Relativity Media via Everett Collection
It's easy to compare 3 Days to Kill to Luc Besson's flagship franchise Taken. The film itself practically encourages those comparisons, what with the older man who reluctantly returns to a life of killing for the good of his daughter. The hero's quest of hunting down international criminals in a stunning foreign locale is punctuated by all of the explosions and gore your heart could desire. Neither 3 Days screenwriter Besson nor director McG are attempting to blaze a trail or reinvent a wheel. They're simply attempting to create a film that will keep you entertained for two hours, and on that front, at least, they succeed.
Stepping into the Liam Neeson role this time around is Kevin Costner as Ethan Renner, who is either an assasssin or a spy that works for either the CIA or the Secret Service (it's not really all that important in the end), forced to walk away from the job after he is diagnosed with cancer (or maybe a brain tumor). In an attempt to spend his remaining months bonding with his estranged daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), he moves to Paris to settle down. Of course, that's when Vivi (Amber Heard), a CIA agent/spy/assassin arrives, along with an experimental new drug that could extend Ethan's life, which she will happily pass along... if he takes out their two most wanted criminals within three days.
From there, the film veers wildly between graphic fight sequences, with enough chaos and destruction to equal both Taken movies, and the story of Ethan and Zoey’s growing relationship. Much of the plot is confusing and barely explained – Ethan and Vivi vaguely work for the CIA, although they're unconcerned by the devastating destruction they leave in their wake. The drug is “experimental,” but how it helps or why it’s only available through a giant purple syringe is waived away by the presence of a stack of “research.” Ethan only has three days to complete his mission, but seems to hang around Paris for a lot longer. The villains are wanted by the government for being tangentially involved with a “dirty bomb.” There's a shoehorned-in subplot about family of African immigrants squatting in Ethan's apartment. But despite the fact that so many of these elements never find a way to coalesce into a coherent whole, once the body count starts to rise and the buildings start to fall, it's easy to simply ignore all of that in favor of massive explosions.
When the film works, Ethan's job and his relationship with Zoey blend together in a way that gives 3 Days to Kill some much needed heart and humor — like when he's interrupted in torturing a target by her constant phone calls — but when it doesn’t, the transitions between Ethan taking out the criminals he's hunting and his slightly cloying bonding experience with Zoey can be jarring. As Ethan, Costner is a serviceable action hero; he growls threateningly and stares fondly at Steinfeld when the script calls for it, but for the most part, he appears to be phoning it in. Of course, for this kind of film, that’s all he really needs to do, but it means that by the time the credits roll, much of his performance is already forgotten. As Zoey, Steinfeld does her best with the material, and makes some of the more emotional scenes between herself and Costner affecting. However, even she can’t save the father-daughter plot of the film from becoming trite and stale at times, and so her scenes mostly feel like a quick breather in between the rounds of graphic violence.
Relativity Media via Everett Collection
Heard feels out-of-place as Vivi, who is introduced as the buttoned-down second-in-command to the head of the CIA, but then proceeds to spend the rest of the film speeding around Paris in sports cars, and prancing about in a wardrobe of leather, corsets, and high heels. Costner is clearly in an older-man action film, but Heard is in another film entirely, one in which she’s a sexy super spy single-handedly taking down international criminals. Despite the fact that she’s mostly there to provide exposition and to look pretty, there are moments where you almost wish that she was the focus of 3 Days to Kill instead — or, at the very least, that one of the many subplots had been dropped in favor of expanding her character.
And yet, despite all of the unanswered questions and the weird disparities in tone, 3 Days to Kill is a surprisingly entertaining film. The fact that one of the best fight sequences in the film takes place in a supermarket, while Ethan and an unnamed hitman grapple behind a deli counter, means that it's ridiculous enough to keep you engaged, but it's still able to amp up the tension when it needs to. And when you need a break from watching people come perilously close to being decapitated, there's a well-timed visual gag already lined up. It hits all of the notes required of a cheesy action film, and even though it gets far too bogged down in sentiment at times, it's still got enough heart to add a little substance to the flimsy plot.
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3 Days to Kill does exactly what it needs to, and little more. It doesn't want to make you think — in fact, it actively encourages you not to — and it doesn't try to accomplish anything that will stay with you after the credits have rolled. All 3 Days to Kill wants is to keep you amused for a few hours, with a few explosions and some mindless fun. In the end, that's sometimes that's all you really need out of a movie.
