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.
I’m too excited to share these TV goodies with you, so I’m going to make this intro short and sweet. This week’s edition of Leanne’s Spoiler List is packed with vampires, princesses, b**ches, Bravermans and much more! I’ve got all the scoop on two brand-new True Blood characters, word from Ginnifer Goodwin about Snow’s bittersweet reunion on Once Upon a Time, and sexy James Van Der Beek secrets from Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23. Plus spoilerettes from Parenthood, Happy Endings and American Horror Story: Asylum. I’ve said it before and (thanks to the amazingness of Park and Rec) I’ll say it again: Treat yo self!
1. True Blood: New Blood
Last season was about 19 kinds of crazy to say the least. Bill (Stephen Moyer) is now Bill-ith (the crazed bloodthirsty reincarnate of Lilith) and the entire vampire world is in a state of utter chaos due to the fact all of the Tru Blood factories have been burned to the ground. Yeah, not ideal. Luckily, it looks like we’re getting a new series regular who has a pure heart and a strong sprirt—two things that definitely seem to be lacking in Bon Temps lately. Those in charge of the HBO hit are currently looking for an actress to play Nicole Jannsen, a girl in her early twenties who is not at all concerned with life’s material possessions—only with the common good and doing what’s right. Sound too good to be true? Possibly. The casting break down reveals, “Nicole's naive optimism is charming but ultimately vaguely idiotic and dangerous.” Hmm… interesting.
But Nicole is not the only new face joining the cast in Season 6. Producers are also seeking the perfect actor to play new series regular Creighton Burrell, the governor of Louisiana and “classic good ol’ boy politician.’ Governor Burrell has had a deep dark disgust towards vampires ever since his wife left him and their only daughter Ali, ran away with one. Aww, well that’s kinda heartbreaking. Unfortunately, Creighton’s personal issues frequently overshadow his humanity. When you combine that with the fact that he’s a politically savvy and overly ambitious, it can definitely prove to be trouble for Sookie and our favorite vamps. 2. Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23: Dawson Can Dance!
Any show that puts James Van Der Beek on my TV screen each week is top-notch in my book, but the fact that Apt. 23 is legitimately laugh-out-loud funny makes it even better. To provide you with some new, bitchtastic details, I called up the 'B' herself, Krysten Ritter and got all the scoop on what’s coming up on the quirky comedy. Ritter reveals, “There is an episode coming up where James and Chloe have a bit of a falling out and they are not sure if they can continue on with the relationship and they take a break from each other.” In between my gasps of despair, the actress continues, “And while on said break, both hit their versions of rock bottom: James gets fat and my character gets a job. She’s never had to have a real job before, but she has to pay her cell phone bill so she gets a job at a cell phone retail store.” Get excited to see the typically posh Chloe in a dorky uniform and orthopedic Velcro shoes, y’all!
We’ve known for a while (too long in fact) that James—aka “The Beek”—will be shaking his cute thing on Apt 23’s version of Dancing with the Stars. And soon the wait will finally be over! Ritter gushed, “James is so good at dancing I think that people are going to be blown away, I couldn’t believe it! And he got into the sickest shape ever while doing it.” James with an even more attractive physique? Yes please! And if you think this Dancing gig is just going to be a one-episode thing, think again! The actress explains, “It’s a multi-episode arc, it’s all going to be in the second season and I think it’s like over the course of like six episodes. It’s a big deal. It’s a whole thing, so buckle up!” You heard the lady. Grab your favorite Velcro light-up sneakers and buckle up!
3. Parenthood: Making it Official!
Despite the fact that Victor has had a rough assimilation into the Braverman-Graham family, it's been an absolute joy to watch Joel and Julia finally raising the second child they so desperately wanted—especially after their adoption heartbreak in Season 3. (We're still not over it. Zoe! The guy who played Bug on Life Unexpected is never gonna change!) Things are about to get even better when their foster child (who is already a series regular, bee-tee-dubs) becomes a Braverman in the legal sense, too.
It's happening not a moment too soon—this family needs some happy news for once! It'll be a joyous occasion later this season (episode 14 to be exact) when the Bravermans crowd into a judge's chambers to make Victor an official member of their family. (Unless there's a twist coming up featuring a different child that they've been keeping under wraps—in which case, bravo, you cruel powers that be!) With that said, it's safe to assume Victor is the new Braverman in question. Squee! Producers are currently seeking an actor to play the judge who makes it all happen, along with an actress who is not too pleased with the boisterous Bravermans take over the courtroom.
