Black Mirror and Kubo and the two strings

Black Mirror

I heard very little about Black Mirror before I watched the first episode on Netflix. I heard it was science fiction and I heard that it was very good. That's it. So I was totally unprepared for the first episode, called The National Anthem. It was some of the most stunning, confusing television I've ever seen. And I really don't want to spoil it so I don't want to go into any details but it begins when a very popular princess is kidnapped and there is one demand only. And that demand is so hateful, humiliating, and bizarre that it's very difficult to take in. The prime minister is asked to do one very specific thing, which of course he immediately refuses to do.

But at its core the story is about public opinion, social media, and how one influences the other and then influences right back again.

This episode is extremely well done with some brilliant and often subtle, low key  acting. (I couldn't help worrying about how much PTSD the actor who played the Prime Minister came away with.) It is  extraordinary well-written and weirdly believable. I didn't want to believe it,  but I did anyway. I found myself laughing at times and then feeling like a terrible person for laughing. I don't know when I'm going to be able to psych myself up to watch the next episode, which I hear is even more grueling; if that's even the right word.

Seasons one and two are currently available on Netflix. Season 3 is debuting in about a week.  You can see the National Anthem trailer here:

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Kubo and the Two Strings

We have a second run movie theater fairly close to my house. They are actually my favorite kind of theaters. And this one costs I think $3.50. I spent $20 for myself and another person, including popcorn and sodas. That's really not too bad for an afternoon's entertainment.

We managed to go and see Laika  House's latest film, Kubo and the Two Strings, on the very last day it was showing. ( I.e. yesterday.) I really like Laika House's work. Coraline was a terrific adaptation and I absolutely love ParaNorman. I don't know why but I somehow missed the Boxtrolls but I plan to catch it in the next couple weeks. I actually didn't know a single thing about this movie before I saw it. Unfortunately I missed the first few minutes due to some miscommunication with myself and my reminder software,  but my movie watching partner had already seen it and was able to fill me in.

Kubo is a little boy whose mother has some pretty serious neurological deficits and maybe some PTSD? His father is dead and he's missing one eye. He supports the family with his magic; when he plays his three-stringed instrument he can make paper come to life, turn into origami, and act out a story.

The great adventure begins as so many great adventures (and misadventures) begin; when he disobeys his mother and stays out after dark. This attracts the attention of supernatural creatures who have been hunting for him and his mother since he was an infant. His mother uses the last of her magic to help him escape and soon he is on his own, with only a paper samurai and a monkey charm for company.

But after he collapses in the snow he awakens to discover that the monkey charm has now turned into a full-sized what to me looks like a Japanese macaque also called a  snow monkey. Soon they meet a Samurai/beetle, played by Matthew McConaughey. He always seems a little strange to me and when I saw his character scuttling across the ceiling I thought to myself if Matthew McConaughey could scuttle across the ceiling in real life I bet he would do it all the time.

There are some lovely quiet moments in the film but mostly there is lots and lots of adventure. Once Kubo escapes from his village he and the monkey go on a quest to find a set of magical armor; the Sword Unbreakable, the Breastplate Impenetrable, and the Helmet Invulnerable. Of course each separate piece takes them to a difficult and or terrifying obstacle that needs to be conquered.

Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeous creation, with some scary creatures that are beautifully crafted. If you stay for the credits you can see some of the work that went into creating an enormous skeleton that Kubo and his friends have to fight.

You can watch the trailer here:

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Bonus Treat

This week's bonus treat is a video of two valiant people helping a bear in trouble.