Boxtrolls – an adorable British satire by Lakia

Boxtrolls is adorable and fun, with engaging intricacy of design and writing. It is also very, very British with huge themes about class. Will audiences in America be able relate?


Boxtrolls begins with the one of the title creatures apparently kidnapping a baby. Then we see a man in a red hat, desperate to report the incident to someone of power and authority. He pounds on the door of an impressive house, seeking to gain admission, which a butler eventually grants. When he presents his report, he is dismissed by the man in the white hat who he had come to see. Despite being waved away, the desperate man refuses to yield. We will come to learn that these two men in hats stand entangled in the underlying conflict of this movie. The man in the red hat, Mr. Snatcher, is a lowly exterminator. He covets a white hat of his very own, which signifies membership in the elite, ruling class of the town. Mr. Snatcher stands in contrast with Lord Portly-Rind, a civilized, white-clad gentleman, the absolute bluest of blue-bloods. The exterminator then forces the lord into a devil’s bargain. If Mr. Snatcher can catch all of the dreaded boxtrolls, then he will be elevated to a high station. Lord Portly-Rind agrees with enormous reluctance.

With this bargain struck, we move to the underground, where we are treated to the development of the baby into a proper feral boy. He is raised by the boxtrolls, subterranean creatures who live much like simple primates. They are unigue because they have a gift for tinkering with technology. The boy learns about technology, music and the rigid taboo about nakedness. Boxtrolls never remove their box. They acquire new parts for their tinkering by visiting and scavenging from the world above. It is on such a visit that they discover the exterminators who work for Mr. Scavenger.

The exterminators reflect upon their role and work to convince themselves that they are heroic people who will eventually triumph over the evil boxtrolls, although you have hear the note of doubt that always creeps into their thinking. While their mission is only partially successful, the boy ‘Eggs’ and his guardian ‘Fish’, each named for the picture that appears on their boxes, manage to escape. It is a narrow victory, and we see in montage that the hunt continues and each time the boxtrolls visit the surface they lose people to their exterminators. Eventually Fish is captured and that pushes Eggs over the edge.

Eggs decides to reject the boxtroll path of hiding and disguises himself as a normal human and visit the world above. He encounters a city fair where ongoing mythmaking explains why the boxtrolls are evil and to be feared. A rather dramatic, but insincere woman weaves a tale of the kidnapping of the Trabshaw baby and his father, both dispatched by the bloodthirsty boxtrolls. She is assisted by the lesser exterminators.

At the city fair, Eggs meets our last protagonist, the daughter of Lord Portly-Rind, who is about the same age as himself. She has an initial morbid fascination with the boxtrolls, but she is later able to puzzle out exactly what happened in the past and points the way for Eggs to attempt crossing the gap between his world of boxtrolls below and the world of misinformed adults above. Her grim fascinations hide a rather kind and idealistic soul. While she does not solve the hero’s plight she provides him with the support he needs at crucial junctures in the story.

The most innovative scene happens in the tense relationship between Mr. Snatcher and his assistant exterminators. Their leader insists in a pantomime reenactment of what high class people do in this world, which is eat fine cheese. Alas, Mr. Snatchers suffers from a horrific allergy to cheese, a fact he can neither acknowledge nor remember. The key symbol of status, power and privilege is his ultimate bane. This is presented with such sophistication and finesse as to change the entire gravity of the story. One begins to think that if Snatcher’s methods been less blood thirsty and heartless then his desire to elevate himself might have been a noble trait.

In the epilogue, we see a new social order that is far more agreeable than the demonization of the boxtrolls we face at the beginning of the story. As a huge fan of British satire, I hope this movie manages to sneak its way into the hearts of the right people and opens their eyes to a more nuanced vision of the world, much as Lakia’s previous outing Paranoman, did. I recommend this family movie for any fourth graders or above.

Final rating – Four out of Five tofu-points


Guardians of the Galaxy – The Nerds are the Heroes

* Guardians of the Galaxy *

The newest Marvel Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, works on a new level because at last they have made a movie where the nerds are the heroes. The word ‘nerd’ gets used so often that it has lost a most of its definition, but for now let’s take ‘nerd’ back to the sense of outcast or reject. Marvel has given us the reject heroes that we didn’t even know that we could want, let alone have. This is a rollicking, high-energy thrill ride for the adventure hungry child inside all of us.

