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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
It's ladies night at TV Tidbits again! The women of Hollywood are making moves, signing deals, and making cameos all over the place. Sure, Cee Lo Green's in there too, but something tells us he would approve of being surrounded by so many awesome ladies making big-time industry power plays. From Kaley Cuoco to comedy lady heroes like Megan Mullally, Rachael Harris, and Angela Kinsey, we say roll that beautiful bean footage television news cycle!
Kaley Cuoco to Host People's Choice Awards: CBS is letting their very own The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco return to her hosting duties at the upcoming People’s Choice Awards. The show will air on CBS live from the Nokia Theatre on January 9, 2013. This is Cuoco’s second time grabbing the hosting reigns after making her debut this year. [Deadline]
Cee Lo's Got the Christmas Spirit: When it comes to spreading holiday cheer, look no further than Cee Lo Green, who is bringing back some of The Voice's top Team Cee Lo competitors to sing red and green all over your TV screen this year. "I'm actually doing a Christmas special -- next week I'm filming," explained Green. "And so I've invited about, I think it's going to be 19 in total. All of my people are coming from Season 3 as we stand, and I'm going back to season 1, getting Nakia, Nicci, Vicci, Jamar, Cheesa." Sounds like the perfect way to ring in your new holiday album, Cee Lo. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Angela Kinsey, Rachael Harris to Front Comedy Pilot at FOX: It's a good day to be a funny lady! After an apparent, multi-network bidding war (sounds intense!), FOX nabbed the put pilot deal for Rachael Harris and The Office's Angela Kinsey's aptly-titled Dirty Blondes. The comedy is based on the real-life, long-time friendship of its two stars and focuses on their life experiences as friends, divorcees, and more. Harris and Kinsey will also be co-executive producing. [Deadline]
Tammy 2's Back with a Vengeance: That's right, Parks and Recreation fans, Megan Mullally, real-life wife of Ron Swanson Nick Offerman is making another scene this season. Mullally will reprise her role as the second ex-wife of Ron in the ninth episode this season, titled "Ron and Diane." Seems like Tammy 2 isn't comfortable with the idea of Ron's potential love interest, Diane (Lucy Lawless), getting all that comfortable. Here's hoping she leaves Ron's mustache alone. [TV Guide]
Adultling Goes from Blog to Book to Put Pilot at FOX: J.J. Abrams' company Bad Robot has landed itself a put pilot deal at FOX for its half-hour, single-camera comedy take on the blog/book Adulting. The quirkily-styled comedy will focus on all the easy(ish) ways young twentysomethings can learn to become true adults like how to change a flat tire, how to not be an anonymous a**hole, or learning how to pack. [Deadline]
[Photo Credit: DailyCeleb]
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
TV Tidbits: Reese Witherspoon Has Great TV 'Expectations'
TV Tidbits: 'Pretty Little Liars' Gets Renewed, 'Homeland' Creators Sell, 'True Blood' and More
TV Tidbits: 'Once Upon A Time' Hooks a New Regular, Julia Roberts Tames a Shrew
Call off the guards, release the prisoner! Those words were music to one cell-mates ears this week. DMX (born Earl Simmons) was released from an Arizona state jail in Yuma yesterday morning. The rapper served nearly 8 months of a one-year sentence for probation violations. His manager, Nakia Walker, confirmed his release stating, "Earl has so much more to offer the world...his latest project has been on hold for so long! It is now time for X to redefine the world of Hip-Hop with his highly anticipated album of inspirational, painful & street accredited rhymes. It is time to let the Dog out of the kennel." Just as long as the "Dog" behaves himself.
What was one of the first things the singer did when he was released? "I spoke to my daughter, I just got off the phone with my wife...I'm going to go see my daughter while the sun is up, then I'm going to be in the studio, man." Well at least he has his priorities straight. Either that or he's working on the lyrics to his next album. A new album could definitely be in the near future though. DMX signed a label deal with UMMG (United Music & Media Group), and his manager has promised "extraordinary things happening from rapper DMX over the next couple months that include collaborations with major names in the music industry."
It took a week longer than originally anticipated for the singer's release from jail. He was held over for an extra week due to several minor infractions, including refusal to submit to a drug test and smoking in unauthorized areas. But yes, we should be expecting extraordinary things from him....
Charles Bronson may have passed away but the spirit of his Death Wish films lives on -- albeit in an absurdly twisted fashion -- in F. Gary Gray’s (The Italian Job Be Cool) gleefully over-the-top revenge thriller Law Abiding Citizen.
Taking a welcome break from his recent run of lame chick flicks Gerard Butler (300 RocknRolla) stars as Clyde Shelton a loving husband and father whose placid suburban existence is upended when a couple of mangy meth monsters burst into his home. Not content to merely burglarize the place they proceed to butcher Clyde’s wife and daughter as he lies in a heap on the floor periodically losing consciousness after being stabbed several times.
The killers are soon apprehended and a grieving Clyde who somehow managed to survive the whole ordeal eagerly awaits swift retribution from the justice system. Hoping for the grim solace that only the death penalty can provide he places his faith in Nick Rice (Oscar winner Jamie Foxx) the hotshot district attorney charged with prosecuting the case to do the right thing and see to it that the two killers fry.
