47 RONNIN REVIEW47
Ronin is a 2013 American fantasy action film depicting a fictional account of the forty-seven Ronin, a real-life group of masterless samurai in 18th-century Japan who avenge the murder of their master (stories, plays and other dramatic performances of the 47 Ronin story are commonly referred to as Chūshingura in Japan). Produced by Universal Studios, the film is directed by Carl Erik Rinsch and stars Keanu Reeves. Filming started in Budapest in March 2011; it moved to Shepperton Studios in London and was concluded in Japan.
SAVING MR BANKS (2013)
Starring:Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Running time: 126 minutes
Parental guidance: G Playing at: Landmark Kanata, Landmark Orléans, Silver City, South Keys, Star Cité
Our inner child never dies.It just grows weary of the adult world and builds a fort of its own somewhere safe beneath the permafrost of maturity and the snake pit of society at large.
There, in that snug nest, we can smell our breath and hear our own thoughts – and sometimes retire completely from the surrounding madness.Every one of us needs that safe place to spill our personal truth and repair the dents and scratches of everyday life, which is why the general rule of “no visitors allowed” applies
in almost every single situation – except the one we see in Saving Mr. Banks, because if there were any person on Earth who truly loved visitors, it was Walt Disney.Successfully creating a Magic Kingdom infused with a Norman Rockwell morality, Disney appealed to the inner child in all of us with his smiley-faced automatons and fuzzy mascots, but there was one little clammy hand that tugged away.P.L. Travers, the woman who wrote Mary Poppins, did not fall under Disney’s spell. For 20 long years, Disney courted Travers for the film rights to her successful children’s story without scoring a signature on the dotted line.
Travers didn’t think Disney had the right vision for the special nanny she birthed with pen and paper, so she held off as long as she could – which is where this movie from John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) picks up a very colourful narrative thread.Travers, played here by the ever-prim Emma Thompson, is facing financial problems. She needs cash if she is going to save her lovely London house, and the only place she’s going to get it is from the bank that Mickey built.
There’s only one catch: Disney (Tom Hanks) wants to turn Mary Poppins into a musical with dancing animated penguins, which for Travers, is a non-starter.
And so begins an awkward waltz as Travers and Disney end up locked in a marathon whirl across the dance floor of intellectual property, desperate for the other one to buckle first.It’s a series of stiff moves that feels a lot like a faltering courtship in a romantic comedy – where the two opposites are forced into each other’s company until they both find a sense of grudging, but mutual, respect. But thanks to the comic confidence of our two leads and their talent for tugging at heartstrings, it’s a beautifully choreographed production number with all the bells and whistles.
Everything about Saving Mr. Banks feels top-notch and detailed, from the early 1960s production design soaked in sea foam blue and woolly fibres, to the props and cinematography – which all point back to that same breathless moment in history when, with Disney’s help, America’s inner child was reborn as a market force.The shifting social template is embodied in our central characters as the grown-up, highly responsible and deeply scarred Travers faces off against the fast-talking, oily haired, multimillionaire cartoonist for the duration.
“Give me your Mary,” says Disney. “Over my dead body,” says Travers.This goes on for two hours, but intercut between this property dance is the backstory behind the birth of Mary Poppins as Hancock sends us back in time, to a little farm in remote Australia where a young girl is trying to save her alcoholic father from ruin.Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley) is forced to watch helplessly as her father Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) indulges in fairy tales and fantasies while his work slides into a liquorfilled abyss.
Ginty wants to save him, but she is just a child without any power. So when her older self is presented with the opportunity to cash in her father’s ghost for a gold-plated Mickey, she’s not only repulsed by the tawdry financials – her inner child is deeply wounded.
Yet, she’s still an adult and is forced to carry that hurt in a proper Birkin bag, beneath a strand of pearls and a coat of red lipstick. By contrast, Disney’s inner kid is allowed to ride the miniature railroad and roam freely through the backlot.It’s the chemistry between these two inner children that makes Saving Mr. Banks so special because Hanks and Thompson understand this is where the drama lies, in the hidden folds of adult fear, and they turn it into a cuddle toy of content.Hanks may not look anything like the real life Walt-sicle, but with his wormy little moustache and his twinkling fake brown eyes, he approximates the same larger than life dimensions of the American ideal and its inner child.
Thompson, meanwhile, can purse her lips and close the sun, so when she allows herself to undergo the predictably clichéd transformation mandated by the script, we get enough hot oil to pop the kernels for a solid popcorn experience.But Saving Mr. Banks goes further than a straight, entertaining ride through the history of Mary Poppins.
It captures the quiet suffering and tearful euphoria of the wary child within us all as we grow older and bigger and, sadly, more afraid of all the risks that make life worth living.
Woody Allen once joked that his wife had divorced him on the grounds of “insufficient laughter”, and on that same basis I find myself duly estranged from Ron Burgundy. If you’re an Anchorman fan you’ll know that this sequel’s evolution has been tortuous, with Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay very publicly butting heads with Paramount after the studio claimed: “We’ve run the numbers and it’s not a good fit.” (Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell have all become a lot more expensive since Anchorman grossed $90m worldwide on a $26m budget in 2004.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
- Production year: 2013
- Directors: Adam McKay
- Cast: Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell
- Finally, after several false starts and talk of a Broadway musical, Anchorman 2 arrives as a broad swipe at rolling news, with Burgundy enlisted to front the 24-hour news network GNN, owned by an Australian multimillionaire who puts Rupert Murdoch’s soul in Richard Branson’s body. Rounding up the old team (Carell’s Brick Tamland attending his own funeral is an early highlight), Ron discovers that live car chases, animal stories and wanton patriotism (“Don’t just have a great night, have an American night”) will whack interviews with Arafat in the ratings war.
