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.
The actors will take to the stage for one night only at St. Martin's Theatre in London on Sunday (18Nov12) to perform a reading of the world's longest-running stage production.
Nicholas Farrell, Iain Glen, Tamsin Greig, Miranda Hart and Harry Lloyd complete the cast for the 25,000th performance of the play, which premiered on 6 October 1952.
All proceeds from the night will be donated to the Mousetrap Theatre Projects, a charity dedicated to bringing the magic of theatre into the lives of young people.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
Top Story: Country Singer Glen Campbell Arrested
Country singer Glen Campbell, best known for his hit single "Rhinestone Cowboy," was arrested Monday in Phoenix, Ariz., on suspicion of extreme drunken driving and hit and run, Reuters reports. Campbell, 67, was also booked into jail on suspicion of aggravated assault on a police officer for allegedly kneeing a sergeant in the thigh while at the station. According to police, Campbell's BMW slammed into a Toyota sedan at an intersection and failed to stay at the scene. Campbell was later arrested at his residence at the Biltmore Estates in a posh area of Phoenix and was released on bond at 12:30 a.m. after a midnight hearing. The singer's blood alcohol level was not immediately released, but the legal limit for drivers in Arizona is .08, with extreme drunken driving more than .15. Campbell's official Web site says that the singer has given up alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
Survivor's Elisabeth Joins The View
Former Survivor: The Australian Outback castaway Elisabeth Hasselbeck, previously known as Elisabeth Filarski, has been named a co-host on ABC's Emmy-winning The View, now in its sixth season. The View's executive producer Barbara Walters, who made the announcement on air Monday with the rest of the co-hosts, held an open casting call for a fifth host to join the daytime show after Lisa Ling left last December. Hasselbeck was one of three finalists in the search for a new host, which also included contenders Rachel Campos of MTV's Real World: San Francisco and actress Erin Hershey Presley of ABC's defunct soap opera Port Charles. Hasselbeck, who was the host of the Style Channel's The Look for Less, will begin her hosting duties today.
Jonathan Brandis' Death a Suicide
The Los Angeles county coroner's office concluded Monday that the Nov. 12 death of 27-year-old actor Jonathan Brandis, who starred in two seasons of Steven Spielberg's SeaQuest DSV, was a suicide, The Associated Press reports. Brandis, who died Nov. 12, hung himself, the coroner said. The actor started his career with a recurring role on the soap One Life to Live at age 6, and went on to make guest appearances on L.A. Law, Who's the Boss? and Murder, She Wrote. His film credits included the starring role in 1991's The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter, the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Ladybugs and the martial arts comedy Sidekicks with Chuck Norris.
Meat Loaf Recovering From Surgery
Rock singer Meat Loaf, who collapsed in the middle of a sold-out concert at London's Wembley Arena last Monday, is recovering from heart surgery to treat Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a defect of the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat. Reuters reports the 56-year-old singer, best known for his hit single "Bat Out of Hell," is recovering at a private location in London after undergoing surgery last Friday. Meat Loaf is expected to give more details about his condition and future tour plans after additional tests later this week to determine the success of the surgery, his record company said.
Men Plead Guilty to Posing as Boy Band Members
Two men who posed as former members of the boy band New Kids on the Block in southern Nevada have pleaded guilty to fraud charges and begun serving sentences at separate federal prisons, the AP reports. In October 2002, Ward claimed his wallet was stolen and identified himself as NKOTB member Jonathan Knight, providing Las Vegas police with Knight's Social Security number and date of birth. He then used the report to obtain a Social Security card and Nevada driver's license in Knight's name and a credit card he used it to make purchases. Veskovic admitted to the same scheme involving the identities of NKOTB member Daniel Wood and Kevin Richardson, a member of the Backstreet Boys. A judge sentenced Patrick Ward, 24, to 18 months in prison and Michael Veskovic, 20, to six months in prison, and ordered the defendants to pay nearly $138,000 in restitution
Small Movie Companies Sue Over Screener Ban
More than a dozen small movie companies sued the Motion Picture Association of America Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, claiming the partial ban by Hollywood studios on sending screeners to awards groups will "chill the financing of independent films" by limiting the awards they can receive. According to the AP, the lawsuit seeks at least $25 million in damages and claims the MPAA was conspiring to monopolize the film industry, restricting trade through unlawful and unreasonable agreements with its governing members. The lawsuit said the MPAA's actions toward the small movie producers "were outrageous and were taken with evil motive." Among the 14 plaintiffs are Talking Wall Pictures, Sandcastle 5 Productions and Salty Features.
Role Call: Diesel's Child-Rearing Role, Punk'd Pranksters Hit Big Screen
Vin Diesel is set to star in the Disney action/comedy The Pacifier. According to Variety, Diesel will play an undercover agent who, after failing to protect an important government scientist, learns the man's family is in danger. He agrees to take care of the man's children in an effort to redeem himself, and discovers his toughest mission yet: childcare ... Former Punk'd pranksters Dax Shepard and Al Shearer have set up an untitled project at Fox Searchlight Pictures based on their own pitch. According to The Hollywood Reporter, they will star as two guys from different racial backgrounds who find out they are actually brothers--and who must compete against each other for an inheritance.