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.
October, 2012: a time for frights and scares, ghouls and dares—it's Halloween on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, family of America's favorite pageant queen, Honey Boo Boo/Smoochie/Alana Thompson. Everyone was here! Uncle Poodle, all the girls, and Sugar Bear—who has been renamed Spooky Bear for the holiday festivities in 2013's post-holiday world. It was over-the-top, ridiculous, and everything you'd expect from one of the most unconventional families on television.
And, as is the way with the McIntyre, Georgia clan: s**t got real messy. In fact, messes of all kinds seemed to punctuate the episode, from Pumkin's penchant for grossing people out unidentifiable objects from the outdoors! June was a mess! Uncle Poodle was a mess! Pumkin was a mess! Poor Sugar Bear's legs, too, were also a mess. But that's life, eh? Messy. The family, of course, threw in some costumes and candy for good measure. Lots of candy. Pumpkins and Pumpkins! This family was made for days like Halloween.
The episode is sure to spawn a thousand GIFs, as the family's no-holds-barred attitude was on full display—even Sugar Bear (who we saw in the hospital and unable to walk at the beginning of the episode) was letting his feelings be heard. And for that, June was ready for him to get back to work.
But a lot of planning goes into a Very Honey Boo Boo Halloween (you better redneckognize!): there are pumpkins to be picked, costumes to be worn, and candy to be consumed. But not without a few side-stories along the way. First, the family goes pumpkin picking on a farm equipped with metal barrel cows to cart them all around the farm. Chants of "Corn!" and "We're gonna die!" filled the crisp autumnal air.
It is here that we learn the definition of wop-sided. You see, to be wop-sided means to be just like Mama June: flat in the back with a big belly. But Mama cries foul: she's not wop-sided, she's curveous. The nerve of family, huh? It didn't stop there, though, as the family's seemingly-ritualistic antics of throwing things at each other continues with balls. The balls, they went flying. Balls everywhere. So many balls, so little time! Poor Mama June went and got herself a ball to the face. That's when it was game over. The girls tried to escape the wrath of Mama, and left Sugar Bear and Kaitlyn behind to fend for themselves in the process—up a thumb, but down two working legs.
Before Halloween's evening of costumery and dress-up, June wanted a bit of a makeover for herself. The girls help her go blonde, which was...a mistake. Let's just be frank and state what all the girls said, and what we're all thinking: she looks a mess. June, blonde is so not your color. Go for a warm chestnut brown if you want a makeover! Something with a lot of depth of tone to it: blonde just washes you out, Coupon Queen. Though this was not the only opinion in the room: June actually loved it. And Sugar Bear really loved it.
"Seeing June as a blonde would definitely make my loins perk up." Frisky McBrisky over here was ready to go—all episode long Sugar Bear was in the mood for some affection from his lady. June was not having it, though. Even threats of a black-crusted biscuit wouldn't deter the fire of Sugar Bear's desire.
But enough of all that mushy love stuff: it's time to get messy again! Bring on the pumpkins and an Uncle Poodle for good measure. Almost immediately, pumpkin seeds and guts went flying. They were shoved, caressed, smooshed, and flung onto every body part, and into several orifices. Caught in the crossfire and then used as a plaything, Kaitlyn's face was covered in seeds: she looked like a sesame seed bun and inspired cravings for burgers. Uncle Poodle put the wop-sided pumpkin on his head and, of course, got stuck.
After Uncle Poodle bashed his own, giant pumpkin head in The Great Mayonnaise Experiment began. Mayonnaise, you see, is the devil, according to Mama June. Unless it's in a potato or tuna salad that somebody else makes (then she'll eat it and it's OK), but mostly, it holds a great psychological power. Long ago when June was just a wee bairn, June had a babysitter who was possibly part monster (because there's really no excuse for this) or alien, as she would only feed them mayonnaise sandwiches for every.single.meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, sketti time: mayonnaise on white bread and nothing else. It's time to face the fear, Mama June—there are so many coupons for mayonnaise, Coupon Queen! You have to overcome it for the good of the DEALS!
Alana is on a mission to cure her mother. It is her quest to bring peace and joy to every member of her family: quelling every fear with the flick of her wrist and the shake of her head. Her mama will not be afraid of no mayonnaise Honey Boo Boo, child! So she empties three jumbo-sized jars of mayo into a bowl and presents it to her mother, who immediately retches. June's chest tightens and her throat closes up as she covers her eyes, aquiver with fear. Get thee mayo away! She rushes from the room, overcome with what we can only imagine to be post-traumatic stress disorder. Alana's verdict? "It tastes like vanilla ice cream." Hmmm…they must be a Cool Whip family. In the end, all was not lost, as we did learn something: the jury might still be out on the vegetarianess of mayonnaise, but marannaise does not have meat in it—this we know definitively.
