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.
The Weinstein Company
Can you recall the exact moment when you fell in love with Paul Rudd? Perhaps, for you, it was when he played David in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, a heartbroken Smart Tech employee who taught us that "love is a strange fish." Or maybe it was when he played the worst Role Model ever, threatening children with bodily harm but coming through in the end and helping an innocent little boy (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) achieve his dream of winning LAIR. Whenever it happened, it was surely a great moment because there's something incredibly awesome about Paul Rudd. Overwhelmingly sarcastic to the point of hilarity, kind of a douche, and generally unimpressed with most things in life, Rudd has continuously played the older brother/cousin we all wish we had. As the Anchorman 2 premiere approaches and we prepare for the return of Brian Fantana, let's take a look back at some of his best on-screen moments.
The Cider House Rules
Before he was Brian Fantana, before he was a 40-something guy married to Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd was just a handsome young soldier in the critically acclaimed 1999 movie, The Cider House Rules.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
He introduced us to Sex Panther cologne, and to statistics that literally make no sense: "60% of the time, it works every time."
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
David was sweet, kind ... and sort of a stalker. He was so distraught after losing Amy, the love of his life (played by Mindy Kaling), that he spent most of the movie walking around looking a hot mess. It was adorable. We'll go to Paris with you, David. We'll go.
Before bromances were even cool, Pete and Ben were the coolest ... and yeah. Kind of the douchiest. But mainly cool. And as far as Ben's bromantic feelings towards Pete? Well, we feel pretty much the same way. How do you argue with a guy like Paul Rudd?!
In one of his darker roles, Rudd played Danny, a 'miserable d--k' who really just wanted a large coffee.
Our Idiot Brother
You gotta love a guy who has such a big heart (and such a tiny brain) that he can't resist providing some illegal, medicinal herbs to a policeman in need. Let's all give it up for Ned, the idiot brother we secretly want even if it means he has to crash out our house and ruin our lives for a spell.
In case you forgot, he was also Josh from Clueless! Commence swooning.
Before Hollywood's biggest stars deliver their acceptance speeches at Sunday's Academy Awards, the 2013 Writers Guild Awards have honored the folks who supply A-list actors and actresses with words. The 65th annual ceremony kicked off Sunday, celebrating the best and the brightest behind the scenes — and behind the pen — in television, film, and beyond in 2012.
But there were few surprises at the awards — Mark Boal picked up his second WGA win for Zero Dark Thirty (he won his first for Hurt Locker in 2010) while television's critical darlings, Breaking Bad and Louie proved to be victorious.
Who else was a big winner at the WGA awards? See below to find out!
MOTION PICTURE CATEGORIES
Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal; Columbia Pictures
Argo, screenplay by Chris Terrio; based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired magazine article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman; Warner Bros. Pictures
Searching for Sugar Man, written by Malik Bendejelloul; Sony Pictures Classics
Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC
Louie, Written by Pamela Adlon, Vernon Chatman, Louis C.K.; FX
Girls, Written by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Lena Dunham, Sarah Heyward, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Jenni Konner, Deborah Schoeneman, Dan Sterling; HBO
Mad Men (AMC), Written by Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner, "The Other Woman"
LONG FORM – ORIGINAL
Hatfields & McCoys (History Channel), Teleplay by Ted Mann and Ronald Parker, Story by Bill Kerby and Ted Mann, Nights Two and Three
LONG FORM – ADAPTED
Game Change (HBO), Written by Danny Strong, Based on the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
Modern Family (ABC), Written By Elaine Ko; ABC, "Virgin Territory"
COMEDY/VARIETY (INCLUDING TALK) — SERIES
Portlandia, Written by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Karey Dornetto, Jonathan Krisel, Bill Oakley
COMEDY/VARIETY — MUSIC, AWARDS, TRIBUTES — SPECIALS
66th Annual Tony Awards, Written by Dave Boone, Special Material by Paul Greenberg; Opening and Closing Songs by David Javerbaum, Adam Schlesinger; CBS
CHILDREN'S – EPISODIC & SPECIALS
Sesame Street (PBS), Written by Christine Ferraro, "The Good Sport"
CHILDREN'S — LONG FORM OR SPECIAL
"Girl vs. Monster," Story by Annie De Young; Teleplay by Annie De Young and Ron McGee; Disney Channel
