The Boxtrolls

RUDDERLESS discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Rudderless Sam (Billy Crudup) is an advertising executive whose life comes to a halt when his son dies unexpectedly. Unable to face what happened he leaves his world behind and retreats to a blue collar job on a tranquil lake, but when his son’s belongings make their way to him he discovers several recordings of the teen’s own music. Slowly, Sam begins to find a connection with his dead son by playing the music at a local bar, but the lyrics attract the attention of another lost young man (Anton Yelchin) and soon Sam finds himself a popular part of the local music scene. William H. Macy’s feature directorial debut is a fantastically affecting look at grief, redemption and the willingness to admit when you don’t have all the answers. Crudup is wonderful as a man whose detached restraint slowly crumbles, and the songs they perform are beautifully crafted and supremely catchy. Yelchin is okay and an out of place Caddyshack-like scene late in the film distracts briefly, but the film rarely drops the ball when it comes to maintaining a heartfelt and honest look at recovering from tragedy. [DVD extras: Featurette, music video, deleted scenes]

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The Boxtrolls

Stop-motion wunderstudio Laika‘s latest film, The Boxtrolls, hits the DVD/Blu-Ray market today. You should see The Boxtrolls (if you haven’t already, that is). It’s sweet, it’s extremely strange and its tremendous stop-motion visuals are more than worth whatever viewing fees might be required up front. But if there’s been one complaint I found in this tale of boy, girl, cheese and an army of cardboard-clad trolls, it’d be this: the film suffers from story issues. Well, story “issue,” in the singular. That issue being: The Boxtrolls is the exact same movie as ParaNorman. Before you say anything- yes, there are obvious differences between the two films. ParaNorman is set in the world you and I inhabit, while The Boxtrolls takes place in the fictional quasi-victorian isle of Cheesebridge. ParaNorman deals with witches, ghosts and zombies, while The Boxtrolls‘ one supernatural element hews to the titular trolls. Also, ParaNorman‘s intrepid boy hero is voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee while The Boxtrolls chose a different hyphenated teen actor, Isaac Hempstead-Wright. But dig past the superficial and into the pungent inner layers of The Boxtrolls, and you’ll find that every point the film’s trying to make is a point already made by ParaNorman. And a point better made by ParaNorman. Allow me to explain.

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Focus Features

The fine folks at Focus Features, feeling generous after The Boxtrolls brought in a well-deserved Oscar nomination this morning, have thrown some swag our way. We haven’t done a contest or giveaway in a while, but we all really like this movie so we’ve decided that we’d like some of our readers to be able to see it, as well. All you have to do is jump down into our comments section and caption the above photo. Our editorial staff will then pick our three (3) favorite captions and send each winner a copy of the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. It’s your chance to show off how clever you can be and to win a free copy of one of the year’s best-crafted films.

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2014_review_animation

2014 was a marvelous, thrilling year for feature-length animation. While such a good crop is never easy to predict, the early shot in the arm that was The LEGO Movie certainly set the tone. That the first real critical hit of the year was an animated feature, released in the dead of February amidst Oscar season, the RoboCop remake and The Monuments Men, is a significant thing. Just a cursory look at the 2014 films that qualify for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature should put a smile on your face, even if some were panned and others seem obscure. From the best of American studio fare to The Tale of Princess Kaguya, perhaps the year’s most evident masterpiece, there’s been a lot to celebrate.

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Laika Studios

Laika is an animation studio in the ascendant. Both Coraline and ParaNorman, their first two features, were financially successful Oscar nominees. It would be shocking if The Boxtrolls didn’t follow suit, on both counts. The intricate detail of their animation is often witty, warm and breathtaking all in the same moment. No frame is left empty or drab, no opportunity for creativity left behind. That all of this is done using 3D stop-motion makes it seem all the more artful. This is not to say that what Pixar does on computers is any less creative than what Laika does with physical sets and models, but there is certainly a difference in the way the audience relates to the work. Pixar mimics the real world in many cases, focusing on the exact rendering of Princess Merida’s hair in Brave rather than venturing into abstraction. Laika creates universes that enchant through their artifice, rather than in spite of it. Besides, it wouldn’t be too controversial a position to state that all three of Laika’s films are better than all of the last three Pixar features. All of that said, take a second and imagine what a Laika film would be like if it were made using computer animation instead of stop-motion. At one point they were planning on a CG feature called Jack & Ben’s Animated Adventure but it was dropped in 2008 in the context of a major layoff of the company’s employees. When they were founded, all the way back in 2005, it wasn’t clear that stop-motion would become the primary product. At that point […]

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Sabine Films

This is another Doc Option that requires a “yes I’m serious” disclaimer. How, you may ask, can a documentary about a WWII-era social program that rescued Jewish children from Nazi Germany possibly be compared to a whimsical stop-motion animated film about cute trolls that wear boxes? All shall be explained! The Boxtrolls is a delightful romp, and in addition to engaging any child who sees it, the movie will gently introduce them to certain darker truths about the world. Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport can then help them understand those truths as they apply to real life. The story of The Boxtrolls focuses on the struggle of the eponymous race of creatures to survive while human exterminators are trying to hunt them all down. These villains use propaganda to demonize the boxtrolls so that the common people solicit their efforts. They round up the boxtrolls and put them to heavy labor in a factory. And their ultimate goal is to destroy all the boxtrolls en masse. The movie is, essentially, a beat-for-beat primer on how pogroms against minorities are born and enacted, even if that isn’t evident to any kid who doesn’t know their historical context. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM

