Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
Even without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, I have the unshakable feeling that Akiva Goldsman's film adaptation does not do the story justice. Speckled throughout the moreover colorless movie are hints of an intriguing idea — a fantasy epic about an angel-demon bureaucracy coexisting with the human race throughout the span of 20th century New York City, operating within the parameters of a didactic miracle-granting system — an idea that doesn't come close to its full potential. In 118 minutes, we barely scratch the surface of the world in which an apparently immortal Colin Farrell finds himself. We see him cavort with Russell Crowe, a malicious gang-leader with netherworld origins, seek guidance from a mystical Pegasus, and carry out his destiny as the savior to a mysterious red-haired girl. But we never truly understand why any of this is happening. Not that it gets particularly confusing; on a plot level, it's all quite simple. But that's the problem — it shouldn't be.
The central conceit of the film is that everyone is put on this Earth with a divine "mission" to uphold. Farrell's gives us the narrative of Winter's Tale, introducing the various rules and officers of the supernatural regime along the way. Abandoned as a baby and brought up under the criminal regime of a Manhattanite from Hell (Crowe), Farrell ascends from orphan to petty thief to horse whispering renegade to whimsical lover of a dying Jessica Brown Findlay to ageless messiah... all without much clarity on the nature of the story (or stories) he's occupying, save for two ham-fisted scenes of exposition — one with Graham Greene (not the dead author) and one with Jennifer Connelly, who shows up halfway through the movie for some reason.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
The world that Farrell is woven into has so many bright spots: we're on board for miracle quests, a magic-laden New York City, flying horses, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood giving a cameo as the epitome of evil. Everything we see is fun, but it all flutters away as quickly as it arrives. We don't want quick bites of the way angels and demons do business with one another on the streets of Manhattan, we want the whole meal. A more thorough exploration of Helprin's world wouldn't just be doubly as interesting as the thin alternative we're offered in Goldsman's adaptation, it'd also fill in all the comprehensive gaps in Farrell's emotional throughline
We don't really understand so much of what happens to Farrell. Even when we're offered tangible explanations, we have no reason to understand why the Winter's Tale world works in such a way that Farrell might survive a 300-foot fall, develop amnesia, or sustain youth for a full century. What's more, we don't understand why Farrell's tale as a cog in this mystical machine is any more important than anyone else's. Or, if it's not, and we're simply asked to watch him carry out his quest as a glimpse into the vast, enigmatic system that Winter's Tale is ostensibly founded upon, we ... we don't understand enough of that world itself.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
We're never invited close enough to any of the movie's attractive features for them to matter. So even when the movie does offer entertaining bits — in its fantastical elements, its detail of New Yorks old and new, or Farrell's admittedly charming romance with Findlay — we're not engaged enough to really connect with any of them.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
Still, the flying horse is pretty cool.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
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.
When you're in high school it feels like the whole world is against you. In writer/director Stephen Chbosky's high school-set The Perks of Being a Wallflower the whole world may actually be against Charlie (Logan Lerman) whose freshman year of high school should be listed in the dictionary under "Murphy's Law." Plagued by memories of two significant deaths as well as general social anxiety Charlie takes a passive approach to ninth grade. A few days of general bullying later he falls into a friendship with two misfit seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) who teach him how to live life without fear. Perks starts off with a disadvantage: introverts aren't terribly engaging but Chbosky surrounds Charlie with a vivid cast of characters who help him blossom and inject the coming-of-age tale with a necessary energy.
Set in a timeless version of the '90s Charlie's world is full of handwritten journals mixtapes and a just-tolerable amount of tweed. He writes letters to a nameless recipient as a way of venting a preventative measure to keep the teen from repeating a vague incident that previously left him hospitalized. The drab background of Pittsburgh fits perfectly with Charlie's blank existence. And when he finally comes to life as part of Patrick and Sam's off-beat clique so does the city. Like the archaic vinyl records Sam lusters over (The Smiths of course!) Chbosky visualizes Charlie's journey through the underbelly of suburban Pennsylvania with a raw emotion blooming lights and film grit at every turn. Michael Brook's score and an adeptly curated soundtrack accompanies the episodic affair which centers on Charlie's search for a song he hears during the most important moment of his life.
The charm that keeps The Perks of Being a Wallflower from collapsing under its own super seriousness come from Chbosky's perfectly cast ensemble. Lerman has a thankless job playing Charlie; often constrained to a half-smile and shy shrug Lerman is never allowed to grapple with Charlie's greatest fears and problems until (too) late in the film. Watson nails the spunky object-of-everyone's-affection but she's outshined by Mae Whitman as Mary Elizabeth another rebellious friend in the pack who takes a liking to Charlie. The real star turn is Miller riding high from We Need to Talk About Kevin and taking a complete 180 with Patrick a rambunctious wiseass who struggles to have an openly gay relationship with the football captain but covers his pain with humor. A scene of confrontation — at where else the cafeteria — is one of the best scenes of the year.
Chbosky adapted Perks of Being a Wallflower from his own book and the movie feels stifled by a looming structure. But it nails the emotional beats — there is no obvious path to surviving high school. It's messy shocking and occasionally beautiful. That about sums up Perks.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
The Matrix Revolutions expectedly took the box office this weekend--but it didn't have the juggernaut effect studio execs were hoping for.
