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10/10
This movie is about the meaning of LIFE
7 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Once again, Clint Eastwood did it. 'Million Dollar Baby' has proved to be an overwhelmingly powerful film. Because of this movie, Hilary Swank won her second Academy Award after winning an Oscar for her role in 'Boys Don't Cry' five years ago. Also, Morgan Freeman finally won the same award for Best Actor in a Supporting role, which is well-deserved. I cannot help mentioning Eastwood's previous work 'Unforgiven' and 'Mystic River'. I think he is a brilliant film director.

Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank) is a 31-year-old waitress who aspires to become a professional boxer, despite her age. She finds Frankie Dunn (Eastwood), a boxing trainer with a fine reputation and who runs a boxing gym, hoping he will help her. But 'I don't train girls', says he.

Notwithstanding the fact that he has turned Maggie down, she goes to the gym everyday to practise on her own, even though she doesn't know how to do it right at all. Her strong will somehow impresses Scrap (Freeman), an assistant and caretaker at the gym, a former boxer who loses an eye during a boxing fight. He starts to encourage Maggie and teaches her some basic things. Eventually, Frankie decides to train her, out of her amazing will power. Maggie trains intensively, because THIS is her dream, her only pursuit, she wants to get there, and in the end, she does get there...

Within a couple of years, Maggie is ready for fights. She is indeed a natural, and it is owing to the fact that she works so very hard. Even though at times she has to confront tougher boxers, she makes it anyway. She never backs down. She becomes rich and famous, and she firmly believes her achievement would make her family proud. Now what she wants to do is to take good care of her family.

But her nearly penniless mother despises her, because she thinks being a female boxer is simply ridiculous. She is 'ashamed' of Maggie, laughs at her, and her other family members are totally indifferent.

By then Maggie and Frankie have developed a father-daughter relationship. As a matter of fact, the relationships between Maggie, Frankie and Scrap are quite intriguing. This picture portrays their interaction perfectly.

'Millon Dollar Baby' strikes you when it's least expected. There are many points which leave you wonder: what price dreams? What do you live for? For basic survival or for reaching your goal, so you can be your true self? Are you willing to pay for it? No matter what? And what is LIFE about? If you had seen the film, you would understand what I'm talking about.

Maggie has a family who takes her for granted, and Frankie has a daughter who never sees him, who always ignores his letters. In the end, all they've got is each other, but after all they have gone through, after all the respect Maggie gains (Scrap says 'Boxing is about respect. You win respect and take respect from the other guy) and Frankie's being so proud of her, they have to lose each other.

This film makes people think. Deeply. This year's Academy Award Best Picture nominees are all good, I have seen all of them, but I would vote for 'Million Dollar Baby' without any hesitation.
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The Chorus (2004)
8/10
You must see this
22 September 2004
An utterly compassionate music teacher arrives at a boys' reform school to teach a class with difficult pupils and he eventually wins their trust and respect with his kindness and undying love. Meanwhile he has to deal with the brutal principal who uses inhumane means to punish students and he also does he utmost to keep his pupils away from trouble. He forms the class as a choir and discovers one of the boy's amazing potential, transforms him from a trouble-maker into a gifted singer and a more disciplined child. Now the boy is a renowned orchestra conductor. As he reads Mr Mathieu, the teacher's diary written fifty years ago with a then classmate, the memories slowly flow back...

Prepare a handkerchief before you see this film. This is a deeply moving story. A little sentimental, maybe, but in a good way, which let us see the bright side of the human spirit. Mr Mathieu is portrayed as a saint, almost too good to be true, but perhaps such loving and dedicated educators do exist. All in all, this is a must see, because the movie touches your very soul.
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3/10
Too many loopholes
7 July 2004
Despite the trend of violence depicted in this film which serves entertainment value, 'Kill Bill Vol. 1' is a pathetic joke. There is no comparison between this and Quentin Tarantino's previous work 'The Reservoir Dogs' and 'Pulp Fiction'. This flick is utterly hollow.

