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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Easter is upon us, but it feels like the Fourth of July.
With Blade 2: Bloodhunt and Ice Age already doing summer-like business, Good Friday offers something for everyone in the way of four divergent new releases: the tense thriller Panic Room, the dark comedy Death to Smoochy, the uplifting sports drama The Rookie and the teen-targeted sci-fi adventure Clockstoppers.
In an ironic twist, Jodie Foster and Robin Williams both released their last offerings on the same day, Dec. 17, 1999. Foster's Anna and the King ($39.2 million) and Williams' Bicentennial Man ($58.2 million) were hardly great Christmas gifts.
Foster looks set to redeem herself with David Fincher's claustrophobic Panic Room, but Williams' psychotic turn in Death to Smoochy isn't likely to reverse his recent bad luck at the box office.
In Panic Room, Foster stars a recently divorced mother forced to fend off an attack from three burglars (Jared Leto, Forest Whitaker and Dwight Yoakam). Foster and daughter Kristen Stewart take refuge in a room designed to keep out unwanted visitors. The problem: the burglars want what is hidden in the room.
A gripping battle of wills set almost entirely in Foster's character's New York home, Panic Room almost seems stunningly conventional after Fincher's inventive but ultimately disappointing The Game ($48.2 million) and Fight Club ($37 million). But Fincher tightens the screws to such alarming effect that Panic Room should become his first major hit since 1995's Seven ($100.1 million).
Foster--who replaced an injured Nicole Kidman--once again proves she can kick butt just as good as Maverick co-star Mel Gibson. She should beat Contact's $20.5 million opening--her best thus far--by at least $25 million to grab the No. 1 spot from Blade 2: Bloodhunt.
It's no more Mr. Nice Guy for Robin Williams as he tries to rebound from 1999's disastrous Jakob the Liar ($4.9 million) and Bicentennial Man. In director Danny DeVito's black-as-coal Death to Smoochy, Williams' disgraced kids TV star plots the extinction of his replacement, the rhino-suited Edward Norton. He also stars as a murder suspect in the upcoming Insomnia and as a creepy photo lab technician in One Hour Photo.
A hit-and-miss affair with several genuinely hysterical moments, Death to Smoochy is very much in the vein of DeVito's scabrous hit comedies Throw Momma From the Train ($57.9 million) and The War of the Roses ($83.6 million). Yet Death to Smoochy's release at a modest 1,800-plus theater indicates that Warner Bros. does not expect a foul-mouthed and nasty Williams' to amuse fans of Patch Adams and Flubber.
Accordingly, Death to Smoochy should mirror the results of DeVito's last directorial effort, 1996's kids yarn Matilda ($8.2 million opening; $33 million total).
Death to Smoochy could siphon audiences away from Showtime, pairing Robert De Niro with Eddie Murphy. The cop comedy dropped 46 percent in its second weekend, from $15 million to $8.1 million, and has $28.8 million through Wednesday. Showtime looks set to duplicate the lousy $42.5 million that Murphy's Beverly Hills Cop III earned in 1994.
Dennis Quaid's The Rookie should capitalize significantly from the start of the 2002 baseball season.
Disney's G-rated biography of high school baseball coach Jim Morris--who, at 35, joined the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as a pitcher--should attract the same audiences who found inspiration in the studio's 2000 football smash, Remember the Titans ($115.6 million).
Quaid certainly isn't a draw on the scale of Denzel Washington, who coached the race-themed Remember the Titans to a $20.9 million opening. Yet the genial Quaid seems destined for an unqualified hit after his supporting turns in Traffic ($124.1 million) and Any Given Sunday ($75.5 million). The critically acclaimed Frequency went silent at $44.9 million, but The Rookie could be Quaid's best shot at glory. Glowing reviews could help The Rookie pitch a $15 million first inning, en route to a game-winning $50 million.
Clockstoppers hopes to go where Spy Kids trod last Easter. But the espionage spoof sleuthed its way to a $26.5 million opening--and a $112.6 million total--on its ability to entertain members of the whole family.
The Clearasil-oriented Clockstoppers--featuring three high schoolers with the ability to make time almost stand still--seemingly lacks the same appeal. Teens looking for something a little hipper probably will try to sneak into Blade 2: Bloodhunt or Resident Evil. Adults intrigued by man's manipulation of time might instead make their way to The Time Machine (a so-so $49.7 million through Wednesday).
The biggest name involved is Jonathan Frakes, who leapt from the bridge of Enterprise to directing Star Trek: First Contact ($91.9 million) and Star Trek: Insurrection ($70.1 million). Time won't be so kind to Frakes, with Clockstoppers likely to debut with an OK $10 million and come to a halt with a total of $30 million.
