The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie
Many people consider Sarah Jessica Parker to be the official ambassador to New York City because of how much her character of Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City championed it. But it turns out, SJP isn't really as glued to Manhattan as we'd like to think she is. As we previously stated, she appears on the cover of Vogue's "Age" issue, and in addition to talking about her and husband Matthew Broderick's parenting styles, she also revealed how the two of them have even considered leaving New York because they thought it would be easier to raise a family in an area that's more secluded and more respectful of their celebrity statuses.
She said, "The paparazzi follow every move I make until I'm back inside the house. You do start to understand the behind-the-gate mentality, the getting in the car in your driveway. But I can't imagine living in seclusion. We flirted with [moving out of New York]. We went outside the city and troubled all these realtors and stood in these homes and fantasized, and then I kept picturing nine o'clock at night and... The beautiful thing about New York is, you have to expose yourself to other people the minute you step outside the door. And I love that."
Luckily, it seems New York knew just which card to throw down to get her to reconsider.
There should be a rule stating if a movie has already won the Academy Award for Best Picture it should never EVER be remade at a later time no matter who is involved. Why mess with a good thing? The 1949 All the King's Men based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren starred Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark a 1950s Louisiana politician who uses fiery rhetoric to get the poor folk to elect him as governor but who becomes corrupt in the process and is eventually assassinated. The story is loosely based on the real-life legendary 1930s Louisiana governor Huey P. Long and the original film adaptation was equally brazen and subtle wonderfully executed and won three Oscars including the top prize. But apparently the original wasn’t as authentic as this current incarnation. This time Sean Penn stars as our prime filibuster who tries to keep things lively but gets bogged down by the muddled subplots especially the one involving Stark’s PR guy Jack Burden (Jude Law) and his relationships with his very Southern godfather (Anthony Hopkins) and childhood friends (Kate Winslet and Mark Ruffalo). Yawn. With a cast like this it’s no wonder King's Men got remade. Penn clearly stands out of course. How could he not? His Willie Stark is the only thing sparking anything close to life in the film. But with the part such as it is Penn also tends to unnecessarily chew up scenery while everyone stands around him in a wilting repose. Law—once again narrating the proceedings (must he do this in ALL his films?)—tries to embody a character who really doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about anything except being Stark’s beck and call boy even after all the horrible things Stark makes him do to the people he supposedly loves. Winslet as Jack’s unrequited childhood love Ruffalo as her put-upon brother and Hopkins as a former judge who stands in Stark’s way to success are all just completely wasted. As is Patricia Clarkson as Stark’s campaign manager and mistress Sadie Burke who was so brilliantly played by the Oscar-winning Mercedes McCambridge in the 1949 original. Whatever happened in translation is surely not Clarkson fault. Come on guys you’ve got a powerhouse crew here. Why fritter them away? Apparently redoing All the King's Men has been a dream project of political pundit James Carville one of the film’s producers for some time. He has dabbled here and there in the entertainment industry especially in the riveting documentary The War Room so periodically through the years Carville would mention to filmmakers in passing how he had a passion for Robert Penn Warren’s novel and how deeply he wanted to see it filmed authentically. Lo and behold someone finally listened and a new King's Men was underway helmed by writer/director Steven Zaillian (Searching for Bobby Fischer) with an all-star cast. Filming on location in New Orleans and the outlying areas of Louisiana just before Hurricane Katrina hit Zaillian provides the faithfulness Carville was looking for. But did anyone at any time ask the question “Why are we doing this movie again when it was already done so well?” I repeat it was a Best Picture winner for chrissakes. And now remaking it into a giant snore-fest just ruins the mystique. Sometimes they just don’t get it.
There was lots of slicing and dicing at the box office this weekend as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Leatherface took on Kill Bill's Bride, proving that samurai sword is no match for a grungy power tool.
New Line Cinema proved with its remake of Tobe Hooper's low-budget 1974 cult horror film Texas Chainsaw Massacre that there is strength in a name. The thriller, rated R for strong horror violence/gore, language and drug content, took in an insatiable $29.1 million* over the weekend, which is not surprising considering the film scored very well in its preview screenings, especially with under-25 horror aficionados.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's bloody take was also enough to make it the second best October opener of all time, bumping the comedy 2000 comedy Meet the Parents to third place. TCM follows the likes of October champ Red Dragon, which debuted in 2002 with $36.5 million; the 2000 comedy Meet the Parents, with $28.6 million; the 2002 comedy Jackass: The Movie, with $22.7 million; and the 2001 drama Training Day with $22.5 million.
