Kubo and the Two Strings: Collaboration with Catholic Girl Bloggin

 

kubo movie poster

If you must blink, do it now…

Kubo is a young boy who lives with his sometimes-catatonic mother in a cave by the sea. Every day he walks down to the village and entertains the villagers by telling stories using origami that comes to life when he plays his shamisen (a Japanese three-stringed instrument). There is a catch to Kubo’s existence: He must never ever stay out after dark. He soon figures out the reason when he stays out past dark and his evil spirit Aunts come to take him to his “grandfather” the Moon King, who intends to take Kubo’s remaining eye. With the help of a monkey and a beetle, Kubo must find his deceased father’s armor and defeat the Moon King.

This is another collaboration with my awesome friend Amy aka Catholic Girl Bloggin. My friend Amy’s writings will be in blue and my stuff will be in purple.

CGB Hits
I absolutely adore how imaginative this film is! Like the titular character, the world we are introduced to is brimming with creativity. I have always had a soft spot for Asian culture, so I appreciate that the story takes place in ancient Japan.

The first ten minutes has the best use of “show-don’t-tell” that I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, there is some opening narration from Kubo himself, but his dialogue is not an exposition spiel; rather the visuals are allowed to do all the talking. Any time the movie does resort to expositional dialogue, it is kept brief. Speaking of the visuals, the animation is–holy cow–just breathtaking! I turned to the friend who accompanied me and said, “Dude, that looks like real water!” There’s an impressive painting-come-to-life feel with the color palatte and the design of the locations that make the film a beauty to behold.

The story itself is truly inspired! Granted, the “adventures-of-a-half human-half celestial-child” story has been done before, but having him be a gifted storyteller who can bring origami to life with a musical instrument is quite an impressive twist. The most admirable quality of the film are the morals. I really like how Monkey tells Kubo, “Your magic is growing stronger. You need to learn control. But when we grow stronger the world grows more dangerous.” Trust me when I say that her statement holds a lot of truth.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the Jungle Book, in which I pointed out how the film reminded me of something a friend said to me, “Let the angels and the saints deal with the devil. They know what they’re doing.” Kubo and the Two Strings also brought those words to mind! Similarly to how our guardian angels tackle the evil one when he tries to mess with us, any time the hawkish evil spirit aunts come to harrass Kubo, Monkey and Beetle are there to fight them off while Kubo either accomplishes a task or seeks refuge. It is with their help that Kubo becomes strong enough and fully-equipped to finally take on the Moon King himself. Also, the climactic confrontation between Kubo and Moon King does come with an Eden-style temptation. Basically it’s the “join me and you will become like gods” thing, much like how the old serpent told Eve that if she ate the apple, she’d become like God. Between this and the Jungle Book, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that kids films come with an interest in the mysterious spiritual world.

MsOcampoWrites Hits

It’s so refreshing to find a movie for general audiences that has a completely original premise. My brother and I were obsessed with Japanese culture since we were kids and we were both looking forward to seeing this movie. It lived up to the expectations I had and then it blew me out of the water.

The animation is stunning, the characters are all enjoyable, and the writing is a breath of fresh air amongst the remakes and reboots out there. The movie does not play things safe and yet I would totally recommend this movie to basically everyone.

The central themes of this movie are about the importance of family and the power of a good story. Kubo goes on a journey to finish what his father started: to find the armor that will help him defeat the Moon King. Monkey, Beetle, and Little Hanzo all made for excellent travelling companions.

The Sisters were intimidating, frightening villains as well. I also love all the action sequences because there was a variety of them. The townsfolk play a great role as supporting characters who do more than just act as bystanders. I love that they accept Kubo’s gift and don’t treat him like an outsider like other movies would.

CGB Misses

The friend who came with me to see this movie had some questions about Kubo’s scary aunts. “If his grandfather is the Moon King, then are his aunts supposed to be stars or something?” This is just one of the film’s unanswered questions.