The blood flowed freely last weekend as the sequel to 1998's Blade tore its way to a surprising $32.5 million opening. That's almost double Blade's $17 million debut, Wesley Snipes' previous best. Blade 2: Bloodhunt also made more in its first three days than Snipes' last action thriller, The Art of War ($30.1 million), did in its entire run. The same applies to director Guillermo Del Toro's Mimic, which made a less-than-scary $25.5 million.
Blade 2: Bloodhunt should tumble by at least 50 percent this weekend--typical for a horror film--but still enjoy a second lap almost equal to Blade's debut. With $40 million through Wednesday, Blade 2: Bloodhunt will likely surpass its predecessor's $70.1 million by its third weekend.
A $32.5 million opening is no longer a guarantee that a film--especially one rated R--will make more than $100 million. Fellow vampire yarn Bram Stoker's Dracula opened in 1992 with $30.5 million, but could only drain $82.4 million from audiences.
Regardless, Blade 2: Bloodhunt should easily surpass White Men Can't Jump's $76.2 million to become Snipes' biggest hit.
The vampire slayer also single-handedly thwarted an army of zombies. Resident Evil fell a horrifying 62 percent in its second weekend, from $17.7 million to $6.7 million. Its total through Wednesday is $30.7 million, with $42 million a likely resting place.
So, it wasn't just the possibility of seeing the Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones trailer in the theaters that drove Ice Age to a $46.3 million opening. The Three Godfathers-inspired CGI-animated prehistoric adventure dropped by an acceptable 35 percent in its second weekend, generating a stellar $30 million.
The strong performances of Blade 2: Bloodhunt and Ice Age led the way for a staggering 65.84 percent jump in business from the same weekend last year.
With $95.2 million through Wednesday, Ice Age should on Friday become the first new 2002 release to make $100 million. Shrek ($117.3 million) and Monsters, Inc. $132 million) earned more during their first 13 days, but both had the benefit of opening before or during busier holiday periods. Still, the Ice Age won't melt until at least reaching $150 million.
Ice Age clearly chilled any prospect of the E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial reissue from equaling the 1997's return of Star Wars ($35.9 million opening; $138.2 million). With its less-than-expected $14.2 million, E.T. failed to beat the $16.2 million opening earned by the 1997 Return of the Jedi reissue. Return of the Jedi made a total $45.4 million during its 1997 run, which now serves as the benchmark for E.T.. The reissue has $17 million through Wednesday.
Steven Spielberg's stranded alien made history, though, on the weekend by becoming only the fourth film to make $400 million domestically. Its grand total stands at $416.8 million, but there's no chance that it will regain its crown as the high-grossing film in U.S. history. Titanic, with $600.8 million, has nothing to fear. E.T. will likely waddle past No. 3 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace ($431.1 million), but fail to secure the No. 2 slot from Star Wars ($461 million).
So what if The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring only won four technical Oscars? Director Peter Jackson's admirable adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's literary classic will soon join E.T. on the U.S. top 10 list of high-grossing films. With $298.6 million through Wednesday, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring will earn $300 million possibly by Friday. It will likely pass Independence Day, No. 10 on the list with $306.2 million, with the aid of footage from the upcoming sequel The Two Towers that will appear at the end of the film beginning Friday.
The Oscar wins saw The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring enjoy its best weekday gross on Tuesday--$387,000--since Feb. 20. With momentum on its side, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring could topple Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ($316 million through Sunday) as 2001's top film.
A Beautiful Mind is already reaping the benefits of winning four major Oscars, including Best Picture. On Tuesday, the John Forbes Nash Jr. biography earned $575,000, its best weekday gross since Feb. 19. A Beautiful Mind has $156.3 million through Wednesday, and will likely exceed last weekend's $4 million take this weekend. Russell Crowe may have lost the Best Actor Oscar to Denzel Washington, but may enjoy his biggest hit with A Beautiful Mind if it can beat Gladiator's $187.7 million.
Washington's John Q is coming to the end of its successful anti-HMO campaign. The hostage thriller has $67.4 million through Sunday, with $72 million a likely total.
Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers eased by 33 percent in its fourth weekend--from $8.4 million to $5.7 million--and has $63.2 million through Wednesday. The Vietnam War drama remains on track to end its military campaign with $75 million.
Seems the cross-dressing Sorority Boys fooled no one. The college comedy--featuring 7th Heaven's Barry Watson, Harland Williams and Michael Rosenbaum in drag--made a less-than-glamorous $4.1 million. That's worse than the $6.4 million that Tomcats earned in its first weekend this time last year. With $5.4 million through Wednesday, Sorority Boys will barely crack $10 million.
George Clooney's hot streak continues. Ocean's Eleven became Clooney's biggest hit last weekend when it reached $183.6 million. That's $45,000 more than 2000's The Perfect Storm. See, some good does come out of rounding up the boys and heading to Las Vegas to cause some trouble.