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 former Desperate Housewives star, who is a co-chair of Obama's inauguration committee, will be joined by Spanish actor Antonio Banderas and his wife Melanie Griffith, as well as fellow Latino stars George Lopez and Mario Lopez for a special event in Washington, D.C. on 20 January (13), the day before the official inauguration ceremony.
The Latino Inaugural 2013: In Performance at the Kennedy Center is part of a three-day series of lectures and events focusing on Latin issues relating to last November's (12) presidential election which won Obama a second term.
Broadway actress Chita Rivera, singer Rita Moreno and guitarist Jose Feliciano will perform at the event alongside members of New York City's Ballet Hispanico and the San Juan Children's Choir.
Longoria tells the Associated Press, "Latinos played a critical role in (last year's) elections and helped tip the scales in President Obama's victory. But we are not waiting another four years to make an impact on our country's future. What better way to establish our presence at these inaugural celebrations than by showcasing the beauty and diversity of our culture at the nation's premier performing arts centre."
The news comes after it was announced that pop star Beyonce will sing America's national anthem at Obama's inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C. on 21 January (13).
She previously sang Etta James' At Last at Obama's Inaugural Ball after he was first voted into office in 2009.
The 50-year-old sportsman was admitted to the Centro Medico trauma center in San Juan on Tuesday (20Nov12) after he was shot in the head while sitting in a parked car outside a bar in his hometown of Bayamon.
Doctors declared him clinically brain dead on Thursday (22Nov12) and he remained on life-support until he suffered a cardiac arrest early on Saturday morning (24Nov12).
He was subsequently take off the life-support machine and died shortly afterwards. An investigation has been launched into the shooting, which also killed 49-year-old Adrian Mojica Moreno, who died at the scene.
Camacho took up boxing as a teenager and after success as an amateur, he rose to fame in the 1980s, winning the Super Featherweight Champion and Lightweight Champion World Boxing Council titles. He was also crowned the World Boxing Organization's Light Welterweight Champion twice in 1989 and 1991.
During his long career in the ring, he fought some of the sport's most high-profile stars, including Sugar Ray Leonard, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Roberto Duran.
However, his sporting career was overshadowed by personal problems, including drug addiction and a 2007 conviction for the burglary of a computer store in Mississippi.
He hit headlines again this year (12) following his arrest on child abuse charges. Camacho turned himself in to police in Florida following an incident with his young son last year (11), when he was accused of stomping on the youngster during an altercation at his ex-wife's home.
Camacho survived a previous shooting in 2011 when he was injured in an attempted car-jacking.
Legends from the world of boxing have taken to Twitter.com to pay tribute to Camacho following his death.
In a post, Mike Tyson writes, "RIP Hector Camacho. Condolences to the Camacho family", while Sugar Ray Leonard adds, "My prayers and heart goes out to Camacho's family! God Bless."
Lennox Lewis laments, "RIP Hector 'Macho' Camacho. You will be missed. Prayers and condolences go out to his family. tragic."
Rapper LL Cool J revealed a personal link to the fighter, stating, "Rip Macho Camacho. When I was a kid you took a pic (picture) with my mother. I always respected that. I pray your family will make it through w/ (with) grace."
Comedian George Lopez told fans, "LIVE your life, Cause in the end it's always MACHO TIME. R I P Hector Camacho", while TV presenter/actor Mario Lopez added, "RIP... Hector 'Macho' Camacho. Great fighter & colorful character. Some of the best ring entrances ever.. Funky & cool."
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Late movie legend Marlon Brando's personal script from the 1972 movie The Godfather fetched a staggering $312,800 at a New York auction June 30--the highest amount ever paid for a film manuscript.
The annotated script--which fetched 20 times its estimated price--was part
of a controversial sale of items removed from Brando's Los Angeles home.
The high-profile auction at Christie's made more than $2.3 million in total, with surprising bids including $132,000 for author Mario Puzo's letter asking the actor to play gangster Don Corleone in the film.
The letter read, "Dear Mr. Brando, I wrote a book called The Godfather which
has had some success and I think you're the only actor who can play the part. I
know this was presumptuous of me but the best I can do by the book is try. I
really think you'd be tremendous."
A 44-year-old telegram from Brando to screen siren Marilyn Monroe sold for
$36,000 while a photograph of the film icon and actress Rita Moreno
in the 1968 movie The Night of the Following Day fetched $48,000.
Brando's eldest son, Christian Brando, was furious about the auction, and
made an unsuccessful bid to be given the items before the sale to decide which
belongings his father would have wanted to keep.
But Brando's other son, Miko Brando, is moved by the amount of money his late
father's fans were willing to pay to own a piece of movie history: "I feel
humbled by collectors and fans who have spent so freely to own a piece of my
father's heritage and history."
Brando died last year aged 80 leaving 11 children.
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With six nominations each, Alexander Payne's wine-soaked Sideways and Joshua Marston's intense drug drama Maria Full of Grace lead the 20th IFP Independent Spirit Awards nominations, announced Tuesday. Both films were nominated for, among other categories, best feature, best director best male lead (Sideways' Paul Giamatti) and best female lead (Grace's Catalina Sandino Moreno). Actors Dennis Quaid and Selma Blair served as presenters at the event.
Others nominated for best feature were Mario Van Peebles' Baadasssss!; Kinsey, starring Liam Neeson as famed sex researcher Alfred Kinsey; and Shane Carruth's Primer, this year's Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner.
