Saturday trailer: “Kill the Irishman”

A cinematic plea for ethnic harmony maybe? Well, no, not exactly.

Prolific screenwriter and second time director Jonathan Hensleigh‘s name hasn’t always been a sure stamp of high quality cinema so far. But this second film from the director of 2004’s “The Punisher” looks like grimy fun. With a cast led by Ray Stevenson (who played the Punisher in a movie not directed by Hensleigh) and featuring, among others, Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer, Vincent D’Onofrio, Paul Sorvino, and Robert Davi, a criminally good time would seem to be nearly a sure thing. Nearly.

H/t /Film.

  

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Hollywood, land of confusion

Today, much of the confusion appears to be ethnic.

* Patrick Goldstein presents the U.K. based “Case of the Vanishing and Less Famous African-Americans.

* Universal is “circling” a director of commercials named Carl Erik Rinsch for a shot at the big time for a new action flick, writes Michael Fleming. Rinsch, who I never heard of until now, turns out to have an pretty interesting visual approach (more about that in tonight next’s post), but these days every third movie is from some first-timer whose made his or her name doing commercials. Also, Keanu Reeves is the star. Nothing surprising or strange about that, I guess. No, what’s of interest here is that the movie is a new version of the story of the loyal 47 Ronin (leaderless samurai), an oft-filmed national legend — in Japan, that is.

47_ronin_1941_2

Okay, so Reeves is part-Asian, but his looks are sort of those of a vaguely ethnic white guy, which is usually neither here nor there, but this isn’t “Shogun” or “The Last Samurai” — it’s not a story about some random westerner who finds himself in 18th century Japan. Or maybe it is now. I don’t like pre-judging movies but this just gives me a bad feeling. The 47 Ronin is a dearly held national legend of Japan and they’re going to make a seemingly super-Americanized English language version, and starring this guy?

I know there’s such a thing as non-traditional casting, but this is just weird. Samurai are not merely part Japanese and really can’t be. Remember Boss Tanaka from “Kill Bill” and his reaction to taking orders from a woman who was Chinese-Japanese American? Quentin  Tarantino is one big-time Western filmmaker who knows something about Asian culture; I wonder if there are any others. If any movie were to give Japan’s growing nationalist far-right a boost, this could be it.

But it’s only a movie, right? So, let’s see some Japanese filmmakers get to do a version of the Alamo or the Shoot-Out at the O.K. Corral starring some vaguely Caucasian-looking Japanese actor as Wyatt Earp/Davey Crockett and film it in Japanese. I wonder how that would do in the States. I also wonder what our own ranting nativists would make of that.

Tadanobu Asano* But poetic semi-justice is swift, because also from the mighty pen of Michael Fleming comes the word of casting the “Warriors Three” by Kenneth Branagh of the upcoming “Mighty Thor” flick. Alongside the traditionally more or less Nordic looking Stuart Townsend and Ray Stevenson (who I guess will be wearing a fat suit of some sort as Valstagg or gaining a lot of weight, or will just be the trimmest Falstaff knock-off ever), Branagh has taken the interesting step of going full mongol on the character of Hogun, who was partially modeled on Charles Bronson, by casting the Japanese actor who actually starred in “Mongol” (and Takashi Miike’s probably-never-to-be-seen-by-me gangster gorefest, “Ichi the Killer”), Tadanobu Asano. Yes, this is not your father’s lily-white Asgard.

* Mel Gibson adds to the confusion/mystery around “Max Max 4.”

* And, finally, in non-ethnically based confusion, Nikki Finke reports Carl Icahn appears to be mucking about with the MGM sale, and the ever-opinionated Devin Faraci (well, he’s a pussycat next to Ms. Finke, but who isn’t?) has some interestingly contentious thoughts on the state of geek-oriented film journalism and Julia Styles/Spiderman/Black Cat rumors.

  

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“Rome” feature film coming soon?

In an interview with MovieWeb.com, Ray Stevenson (who played Titus Pullo on the HBO series) confirms that a feature-length script is in full development.

Is the Rome movie still moving ahead?

Ray Stevenson: Apparently so. It is no longer a smoke and mirrors rumor. The script is in full development. As you are probably aware, this is a pretty strange process. We could go into production in a year, or it could be as quick as six months. Who knows? It will happen. At least it is no longer a rumor. From what I have heard, they are nearing the end of script development. We shall see. We shall see.

The second half of the second season of “Rome” was quite rushed, so I’m sure there is plenty of story to cover. This is obviously great news for fans of the series and a good reason for neophytes to pick up the DVD sets to get caught up.

