Teenager Leo Howard has become a Guinness World Record holder. At 16, he is the youngest ever TV director. The youngster stepped behind the camera to direct an episode of his hit Disney show Kickin' It.
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 moviemaker passed away in Madrid, Spain on Friday (23Nov12). He had been suffering from throat cancer, according to Reuters.
Borau made his feature directorial debut with 1963 western Brandy, and achieved international success with 1975's Poachers.
Choosing to work on only a handful of big screen projects during his career, his last major movie was 2000's Leo, which won him a Goya award for Best Director.
Borau, who also made television documentaries and fictional tales, had a close connection to Spain's San Sebastian Film Festival after previously serving as a member of the Official Jury, and organisers have paid tribute to the star.
In a statement, they write, "Borau, who was also Chair of the Academia de Artes y Ciencias Cinematograficas and of the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE), always demonstrated his support of the San Sebastian Festival, whether in his actions as holder of these important positions or at personal level.
"The Festival therefore wishes to thank him dearly and pay warm tribute to his memory."
Forget that the latest adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's sweeping romance novel comes from the man who brought us the slick-but-stuffy Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. Every frame of director Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is a wonder to behold overflowing with visual spectacle and roaring performances. Keira Knightley Jude Law Aaron Taylor-Johnson and the rest of the cast fit perfectly in the high drama epic but it's really Wright's playground. Following Hanna an artful spin on the action movie Wright returns to the period drama but injects it with dazzling daring choices. A book like Anna Karenina could once fit in reality but its larger-than-life legacy precedes it. Wright acknowledges that from frame one approaching the film like a grand ballet or opera where grand gestures broad emotions and overt theatrics are commonplace. That vision clicks transforming Anna Karenina into an exhilarating moviegoing experience.
The storyline of Anna Karenina isn't far off from a daytime soap: It's 1874 and Anna (Knightley) is floating through existence as the wife of influential government player Karenin (Law). But when her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) summons her to Moscow to save his marriage Anna's entire world is shaken up. She meets Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson) a cavalry hunk who finds himself smitten with the taken lady. She's in the same boat: The two strike up a flirtatious relationship that evolves into one of sexual passion. A scandalous affair would incite trouble in the preset day but in the 19th century it's the ultimate crime. Quickly Anna's life comes crumbling down.
The intertwining melodrama of Anna Karenina earned the novel its classic status but Wright uses the material as a launching pad for imagination rather than a tome to translate to screen. Many of the scenes are staged in a theater creating an instant awareness of the production. Sets shift and are reconstructed into new rooms; actors costume change in the span of single shots; action sequences like a thrilling horse race are conducted on stage with special effects you might see on Broadway. Wright works this sort of stylization in the other direction too; a character could walk an empty stage open a door and suddenly be on a snow-covered hill. Anna Karenina isn't the first film to use the effect but in Wright's hands it's exhilarating.
The movie is Wright's third collaboration with Knightley and easily their most successful. Knightley never struggles to stay on the same page as the heightened material whether she's nailing a dance sequence or breaking down in a flood of tears. Casting an ensemble around Knightley is no easy task but Taylor-Johnson gives his best work yet as the debonair love interest and Macfadyen steals the show with moments of physical comedy.
We have expectations of the texture and structure of period romances. Anna Karenina defies them. Masterpiece Theater it is not.
Diaz's S&M video makes Internet rounds
A 12-year-old, soft-core video of a topless Cameron Diaz engaging in S&M play has sprung up on the Internet in Europe, Agence France Presse reports. Titled She's No Angel: Cameron Diaz, the 30-minute video, which features the fishnet stocking-clad actress vamping it up with another woman and a man, is being offered for $40 by a Russian-registered Web site, www.scandal-inc.com. Los Angeles photographer John Rutter, who reportedly shot the video in 1992 with a then 19-year-old Diaz, sold the video to the company. Last year, the Charlie's Angel star accused Rutter of seeking to extort money from her by threatening to release some topless photos of her. He was charged with attempting to extort $3.3 million from the actress, attempted grand theft and perjury and two counts of forgery. He has since been arrested and charged with extortion, and is currently free on bail. According to Diaz's spokesperson, a cease-and-desist letter has reportedly been sent to the Web site.
Brando's estate valued at $21.6 million
Hollywood legend Marlon Brando left an estate valued at $21.6 million, according to court papers filed Friday, putting to rest widespread speculation that he had died broke, Reuters reports. The petition for probate--the process by which a court distributes assets of the deceased--was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday and bequeaths his estate to a living trust, the terms of which were not disclosed. The will lists 10 surviving children, ages 10 to 46, but does not provide for Tuki Brando, the son of his deceased daughter, Cheyenne, who killed herself in 1995. In the will Brando also threatened to cut off any heir who challenged the distribution of his assets. The probate petition lists private property worth $3 million and real estate valued at $18.6 million, which includes his Mulholland Drive home and a Tahitian atoll he purchased in 1966 for about $200,000, Reuters reports.