Dawn Hudson, executive director of IFP/Los Angeles, the largest non-profit membership organization for independent filmmakers, said in a statement, "Over the last 20 years, the Spirit Awards have consistently celebrated the most talented artists--known and unknown--working in independent film. We've honored many filmmakers and artists at the beginning of their careers, and this year is no different."
The winners will be announced at the IFP Independent Spirit Awards ceremony on Feb. 26, 2005 and will air live on the cable network IFC at 5 p.m. EST, as well as be rebroadcast that night on Bravo at 10 p.m. EST.
The complete list of nominations:
Maria Full of Grace
Shane Carruth, Primer
Joshua Marston, Maria Full of Grace
Alexander Payne, Sideways
Walter Salles, The Motorcycle Diaries
Mario Van Peebles, Baadasssss!
The Door in the Floor
BEST FIRST FEATURE
Brother to Brother
Saints and Soldiers
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Brother to Brother
Maria Full of Grace
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Down to the Bone
On the Outs
BEST DEBUT PERFORMANCE
Anthony Mackie, Brother to Brother
Louie Olivos, Jr., Robbing Peter
Hannah Pilkes, The Woodsman
Rodrigo de la Serna, The Motorcycle Diaries
David Sullivan, Primer
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Cate Blanchett, Coffee and Cigarettes
Loretta Devine, Woman Thou Art Loosed
Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Robin Simmons, Robbing Peter
Yenny Paola Vega, Maria Full of Grace
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Thomas Haden Church, Sideways
Jon Gries, Napoleon Dynamite
Aidan Quinn, Cavedweller
Roger Robinson, Brother to Brother
Peter Sarsgaard, Kinsey
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Kimberly Elise, Woman Thou Art Loosed
Vera Farmiga, Down to the Bone
Judy Marte, On the Outs
Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
Kyra Sedgwick, Cavedweller
BEST MALE LEAD
Kevin Bacon, The Woodsman
Jeff Bridges, The Door in the Floor
Jamie Foxx, Redemption
Paul Giamatti, Sideways
Liam Neeson, Kinsey
The Motorcycle Diaries
Saints and Soldiers
We Don't Live Here Anymore
BEST FOREIGN FILM
Bad Education, Spain
Oasis, South Korea
Red Lights, France
The Sea Inside, Spain
Yesterday, South Africa
Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed
Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Ensemble cast of Mean Creek: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck and Carly Schroeder
Colombian folk singer Carlos Vives topped the Latin Grammy nominations with six nods Wednesday, including album, record and song of the year.
Vives, who also won a Grammy this year for best traditional tropical Latin album, performs in the style of Vallenato, the traditional music of Colombia's northern plains, which is known for its simple lyrics about village life, The Associated Press reports.
"Me and my people are very happy," Vives told AP through a translator. "This shows that traditional music and rhythms that come from the heart can have appeal no matter the language."
The third annual Latin Grammys ceremony will take place Sept. 18 at the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, airing live on CBS.
Here is a list of nominations in some of the top categories:
Record of the Year
La Negra Tiene Tumbao, Celia Cruz; Sergio George, producer; Jon Fausty, engineer/mixer
Mentira, La Ley; Humberto Gatica and Kenny O'Brien, producers; Humberto Gatica, Cristian Robles and Eric Schilling, engineers/mixers
Se Me Olvido, Gian Marco; Emilio Estefan Jr. and Archie Pena, producers; Javier Garza, engineer/mixer
Y Solo Se Me Ocurre Amarte, Alejandro Sanz; Humberto Gatica and Kenny O'Brien, producers; Chris Brooke, Humberto Gatica and Eric Schilling, engineers/mixers
Dejame Entrar, Carlos Vives; Andres Castro, Emilio Estefan Jr., Sebastian Krys and Carlos Vives, producers; Javier Garza, engineer/mixer
Album of the Year
Sereno, Miguel Bose; Peter Walsh, producer; Alessandro Benedetti and Peter Walsh, engineers/mixers
La Negra Tiene Tumbao, Celia Cruz; Sergio George, Isidro Infante and Johnny Pacheco, producers; Mario deJesus and Jon Fausty, engineers/mixers
Jobiniando, Ivan Lins; Roberto Menescal, producer; Guilherme Reis, engineer/mixer
MTV Unplugged, Alejandro Sanz; Humberto Gatica and Kenny O'Brien, producers; Humberto Gatica, engineer/mixer
Dejame Entrar, Carlos Vives; Andres Castro, Emilio Estefan Jr., Sebastian Krys and Carlos Vives, producers; Javier Garza and Sebastian Krys, engineers/mixers
Song of the Year
A Dios Le Pido, Juanes; Juanes, songwriter
Dejame Entrar, Carlos Vives; Andres Castro, Martin Madera and Carlos Vives, songwriters
La Negra Tiene Tumbao, Celia Cruz; Sergio George and Fernando Osorio, songwriters
Morenamia, Miguel Bose; Miguel Bose, Lanfranco Ferrario and Massimo Grilli, songwriters
Y Solo Se Me Ocurre Amarte, Alejandro Sanz; Alejandro Sanz, songwriter
Best New Artist
Best Female Pop Vocal Album
Peces De Ciudad, Ana Belen
Secreta Intimidad, Cecilia Echenique
Vuela, Monica Molina
Viaje Infinito, Nicole
Muchas Flores, Rosario
Best Male Pop Vocal Album
Sereno, Miguel Bose
Sea, Jorge Drexler
Lerner Vivo, Alejandro Lerner
A Tiempo, Gian Marco
Mas De Mi Alma, Marco Antonio Solis
Producer Of The Year
Geronimo Labrada Jr., X Alfonso
Ana Lourdes Martinez Nodarse