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 last few James Bond movies have delivered unconventional theme songs, when you consider the history of slinky songs like "Goldfinger" and "Diamonds Are Forever." Shirley Bassey's sultry voice is probably the one most closely associated with a "classic" Bond Theme. However, more the recent techno-pop "Die Another Day," Chris Cornell's rocker anthem "You Know My Name," and finally, Jack White and Alicia Keys' "Another Way to Day" were all entertaining, and they helped bring the classic character into the modern consciousness without stripping him of his old fashioned charm. But the announcement of Adele's involvement in the newest Bond movie's title theme is a delicious notion, because her signature sound is sure to deliver us back to the past era of sexy, sultry female voices bringing us into the action.
Adele tweeted a photo of the sheet music for the new Skyfall single, appropriately titled... "Skyfall" and in a swift move of confirmation, the official James Bond Twitter spread the image to the rest of the movie-loving world. In the image, we see Adele's signature black, pointy nails (cue the girls' chatter about how fierce she is, because well, she is) as well as the writing credits: A. Adkins and P. Epworth (Adele and Paul Epworth, who co-wrote "Rolling in the Deep" with the Grammy-winner). Basically, we've got the perfect set of circumstances for the contemporary version of a classic Bond song. Adele's raspy, full voice is sure to remind longtime fans of Bassey's alluring sound, but she's decidedly modern and decidedly Adele.
It's a decision so perfect, it almost makes up for that whole beer issue.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Twitter (2)]
More: Adele Says She Doesn't Use Sex to Sell Albums Dear Heinekin, James Bond Doesn't Even Drink Beer... In Your Ad - VIDEO 'Skyfall': James Bond - Back from the Dead! - VIDEO
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ABC’s surprising hit Once Upon a Time gets curiouser and curiouser with each passing day. The latest update delivers word of new fairytale characters—namely Mulan and Sleeping Beauty—and while we’re all fairly well-versed in both characters’ stories (thank you, Disney), Once Upon a Time also serves up their real world counterparts. ABC was kind enough to reveal the fairy tale versions of these new characters to EW, but we’re left to wonder about who they might be on the Storybrooke side of the divide.
Mulan (Jamie Chung of Sucker Punch) is the first new character of legend. Disney first pulled the character from an ancient Chinese poem, so this marks the first OUAT story that stems from outside the typical fairytale canon. Mulan, like the Disney cartoon version, is a skilled warrior trained in weaponry and tracking. She’s very spiritual and her good opinion is not an easy thing to obtain, but her friendship, once attained, is strong. So where could she fit in the real world, with Henry and Mary Margaret?
Her real world counterpart could be a young twentysomething who left home when she realized her parents’ idea of her future did not match her own. Much like Mulan, this Storybrooke resident’s parents may have expected her to get married and start a family, but she has different ambitions. As such, she lives alone in the isolated town, a place which would be just a stop along the path to her dreams, but of course, like everyone else, she can’t leave the cursed little hamlet. And backstory aside, perhaps some of her weaponry skills will permeate the barrier between fairytale and real worlds and she can prove useful in Emma’s battle against the Evil Queen/Regina that is surely brewing after Season 1's explosive finale.
Also being added to the season two lineup is Sleeping Beauty (Sarah Bolger of The Tudors). Her character doesn’t quite pack as much punch as Chung’s warrior, but there is great potential with the iconic damsel in lethargic distress. Once Upon a Time’s Princess Aurora (whom all of her subjects adore-ah) is described as a spoiled girl born into privilege. And since all Once Upon a Time characters have fatal flaws, Aurora’s got one a few of her fellow TV princesses can understand: she’ll “sacrifice everything for love.”
While the word “spoiled” may send some fans running for the wooded hills, we should keep in mind that Once Upon a Time is known for elevating its classically “helpless” princesses and heroines to independent, self-sufficient women. Snow White is a warrior with a bleeding heart. Red Riding Hood isn’t the victim of the wolf – she is the wolf. And even the Evil Queen isn’t simply vain and needlessly vicious. She’s colored by sadness and her plan, while devious, is more guile and wise manipulation than jealous anger. As such, we can surmise (and hope) that Aurora will be tinged with immaturity, but her stalwart heart will be in the right place. Plus, since Maleficent (the beguiling and pitch-perfect Kristin Bauer van Straten) was such a large part of the season finale, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to see the villainess step in and play her famed role in Aurora's temporary demise.
