Critics Consensus

Kubo and the Two Strings Is Certified Fresh

Plus, War Dogs plays it a little too safe, and Ben-Hur is an unnecessary remake.

by | August 18, 2016 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a kid with magic powers (Kubo and the Two Strings, with voice performances by Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey), rogue arms dealers (War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller), and a fallen prince (Ben-Hur, starring Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman). What do the critics have to say?


Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) 97%

They’ve yet to release a blockbuster on par with one of the bigger animation houses, but the folks at Laika have built an impressive reputation over the last several years — a span that’s seen the studio release a trio of critically acclaimed feature-length efforts with Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. Their fourth film, Kubo and the Two Strings, looks like it’ll extend that distinguished streak; as with earlier Laika productions, reviews describe a viewing experience that’s as visually thrilling as it is narratively satisfying. An action epic set in feudal Japan, Kubo stars Game of Thrones vet Art Parkinson as the titular hero, who’s forced to embark on a quest to save his loved ones after inadvertently summoning an evil spirit whose arrival may hold the key to unlocking painful secrets from his family’s past. It’s far from the sunniest family-friendly release you’ll see this summer, but for viewers comfortable with — or seeking out — more melancholy fare, critics say Kubo and the Two Strings offers rich rewards.


War Dogs (2016) 61%

Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as a couple of freewheeling young bros selling arms in a ripped-from-the-headlines comedy directed by Hangover vet Todd Phillips? It might sound like a recipe for an R-rated gonzo funnybone tickler, but according to critics, while War Dogs definitely has its share of laughs, it’s actually a somewhat sobering look at the real-life dirty deeds of some of the world’s more unscrupulous individuals. In fact, that’s one of the movie’s biggest problems: while the reviews describe an entertaining enough effort, they also express general disappointment at its unwillingness or inability to take a nasty bite out of a story that truly deserves it. Hill in particular has been singled out as well worth watching for a bravura performance in a role that takes advantage of his dramatic breadth, but this might be a tale more satisfyingly told with a documentary.


Ben-Hur (2016) 25%

Last weekend, Disney hit critical paydirt with Pete’s Dragon, a remake of a movie few would have argued deserved classic status. Now Paramount takes the opposite approach with Ben-Hur, an updated take on the 1880 Lew Wallace novel that was turned into a classic 1925 silent film and whose 1959 adaptation was a Best Picture-winning smash that still ranks among the more widely acclaimed movies of all time. Needless to say, Timur Bekmambetov‘s new version of the biblically inspired tale has some pretty big shoes to fill, and as far as most critics are concerned, it’s nowhere near up to snuff: reviews point to an earnest would-be epic whose heart might be in the right place, but whose reach almost completely exceeds its grasp. While the climactic chase scene benefits from modern technology, fans of the 1925 and 1959 versions will find this one suffers mightily in comparison — and those who haven’t seen a Ben-Hur of an earlier vintage are urged to seek them out instead.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

