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 Twilight beauty was first linked to Carney in October (11), shortly after the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark actor split from his co-star Jennifer Damiano.
And the new lovers celebrated the start of their first holiday season together by appearing at the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting event to watch performances by singers Michael Buble, Tony Bennett, Cee-Lo Green and Neil Diamond.
It has been a busy year for Greene on the romantic front - she has dated pop star Joe Jonas and was briefly linked to Kings of Leon rocker Jared Followill.
The Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark's lead actors turned their onstage love affair as Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson into a real-life romance, but the couple has called it quits after months of dating, according to the New York Post.
A source says, "Reeve's relationship with Jennifer fizzled out, and he is now dating Ashley Greene. Ashley has been to the show a few times and has been introduced to Reeve's mom. While it (romance) has been going on for a short time, it already appears pretty serious.
"While Reeve and Jennifer broke up, they have continued to work together well and there doesn't appear to be any animosity or bad blood."
Greene's most recent romances have included flings with Joe Jonas and Kings of Leon star Jared Followill.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark finally opened in New York on Tuesday (14Jun11) after months of delays, setbacks, cast changes and accidents, and the Broadway show's two lead actors happily posed for pictures together at the opening, with their arms affectionately wrapped around each other.
It has now emerged that Carney, who plays the superhero and his alter-ego Peter Parker, and Damiano, who stars as Spider-Man's love interest Mary Jane Watson, have become a real-life couple, according to the New York Post's Page Six.
A source tells the gossip column, "At first it seemed like she really didn't like him. But it turned out that maybe it was just her way of flirting. Now it is so cute, they are inseparable."
Another insider adds, "It's life mirroring art,. They've shared a yearlong (sic) dream together. We could read between the lines."
The critically-acclaimed show, about two Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda, was nominated for 14 prizes at the New York ceremony, which celebrates the best of Broadway.
It triumphed in categories such as Best Original Score, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Book of a Musical, in addition to three technical awards for Best Sound Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Scenic Design of a Musical.
British play War Horse earned a total of five awards, while a revival of Larry Kramer's play The Normal Heart landed three top accolades, including Hollywood star Ellen Barkin's very first Tony Award for her Broadway debut as a frustrated doctor in the fight against AIDS. She became the very first honouree of the night and hailed her win as the "proudest moment in my career".
Host Neil Patrick Harris opened the awards show at The Beacon Theatre with a comical song-and-dance number titled It's Not Just For Gays Anymore, and Hugh Jackman, a previous Tony Awards host, later joined the actor onstage and engaged in a little competitive banter for an entertaining rendition of Anything You Can Do.
U2's Bono and The Edge found themselves the butt of several jokes for their troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark musical, which will finally open on Tuesday (14Jun11) after months of delays and setbacks. The Irish rockers took the jabs in their stride and applauded along with the rest of the audience.
They showed their good humour again when they introduced a performance from Spider-Man stars Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano, with Bono deadpanning, "We used to be famous for being in U2... When I first saw the Tony Awards on our schedule, I just kind of assumed that we'd been nominated", to which The Edge quipped, "It appears we missed the deadline..."
Other performances came from Daniel Radcliffe and Tony winner John Larroquette, who sang Brotherhood of Man from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, while the casts of each of the Best Musical nominees (The Book of Mormon, Catch Me If You Can, The Scottsboro Boys and Sister Act) also gave the crowd a taste of why they deserved to win.
The main list of winners at the 65th Annual Tony Awards is as follows:
Best Play - War Horse
Best Musical - The Book of Mormon
Best Revival of a Play - The Normal Heart
Best Revival of a Musical - Anything Goes
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play - John Benjamin Hickey, The Normal Heart
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play - Ellen Barkin, The Normal Heart
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical - John Larroquette, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical - Nikki M. James, The Book of Mormon
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play - Mark Rylance, Jerusalem
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play - Frances McDormand, Good People
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical - Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me If You Can
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical - Sutton Foster, Anything Goes
Best Direction of a Play - Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, War Horse
Best Direction of a Musical - Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, The Book of Mormon
Best Original Score - Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon
Best Orchestrations - Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus, The Book of Mormon
Best Choreography - Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes
Best Book of a Musical - Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon
Lifetime Achievement - Athol Fugard and Philip J. Smith.
The stuntman spent Christmas (10) in hospital in New York after falling from a ledge during a performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark in December (10), sparking rounds of safety investigations into the show.
He suffered several broken ribs, a fractured elbow, a bruised lung, three fractured vertebrae and a cracked skull, and underwent back surgery, as well as months of subsequent rehabilitation treatment.
Tierney vowed to return to the New York stage after the accident and he fulfilled his promise by slipping back into his stuntman Spider-Man suit this week (beg09May11) to re-join the show in its first performance since it was shut down for a serious overhaul.
He tells the Associated Press, "It was a two and a half hour roller coaster ride. I'm stronger coming back than I was before. Only a little soreness here and there.... We are the safest show on Broadway, I'll tell you that much. I actually think it's a little too much now."
Director Julie Taymor exited in March (11) and a new creative team helped revamp the production during its hiatus.
U2 stars Bono and The Edge, who created the score, added new music for the show, while the story was rejigged and many of the stunts changed. Before the Thursday night performance, producer Michael Cohl welcomed the audience and called the production "almost a brand-new show".
The musical, which has previously been marred by onstage technical glitches, ran smoothly and lead actor Reeve Carney, who plays Peter Parker and Spider-Man, admits all the castmembers felt happy with the results of their hard work, adding, "It was so exciting. This cast is so amazing and we were all feeding off each other tonight."
