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.
Dancing With the Stars started its 14th season off with a bang on March 19 as every single contestant exceeded both the crowd's and the judges' expectations. But there was one person in particular who shined not only in musicality, but in personality as well: Katherine Jenkins.
The Welsh opera singer topped the leaderboard in the opening show, earning herself and her dance partner Mark Ballas an incredible 26 out of 30 points for their fox trot.
However, beyond her natural dancing abilities is a sweet, down-to-earth person, who will undoubtedly gain more and more likability as the season progresses. Her kind demeanor coupled with her obvious beauty and adorable Welsh accent will surly make her a favorite among viewers.
In fact, even if Jenkins wasn't as great of a dancer (which she definitely is), she still wouldn't be facing elimination for quite some time based just on her personality alone, making her the perfect fit for America's next sweetheart.
And she's got just the right dance partner for the job. Mark Ballas is usually paired with the sweetheart of the bunch, nabbing the likes of Cheetah Girls star Sabrina Bryan in Season 5 and Chelsea Kane in Season 12. And it's been a coupling that's worked rather well throughout the years.
In Season 6 (Ballas' second year participating in the dance competition), he won the Mirror Ball trophy with popular Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and again in Season 8 with Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson. And while you could credit the victories purely on their athletic background, they were also extremely likable, which undoubtedly helped their chances.
Of course, there have been a few exceptions to the rule, like when Ballas was partnered with Kim Kardashian and Shannen Doherty, which severely decreased his season rankings (earning a measly eleventh place with both women). But for the most part, he's the No. 1 guy for America's No. 1 gal, and Jenkins is definitely next on that list.