  

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Blu Tuesday: Punisher: War Zone and More

This week’s high-def offerings are pretty slim due to some unconventional marketing decisions. Though DVDs and Blu-rays are typically released on Tuesdays (hence the title of the column), there are only a few movies actually being released today. Summit Entertainment hopes to maximize Day One sales of “Twilight” by holding a midnight sale of the film on March 21st, while Walt Disney’s “Bolt” races into stores a day later. (Curiously, the DVD edition is still scheduled for the following Tuesday). Because it makes more sense to talk about those titles when they’re actually available in stores, however, I’ll save both “Twilight” and “Bolt” for next week’s column. Which leaves us with just one major release for the week…

“Punisher: War Zone” (Lionsgate)

Lexi Alexander’s “Punisher” reboot had all the makings of a box office disaster, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that it performed terribly in theaters. Still, for all the drama plaguing production (from recasting Thomas Jane with Ray Stevenson to Alexander’s falling out with the studio), “War Zone” is a pretty entertaining flick. Fans of the comic will absolutely love all of the graphic violence, and though it can be a bit cheesy at times, it’s still better than some of the other Marvel films. The Blu-ray definitely does the movie justice (especially Steve Gainer’s excellent cinematography), but in the end, there just aren’t enough extras to make it worth owning.

The only other major releases this week are two catalog titles from Fox: “The Princess Bride” and “The Robe.” The former looks to be identical to the 20th Anniversary DVD (with the exception of a high-def transfer), while the biblical epic touts a digital restoration and all-new bonus features. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to check out both discs and report back next week. Until then, be sure to save up some extra cash, because next week’s impressive Blu-ray schedule could set you back a hefty sum.

  

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Rome: “About Your Father”

Rome

That’s it. That’s the last episode of “Rome.”

I’ve said before, with all the jumping ahead in time, that this season felt awfully rushed, but the final episode provided a fitting conclusion to most of the show’s storylines.

It starts with a great monologue by Mark Antony as the remainder of his navy rowed its way back to Alexandria.

All my life I’ve been fearful of defeat. But now that it has come it’s not near as terrible as I’d expected. The sun still shines, water still tastes good…glory is all well and good but life is enough, nay?

Then, in contrast, we get another monologue from Atia as she laments the news of Antony’s defeat:

[Octavian] wasn’t like that as a child. He was a good, honest boy. I don’t know what happened. I’m to blame, probably.

Probably?

Antony’s meltdown in the palace is a brilliant piece of acting by James Purefoy. When Cleopatra pleads with him to come up with some military trick to win the war, Antony quips, “I’m a soldier, not a fucking magician.”

Then, he has a “GoodFellas” moment when one of his guests laughs as he gets knocked down. Antony shouts, “I’m a fucking clown?” before killing the weakling in a swordfight. (I had visions of Joe Pesci.) That moment is Antony’s “lampshade” moment. You know, that moment when a partygoer partakes a little too much and their night spins out of control. I’d like to applaud the hazy cinematography of the scene. It really adds depth to Antony’s frame of mind at the time.

He has another great line when Cleo’s slave comes to tell him of her death and to urge him to commit suicide: “Anything to cure this fucking hangover.” The suicide scene with Lucius was intense, and it was a nice gesture that Antony did not force Vorenus to follow him into death.

Then there’s the matter of Caesarion. Though there isn’t any real-world evidence of this, the show’s position is that he is the son of Titus Pullo. When Lucius offers to take Caesarion to his father, Cleopatra asks, “Is he a good man?” Lucius answers, “Define good.”

The negotiation scene between Cleo and Octavian was terrific, and I can see now why they wanted Simon Woods instead of Max Pirkis for the latter half of this season. Octavian was actually 33 when he invaded Alexandria, so casting Woods was a logical choice. Of course, Caesarion was 17 at the time, and the creators didn’t have any problem shaving seven years off of his age.

It was good to see Atia get back to her old self. That was a terrific diatribe she laid on Octavian’s wife before the triumph. Now that the series is over, it’s comforting to know that the bitch is definitely back.

Finally, there’s Titus and Lucius. Even with all its politicking and betrayal, the show is really about the friendship between these two men. It was sad to see Lucius go, but I’m glad he got his wish to see his children and that his eldest daughter decided to forgive him. Titus got his wish – a son – and appears to have finally found some happiness in his life.

And, speaking of Titus, how’s this for the last line of the series?

Listen, about your father…

All in all, the finale did an excellent job of providing fitting conclusions to virtually every major character, but in reality, the only good thing about “Rome” ending is that we’ll finally get to see the last nine episodes of “The Sopranos.”

R.I.P. “Rome.” We’re sad to see you go.

  

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