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.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sutton Foster took the stage together. No, they haven't teamed up for a Broadway show, a new television series, or a Modern Family/Bunheads crossover (which would be awesome). But the theater-loving stars came together Tuesday to announce the nominations for the 2013 Tony Awards. (They are the hosts for this year's show, after all, so it only made sense that these two would have the honors of making the big announcement.)
Check out which plays and actors are nominated for Tony Awards for their work on the stage this year.
2013 Tony Awards Nominations:
Best Play:The Assembled PartyLucky GuyThe Testament of MaryVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Best Musical:Bring It On: The MusicalKinky BootsMatilda The MusicalA Christmas Story, The Musical
Best Book of a Musical:A Christmas Story, The MusicalKinky BootsMatilda The MusicalRodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Best Revival of a Play:Golden BoyOrphans The Trip to BountifulWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Best Revival of a Musical: AnnieThe Mystery of Edwin DroodPippinRodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Laurie Metcalf, The Other PlaceAmy Morton, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Kristine Nielsen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and SpikeHolland Taylor, AnnCicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Tom Hanks, Lucky GuyNathan Lane, The NanceTracy Letts, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?David Hyde Pierce, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and SpikeTom Sturridge, Orphans
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre: A Christmas Story, The Musical Music and Lyrics: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Hands on a Hardbody Music: Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green Lyrics: Amanda Green Kinky Boots Music & Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper Matilda The Musical Music & Lyrics: Tim Minchin
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Carolee Carmello, Scandalous Valisia LeKae, Motown The Musical Patina Miller, Pippin Laura Osnes, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Bertie Carvel, Matilda The Musical Santino Fontana, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella Rob McClure, Chaplin Billy Porter, Kinky Boots Stark Sands, Kinky Boots
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Carrie Coon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Shalita Grant, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Judith Ivey, The Heiress Judith Light, The Assembled Parties Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:Danny Burstein, Golden Boy Richard Kind, The Big Knife Billy Magnussen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Tony Shalhoub, Golden Boy Courtney B. Vance, Lucky Guy
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots Victoria Clark, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella Andrea Martin, Pippin Keala Settle, Hands on a Hardbody
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:Charl Brown, Motown The Musical Keith Carradine, Hands on a Hardbody Will Chase, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Gabriel Ebert, Matilda The Musical Terrence Mann, Pippin
Best Costume Design of a Play: Soutra Gilmour, Cyrano de Bergerac Ann Roth, The Nance Albert Wolsky, The Heiress Catherine Zuber, Golden Boy
Best Costume Design of a Musical: Gregg Barnes, Kinky Boots Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical Dominique Lemieux, Pippin William Ivey Long, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Best Direction of a Play:Pam MacKinnon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Nicholas Martin, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Bartlett Sher, Golden Boy George C. Wolfe, Lucky Guy
Best Direction of a Musical:Scott Ellis, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots Diane Paulus, Pippin Matthew Warchus, Matilda The Musical
Best Choreography:Andy Blankenbuehler, Bring It On: The Musical Peter Darling, Matilda The Musical Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots Chet Walker, Pippin
Best Orchestrations:Chris Nightingale, Matilda The Musical Stephen Oremus, Kinky Boots Ethan Popp & Bryan Crook, Motown The Musical Danny Troob, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Best Scenic Design of a Play:John Lee Beatty, The Nance Santo Loquasto, The Assembled Parties David Rockwell, Lucky Guy Michael Yeargan, Golden Boy
Best Scenic Design of a Musical:Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical Anna Louizos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Scott Pask, Pippin David Rockwell, Kinky Boots
Best Lighting Design of a Play: Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Lucky Guy Donald Holder, Golden Boy Jennifer Tipton, The Testament of Mary Japhy Weideman, The Nance
Best Lighting Design of a Musical:Kenneth Posner, Kinky Boots Kenneth Posner, Pippin Kenneth Posner, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella Hugh Vanstone, Matilda The Musical
Best Sound Design of a Play:John Gromada, The Trip to Bountiful Mel Mercier, The Testament of Mary Leon Rothenberg, The Nance Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg, Golden Boy
Best Sound Design of a Musical:Jonathan Deans & Garth Helm, Pippin Peter Hylenski, Motown The Musical John Shivers, Kinky Boots Nevin Steinberg, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre:Bernard GerstenPaul LibinMing Cho Lee
Regional Theatre Award:Huntington Theatre Company, Boston, MA
Isabelle Stevenson Award:Larry Kramer
Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre:Career Trainsition For DancersWilliam CraverPeter LawrenceThe Lost ColonyThe four actresses who created the title role of Matilda The Musical on Broadway: Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon, and Milly Shapiro
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Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.