It's remarkable how much Veronica Mars feels like coming home again. Ms. Mars has had nearly a decade off from her detective duties, but the character and the series at large saunters right back into form with such a confident swagger, it feels like she never really left at all.
The product of a now infamous Kickstarter campaign, Veronica Mars is the film sequel to the much beloved but scarcely watched CW series that followed the adventures of a teenage private eye. Mars solved mysteries surrounding the seedy denizens of the fictional Neptune California, a beach town where the rich socialites and working class heroes clash quite frequently and often violently. The series was a terrific mix of Nancy Drew and Raymond Chandler, give or take a Buffy, airing for three seasons before being canceled. But thanks to creator Rob Thomas' audacious Kickstarter and a brewing cult of fans, Veronica Mars has been given a second chance at life, a chance that precious few shows receive.
The film picks up with Veronica (Kristen Bell) knocking on 30's door and enjoying a comfortable life in New York City with her long time boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell). Her youthful gumshoe years are well behind her, but her old life comes back into swing when former flame Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is charged with murdering his starlet girlfriend. Veronica tells herself that she only wants to consult a friend, but Neptune's magnetic pull becomes too hard to resist.
The film is a ton of fun. It's still as whip smart as the series ever was, and the quips whiz by effortlessly and constantly... often right over the heads of those who aren't already baptized by the gospel of Veronica. The show quickly falls back into familiar rhythms, and the nine years away haven't dulled the character's verbal barbs. Prepare to be bathed in waves of wit. Even outside of the near-relentless banter, the show maintains a nice and heavy sense of tension when the mystery sets in, and things get serious. While the actual mystery itself is far from brilliant, it's still engaging enough to entertain. In any case, the main course here is the characters, and they are as stellar as ever. Keith Mars (the fantastic Enrico Colantoni) is still the easy frontrunner for dad of the millennium.
The most remarkable thing about the film is how much it feels like the Veronica Mars of old, and that's the best compliment we can pay it. The returning cast members slip into their old roles with so much ease, and the film never feels like it's straining to regain that old Neptune spark. It turns out that watching a near 30 Veronica is just as much fun as watching the sleuth in her teenage years. And the fact that the show's general formula doesn't feel out of place now that we're following a load of late 20-somethings instead of high schoolers probably says something about how smartly and strongly crafted the original show was in the first place.
Rob Thomas clearly isn't trying to broaden his formula to catch new fans, and it doesn't make sense that he'd do so anyway. This is clearly a film built from the ground up for Veronica Mars fans, as it should be. A hefty intro montage at the beginning tries its best to get newcomers caught up on the three seasons of the television show, but if you didn't spend at least a couple hours cruising along the seedy streets of Neptune all those years ago, some of the film's charm might be lost on you.
The Veronica Mars film, at its core, is basically a damned good two hour episode of the original series. Now, that's not exactly ambitious, but the fans that put down their hard earned money to fund the film weren't necessarily paying for ambition. What we have here is unquestionably and purely Veronica Mars. So self-assured and comfortable in it's own celluloid skin, it's a film that dutifully embraces everything that made that series so brilliant and fun in the first place. Welcome home, Veronica, it's been a while.
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.
Easy A a teen sex comedy with no actual sex aims rather conspicuously to plumb the best bits of Diablo Cody and Alexander Payne in its upside-down self-consciously campy take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. In the role of its high-school Hester Prynne is Emma Stone the sly husky heroine of last year’s surprise hit Zombieland. Tested by a film that is far less clever than its director Will Gluck or screenwriter Bert Royal would have us believe (and they desperately want us to believe) she passes with flying colors delivering a performance that should elevate her into the upper echelon of actresses possessing brains and beauty in equal measure.
Stone plays Olive the kind of quick-witted hyper-literate teen that our educational system produces in ever-diminishing numbers. (If it ever produced them to begin with.) More knowing and sophisticated than others her age she is nonetheless not immune to the pressure of peers and the dread of being labeled a loser. Under duress by a prying friend (Aly Michalka) to dish the details of her birthday weekend a rather mundane affair mainly spent jumping on her bed to the tune of Natasha Bedingfield’s pop monstrosity “Pocket Full of Sunshine ” she feels compelled to embellish a bit and concocts an entirely fictional account of losing her virginity (dubbed the “V-Card” by Royal trying too hard) to a boy from a junior college across town.
Word of Olive’s deflowering spreads with startling speed aided by the incessant rumor-mongering of a catty Evangelical eavesdropper (Amanda Bynes). Suddenly branded a tramp on account of a seemingly harmless little lie Olive opts to embrace her newly tarnished reputation and put it to good use. In a viciously stratified social environment where even the most awkward acne-plagued pariah can earn respect and even admiration from members of the upper castes for having gone All the Way Olive anoints herself the Mother Theresa of (fake) sluts bestowing her blessing upon downtrodden gents in need of a reputation boost. And she resolves to look the part too traipsing around in scandalous bustiers and affixing the letter “A” to her chest.
There are limits to Easy A’s Scarlet Letter conceit overly Glee-ful tone forced repartee and pop-culture references (John Hughes is invoked so many times he should get a producer credit). Which is why director Gluck must be grateful to have found Stone who handles the verbal calisthenics of Royal’s script with charm and verve and a certain effortless appeal that keeps us engaged even as the film wallows in contrived irony and heavy-handedness. Keep your eye on her.
Teen pop idol Britney Spears is hotter than a fur coat in Miami after media reports surfaced that she would appear nude in an anti-fur poster campaign for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Spears' publicist Lisa Kasteler denied the media reports on Thursday and said that the singer was not planning to pose at all-even with her clothes on.
Kasteler said that Spears had offered to provide a photograph of herself for a PETA poster to be used at the New York nightclub Centro Fly in order to promote its new policy refusing entry to patrons wearing fur.
But the singer has apparently suspended all negotiations with PETA following the reports that she planned to pose naked, Reuters reports.
"Notwithstanding the meaningful work that PETA does, we cannot be involved with an organization that would distort the truth, " Kasteler said.
PETA campaign director Dan Matthews denied ever saying Spears would pose naked.
"We've never distorted anything, " he told Reuters. "We simply confirmed that we planned on doing a poster with her. We never said anything about nudity.
"If the downside is that the whole world knows Britney Spears is anti-fur, that's a good thing," he added.
Kasteler said the singer still feels strongly about animal rights and would find another organization to be involved with.
Other celebrities have posed naked for PETA's "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" poster campaign, including Pamela Anderson, Kim Basinger, Christy Turlington and Melissa Etheridge.
The latest was Dominique Swain, star of the 1997 remake of Lolita, photographed writing the slogan "I'd Rather Go Naked…" on a chalkboard. As with the others Swain's poster was shot from the side in a discreet manner.
Spears dropped the idea of using a caged tiger in her stage show the MTV Video Music Awards in New York in September after being criticized by PETA.