The Simpsons, Written by David Mandel & Brian Kelley; Fox, "Ned and Edna's Blend Agenda"
The Young & the Restless, Written by Amanda Beall, Jeff Beldner, Brent Boyd, Susan Dansby, Janice Ferri Esser, Jay Gibson, Scott Hamner, Maria Kanelos, Natalie Minardi Slater, Beth Milstein, Michael Montgomery, Anne Schoettle, Linda Schreiber, Lisa Seidman, Sarah K. Smith, Christopher J. Whitesell, Teresa Zimmerman; CBS
DOCUMENTARY — CURRENT EVENTS
Frontline, Written by Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria; PBS, "Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode One"
DOCUMENTARY — OTHER THAN CURRENT EVENTS
Nova, Written by Randall MacLowry; PBS, "The Fabric of the Cosmos: The Illusion of Time"
NEWS — REGULALRY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT
"Tragedy in Colorado: The Movie Theatre Massacre," Written by Lisa Ferri, Joel Siegel; ABC News
NEWS — REGULARLY SCHEDULED OR BREAKING REPORT
"World News This Year 2011," Written by Darren Reynolds; ABC News Radio
NEWS — ANALYSIS, FEATURE OR COMMENTARY
"Dishin Digital," Written by Robert Hawley, WCBS-AM
PROMOTIONAL WRITING AND GRAPHIC ANIMATION CATEGORIES
ON-AIR PROMOTION (RADIO OR TELEVISION)
"Partners," Written by Dan A. Greenberger, CBS
TELEVISION GRAPHIC ANIMATION
Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, Animation by Bob Pook; CBS, "The Oscars"
NEW MEDIA AND VIDEOGAME CATEGORIES
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING DERIVATIVE NEW MEDIA
The Walking Dead: Cold Storage, Written by John Esposito (amctv.com) – “Hide And Seek,” “Keys to the Kingdom,” “The Chosen Ones,” “Parting Shots”
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING ORIGINAL NEW MEDIA
Jack In A Box, Written by Michael Cyril Creighton (jackinaboxsite.com) – “The Compromises, Episode 1,” “The Pest, Episode 3,” The Snake, Episode 4,” “The Bonding, Episode 6,” “The Future, Episode 7/Series Finale”
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN VIDEOGAME WRITING
Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, Scriptwriting by Richard Farrese, Jill Murray; Ubisoft
What do you think of this year's winners? Let us know in the comments!
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Proving that everything “old” can be new again 17 Again opens in 1989 where star basketball player Mike O’Donnell turns his back on a college scholarship deciding instead to marry his girlfriend Scarlet when she reveals they are suddenly expecting a baby. Cut to 20 years later Mike’s marriage and job are floundering when he is physically transformed back into his 17-year-old self although his mind and sensibilities still remain that of a decidedly square thirtysomething dude. With the help of his nerdy-turned-billionaire best childhood buddy Ned he gets himself enrolled in the same school his own teenage kids now attend. Can he help them avert the same kinds of mistakes now that he (sorta) has a second chance to change?
WHO’S IN IT?
Zac Efron (High School Musical) shoots and scores in a breakout starring role. He shows he’s got the comic chops to believably pull off the way-out-there premise of being a 37-year-old trapped in a 17-year-old’s body. Matthew Perry (Friends) does a nice job bookending the movie as the older Mike but it’s Efron’s show all the way. Thomas Lennon follows up his hilarious supporting antics as the spurned man-date in I Love You Man with some equally amusing work as Mike’s friend Ned while Leslie Mann plays the estranged wife in style. As Mike’s kids who unknowingly become high school buds with their own father newcomer Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg get enough screen time to shine. Melora Hardin (The Office) is also quite funny as the school principal that lovelorn Ned keeps stalking.
Although the premise of the adult/kid switcheroo has been done to death director Burr Steers and writer Jason Filardi take it one step further a la It's a Wonderful Life or Damn Yankees by letting their main character regain his youth for the chance to see what his life would be like if he could live it another way. This fanciful premise makes this “teen” comedy one that adults will probably enjoy even more.
The filmmakers sometimes have a tendency to go over the top particularly in the "Star Wars fight sequence" when the newly transformed Mike confronts old friend Ned with the news and a laser battle erupts (!). Another scene where 17-year-old Mike is seduced by his own unwitting daughter may be funny but it veers a little too far into creepy territory.
DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?
If you like 17 Again try renting 18 Again in which 81-year-old George Burns switches places with his grandson. Or how about Big Vice Versa Like Father Like Son or either version of Freaky Friday? And who said there are no original ideas in Hollywood ...
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
A no-brainer — the "Zac Pack" will be out in force on opening day.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.