in Act One and in the climatic battle sequence at the father's wrecked home. There's zero crush, aliasing, or banding, leaving us with one of the more beautiful prints we've seen this year. We've spoken many times of Universal's acumen, and with only one failure this year we're still inclined to award it high marks for this visual masterpiece.

The Audio - 5/5
Kubo and The Two Strings impresses with a rich and boisterous DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Having said that, I do hope you will experience this on a proper surround platform, because the effect on a soundbar only scratches the surface. The way Universal wraps us in this world is extraordinary, starting with the rears that boast ocean noise, wind, raindrops, and other elements. From it, we get an aural sense of this world as a very real place. The forwards deliver strong elements of music, sound effects, and some chatter, but do their best to layer those sounds rather than assault us. That was my big takeaway when I first heard it on my soundbar. The center channel shines as Universal takes the time to actually separate the dialogue as opposed to merely bumping it up over other effects, reminding us why they are still kings of the audio transfer. The fabulously-aggressive LFE bumps, bangs, and thumps its way almost from the beginning, leaving me no choice but to award it top marks. Simply put, it's reference quality and a winner in every way.

The Supplements - 4.5/5
Universal's Kubo and The Two Strings offers two very strong features that alone are worth this score. Not only are we gifted with a competent and informative commentary by Director Thomas Knight, but we also get an appealing six-part feature called Kubo's Journey (1080p), which is presented in HD. Corners of the Earth (3:12) is a quick look into the film's structure as well as the people required to make a movie of this scope. The Myth of Kubo (2:33) digs deeper into the themes hidden below the general adventure plot.

Our evaluation copy arrived as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. The slipcase is colorful and attractive, but there is no interior artwork. At the time of this post, three versions were offered: a 2D package, a 3D alternate cover, and a four-disc anthology that sports Laika Entertainment's Coraline, The Boxtrolls, and Paranorman. Both the 2D and 3D offer a voucher for a Digital HD Copy. I hope Laika will eventually release a US steelbook, but for now these three versions should satisfy.

The Bottom Line - 4/5
Boasting an overall exceptional home release, Universal's Kubo and The Two Strings also suffers from a frustrating ending that reduces its early brilliance. The Stop-Motion team lead by Knight produces a gorgeous movie, which the Blu-ray brings out in every way. This film is ready for 4k, even if recent opinions consider the format to be DOA. Kubo will most likely join other contenders such as The Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory, and Zootopia for top animated film of 2016, but its chances of actually winning depend on whether MPAA members can look past the story problems to consider its amazing technical merits. When viewed through those lenses, it's a satisfying hit, sporting perhaps the best audio and video transfers for an animated film this year, along with a solid and satisfying set of extras. Recommended.

Kuno and The Two Strings is rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril and has a runtime of 101 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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#JohnWick On 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack For The First Time

One of the best action film ever made is coming onto 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital HD) February 7 from Lionsgate.

Experience the adrenaline-fueled story of vengeance like never before when John Wick arrives on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray™ and Digital HD) on February 7 from Lionsgate. Watch action icon Keanu Reeves star as John Wick, the ultimate hitman, in this ROTTEN TOMATOES Certified Fresh revenge thriller available before John Wick 2 arrives in theaters. 4K Ultra HD provides over four times the resolution of Full HD, including High Dynamic Range (HDR) to deliver the brightest, most vivid and realistic color. The pulse-pounding John Wick 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack will be available for the suggested retail price of $22.99.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
When sadistic young thugs senselessly attack John Wick – a brilliantly lethal ex-assassin – they have no idea that they’ve just awakened the boogeyman. With New York City as his bullet-riddled playground, Wick embarks on a merciless rampage, hunting down his adversaries with the skill and ruthlessness that made him an underworld legend.

CAST
Keanu Reeves The Matrix, Knock Knock
Michael Nyqvist Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Alfie Allen HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Atonement
Adrianne Palicki TV’s “Friday Night Lights,” G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Bridget Moynahan TV’s “Blue Bloods,” I, Robot
Dean Winters HBO’s “Oz,” TV’s “Rescue Me”
Ian McShane Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, HBO’s “Deadwood”
John Leguizamo The Lincoln Lawyer, Gamer
Willem Dafoe Spider-Man trilogy, The Grand Budapest Hotel

4K ULTRA HD/BLU-RAY/DIGITAL HD SPECIAL FEATURES
· “Don't F*#% with John Wick” featurette
· “Calling in the Cavalry” featurette
· “Destiny of a Collective” featurette
· “Assassin’s Code” featurette
· “Red Circle” featurette
· “NYC Noir” featurette
· Audio Commentary with Filmmakers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch


PROGRAM INFORMATION
Title Copyright: John Wick © 2014 Poquito Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Artwork & Supplementary materials TM & © 2017 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Rating: R for Strong and Bloody Violence Throughout, Language and Brief Drug Use.
Feature Run Time: 101 minutes
Type: Theatrical Release
Genre: Action, Thriller
Closed Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
4K Format: 2160p Ultra High Definition 16x9 Widescreen (2.40:1)
Blu-ray Format: 1080P High Definition 16x9 Widescreen (2.40:1)
4K Audio Status: English Dolby Atmos, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Optimized for Late-Night Listening, English Descriptive Audio
Blu-ray Audio Status: English Dolby Atmos, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Optimized for Late-Night Listening, English Descriptive Audio

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 Marvel Studios Heros Acts Sweepstakes

Marvel Studios Hero Acts launched a sweepstakes tied to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. By submitting a photo through MarvelStudiosHeroActs.com, one winner will receive a trip to the GOTG Vol. 2 Red Carpet Premiere. All photos must be submitted between now and February 28, 2017.

