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.
P. Diddy says he's being fleeced in child support
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs thinks he is being fleeced by the mother of his 10-year-old son and is hurt by her demands to increase his child support payments, which currently stand at $35,000 per month. "We've had a great relationship, and then all of the sudden I got hit with a lawsuit for more money," Combs told The Associated Press Thursday. Combs is currently appealing the $35,000 per month ruling brought on by Misa Hylton-Brim, a fashion stylist for Lil' Kim and other stars. "My son goes to the best schools, he has full-time tutors," the mogul said. "I wouldn't know what else to do to give my son." Combs claims Hylton-Brim wants more money because she's in the process of getting a divorce from her husband, with whom she has children. "It's not about child support, it's about adult support," he said. "I love the mother of my first child. I would never want to do anything to hurt her, but I have to defend the kind of father that I am." Combs, who also pays roughly the same amount in child support payments to model Kim Porter, the mother of his second child, Christian, added: "The fact is that the mother of my first child gets more money than the mother of my second child." Combs and Porter are currently together. But Combs said he had no bad feelings towards Hylton-Brim. "I'm always going to respect her for being the mother of my child … but at the same time, that don't mean she has to be right."
Disney chief Michael Eisner to step down in 2006
Disney chief Michael Eisner plans to step down when his contract expires in September 2006, Reuters reports. Eisner, who headed the Burbank, California-based company for two decades, told the board of his decision in a letter dated Sept. 9, released by Disney on Friday. Eisner became Disney's chief executive in 1984 and presided over one of the world's best-known brands, whose businesses range from theme parks to films to the ABC television network. But in April, the 62-year-old Eisner just narrowly survived an attempt led by dissident shareholders Stanley Gold and Roy Disney, a nephew of founder Walt Disney, to oust him from his post at Disney. Eisner was subsequently stripped of his role as Disney chairman.
Gwyneth Paltrow to take time off
Gwyneth Paltrow, who gave birth to daughter Apple in May, says she is not going back to work any time soon. "I don't imagine that I'm going to take on something very big in the next 6, 8, 10, 12 months," the actress reveals in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, which hits newsstands Friday. Paltrow said she could fill her leisure time attending Pilates class or watching reality TV fare like MTV's Newlyweds, staring Jessica Simpson--Paltrow's favorite singer. "I'm just glad that there's one super-popular girl in America who's not drunk, sleeping with tons of people, and wearing incredibly revealing, inappropriate outfits," Paltrow told EW. "She's a postmodern Donna Reed."
Naomi Campbell discusses drug addiction
Supermodel Naomi Campbell, who won a legal battle against the Daily Mirror tabloid over revelations about her drug addiction, will talk about her battle with drugs in an interview with British talk show host Michael Parkinson, Reuters reports. According to excerpts from the show released Friday, Campbell admitted to doing cocaine. "No one forced me to do it. I did it because I wanted to. I don't have any blame for anyone but myself," Campbell, 34, said. "I go to (rehabilitation) meetings in every country I'm in. When you stop drugs, you have to stop everything."
Theron's injury could have been worse
Charlize Theron's recent injury on the Berlin set of Aeon Flux could have been much worse. The actress' boyfriend, actor Stuart Townsend, told AP Radio that Theron was doing a back-flip somersault while wearing platform shoes when she slipped and hurt her neck. "The slipped disc went almost into the spinal cord," he explained. "She's fine, but could've been in a lot of trouble." Townsend says he expects Theron, 29, to be laid up for six weeks. When asked why she was performing the stunt, Townsend replied: "She's just that kind of girl. She's like, 'Yeah, I'll do anything.' But I said, 'The stunt girl is going to start working and not you.'"
Kanye West leads Source noms
Rapper-producer Kanye West received a leading seven Source Hip-Hop Music Awards nominations Thursday, including nods for best album, video, lyricist and producer of the year, the AP reports. Ludacris followed close behind with six nods. The rapper will battle for male artist of the year against Jay-Z, Lil Flip, Twista and Juvenile. Youngbloodz, Ying Yang Twins, 8Ball and MJG, Westside Connection and OutKast, meanwhile, will compete for group of the year. The Source Awards, which will be handed in out in Miami Oct. 10, and will air on BET Nov. 30.
Legendary Disney animator Frank Thomas dies
Frank Thomas, one of Disney Studios' pioneering animators whose credits include Pinocchio, Bambi, Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians, died yesterday at his home in Flintridge, Calif., the AP reports. He was 92. Thomas had been in declining health following a cerebral hemorrhage earlier this year, according to the studio. Thomas was a member of Walt Disney's elite "Nine Old Men," who worked on many classic shorts and features during a career that spanned more than four decades. He was born in Santa Monica, Calif., and went to college at Stanford University, where he met his lifelong friend and another of the "nine old men," Ollie Johnston--the last of those original animators still alive. Thomas is survived by his wife of 58 years, Jeanette, their children and grandchildren.