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 CW broke new ground in random rebooting with The Tomorrow People. The original was a British neo-futuristic series from the 1970s. It follows the next stage of human evolution as they toy with telepathy and time travel. In 1992, the series was given an update with British teenagers, including Naomie Harris (Skyfall), teleporting around town trying to stop would-be criminals.
The latest version of the series is an interesting blend of Alias and Charmed. Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) develops super powers and finds out he’s one of The Tomorrow People. (Just like that?) He gets drafted into a secret government agency by his uncle, Dr. Jedikiah Price (Mark Pellegrino) and must play both sides to protect his species from extinction.
The show has a great blend of action, suspense and super powers. Hear that, Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? However, it features a cast of sexy robots. Amell’s blue eyes and abs do not compensate for his cold robotic acting. Peyton List plays the group's resident telepath, Cara Coburn. In “Girl, Interrupted” we find out that Cara was deaf before her powers manifested. Despite the big developments of her character, List spent the whole episode giving sultry looks to the camera. Luke Mitchell and Madeline Mantock are also breathtakingly attractive but completely flat. I can’t help but wonder if the show could be recreated using an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue and some really elaborate special effects. The one test of any actor is being able to say the title of the series and not sound like a total dork.
Robotic casting aside, the show’s saving grace is that it’s well written and really subverts your expectations. You think you know what will happen but the show keeps surprising you. Also, the show has the right level of special effects. The super powers are seamlessly choreographed into fighting and action sequences and open up possibilities for plot twists and surprises.
There are some great characters on the show. Aaron Yoo brings some humor and badass fighting moments in the character of Russell Kwon. The group’s supercomputer TIM (Dan Stevens) also has some witty repartee and pop culture references for an artifically intelligent piece of equipment. Entertainment Weekly reports that Veronica Mars star Jason Dohring is set to join the cast. Here's hoping he brings some Logan Echols snark to the cast.
Hopefully, the series can reprogram their robotic supermodel cast members' acting hard drives because this show is well written, action packed and a great addition to The CW’s line-up. In the meantime, enjoy this Brit-tastically awesome clip from the original series.
Kirsten Dunst must have winced slightly yesterday when Lindsay Lohan posted this Throwback Thursday picture of them modeling for some sub-Laura Ashley kids' catalog in the early '90s. Not just because of the flower prints and denim, but because for two former child actors who went to rehab, Dunst and Lohan could not have more different adulthoods. They be one of the strangest, but they're not the first pair of celebrities to work together as kids but grow apart as adults.
Selena Gomez/Demi LovatoLong before the Disney Channel, these two met on a casting call for Barney. Instant childhood friends, they grew up together, both starring in their own sitcoms. Nowadays, Gomez is friends with stars like Taylor Swift and has a long on again/off again relationship with Justin Bieber while Lovato is outspoken about the mental health issues she incurred in the Disney enviornment. While they're not the best friends they used to be, Gomez did express sympathy and pride for Lovato.
Leonardo DiCaprio/Sara GilbertThough Leo is famous for his league of pals, one former friend he's fallen out of touch with is Sara Gilbert, host of The Talk. DiCaprio actually guest-starred in an episode of Roseanne as one of Gilbert's classmates in 1991, just two years before his breakout role in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. The pair were friendly, but once Leo hit it big, it was just him and the boys.
Tom Welling/Ashton KutcherThe two, like Dunst and Lohan, modeled together, showing off their collective abs for Abercrombie and Fitch. But only one short year later, Kutcher was cast in That 70's Show and the two fell out of touch.
Maya Rudolph/Gwyneth PaltrowPaltrow's and Rudolph's families were old friends and they lived nearby one another, even attending the same school. In 2000, they reunited to work together in a family film, Duets. But since Rudolph's comedy career has taken off and Paltrow has rebranded herself as a lifestyle guru, the two have found their own circles of friends.
Everyone From the All-New Mickey Mouse ClubWe all love at least one member of this cast. But whether they dated, fueded, or simply got the hell out of there and became an Oscar nominee, the Mouseketeers are no longer speaking. It's a shame. How can you not like Keri Russell?
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