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.
Country singer Miranda Lambert has slammed tabloid rumours suggesting she lost weight by undergoing surgery, insisting her toned new look is all natural. The House That Built Me hitmaker debuted her slimmer figure earlier this month (Nov13) at the Country Music Association Awards, prompting gossips and bloggers to speculate how she lost the weight - and some suggested she had clearly gone under the knife.
The 30 year old is sick of all the rumours and she is finally speaking out and insisting she went the traditional route, with diet and exercise, to get healthier.
In a post on her website Lambert writes, "Though I NEVER care what the tabloids have to say about me... I wanted to address this certain story they are running this week and set the record straight. I DID NOT have surgery to lose weight. That is ridiculous. I lost my weight the healthy and good old fashioned way. Watching what I eat and working out with my trainer (Bill Crutchfield).
"As for the assumed number of pounds lost...? I don’t even know! Like I have always said, it’s not about a scale, it's about how you feel and how your jeans fit. And on November 10th when I turned 30, my skinny jeans were finally baggy! Mission accomplished!
"So for anyone who is tempted to read the 'Trash Talk' please don't. I am proud to be a normal size girl and I want to encourage everyone to be confident at any size. Thanks for the support y'all!"
More than 100 artists including Garth Brooks, Dierks Bentley, Kid Rock, Megadeth and Brad Paisley took to the stage in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday night (22Nov13) to honour late country legend George Jones. The date at the city's Bridgestone Arena had originally been booked by Jones to host his final show before retirement, but the gig was transformed into a memorial concert following his death in April (13) at the age of 81.
The cream of country music turned out to honour Jones at the event, billed as Playin' Possum: The Final No Show, which was opened by Big & Rich, who sang 1965 hit Love Bug while riding lawn mowers on stage. The duo's act was a reference to the late singer's infamous drunken ride to a liquor store on a lawn mower after his wife took away his car keys.
The sold-out show featured 112 artists over four hours, including George Strait, Martina McBride, Eric Church, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Atkins, Montgomery Gentry, Thompson Square, Vince Gill and duets by married stars Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, and Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.
Jamey Johnson also paired with heavy metal band Megadeth to play 1998 single Wild Irish Rose, with Dave Mustaine saying of the band's inclusion in the line-up, "Heavy metal is all about rebellion, and George was definitely a rebel."
The show was closed by Alan Jackson, who performed Jones' hit He Stopped Loving Her Today and branded him "the greatest country singer that ever was".
Country veteran Reba McEntire had been due to take part in the event, but had to withdraw due to illness, and she posted an apology to Jones' widow, Nancy, on her Twitter.com page, writing, "Lost my voice tonight at the George Jones tribute. So sorry Nancy. Sure wanted to be a part of country music history."
Singer Miranda Lambert will be going head-to-head with her husband Blake Shelton on his U.S. talent show The Voice next year (14) after signing on to serve as a mentor for his rival judge Shakira. The House That Built Me hitmaker recently headed to the Los Angeles set of the reality programme to shoot episodes for season six - but it wasn't Shelton the competitive star chose to lend her expertise to.
A source tells Us Weekly magazine, "Shakira and Miranda got along well. Blake joked that Miranda was helping another coach. But it was in good fun."
Shakira and R&B hunk Usher served as replacements for Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green during season four, when the original judges decided to take a break from the show, and the newcomers will return for another run in 2014.
Guest mentors for the current fifth season of The Voice are Ryan Tedder, Miguel, Ed Sheeran and superstar Cher.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Sheryl Crow and Miranda Lambert will be among the country superstars who will take the stage with George Strait at his final show in Texas next summer (Jun14). The newly-crowned Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year will bow out of touring after one last show on his ongoing The Cowboy Rides Away trek - and his last hurrah will be a star-studded one.
Strait will take the stage at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington on 7 June (13), and his famous friends will join him for three songs each.
As well as the aforementioned quartet, Strait will be joined by Eric Church, Ronnie Dunn, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Martina McBride and Lee Ann Womack, according to Country Weekly magazine.
A monument dedicated to late country music icon George Jones has been unveiled in Nashville, Tennessee. The ornate memorial has been erected at Woodlawn Roesch-Patton Memorial Park, the cemetery in which the singer is buried, and crowds of fans gathered there on Monday (18Nov13) to catch a first glimpse.
A large arch is adorned with the star's name, a poetic tribute and his nickname 'The Possum', as well as a guitar and the title of Jones' song He Stopped Loving Her Today.
Music producer Billy Sherrill, who worked on He Stopped Loving Her Today, was at the unveiling ceremony, along with Jones' widow Nancy.
Nancy says of the unusual memorial, "His fans deserve to come out and see something a little different, to sit there on that bench and see their idol."
She also announced the creation of a George Jones scholarship fund at Middle Tennessee State University, according to Tennessean.com.
The unveiling of the memorial kicked off a week of tributes to Jones, who died in April (13) at the age of 81. Planned events include street parties and a star-studded concert in Nashville on Friday (22Nov13). The gig at the Bridgestone Arena was supposed to be the final show of Jones' last tour before retirement, but it was changed to a tribute show after his death.
The concert will feature performances by stars including Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Miranda Lambert and Vince Gill.
Country star Miranda Lambert pigged out one last time on America's Independence Day (04Jul13) before embarking on a new diet and exercise regime so she could slim down before her 30th birthday. The House That Built Me hitmaker showed off her new svelte figure at the Country Music Association Awards last week (06Nov13), four days before she celebrated her age milestone, and she reveals she dropped one dress size by hiring a personal trainer and making smarter choices at meal times.
Lambert tells People magazine, "I said to myself, it's time... I spent my 20s on a rollercoaster - my yo-yo weight, working all the time and partying. I just wanted to be healthier and go into my 30s in the best shape I could be in...
"Instead of steak for dinner, I might have chicken and a baked sweet potato... I'm just trying to make healthier choices."
Lambert is enjoying being showered with compliments about her weightloss, but there was one person she was really eager to impress - her husband, singer Blake Shelton, although her initial efforts failed to draw any reaction from the star: "I said to him, 'You're not encouraging me in this!' And he said, 'I have never had a problem with any way you look. You are beautiful to me at any size and every size.'"
However, he has since started boasting about his sexy spouse, and Lambert can't get enough: "He brags on me (sic). That makes me feel great."
"I am gonna go have mini corn dogs! I've been thinking about them all day long. We're like hillbillies. Country comes to town, boys!" Country superstar Miranda Lambert celebrates after winning Female Vocalist of the Year for the fourth straight time on Wednesday's (06Nov13) Country Music Association Awards. Her husband, Blake Shelton, didn't go home empty handed - he took home Male Vocalist and Album of the Year.