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47 Ronin, Big Ninja Boss, Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Masayuki Deai, Togo Igawa, Gedde Watanabe,

47 Ronin [mild spoilers]: follows a group of disgraced samurai as they set out to avenge their murdered master. As it’s a Hollywood film it obviously contains every single ‘western portrayal of Asia’ pitfall imaginable – everyone speaking ‘Engrish’, exotic mystique, ninjas/samurai everywhere, forbidden gaijin romance, cherry blossom, western warrior, kanji writing, tradition, tradition, tradition… Because of this – and given the foul reviews this received – I was expecting something woeful, but this is pleasantly surprising. The visuals are fantastic: it is a touch over-styalised – some parts feel like Sucker Punch set in feudal Japan – but the costumes, textures, sets, CGI backgrounds are all eye-poppingly sumptuous: it’s up there with The Fall’s immaculate design. Story-wise, other than a few swashbuckling & sword fighting action set pieces, this is definitely more of a drama than you expect: the story arcs are all fairly standard until the ‘happy’ ending – a mass samurai suicide instead of a mass criminal hanging – yay! The biggest complaint you hear about this is that it’s nothing like the original story: WTF?! This is a blockbuster movie… and there are so many fictionalized accounts of this tale that there’s a specific entire genre term for it – Chūshingura! The weirdest thing about 47 Ronin is that it plays to two wildly different audiences – it’s half respectful and traditional samurai movie; and half Game of Thrones style middle-earth mayhem (battles, questing, magic & mythology). Overall, it’s an interesting, and beautiful, oddity that could have been great, but is by no means a terrible movie.

Score: 6/10

47 Ronin, Silhouette Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Masayuki Deai, Togo Igawa, Gedde Watanabe,

47 Ronin, Set Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Masayuki Deai, Togo Igawa, Gedde Watanabe,

JAPANORAMA - Cheng Cheng BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMAThe Twilight SamuraiAs part of JAPANORAMA I am inviting fellow movie sites to join in. This post if from Mike at Screen Kicker Movies, an up-and-coming site full of film reviews and features that are oozing with funny writing and personality, making for easy and entertaining reading. He has chosen to review The Twilight Samurai – full review can be found on his site here. You can also follow Mike on Twitter @Metalmike25

The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei, たそがれ清兵衛) The movie really isn’t your typical samurai movie. It’s set during peacetime when samurai worked as accountants instead of warriors. Essentially they went from doing the coolest job in the world to the most boring job in the world. This is where we meet Seibei (Hiroyuki Sanada) a samurai/accountant/single parent (what a combo!) who struggles to make ends meet until he is presented with an offer he can’t refuse. Released in 2002 and directed by Yoji Yamada it throws a curve ball at anyone expecting a violent action movie. It tackles something I feel is much more important than the usual motive of revenge – it’s about how normal people survive when life has given them a hard time. It’s very relevant during these recession hit times, more so than when it was released and this gives it an immediacy that stays with the viewer. Combine this with romance, comedy, and some very cute kids, and you have a winner on your hands. All together it’s one of those films that gives you hope in humanity.  Oh and a desire to get a kick-ass samurai sword.

Score: 9/10