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Animated charmer 'Kubo and the Two Strings' is on Blu-ray, DVD

Posted November 23
Updated November 24

These chickens aren't for frying; they're prized poultry on display in the winning documentary "Chicken People," now on DVD. (Deseret Photo)

An animated feature that slipped in and out of theaters under the radar leads these movies that are new to Blu-ray and DVD this week.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” (Universal, 2016, PG, introduction, audio commentary, featurettes). A one-eyed boy named Kubo (voiced by young Art Parkinson) lives with his sickly mother in ancient Japan, where he uses complex origami to illustrate seemingly tall tales that he relates to the locals. In fact, the stories he spins are about his own late father.

One evening, when he disobeys his mother and stays out after dark, Kubo finds himself in danger, so his mom summons the strength to rescue him by using her magic, which sends Kubo off on a quest to find his father’s enchanted armor. As he sets out on this danger-filled adventure, Kubo is joined by a little wooden monkey that has come to life (Charlize Theron) and a samurai cursed with a beetle-like body (Matthew McConaughey).

Beautifully rendered stop-motion animation and a unique inventiveness inform this fanciful fable by first-time director Travis Knight, a veteran producer with the Laika studio (“Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” “The Boxtrolls”). Other voice actors include Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei and Brenda Vaccaro.

“Chicken People” (Sony, 2016, not rated/probable G). This funny but respectful and winning documentary examines the lives of people who raise show chickens. Yes, you read that right. Like dog shows, there are poultry shows, and breeders are very much their own lot, as are those who judge the birds. It’s a hoot. Or to be more apt, it’s a crow.

“Hell or High Water” (Lionsgate, 2016; R for violence, language, sex; featurettes). Divorced father Toby (Chris Pine) and his unstable, ex-con brother Tanner (Ben Foster) become desperate as their family’s Texas ranch nears foreclosure, so they begin robbing branches of the same bank that holds the title to their property. But as Tanner’s behavior becomes more erratic, and with a tenacious Texas ranger (Jeff Bridges) on their trail, things look bleak. This is a familiar crime melodrama lifted by solid performances.

“The Childhood of a Leader” (IFC, 2016, not rated/probable R for violence). An allegory for the rise of fascism, this fable relates the childhood of a boy in 1918 France, where his American diplomat father is involved in negotiating the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. The boy learns to manipulate his parents and begins a path that will lead him to becoming a fascist dictator. Robert Pattinson plays two supporting roles.

“War Dogs” (Warner, 2016, R for language and drugs, featurettes). During the Iraq War, two twenty-something stoners (Jonah Hill, Miles Teller) stumble onto a little-known government initiative that allows them to bid on government contracts, which eventually leads to their rolling in dough. But when they take on a $300 million deal with the Afghan military, they are soon in way over their heads. This sleazy satire is based on a true story. Bradley Cooper and Kevin Pollak are among the co-stars.

“The Land” (IFC, 2016; R for language, drugs, violence, nudity; featurette, trailer). A motley crew of teens ditch school to practice on their skateboards, hoping those skills will get them out of the dregs of Cleveland’s inner city culture. But they also steal cars, and eventually, unwisely, cross a drug dealer, which leads to more trouble than they bargained for.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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