Then came time for the ancient tale of the Fart Ghost. You know Fart Ghost, of course, don't you? It's Fart Ghost! The ghost that you can smell before he enters a room. I believe his origins begin in 1640s era Paris, France. His name was Pepe LePew (I'll pause here for the sake of your uproarious, never-ending laughter at that joke). Fart Ghost seems to follow the family wherever they go. Perhaps he feels a kindred spirit in this flatulent family.
Down at Kackleberry Farms, a corn maze finds itself playing the role of outdoor bathroom for Mama June, who—while stuck in the seemingly never-ending maze—needs to pee, real bad. So she blazes a trail to the middle of the maze's corny barriers and takes a quick pee. Oh, there was also a giant bouncy pillow, some bellowing, and a zip line.
But this was just a precursor to: Costumes! Alana wants a costume made of bacon, but they're fresh out. Aww shucks! She settles for a blue "power wig" (Shh! It's a wig!) to help her make the right decision. They decide that Kaitlyn needs to either be a cheeseball or a crab (you know, because her extra thumb looks like crab claw. Their words, not mine! I don't like to make fun of children). Then Sugar Bear and Mama dress up with afros and caftans and call themselves "village people" in a moment that was seconds away from feeling sort of racist? The show moves on quickly, thankfully.
In the end, the family decided on the following: a hot dog costume for Kaitlyn, with coordinating ketchup and mustard bottles for her mom and aunt Jessica. Alana was a gothic vampire. Sugar Bear was an actual bear that Alana accessorized with a pound of sugar. June was Marilyn Monroe for 3 seconds, which turned Sugar Bear into Horny Bear. But June was not a fan of the dress' lack of modesty, so Mama became a Mummy…or a crap paper monster, according to the girls.
Pumkin got hit in the face with keys thanks to Sugar Bear, and is on bedrest and antibiotics to stop her eye from bleeding. So she can't go trick-or-treating. But have no fear! Alana gets her an eyepatch with a mini-pumpkin bucket covering the eye—enough for a few pieces of candy! They promise to bring back extra candy for Pumkin. And did they ever! Alana and Co. ended up in the rich part of town, with a mission: to bogart as much of the best candy as possible. Four bags each (!!!) later, it wasn't all confectioner's delights: somebody gave them dental floss! (The horror, the horror!) There were even a few pieces of fruit (the horror, continued!), but the family knew what to do with those: throw 'em to the deer before s** gets messy.
What did you think of tonight's Halloween-themed episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo? Let us know in the comments!
[Photo Credit: TLC]
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
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Television fans are a unique set. We're the type of people who devote hours upon hours a week to our fictional, televised friends. We laugh at their jokes and cry when they cry because our favorite shows are just so darn good. But the intensity of the laughter and the tears is all thanks to the fact that we regard these characters as something of a family. We know them. We understand them. We love them unconditionally. And actors deserve recognition for being able to elicit that level of a reaction from their fans. Naturally, when they're not given their due, we're forced to react, well, emotionally. How, exactly, will we react? That depends on the actor in question. Next up is Saturday Night Live's most valuable player: Bill Hader.
Notice how I didn't say Kristen Wiig? Yes, the actress formerly known as Gilly might be the sketch comedy show's biggest breakout since Tina Fey, but there's only one player that makes us laugh until we turn white like an albino who looks like Susan Powter. And that's Hader, the man who introduced us to characters like Vinny Vedecci, Greg the Alien, and, of course, Stefon.
The comedian has played his SNL stint well — unlike other stars of the sketch comedy show who wear out their camera-hogging welcome faster than you could say "Mango," Hader's SNL stardom has been a slow burn. Though he first captured our attention seven seasons ago with his scarily accurate Vincent Price impression, Hader has managed to shine in the background while buzzier players like Wiig or Andy Samberg grabbed the spotlight and the headlines. Hader built himself up as the reliable cast member — the go-to player for all your impression needs (hello James Carville, Alan Alda, and my personal favorite, Keith Morrison), the comedian who would shine life into even the most cringe-worthy sketch (see: Any of "The Californians"), the actor willing to play the straight main while other cast members yukked it up for the audience. (And look no further than last season's "Who's On Top" to see that Hader can still get laughs in that role.)