While the third and final installment of the Matrix trilogy scored $24.3 million on its first day of release (Wednesday), it only managed $50.1 million* over the weekend, bringing the grand total to $85.4 million. This figure is way below the $100 million predicted by insiders,Variety reports, and illustrates how the Matrix excitement seems to have died down, especially since Revolutions' much-hyped predecessor The Matrix Reloaded opened in May with a hefty $91.7 million weekend total and went on to gross $737.9 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing film of 2003.
"I don't know what film could do $90 million and then repeat that with its next sequel just six months later," Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations, told The Associated Press.
Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., told AP Revolutions may hold up better in subsequent weeks than Matrix Reloaded, whose grosses fell off considerably in its second weekend. Films tend to have longer shelf life over the holidays than they do in summer blockbuster season, he said.
"The story really isn't over yet," Fellman said. "We might not have had the same impact in the opening weekend, but you need to play this out for the next few weeks and see if we play a little catchup."
Around the globe, however, The Matrix Revolutions broke records, as its five-day grosses totaled $204 million, making it the biggest consecutive five-day opening in motion picture history, Business Wire.com reports. In an unprecedented move, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures opened Revolutions at the same moment in time in 90 different countries on Nov. 5, as well as releasing on 60 IMAX theaters worldwide.
Although Revolutions was the weekend's clear winner, the Christmas spirit permeated the box office as well. Will Ferrell 's Christmas comedy Elf opened in second with a cheery $32.1 million, while the British holiday romantic comedy Love Actually, which debuted in limited theaters, came in at No. 6 with $6.6 million.
Some returning favorites included the animated Disney tale Brother Bear, now in its second week, which took third at $18.6 million, pushing the reigning champ of the past two weeks, Scary Movie 3, down to No. 4 with $11.1 million. The tearjerker Radio rounded out the top five with $7.4 million.
THE TOP TEN
Warner Bros. R-rated The Matrix Revolutions topped the box office charts with an ESTIMATED $50.1 million in 3,502 theaters. Its $14,322 per theater average was the highest of any film playing wide this week. Opening Wednesday, its cume is approximately $85.4 million.
In the third installment of the Matrix trilogy, the epic war between man and machine comes to a thundering crescendo as Neo, Trinty and Morpheus do battle against their enemies, including the ultimate evil Agent Smith.
Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, it stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving and Jada Pinkett Smith.
New Line Cinema's delightful PG-rated Elf spread Christmas cheer at No. 2 with an ESTIMATED $32.1 million in 3,337 theaters ($9,619 per theater).
Buddy is a 6 ft. misfit who has been raised by Santa's elves in the North Pole. Obviously different from his elf family, he ultimately finds out about his true heritage and heads to New York City to seek out his roots.
Directed by Jon Favreau, it stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Zooey Deschanel and Mary Steenburgen.
Buena Vista's G-rated animated film Brother Bear took third place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $18.6 million (-4%) in 3,030 theaters (unchanged; $6,139 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.1 million.
Directed by Aaron Blaise and Bob Walker, it features the voices of Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, D.B. Sweeney and Michael Clarke Duncan.
Dimension Films' PG-13-rated spoof Scary Movie 3 got knocked from first to fourth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $11.1 million (-45%) in 3,288 theaters (-217; $3,377 per theater). Its cume is approximately $93.3 million.
Directed by David Zucker, it stars Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, George Carlin and Leslie Nielsen.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Sony Pictures' PG-13-rated drama Radio dropped one notch to fifth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $7.4 million (-23%) in 2,811 theaters (-263, $2,633 per theater). Its cume is approximately $36.3 million.
Directed by Michael Tollin, it stars Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris.
Universal Pictures' R-rated romantic opus Love Actually opened in the sixth spot with an ESTIMATED $6.6 million in 576 theaters, managing a worthy $11,458 per theater average.
The film interweaves a collage of stories pertaining to that most cherished of emotions--true love--that culminates on Christmas Eve.
Directed and written by Richard Curtis, it stars Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley and Bill Nighy.
Warner Bros.' R-rated drama Mystic River drops a spot to No. 7 in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-23%) in 1,581 theaters (+30 theaters; $3,052 per theater). Its cume is approximately $40.4 million.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden.
New Line Cinema's R-rated horror remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fell considerably from third place to eighth in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-56%) in 2,378 theaters (-592 theaters; $2,019 per theater). Its cume is approximately $73.2 million.
Directed by Marcus Nispel, it stars Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Erica Leerhsen and Andrew Bryniarski.
Tying this week with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13-rated courtroom thriller Runaway Jury slipped four spots to take ninth in its fourth week with also an ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-26%) in 2,133 theaters (-603; $2,250 per theater). Its cume is approximately $40.1 million.
Directed by Gary Fleder, it stars John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13-rated comedy School of Rock dropped two positions to tenth place in its ninth week with an ESTIMATED $3.1 million (-30%) in 1,982 theaters (-804 theaters; $1,589 per theater). Its cume is approximately $73.5 million.
Directed by Richard Linklater, it stars Jack Black, Joan Cusack and Michael White.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $146.8 million, up a whopping 62.84 percent from last weekend's $90.2 million. The Top 12 movies were also up 13.16 percent from this time last year when they took in $129.8 million.
Last year, Universal's R-rated 8 Mile opened in first place with $51.2 million in 2,470 theaters ($20,745 per theater); Buena Vista's G-rated The Santa Clause 2 dropped from the first to second position in its second week with $24.7 million in 3,352 theaters ($7,379 per theater); and DreamWorks' R-rated thriller The Ring slipped a notch in its fourth week with $15.5 million in 2,927 theaters (+119; $5,298 per theater).