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 2013 Emmy Awards nominations were announced this morning (see the complete list of nods here!), and though there weren't really any big surprises or snubs — you could argue this is one of the most predictable lineups of nominees in recent memory — we were still left with a few nagging headscratchers. Here are 8 Emmy Nominations Burning Questions that we dug into and answered for you.
1. Wait, The Big C is a miniseries?
Yes, the Laura Linney cancer comedy on Showtime placed in the Outstanding Movie or Miniseries category for the first time. This may seem odd, considering that it's run for four seasons and hasn't, like American Horror Story: Asylum, markedly changed its format by featuring all new characters or deciding suddenly to set it in an asylum. However, Season 4 consisted of only four episodes and featured a subtitle, The Big C: Hereafter, so it's a Miniseries contender!
2. What show got the most overall nominations?
American Horror Story: Asylum! The second iteration of Ryan Murphy's dance macabre scored 17 nods, mostly in technical categories.
3. When did Netflix shows become eligible for Emmy consideration?
In 2007 the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences ruled that series produced for the web are eligible for Emmy consideration. It just hasn't actually resulted in web shows having any kind of Emmy presence until now, what with Netflix's recent aggressive push toward original content like House of Cards and Arrested Development — both of which received nominations.
4. Are Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum competing against each other for the Outstanding Reality Competition Host Award, even though they're both on Project Runway?
Actually, no. Though it appeared like they'd each received a hosting nomination, Klum and Gunn are actually nominated together as co-host of Project Runway. If they win, they'll each receive a trophy. The bigger question, though? When did Tim Gunn become a "host" of Project Runway?
5. Have there ever been seven nominees in a category before as in this year's Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama lineup?
In 2011 there were seven nominees in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy category. Basically, whoever gets enough votes to meet the minimum nomination threshold will get a nomination, a practice that's very similar to the voting change at the Oscars that's allowed for more than 5 Best Picture nominees in any given year.
6. What's the eligibility period for these nominees?
June 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013. A series had to debut its season within that frame to be considered. That's why the sixth season of Mad Men, which debuted April 7, was nominated for Outstanding Drama, while the first season of The Newsroom, which debuted June 24, 2012 also scored a nod for Jeff Daniels as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama.
7. Until Kerry Washington's nod today for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama, when was the last time a black actress was nominated in that category?
Not since Cicely Tyson scored a nod for Sweet Justice back in 1995. That's right, 18 years.
8. Has Julia Louis-Dreyfus finally broken Lucille Ball's record for the most Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy nominations?
She has indeed. Lucy banked 13 nominations during the course of her illustrious career. But Louis-Dreyfus' nom for Veep is her 14th, making her the most Emmy-nominated actress ever.
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More: Emmy Nominations 2013: The Full List of Nods! How ‘House of Cards’ Made Me Give Up Social Media Season 5 of ‘Arrested Development’ in the Works at Netflix
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Liza Minnelli and her new husband, producer David Gest, are already planning to adopt four children, the Associated Press reports. The couple was quoted as saying in Britain's Daily Express that they wish to adopt children "of all different races." Minnelli, 56, met Gest last year when she appeared on his television special Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special. "Liza is going to be the best mother in the world," Gest, 48, was quoted as saying.
Billy Joel and Elton John were forced to postpone the rest of their U.S. concert dates after Joel suffered from an inflamed vocal cord and upper respiratory infection, the AP reports. The shows affected on the Face to Face tour include Monday night's performance at Madison Square Garden; the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., on March 20, 22, 28 and 30; and at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., on April 4, 8 and 11. The shows are expected to be rescheduled in the next day or so.
Britney Spears will be the co-owner of a new restaurant in New York tentatively called Pinky, the AP reports. The moderately priced American bistro, which will be run by restaurateur Bobby Ochs, is scheduled to open in May on East 41st Street. Pinky, for those not in the know, is Spears' nickname given to her by Justin Timberlake.
Charlotte Ross, who plays Detective Connie McDowell in the police drama NYPD Blue, is the latest star to bare it all for a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign. According to PETA's Web site, Ross will pose naked holding a white bunny, with a slogan reading, "I'd rather show my buns than wear fur." Ross will be following in the footsteps of former PETA models Pamela Anderson, Sheryl Lee, Dominique Swain, Kim Basinger and Christy Turlington.
Harry Belafonte was presented with the Distinguished American Award at the John F. Kennedy Library Friday for his lifelong work as an advocate for human rights and racial equality, the AP reports. Belafonte, who starred in the 1954 film Carmen Jones and sold a million copies of his album Calypso, refused to perform in the South from 1954 through 1961 because of racial segregation.
Filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, whose film All About My Mother won an Oscar in 2000, is stirring up controversy with his latest film Talk to Her, which premiered in Spain this week. According to Reuters, the film is about a male nurse who falls in love with a comatose patient while striking up a friendship with the boyfriend of another comatose patient--an injured woman matador. Spanish animal-rights activists complained of cruelty during shooting of the film's bloody bullfighting sequences, but Almodovar contends he was filming an already scheduled bullfight.
Eddie Murphy is in talks with The Lion King director Rob Minkoff to star in Disney's Haunted Mansion. According to Variety, the film is based on a popular Disney attraction. Murphy is set to play a father who visits a haunted house and encounters a ghost that spooks him into a greater understanding of the importance of family.
Johnny Depp will star as Peter Pan author Sir James M. Barrie in Miramax Films' Neverland. The film, which begins shooting in June in London, will be directed by Monster's Ball director Marc Forster, Variety reports.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and The Royal Tenenbaums have won best movie costume awards from the Costume Designers Guild, Reuters reports. Because members of CDG are often also members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the awards are seen as a predictor of the Best Costume Design award for the Oscars.