And then, strangely enough — despite being a welcome presence on both Saturday nights and the big screen (thanks to memorable bit roles in films like Superbad, Tropic Thunder, and Pineapple Express) — Hader officially became an SNL star courtesy of a long-forgotten character from a long-forgotten 2008 sketch. Two years after Hader first played Ben Affleck's disturbed screenwriting brother, Stefon, the character reemerged on Weekend Update and became the hottest thing since New York's hottest club, Trash. He. Had. Everything. Midget puns, a life more bananas than Charlie Sheen's brain, and the ability to make the stoic consummate professional Hader laugh at his own jokes. (Or, should we say, SNL writer John Mulaney's jokes, which were often changed last-minute in an attempt to trip up Hader during the live show.) The character has become so popular, even those fully aware of SNL's past at the multiplex (remember It's Pat? We'd like to forget about it too) were clamoring for a Stefon movie.
But there's a good chance Hader would never agree to it. Not only because that movie was already made in 2000 when it was called Requiem for a Dream, but because it's difficult imagine that Hader would prefer to change his status from small-screen comedy hero to big-screen sell-out, regardless of the green temptation. And that's exactly what makes him so damn appealing — the man is a true artist. So much so, that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences anointed him with the honor of becoming only the second male cast SNL cast member nominated for an Emmy. (Comedy superstar Eddie Murphy was the first back in 1983.) Cue my reaction to the Emmy news: Now, I'm realistic. I'm fully aware of the way the Academy works. I realize that Hader should consider the nomination itself a win, an acknowledgment of hard work well done that will still be deemed less worthy than performances by the entire Modern Family cast. But, please, Emmy voters. Give Hader his due. Because, if you don't, I'll sic DJ Baby Bok Choy on you.
Not only that, but while he distracts you with his little ravioli hands, I'll head over to a dingy East Village basement where I'll form my party army. That's right — I'll call up a man and dog who served time for Cookie Crisp thievery, a Renaissance Fair king holding a half-eaten turkey bone, and an emotionally scarred grandmother shaking her head over an H&M ad. Then, after imbibing a considerable amount of moonshine made in a bathtub by a William Taft impersonator, we'll prank call that fast-talking guy from the FedEx commercials and Gunther from Friends. From there, we'll go to New York's hottest club, Smash, where party-goers can wear several layers of scarves and talk to a straight bartender who knows far too much about Marilyn Monroe. And after we've eaten the club offering of peanuts and the last Junior Mint in the pack that gets stuck to the bottom of the box, we'll come to your house and knock, knock, who's there? Black Uncle Sam! Telling you that he wants you to give Bill Hader a much-deserved Emmy.
So, please, make it happen, will you?
[Image Credit: NBC]
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I will give the MegaMind Blu-ray this: there is a lot of stuff in it. Most of it is interesting and entertaining some of it is questionable and then a tiny bit of it is just plain useless. But hey for a not-too-bad-for-a-non-Pixar-animated-movie what else would you expect?
Let’s start with the actual movie. Animated films always look the best in high definition and this is no exception. The colors are crisp the corners sharp and they have some of the best fire effects I’ve seen. Considering what a strong year this was for animated films MegaMind was up against some stiff competition but it holds its own fairly well. It’s a fun time (but it's no How To Train Your Dragon) with a good message (but it's no Toy Story 3) and it has one hell of a voice cast (Will Ferrell Tina Fey and Brad Pitt).
So the Blu-ray is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t seen the film. It also includes a short film that follows up with the story immediately after the film ends. The Button of Doom is light and fluffy but fairly funny. It’s a great addendum for the movie overall and should tide you over until the next sequel.
As for the extras its got a ton of them. There’s your basic filmmaker’s commentary but also an “Animator’s Corner” which is basically all the filmmakers but you actually see them instead of just hearing them. That would be a little too boring on its own so they overlay it with earlier footage from the film so you can see it side by side. It’s really informative and entertaining considering that it is just people talking about how they made a movie. There’s a trivia track but it only pops up randomly and infrequently. Also the “trivia” it gives is trivial at best (I see what I did there).
There are some drawbacks though. Strangely there is only one deleted scene and its only about 20 seconds long. I guess they really had it planned out from the beginning so no real cutting was needed. The one feature that I could not understand in the slightest was the “Interactive Comic Creator.” Basically they had a handful of scenes picked out and while watching them you could put in one of those comic balloons that say stuff like “KAPOW!” or “BOOM!” and that was it. You couldn’t choose where it went it chose for you. You couldn’t choose the sound it would choose a random one for you. Considering this is heavily advertised on the package I found it completely pointless. But hey maybe some kid will love it.
The film is definitely worth checking out and the Blu-ray is worth it if you’re feeling like a purchase.
MegaMind hits Blu-ray and DVD Friday Feb. 25.