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.
Daytime Emmys voters apparently feel they've paid their debt to Susan Lucci. The soap opera diva, who broke America's most infamous losing streak last year when she finally claimed the best drama actress trophy, got zippo today as nominations were announced in New York for the 2000 edition of the Daytime Emmys.
Moving into the unlucky Lucci spotlight this year is none other than Regis Philbin. Up for two Emmys, including a curious daytime nod as host of a nighttime game show (for -- what else? -- "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"), Philbin has never, ever won. Not even a combat-pay trophy for doing time with Kathie Lee Gifford all these years.
For the record, Kathie Lee Gifford has never won a Daytime Emmy for "Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee," either, but no one really seems to get choked up over Kathie Lee, so let's move on.
"Live!" is up again for best talk show. They'll compete against "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" (syndicated), "The View" (ABC), "Donny & Marie" (syndicated) and the soon-to-be-late "Martin Short Show" (syndicated). (Note: Oprah removed herself from the competition last year, figuring there were only so many shiny paperweights her mantle could hold.) Regis and Kathie Lee, meanwhile, are also jointly nominated for best talk-show host.
The Daytime Emmys -- as opposed to the Primetime Emmys -- honors shows (cartoons, talk shows, soap operas, etc.) that traditionally air during, yes, the day. Don't ask us about the "Millionaire" thing. Regis doesn't understand it, either. Said so himself: "I don't know why a primetime game show ends up on the Daytime Emmys," Philbin told The Associated Press today.
In the battle of the soap opera drama queens, Finola Hughes ("All My Children, ABC), Susan Flannery ("The Bold and the Beautiful," CBS), Hillary B. Smith ("One Life to Live," ABC), Jeanne Cooper ("The Young and the Restless," CBS) and Jess Walton ("The Young and the Restless," CBS) will compete where Lucci won't. (Translation: They're all up for best lead drama actress.)
Nominated for best lead drama actor: David Canary ("All My Children," ABC), Anthony Geary ("General Hospital," ABC), Robert Woods ("One Life to Live, ABC), Peter Bergman ("The Young and the Restless," CBS) and Eric Braeden ("The Young and the Restless," CBS).