reviewed by Audy Elliott
"Tomas say something you’re freaking me out.”
– Tomas' wife, Ebba 
Tomas messed up, he messed up something fierce. In the beginning of the movie Tomas put himself before his wife and children during a remarkable cascading avalanche by running away only thinking of his egotism. Once this happens, Ebba is fractured with his lack of heroism, in particular for his family, and she, for the duration of the movie, doesn’t get an explanation, or rationality as to why Tomas would flagrantly leave like he did, when stereotypically, in times of trouble, the man – the father, inherently protects those he holds dear. Not the subliminally effeminate Tomas, though: he ran as if it was murder she wrote and that avalanche was Angela Lansbury. Once Ebba decides to confront him and put her snowboot up his delicate ass, she still doesn’t receive the answer to the question she is dying to unlock. Tomas, shamed, can’t muster up that courage to answer her terse question, sitting on the couch isolated from her without any remorse for reconciliation that smells of anything less than an authentic attempt Ebba will wait for but never receive. Does Tomas not say anything because he can’t find the words? Does he choose not to say anything? Or does he know deep down inside what he did is pathetic, but because his marriage to the frazzled Ebba is at the point of no return, it’s a moot ridden situation? Tomas, doesn’t know, Ebba doesn’t know and neither do we, but that doesn’t take out the fun of trying to figure out this trivial man, in this non-trivial “what would you do?” scenario. It’s fairly clear how egregiously frustrating his actions are to everyone that encounter him, seeking answers from a man that is seeking them for himself.

Icy, quirky, tense, peculiar, vapid, passive aggressive, sly, unassumingly brilliant, suffocating

Ridiculous humor
Great usage of film space
Subtle tension and mood
Attractive framed scenes/composition
Amusing study of passive aggression among relationships
Understated screenplay
Smart writing delivered by philosophical dialog 

A few nonsensical plot points/scenes  
Decent, not great ending

This wickedly funny and precisely observed psychodrama tells the story of a model Swedish family - handsome businessman Tomas, his willowy wife, Ebba, and their two blond, pre-teen children - on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. The sun is shining and the slopes are spectacular but, during lunch at a mountainside restaurant, an avalanche turns everything upside down. With panicked diners fleeing in all directions, Ebba calls out for her husband as she tries to protect their children. Tomas, however, makes a decision that will shake the family's world to its core. Although the anticipated disaster fails to occur, his marriage now hangs in the balance as he struggles to reclaim his role as family patriarch.

reviewed by Audy Elliott
"Only now do I finally remember why I came here."
- Princess Kaguya
I’m not going to start off this review and lie to you by saying there were moments in which this movie didn’t test my patience with its overly self imposed reflection. All the bells and whistles that you normally find in a Studio Ghibli film, and to a greater extent by Isao Takahata, were in full force, but I kept finding myself checking my watch, timing its running length and wondering why is this movie, beyond its “bona fide” impactful style, allowing its narrative pretentions to stymie the film from ascending to the very atmosphere of thematic gratification that Princess Kaguya herself descended down from the beginning of the film? I somewhat took for granted what this movie offered in a reticent way that would typically make me discard a movie of this nature if it weren’t an art house Japanese animation. However, the more I watched, the more I bypassed it’s obvious visual pleasure and succumbed to the naturalistic presentation of folktale itself and how it was told - in which by the end I too, like the Princess, remembered why I came to see this movie, just as she remembers why she descended down on earth: for me it’s because Takahata has a way of not penetrating your consciousness in a direct manner, but like the glowing bamboo and the princess from it, his touch subtly affects you without you knowing it, until it’s over and that is when the movie proves its worth. The Princess or also known as “Little Bamboo” is conflicted between two worlds in which she is trying to prove to herself just who she is and what she ultimately wants. She traverses the film emotionally, accelerating in age and love in the most grandiose, personal, and exertive way forcing the movie to not only prove its worth to me, but also trying to prove itself in keeping its “Little Bamboo” in the world it created for her. The fixed reality though is that this movie has nothing to prove to either of us, it only needed to wait until we both came around to realize what we knew all along – the gentle force of its delivery is held in contempt by the very promise of our unrealized but preexisting loyalty.