Last week's box office champ, Quentin Tarantino's equally brutal R rated thriller Kill Bill Vol. 1, wasn't able to fend off Leatherface's onslaught. The film came in second with a tame $12.5 million.
This week's only other new wide release, the courtroom thriller Runaway Jury, debuted in third place with an expected $12.1 million, while the Jack Black comedy School of Rock rolled into fourth place with a rockin' $11.3 million. Clint Eastwood's Oscar buzz pic Mystic River, which took in an impressive $45,491 per-screen average when it debuted in 13 theaters last week, rounded out the Top Five in its first week of wide release with $10.3 million.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's R rated horror The Texas Chainsaw Massacre debuted with an ESTIMATED $29.1 million in 3,016 theaters with a tangible $9,649 per theater average-the highest of any film playing wide this week.
In the film, a free-spirited road trip across Texas runs headlong into madness for five friends when they encounter a bizarre family and a chainsaw-wielding man known as Leatherface.
Directed by Marcus Nispel, it stars Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Erica Leerhsen and Andrew Bryniarski.
Miramax Films' R rated Kill Bill Vol. 1, last week's box office champ, came in second in its second week with an ESTIMATED $12.5 million (-43%) in 3,102 theaters (unchanged, $4,030 per theater). It's cume is approximately $43.3
Directed by Tarantino, it stars Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah and David Carradine.
Twentieth Century Fox's R rated courtroom thriller Runaway Jury opened in third place with an ESTIMATED $12.1 million in 2,815 theaters with a $4,298 per theater average.
In the film, the latest Grisham adaptation, a young widow brings a civil suit against a powerful gun manufacturing corporation she holds responsible for the death of her husband.
Directed by Gary Fleder, it stars John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated comedy School of Rock, dropped two positions to No. 4 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $11.3 million (-27%) in 2,951 theaters (+22 theaters; $3,829 per theater). Its cume is approximately $55.1 million.
Directed by Richard Linklater, it stars Black, Joan Cusack and Michael White.
Warner Bros.' R rated drama Mystic River expanded in its second week to round out the Top Five with an ESTIMATED $10.3 million in 1,467 theaters (+1,454 theaters; $7,059 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.4 million.
The film centers on three childhood friends who share a tragic event from the past and cross paths again 25 years later when one of the men's daughters is found brutally murdered.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden.
MGM's PG rated canine comedy Good Boy! fell three spots to come in sixth in its third week with an ESTIMATED $9 million (-31%) in 3,225 theaters (unchanged; $2,791 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.7 million.
Directed by John Hoffman, it stars Liam Aiken and the vocal talents of Matthew Broderick, Brittany Murphy, Carl Reiner and Vanessa Redgrave as the dog Hubble and his four-legged friends.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Universal Pictures' PG 13 rated romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty dropped three rungs to place seventh in its second week with an ESTIMATED $6.8 million (-45%) in 2,570 theaters (+6 theaters, $2,680 per theater). Its cume is approximately $23 million.
Produced by Ethan Coen and directed by Joel Coen, it stars George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
MGM Pictures' R rated police thriller Out of Time fell three notches to eighth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-52%) at 2,344 theaters (-732; $1,749 per theater). Its cume is approximately $35.3 million.
Directed by Carl Franklin, it stars Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan and Dean Cain.
Buena Vista's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Under the Tuscan Sun fell five notches to No. 9 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $3.4 million (-31%) in 1,663 theaters (-38 theaters; $2,044 per theater). Its cume is approximately $33.7 million.
Directed by Audrey Wells, it stars Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Vincent Riotta and Raoul Bova.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated jungle actioner The Rundown fell three rungs in its fourth place week to round out the Top Ten with an ESTIMATED $2.8 million (-45%) in 2,099 theaters (-724 theaters; $1,355 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.5 million.
Directed by Peter Berg, it stars The Rock, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson and Christopher Walken.
Buena Vista' PG rated biopic Veronica Guerin debuted in 472 theaters with $603,000 with a soft $1,278 per theater average.
In the film, set in the mid-1990s, journalist Veronica Guerin covers the powerful drug lords battling for control of the street of Dublin, Ireland.
Directed by Joel Schumacher, it stars Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorely and Ciaran Hinds.
