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 fact that Kristen Wiig is playing even a small part in the upcoming Arrested Development Season 4 is amazing in and of itself, but wait until you find out her character: you might just blue yourself.
Avert your eyes, spoiler-phobes (but also, did you read the headline? Why are you even reading this article?): Wiig will be playing a young version of Jessica Walter's Bluth family matriarch, Lucille, reports Vulture.
RELATED: 'Arrested Development' Season 4 Will Not Disappoint: Here's Proof
Can you imagine how fabulous that will be? If there's anyone more worthy of stepping into Lucille's shoes it's the woman who basically owned Saturday Night Live for the past five years. Although it's unclear in what context Wiig's Young Lucille will appear, let's hope the AD team cast someone equally amazing to play Young George.
Are you regular psyched about Wiig's role in the new AD episodes, or super psyched? (There are no other options.)
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The veteran actress was inducted into the prestigious institution at a special ceremony in Las Vegas on Tuesday (17Apr12).
White was selected for the honour in recognition of her lengthy career, her seven Emmy Awards and her numerous TV and film roles.
NAB President-CEO Gordon Smith says, "Betty White is admired by generations of audiences. She has remarkable energy and an incredible ability to connect with viewers. Betty's contributions to television and entertainment as a whole are extraordinary. Our Hall of Fame would be incomplete without her."
After the induction, White told talk show host Piers Morgan, "I was inducted into their Hall of Fame, it was a big thrill. It's amazing, it was interesting."
White joins Regis Philbin, Jerry Lewis, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening in the NAB Hall of Fame.
Indie queen Christina Ricci will be working with eclectic director Woody Allen on his next untitled project. As usual, the plot is being kept firmly under wraps, but The Hollywood Reporter notes the film will center around three young adults. Jason Biggs (American Pie) is also on board. Filming is set to start in the spring.
Ricci is hot on the independent film market right now, having starred in this year's Sundance Film Festival darling Pumpkin and Miramax Films' upcoming Prozac Nation. She'll also be seen in HBO's The Laramie Project, which airs Saturday, March 9.
In a trendy Manhattan art gallery, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman, Art Garfunkel and many other celebrities attended a gala preview Monday of artwork by students, faculty and alumni of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The event was hosted by James Wyeth, son of artist Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C.Wyeth.
Country singer Faith Hill is going to the Academy Awards. She'll be performing the song "There You'll Be" from the movie Pearl Harbor, written by Diane Warren. The song has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Song category, along with other nominated songs from Monsters, Inc., The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Kate & Leopold and Vanilla Sky.
Sean Combs, whose previous aliases revolved around being called "Daddy," finally faced up to the real thing when he reached a custody and financial settlement Tuesday with former model Kimberly Porter, mother of his three-year-old son, Christian. Combs had been a no-show in court nine times over the last year and was threatened with an arrest if he failed to appear Tuesday. He'll be providing child support, health insurance and other necessities for the child.
Pop singer/actress Brandy Norwood, 23, told MTV's Carson Daly on Total Request Live Tuesday the baby she is carrying is a girl. Brandy secretly wed record producer Robert Smith, 22, last summer. The baby is due in July.
Legendary comedian Lucille Ball's childhood home was put on the market via the Internet. The two-story house in Chautauqua County in upstate New York, where Ball lived from the time she was 8 years old to the middle of her high school years, is listed on the Web site eBay for an asking price of $98,500 by real estate broker Bruce Turner. The 112-year-old house had been sitting on the regular market for nearly a year before Turner put it on eBay. So far, the house has yet to be sold.
Dana Delaney of China Beach fame is returning to television. She'll star in a new hospital drama, Presidio Med, for CBS, playing a pediatric doctor. And in other TV casting news, Saturday Night Live alum Cheri Oteri has signed up for the ABC comedy pilot With You in Spirit, about a recent college grad (Reid Scott) who ends up in Spirit, N.M., working as a reporter. Primetime television just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?
Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts has decided to slow things down. In November, she'll be leaving ABC's This Week and co-anchor Sam Donaldson, when her contract expires. She wants to spend more time with her family. Roberts is still in conversations with ABC on what role she will play in the future with the network and will continue reporting for National Public Radio. To further fan the fire, The Hollywood Reporter reported there is speculation that George Stephanopoulos and Claire Shipman will replace Donaldson and Roberts, but ABC network officials have strongly denied the report.
ABC is just on the hot wire lately....As CBS and ABC continue to iron out their bids for talk-show host David Letterman, Ted Koppel defended his 22-year-old ABC news show Nightline, which ABC executives are rumored to be considering bumping in favor of Letterman's higher-rated show. Reuters reported Koppel wrote a op-ed piece and spoke out against the network executives. He wrote, "When Nightline is gone...and should the occasion arrive that our work might again seem relevant to the anonymous executive, it will not then be possible to reconstitute what is so easily destroyed." Letterman, however, has made it clear he will not consider moving to ABC unless the network can assure him that he is not responsible for knocking Koppel off the air.
Punk rocker Adam Ant was released on bail relating to his January arrest after an altercation in a London pub. He was arrested on charges of criminal damage, assault and possession of a firearm or imitation firearm with intention to cause fear of violence. The plea hearing is set for May 1 to decide whether the case will be heard.