One of Britain's hottest young screenwriters, Iranian-born Hossein Amini wrote the teleplay for Peter Kosminsky's "Dying of the Light" (1995), a based-on-fact drama about the outspoken UNICEF aid work...
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.
If you looked liked Chris Hemsworth, you’d want to kick as much as possible. I mean, what other job, other than acting, allows you to totally dominate on a bunch of pathetic dudes? Sure, you could be a police officer, firefighter, or soldier, but where’s the honor and respect in those professions? Acting is really the only job where you can kick someone's ass and get away with it.
This explains why Hemsworth is set to star in Shadow Runner, and while details are few and far between, it’s about “elite commandos.” The film comes from screenwriter Hossein Amini who wrote Snow White and the Huntsman, which also happens to co-star Hemsworth. Commandos, Hemsworth, ass kicking, eliteness, yep, this sounds like a movie that would get made. Let’s go commando! That came out wrong.
After helping to successfully revive one storied franchise with his assured performance as Captain James T. Kirk in Paramount's blockbuster Star Trek reboot, Chris Pine appears poised to take on another. Variety reports that Pine is currently in talks to star as CIA analyst Jack Ryan in a new series of film's based on author Tom Clancy's beloved character.
The project is said to still be in the early stages of development at Paramount, as "the studio and producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mace Neufeld are working with a script draft by Hossein Amini, based on an original concept," according to Variety.
If the report is indeed true, Pine will be stepping into some big shoes as Ryan, a role previously portrayed by acting legends Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and, ahem, Ben Affleck. Okay, maybe the shoes arent that big.
Pine is currently at work on the Tony Scott thriller Unstoppable, starring Denzel Washington and Rosario Dawson.
Hollywood producer Steve Bing sued the UK newspaper The Daily Mirror for $10 million in January for printing his phone number and urging readers to call him, but Britain's press watchdog ruled Thursday that the tabloid did not violate his privacy by doing so. In the suit, Bing said he received death threats after The Daily Mirror launched its "Hunt for Bing" campaign, labeling him Bing Laden for crimes against actress Elizabeth Hurley after he questioned whether he was the father of her baby. While the commission said it regretted any distress caused to Bing, it stated the tabloid had a right to argue that the phone number was already in the public domain and that publishing it had not broken the newspaper industry's code of conduct.
James Franco, who plays the role of Peter Parker's best friend, Harry, in the box office hit Spider-Man, is in talks to star in the World War II drama The Great Raid alongside Benjamin Bratt. The film will be directed by John Dahl from a script written by Hossein Amini, Variety reports.
In the Biz
Gladiator director Ridley Scott's next epic-sized film will be a period Western, according to Variety. The project is part of a pre-emptive six-figure deal between 20th Century Fox and Scott's Scott Free banner, to be written by scribe Bruce C. McKenna.
USA Network will produce a telefilm based on former LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman's investigative novel Murder in Greenwich: Who Killed Martha Moxley?, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The book revisits the 1975 murder of Moxley, who was bludgeoned to death with a golf club near her family's Connecticut home after going out with Michael Skakel, the nephew of Ethel Kennedy. Skakel was charged with her murder in 2000 and is currently on trial for the crime.
ABC and Turner's TNT/TBS have acquired exclusive broadcast rights to Steven Spielberg's upcoming Minority Report under a five-year deal beginning in February 2005, Variety reports. HBO gets the pay TV rights because of a long-term output deal it has with the movie's co-financier, DreamWorks.
The hour-by-hour television show 24 won the drama ratings competition in key demos with its season finale Tuesday, beating out NYPD Blue, The Guardian, Smallville and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Variety reports. But according to Nielsen, the show failed to attract the occasional viewers and was watched instead by its usual core following.
NBC has finally removed Scott Sassa as its top West Coast entertainment executive after more than a year of speculation, Variety reports. The network has handed over all his responsibilities to Entertainment President Jeff Zucker. Sassa will remain a Los Angeles-based consultant to NBC.
Britney Spears and Destiny's Child singer Beyoncé Knowles will release leadoff singles from the soundtrack to Austin Powers in Goldmember, MTV.com reports. Knowles will release "Work It Out" first, followed by Spears' remixed version of "Boys," which originally appeared on her 2001 album Britney. A spokesman for the project told MTV the track list for the rest of the soundtrack is not yet available.
Celine Dion is getting ready for her Las Vegas stint at the new 4,000-seat Colosseum built by Caesars Palace hotel/casino. According to The Associated Press, the 600-show engagement will involve a flying piano and 70 dancers. Tickets for the show, which opens in March 2003, go on sale Thursday and are priced at $87.50, $127.50 and $150.
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' new album, We Invented the Remix, debuted at the top of the album charts, selling 256,000 copies for the week ending Sunday, according to Billboard.com. Five other new albums also debuted in the top10, including Cam'ron's Come Home with Me, which came in a close second, Weezer's Maladroit, following in third, Moby's 18, debuting in fourth, and Rush's Vapour Trails, coming in at No. 6.