Also, is it just me or is the danger Kubo faces at the hands of his tyrannical grandfather lacking some weight? Let me explain: So essentially, if Kubo is caught by the Moon King and the hawk-women, then they will take his remaining eye…and then what? Are they gonna just leave him blinded on earth? Is he going to be made into a freaky spirit person like them? Also, other than being the product of his mother’s disobedience against the Moon King, why is the Moon King threatened by Kubo’s existence? Does the Moon King believe that Kubo being half-human, half-celestial mean that he [Kubo] will try to overthrow him? Now, to be fair, in their final confrontation, the Moon King does offer to take Kubo with him and make him an infinite being, but still, I think that if the threat had been written as “the Moon King’s gonna snatch Kubo’s other eye and enslave him,” or something like that, it would’ve helped.
Speaking of the Moon King, here’s my issue: I totally understand why he is a threat to Kubo, but the movie doesn’t make him seem like a threat to anyone else. The Moon King doesn’t seem to be feared by anyone else in the movie’s universe. In Harry Potter, Voldemort was a threatening presence regardless of whether or not Harry was around; it just so happened that he had his sights set on The Boy Who Lived and anyone associated with him. Here, though, it would have helped to see the Moon King burn down a village or require insane sacrifices or something; anything to raise the stakes of his existence.

MsOcampoWrites Misses
While I will say that all the actors did a great job in this movie, I wish that George Takei had more than just a cameo role. I also think that this movie could’ve been even better with Asian actors in the main roles. Matthew McConaughey’s acting is uneven, albeit has its own interesting brand of charm.
Elephant in the Room

MsOcampoWrites:
Right before we did this collab, one of my Facebook friends sent me an article from a well­ regarded Catholic news source that dismissed this movie and said that it promoted “neo-­Pagan values.” As somebody who grew up watching Charmed, reads Harry Potter, and still watches Buffy, I think that the themes in this movie are just as Catholic as any Bible­-based movie. For one thing, the central theme of this movie is the importance of family. While the main villains are Kubo’s grandfather and aunts, it’s reminiscent of Luke 12:53 “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-­in-­law against daughter-­in-­law and daughter-­in-­law against mother-­in-­law.” The Moon King and his daughters are arrogant because they fail to comprehend things such as compassion and selfless love. Without going into spoiler territory, the ending of this movie shows justice and mercy rendered unto the Moon King, so the movie ends up teaching something that relates to the Year of Mercy as well.

Catholic Girl Bloggin:
Yes, I did see the article about Kubo promoting the occult and I will tell you that I didn’t see a single ouija board, tarot card, voodoo doll or anything occult-like in this entire movie. In fact, the villains were reminiscent of demons while Monkey and Beetle were basically Kubo’s guardian angels. If anything, the story borrows heavily from Greek mythology with hints of Shintoism. For the record, Shinto is a Japanese religion and given that the story does take place in ancient Japan, it only makes sense to borrow influence from a Japanese religion. So fear not, guys and gals, Kubo and the Two Strings is NOT pro-occult propoganda. Frankly, I don’t think the devil really cares about stop-motion animation and the film’s pro-family message would probably have him tripping over himself as he tries to flee.

I don’t think Kubo is in theatres now, but if it’s still showing, I highly recommend families with kids of all ages to check out this movie. If not, rent it from a Redbox or an on-demand streaming service when it comes out on DVD. It’s a great, original adventure that will take your breath away. And on top of that, it emphasizes the importance of family when dealing with a problem that’s more than a child can handle.

Venerable Takayama Ukon and Saint Paul Miki, pray for us.

Dating and Other Things Catholic: Men of Christ Monday with John Antonio

 

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John Antonio is a single Catholic professional who runs a medical ethics and professionalism program for resident physicians in the Texas Medical Center. He is also a lifestyle writer Catholicsingles.com and Catholic speaker. His new book Dating and Other Things Catholic: What Seminary Taught Me About Single Life is a smart, witty guide that I recommend to all millennials who are just starting out or for anyone who needs to start over from a major setback.

1) Where did the inspiration to write Dating and Other Things Catholic come from?

4 years ago I was leaving seminary. I had spent almost my whole life there. I didn’t know anything about careers, dating, or the lifestyle of a single professional. I had never gotten a job. I had never gone on a date. I did not know a lot of things about the lifestyle of a single young professional. I did not know how to ask a young lady out nor how to get a job. I looked for Catholic books on this since I was a Catholic. I did not find one. So I decided to do research, gain new experiences, and write the book myself.

2) Tell me what it’s like to be single. How is that different from dating, marriage, and religious life?

The religious has the Church. The married have each other. The dating have each other to some degree but not in a stable form of life. Someone who is “single” could still be dating but generally not in a serious relationship. He/she makes many decisions alone and is very in control of their destiny. That adds a new opportunity to life. Single life is a huge opportunity.

3) One problem I personally have with being single is loneliness. How do you deal with that?
A single person needs 3 things: friends, a mission, and the right type of daily routine. I find that when singles have these 3 things they feel loneliness much less.