Focus Features' R rated biopic Sylvia debuted in three theaters with an ESTIMATED $52,000 with an impressive $17,333 per theater average.
The film is a biopic of American poet Sylvia Plath and her turbulent marriage to a future poet laureate of England, Ted Hughes.
Directed by Christine Jeffs, the film stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig.
United Artists' PG-13 teen drama Pieces of April opened in six theaters with $48,000 with a strong $8,000 per theater average.
In the film, 21-year-old April Burns invites her estranged, straight-laced family for Thanksgiving dinner for a disastrous evening.
Directed by Peter Hedges, it stars Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Oliver Platt and Derek Luke.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $105.2 million, up 7.5 percent from last weekend's $73.5 million. The Top 12 movies were also up 43 percent from this time last year when they took in $97.9 million.
Last year, Dreamworks' R rated thriller The Ring debuted at No. 1 with $15 million in 1,981 theaters ($7,580 per theater); Buena Vista's PG-13 rated comedy Sweet Home Alabama also stayed in second place in its fourth week with $9.5 million in 3,282 theaters ($2,913 per theater); and Universal's R rated thriller Red Dragon followed in third place in its third week with $8.7 million in 3,307 theaters ($2,650 per theater).
Nell Carter, best known for her '80s sitcom Gimme a Break! as well as her illustrious stage career, died Thursday in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was 54. The singer-actress, who suffered from diabetes, collapsed in her home and was found by one of her 13-year-old sons, spokesman Roger Lane told The Associated Press. Carter had also undergone brain surgery in 1992 to remove an aneurysm. Although most know Carter from her long-running TV series that ran from 1981-1987, Carter's first love was the stage, where she won a Tony for her performance in the Broadway musical Ain't Misbehavin' in 1978. Before her death, Carter was in rehearsals for a musical version of Raisin in the Sun called Raisin, scheduled to open next month in Long Beach, Calif.
Following in the footsteps of celebrity ex-couple Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, Entertainment Weekly.com reports new parents Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick have filed a similar $15 million lawsuit against the cosmetics company Sephora for allegedly using their likenesses without consent for a Valentine's Day ad promotion in 2001 that featured several celebrity couples. The complaint states the couple wasn't even aware of the unauthorized use of their images until Kidman and Cruise filed their suit against Sephora last September.
Nicolas Cage's former security guard was convicted of stealing a $45,000 watch and two cases of rare Scotch from the actor, according to the TV show Celebrity Justice. The watch and all but one bottle were returned.
People.com reports actor Taye Diggs, 32, tied the knot Jan. 11 with longtime girlfriend, actress-singer Idina Menzel, 31, at the Round Hill resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It is the first marriage for both.
The Berlin International Film Festival announced their lineup Wednesday. The 22 films include the Chinese-German co-production Mang Jing (Blind Shaft) and Michael Winterbottom's In This World. Entries will compete for the festival's coveted Golden Bear award. The festival runs Feb. 6-16.
MGM and DreamWorks are coming together to do a remake of the 1968 comedy The Party, with Jay Roach (Austin Powers In Goldmember) set to direct. The original movie starred Peter Sellers about an accident-prone Indian actor who is mistakenly invited to an A-list Hollywood party and destroys everything in sight.
Variety reports Miramax Films acquired the distribution rights for the indie film The Station Agent, currently making a splash at the Sundance Film Festival. Peter Dinklage plays a dwarf who chooses a life of isolation and spends his time pursuing his passion for trains, but becomes drawn into the lives of two other loners played by Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is set to star in a remake of Walking Tall for MGM. The original 1973 story followed Buford Pusser (played by Joe Don Baker), a sheriff who rids his small Southern county of corruption mostly by using a two-by-four. The updated version will have The Rock returning from serving in the military to find his small town corrupted by drugs and violence. And yes, he'll also be using a formidable two-by-four to make his point.
Wheel of Fortune's likable host Pat Sajak is getting his own talk show. Called Pat Sajak Weekend, it'll premiere on the Fox News Channel starting in the spring, AP reports. "I enjoy exercising my interviewing muscles and I look forward to having the chance to do that every weekend," Sajak said in a statement.
The soundtrack to the new hit musical Chicago sailed to No. 4 on the album charts in its first week of release, breaking up the otherwise monotonous record sales so far this season. Chicago sold 83,000 units for the week ending Sunday, according to data issued by Nielsen Soundscan on Wednesday, Reuters reports.