While the underlying thread is sound (and more satirically substantial than its predecessor), the brickbat humour rings hollow, with the usual knob gags offset by a string of ill-judged “interracial intercourse” japes as drawn out as they are old hat. A superfluity of celebrity cameos in the second half signals a loss of creative confidence, with the street fight of the original expanded into a spot-the-star spectacular in which even Sacha Baron Cohen manages to be dull. New pack member Kristen Wiigraises a few chuckles as Brick’s love interest (he’s still the funniest thing in the franchise) but it’s never enough to produce a properly hearty guffaw. As for the shark that bookends the action, Burgundy may wrestle it, but the movie comes perilously close to jumping it.
A WALKING WITH DINOSAURS in 3D
In the live-action beginning of the movie, a teenage boy and his kid sister visit their paleontologist father (Karl Urban) in Alaska and find a dinosaur tooth in his SUV. When the boy refuses to accompany his uncle on a research dig, a bird (John Leguizamo) starts talking and announces that “every fossil has a story.” He transforms into a prehistoric bird the Alexornis (named Alex and speaking with a Spanish accent, of course) and recounts the fossil’s tale from the Late Cretaceous period — about a Pachyrhinosaurus named Patchi (Justin Long). Patchi is the runt of his herd, and he’s nearly killed by a predator that leaves a hole in his frill. Saved by his mother, Patchi grows into a young adult and meets a female, Juniper (Tiya Sircar), from a different herd. When climate changes spark a Great Migration, circumstances force Patchi to transition into a more responsible role — for his herd, Juniper, and himself.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is James Thurber’s classic story of a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker are threatened, Walter takes action in the real world emba… More
**AMERICAN HUSTLE The film tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld, who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanti…
Justin Chadwick’s decent, respectful and respectable account of Nelson Mandela‘s life is vigorously scripted by William Nicholson, and intelligently acted by Idris Elba and Naomie Harris; it appears by a remarkable stroke of fate at almost at the same historical moment as Mandela’s death, an event for which the western media had long prepared the shooting script of their own response. The memorial event was naturally expected to be as calm and uplifting as an Olympic ceremony, just the sort of moment which in movie terms would furnish the opening scene, and from which the main drama would then unfold in flashback. In fact, of course, the event was disconcertingly chaotic and even faintly surreal, with press and media unsure quite how to cover the half-empty stadium, the booing of the incumbent president, the silly selfie, the meaningless sign-language. So perhaps it is a relief to return to the accepted pieties of the biopic.
- Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
- Production year: 2013
- Country: Rest of the world
- Cert (UK): 12A
- Runtime: 146 mins
- Directors: Justin Chadwick
- Cast: Deon Lotz, Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto
- In fact, and to give it its due, Nicholson’s screenplay – based on Mandela’s 1995 autobiography of the same name – avoids beginning with the traditional cliche of the old character looking back. It gives a clear, strong narrative line showing the burly young trial lawyer and amateur boxer joining the ANC to fight apartheid and police brutality, getting radicalised by the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, passionately leading an armed struggle and then once in prison transforming his anguish and rage into a Zen mastery of exile. He disarms his guards with a politician’s knack of remembering their children’s names and birthdays. Rather like a calmer version of Tolstoy’s Father Sergius, his very retreat from the world gradually feeds his prestige and once free he is able to bring off a remarkable new metamorphosis into South African president and inspirational world leader.
Idris Elba conveys as much as any actor could of the enigma of Mandela’s long experience in prison: it is a performance of sensitivity and force: his impersonation of the walking, talking Mandela is sharply observed, though it isn’t just mimicry, and Naomie Harris is very good as Winnie, who (mostly) outside prison did not have the luxury of saintly inactivity and had to do what she saw as the dirty work of getting violent with the ANC’s enemies and also with those traitors on her own team. It is a thoroughly well-managed movie, although it sees events purely in South African terms: it steers clear, for example, of the fact that US intelligence forces helped the 60s South African government to arrest Mandela in 1962. It could perhaps have probed a little further into the mystery of exactly what Nelson thought about his wife’s activities while he was in prison and exactly what tensions were caused with his imprisoned comrades by finally deciding to negotiate with the government in the late 1980s.
And it misses out what is arguably the tenderest, most romantic part of his story: his third marriage to Graça Machel — although it is based on a book which predates this event. Perhaps a separate film could be made about just this love story.
One of the movie’s shrewdest moments comes at the very beginning: the ambitious and smart young lawyer takes a case defending a black maid accused of stealing her white mistress’s clothing. With studied insolence, Mandela takes one of the disputed undergarments, suggests it is the accused’s rightful property and asks the woman to examine it while in the witness box. Of course, he gambles that this haughty racist woman would not tolerate being intimately questioned by a black man on such matters; she storms out of the court and the prosecution case collapses. This farcical moment shows the racial tension and racial contempt underlying the theoretical fairness of the law-court: it is an interesting counterpoint to Mandela’s own defiance in the dock as he faces a guilty verdict in 1962.
Idris Elba and Naomie Harris in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar
But once he is in prison, it is Winnie’s story which becomes fiercer and more contentious. She has to bear the burden of politics and the nasty business of activism. Is she not Nelson’s own Umkhonto we Sizwe, the spear of the nation, his own armed wing – the Armalite to Nelson’s promised ballot box? The film shows that she herself did time in prison,without ever accruing the aura that gathered around her husband.