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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
When a movie gets knocked around from one crummy release date to another one would assume that it is pretty awful. However even I a knowledgeable and open-minded film geek wasn’t prepared for the monstrosity that is Season of the Witch a medieval mess that has reportedly been in the works for a decade. You’d never be able to tell so many years of preparation went into this sad excuse for a B-movie based on its laughable CGI dialogue and contrived premise. How many flavors of bad is this supernatural stinker? Sample this…
A period horror action flick Season of the Witch is initially set in a cursed city suffering from the Black Plague that has deformed and decimated the majority of its population. The disease has been unleashed as a result of a literal witch-hunt gone wrong. Ancient evil forces are afoot and the blame is put on a young girl who the Church believes is a witch. Though imprisoned in the dungeons of a castle her power reigns supreme. Enter Behman (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) Knights of the Crusades who happen upon the city on their way back to civilization. Once recognized as deserters they are imprisoned and given the choice to remain captive or lead a suicide transport mission to a remote monastery where the girl’s innocence or guilt can be determined. If deemed evil she is to be destroyed.
The premise though far from original could have been cool if executed with some style but director Dominic Sena (Gone In Sixty Seconds) is incapable of making it enjoyable. Instead of creating suspense through eerie environments he settles for cheap thrills that fall short every time. His use of CGI is painfully bad conjuring effects that would’ve looked dated around the turn of the century. Most insulting is the film’s big “twist” - a lazy paradigm shift so easily foreseeable the movie should have just been called The Devil’s Advocate. Is that not bad enough for you? Just wait it gets better (read: worse).
Stars Cage and Perlman are Razzie bound with a pair of pathetic non-performances. The accomplished actors don’t even try to get into character. Rather they don period garb shield and sword and run around like cheap imitations of their former selves for two hours. You won’t hear any attempts at English accents because apparently 14th Century Knights are just like contemporary buddy cops. With this little effort being put forth by the two men who are essentially the reason folks will pay to see the movie Season of the Witch doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. The supporting cast which includes Ulrich Thomsen Stephen Graham and Christopher Lee try to bear the burden but cannot undo the damage that Cage and Perlman inflict upon this film. The scariest thing about Season of the Witch is the movie itself an abomination of bad filmmaking and terrible acting.
French film controversy
Ricky on stage
"Weakest Link" video game
Sharon Stone drops restraining order
Sharon Stone (The Quick and The Dead, Basic Instinct, The Muse) has dropped her request for a permanent restraining order against Italian visitor Agostino P'omato, according to reports by People magazine.
Stone was granted a temporary restraining order on March 19 to keep P'omato at least 100 yards away from her, her husband and their son. P'omato allegedly arrived at Stone's house in the Los Angeles area saying that he wanted to "take her and marry her."
P'omato's family convinced him to return to Italy, which prompted Stone to drop the request for a permanent restraining order, said her lawyer.
Redgrave honored at GLAAD media awards
Vanessa Redgrave received the Excellence in Media Award at Monday's 12th Annual Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards in New York.
Redgrave's daughter, actress Natasha Richardson, made the presentation. In a report filed by People, Redgrave told the attendees, "If Anne Heche can play a lesbian, so can I. I think I have done my part for heterosexuality." The award honors a member of the entertainment community who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
Also at the ceremony, Kathleen Turner presented Liz Smith the Vito Russo Award, which honors a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered member of the entertainment or media community for their outstanding contribution in combating homophobia.
Other guests and presenters included: host Mo Gaffney, Joan Collins, Gina Gershon, Sharon Gless, Florence Henderson, Jill Henessey, Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos), Susan Lucci and Eden Riegal (All My Children), Lou Reed, and John Ritter.
Splittsville for Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman's (Hannibal, The Fifth Element, Lost in Space) wife Donya Fiorentino filed papers to end their marriage due to irreconcilable differences. The AP reports that the couple of four years separated on Friday, the same day the papers were filed.
The Oscar-nominated Oldman (Best Supporting Actor for last year's The Contender) and Fiorentino have two sons together, Gulliver and Charlie. Oldman has had two prior marriages, with Lesley Manville and Uma Thurman (Gattaca, Pulp Fiction, The Avengers). Oldman has a third son with Manville.
Director Michael Ritchie dies
Director Michael Ritchie (Smile, Downhill Racer, The Golden Child) is dead of prostate cancer at the age of 62, says the New York Times.
Ritchie was often unconventional, as evidenced by the Holly Hunter feature The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, which aired on HBO in 1993. Ritchie also directed major flops, including The Island.
The last film Ritchie completed was last year's The Fantasticks.
French rape film sparks controversy upon arrival in U.S.
The controversial French film Baise-Moi (Rape Me) is set for release in New York and Los Angeles this June, reports Variety.
The film features two stars of the French adult film world, Raffaela Anderson and Karen Bach, and tells the tale of a prostitute and a rape victim who embark on a bloody, violent road trip. The film portrays a violent rape and its effect on the victim, who is spurred to acts of violence.
Censors, according to Variety, banned the film from mainstream movie theaters in France. In England, the film was screened only after the distributor cut 10 seconds of particularly objectionable footage.
The film is based on the novel of the same name, written by Virginie Despentes.
News blackout blankets resumption of WGA talks
No reporters, no cameras, no statements, no photo opportunities.
That is the "cone of silence" surrounding the negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the movie and TV alliance, as talks resumed at 2:30 p.m. yesterday.
Designed to keep negotiators focused on reaching an agreement, the blackout, according to Variety, allows for only a bare bones account at the end of the day. The arrangement takes the negotiations out of the public arena, where they have been since they began on January 22.
With the May 2 expiration of the current writers' deal, it is imperative that the two sides reach an accord as soon as possible. The last round of talks broke off on March 1, with the parties more than $100 million apart and a strike looming on the horizon.
Ricky's role call
It's curtains for singer Ricky Martin: the Latin heartthrob is in talks to star in Zorro, a stage production to premiere in London's West End, according to Britain's Sun tabloid. The musical, produced by Adam Kenwright, is also attracting singer Robbie Williams, who has expressed an interest in writing some of the show's lyrics.
Country crooners to wed
Two of Nashville's biggest stars--Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw --announced on Tuesday's Live with Regis and Kelly that they plan to get hitched. The couple has set a wedding date of Sept. 29. Morgan, 41, and Kershaw, 43, have both had previous marriages.
"Weakest Link" video game?
The latest game-show sensation to sweep America could invade stores later this year. According to Variety, British phenomenon The Weakest Link is being converted into a video game by Activision, Inc. The only catch: they're scrambling to get it produced before the hype surrounding the show dies down. Though typical video games take 18 months to produce, Activision is aiming for an October release.