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.
With the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and dismiss Proposition 8, Wednesday is a big day for the advancement of gay rights in this country. But you probably already know that — at least, you do if you've checked your Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Vine at all today.
Your friends and relatives aren't the only ones flocking to social media to share their joy on this momentous day. Many celebrities — from President Obama himself to Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris, and more — are also chiming in on Twitter with their thoughts on the SCOTUS rulings. Here are some celebratory celebrity tweets:
Today's DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 26, 2013
DOMA and Prop 8 should get married.
— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers) June 26, 2013
Hurray for all Americans and good riddance to DOMA. It's a new day. A happy day.
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) June 26, 2013
I never dreamed I would see this day. The whole world has changed for us all. I can't believe it!! #DOMA #Equality
— Andy Cohen (@BravoAndy) June 26, 2013
Big day for some of my good friends and for The US !! @jessetyler @JustinMikita @DRVW11 @JewdyGold @buckhollywood
— Melissa Joan Hart (@MelissaJoanHart) June 26, 2013
Woke up to the news of DOMA being struck down. Don't care that it's cold and raining in Portland, it's a beautiful day.
— Carrie Brownstein (@Carrie_Rachel) June 26, 2013
AND no standing on #prop8?? Same sex marriage is legal in california! I better be getting some wedding invites... #whatdoiwear?
— Sarah Hyland (@Sarah_Hyland) June 26, 2013
This is truly an historic day. Never before & never again will so many men be this excited about getting married. #Scotus
— Danny Zuker (@DannyZuker) June 26, 2013
Went to bed depressed woke up to find DOMA overturned, Prop 8 defeated and the bill in Texas didn't pass. I should sleep more!
— Gillian Jacobs (@GillianJacobs) June 26, 2013
Great news, I just married my cat.
— Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs) June 26, 2013
"DOMA arigato, Mr. Roboto" --from tmbg fb page
— They Might Be Giants (@tmbg) June 26, 2013
I want to french Justice Kennedy SO hard right now.
— Damon Lindelof (@DamonLindelof) June 26, 2013
No one be shocked if I get married and pregnant with a daughter today in a slightly premature fit of joy #americathebeautiful
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) June 26, 2013
.@daxshepard1 will you marry me? Xo #marriageequality #loveislove”
— Kristen Bell (@IMKristenBell) June 26, 2013
Big news from the Supreme Court. Goodbye #DOMA #Prop8. Hello #equality.
— Ben Affleck (@BenAffleck) June 26, 2013
Down w DOMA! Something to be very proud of this upcoming July 4th. We are making beautiful progress for Equality! #proud
— Adam Lambert (@adamlambert) June 26, 2013
If you're gay married in California your gay marriage is now legal. Good. #allmarriageisabitgay
— Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) June 26, 2013
I am standing on the right side of history. I stand with @HRC for marriage equality. #SCOTUS #time4marriage http://t.co/3cSE5e0nwK
— Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) June 26, 2013
A big day for equality and human rights. I'm smiling so big right now.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) June 26, 2013
Victory for marriage in California as #Prop8 is struck down. Small but substantial steps toward #MarriageEquality for all!
— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) June 26, 2013
DOMA-it-just-lost-O Mr. Roboto! So, so happy for Edie, et al.
— Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH) June 26, 2013
Gay, straight, lesbian, bi.. No one is better than any one else. What an incredible day for California AND for equality.
— demetria lovato (@ddlovato) June 26, 2013
Thank you to the plaintiffs, the lawyers David Boies and Ted Olsen, to Rob Reiner, Chad and all organizations who made this happen & SCOTUS!
— Official Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) June 26, 2013
#PROP8 IS GONE! #DOMA IS GONE! #SCOTUS #LoveIsLove
— Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) June 26, 2013
Remember where you are today, history is made...supreme court Strikes down DOMA!
— Melissa Etheridge (@speak_true) June 26, 2013
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Top Story: Shriver Leaves NBC to Support Hubby
Maria Shriver has opted to take a leave of absence from her NBC News post while her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, campaigns for governor of California through Oct. 7, Reuters reports. A network spokeswoman told Reuters Shriver requested the leave to avoid any potential appearances of conflict of interest between her job as a correspondent and contributing anchor to Dateline and her new role as the wife of an aspiring politician. The spokeswoman also said it was too soon to say what avenues Shriver will take if Schwarzenegger wins the recall election.
Jolie's Forest Project Approved
The Cambodian government approved a forest conservation project in two former Khmer Rouge areas that will be funded by actress Angelina Jolie, The Associated Press reports. The Tomb Raider star will donate up to $1.5 million over the next five years to help educate villagers about conservation awareness, draw demarcation lines to protect forest and wildlife sanctuaries, and train local rangers, said Mounh Sarath, executive director of Cambodian Vision in Development, to AP.
Lange Becomes Goodwill Ambassador
Jessica Lange, a newly appointed goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Children's Fund, traveled to Congo, Africa, earlier this week, touring refugee camps, AP reports. The refugees, mostly women and children, were forced to flee their homes as a byproduct of a bitter five-year civil war raging in the area. "The stories that these women tell are absolutely horrific, but the thing that moved me most was the extraordinary spirit of these people," the Oscar-winning actress told AP Thursday after hearing how rape is used as a weapon in the civil violence.
Omar Sharif Arrested for Head-Butting Cop
Omar Sharif (Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl) was convicted of assaulting a police officer at a casino near Paris, AP reports. Le Parisien reported Sharif got into a scuffle with one of the casino's patrons and when an officer intervened, Sharif allegedly insulted and head-butted him. The 71-year-old Egyptian actor received a one-month suspended sentence and was fined $1,700, AP reports.
Gay Musicians Want to Break Into Country Music
Several musicians showed up in cowboy hats and jeans to audition in New York Thursday for a new reality show that will search for the first openly gay country music star, Reuters reports. The show, tentatively titled America Pride, hopes to break some of those barriers surrounding homosexuality in the country music arena. The producers have not found a network to run the show as yet, Reuters reports.
The Next Great Hip-Hopper
Attention: Calling all wanna-be hip-hop artists! Showtime and Interscope Records are developing a new reality show designed to look for the next hottest prospect in hip-hop, USA Today reports. The six-part series called Interscope Presents The Next, described as a cross between 8 Mile and American Idol, is expected to begin airing in October and will be part talent contest and part documentary, with each episode culminating in one-on-one rap battles.
Cache of Comic Hosts to Handle Emmys
Rather than just one host, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will have a bevy of comics to emcee this year's Emmys, Reuters reports. Comics who hosted the Emmy telecasts during the past three years, including Garry Shandling, Ellen DeGeneres and Conan O'Brien, will be among this year's hosts, along with Everybody Loves Raymond's Brad Garrett, Saturday Night Live's Darrell Hammond, Wanda Sykes of Fox's Wanda at Large, George Lopez, Martin Short and Jon Stewart. More stars are expected to be added in the coming weeks. "We've searched high and low to find the funniest people in California who are not running for governor," ATAS chairman Bryce Zabel quipped to Reuters. "It was a challenge, but this all-star comedy team promises to make America laugh without asking for a campaign contribution." The Emmys will air Sept. 21 on Fox.
Role Call: Ratner Rides Into Sunset
Director Brett Ratner (Red Dragon) has taken over the helm of New Line Cinema's After the Sunset after director John Stockwell bowed out in July over "creative differences." Variety reports the film--which stars Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek and Woody Harrelson--follows a retired jewel thief (Brosnan) living on a Caribbean island with his gal pal (Hayek). Harrelson plays an FBI agent who tracks him down.