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.
My oh my, this week’s Once Upon a Time was a whale of an episode—and that’s not just because we finally learned the fairytale identity of Dr. Whale (David Anders)! Halloween has descended upon our three worlds and we’re here to Hook you up with all of the monsters, magic, and mysteries you may have missed in this week’s episode “The Doctor.”
Fairytale Land’s Past: The episode opens with Rumplestilskin (Robert Carlyle) teaching a smiling and generally happy Regina (Lana Parrilla) how to perfect her magical abilities, but when he tells her to snatch the heart from a unicorn, she refuses. The newly-crowned queen shakes her head. “I can’t, it’s innocent.” Rumple snaps back, “Nothing is innocent.” He then proceeds to grab the beating — and now glowing — heart from the animal and explains, “You see when you take a heart, it becomes enchanted. You’re not hurting the beast, your controlling it.” Regina later admits to Rumple in his estate that she is hoping to be able to bring someone back from the dead using magic. “I want true happiness,” she pleads. You guessed it! Regina wants to resurrect her former fiancé, Daniel the stable boy — the one who Cora (Barbara Hershey) killed when she ripped out his heart.
But Rumple instantly shuts down her foolish thoughts, saying that magic can do many things, but when someone is dead, that’s irreversible. “As long as you live in the past, you’ll never find your future,” he taunts to the wide-eyed Regina. At this point, the show’s most handsome fella Jefferson (Sebastian Stan) decides to weigh in on the topic. It appears that the Mad Hatter has been eavesdropping on their conversation, and he tells Regina that he knows of a "wizard" who may be able to do what she’s looking for. Jefferson introduces Regina to the man that we know as Dr. Whale, and says that the doctor is from a different realm, and has traveled here in search of a heart that is strong enough to withstand his “experimental” procedures.
Regina takes them to her mother’s vault and reveals Cora’s vast — and terrifying — collection of hearts. “She was a monster,” Regina says. The doctor agrees to operate on Regina’s beloved, but unfortunately the heart was not strong enough to bring back her source of happiness. A heart-broken Regina arrives in the forest (dressed head-to-toe in black leather, rawr!) to find Rumple training a new, “more dedicated” girl. “Dedicated?” the queen snarls. Regina then proves her dedication by ripping the heart out of the hopeful young witch and crushing it into dust. It’s clear that the kind-hearted and apprehensive Regina is gone — along with her ability to love. Later it’s revealed that Rumple set up the whole rouse, and promised the doctor an enchanted heart if he could break the heart of his young apprentice. Rumple turns to leave saying, “Thanks to your efforts, I’ve made my monster, and I do hope that you’ll be able to make yours.” Oooh creepy!
Fairytale Land’s Present: Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin), Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Aurora (Sarah Bolger) are heading back to their safe-haven island to tell the other fairytale characters of Cora’s Lancelot disguise. However, once they arrive at camp the women are horrified to see that everyone has been murdered. Cause of death? Their hearts have been ripped right out of their chests. Classic Cora move. Although at first there appears to be no survivors, one man — hidden under a pile of dead bodies, ew — is still alive. The ladies pull out who Mulan calls “just a blacksmith” but we as the super-smart audience recognize him right away as the oh-so handsome Killian Jones, aka Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue). Dun duun duuuun!
Hooks plays dumb, thanking the women for their kindness and hospitality, but it’s clear that Emma isn’t picking up the lies that the captain is laying down. After he seems a little too interested in their lives back in Sorybrooke and offers to guide them to a portal back home, Emma has had enough. “You’re not going to guide us anywhere until you tell us who you really are,” she demands while holding an extremely sharp dagger up to the pirate’s throat. BAMF. Hook continues to play dumb, so Emma does the most natural and logical thing: she ties him up to a tree and whistles for the ogres to come get their next meal. And then he cracks.
After revealing himself to be the most feared pirate in all the land, Hook begins to squeal like a frightened little piglet. “Cora wanted me to gain your trust so I could learn everything there is to know about your Storybrooke," he says. "She didn’t want any surprises when she finally got over there.” Hook admits that although the wardrobe was destroyed, the enchantment still remains. “The ashes will open a portal, but to find your land she needs more. There is an enchanted compass. I’ll help you obtain it before she does.” He pleads to the three badass women and Aurora. (So far the sleeping princess has been a total yawn.) Emma has just one question for him before she decides whether or not to let him go: Why does he want to go to Storybrooke? The answer is simple and sufficient: “To exact revenge on the man who took my hand, Rumplestilskin.” Hook is set free, and shows the ladies that the compass they need is located at the tippy-top of a sky-high beanstalk. “It’s not the climb you have to worry about. It’s the giant at the top,” he warns. Fee fi foe fum.
Storybrooke: The episode opens with Dr. Whale hoping to speak with Charming (Josh Dallas), but before he utters two words, the prince punches the smarmy man square in the jaw. Swoon! His reason? “For sleeping with my wife!” Whale stammers, “We were cursed!” — clearly the new version of the classic Friends excuse, “We were on a break!” After confirming that the prince is indeed searching for a portal back to fairytale land, Whales bursts in on Regina’s magic-withdrawals therapy sesh with Archie, and demands that she send him back to his world so that he can be with his deceased brother. Achie asks Regina about her selection process for who was placed under the curse, and she retorts, “I don’t care about Whale or his brother. I brought who I wanted.” Turns out Regina also brought her one-true love to Stroybrooke. “His name is Daniel. I preserved his body with an enchantment spell. He’s dead but frozen,” she practically whispers. But when Archie suggests that Regina needs to let go of the past before she can move on, the queen gets mighty pissed and storms out of the office.