Sweeping, charming, magical, reflective, celebratory, warm, chasten, contemplative

Softness and simplicity in animation style
Beautifully captures fairy tale soul
Musical score
Mostly enjoyable characters
Excellent voice acting from James Caan

Lack of energy at times in pacing
Movie’s running length was too long
Narrative at times was tangential

Legendary Studio Ghibli cofounder Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko) revisits Japan's most famous folktale in this gorgeous, hand-drawn masterwork, decades in the making. Found inside a shining stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter (James Caan) and his wife (Mary Steenburgen), a tiny girl grows rapidly into an exquisite young lady (Chloë Grace Moretz). The mysterious young princess enthralls all who encounter her - but ultimately she must confront her fate, the punishment for her crime. From the studio that brought you Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and The Wind Rises comes a powerful and sweeping epic that redefines the limits of animated storytelling and marks a triumphant highpoint within an extraordinary career in filmmaking for director Isao Takahata.

reviewed by Audy Elliott
“Stop calling him boy, his name is Samuel”
– Amelia 
The boy, Samuel, is 6-years-old, and is suppressive of his mother’s energy willfully bulldozing an incorrigible co-dependency that tears down Amelia’s last shred of understandable tolerance and fading maternal love as she protects her son to the school board. Samuel, who is plagued by “The Babadook” a scary, possible figment of his imagination “boogie man” cloaked with Tim Burton’s fashion sense, has made Samuel a problem child to where Amelia can no longer keep him in school. He is so obstructive, that the administrators can’t even bring themselves to call him by his name, only referring him as “the boy” to which Amelia, drowning in her lament and frustration of Samuel, still defiantly defends her son, as if it’s a last resort, and not out of genuine motherly pride. There is love for the boy, but its withering, sucking the life out of the pupils of her bright eyes with little margin for error because Amelia is running out of options in trying to control her son’s fear of the so called Babadook. Immediately you feel her burden, as she is losing her sanity, failing to realize it’s only going to get worse, because deep down inside she will soon find out that “the boy” is the least of her problems.

Cagey, irritable, burdened, heartfelt, tight, suppressing,
lurking, shrouded, sparse

Kent’s strong, smooth direction
Polished cinematography for independent film
Pitch perfect pacing
Multifaceted horror storytelling presentation
Layered dramatic visuals 

Overly relied on built in horror movie troupes
Lackluster ending

Six years after the violent death of her husband, Amelia (Essie Davis) is at a loss. She struggles to discipline her out of control 6 year-old, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), a son she finds impossible to love. Samuel's dreams are plagued by a monster he believes is coming to kill them both. When a disturbing storybook called 'The Babadook' turns up at their house, Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is the creature he's been dreaming about. His hallucinations spiral out of control and he becomes more unpredictable and violent. Amelia, genuinely frightened by her son's behavior, is forced to medicate him. But when Amelia begins to see glimpses of a sinister presence all around her, it slowly dawns on her that the thing Samuel has been warning her about may be real.

reviewed by Audy Elliott
"To die you have to be alive first."
– Banderas' Jacq Vaucan to robot 
Antonio Banderas, who has been off the movie screen radar for several years, casts the “hand to god” line as he is being painfully dragged against his will by a robot in the middle of a dry, uninhabitable desert, showcasing his latin star power in a low budget science fiction film that desperately depends on it. His character, which is in charge of investigating offlined protocol robots, is forced to leave his city, his metropolis, his home, in the hopes of finding the leader robot that doesn’t prescribe to society’s restrictions on free will or what the robot thinks that is and how it applies to its kind. Masking in the dark, our rogue robot liberator is leading all other service robots to find it in order to break away to create a utopia in a dystopic world – as its utopia isn’t the dirt, boards, rocks, or the barriers of human hatred the robot shelters himself away from, as much as the ideology it’s exodus is harkened by. Banderas’ character, Jacq Vaucan is trapped under the nomadic pale faced robots, that are making their way towards an unforgivable destination (which didn’t originally include Vaucan) but since he doesn’t have much of a crippled choice, he is now a part of this chromed out, metallic Donner Party. Unable to sustain refuge, badly in need of water, and laying heavily restless on a stretcher, Banderas is ironically in a life or death situation with the very robots he believes will kill him as they consider what the application of life is to them and their right to be defined by it. The anonymous service robot that is the focus of Banderas’ ire, exemplifies the movie’s unspoken attitude that him and his brethren are tired of "picking up society's check” when it comes to being utilized as worn out corroded after thoughts, corporate issued drones, and life sized metallic swiffer mops cleaning up dystopic future’s “hard to reach areas.” The movie, like all other science fiction films, treat its robots in an arena of endless disposable indentured servitude for the very human’s life it’s programmed to protect. The film’s reality overstates this: it marks heightened actuality that a definable class system is in place, with a tension between the “humans” (masters) and the “robots” (slaves) – property versus identity, It wants to initially treat its robots as nothing but an inanimate felt machine that animates its given orders. However, the robots have other ideas, and you can’t blame them - only blame how they were under-explored by the director. They won’t hurt you, they protect you, but it doesn’t sound as gracious as one might think. Banderas feels trapped, powerless, unable to muster resistance towards a destination that is out of his control and death as he explains to the semi-intelligent robot, looks like a great consolation prize to the one person who knows its debt by knowing the value of life itself.