The story is about a heavily pregnant bride and assassin (Uma Thurman) who is severely tortured by her fellow assassins and gunned down by her boss and the child's father Bill (David Carradine). She survives the massacre (all the wedding guests are killed), falls into a coma and wakes up four years later (the assassination squad originally decides to murder her while she is in a coma, but the mission is later aborted because Bill wants to maintain their reputation) and begins her bloody revenge- killing her one-time co-workers, one by one.

Here are some of the numerous loopholes in the film:

The bride awakes from her coma, looks at her body in disbelief and murmurs 'four years...four years!'. How on earth is she aware that it has been four years since she falls into a coma?

She lies on the floor, behind the medical staff member who has been repeatedly raping her while she is in a coma and pulls out a knife and attacks the man. How on earth does she still have a knife with her when she has been hospitalised for four years? She is supposed to have nothing on her.

She leaves the hospital in her patient's gown with the car of the attacked man while she is in a coma, and later she arrives at the neighbourhood where Vivica A. Fox's character lives with normal clothes. How does she get them? She then travels light (EXTREMELY light, with only a bag) and buys a single ticket to Okinawa. Where does she get the money? After four years of being isolated from the outside world, is her bank account still valid? Could she really have the money for a plane ticket to Okinawa and another one to Tokyo?

There are scenes in which she is on the aeroplane with her sword. Is it ever possible that she is ALLOWED to carry a sword onto a plane?

You may find the action bit dazzling, but this is what I call 'pulp fiction'. You may find this movie experimental, but I find it a failed attempt of Tarantino's. The flashbacks is nothing new. I don't see any original, creative or profound meaning in this film.
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8/10
Well done, I just love this
12 June 2004
Screenwriter Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) has just been fired from a film company in Hollywood due to his drinking problems. At home there's nothing for him- his wife and his child has left him long time ago. So he sells all his possessions and drives to Las Vegas, planning to drink himself to death within four weeks. He meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a hooker. They soon form a relationship in which neither would interfere with each other's chosen path (Though later, at one point, Sera does want Ben to seek help. She can't bear watching him die). They are both miserable people and they just fall in love with each other. Just like that.

Both Cage and Shue give breakthrough performances, director Mike Figgis (also the screenwriter and co-original score writer) takes much credit. The sad beauty and the bright yet dark atmosphere of Las Vegas are well-portrayed. The soundtrack is brilliant.

The movie is filmed in this way: apparently Sera has been seeing a shrink and the scenes of her talking about her relationship with Ben are inserted at chosen moments. It is done as flashback.

Definitely among my top 100.
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7/10
A moving journey, betrayal and struggle
12 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING: SPOILERS

Nicole Kidman delivers a powerful performance in this well-made, very gripping mini-series, and the rest of the cast is perfect as well.

Katrina Stanton (Nicole Kidman), a twenty-year-old Australian woman goes to England to search for her father, Hal Stanton (Denholm Elliot), whom she has never met in her entire life. She finds out that her father may live in Thailand now and at the same time she meets Arkie Ragan (Jerome Ehlers), a freelance newspaper photographer. In Bangkok, Katrina gets in contact with her father's lawyer, Richard Carlisle (Hugo Weaving) but Hal refuses to meet her, so she has to fly back to Australia. At the airport she is arrested- two kilos of heroine has been found in one of her suitcases, and Arkie vanishes without a trace. Katrina is then sent to the notorious prison 'Bangkok Hilton', where she endures horrid conditions. At last Richard and Hal are willing to help her but Hal chooses not to reveal his true identity to his daughter, as he pratically never does to the outside world.

Richard takes Katrina's case and meanwhile, Hal begins to search for Arkie Ragan in order to bring the drug smuggler to justice. Katrina befriends an inmate named Mandy Engels (Joy Smithers) who has carried seven kilos of heroine and is to be sentenced to death. Soon, Katrina will face the same fate.

When I first saw this many years ago I was profoundly moved by the intensity of the plot- Katrina's longing for finding her father, her father's tragic past, her mother's tortured state and her being betrayed. At one point I actually believed this was a true story (I was, after all, still very young) and Nicole Kidman's acting is so convincing. I finally got the videos at an online shop about a month ago.

