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Overrated/Underrated: 'Kubo and the Two Strings,' our 'Netflix tax' future and more

Overrated/Underrated: 'Kubo and the Two Strings,' our 'Netflix tax' future and more
Beetle, Kubo and Monkey emerge from the forest and take in the beauty of the landscape in the animated movie "Kubo and the Two Strings." (Laika Studios/Focus Features)

UNDERRATED

The return of Tracey Ullman: Like a sort of sketch comedy equivalent of Cindy Sherman, Ullman has built a career on sharply inhabiting and impersonating a wide variety of characters. Six years after her last series took aim at America, Ullman has returned to HBO with the BBC-produced “Tracey Ullman’s Show,” which finds her as sharp as ever in skewering figures and current events around the U.K. Using wardrobe, accents and impressive prosthetics, Ullman tweaks a wide swath of British culture, including jarringly accurate impressions of a slyly rebellious Dame Judi Dench. 

"Kubo and the Two Strings" (2016): Likely to be overshadowed this awards season by the money-printing Disney/Pixar giants in the animated field, this film from the studio behind "The Boxtrolls" and "Coraline" deserves a better fate. In addition to boasting beautiful, occasionally haunting visuals with its distinctive stop-motion style, "Kubo" mines folklore and tradition from its ancient Japan setting and visits rare territory in family features by unflinchingly examining delicate, even uncomfortable themes in its hero narrative, addressing emotions around loss and family with an uncommon grace.

OVERRATED

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“Manhunter” (1986): Celebrating its 30th anniversary, this film by Michael Mann kickstarted the many onscreen offshoots of Hannibal Lecter’s universe, including “Silence of the Lambs” and NBC’s “Hannibal.” But for all its lucrative influence, which includes the many varietals of “CSI,” the cult film doesn’t earn the many critical reappraisals that have come since. As it drowns in so much color-saturated atmosphere and ‘80s synths, you can imagine a young Nicolas Winding Refn taking notes for “Drive.” The shallow film’s only worthwhile artifacts are Brian Cox’s take on Hannibal and Tom Noonan’s unsettling killer, the Tooth Fairy.

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Where we go after "The Netflix tax": Fine. Cities need money to provide services, and occupying a spot of land in California is expensive, which makes a proposed tax on streaming subscriptions in cities like Pasadena almost understandable, especially given all the lost revenue from fewer cable subscribers. But for all the sins that have been committed under the banner of "the Internet should be free" (tell that to the broadband providers), this kind of tax could lead to more fees for streaming music, games and podcasts. California already has an abundant stock of luxury items; the Internet shouldn't become one of them.

Follow me over here @chrisbarton.

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