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.
And the Comic-Con news just keeps on coming!
Vampires, werewolves, geeks, serial killers, secret agents and more are set to dazzle fans at the 2013 Comic-Con in San Diego. Warner Bros. has just unveiled their lineup, and it's looking like 17 of their fan-favorite series will be in attendance. Take a look at the full lineup below to find out when stars from The Vampire Diaries, Arrow, The Big Bang Theory, and more will be taking the stage.
Wendesday, July 17:– Pilot screenings of Almost Human, The Tomorrow People, and The 100, as well as a special presentation of The Originals featuring never-before-seen footage.
Thursday, July 18:- MAD: Producers Kevin Shinick and Mark Marek.
Friday, July 19:- Almost Human: Stars Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, and executive producer J.H. Wyman. - The Big Bang Theory: Executive producers Steven Molaro and Bill Prady and the writers- Childrens Hospital: Creator/star Rob Corddry and executive producers David Wain and Jonathan Stern join cast members Lake Bell, Erinn Hayes, Ken Marino and Rob Huebel. - The Following: Kevin Bacon, Shawn Ashmore, and Valorie Curry join executive producers Kevin Williamson and Marcos Siega. - Nikita: Maggie Q, Shane West, Lyndsy Fonseca, Aaron Stanford, Melinda Clarke, Devon Sawa, and Noah Bean join executive producer Craig Silverstein. - The 100: Series stars Eliza Taylor, Thomas McDonell, Marie Avgeropoulos, and Henry Ian Cusick join executive producers Matthew Miller and Jason Rothenberg. - The Paranormal and Extraterrestrial Squad: Producers Milo Ventimiglia and Russ Cundiff and creators/stars John Dale and Michael Hobert.
Saturday, July 20:- Arrow: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards and Colton Haynes joining executive producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg. - The Originals: Joseph Morgan, Claire Holt, Phoebe Tonkin, and Charles Michael Davis join executive producer Julie Plec. - Person of Interest: Executive producers Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman join members of the cast for their third visit to Comic-Con. - Revolution: Series stars and creator/executive producer Eric Kripke. - The Tomorrow People: Series stars Robbie Amell, Mark Pellegrino, and Peyton List with executive producers Greg Berlanti, Phil Klemmer and Danny Cannon. - The Vampire Diaries: Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder, Kat Graham and Candice Accola join executive producers Julie Plec and Caroline Dries.
Sunday, July 21:- Supernatural: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, and Mark A. Sheppard with executive producers Jeremy Carver and Robert Singer. - Beware the Batman: Producers Glen Murakami and Mitch Watson. - Teen Titans Go!: Producer Aaron Horvath joins members of the voice cast, including Greg Cipes and Scott Menville.
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The supernatural thriller The Rite is a different kind of literary adaptation a film not “based on” or even “inspired by” a written work but rather “suggested by” one. The degree to which this fictional film adheres factually to its source material Matt Baglio’s book The Rite: The Making of an American Exorcist is anybody’s guess. Fans of The Exorcist might argue that it’s more strongly “suggested by” William Friedkin’s 1973 horror classic than anything else.
Erstwhile unknown Colin O’Donoghue in his first feature role plays Michael a seminary student sent to Rome to learn the intricacies of demonic possession. A pronounced skeptic who isn’t even sure he believes in god much less the Catholic doctrine of exorcism Michael is inclined toward the more humanistic view of the “possessed” as simply disturbed or schizophrenic individuals. What they really need he insists is not a priest but a good psychiatrist. (That belief certainly won't endear him to the Church of Scientology.)
To rid him of such malignant pragmatism Michael’s headmaster (Ciaran Hinds) ships him off to serve an apprenticeship under Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) a Welsh Jesuit (shorthand for “eccentric”) and practicing exorcist. Having been around the theological block a few times Lucas reacts to Michael’s unbelief with wry nonchalance (a Hopkins specialty and the film’s most appealing trait); he knows that Satan’s arguments will prove far more convincing than any he might offer.
And Satan gets to work forthwith first using a pregnant Italian girl as his vessel then incorporating other representatives of the animal kingdom tormenting Michael with horned frogs and red-eyed demon mules. At first exhibiting admirable restraint director Mikael Hafstrom eventually employs just about every weapon in his terror arsenal bombarding Michael with harrowing visions and flashbacks (he grew up in a funeral home with an undertaker father played by Rutger Hauer who had a habit of bringing his work home with him) which offer ample opportunities for cheap scares. His trump card of course is Hopkins whose character eventually becomes possessed himself thus allowing The Rite to fulfill the Lucas/Lucifer conceit we all knew was coming.
The Rite varies wildly in tone with Hafstrom seemingly unable to decide if his film is to be a moody serious-minded psychological thriller or some campy outlandish horror-comedy. By the time Father Lucas becomes possessed and the reenactment of the first great celestial battle begins the film gives itself wholly over to the latter. As channeled by Hopkins the devil comes off as a less eloquent more vulgar version of Hannibal Lecter taunting Michael with naughty words and voraciously devouring scenery. The Dark Lord as a dirty old man is something of a novel concept I suppose. Scary? Maybe a little. Creepy? Oh hell yes.