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.
"We all kinda got our own families and went our own way. It's funny we all were together and then it all went poof." Singer Melissa Etheridge admits she has not spoken to her old pal Brad Pitt or his ex-wife Jennifer Aniston in years after performing at their 2000 wedding.
With the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and dismiss Proposition 8, Wednesday is a big day for the advancement of gay rights in this country. But you probably already know that — at least, you do if you've checked your Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Vine at all today.
Your friends and relatives aren't the only ones flocking to social media to share their joy on this momentous day. Many celebrities — from President Obama himself to Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris, and more — are also chiming in on Twitter with their thoughts on the SCOTUS rulings. Here are some celebratory celebrity tweets:
Today's DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 26, 2013
DOMA and Prop 8 should get married.
— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers) June 26, 2013
Hurray for all Americans and good riddance to DOMA. It's a new day. A happy day.
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) June 26, 2013
I never dreamed I would see this day. The whole world has changed for us all. I can't believe it!! #DOMA #Equality
— Andy Cohen (@BravoAndy) June 26, 2013
Big day for some of my good friends and for The US !! @jessetyler @JustinMikita @DRVW11 @JewdyGold @buckhollywood
— Melissa Joan Hart (@MelissaJoanHart) June 26, 2013
Woke up to the news of DOMA being struck down. Don't care that it's cold and raining in Portland, it's a beautiful day.
— Carrie Brownstein (@Carrie_Rachel) June 26, 2013
AND no standing on #prop8?? Same sex marriage is legal in california! I better be getting some wedding invites... #whatdoiwear?
— Sarah Hyland (@Sarah_Hyland) June 26, 2013
This is truly an historic day. Never before & never again will so many men be this excited about getting married. #Scotus
— Danny Zuker (@DannyZuker) June 26, 2013
Went to bed depressed woke up to find DOMA overturned, Prop 8 defeated and the bill in Texas didn't pass. I should sleep more!
— Gillian Jacobs (@GillianJacobs) June 26, 2013
Great news, I just married my cat.
— Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs) June 26, 2013
"DOMA arigato, Mr. Roboto" --from tmbg fb page
— They Might Be Giants (@tmbg) June 26, 2013
I want to french Justice Kennedy SO hard right now.
— Damon Lindelof (@DamonLindelof) June 26, 2013
No one be shocked if I get married and pregnant with a daughter today in a slightly premature fit of joy #americathebeautiful
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) June 26, 2013
.@daxshepard1 will you marry me? Xo #marriageequality #loveislove”
— Kristen Bell (@IMKristenBell) June 26, 2013
Big news from the Supreme Court. Goodbye #DOMA #Prop8. Hello #equality.
— Ben Affleck (@BenAffleck) June 26, 2013
Down w DOMA! Something to be very proud of this upcoming July 4th. We are making beautiful progress for Equality! #proud
— Adam Lambert (@adamlambert) June 26, 2013
If you're gay married in California your gay marriage is now legal. Good. #allmarriageisabitgay
— Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) June 26, 2013
I am standing on the right side of history. I stand with @HRC for marriage equality. #SCOTUS #time4marriage http://t.co/3cSE5e0nwK
— Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) June 26, 2013
A big day for equality and human rights. I'm smiling so big right now.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) June 26, 2013
Victory for marriage in California as #Prop8 is struck down. Small but substantial steps toward #MarriageEquality for all!
— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) June 26, 2013
DOMA-it-just-lost-O Mr. Roboto! So, so happy for Edie, et al.
— Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH) June 26, 2013
Gay, straight, lesbian, bi.. No one is better than any one else. What an incredible day for California AND for equality.
— demetria lovato (@ddlovato) June 26, 2013
Thank you to the plaintiffs, the lawyers David Boies and Ted Olsen, to Rob Reiner, Chad and all organizations who made this happen & SCOTUS!
— Official Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) June 26, 2013
#PROP8 IS GONE! #DOMA IS GONE! #SCOTUS #LoveIsLove
— Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) June 26, 2013
Remember where you are today, history is made...supreme court Strikes down DOMA!