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.
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Even though the man who has allegedly been stalking her since September is out of the country, pop princess Britney Spears but is asking for a restraining order to keep him at least 1,000 yards away, City News Service reports. Masahiko Shizawa of Yokohama, Japan, was forced to return to his homeland after his visa expired but has been stopped twice while attempting to return to the United States. According to court papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Shizawa has made "numerous attempts to contact" Spears at her Los Angeles home and has sent her photos of himself with a note reading, "I'm chasing you." The 21-year-old pop star also complains that Shizawa sent her "love notes" and followed her to the homes of her parents and to a home that the singer owns outside California. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge is expected to rule today on Spears' request for a "stay-away" order.
Lee Majors, who played astronaut and test pilot Steve Austin in the 1970s TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, is suing Universal Television Group, claiming he was short-changed on profits from the show. According to the suit, Universal agreed to pay Majors 15 percent of net profits earned from the series and its post-network syndication, money the actor claims he has never received. The suit seeks a full audit of Universal's books and financial records relating to the show dating back to its inception and payment of unspecified sums found to be owed him, Reuters reports.
Talk show host Jerry Springer is considering running for the U.S. Senate next year, The Associated Press reports. Springer, a Democrat, said he'll decide by summer whether to challenge Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican who has said he'll run for a second term in 2004. Springer does admit his nationally syndicated Jerry Springer Show could work against him. "The plus is that I'm known by everybody. The minus is that I'm known by everybody," he said.
Las Vegas police have dropped a rape charge against Rene Angelil, the manager-husband of singer Celine Dion, due to lack of evidence, the Canadian Press Association reports. Yun Kyeong Sung Kwon, 47, claimed that Angelil raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room in March 2000--a charge that Angelil has consistently denied. Kwon has now been charged with trying to extort $13.5 million from Angelil, 61, and Dion, 34.
Zach Galligan, who starred as Billy Peltzer in the 1984 fantasy pic Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor theft after stealing a CD from a Tower Records store on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. A security guard told detectives he saw Galligan conceal a $12.99 Deep Purple CD in his trousers before walking out. Galligan, who was taken to the West Hollywood sheriff's station and released early yesterday, reportedly had enough cash on him to have paid for the CD, City News Services reports.
Director David Fincher has committed to shoot The Lords of Dogtown for Sony Pictures, a film about the surf and skate culture that took root in Venice in the 1970s. According to Variety, the film was originally set up at New Line, where it was to be the directorial debut of Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. Fincher had been on board only as a producer. Last year, Stacy Peralta's Dogtown and Z-Boys, a documentary about the Dogtown teenagers who began skateboarding in empty swimming pools around Los Angeles, became an underground hit for Sony Pictures Classics.
Wednesday's second episode of Fox's musical reality show American Idol held onto about 95 percent of its premiere-night audience, Variety reports. According to Nielsen, Wednesday's 90-minute episode of American Idol averaged 24.91 million viewers overall--Fox's best-ever showing (excluding sports) in the Wednesday 8:30-10 p.m. time slot. ABC's The Bachelorette, meanwhile, fell to a season low with 13.39 million overall viewers.
Ratings for MTV's The Osbournes have been dropping off in its second season, from a high of 6.6 million viewers for its Nov. 26 premiere to 3.5 million on Jan. 14, the AP reports. The first season started slow and built into a phenomenon while the second season started fast and faded. But Brian Graden, chief programming executive at MTV, said he's not worried about the numbers. The show's tone is different this second season, depicting the family coping with sudden fame as well as Sharon's bout with cancer.
Actor Kevin Spacey and singer Elton John will perform a duet together at a Feb. 5 London fundraiser, the AP reports. John is chairman of the Old Vic Theater Trust, which bought the 185-year-old theater in 1998 when it was in danger of closing. Spacey, who starred in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh at the Old Vic in 1998, is a board member of the trust. The benefit will also feature Sinead O'Connor, Diana Krall and her new partner, Elvis Costello, who will all perform hits by John.
Winona Ryder was charged Friday with one count each of grand theft, commercial burglary, vandalism and possession of a controlled substance, stemming from her Dec. 12 shoplifting arrest at a Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills. According to the Associated Press, prosecutors are also seeking to increase Ryder's bail from $20,000 to $30,000. The 30-year-old actress is due back in court Feb. 8 for arraignment.