Trolls aren’t real, despite what some road signs in Norway might lead you to believe. They are mythological creatures in the stories of Norse folklore and fairy tales (such as “Three Billy Goats Gruff”) and stage plays featuring orchestral scores that are overused in movies, especially documentaries (“Peer Gynt”). Some of their origin comes through the telling of tall tales to explain geological formations around Scandinavia. Traditionally they’re gargantuan monsters who could be turned into mountains when exposed to sunlight. Other times they might be more human-size, because as with a lot of ancient, orally forwarded narratives, those of the trolls have changed organically over centuries. They could be any size, really, but one common trait they’ve all shared is that they’re ugly. In the movies, in particular, they’re a varied beast. Unlike easily defined mythological beings such as fairies and dwarves and vampires and dragons, trolls are often mistaken or deemed interchangeable with anything from ogres to goblins to giants and more. Movies and television perpetuate the idea of variety when it comes to these creatures, expanding their categorization far beyond their already broad definition. The latest to give another interpretation is The Boxtrolls, in which the title monsters are a sub-species of troll who are smaller than humans and work in tunnels and live in cardboard boxes. Thanks to adaptations of comic books based on Norse mythology and translations of classic fantasy novels and horror movies with inaccurate titles, there are tons of different looks to trolls on the big screen. Below […]

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The Boxtrolls

Over the course of the past few weeks I’ve been reading more and more about Buddhism, or more appropriately the buddha dharma. It’s been a long time since I’ve been very interested in any religious system, but there is something I find fascinating about the teachings of Buddhism. Mostly, it’s hard to deny the effects of living in the moment. Being in the here-and-now and how that can improve one’s experience as we live our lives in a world obsessed with distraction. I find similarities in the micro-sense when it comes to the way we consume movies. Not only are we blessed with an abundance of choice, but we now consume cinema in a variety of environments, some quite distracting, and on a number of screen sizes. Imagine the man watching a movie on his iPad in a coffee shop. Sure, he’s got his fancy noise-canceling headphones on, but he’s easily distracted by push notifications at the top of his screen and life bustling about around him. That movie has no chance of being truly enjoyed as it was intended, regardless of its quality. These are imperfect moments in our moviegoing journey. Availability and access trump the search for that perfect, quiet, shared experience. One might ask whether all movies — especially the overwhelming majority of sequels, remakes and marketing-first fare — even deserve our full attention. They do, but that’s not the point. Plenty of movies don’t inspire us to be in the moment, so we watch them on […]

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The Boxtrolls

For a film about a group of trolls who spend their nights collecting trash (and turning it into treasure), the music should definitely be silly to fit with the goofy attitude of the boxtrolls themselves. But for a story about an orphan raised by said boxtrolls who needs to convince the world they are not something to be exterminated, the music also needs to create an emotional connection to these dirty, box wearing (but also pretty darn adorable) trolls. Composer Dario Marianelli rises to the challenge with his score for the upcoming film, The Boxtrolls, based on Alan Snow‘s novel “Here Be Monsters!” Snow’s story proves that just because someone may be called a monster (or a boxtroll), it does not mean they are not worthwhile or important, and Marianelli successfully compliments this story with a score that is fun, silly, adventurous, and has just the right amount of heart. This is Marianelli’s first time composing for an animated featured and the Italian composer does not shy away from his roots here, infusing The Boxtrolls‘ score with operatic singers and Italian instrumentation. Take a listen to our exclusive preview of The Boxtrolls soundtrack here:

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The Boxtrolls

Summer 2014 has come to a thudding close. These past four months have had their ups and downs, but overall this summer wasn’t as bad as the headlines are making it out to be. Despite a significant dip in attendance, there were all kinds of good movies. If you were disappointed by a film this summer, odds are that whatever film you saw next likely left you satisfied. Plus, even though there wasn’t a ton of originality this summer, at least there was variety. This fall is packed with both variety and originality. The remainder of the year should get any film fan excited since we’ll be seeing films from Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Bennet Miller and other beloved storytellers. We’ll have reviews for some of those films as festival season rolls along, so keep an eye out. All of that kicks off this month. So let’s get started with the 10 must see movies this September.

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The Boxtrolls

When you watch The Boxtrolls trailer, you’ll notice a lot of connections. The most obvious are Coraline and ParaNorman because Laika has maintained a similar visual style throughout all of its young adult adventures. But it also feels slightly like Monsters, Inc. meets The Fraggles by way of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Or maybe like mutant Minions who raise a human child. You’ll also notice that this movie looks absolutely fantastic. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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boxtrolls

With the current cover of ‘The New Yorker’ sparking online debate as to whether or not it’s appropriate to teach our children about same sex couples, or at least at what age it’s appropriate to start introducing them to the concept, the new trailer for Laika’s next stop-animated motion picture, The Boxtrolls, seems to have come along at just the right time. It takes a stab at the issue itself, and serves as an important reminder that it’s possible to frame messages of tolerance to children in a way that doesn’t need to include addressing issues of sexuality that their tiny, under-formed brains can’t yet comprehend. But the heartwarming message that families come in all shapes and sizes isn’t the only thing The Boxtrolls has to offer. Oh, no. If you’ve seen the previous two features Laika has produced, Coraline and ParaNorman, then you know that they make beautiful pictures that are so visually dense and have such an attention to detail that they’re able to dazzle the eyeballs as well as reward multiple viewings. And from just this minute long vignette, it’s clear that their latest offering is going to be no different.

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published: 01.29.2015
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published: 01.28.2015
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published: 01.28.2015
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