‘Into the Woods’ Review

Stars: Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, James Corden, Daniel Huttlestone, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Lilla Crawford, Simon Russell Beale, Johnny Depp, Billy Magnussen, Richard Glover, Frances de la Tour | Written by James Lapine, Stephen Sondheim | Directed by Rob Marshall

Rob Marshall has had plenty of success in the world of musical motion picture. His 2002 film adaptation of Chicago won Academy Awards and boosted Marshall’s name into the Hollywood “it crowd” in the process. Following up Chicago with a lovely adaptation of the Arthur Golden novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, showed Marshall was an accomplished director who was capable of more than musicals. Those two films showed style, heart and confidence. Since then, Marshall has directed Nine, a less well-received musical in 2009, On Stranger Tides, the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, in 2011, a film that many thought was unnecessary and failed in comparison to its prior instalments,
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Memoirs Of A Geisha Review – Ziyi Zhang, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Watanabe d: Rob Marshall

Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005) Direction: Rob Marshall Cast: Ziyi Zhang, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho, Youki Kudoh, Mako, Tsai Chin Screenplay: Robin Swicord; from Arthur Golden's novel Oscar Movies Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Memoirs of a Geisha There are some movies that are released before their time. Only years or decades later, do they come to be appreciated. In the case Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha, based on Arthur Golden's bestseller about the life and love of a young geisha in pre-World War II Japan, it's the other way around. It is a movie released after – way after — its time. Had the filmmakers chopped off about a third of its endless 145-minute running time, Memoirs of a Geisha would have worked beautifully as a silent film, with intertitles decorated with red and blue lanterns, floating kimonos, Japanese scripts, and abstract drawings of Buddhist temples.
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Top 10 Movies: Book to Film Adaptations

Lots of book to movie adaptations coming out this year - including Something Borrowed coming out in May, which just had a new trailer released today.

It seems many movies these days –I would even be so bold as to say close to half –are based on novels. Heck, there’s even an Oscar category devoted strictly to adapted screenplays.

Most of the time, avid readers complain films don’t even come close to depicting complicated character development and in-depth descriptions painstakingly weaved through the intricate plots of novels. Yet despite all that huffing and puffing, we still flock to the theater on opening night to see how the director depict our favorite novel on the big screen.

Here is our top 10 best movies based on books:

1. Sophie’S Choice

Based on the award-winning novel of the same name by William Styron, “Sophie’s Choice” depicts the friendship between the narrator Stingo,
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Five Reasons Why Rob Marshall Is An Inspired (Or Demented) Choice To Direct 'Pirates Of The Caribbean 4'

Of all the directors in all of Hollywood, could anyone have predicted that the person who’d end up replacing Gore Verbinski at the wheel of the multi-billion dollar "Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise would be the guy who scored an Oscar nod for “Chicago”? You remember, the 2002 musical about those lovely, murderous ladies? The one staring Richard freaking Gere?

Well, according to a report in Variety, that’s what is gonna happen: Rob Marshall is set to assume directing duties for the fourth "Pirates." Hey, it could be an inspired choice or a demented one—who’s to say at this point? So let’s take a look at some reasons why Marshall’s “Pirates” might rock or why it instead might stink, er, sink.

The Geisha Factor: No one knows in which direction the fourth film will go. But star Johnny Depp has got a nifty idea for his Jack Sparrow character,
See full article at MTV Movies Blog »

'Golden Compass' voted worst film adaptation

The Golden Compass has been named the most disappointing movie adaptation by Entertainment Weekly.

The film, based on Philip Pullman's fantasy novel Northern Lights, topped a list of 23 movies that didn't match up to their parent books.

Ron Howard's version of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code was placed second, the Us remake of Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch came third, Memoirs of a Geisha, based on Arthur Golden's bestseller was fourth, and the 2005 Ray Bradbury adaptation A Sound of Thunder rounded . . .
See full article at Digital Spy - Movie News »

Memoirs of a Geisha

While the 1997 best-selling novel "Memoirs of a Geisha" was written by an American, Arthur Golden, he absorbed enough of Japanese culture in his years of travel and study to convey the mysterious world of the geisha as one of subtlety, discretion, ritual and tradition. The movie version, directed by "Chicago"'s Rob Marshall and written by Robin Swicord, has, frankly, Americanized the story. By this I mean the filmmakers make characters crasser, ignore nuances within geisha tradition and give characters attitudes and dialogue highly unlikely for Depression-era Japan. The heroine, who in time becomes a legendary geisha, is modeled in the film more after a willful, modern American teen than a young Japanese woman.

"Memoirs" has generated plenty of heat on its way to the screen. The novel reportedly has been translated into 32 languages and the film production criticized for the casting of three leading Chinese actors -- Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li -- as Japanese. So opening boxoffice grosses will be strong. As an exotic romance set in the lost world of prewar Japan, the film should have sufficient legs to become a hit this holiday season.

The controversy extends beyond the cast, which is a case of a major (Japanese-owned) studio covering an expensive bet with international stars. Here is a film about Japan made by Americans, shot mostly in the U.S. and, of course, in English. Once you accept these compromises in the name of international filmmaking, none is a real deterrent to enjoying this lush period film.