— Melissa Etheridge (@speak_true) June 26, 2013
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Singer Melissa Etheridge has clarified her controversial comments about Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy, insisting she did not mean to criticise the actress for undergoing the preventative surgery. Jolie made the decision after discovering she carries the 'faulty' BRCA1 gene, which doctors estimated gave her an 87 per cent chance of developing breast cancer, but the Come to My Window star, a breast cancer survivor herself, hit headlines this week (begs17Jun13) when she cautioned women in similar situations against blindly following the Hollywood actress' lead.
She told the Washington Blade newspaper, "I have to say I feel a little differently (than Jolie). I have that gene mutation too and it's (a double mastectomy) not something I would believe in for myself. I wouldn't call it the brave choice. I actually think it's the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer."
The musician's remarks took Jolie's fiance Brad Pitt by surprise when he learned of her comments on Monday (17Jun13), during the New York premiere of his new film World War Z, but he insisted Etheridge was "an old friend of mine" and expressed interest in discussing the matter with her in private, telling UsMagazine.com, "I'm sure we'll talk on the phone."
However, Etheridge, 52, has since released a statement, claiming her words were misconstrued.
The statement reads: "I don't have any opinion on what she 'should have' done. All are free to choose, I only objected to the term 'brave' describing it."
Easy A a teen sex comedy with no actual sex aims rather conspicuously to plumb the best bits of Diablo Cody and Alexander Payne in its upside-down self-consciously campy take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. In the role of its high-school Hester Prynne is Emma Stone the sly husky heroine of last year’s surprise hit Zombieland. Tested by a film that is far less clever than its director Will Gluck or screenwriter Bert Royal would have us believe (and they desperately want us to believe) she passes with flying colors delivering a performance that should elevate her into the upper echelon of actresses possessing brains and beauty in equal measure.
Stone plays Olive the kind of quick-witted hyper-literate teen that our educational system produces in ever-diminishing numbers. (If it ever produced them to begin with.) More knowing and sophisticated than others her age she is nonetheless not immune to the pressure of peers and the dread of being labeled a loser. Under duress by a prying friend (Aly Michalka) to dish the details of her birthday weekend a rather mundane affair mainly spent jumping on her bed to the tune of Natasha Bedingfield’s pop monstrosity “Pocket Full of Sunshine ” she feels compelled to embellish a bit and concocts an entirely fictional account of losing her virginity (dubbed the “V-Card” by Royal trying too hard) to a boy from a junior college across town.
Word of Olive’s deflowering spreads with startling speed aided by the incessant rumor-mongering of a catty Evangelical eavesdropper (Amanda Bynes). Suddenly branded a tramp on account of a seemingly harmless little lie Olive opts to embrace her newly tarnished reputation and put it to good use. In a viciously stratified social environment where even the most awkward acne-plagued pariah can earn respect and even admiration from members of the upper castes for having gone All the Way Olive anoints herself the Mother Theresa of (fake) sluts bestowing her blessing upon downtrodden gents in need of a reputation boost. And she resolves to look the part too traipsing around in scandalous bustiers and affixing the letter “A” to her chest.
There are limits to Easy A’s Scarlet Letter conceit overly Glee-ful tone forced repartee and pop-culture references (John Hughes is invoked so many times he should get a producer credit). Which is why director Gluck must be grateful to have found Stone who handles the verbal calisthenics of Royal’s script with charm and verve and a certain effortless appeal that keeps us engaged even as the film wallows in contrived irony and heavy-handedness. Keep your eye on her.
20/20 was the highest-rated primetime program Friday night, despite the fact that Barbara Walters was absent and commentator John Stossel ("Give Me a Break") replaced her as host. The magazine, which posted an 8.1 rating and a 16 share -- versus last week, when it pulled a 7.7/15 -- led off with a report about sometime producer Peter Paul who claimed that he put up $1.5 million for a fund-raising party for Hillary Clinton but did not receive a promised pardon in return. (He was later indicted on stock fraud charges.) Paul produced video clips from the party showing Cher and Melissa Etheridge performing, Wolfgang Puck preparing the meals, and arriving "A-list" guests including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Brad Pitt and John Travolta.