The real world counterpart to the fairytale Sleeping Beauty could be a teen girl not yet versed in the harsh realities of adult life. She may even be a tad annoying and admittedly boy crazy, but at her core, her mission will always be true love. Perhaps Emma or Mary Margaret will have to help her find her gooey center? (And it if we're lucky, it might even help Mary Margaret realize her equally gooey heart still beats for David.)
Granted, Once Upon a Time is known to pull a Rumpelstiltskin from time to time and surprise us all with an unimaginable twist, so there’s no telling who or what these girls will actually be when the season starts Oct. 23. However, Hollywood.com will be on the scene next week at the series’ San Diego Comic Con panel, where we can bet a secret or two from the next season will be spilled. (That's your cue to stay tuned.)
Who do you think Mulan and Sleeping Beauty will be in the real world?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.
[Image: David Edwards, Daily Celeb]
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Once Upon a Time
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
Top Story: Duff and Disney Part Ways
'Tween girls everywhere are going to be bummed. Hilary Duff, star of the Disney Channel's hit show Lizzie McGuire and the recent movie of the same name, has decided to take her leave from the company that helped launch her career. A spokeswoman for the Walt Disney Co. told Reuters the studio and the 15-year-old actress were "going their separate ways," after contract negotiations between Disney and Duff's representatives broke down. Reports say Duff was asking for $5 million for a Lizzie McGuire sequel and $100,000 per episode of the show. "We gave them a very generous offer and unfortunately they passed. Hilary is a great girl and we truly wish her the best of luck," the spokeswoman said. A Disney Channel spokesman told Reuters there were no plans to produce new episodes of the Lizzie McGuire show, but said the cable network plans to continue broadcasting the program.
Minnelli Show Must Go On
Liza Minnelli broke her right kneecap in a fall in Italy Sunday but continued her plans to sing in a charity concert for Iraqi refugees, doing a duet with opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti Monday. "She will leave hospital [Monday] evening to sing 'New York, New York' in a duet with Pavarotti. After the concert, she will return to hospital to undergo a knee operation," Pavarotti's spokeswoman told Reuters. The "Pavarotti and Friends Annual Charity Show" in Modena, northern Italy, aims to raise money to help Iraqi refugees return home after the war.
Simpsons' Groening Named Best Cartoonist
Matt Groening, the mad genius behind The Simpsons, was awarded the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year at the 2003 Reuben Awards, The Associated Press reports. The 57th annual award ceremony was held Saturday at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, with presenters and past Reuben winners such as "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams, "Doonesbury" creator Gary Trudeau, and Cathy Guisewite, creator of "Cathy," AP reports.
Gay Reality Show Gets a Shot
Cable network Bravo, owned by NBC, will air the first primetime gay-themed reality dating series called Boy Meets Boy. As usual, an eligible bachelor will choose among 15 potential mates--the twist is some of the men are actually heterosexual who have been paid to pretend to be gay. "I think this will be truly groundbreaking television," series executive producer and co-creator Douglas Ross told The Hollywood Reporter. "Several of the straight men have very intense experiences," he said, declining to divulge specific behavior. "We anticipate a lot of both gay and straight viewers will have their assumptions challenged about what it means to be gay and what it means to be straight."
Mighty Wind Singers Give Free Concert
They enjoyed it so much on-screen they decided to do it for real. The cast of the mockumentary A Mighty Wind, which follows three sets of folk singing icons as they come together for a memorial concert, gave their own free concert at the Getty Center museum in Los Angeles Friday, AP reports. Performing were Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean as the Folksmen; Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara as Mitch & Mickey; and John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch and Parker Posey as young members of the nine-person New Main Street Singers.
Once-Blacklisted Actress Gets Star
Betty Garrett, best known for her role as Edna Babish on the TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley, got her own Hollywood Walk of Fame star Friday. Garrett, 84, and her late husband, Larry Parks, were both briefly blacklisted in the early 1950s during the McCarthy era.
Role Call: Curtis Hanson Turns Crimson, Old School's Boys Go Back to Class, Miramax Lands Barbarian
Director Curtis Hanson (8 Mile) is in final negotiations to direct The Crimson Petal and the White. Based on Michael Farber's Victorian novel, the story focuses on a 19-year-old prostitute living in 1860s London who becomes the secret mistress to a member of a powerful London family…meanwhile, the trio of funny guys--Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn--who made Old School a hit will likely return to make the sequel, currently in development, Variety reports…and also in Variety news, Miramax picked up the distribution rights to director Denys Arcand's French-Canadian film The Barbarian Invasions, which recently won awards at the Cannes Film Festival for best screenplay and best actress (Marie-Josee Croze). The story follows an estranged son who reunites with his divorced parents when his father faces a life-threatening illness.