The night was also extra special for actress Jennifer Damiano, who plays the superhero's love interest Mary Jane Watson, as she celebrated her 20th birthday on Thursday.
Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is set to continue previews until next month (Jun11), when the show will officially open on 14 June (11) after numerous postponements.
In Red Riding Hood the age-old fairytale of a little girl who learns the perils of talking to strangers has been turned into a sort of supernatural harlequin murder mystery by Catherine Hardwicke director of the 2008 teen vampire flick Twilight. Though nominally a horror film its dearth of scares and potent strain of adolescent melodrama will inspire more comparisons to Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling saga than its director would probably care to acknowledge.
In this version the titular red-cloaked heroine played by doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried is given a name – Valerie – and cast not as the disobedient naïf we remember from the original fable but a headstrong and independent-minded young lady who would never fall for the tricks of some hairy beast masquerading as her grandmother. Although betrothed by parental arrangement to Henry (Max Irons) the respectable scion of a wealthy blacksmithing family her heart really belongs to Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) the darkly handsome town badboy whose chosen occupation woodworker apparently ranks far below blacksmith in the social hierarchy.
Valerie is inclined to run off with Peter but soon such inclinations must be shelved when her sister turns up dead the apparent victim of a wolf that has terrorized the residents of Daggerhorn the rustic medieval-ish mountain village in which the film is set (the exact setting and time period are kept weirdly indeterminate) for decades. The men of Daggerhorn resolve to avenge the girl’s death and slay the murderous animal once and for all but they appear hopelessly outmatched until Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) a blustery hunter/inquisitor with dubious religious credentials arrives on the scene. Solomon informs the beleaguered Daggerhornians that the wolf they are dealing with is no mere wolf but a shape-shifting werewolf with powers far greater than any of them had anticipated.
Even worse when the moon isn’t full he (or she) walks among them unnoticed in human form. Everyone is a suspect Solomon declares and soon Red Riding Hood evolves into a hokey whodunit filled with all sorts of unconvincing feints and red herrings. At the center of the mystery is poor Valerie in whom the werewolf seems inordinately interested. “Ohmigod you can talk!” she gasps when the werewolf first speaks to her telepathically – a line that got some of the loudest laughs in a film that is far too often inadvertently comedic.
Such is the danger of a film that treats such a subject as ridiculous as Red Riding Hood’s with such unrelenting gravity – melodrama curdles into gooey processed cheese. And this film is slathered with it. Which wouldn't be so bad if the subject matters were at least a little suspenseful but Hardwicke is unable to exact much terror or fright out of David Leslie Johnson’s too-tame script. (The film’s PG-13 rating doesn’t help.) What we’re left with is a gauzy romance that might have even ardent Twi-hard types rolling their eyes.
Safety inspectors have given Taymor the all-clear to proceed with Spider-Man:Turn Off the Dark despite four cast members sustaining injuries since preview performances began in November (10) - sparking fury within the theatre community.
Stuntman Christopher Tierney, who underwent spinal surgery after falling from a ledge during a performance last month (Dec10), has publicly refused to blame Taymor and the show's safety crew for the mishaps.
And he temporarily left a treatment centre on Tuesday (04Jan10) to join castmates Reeve Carney (Spider-Man), Patrick Page (Green Goblin), Jennifer Damiano (Mary Jane) and T.V. Carpio (Arachne) for an interview on breakfast TV programme Good Morning America.
The appearance came hours after Carpio was officially named as a replacement for Natalie Mendoza, the actress who left the show last week (ends31Dec10) after she was struck in the head by a weighted rope backstage and suffered a concussion.
And the group assured critics proper safety precautions are being taken.
Carney said, "We all appreciate everyone's concern for our safety. I guess you just get into this job - it's an athletic event, you know it has a certain amount of risk involved. People on our crew are amazing. You have to trust and we do trust them... The only people more concerned than the other actors is the crew."
Page, defending Taymor, added, "I wish they (critics) could be in the building with us and see the care that Julie takes."
Meanwhile, Tierney, who suffered multiple injuries and still has screws in his back, says he's eager to return to the stage: "The moment I feel like I'm good, I am back in that show."
The production is scheduled to officially open on 7 February (11).
The stars of upcoming superhero musical SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK have posed for a fashion shoot in Vogue magazine. REEVE CARNEY, who plays the title role, suits up as the webslinger, while JENNIFER DAMIANO, who plays Mary Jane Watson, poses in couture for the Annie Leibovitz shoot.
Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, which features a score by U2 stars The Edge and Bono, has been in the works for six years and producers had initially planned to begin previews in February (10).
But the show suffered a number of major blows earlier this year (10) when both Alan Cumming, who was set to play the villainous Green Goblin, and Evan Rachel Wood, cast as Spider-Man's leading lady Mary Jane, quit the ambitious production, citing scheduling difficulties.
Tony Award nominee Jennifer Damiano was subsequently announced as Wood's replacement, while actor Patrick Page has reportedly been offered Cumming's role. Reeve Carney remains on board as Spider-Man in the Julie Taymor production.
Tnd the show has now secured an official launch date - on Tuesday (10Aug10), lead producer Michael Cohl promised Spider-Man fans the highly-anticipated play would begin preview performances on 14 November (10) and open on 21 December (10).
The musical has been touted as one of the most expensive productions in Broadway history, costing investors an estimated $50 million (£33.3 million).