However, every play has its loopholes, and this one is no exception. Just to name two here: firstly, why does Katrina call herself 'Katrina Stanton'? Hal Stanton never marries her mother, Catherine Faulkner (Judy Morris), and she is raised by her mother, hence her surname should be Faulkner.

Secondly, Richard Carlisle is Hal Stanton's lawyer who deals with his financial matters, but he later becomes Katrina's defence lawyer. Is he a criminal lawyer as well?

Notwithstanding the loopholes, this is nonetheless a great drama, a fine piece of work. Highly recommended.
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9/10
An impeccable masterpiece
12 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING: SPOILERS

This story is about one woman- she is beautiful, she is rebellious, she is daring, she is strong, she is Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), a young lady from a wealthy family in Georgia in the 1860s. The civil war is imminent, and all men are ready to go to the battle fields. Scarlett is deeply in love with Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) but he is about to marry his calm, graceful cousin Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland) and Scarlett refuses to accept the reality. At Twelve Oaks, where upper-class people gather for a party, where the gentlemen discuss the upcoming war, where Scarlett pleads with Ashley to marry her, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a free-spirited man falls in love with her at first sight. Out of despair, Scarlett accepts Charles Hamilton's (Melanie's brother, played by Rand Brooks) proposal, only to become a widow soon after the war has started.

The nation is torn, the great South is a smoking ruin and Scarlett's home, Tara, is burnt down. Once the proud and shining wealth and glory that used to be no longer exist. They are replaced with misery, starvation, poverty, sickness and deaths. Meanwhile, Scarlett and Rhett develop an unconventional but not physical relationship. But Scarlett chooses to marry Franklin Kennedy (Carroll Nye) in order to save Tara and make a good living. Only Melanie, the most compassionate woman in this story, empathises with Scarlett's intention. Unfortunately, their unhappy marriage doesn't last long. Franklin is later killed in an attempted ambush against the Yankees.

Finally, Rhett asks Scarlett to marry him and in the beginning, they live a content life. However, when Rhett discovers that Scarlett still hasn't forgotten about Ashley, his intense jealousy fuels and this marks the start of their troubles. Scarlett loses her unborn son, then her young daughter. After all this, she eventually loses her true love- which is Rhett, as she finally realises.

Of course this story is told from a woman's perspective, because this story is about a woman. This is a grand epic, the actors were marvellous and the technology was simply unbeatable. This film is about a courageous woman who goes through three marriages and still confused about who her true love is, and her lingering destroys Rhett's love for her. The whole tale is certainly tragic, but the ending suggests that there is hope, so long as Scarlett remains optimistic about the future. This film, in my opinion, is not just for women. I believe everybody can appreciate this outstanding piece of work. This is an all-time classic.
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The Locusts (1997)
8/10
Very dark...brilliant
9 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING: SPOILERS

Set in the 1950s, this intense drama is about secrets, lies and misfortune. Personally, I think it is well-done.

Clay Hewitt (Vince Vaughn) comes to a small town from St Joe and while on his way hitching to California, where he can get together with his brother who serves in the marine corps. With only seven bucks in his pocket, he has to find work in order to get some money. Immediately he is hired by Mrs Potts (Kate Capshaw) to work at her cattle ranch and lodge and board are provided. He notices that Mrs Potts has a young son, Flyboy (Jeremy Davies) who never speaks to anybody but his beloved bull. Later Clay befriends Flyboy and tries to guide him to the outside world, which he has been excluded from for years due to his stay in a mental hospital. They say he has a shock when his father hangs himself.

Meanwhile, local girl Kitty (Ashley Judd) falls in love with Clay. Flyboy starts talking to people and makes steady progress, but at the same time, the whole thing is about to go extremely wrong- Clay's brother has long been killed in a friendly fire and the reason why he's going to California is because, back in Kansas, a sixteen-year-old girl with whom he has had sex accidentally hurts herself and dies, so Clay has to flee from being executed. Eventually, Clay decides to take Flyboy with him, away from the domination of Mrs Potts- Flyboy has been treated as a slave and has been emotionally abused by his promiscuous mother who cuts the balls of his pet bull.