Rocker Melissa Etheridge has finally revealed the identity of the man who fathered her two children -- and it's not Brad Pitt.
Etheridge has long talked about her crush on good friend Pitt, whom she once said was good-looking enough to make any woman switch teams. (Etheridge outed herself in 1992.) Anyway, the Pitt connection fueled rumors that the actor's DNA was involved when Etheridge's partner, Julie Cypher (ex-wife of Lou Diamond Phillips) became pregnant.
But alas, Pitt has not passed along his good-looking genes to Etheridge-Cypher. Surprisingly, Etheridge reveals to this month's Rolling Stone that the biological father is sorta the anti-Brad Pitt -- David Crosby, the balding, pudgy folkie best known for his hard-livin' days with 1960s stalwarts Crosby, Stills & Nash.
"He's musical, which means a lot to me," Etheridge says of Crosby in Rolling Stone, "and I admire his work."
Cypher became pregnant through artificial insemination and gave birth to daughter Bailey, now 3, and son Beckett, who's 1. The entire, extended family appears on the cover of the new Rolling Stone, including Crosby, 58, and wife Jan, who recommended him for the paternity job.
"No kitchen implements were involved,'' assures Cypher.
Well, that's a relief.
EXODUS: Woody Allen leaving "Manhattan"?!?
The notorious New Yorker has decided to leave the Big Apple for London -- at least for a year, according to reports. Manhattan is, of course, the city in which nearly all Allen's films are set -- and not just the ones named after Manhattan ("Manhattan Murder Mystery", "Manhattan").
Allen, 65, wife Soon-Yi, 29, and their baby daughter, Bechet Dumaine, plan to move to Britain so Allen can direct one-act plays in the foggy city's fashionable "boutique" theaters, according to Sunday's London Times. Producers rejected a similar plan in New York because it was deemed too expensive.
OBLIGATORY DOUGLAS/ZETA-JONES ITEM OF THE DAY: Yes, the wedding is still on for Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, -- in fact, Britain's Sun reports that the two will tie the knot in Majorca, a Spanish resort island.
Douglas owns a remote mountain villa there, and an unnamed source tells the tab, "They want to keep the wedding private. Michael's estate in Majorca is perfect because it is so isolated."
But not too private: The Welsh actress reportedly was considering holding the wedding in a chapel near her hometown but nixed it because the venue was too small.
The Sun, by the way, says the Douglas/Zeta-Jones nuptials will go down Sept. 25, which also happens to be the couple's shared birthday (he'll be turning 56, she'll be turning 31).
That would prove convenient; Douglas would only have to remember one date out of the year.
STUPID, BUT OK: Paul Newman suffered bruised ribs after crashing his racecar into a tire barrier at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.
"I got overconfident on a fresh set of tires," Newman, 74, said. "The tires weren't warm enough, and I slipped."
Newman, an avid and accomplished racecar driver, was examined on the scene by a doctor and further evaluated at Hallifax Medical Center.
"I'm angry at myself," Newman said. "It was a stupid thing to do."
But it's not slowing him down: Newman still plans to run the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona race next month.
GLOBAL PRESENCE: Steven Spielberg, who won a best director Golden Globe (and later the Oscar) for "Saving Private Ryan," and Gwyneth Paltrow, who scored a Globe and an Oscar for "Shakespeare in Love," have been tapped as presenters for the 57th Annual Golden Globes on Jan. 23 in Beverly Hills.
Also presenting awards are Catherine Deneuve, Winona Ryder and the (very) aforementioned Michael Douglas.
THE WRITE STUFF: Michael Caine, currently seen in "The Cider House Rules," has decided to do a little John Irving of his own.
The Oscar-winning actor ("Hannah and Her Sisters") has completed his debut novel -- a thriller -- but says he must go back for rewrites after realizing he killed off one of his characters, er, twice.
"I've got to the end in a mad dash. Now I've got to go back and do it properly," Caine told reporters.