Additionally, Marvel Studios is tripling each donation from $5 to $15 for every photo posted through this Saturday. They’ll also donate an extra $15 when users share that photo on Facebook or Twitter.



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Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See JACKIE In Las Vegas

Enter for a chance to see JACKIE on December 20 at 7:00 PM in Las Vegas.


JACKIE is a searing and intimate portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, then Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman). JACKIE places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband's assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a psychological portrait of the First Lady as she struggles to maintain her husband’s legacy and the world of "Camelot" that they created and loved so well.



See how to enter after the Jump...

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CLICK HERE TO ENTER-

Visit Jackie on our WEBSITE: http://jackiethefilm.com/
Like Jackie on FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/JackieFilm/
Follow Jackie on TWITTER: https://twitter.com/jackiefilm
Follow Jackie on INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/jackiefilm

#JackieFilm

No purchase necessary

NO RECORDING

This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device* you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability

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Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See COLLATERAL BEAUTY In Tucson

Enter for a chance to see COLLATERAL BEAUTY on December 12 at 7:00 PM in Tucson.

When a successful New York advertising executive suffers a great tragedy he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.



See how to enter after the Jump...

Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all your entertainment news and to be to notified about our upcoming Advance Screenings. Also make sure to subscribe and download our Podcast

CLICK HERE TO ENTER-

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/CollateralBeauty/
Twitter- https://twitter.com/cbeautymovie
Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/collateralbeauty/
http://www.collateralbeauty-movie.com
#CollateralBeauty

In theaters December 16

No purchase necessary

NO RECORDING

This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device* you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability


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Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See COLLATERAL BEAUTY In Las Vegas

Enter for a chance to see COLLATERAL BEAUTY on December 12 at 7:00 PM in Las Vegas.

When a successful New York advertising executive suffers a great tragedy he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.



See how to enter after the Jump...

Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all your entertainment news and to be to notified about our upcoming Advance Screenings. Also make sure to subscribe and download our Podcast

CLICK HERE TO ENTER-

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/CollateralBeauty/
Twitter- https://twitter.com/cbeautymovie
Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/collateralbeauty/
http://www.collateralbeauty-movie.com
#CollateralBeauty

In theaters December 16

No purchase necessary

NO RECORDING

This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device* you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability


Please Leave A Comment-
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Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See COLLATERAL BEAUTY In Phoenix

Enter for a chance to see COLLATERAL BEAUTY on December 12 at 7:00 PM in Phoenix.

When a successful New York advertising executive suffers a great tragedy he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.



See how to enter after the Jump...

Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all your entertainment news and to be to notified about our upcoming Advance Screenings. Also make sure to subscribe and download our Podcast

CLICK HERE TO ENTER-

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/CollateralBeauty/
Twitter- https://twitter.com/CBeautyMovie
Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/collateralbeauty/
http://www.collateralbeauty-movie.com
#CollateralBeauty

In theaters December 16

No purchase necessary

NO RECORDING

This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device* you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability


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Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See COLLATERAL BEAUTY In Albuquerque

Enter for a chance to see COLLATERAL BEAUTY on December 13 at 7:00 PM in Albuquerque.

When a successful New York advertising executive suffers a great tragedy he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.



See how to enter after the Jump...

Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all your entertainment news and to be to notified about our upcoming Advance Screenings. Also make sure to subscribe and download our Podcast


CLICK HERE TO ENTER-


Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/CollateralBeauty/
Twitter- https://twitter.com/CBeautyMovie
Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/collateralbeauty/
http://www.collateralbeauty-movie.com
#CollateralBeauty

In theaters December 16

No purchase necessary

NO RECORDING

This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device* you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability


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WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES TRAILER, POSTER & IMAGES

20th Century Fox has debuted the FIRST trailer and poster for WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. In the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise starring Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel.



See more images after the Jump...





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Movie Review: #OfficeXmasParty Fun, but not funny!

Fun, but not funny!

Let's see what RAMA thought about the movie.

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY had its fun moments, but as far as jokes go, they feel like a bunch of rejected material from an understudy third-rate stand up comic. But that’s how it usually is with party movies, they’d get extra creative when it comes to pulling off the craziest wildest extravaganza, but often falls short in its attempt on humor.

Jennifer Aniston plays a tough as nails Ebenezer Scrooge-like CEO who tries to shut down her brother’s (T.J. Miller) branch, she demands budget and employee cut. But her brother and his Chief Technical Officer (Jason Bateman) come up with a plan to not only score their biggest contract but also the biggest office Christmas party, in hopes that at the end nobody in their company would have to be fired. Co-starring Kate McKinnon, Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Jamie Chung, and Courtney B. Vance.

Party movies, they’re all about coming up with the most elaborate, most irreverent sequences. In the case of OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY, since it’s set during holiday season, sacrilege is on the menu, which is totally fine by liberal folks by me. But uptight holiday worshipping folks be warned because OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY doesn’t hold back. There are Christmas trees on fire, excessive drinking, very dangerous stunts and 80% of the time they get followed by screams of jubilation. The only thing missing here are togas.

But as I said earlier, the vandalism and destruction of office supplies, as anarchy fun as they may seem, unfortunately doesn’t get complimented by effective humor. T.J. Miller tries his best but comes off more like a man who’s not on top of his game. Jason Bateman once again plays the same type of character he’s played in a dozen other movies he’s been in. And the third act, the way they try to save the company, seem uninspired. OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY is worth watching if you’ve come just to see how wild the party gets, but I wouldn’t count on the laughing out loud part.

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