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.
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]
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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....