4) Who’s your go-to saint when it comes to living the single life and discerning your vocation?
St. Valentine. “Love is all you need” or is that the Beatles?

5) What advice would you give to young adults who are discerning vocations to marriage? What advice would you give to those discerning religious life? And for those who are indecisive?
There will always be a fork in the road at some point. You will have the choice to give your freedom away or hold on to it tightly. In my experience, giving it away is risky but it leads to more exciting things. If you give it away to something good, that is.

6) Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Subscribe to my blog and I’ll keep you up to date 🙂 …I already have another book in the works though for starters; the one that will tell all and tell things as they are.

Uninvited's Pros and Cons: A Book Review

uninvited book

I was definitely intrigued when I heard about Lysa TerKeurst’s latest book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. As someone who’s experienced rejection more times than I can count, I felt drawn to this book like a bee to honey. After reading through the book, I have to say that as a whole, there are a great many blessings that can be gained from reading it.

Pros

I related to most of the stories shared here. There’s an overall sense of reassurance throughout the book that would definitely comfort the reader like chocolate after a breakup. The fist chapter invites the reader to be honest with themselves, which is always a great first step when dealing with rejection. I loved the chapters that ended with prayers. The prayers are sincere petition prayers that anyone can relate to and pray when they are dealing with the burdens of rejection and heartbreak.

Lysa also delves into what makes rejection hurt so much: So many people have trust issues, emotional insecurity, and rejection shakes us out of the safety net that we make for ourselves. The overall theme of this book is to root our trust in God and find that emotional security with him. I really need to introduce her to Saint Faustina because Faustina is one of the best examples of trusting in Jesus in spite of everything else.

The best thing about this book is that it teaches the reader that we can all learn from rejection. Each experience we have from rejection can teach us something for the future for whenever we deal with rejection again or point us towards something that leads us to acceptance. The book embraces the virtue of humility really well. Not only does this book help give the reader assurance when it comes to dealing with rejection, but it also provides an opportunity for the reader to improve on themselves with sections on self-assessment.

Cons

One major con was something I found in the 2nd chapter. There’s a section that quotes a few verses and brings attention to the promises within those verses, tying them around a common theme:

When we abide, delight, and dwell in Him, he then places within us desires that line up with His best desire for us.

Yes, that I can agree with. When we spend time with God, our hearts are made more like His. However, I did not agree with the sentence that followed afterwards:

Therefore, He can give us whatever we ask, because we will only want what’s consistent with His best.

Um. No. That’s not how it works. God can’t just give us whatever we ask because we think it will be consistent with His best. His best is not always what we want. With every Our Father, we pray “Thy will be done.”

I also didn’t relate to the story about the lady in the gym that Lysa was convinced hated her. Granted, I’m usually someone who always thinks the best of most people. I loved the testimonies shared in the book, but I seriously wanted this book to go deeper than just the everyday rejections we deal with.

It’s so sad that Protestants often forego to look into the lives of the saints because I can list five saints right off the bat who suffered through rejection and still found their true purpose in Christ:

  • Saint Gemma Galgani: rejected from the Passionists because of her spinal health issues, yet received stigmata and fought many battles against Satan.
  • Saint Joseph of Cupertino: seen as stupid and dumb because he was in constant awe at anything relating to Jesus and the church. Later was given the gift of flight and is the patron saint of test-takers.
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas: Chose a religious order that wasn’t trendy and his family didn’t support him going into religious life. He’s now regarded as a Doctor of the Church and his writings are worth their weight in gold.
  • Saint Faustina: Social outcast, even amongst her fellow sisters, and yet her devotion to Divine Mercy is now one of the most popular and wonderful devotions in the Catholic Church.
  • St. Jane Frances de Chantal: Had to deal with a marriage that she didn’t exactly want and made the most of it. Later went on to be the foundress of the Visitation Sisters

Of course, we can’t forget saints who also tended to the outcasts of society such as Saint Francis, St. Damian of Molokai and St. Marianne Cope, St. Mother Teresa, etc. I understand that the target audience for this book is the everywoman who feels like she’s never doing enough or never feels like she is enough, but I would’ve loved to have seen some things about actual social outcasts: people who deal with all sorts of identity issues.

Overall, I recommend this book to women who are seeking emotional reassurance in their lives. Again, this book doesn’t go deep, but it provides a sense of comfort to those who are seeking it.