If you're a fan of intelligently made gangster movies, and in particular those of the Japanese Yakuza variety, a new Takeshi Kitano movie is a big deal. Sure, Beyond Outrage is no Sonatine, or Violent Cop (sadly, they, and most of his tremendous early work is now out of print. It's worth trying MnLink, though), but c'mon... those were pretty lofty heights and a tough standard to hold anyone to. His signature style - long, langourous passages punctuated by sudden frenetic bursts of shocking violence - has so seeped into the genre that it no longer seems as exciting and fresh as it used to, but Beyond Outrage is plenty enjoyable, and Takeshi the Actor's studied deadpan is still one of the best faces in the movies.
The Coen Brothers rank alongside Prince and Garrison Keillor as Minnesota's favorite Minnesotans to brag about being from Minnesota to non-Minnesotans. Joel and Ethan's latest revolves around the early-'60s Greenwich Village folk scene that a certain other famous Minnesotan took by storm. This version centers on Oscar Isaac in a multi non-Oscar award nominated performance as a less successful participant therein.
2013 was a good year for documentaries about recording studios. Greg Camalier's Muscle Shoals profiles two such studios, actually - FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio - both in the small Alabama town of the title. Recipient of much critical acclaim and the Grand Prize at the Boulder International Film Festival. Pair it with Dave Grohl's Sound City and make a night of it.
Director Alex Gibney carries an impressive Acadamy Award-winning resume of documentary hits, including Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, We Steal Secrets and Casino Jack and the United States of Money among others. Clearly, he's got a thing for scandals. His newest feature details the whole Lance Armstrong saga.
Ho hum. Just another great 2013 documentary. The Crash Reel chronicles snowboard legend Kevin Pearce's rivalry with Shaun White, his life-threatening crash and his determination to get back to snowboarding, even though it could kill him. An audience favorite at numerous film festivals across the country and the opening night gala selection at Sundance.
A new Wong Kar-Wai movie is always cause for cinephile rejoicing, and The Grandmaster - while not his finest work - is no exception. International superstar Tony Leung stars as Ip Man, a real-life historical figure and Bruce Lee's mentor. There is another recent, creatively unrelated series of films about Ip Man that have also been hits.
It's another Thor movie. You probably don't need me to tell you about it. Chris Hemsworth... Giant hammer... You get the idea.