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.
Bryan Cranston and Mariska Hargitay's acting coach, Ivan Markota, has passed away at the age of 86. The veteran Hollywood mentor, who was an actor himself, passed away from natural causes on 6 August (13) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Markota started the Van Mar Academy of Motion Picture & Television Acting in L.A. in 1967 and served as the president of the Acting Coaches & Teachers Association.
Markota's other students included Sherri Shepherd, T.K. Carter, Rick Dees, Miguel Nunez, Traci Lords, Denice Duff, Glenn Withrow, Walter Olkewicz, Casper Van Dien, Stephen Nichols and Mary Hart.
As an actor he starred in bit parts, appearing in In Like Flint, Waxwork II: Lost in Time and the 1960s series Land of the Giants.
Shepherd recently paid tribute to Markota in a post on her Twitter.com page, writing, "Farewell my dear acting teacher Ivan Markota, founder of Van Mar Academy. 1994 in class Ivan pointed at me & told me I would be a star RIP. 1994 - I was a legal sec't (secretary), riding the bus, struggling comic. Ivan Markota had faith in me. Sometimes it only takes one to believe RIP."
Funeral services are scheduled to take place on Friday (16Aug13) at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, California.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Connor Mead is a womanizing commitment-phobic bachelor whose carefree antics nearly destroy his brother’s wedding weekend when his constant mockery of the sacred institution throws cold water on the event. But then straight out of the afterlife comes Connor’s philandering late Uncle Wayne (whose legendary cocksmanship inspired his current lifestyle) to lead him through a spooky Dickensian tour of the ghosts of all his many female conquests from the past present and future. As he realizes what a sorry state he’s in and how he blew his relationship with Jenny the one girl he truly loved and lost Connor will find out if there’s really a second chance in life.
WHO’S IN IT?
Matthew McConaughey plays Connor with little distinction from the myriad of other skirt-chasing cads he’s played in a string of unmemorable chick flicks like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days Failure to Launch and Fool’s Gold. His immature chauvinist act is getting a little old and poor Jennifer Garner his latest leading lady can’t do much to save him. There’s little chemistry between the two and in fact both stars don’t seem to have their heart in this lame lustful takeoff on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Instead of Scrooge it’s Screwed — and the crude tone doesn’t make for the merriest of romantic comedies. For some inexplicable reason Michael Douglas took the thankless role of the late Uncle who mostly just throws out lots of double entendres. Breckin Meyer is OK as the hapless groom while Lacey Chabert is just plain annoying as his shrill bride-to-be. Acting vets Robert Forster and Anne Archer do what they can to maintain their dignity in smaller supporting roles.
The trailer for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was much better than the actual film and showed the premise had great promise. Unfortunately they had to release the rest of the movie and the jig was up.
The screenplay just doesn’t deliver. There are few laughs in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and most of them are forced as in an endless slapstick kitchen scene where McConaughey tries desperately to keep a wedding cake from completely collapsing. He proves physical comedy is not his forte. Where’s Lucy when you need her? The overall tone is just crass and sleazy and the fantasy sequences involving the ghostly visits are flat and uninspired.
MOST PROPHETIC LINE:
At one point McConaughey utters “Wake me when there’s an action sequence will you?” We would have but there aren’t any.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Read a book instead. How about A Christmas Carol?
Nevermind Angelina Jolie. The biggest scene-stealer in "Gone in 60 Seconds" may well be Eleanor, the revving classic Mustang that Nicolas Cage is so bent to get his hands on in the car-chase flick. But despite its cool look and tough muscles, the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500 is still no match to its same-named predecessor, the 1973 Mach 1 Mustang in the original "Gone in 60 Seconds" -- the 1974 B-type flick that's more familiar to drive-ins than mutliplexes.
Written, directed and produced on a shoe-string budget by H.B. ("Toby") Halicki (who also played the lead), the original flick was a true do-it-yourself effort in that the whole production -- a production featuring 93 cars (and 100 wrecks) -- was solely financed by the writer-director-producer. The chases and clashes -- which prominently figured in the plot about a car burglar alternately running from his employers and cops -- climaxed into a 40-minutes car chase scene that propelled the entire 98-minute film to cult status.
And doing the bad deeds in the film with Halicki was no Angelina Jolie-type, but his Eleanor -- the yellow muscle car with a running black stripe down the middle that experienced as many high-impact crashes as Halicki did during the course of the film.
And unlike the remake which had a dozen stand-ins for the car and countless more stunt doubles for the actors, Halicki and his partner in crime ride did every single one of their own stunts, including a 128-foot jump which left the driver with a spine injury, Denice Halicki, H.B.'s widow tells Hollywood.com (H.B. Halicki was killed in 1989 in an accident on the set of the botched "Gone in 60 Seconds 2.")
With 27 years on its engine and every single dent intact, the original Eleanor's still got what it takes to turn heads at car shows, and she had even visit the set of the new remake last summer.
And fans of the original (film and car) shouldn't feel that their beloved will be upstaged by the new version, for the remake was conceived as much of a homage as anything else.
"After Toby's death, my fire just kept burning and all I wanted was to finish what he had set out to do," says Denice Halicki, who serves as an executive producer on the remake. "And with complete determination, we've come up with this great remake."
"The whole idea was that it has to be a Mustang, and that her name has to be Eleanor. For me, each car is like a kid and they're both great."
The original Eleanor will be on displayed at the Peterson Automobile Museum in Los Angeles beginning June 15.