The Girl, Interrupted star is accused of trying to lift $4,800 in clothing and accessories from the high-end department store and of carrying the painkiller Oxycodone without a prescription. After her arrest, her attorney Mark Geragos contended that Ryder was just carrying items between store departments and that she had receipts for other items she bought in the store, as well as a valid prescription for the painkillers.
Dubbed as the female equivalent of John Travolta in Battlefield Earth, Mariah Carey (Glitter) is this year's frontrunner for worst actress for the Golden Raspberry Awards, which honor the year's worst films. Preliminary tabulations also show Carey's cleavage may also receive a nod, so to speak, in the worst screen couple category, Ananova.com reports. The full list of Razzie nominations will be announced February 11.
Julia Roberts will appear at the Oscars again this year, but this time as a presenter rather than a nominee. It's the third time Roberts, who won Best Actress last year for her role in Erin Brockovich, has presented. The 74th Academy Awards will take place on March 24 at the new Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
Jamie Foxx, who has a house in Las Vegas, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that he may take on the role of Bosley in the Charlie's Angels sequel. Since Bill Murray, who played Bosley in the first film, will not be returning for Charlie's Angels 2, Foxx joked he could replace him as his son, the product of "a hot little night back in the 'hood."
Robert De Niro as fashion plate? An exhibit opening Wednesday at the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York, will celebrate the various get-ups the actor has worn on screen. Robert De Niro: Costume & Character will trace the actors cinematic ensembles including his leopard skin robe in Raging Bull and the apricot fire-singed suit from Casino, PageSix.com reports.
Hugh Hefner is reportedly looking for an apartment in New York. According to PageSix.com, Hef has enlisted the help of Gordon Golub and Howard Boyar of Citi Habitats to help him with his search. The Playboy king hasn't decided on new digs yet.
According to Nielsen data for Friday and Saturday, NBC is leading early sweeps thanks to strong series performances from Friends and Will & Grace, Variety reports. ABC came in second, thanks in part to Barbara Walters' 20/20 interview with Celine Dion's and Stephen King's Rose Red, with CBS following close behind. Fox came in last, but will probably move into the lead when Sunday's Super Bowl is factored into the February sweeps.
Super Bowl commercials, which sold for an average of just under $2 million for 30 second spots, ran a wide spectrum of topics this year, from fast food to anti-terrorism. Fox said 30 companies bought ads for 37 brands. Brewer Anheuser-Busch was the biggest sponsor with five minutes of ad buys.
NBC's The West Wing has yanked a television spot for this week's episode in which an American reporter is kidnapped, The New York Times reports. The network made the move after viewers pointed out similarities to the abduction of Daniel Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. NBC has no plans to replace the episode, but will run a new ad focusing on a different angle of the same plot.
Pop star Brandy Norwood secretly married music producer Robert Smith last summer, reports celebrity gossip maven Florence Anthony. The singer and Cover Girl model said in a statement through her record company, Atlantic Records, "I've fallen in love with a very warm, gentle, understanding, and focused person...This summer we married quietly."
Following a two-year break, Celine Dion is getting back to work with a new album and a multimillion dollar Las Vegas performance contract, and is also making plans to have a second baby. According to Reuters, the 33-year-old singer has clinched a deal to sing five nights a week for three years at Caesar's Palace. In an interview with Barbara Walters last Friday, Dion also revealed plans to use a frozen embryo to try for a second child with her manager-husband Rene Angelil after her Las Vegas stint.
Paul McCartney is planning a tour for the first time in 10 years, Reuters reports. In a statement Monday, McCartney announced the Drivin' USA tour will start some time in early April and include 14 concerts in the United States plus one show in Canada.
A tribute to the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack featuring Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch and the Soggy Bottom Boys will be among the first musical acts for the 44th annual Grammys, Variety reports. The Dave Matthews Band, 'N Sync, Nelly, U2 and Alicia Keys were previously announced as performers.
Movin' Out, a musical featuring 26 of Billy Joel's songs and instrumental compositions, will begin Broadway performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on September 30, Broadway.com reports. The show is scheduled to play a world premiere engagement at Chicago's Shubert Theatre from June 25 to August 4 before heading to New York.