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.
Veteran British actress Barbara Windsor has thrown her support behind a campaign to honour theatre great Joan Littlewood with a statue in London. The Carry On star is backing a drive which asks fans to help fund a bronze sculpture of the late theatre director, which will be placed outside the Theatre Royal Stratford East in Stratford, London.
Theatre bosses have commissioned artist Philip Jackson to create the piece, but need donations from the public.
Artistic director Kerry Michael says, "Joan Littlewood... was an inspiration to many and it's important that we recognise the significance of her work and build upon her success to inspire future generations.
"We're delighted to have raised more than 50 per cent of the funds required to commemorate her with a statue and urge the public to get behind this important campaign."
Windsor worked with Littlewood in the Broadway production of Oh, What a Lovely War! in 1964. The director died in 2002 aged 87.
Scottish actor David Tennant was left moved after receiving a ring to wear during his theatre stint as Richard Ii from the widow of his predecessor Ian Richardson. Richardson, who won acclaim for his portrayal of the doomed King of England in the 1973 adaptation of William Shakespeare's tragedy, wore an amber ring during his time on stage.
Tennant is tackling the same role, and has been gifted the jewellery to wear during his performances after Richardson's widow Maroussia found it at home.
The former Doctor Who star tells the BBC, "It's lovely to have this as a kind of talisman. I immediately wanted to wear it in the performance. I wanted to have a bit of Ian Richardson on stage with me, giving me a hand.
"It means an enormous amount to me. I was terribly moved. It felt like a blessing and encouragement from history."
Tennant is performing in the play at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England until 16 November (13), before it transfers to London's Barbican on 9 December (13).
Richard passed away in 2007 aged 72.
The Bodyguard star Nathaniel Parker is to play King Henry VIII in the stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel's multi award-winning novels about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn. Parker, who played Clive Healey in the 1992 Whitney Houston film, will lead the Swan Theatre cast in Stratford-upon-Avon, England when Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies premiere back to back in December (13).
Mantel's historical novels won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and 2012. The books have been adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton.
Lucy Briers will double up as Katherine of Aragon and Jane Boleyn, while Leah Brotherhead will portray Jane Seymour and Princess Mary, and Nicholas Day has been cast as the Duke of Norfolk.
The two projects will run at the Swan Theatre from 11 December (13) to 29 March (14).
Actor Christopher Plummer is set to bring his one-man show A Word Or Two to Los Angeles. The Center Theatre Group announced on Tuesday (20Aug13) that the Oscar winner will be performing 16 shows in January and February (14) at the Ahmanson Theatre, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A Word or Two ran in 2012 in Canada at the Stratford Festival. The stage production centres around Plummer's favourite written and spoken word pieces and features him reciting works by W.H. Auden, Lewis Carroll, William Shakespeare and more.
If you judge only by her Oscar-winning performance in The Silver Linings Playbook, you might think that Jennifer Lawrence is well into her 30s. Her performance in David O. Russell's dramedy was so mature and compelling that it's hard to believe she's a mere 23. Yes, the Hunger Games star turns 23 today, Aug. 15, and we're pleased to celebrate what promises to be a long and varied future in the cinema. But what exactly do the coming years have in store for JLaw? After Catching Fire and the Mockingjay movies, and Russell's next picture American Hustle, where will Lawrence take her career? We have some suggestions — or wishes — for Lawrence's career.
23 Roles We'd Love to See Jennifer Lawrence Take
1) Kat Stratford in a 10 Things I Hate About You remake. If she can play 30-year-olds now, she can play high schoolers. And yes, she can manage a bitchface.
2) Jaina Solo, daughter of Leia and Han, in Star Wars VII. Imagine Lawrence levitating X-Wings, cutting up Tauntauns, and stopping by Tosche Station for power converters.
3) Ophelia in a Hamlet adaptation. She can do crazy, we've seen it.