We meet young Peter Quill with the headphones which will serve as a keystone in his story. We are treated to a musical buildup that seems a bit otherworldly until it resolves into the more familiar part of “I’m not in Love” by 10cc. Next there is a surprisingly effective punch to the gut when we see young Peter in the hospital brought to bedside of his very sick mother. After confronting something that no child should face, Peter rushes from the hospital only be caught by a transportation beam from a Ravager starship.

We next encounter Peter as an adult, wearing his trademark headphones, dancing, using a rat-like space creature as fake microphone and exploring an alien landscape with poorly operating but amazing technology. He is investigating the ruins of a dead city but his machine projects a vivid, dynamic image of what it looked like before its demise, featuring even the digital ghosts of its people. He finds his target and is just about to make off with the Orb artifact when he is confronted by another group. We learn that Peter is a thief, and when he escapes with his treasure we find out that he has betrayed his fellow thieves to make some extra profit.

Bigger trouble is brewing in this universe as a space religious fanatic, Ronan the Accuser, is preparing for the next step in his personal crusade of retribution against his sworn enemies, the Xandarians. His people were the other team going after the artifact. He is working on behalf of an even bigger bad, Thanos, who was only hinted at in previous Marvel movies. Ronan’s servant on loan from Thanos, Gamora, is selected to retrieve the artifact.

She goes after Peter on planet Xandar, just after his plan to sell the artifact goes belly-up. More of our rouge’s gallery of unexpected heroes soon gathers around Peter in an effort to collect a bounty on his head from the thieves that he double-crossed. This is the talking raccoon, Rocket and his heavy, the tree-man Groot. All the ruckus they raise gets the four of them thrown into an oppressive space jail called the Kyln filled with new threats, including the eventual final member of the team, Drax.

The visual style cut a powerful figure eight around both the clean utopian vision of a Star Trek: The Next Generation and the grittier, dirtier vision of space travel from the original release Star Wars: A New Hope. This wide range takes the best of all possible worlds of the future that never was and lets our heroes play in it.

The team goes through several tough scrapes and they barely hold their loose alliance together. Along the way, the writers draw a surprising amount of pathos from the characters. Rocket laments at his very existence in a poignant moment and Groot struggles to salvage the team when it is at is very furthest apart with the slightest gift at speech. That these flawed, uncertain, and often marginally competent characters manage in the end to save the galaxy is a testament to the heroic potential inside of all of them and inside all of us too. If you want to believe that anyone with heart can make a big difference and become a hero, then see this movie.

Lucy – A Devious Post-humanist Movie


I walked into ‘Lucy’ with the kind of mental roadmap that you might write on the back of a napkin. Commercials for the movie make its basic structure quite clear.
I expected sketchy neuroscience and spectacular powers. I certainly got both of those. The dubious neuroscience is introduced through scenes of a lecture being deliver by Morgan Freeman as Professor Norman, a kind of evolutionary cheerleader. What he says is rather ungrounded speculation about what a small proportion of human cerebral capacity gets used and what might happen if more of it were accessed. The audience of academics is enthralled and I must admit that while what he is saying is dubious, the way that he says it is glorious. The mellifluous quality of Morgan Freeman’s voice is used to full effect.

In the first act, the movie hits all of the expected beats at the expected time. It is a satisfying but not especially daring. Where the movie began to exceed my expectations was in how altogether strange it became. This is a devious post-human movie in the guise of a simple shoot ’em up revenge picture. Sure, there are plenty of gunfights and car chases but the journey of the main character is conducted on an entirely different level. Soon after her awakening to new found powers, she begins to lose touch with what it even means to be human. Her transcendence of normal human worries makes her pass through the world like a visitor and not like a resident. This is a bold choice but it is one which they stay committed to for the rest of the movie, which I admire. They made another brilliant bit of casting, because Scarlett Johansson has always brought an outsider vibe to her characters. Here, that quality is pushed to its far extreme as she seems to become almost an alien in human clothing. The movie pursues this meta-human angle to a pretty spectacular final sequence which briefly but dramatically illustrates the cosmic significance of the existence of life. My biggest hope is that the images presented in this movie will take root in our collective imagination and give people a new visual palette. These images seem as potent a hint of a much deeper world as was provided by the very first Matrix Movie.

The pacing is super tight after the initial loose few minutes of screen time. The movie follows the Frank Herbert method of always keeping the protagonists in danger from moment to moment so the tension stays nice and tight. It is a trim and raucous ride. Overall, the movie is a worthy spiritual successor to “The Fifth Element” with the same core message of hope for the human race, despite our many obvious failings.

More about Lucy on IMDB