Designer John Myhre's meticulous re-creation of a 1930s hanamachi or geisha district with its rickety wooden houses, ancients streets and alleys, formal teahouses and sea of nighttime lanterns on a Southern California ranch is an accomplished and credible set. The lavish kimonos, a sumo match, geisha dances, John Williams' lyrical East-meets-West musical score and atmospheric cinematography by Dion Beebe emphasizing deep, dark colors all are hallmarks of classic Hollywood filmmaking. These are surface delights that might distract from Marshall's tendency to focus on melodrama over intimacy and emotional excess over restraint.

"Memoirs" tells the story of a young child sold to an okiya or geisha household in Kyoto in 1929. Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo) initially resists her initiation into this new life despite her terror of the doyennes of the domicile, Mother (Kaori Momoi, whose whiny, sharp voice often grates) and Auntie (Tsai Chin). Adding to her misery, the house's breadwinner, the treacherous geisha Hatsumomo (Gong Li), takes an instant dislike to the young girl.

When Chiyo attempts to run away, Mother refuses to put any more money into her geisha training. This relegates her to the status of maid for life. At her lowest point, as she sobs near the city river, a wealthy man she knows only as the Chairman (Ken Watanabe) treats her to a sweet and has kind words for her. This encounter transforms her life. She also falls in love with the Chairman.

Later, the hanamachi's legendary geisha, Mameha (Yeoh), takes the youngster under her wing, seeing in the beautiful girl with haunting eyes (now played by Zhang) a possible means to rid herself of her hateful rival Hatsumomo. Mameha makes, in essence, a bet with Mother that all of Chiyo's debts to the okiya will be paid off by her 20th birthday.

So the race is on. The young girl, whose name is changed to Sayuri when she becomes an apprentice geisha, undergoes intense training. In the world of a geisha, a glimpse of flesh under a kimono or a rumor spread by a malicious rival can make or damage a reputation forever. Mameha takes her "younger sister" to teahouses and introduces her to all her clients just as Hatsumomo and her protege, Pumpkin (Youki Kudoh), do the same. At every turn, Hatsumomo tries to undermine her rivals. All things lead to the auctioning of Sayuri's mizuage (virginity) to her wealthy gentlemen patrons.

The man who displays the most interest, despite his dislike of geishas in general, is the industrialist Nobu (Koji Yakusho). To Sayuri's dismay, Nobu's best friend and partner is the Chairman. No man will pursue a geisha favored by his friend. The man who emerges as Nobu's rival is Dr. Crab Randall Duk Kim), nicknamed for his appearance, but not before the Baron (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), Mameha's patron, makes improper advances that nearly ruin Sayuri's career.

Naturally, Swicord's screenplay must eliminate characters and take shortcuts to stuff the major activity from the novel into the 144-minute movie. But these shortcuts run roughshod over subtlety. The chess game among these women is reduced to a cat fight. Hatsumomo is a much more formidable opponent than the movie gives her credit: She is clever, sharp and tenacious. The move version forces Gong to pay a spoiled drunk mad with jealousy.

Similarly, Sayuri is brought up to speed much too quickly. She performs a dance on her first night as an apprentice, something that would never happen. She makes sharp ripostes with her rival, dialogue more in tune with a '30s American film comedy than '30s Japanese culture. A dance performance at one point, choreographed by John DeLuca, feels like a modern Western interpretation imposed on Japanese tradition, more "Chicago" than Kyoto as it were.

The acting in all the major roles is astute. Zhang manages to seize the contradictory qualities of her character -- shyness and uncertainty coupled the defiance and iron will -- and mold them into a memorable female character. Yeoh brings just the right dignity and cautious calculation to the role of Sayuri's mentor. Gong puts the necessary sexuality into hateful Hatsumomo. Watanabe and Yakusho make strong impressions as wealthy men reduced to pandering to Yank occupiers after World War II.

The final third of the movie, rushing through the war and occupation, feels anti-climatic, even flat. Admittedly, the novel had a similar problem as this story is strongest when it enters the lost and secret world of women who never can pursue their own happiness.


Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present an Amblin Entertainment/Red Wagon Entertainment production


Director: Rob Marshall

Screenwriter: Robin Swicord

Based on the novel by: Arthur Golden

Producers: Lucy Fisher, Douglas Wick, Steven Spielberg

Executive producers: Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Patricia Whitcher, Bobby Cohen

Director of photography: Dion Beebe

Production designer: John Myhre

Music: John Williams

Co-producer: John DeLuca

Costumes: Colleen Atwood

Editor: Pietro Scalia. Cast: Sayuri: Ziyi Zhang

Chairman: Ken Watanabe

Mameha: Michelle Yeoh

Nobu: Koji Yakusho

Hatsumomo: Gong Li

Pumpkin: Youki Kudoh

Mother: Kaori Momoi

Auntie: Tsai Chin

Baron: Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Dr. Crab: Randall Duk Kim

