4 Best Movies to Watch by Ken Watanabe

Staff & contributors
While billed as a “ramen western”, Tampopo satirizes plenty of other American genres, including, but not limited to: 1) the inspirational sports film, with Tampopo’s diligent training, 2) the erotic, arthouse drama through its egg yolk kiss, 3) the witty, social comedy pointing out the absurd in dinnertime tables, and 4) the melodramatic mafia romance with its room-serviced hotel getaway. But the film doesn’t buckle under the weight of carrying all these genres– instead, the customer vignettes are all delicately plated to balance out the hearty journey of a store owner learning about ramen and the bemused, yet cohesive contemplation about food. Tampopo is one of a kind.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Akio Tanaka, Chōei Takahashi, Fukumi Kuroda, Hideji Ōtaki, Hisashi Igawa, Hitoshi Takagi, Hyōe Enoki, Isao Hashizume, Izumi Hara, Ken Watanabe, Kinzō Sakura, Kōji Yakusho, Mariko Okada, Masahiko Tsugawa, Nobuko Miyamoto, Nobuo Nakamura, Rikiya Yasuoka, Ryutaro Otomo, Toshiya Fujita, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Yoriko Dōguchi, Yoshi Katō, Zenpaku Kato

Director: Jūzō Itami

Rating: NR

Isle of Dogs has all the hallmarks of a Wes Anderson picture—it's stylish, otherworldly, and deadpan hilarious. But the film is also uniquely its own thing, a stop-motion animation deeply and gorgeously immersed in Japanese history and lore. Instead of merely relegating culture in the background for mere aesthetic purposes (as Anderson has done in the past with The Darjeeling Limited), culture here plays a vital role in the adventure and overall plot of the film. It's up to the viewer to decide whether Isle of Dogs is a case of appropriation or appreciation, but what can't be denied is that this is a movie with a strong and unforgettable bite to it. 

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Akira Takayama, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, Chris Benz, Courtney B. Vance, Edward Norton, Elaiza Ikeda, F. Murray Abraham, Fisher Stevens, Frances McDormand, Frank Wood, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, Jake Ryan, Jeff Goldblum, Kara Hayward, Ken Watanabe, Koyu Rankin, Kunichi Nomura, Liev Schreiber, Mari Natsuki, Nijiro Murakami, Roman Coppola, Ryuhei Matsuda, Scarlett Johansson, Shota Matsuda, Taichi Kodama, Takayuki Yamada, Tilda Swinton, Yojiro Noda, Yoko Ono

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: PG-13

The big ideas swirling at the center of The Creator are about human heartlessness versus AI compassion, man’s coldness versus robot warmth. Unfortunately, the movie winds up being an unwitting example of the former: visual effects take precedence over emotion here, meaning you rarely feel any of the intended poignancy of this story about a soldier driven between warring sides by love.

Part of that effect might be because the premise is an iffy one to swallow, as The Creator drops during a time when the once-theoretical threats posed by AI start to become disconcertingly real. But mostly, the sterile feeling of the film is a product of the writing, as a shallow script prevents most of the cast from ever making their characters compelling. Though its lifelike effects are something to marvel at, The Creator never quite convinces us that any of its humans are real — a pretty gaping flaw for a movie that wants to sell us on the idea that robots might one day be sentient.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Allison Janney, Amar Chadha-Patel, Brett Bartholomew, Charlie McElveen, Eoin O'Brien, Gemma Chan, Ian Verdun, John David Washington, Karen Aldridge, Ken Watanabe, Leanna Chea, Mackenzie Lansing, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, Marc Menchaca, Michael Esper, Ralph Ineson, Robbie Tann, Sawanee Utoomma, Sturgill Simpson, Teerawat Mulvilai, Veronica Ngo

Director: Gareth Edwards

Rating: PG-13