Brass Eye, the controversial British satire on pedophilia, has been nominated for two British Academy Television Awards, including best innovation and best comedy program or series, Reuters reports. The show was widely criticized last July after it failed to sufficiently warn viewers about its content.
George Michael is speaking out about his 1998 arrest for lewd behavior. Michael said the incident, which occurred in a park outside the Beverly Hills Hotel, forced him to come out publicly as a gay man. "Suddenly," he said, "it was a way of making my life about me. And for six months, it worked." Michael's new single, "Freeek," was released Monday in the U.K.
Revlon is spending somewhere between $3 million and $7 million, a larger part of its daytime TV ad budget, to co-star on the ABC soap opera All My Children. According to Variety, Revlon will be featured as the archrival to Erica Kane's (Susan Lucci) Enchantment cosmetic company. Because ABC is the only network to own all of its soap operas, the product placement sell is an important source of revenue.
Beloved late comedian Lucille Ball, whose cremated remains are with that of her mother's at a cemetery in Los Angeles, could be going to Jamestown, N.Y., the AP reports. Her daughter, Lucie Arnaz, said she would like to see the remains of both women moved to a cemetery in Ball's hometown. Arnaz is currently scouting a location in Jamestown to expand the Luci-Desi Museum.
Rosie O'Donnell reveals in the August issue of her magazine Rosie that she has been depressed for years, according to Entertainment Tonight. She originally resisted taking medication, fearing it was a cowardly way to live, but has now been on antidepressants for two years. The talk show host said she was pushed over the edge by the Columbine shootings and a celebrity benefit she attended, where she found herself sobbing throughout the evening.
Singer Rick Springfield broke his arm during a performance at the MGM Grand hotel-casino in Las Vegas, The Associated Press reports. He treated and released Tuesday at University Medical Center. The singer fell from a 20-foot high beam that is used to lower him on to the stage in the show's last scene. In EFX Alive, Springfield takes the audience on a journey to the worlds of wizard Merlin, showman P.T. Barnum, illusionist Harry Houdini and sci-fi writer H.G. Wells.
A park honoring Theodor Seuss Geisel, a k a Dr.Seuss, will open in Springfield, Mass., on June 1, AP reports. The Seuss Heritage Park and National Memorial will feature 30 bronze statues of Geisel's literary characters including Horton, Thidwick the Moose and Cat in the Hat. Geisel's stepdaughter, Lark Diamod-Kates, designed the sculptures. Geisel died in 1991 at age 87.
To commemorate the comedienne's 90th birthday, the U.S. Postal Service will unveil a stamp honoring Lucille Ball, Reuters reports. The stamp will be the seventh in the Postal Service's Legend of Hollywood Series. Others have included Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Alfred Hitchcock, James Cagney and Edward G Robinson. Ball, who was best known for her 1950's sitcom I Love Lucy, died in 1989 at the age of 78.
William Dail, the road manager for Insane Clown Posse, has pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for choking an Eminem fan, AP reports. The fan apparently held up an Eminem T-shirt and chucked some M&M candies at two clowned-faced band members following an Insane Clown Posse concert in Omaha, Neb., in May. The 24-year-old man was taken outside where Dail then choked him until he blacked out. Dail agreed to plead guilty of one count of disorderly conduct and pay a $100 fine.
The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin said in two magazine articles that his arrest in April was not due to a chronic drug habit but sporadic use, Reuters reports. Sorkin was arrested at a Burbank airport in April after airport employees found marijuana, crack and hallucinogenic mushrooms in his bag. Sorkin told TV Guide that he has broken his sobriety since 1997 by occasional drug use. He said he would smoke pot from time to time to relax, and likened it to having a martini at the end of a long day. Sorkin also said he used crack less than five times in the last two years. In a September issue of Talk magazine, Sorkin said he would used drugs after work to celebrate the pressure being off. "There's no way I could be writing high and not have people know it,"he said.
Robert Downey Jr. was back at work on Tuesday. Variety reports that the actor filmed a music video for the song I Want Love, the first single from Elton John's new CD Songs From the West Coast. Ed Limato, Downey's agent, said that the actor had received several important offers in film and TV roles.
A new biography of Natalie Wood claims the actress was raped as a teenager by an unnamed actor, the BBC reports. According to author Suzanne Finstad, Woods was 16 when she was raped by a "powerful, married movie star." Finstad chose not to name the actor so that people would focus on Wood's horror and trauma. She also added that Wood's mother conspired to keep the rape a secret. The book also details the events leading up to the actress' drowning in 1981 during a boat trip with actors Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken. Wagner has said there are many errors in the book and is upset that the inaccuracies have been published.
Director Steven Spielberg has decided to scale down his plans for a riding ring complex at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, Reuters reports. Neighbors initially objected to the plan, saying the 27,000-square-foot domed monstrosity would clash with the rustic style of the nearby homes. Spielberg reworked the plans and came up with a smaller dome-less version that has met with local approval. The stable will house four or five horses and be surrounded by a 6-foot high gate.
Mick Jagger will release his fourth solo album in November, Virgin Records has announced. According to Reuters, Jagger, 58, has been recording the album with Pete Townshend, Missy Elliott, Lenny Kravitz and Rob Thomas.
Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary all-star concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York sold out in less than five hours, AP reports. Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration, The Solo Years will be Jackson's first with his brothers since the 1994 Victory tour in 1984. Other artists scheduled to appear are Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, Britney Spears, Ricky Martin and N 'Sync. Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, William Shatner, Quincy Jones, Kobe Bryant, Willem Dafoe and Macaulay Culkin will also pay tribute to the pop star.