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 144 minutes

'Geisha' Director Defends Casting

  • WENN
Memoirs Of A Geisha director Rob Marshall has defended his decision to cast Chinese actors in place of Japanese ones - insisting they were employed for their talent, not where they come from. The American film-maker spoke out after being chastised by Chinese critics for appointing Chinese actresses Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li to play major roles in the adaptation of Arthur Golden's popular novel. The critics insist Marshall's choice is insensitive because of the atrocities committed by the Japanese during their 1930s Chinese occupation. Marshall says, "When you saw Zorba The Greek, and you saw Anthony Quinn play Zorba, was that odd to you because he was Irish and Mexican?" Gong Li, who plays top geisha Hatsumo in the film, defended her position, insisting her decision to star in the film was based purely on character, not race. She says, "As actors, we seek roles that challenge and inspire us."

Language Problems on 'Geisha' Set

  • WENN
Language Problems on 'Geisha' Set
Chicago director Rob Marshall is finding filming on his latest movie Memoirs of a Geisha complicated, because his cast all speak different languages. Sony Studios refused to cast non-Asian actresses in the big screen adaptation of Arthur Golden's best-selling book about the life of a Japanese geisha, and boasts Chinese Ziyi Zhang and Li Gong, Malaysian Michelle Yeoh and Japanese Cary-hiroyuki Tagawa and Ken Watanabe amongst its stars. An insider on the Japanese set tells American gossip site, "They hired a 'Pan-Asian' cast. So now they have Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other Asian actors and they have had to hire a load of interpreters, especially since there are like 15 Chinese dialects. It is costing a lot of time to do anything." Producer Lucy Fisher and Doug Wick adds, "We have a Chinese and Japanese interpreter. The movie may or may not be a day over schedule, but we are brilliantly on time for an epic and on budget."

Yeoh and Li Go 'Geisha'

  • WENN
Asian movie stars Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li have signed to appear alongside Zhang Ziyi in Steven Spielberg's eagerly-anticipated film adaptation of Arthur Golden's book Memoirs Of A Geisha. Malaysian star Yeoh, 41 and Chinese actresses Gong, 38, and Ziyi, 25, will be directed by Chicago film maker Rob Marshall in the drama, which starts filming in Japan in September. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon beauty Ziyi is set to play lead role Sayuri - a young woman who is sold by her poverty-stricken parents to a geisha house in Kyoto. Executive producer Spielberg bought the film rights to the 1997 bestseller many years ago and has been searching for the perfect actresses. Superstar Madonna's geisha look in her 1998 video "Nothing Really Matters" was inspired by Golden's story and the singer always said she would love to star in the movie.

Spyglass joins 2 Columbia pictures

Spyglass joins 2 Columbia pictures
Spyglass Entertainment, headed by co-chairmen Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber, has come on board to co-finance two of Columbia Pictures' biggest upcoming projects, Memoirs of a Geisha and The Legend of Zorro. According to the terms of the deal, Spyglass, which signed a first-look, nonexclusive co-financing pact with Columbia in September, will own all international rights to both films, with Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International serving as the Spyglass distributor in some overseas territories. In the case of director Rob Marshall's Geisha, Spyglass will join DreamWorks as a financial partner on the film adaptation of Arthur Golden's novel. Columbia will market the film, with DreamWorks and Columbia sharing domestic distribution in addition to handling some international territories.

Rob Marshall Hopes To Direct Geisha Film

  • WENN
Director Rob Marshall is confident he will win a battle with movie giants Miramax for the right to direct new movie Memoirs Of A Geisha. The Chicago movie maker is at loggerheads with Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein because the film version of Arthur Golden's 1997 novel is being made by rival studios Columbia and Dreamworks - and Marshall is contractually obliged to make his next movie for Miramax. Nevertheless Marshall is optimistic he'll win out. He says, "It's complicated because it involves a lot of different players, you know. "I mean, it's flattering in a way, because you have a lot of people saying, 'We want him to do this picture. No, we want him to do this picture.' I'm anxious to go to work. I believe I need to do this picture. I know it's getting a little sticky, but I do have faith that it will work out. I really enjoyed my experience with Miramax and I'm hoping that they'll find it in their hearts to be generous and let me do this movie. I tend to think optimistically and am hoping this will work out."

Weinstein Holds Onto 'Chicago' Director

  • WENN
Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein has refused to allow Chicago director Rob Marshall to make his next film at rival studio Columbia Pictures. Marshall is desperate to film an adaptation of Arthur Golden's 1997 novel Memoirs Of A Geisha, but is bound by a contract that requires him to make his next flick for Miramax. And the director is less than happy with the situation - especially after Chicago made the studio over $470 million and won it six Oscars. A Miramax spokesman says, "We have a responsibility to our shareholders to realize the benefits of our contractual right to work with the incredibly gifted Rob Marshall. We're sure that Columbia will do a great job with Geisha, whether it's directed by Rob or someone else." But a friend of Marshall has revealed the director is still optimistic. The pal adds, "Rob is still hopeful he can work it out with Harvey."

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