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.
Reunited British rockers The Babys are serving up a holiday treat for fans with the release of their first new music in over three decades. The group rose to fame in the late 1970s with hits like Isn't It Time and Every Time I Think of You, before parting ways in 1981.
However, original members Tony Brock and Wally Stocker have since reconnected and hired two new members from the U.S. - singer and bassist John Bisaha and guitarist Joey Sykes.
The quartet, which is currently on a comeback tour, will unveil new track Not Ready to Say Goodbye online this week (begs25Nov13), with plans to drop an album full of new material in early 2014 - the stars' first studio release since On the Edge in 1980.
Stocker says, "When releasing our first single we discussed that it had to have the flavour of what we were known for some thirty-odd years ago", while Brock adds, "It was just magical putting the new song together. By the time I finished putting brass and strings on it, I knew we had the goods."
The Wanted star Nathan Sykes stunned fans by joining his girlfriend Ariana Grande for a romantic duet on stage in London on Thursday (07Nov13). The British singer and his pop star girlfriend headed to Rise Nightclub in central London where Grande performed an exclusive gig for fans, and Sykes lent a helping hand by joining her on stage to perform their single Almost Is Never Enough.
The couple, which went public with its relationship in September (13), was later snapped enjoying a meal together at London restaurant Manna.
Singer Ariana Grande headed straight back into the recording studio after hearing Nathan Sykes' vocals on their duet Almost Is Never Enough because she refused to be outdone by The Wanted star on her own single. They recorded their parts separately for the track, but when Grande received the boyband member's verses for the song, she was so impressed, she felt it necessary to step up her efforts and improve on her own performance.
She tells Britain's Daily Star newspaper, "Our manager Scooter Braun emailed me and said, 'Check this out.' Nathan killed it. I had to go back in the studio and sing more because he came in and did these vocal gymnastics and took it through the roof. I was like, 'This is my album, boy.'
However, the 20 year old admits she is always her toughest critic when it comes to her work: "I tear myself to pieces and I am an extraordinarily tough critic. In fact, I'm probably the most self-deprecating really hard-on-myself-person you've ever met in your life. I want to make sure I'm proud of everything I'm putting out there."
Grande and Sykes only met after the track was complete and have since found chemistry in real life, going public with their budding romance last month (Sep13).
Wanda Sykes' parents refused to attend the comedienne's wedding to her longtime girlfriend in 2008 after falling out with the star over her sexuality. The Monster-in-Law actress, who was previously married to male record producer Dave Hall, 'came out' publicly in November, 2008, a month after tying the knot with her now-wife Alex, but she reveals her conservative mum Marion and dad Harry struggled to accept that she was a lesbian for years and declined to watch Sykes walk down the aisle with a woman.
The 49 year old says, "I was 40 when I came out to my parents... When I came out to my parents, I was having a surgery and my mother and my sister-in-law, they were going to come out here (to Los Angeles) to be with me during the surgery.
"And I said, 'Mum, let me just explain something to you. You know I'm living with so-and-so, I just want you to know that we're not just roommates... She's my girlfriend...' She was like, 'What do you mean?' I was like, 'Mum, come on, you have to have known this... I just want to make sure we're clear on this.' She just fell apart, fell apart and ended up not coming out here for my surgery because she was just that, 'I'm done with you (attitude).'"
Sykes admits the falling out led to a period of estrangement, but they have since patched up their differences and now her mother and father have taken pride in their new roles as grandparents to her and Alex's two young children.
She tells Oprah Winfrey, "We're in a great place right now, my parents are wonderful... They weren't at my wedding, but they were at the kids' last birthday party..."
Talk show titan and actress Oprah Winfrey suffered a serious backlash from TV viewers after portraying the therapist gay comedienne Ellen Degeneres' sitcom character 'came out' to in 1997. The funnywoman made her sexuality known during an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the mid-1990s, and DeGeneres followed up the public confession by making her title character on hit comedy Ellen 'come out' on air too.
However, The Puppy Episode, which featured scenes with DeGeneres' onscreen persona discussing her lesbian love life with her counsellor, played by Winfrey, prompted a flurry of hate mail that the media mogul had never experienced before.
Discussing the incident on a special episode of her TV show Oprah's Next Chapter, which aired in America on Sunday (27Oct13), the African-American superstar revealed, "I played the therapist on that show... and got the most and worst hate mail of my entire career after doing it, like 'Go back to Africa' hate mail."
Ellen became the first series in TV history in which the main character was openly gay, and fellow lesbian comedienne Wanda Sykes has credited DeGeneres' brave move with paving the way for future actors to also embrace their sexuality on air.
She says, "I give it to Ellen, I really do... Ellen jumped on the grenade."
The Wanted star Max George has broken fans' hearts by confirming he's dating a supermodel. The singer, who was briefly linked to Lindsay Lohan last year (12), has fallen for Adam Levine's ex Nina Agdal, and admits the couple is in its "honeymoon period".
He tells Britain's new! magazine, "We've known each other for about a year. We've been friends for a while and then a couple of months ago we met up and thought, 'Let's take the next step'.
"We're very much in the honeymoon period. She's awesome. She's like a best mate as much as a girlfriend. I've finally found a girl!
"I've always liked having a girlfriend. I've just not managed to settle down for the last two years."
He's not the only band member currently in a high profile romance - Nathan Sykes recently confirmed reports he's dating singer/actress Ariana Grande.
The Wanted star Nathan Sykes' romance with Ariana Grande is getting very serious very quickly - he took the pop star and actress back home to Gloucester, England to meet his parents at the weekend (06Oct13). The boy band star admits he was nervous about the family get together but his folks fell in love with the former Victorious star, who confirmed reports she was dating Sykes last month (Sep13).
He explains, "I took her back to Gloucester... to meet all my family. I was so scared, you don't even realise. But my family thinks she's amazing and they're like, 'Nathan, how?' and I'm like, 'I don't know'. I don't think anyone can ever punch above their weight, but I feel very lucky, put it that way."
And he admits his bandmates are also big fans of his girlfriend, telling blogger Perez Hilton, "They love her. They feel really protective over her. They've taken her under their wing. I'm always like, 'Don't lead her astray, boys'. They adore her.
"She's the easiest person to get on with... She's amazing, I'm so happy... She's a really special girl. I think the world of her and I hope we'll be together for a very long time."
Singer/actress Ariana Grande has branded her former boyfriend a "liar" after he accused her of cheating on him. Grande announced her split from Australian singer Jai Brooks earlier this year (13) and it has now emerged he blames her new romance with The Wanted's Nathan Sykes for their break-up.
In a post on his Twitter.com page, Brooks writes, "Yes I was cheated on. Yes it does suck. Yes I was left for another man."
However, the former Victorious star has hit back at the comments, insisting Brooks is wrong.
Grande took to Twitter to send a message to her ex, writing, "Woke up this morning in complete and utter shock... I guess I shouldn't be so surprised... You said to me if I didn't come back to you, you'd make me look bad to the entire world... I'm no longer afraid of you or your lies anymore."
Grande went public with her relationship with British pop star Sykes last month (Sep13) after they were photographed holding hands and kissing during a date at Disneyland, California.
"To be honest, I always liked Selena, but I really did not want to go that side because Justin would kill me! I would probably receive a call from (mutual manager Scooter Braun) telling me to stay away!" The Wanted star Nathan Sykes briefly considered romancing Justin Bieber's ex Selena Gomez before he began dating singer/actress Ariana Grande.