McG exits WB's Super-Man project
Super-Man's curse continues. A Warner Bros. spokesperson has confirmed with Reuters that the studio and Charlie's Angels director McG, who was attached to shoot the next Superman movie, have amicably parted ways. Issues in negotiations included the project's budget, reportedly hovering at the $200 million mark, and the shooting location--McG favored New York while the studio preferred Australia. "It was clear to me that this was Metropolis. As a filmmaker, I felt it was inappropriate to try to capture the heart of America on another continent. I look at Superman as a character that embodies all that is beautiful about America," McG said in a statement. McG is the third director to exit the project, following Tim Burton and Brett Ratner.
Bobby Brown out on bail
R&B singer Bobby Brown turned himself in to jail officials Sunday night and was released after posting a $2,000 bond on charges he hit his wife, singer Whitney Houston, The Associated Press reports. In May, a judge had ordered there was enough evidence for Brown to stand trial on misdemeanor battery charges for allegedly hitting Houston in the face at their home near Alpharetta, a suburb north of Atlanta and had given Brown until midnight Sunday to turn himself in. AP reports the singer showed up with less than four hours to spare. Simple battery is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but AP reports on a first offense in domestic-violence cases, the charge is usually dismissed if the defendant undergoes counseling.
Jackson gets warning from judge
A judge Friday scolded Michael Jackson for violating a gag order by publicly responding to revelations about the 1993 child molestation allegations against him, Reuters reports. The singer issued a statement last month after details of the reported $23 million settlement of the 11-year-old case were leaked to the media. California Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville told Reuters on Friday he had not yet ruled on whether evidence from the 1993 case would be admitted at the new trial, set to start in September, in which Jackson has been charged again with child molestation as well as plying a minor with alcohol. "There is a thin line here," Melville said. "I don't want to prevent someone from speaking out and saying they are innocent, but the district attorney was right to bring this (issue) forward. From now on, follow the gag order."
Rosie's gay cruise heads to Key West
Rosie O'Donnell's new R Family Vacations cruise line, which caters to gay and lesbian families, is getting a warm welcome in the island port of Key West, Fla., where it is set to stop Wednesday for its inaugural voyage. The AP reports O'Donnell will receive the key to the city when the Norwegian Dawn's seven-day trip cruise arrives, while a street fair will provide entertainment for children on the tour. Key West has long fostered a reputation as a tolerant vacation community that is especially friendly to gays and lesbians. O'Donnell married Kelli Carpenter O'Donnell in a civil ceremony Feb. 26 in San Francisco. The couple is raising four children.
Near-millionaire Jeopardy! contestant becomes celebrity
Ken Jennings, a 30-year-old software engineer from Utah, will make an unprecedented 29th appearance on the syndicated quiz show Jeopardy! tonight. And now that his winnings are approaching the $1 million mark, Jennings has become somewhat of a celebrity, with appearances scheduled on ABC's Good Morning America and CBS' Late Show with David Letterman. To mark the start of its 20th season last September, Jeopardy! lifted its five-game limit for winners and allowed them to return until they lose. Jennings' winnings so far top a record $920,960. The previous record-holder was Tom Walsh, 39, of Washington, D.C., who won $184,900 in his seven-day run on the show in January.
Jadakiss' anti-Bush single "Why?" gets edited
Rapper Jadakiss' new single "Why?" that questions President Bush's involvement in the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and includes the line, "Why did Bush knock down the Towers?" is creating a stir. One program director who asked to remain anonymous told Reuters the uncensored version of that line is his favorite in the song, but added, "Since they can hear us in D.C., and I don't want Secret Service knocking down my door in the middle of the night … I'll stick to the clean version." But other stations, including WGCI Chicago and WWPR New York, have opted to play the unedited track. "Freedom of speech gives him the right to say what he does. No one edited "Get Low" by Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz," WWPR program director Michael Saunders. "Why?," from Jadakiss' second album Kiss of Death, debuted at No. 71 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart but climbed to No. 16 this week.
Shaq leaves Lakers
Will Jack, Dyan, Leo, Dustin, Penny and Denzel still be lounging courtside at the Los Angeles Lakers' games now that the team has agreed in principle to trade Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat? Since joining the Lakers in 1996, O'Neal has been part of an eight-year run in which the team won three NBA championships. But the wunderkind pairing of Shaq with guard Kobe Bryant didn't fare as well off court, as their ongoing feud (usually over control of the team)--as well as felony rape charges against Bryant--helped contribute to the disastrous performance during finals last season. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Shaq trade and the team's replacement of coach Phil Jackson is being seen as a move to placate Bryant, now a free agent. O'Neal has suggested that Laker owner Jerry Buss chose Bryant over the good of the team as a means of luring him away from free-agent offers.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.