On the stormy drive home, Regina thinks that she sees her beloved beau walking down the streets of Storybrooke, and it turns out she’s right! Daniel’s body is missing from his clear coffin, and Regina decides to confront Whale at the hospital. She enters a destroyed laboratory and finds a now one-armed Dr. Whale, covered in blood and lying on the floor. Whale says that he successfully brought Daniel back from the dead, however, her former fiancée has now become a full-fledged monster. Regina is overjoyed at the fact that Daniel has finally returned to her and tells Charming, “I think it’s like when you awoke from your coma. He’s following his final thoughts to where he last met me: The stables.”
Unfortunately, Henry (Jared Gilmore) is in the middle of his “how to be a knight” training and is at the stables bonding with his new noble steed. Daniel arrives, and naturally all of the horses freak the eff out because there is this half dead monster moaning about. Henry — after probably peeing his pants — sees the blood on Daniel’s hands and offers to help, but the monster decides that choking Henry is the best option. Luckily, Charming and Regina arrive just in time to save their grandson/son, and Regina begs for Charming not to hurt Daniel. “He’ll listen to me! Please!” she cries. It’s clear that Daniel does not recognize his former flame, and he proceeds to choke her as well. Regina whispers the classic spell-breaker, “I love you,” and light floods into the monster’s eyes. However, Daniel is in unbearable pain, and he begs Regina to move on and let him go. “No, I wont lose you again," she says. "Without you I’m lost." Just as Daniel is about to lunge for her throat again, Regina stops him and finally uses magic to send her one-true love to the afterlife.
Dr. Whale begs Rumple to re-attach his arm, and it only takes three words to get him to agree: “I need magic.” Whale tells Rumple that he brought Daniel back form the dead in hopes that Regina would send him back to his world. Whale explains, “I want to see my brother, to try and bring him back again. The first time ended badly.” Flashback to a world where everything is in black and white, and Dr. Whale (who’s real name is Victor) looms over a lifeless body on an operating table with his new, enchanted heart in his hand. The surgery — complete with lightening and fancy equipment — is a success, and the fingers of his stitched-together brother begin to twitch underneath the white sheet. His high-praising assistant whispers, “It’s magic, Dr. Frankenstein!” To which the doctor quickly corrects him, “No, not magic. It’s science.” Cue the thunder and lightening, and the screen fades to black.
What did you think of this week’s ultra-creepy Once Upon a Time? We’re you as bummed as we were that ABC ruined the Whale reveal in their promo? Excited to see Emma and Snow face the beanstalk giant next week? Cast your spell in the comments below!
Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
[Photo Credit: ABC]
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages, starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals, but tackling complex emotional issues along the way, Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again, the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships, throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary, but harmless, thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths, the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster, bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth, Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger, and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth), new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie), and a handful of new characters to spice things up, everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd, with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths, they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny, Diego, and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg, once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them, giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten, but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then, monkeys, rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly, Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure, complete with maritime navigation, buried treasure, and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage), an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail, leads the evil-doers, who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command, Shira the White Tiger, and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition), cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo, Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit, we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film, but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
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"When morals decline and good men do nothing, evil flourishes. Society unwilling to learn to from the past is doomed. We must never forget our history. We must never lower our guard.
The first trailer for Clint Eastwood and Leonardo Dicaprio's new movie J. Edgar is nothing less than serious. A bold serious, because, like Eastwood's recent directorial efforts—Hereafter, Invictus, Gran Torino—the short spot goes to great lengths to stress the importance of the story it's telling. The movie doesn't appear to ask for your interest, it demands it.
J. Edgar chronicles the life of the famed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who ran the government agency for over 50 years. While Hoover commanded the FBI with great diligence, it's well-known that the man was full of secrets of his own—some which could have ruined his reputation.
The man's life sounds like a thrilling story, but even with powerhouse acting talent like Dicaprio, The Social Network's Armie Hammer, Judi Dench and trailer no-shows Ed Westwick, Josh Lucas, Dermot Mulroney and Stephen Root, Eastwood's film doesn't appear to have the resonance necessary for a sprawling biopic. What's the emotional through-line here? I felt the same way about Hereafter and Invictus. On the surface, they're great dramatic tales—but underneath, they're hollow.
I hope J. Edgar is a surprise. The film's already being touted as an awards contender, but the buzz could easily fizz out when the movie fails to live up to that hype (see the lifespan of Hereafter as evidence). But I'm a man who thinks Dicaprio can do no wrong, so I'm ready and willing for his Hoover—who he plays from sprite young enforcer to elderly, broken man—to sweep me up and win me over.
Check out the first trailer from the movie below (or watch it in HD at Apple) and see if you catch any indication that J. Edgar will be a great film that I may have missed:
You can contact Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and remember to follow@Hollywood_com!