Carl Rinsch

47 Ronin

This is a special edition of Short Starts, where we look at the past year of disappointing feature debuts from filmmakers who previously wowed us with their short films. Short films can be good calling cards, but they aren’t always the best proof that a filmmaker has the skills to immediately jump into a feature. Especially a big Hollywood production. In recent years, thanks to the combination of the Internet, social media and cheaper tools for making movies on a personal computer, we’ve seen some awesome short films go viral and then get the attention of studio execs and big time producers. The filmmakers, in only a few minutes of screen time, display a lot of talent and imagination and, most importantly, promise. But they’re often handed properties that are too much to handle even for experienced directors, as we saw with Neill Blomkamp’s assignment of Halo as a feature debut. Fortunately, that never happened and instead we got District 9, an extension of his popular short, Alive in Joburg. It’s fitting that Blomkamp disappointed with his sophomore effort (Elysium) in 2013, a year that overall was pretty dismal for directors transitioning from shorts to features. Terrible movies from people who had broken out with acclaimed shorts isn’t anything new. In the past we’ve seen Oscar nominees like Stephen Kessler and Christian E. Christiansen move “up” to Vegas Vacation and The Roommate, respectively. The past year was particularly heavy on the disappointing newcomers, though. 2013 even finished out with what’s possibly […]

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47 Ronin

At first glance, 47 Ronin appears to be one weird movie. It’s a mega expensive Christmas release starring only one white guy, has a shape-shifting witch, and a predetermined unhappy ending. It all sounds ballsy on paper, but those balls are rarely ever flashed onscreen in this all too safe wannabe blockbuster. That one white guy, Kai (Keanu Reeves), is an outcast in his own home. As the son of an English sailor and Japanese peasant, Kai is dismissed as a “half-breed.” He’s stronger, smarter, and faster than any of his master’s samurai, but they’ll never accept him as a true samurai. His master is murdered by Mizuki (Rinko Kikichu) the witch and Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), but when Kai tries to warn the samurai’s leader, Kuranosuke Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), of the witch’s presence his claim is dismissed. When he realizes his mistake, Oishi asks Kai to join him and the rest of his team of “ronin” for revenge. They all go on a dangerous journey together that is structured like a videogame: go here, then there, and then over there to the boss level. The clunky set up, which is front-loaded with exposition, sets up a world and plan full of danger, a risk that is never truly capitalized on. Their journey mostly goes according to plan, with a few mishaps. Some of the men die, but none of them do we actually get to know.

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IntroFirstTimeDir

People don’t just get handed million-dollar blockbusters, nor do studios go door-to-door looking for someone to direct the next Jurassic Park. That’s why the following list of first time directors – while seemingly out of nowhere – certainly had backgrounds directing stuff like music videos or commercials.   Still – they were untested in feature filmmaking, and to the un-obsessed public it would appear that studios simply plucked a dude off the street. Like giving a small child a semi truck, the results were mixed.

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ronin

It would stand to reason that 47 Ronin could be something of a hard sell in Japan, seeing as it takes a story that’s been an important part of Japanese history and culture and co-opts it into being a glossy starring vehicle for an American actor (Keanu Reeves) who gets painted as being its hero. Heck, 47 Ronin could even be a hard sell in the States, because if the first trailer proved anything to us, it’s that the notoriously surfer-voiced Reeves looks and sounds kind of ridiculous when he’s playing a character who exists anywhere other than in modern times. There is one thing that always sells pretty well no matter where you are in the world though, and that’s big spectacle action. So this new Japanese trailer for 47 Ronin shuts its characters up, doesn’t do too much to mention any historical tales, and focuses instead on all of the big sword fights with various mythical creatures that it contains. And, you know what, at least when it’s presented in the short clips we’ve seen so for, it looks like this movie could be a brainless good time at the cinema for fans of sword fighting, monsters, and loud noises. Which is basically anybody sane.

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47 Ronin

Yesterday, the internet was graced with new character posters for the Keanu Reeves-starring 47 Ronin. Today, the ante gets significantly upped with the film’s first trailer. This first trailer builds up some decent atmosphere in its initial 45 seconds. The film displays its vision of feudal Japan, along with plenty of rich color (plus a giant who looks like he wandered in from 300). Reeves’ protagonist seems like a man of few words and fewer smiles – a beaten-down warrior who will rise to greatness. Then Reeves opens his mouth. With that single, wooden utterance of “why did you come for me,” the entire trailer comes crashing down. From here, we’re introduced to a cackling, one-note villain and a bevy of middling CGI. Worse still is Reeves, who with every line and every silent stare is less a stony hero and more a version of Neo who seems trapped in the wrong genre. The one aspect that shows real promise is the trailer’s featured creatures. It’s rare to find a monster that’s not at least slightly entertaining; even more so if those monsters are based off of Japanese myth. Although there is an unpleasant resemblance to the most recent Mummy feature, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, that’s a little hard to shake. Take a look for yourself:

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47R_Tsr1Sheet_Keanu_RGB_0722_1-610x965

We haven’t heard a whole lot about Keanu Reeves‘ upcoming 47 Ronin (other than a series of delays knocking it back from last November to this Christmas). Now, thanks to IGN, we’ve finally got our first real look at the film, via four character posters. The 47 Ronin were real people – a group of samurai who set off down a path of vengeance after their leader was forced into committing suicide. Reeves’ take (or, more accurately, director Carl Rinsch‘s take) seems to have taken a detour towards the sensationalism of the RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists. This 47 Ronin is clear fantasy, “set in a world of witches and giants” and featuring Reeves as a new character created for the film – one who leads the Ronin on their quest for justice. These posters do go a little overboard on the fantastic elements, and in the end they look a little more like banners for superhero characters than for the cast of a martial-arts epic. But at least they assure that 47 Ronin is about as far as you can get from a whitewashed historical epic. Hopefully the final product will have some of the same flair of the RZA’s kung fu epic. Check out the other three posters after the break.

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When Keanu Reeves isn’t busy prepping movies, he seems to spend most of his free time talking to MTV reporters about them. On recent sit-downs he has spilled some details about both his upcoming samurai movie 47 Ronin and also the possible third sequel to Bill & Ted that keeps getting hinted at. Let’s dig in. If it were just Alex Winters talking about a possible sequel to Bill & Ted, then it would be pretty easy to ignore. I call it the Tom Arnold effect. But when the more successful half of the duo, Keanu Reeves, starts to make hints that another go around is going down, well then buddy boy you better stand up and take notice. Starting around last September Reeves did exactly that by saying that the original B&T writers, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, were “going to try and see if they can write something.” When recently asked what the current status was on those efforts were, Reeves said, “I believe the writers are six weeks away from a draft. No pressure, guys!” Six weeks sounds a lot more concrete than trying to see if they can whip up a little something-something. Maybe this thing is going down after all. But what would another Bill and Ted movie be about here in 2011, with a rapidly aging duo of actors? Reeves gave a little hint: “When we last got together, part of it was that Bill and Ted were supposed to have written the song […]

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published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
D+


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