4. Once Upon a Time: Like Mother Like Daughter
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Vancouver, Canada (eh!) and visit the Once Upon a Time set. After I spent hours drooling over the gorgeous clothes in wardrobe, exploring Granny’s Diner and feeling like a queen in Regina’s office chair, I sat down with Ginnifer Goodwin—the perfect Snow White—to talk about her character’s journey so far this season. Goodwin revealed that once she learned the curse was going to be broke, she couldn’t wait to start her bonding with her onscreen daughter Jennifer Morrison (Emma). She says, “I didn’t know that we were going to be thrust into a fairytale world and therefore our bonding would occur as a result of our having to deal with magical obstacles. But that’s actually, I think probably, the best way to learn who someone is, to discover how it is that they sort of navigate adversity.”
After last Sunday’s bittersweet reunion between Snow and Charming (Josh Dallas) in the Netherworld, Goodwin says Snow will now need her daughter more than ever before in the next episode. The actress explains, “The dynamic between Emma and Snow actually shifts a bit because of that experience. Snow needs a bit of caretaking after coming face to face with Charming and thinking that they were going to be able to be together—even if it was in this sort of hallucinatory dream state.” Luckily, it seem that being a badass is hereditary in this royal family, so I’m positive that Emma will be able to reignite her mother’s spirit and take the lead on their Fairytale Land journey. Check back to Hollywood.com this Friday for even more Once Upon a Time scoop!
5. American Horror Story: Asylum: From Cleaning to Kissing The Dark Angel has arrived at Briarcliff. But not to worry, all she wants to do is give the patients a kiss—the kiss of death that is. Frances Conroy finally makes her season two debut and all I can say is get excited AHS fans because her performance is hauntingly beautiful. If you thought she was amazing in the Harmon house last year, you’re going to love this new angelic role. With her blood red lips, Conroy kisses two Briarcliff patients in this week’s episode (my lips are sealed on who) and exchanges heated words with her “cousin” Sister Mary Eunice. Let’s just say that our favorite satanic nun is not too pleased to see a new face walking gliding through the halls of her asylum.
Outside of the crazy walls, Sister Jude is struggling to come to terms with her past demons and we are graced with a few flashbacks that show us exactly how she arrived at the monastery. (Hint: It wasn’t the smoothest of rides.) Lastly if you’re at all squeamish about blood, then I suggest that you prepare to watch the majority of tonight’s episode from the cracks between your fingers. At least that’s what I did…
6. Happy Endings: Scorned Sisters
The Kerkovich sisters are a perfect pair: they’re gorgeous, loyal, hilarious, and fiercely supportive of each other’s unique—and at times confusing—quirks. (At this point I would quote Season 1 Penny and call them amahzing, but I’ve pretty much hit my limit with that one. So, instead I’ll just say they’re supa-cayut.) But did you know that there was once a deep dark time when Alex and Jane were intensely heated enemies? In episode 14, “The Incident,” Max is going to learn all about the sisters’ secrets through Krisjahn, Alex and Jane’s gossipy hairdresser, and of course Max is more than happy to reignite the fiery feud. Don’t you fret, Happy Endings lovers! If there is one person who can rebuild this relationship, it’s definitely… Nana! It would be glorious enough just having another Kerkovich relative grace out TV screens, but when you add in the fact that there will be a “Sister Dance,” life is now pretty much perfect.
What do you think a Happy Endings “Sister Dance” will entail? Are you excited yet another emotional Parenthood episode? Tired of waiting for True Blood to return? Tell me everything in the comments below!
Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
Additional Reporting by Jean Bentley
[Photo Credit: HBO, ABC, NBC, FX]
Leanne’s Spoiler List: 'AHS: Asylum' Mommy Issues, Love and Loss on ‘Dexter’
Leanne’s Spoiler List: Love is Shaky on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,' ‘Vampire Diaries’ Gets Darker
Leanne’s Spoiler List: Which ‘Once Upon a Time’ Character is Ready for a Comeback?
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Oscar/Emmy nominee James Cromwell has joined the ever growing and somewhat odd list of actors slated for roles on American Horror Story's second season on FX.
The veteran actor — Oscar-nominated for the movie Babe; Emmy-nominated for HBO's Six Feet Under, alongside AHS Season 1 star Frances Conroy — will play Dr. Arden, whose boss at a mental hospital is played by returning actress Jessica Lange. Let's just say that their relationship is not going to be friendly.
The Cromwell casting is another in a long line of bits and pieces of information that are helping to give — or tease — an idea of what to expect when next season finally premieres on FX in October.
What else have we learned? Aside from a flurry of big-name hirings (including Maroon 5's Adam Levine and Chloe Sevigny) and relative unknowns being cast in big roles (including French actress Lizzie Brochere), co-creator Ryan Murphy famously and controversially revealed that AHS would henceforth be an anthology series with a new "haunting" every season. There will be no real continuity and, for the most part, a revolving door of cast members (and those who return will do so as different characters).
[Image: DailyCeleb] More: American Horror Story Welcomes Lizzie Brochere: 5 things You Need to Know About Her Let's Predict Adam Levine's Role on American Horror Story Jessica Lange Is Coming Back for Season 2 of American Horror Story [THR]