CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.
CHICAGO – With enough hair plugs, bronzer and hormone injections to float a rejuvenation clinic, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back from his political meanderings and is an action star once again in the shoot-’em-up “The Last Stand.” Johnny Knoxville lends some comic relief.
CHICAGO – When the cliches of one genre aren’t enough, try two. Such seems to be the creative foundation of the awful new FOX series “The Mob Doctor,” a likely bet to be the first new show of the year to meet the axe of cancellation and not merely because it’s awful but because it’s in a brutal time slot up against “2 Broke Girls,” “The Voice,” and “Dancing with the Stars.”
CHICAGO – Ensemble films, with their multiple stories and characters, can be a challenging delicate balance. Emphasize one story over another and an audience starts to wonder why the neglected subplot is even in the film. “Answers to Nothing” generates this reaction with all their narrative threads, in a movie that lacks any kind of cohesion.
CHICAGO – Regardless of its exotic locales, “Off the Map” may benefit from a few more diversions. Everything about this fresh-faced ABC drama feels instantly familiar.
CHICAGO – The saga of “Friday Night Lights,” the fourth season of which is now available on DVD, is not unlike that of an underestimated football player who most people thought wouldn’t make the team despite his obvious talent but who proved everyone wrong by changing the rules of the game.
CHICAGO – Why has a seemingly ordinary tale of an oil patch town in Texas and their high school football obsession conquered books, film and television? Because the folks telling the story continue a tradition of beautiful, significant truth.