4) At the center of her own Showtime series, a la The United States of Tara or Weeds — a loony young mom with a plot-defining secret.
5) Headlining a Victorian era period piece. Imagine the costumes.
6) Playing Elaine in a Seinfeld movie. Obviously, no one is ever going to make a Seinfeld movie. And if they did, they'd probably cast the actors who were actually on Seinfeld. But imagine it... just imagine it...
7) In a Wes Anderson movie, playing (as per Wes Anderson tradition) a dead-eyed, monotone, nihilistic femme fatale. We buy it.
8) Molly Ringwald's role in a Sixteen Candles remake. Sixteen might be pushing it... how about Twenty-One Candles? Not quite the same ring, but that gives us an idea!
9) Taking Sean Penn's role in a gender-swapping 21 Grams remake!
10) Playing Paul Rudd's daughter in a movie that stars Steve Martin as his dad and Dick Van Dyke as his dad. This is actually an idea that we've been working on for quite some time...
11) Remember My Boys on TBS? That show was pretty good, right? Well, if she was in it, it would have been awesome. Do that.
12) Cher's role in a Mermaids remake.
13) Julia Roberts' role in a Pretty Woman remake.
14) Faye Dunaway's role in a Chinatown remake.
15) Playing herself in a Charlie Kaufman movie about how, in "reality," she's a horrible Machiavellian sociopath.
16) Taking on a Ripley-like role in the follow-up to Prometheus.
17) Becky Sharp in a Vanity Fair adaptation.
18) Samus Aran in a Metroid adaptation.
19) Princess Zelda in a film adaptation of Ocarina of Time, which is incredibly necessary.
20) Janis Joplin in a biographical picture about her life and work.
21) Playing all five sisters in a black comedy about strikingly different quintuplets.
22) The verbose, death-obsessed heroine in a Woody Allen movie.
23) The 13th Doctor.
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Justin Bieber frustrated fans at his hometown show in Canada on Thursday night by making another late appearance on stage. The teenage superstar left his young fans waiting for nearly an hour before taking to the stage at Toronto's Air Canada Centre for the first of two shows at the venue.
The Baby hitmaker, who hails from nearby Stratford, Ontario, was around 50 minutes behind schedule, according to a reporter for the Toronto Sun, and the young audience began chanting in frustration as the delay went on.
Bieber has previously upset fans and their parents by leaving them waiting for hours, and the latest controversy came just hours after the troubled singer was photographed spitting from a hotel balcony in Toronto.
The star returns to the stage at the Air Canada Centre for a second gig on Friday night (26Jul13).
British singer/songwriter Laura Marling is venturing into the world of theatre by composing the music for a new production of a William Shakespeare play. The 23-year-old star admits she was "daunted" when she was approached by bosses at the Royal Shakespeare Company about writing songs to be used in a revamped version of The Bard's classic As You Like It.
She tells the BBC, "I got the real fear about doing this. I have no knowledge of theatre and I'd say not a huge knowledge of Shakespeare either. (But) I wanted to shake it up a bit."
Marling enjoyed the process of writing for the stage, but is adamant she has no interest in acting, adding, "Absolutely not. That does not lie within me in any way."
The production opens at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, on Wednesday (24Apr13).
British actor David Tennant is returning to the stage this year (13) to star in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Richard II. The play will open in Stratford-upon-Avon, England before transferring to London's Barbican in December (13). Tennant's previous theatre work includes star turns in Shakespeare's Hamlet, Love's Labours Lost and Much Ado About Nothing.
The Sound of Music veteran, who has won two Tony Awards for his Broadway work in Barrymore and Cyrano, has performed at the Stratford Festival in his native Canada for more than 50 years and he also appeared in numerous productions at London's National Theater.
Now he is to be celebrated for his contributions by bosses at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut with the Monte Cristo Award during a special ceremony on 15 April (13).
Previous recipients of the accolade include actors Michael Douglas, James Earl Jones and Kevin Spacey.