Nick however has other plans. Seeing the case as anything but open-and-shut and fearful that a not-guilty verdict in such a high-profile trial could derail his ambitious career plans (he sees himself as a Giuliani in the making) he opts to strike a plea deal: One man gets a death sentence while the other gets a mere 10 years in return for testifying against his cohort.
Chastened by the unseemly bargain Clyde takes matters into his own hands delivering his own uniquely painful brand of vigilante justice to the sinister men who destroyed his family. But he doesn’t stop there not by a longshot. His grudge extends much much further -- to the very heart of the justice system itself -- and he intends to bring the entire corrupt apparatus down even if he has to do it while locked up inside a jail cell. Which is where he ends up after police nab him for personally imposing the death penalty on the convicted killers.
Indeed Clyde proves to be something of a savant when it comes to killing people in creative cinematic ways employing exploding cell phones remote-control machine guns and other methods to take out the various judges attorneys and politicians on his hit list. Most amazingly he orchestrates all of this mayhem from behind bars. Seriously this guy’s flair for novelty violence makes the Joker’s antics in The Dark Knight seem amateurish by comparison.
The task of putting an end to all of Clyde’s mayhem naturally falls on Nick. And this is where Law Abiding Citizen’s fatal flaw emerges. Whereas Gray Butler and virtually everyone else seem to enthusiastically embrace the utter ridiculousness of it all Foxx plays it determinedly straight as if he’s the only one in the movie who isn’t in on the joke. Watching his performance it’s almost as if he’s making a different film than everyone else.
The right way for Law Abiding Citizen to end is for Foxx to administer an appropriately ironic death to Butler’s character utter something like “I rest my case ” and wink at the camera as he makes his exit. (Click here to read our exclusive interview with Foxx.)
I won’t give any spoilers away but suffice it to say this is NOT how the movie ends.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
G.I. Joe is a top-secret multi-national special forces unit comprised of highly-trained physically attractive military personnel from around the world. Equipped with the latest in superawesome vehicles and weaponry and guided by the tough but fair General Hawk they take on the baddest of the bad guys the kind of terrorists that scoff at conventional organizations. As the General himself so aptly states “When all else fails we don’t.”
That credo is put to the test however when a shadowy terrorist group armed with even awesomer vehicles and weaponry like crazy-ass laser guns and computer-guided zombie troopers infiltrates the Joes’ compound and makes off with a cache of four WMDs each of which is capable of leveling an entire city. Do the men and women of G.I. Joe have what it takes to defeat these menacing new adversaries before they mount their next devastating attack?
WHO’S IN IT?
It takes an elite group of actors to play an elite group of soldiers and the cast of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is stocked with an abundance of Hollywood’s most talented performers all adorned in various types of leather fetish apparel. White Chicks star Marlon Wayans plays Ripcord a flight specialist who can pilot any type of airplane even enemy crafts that respond only to voice commands uttered in Celtic. Channing Tatum star of Step Up and Step Up 2: The Streets plays his best pal Duke a badass infantryman who knows no fear. Preeminent ginger chick Rachel Nichols showcases her fiery crimson locks as Scarlett a shrewd intel expert whose stoic exterior hides a growing attraction to Ripcord. Barking out the orders as General Hawk is Enemy Mine star Dennis Quaid.
On the side of the bad guys is the Baroness played by Factory Girl star Sienna Miller in a push-up bra dirty librarian glasses and a raven-colored dye job. She’s the point woman for McMullen a shady Scottish weapons magnate played by Christopher Eccleston. But McMullen is no ordinary shady Scottish weapons magnate; he’s covertly amassed a huge terrorist empire headquartered beneath the polar ice caps. It’s there that “The Doctor ” a horribly disfigured mad scientist played by (500) Days of Summer star Joseph Gordon-Levitt concocts all sorts of diabolical new weapons and gadgets to unleash on the innocent.
Oh and there are ninjas too. Good guy Snake Eyes played by Ray Park wears sleek black body armor while the evil Storm Shadow played by Byung-hun Lee runs around in a updated version of Elvis Presley’s classic all-white jumpsuit.
Loaded with scene after scene of high-tech action-movie eye candy G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra assaults the senses with such a relentless barrage of over-the-top stunts eye-popping visual effects and stylized fight sequences that only the most coldly cynical of viewers will be able to resist submitting to its visceral charms.
As with most sugary indulgences the sweet dizzying high is followed almost immediately by a painful crash. Feelings of guilt and shame start to simmer as you kick yourself for yielding to such soulless gluttony. The next morning you awake with a throbbing headache and a heart filled with regret. The following day a doctor informs you that you have adult-onset diabetes. So in a nutshell G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is the cinematic equivalent of adult-onset diabetes.
The scene where they have the big fight with all the advanced weapons and a whole bunch of stuff blows up. Oh wait that’s EVERY scene.
For the bulk of his performance Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face is obscured by a bulky breathing apparatus and his voice is altered to sound like the computerized movie trailer's narrator. Which makes one wonder why they bothered to hire a name actor for the role in the first place.
An American Indian deputy sheriff is caught in the middle of a community dispute when the tribe tries to save a historic mission from a housing developer. Forster and Kennedy continued their roles in the short-lived series that followed (1974-75). Strong overtones of "Billy Jack" (1972) were spotted in both the telefeature and the later series.