In a world of three-act plots and character arcs, Isao Takahata's The Tale of Princess Kaguya reminds us that stories don't have to be neat to be accessible. Studio Ghibli's final film (for the foreseeable future) is a retelling of a Japanese folktale with the intimacy of a bedtime story and the breadth of an epic. It is illustrated with the utmost care – with creative, balanced compositions eclipsing the need for broad illustrative strokes. Takahata's latest masterwork doesn't explain itself, nor is it interested in doing so; its tangents make for a rich tapestry of plaintive beauty and immeasurable wisdom, and what more could we ask for?
If the world didn't already have enough low-angle close-ups of Christian Bale's thousand-yard stare, rejoice! Sir Ridley Scott's latest picture gives us another 154 minutes of them. Bale's steely, expressionless acting turns out to be a perfect match with Scott's steely, expressionless direction. Scott seems almost helpless to the tedium endemic to the plots of sword-and-sandal epics, a category whose resurgence Scott helped birth with Gladiator and whose shortcomings are epitomized by Exodus: Gods and Kings.