Tag Cloud

hollywood Apple TV Plus mission: impossible free movies french ghosts boxoffice Sony Pictures Brie Larson Pet Sematary films 2016 sequel Red Carpet romance Set visit batman Sci-Fi Holidays Ellie Kemper The Arrangement PlayStation ID canceled TV shows indiana jones RT21 E! Bravo Starz ratings toy story TV Sundance romantic comedy anime Nat Geo concert A&E spy thriller Netflix Christmas movies Star Wars Photos RT History reboot franchise transformers animated true crime award winner sag awards 2018 History Comics on TV 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards 2015 Travel Channel black rotten Film Rocky Polls and Games DC streaming service 45 Hear Us Out cats Stephen King Esquire best venice zombies YA Crackle mockumentary political drama latino LGBT superhero Masterpiece Summer Pop golden globe awards breaking bad cancelled television women cooking Baby Yoda dc Action Adult Swim Tubi stand-up comedy fast and furious Character Guide diversity YouTube Red Nickelodeon GoT WGN rt archives Box Office game of thrones Academy Awards Trailer rom-coms Fox News Universal See It Skip It revenge Lucasfilm psychological thriller IFC Lifetime Christmas movies 20th Century Fox 24 frames renewed TV shows cancelled Song of Ice and Fire First Look Animation rotten movies we love Sundance Now TLC TCA children's TV jurassic park Pop TV Watching Series BAFTA Captain marvel indie TCA Awards Superheroe Infographic crossover Trivia kids Pixar TV One 2017 AMC 71st Emmy Awards Ghostbusters Funimation Heroines Cannes ABC Family Year in Review The Witch spanish language Lionsgate Toys BET Awards thriller chucky Hallmark Alien TNT Musical Apple TV+ NYCC Elton John Teen Quiz Family Shudder Valentine's Day Logo nbcuniversal natural history Emmy Nominations Countdown SundanceTV Disney MCU The Purge Awards Turner Classic Movies green book San Diego Comic-Con universal monsters TIFF worst Awards Tour foreign video TBS based on movie dragons Star Trek FX Video Games dark Ovation docudrama Tomatazos movies robots tv talk SDCC The CW biography dceu FX on Hulu ITV Hulu VICE The Walt Disney Company Mudbound comic books book Fantasy finale video on demand Tumblr japanese mutant werewolf social media Pride Month American Society of Cinematographers die hard Marvel Studios cartoon Reality miniseries BET streaming theme song Nominations comiccon binge ViacomCBS WarnerMedia Binge Guide Columbia Pictures Lifetime crime drama zombie doctor who New York Comic Con Syfy golden globes composers 99% blockbuster what to watch YouTube 007 comic canceled ESPN Certified Fresh comedies 21st Century Fox historical drama TCM justice league Writers Guild of America SXSW Tarantino a nightmare on elm street Sundance TV TV Land GIFs Mindy Kaling name the review australia Biopics DC Universe Holiday Amazon Prime 2020 Musicals talk show Mary Poppins Returns war VH1 Comedy Central remakes Hallmark Christmas movies police drama The Walking Dead versus discovery trailers Superheroes comics ABC Signature worst movies hispanic CBS Winners boxing Oscars Rom-Com anthology christmas movies sequels APB sitcom CMT spider-man Rocketman Black Mirror Country Trophy Talk TCA 2017 Music festival cinemax vampires Netflix adventure BBC One aliens Food Network First Reviews Television Critics Association Arrowverse fresh Podcast nfl singing competition PBS supernatural Marathons Election BBC America period drama Disney Plus Marvel OneApp news Kids & Family adaptation Super Bowl HBO Black History Month scorecard Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Turner Horror science fiction Comedy Shondaland USA Opinion Extras Mary Tyler Moore joker politics Fall TV deadpool Premiere Dates harry potter USA Network dramedy Calendar HBO Max TV renewals facebook Classic Film slashers spinoff halloween tv ABC Spectrum Originals Winter TV Acorn TV Paramount Grammys obituary stop motion Television Academy Film Festival psycho criterion DGA disaster sports Cartoon Network asian-american TruTV OWN quibi CW Seed FXX blaxploitation 4/20 nature LGBTQ Dark Horse Comics strong female leads zero dark thirty space elevated horror Schedule Walt Disney Pictures National Geographic pirates of the caribbean Avengers serial killer dogs Western casting 72 Emmy Awards crime Peacock Endgame travel twilight television MSNBC Rock spanish series Anna Paquin crime thriller critics james bond Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Sneak Peek NBC Disney Channel Reality Competition Apple The Academy Disney+ Disney Plus GLAAD Marvel Television classics cancelled TV series spain jamie lee curtis south america FOX Fox Searchlight Vudu child's play reviews technology Emmys Creative Arts Emmys Christmas PaleyFest scary movies stoner italian CNN IFC Films Amazon Prime Video emmy awards A24 laika directors VOD football MTV cops teaser Disney streaming service Britbox Amazon Studios independent Thanksgiving medical drama archives festivals documentaries Paramount Network unscripted E3 HBO Go Mystery documentary hist DC Comics Comic Book parents Showtime halloween cancelled TV shows President Cosplay Warner Bros. Martial Arts YouTube Premium movie richard e. Grant cults DirecTV satire Spike game show all-time 2019 toronto X-Men Crunchyroll Drama screenings El Rey TCA Winter 2020 screen actors guild BBC Pirates Amazon cars Mary poppins Best and Worst Freeform Chernobyl Discovery Channel Paramount Plus Interview CBS All Access Women's History Month Spring TV witnail Epix