The four members of Alien Ant Farm were injured while on tour in Spain after their bus collided with a parked truck on a highway near Navalmoral de la Mata, Reuters reports. The driver of the bus was killed, and six crewmembers suffered assorted injuries. Alien Ant Farm's cover version of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" peaked at No. 23 on the Hot 100 pop singles chart last year.
Hannibal star Julianne Moore will be honored at the 2002 Gotham Awards given out by the Independent Feature Project on Sept. 26, the AP reports. The award honors a New York actor who has made significant contributions to the city's film community. Moore's films include Boogie Nights, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, World Traveler and The Shipping News.
Joe Cobb, who played the chubby-cheeked, beanie-cap-wearing boy named Joe in dozens of Our Gang comedy films of the 1920s, died Tuesday at the age of 85, the AP reports. The Oklahoma native's acting career ended in the early 1940s, but he appeared in a 1986 documentary that looked back at the Our Gang actors and other screen comedians, entitled Classic Comedy Teams.
He's played idiots and superheroes. Up next for Keanu Reeves is an against type role as a brutal, spouse-beating murder suspect in the low-budget drama "The Gift."
As with Tom Cruise's supporting turn in the critical hit "Magnolia," Reeves reportedly will take a back seat (and a serious pay cut) to co-star alongside Giovanni Ribisi, Cate Blanchett and Katie Holmes ("Dawson's Creek"). Today's Daily Variety says Sam Raimi ("A Simple Plan") will helm the under-$10 million film for Paramount's art-house division, Paramount Classics.
For the chance to do evil things on celluloid, Reeves will pare down his usual per-picture asking price of $15 million to union scale, the trade paper says.
Written by "One False Move" screenwriters Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, "The Gift" concerns a small-town Southern psychic who becomes involved in a murder investigation. Reeves plays a redneck who becomes the prime suspect when he threatens the clairvoyant after she helps his battered wife.
Ribisi ("Saving Private Ryan") is the headliner, starring as a troubled youth who becomes the clairvoyant's closest ally.
Shooting is set to begin Feb. 7. After "The Gift," Reeves will pick up his normal (hefty) paycheck for starring in "Sweet November" for Warner Bros. That project, starring Reeves as a businessman who falls in love with a dying woman, will be directed by Pat O'Connor ("Circle of Friends"). It's a remake of the 1968 Sandy Dennis-Anthony Newley drama of the same name.
After "Sweet November," Reeves is set to get back in action on the proposed 250-day shoot for the back-to-back "Matrix" sequels for filmmakers Larry and Andy Wachowski. His typically explosive payday for that two-fer project is a $30 million advance against 15% of the two films' combined grosses.
DIRECTOR HELD FOR 'RANSOM': "Wild Things" director John McNaughton sets his voyeur's eyes next on "The Ransom," today's Hollywood Reporter says. The Bel Air Entertainment flick is based on the 1991 Brian Tobin crime-caper novel. The story involves an ex-con, a thief and a pickpocket who plot to kidnap New York's biggest, baddest drug dealer. The project, whose title may be kidnapped before it's released to theaters, does not yet have a start date.
FINE "FEATHERS": Feeling good from their successful union on "The Talented Mr. Ripley," Miramax Films and Paramount Pictures will give their relationship another shot with a remake of the 1939 British action-adventure film "The Four Feathers," Daily Variety says. Screenwriter Hossein Amini ("The Wings of the Dove") is set to adapt the story, which involves a disgraced British officer's attempt to redeem himself by infiltrating enemy territory and freeing his captured friends.
Co-wrote screenplay for "Snow White and the Huntsman"
Wrote teleplay for Peter Kosminsky's "The Dying of the Light"; nominated for a BAFTA as Best Single Drama
Breakout screenplay, "The Wings of the Dove," adapted from the Henry James story; earned Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination
Wrote screenplay for crime drama "Drive," directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and adapted from James Sallis' book
Wrote the screenplay for the war drama "Four Feathers"
Adapted Thomas Hardy's "Jude the Obscure" as Michael Winterbottom's "Jude"
Penned the epic love story/thriller "Shanghai"
One of Britain's hottest young screenwriters, Iranian-born Hossein Amini wrote the teleplay for Peter Kosminsky's "Dying of the Light" (1995), a based-on-fact drama about the outspoken UNICEF aid worker in Africa, Sean Devereux, who was assassinated in Somalia. The program earned a BAFTA Award nomination as Best Single Drama. A screen version of Thomas Hardy's "Jude the Obscure" became his first produced feature, Michael Winterbottom's "Jude" (1996), winning both the Michael Powell Award for Best British Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival and Best Film at the Dinard Film Festival. Amini's adaptation of Henry James, Iain Softley's "The Wings of the Dove" (1997), raised his star to new heights, putting him in league with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala as a leading translator of Victorian and Edwardian fiction into the language of film.
Amini wrote the script for "Jude" in a contemporary language, which a contemporary audience would immediately recognize. "I hate traditional costume dramas which employ period language, they always seem to have too many words and consequently seem very stiff, very invented. I am more influenced by the language of cinema than by literature. Its sparseness appeals to me." – Amini in the press kit for "Jude" (1996)