But when Mrs Potts has found out Clay's intention, she threatens him that if he took her son with him, she would inform the police as she already has learnt about what has happens in Kansas. It is at this very moment, the dirty secrets of Mrs Potts and her son are revealed. Clay can take his wages and leave on one condition- he has to do what Mrs Potts asks him to. When Flyboy finds the two of them in Mrs Potts' bedroom, following his father's (not even his birth father) footsteps, he hangs himself. Soon afterwards, Mrs Potts takes her own life as well. Despite such catastrophes, Clay and Kitty manage to escape.

In my opinion, this is a very fascinating, twisting story. The whole cast is good, especially Vince Vaughn and Jeremy Davies. In 'The Locust', every main character is a victim, except perhaps Kitty (Ashley Judd), who actually has strength to give Clay a helping hand. Clay is a victim of his mishap, Flyboy is a victim of his mental trauma due to his father's death, his mother's behaviour and the unintentional betrayal by Clay, Mrs Potts is a victim of her incestuous father and Mr Potts is a victim of his wife's infidelity. This film is about deaths- there are five of them, three of them are suicides.

P.S. Clay seems to have endless cigarettes to smoke. Where does he get the money for them?
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8/10
A very successful sequel
9 June 2004
Ten years ago, a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent to assassinate Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before her child can be born, who will one day be the leader of the human resistance against the machines. Now, Skynet (the machines) once again has sent T-1000 (Robert Patrick) to kill the young John Connor (Edward Furlong) so he will never become the fighter. Meanwhile, the human forces also sends a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to fight against T-1000, which is, in fact, more advance than the Terminator. Now Sarah Connor has to find the mastermind behind the plan about activating Skynet, and stop him from proceeding.

This sequel has lived up to viewers' expectations- it is very different from the original, and Sarah Connor has gone through an amazing transformation- changing from a sweet, innocent young woman into a tough fighter. Edward Furlong's debut is simply spectacular. The film contains loads of high-tech and exciting action scenes, which are well-presented. The movie doesn't repeat the original, which is good. All in all, a nicely-done sci-fi action flick. Too bad 'Terminator III' is far less powerful and doesn't provide anything new. Watch this one and the original.
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8/10
Extreme passion
31 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Julien (Guillaume Canet) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard) have been best friends since childhood. They start a unique game when they are eight- whoever has the darebox can place a bet on something. What they are not aware of is, they have always been in love with each other. When they are kids, they would always be there when one needs the other. However, when they have grown up, the whole game turns into misunderstanding, concealing their true feelings and devastation. Sophie is a very sensitive woman and Julien's choice shatters her. Then they go their separate ways. Will they see each other again in ten years, as Sophie says? Will they finally realise that they are made for each other? Will they live happily ever after? This film will take you by surprise.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The cinematography is stunning, the way the movie expresses its ideas is just fantastic. The four actors playing Julien and Sophie did a great job, in particular Marion Cotillard as adult Sophie. I like the way the ending is presented- what Julien and Sophie have for each other is extreme passion, and this is the way they can stay together- by being cemented. The concept is, as a matter of fact, utterly romantic. Some might say this is self-destruction, but this is their fate. This is what is meant to be, and this is their happy ending. They've been playing this game for their entire lives, and this is the way they express their love for each other. The film is experimental and daring, not to be missed.
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Sandler and Barrymore did it again
31 May 2004
Set in Hawaii, this romantic comedy brings you a laid-back, lively atmosphere, although the core of the story is rather simplistic and predictable. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore successfully collaborated 'The Wedding Singer' and this time they gave it a second try. Personally, I don't think '50 First Dates' is as good as 'The Wedding Singer', even the soundtrack is quite similar to the latter's.

Henry (Sandler) is a vet working in Hawaii and also a womaniser. One day, at a diner, he meets Lucy (Barrymore) and falls in love with her. It turns out that the day after they have a very enjoyable conversation, Lucy doesn't remember Henry at all. Then it is revealed that due to a serious car crash, Lucy suffers from short-term memory loss and can only remember things that take place before the car accident.

Determined to win the girl's heart, now Henry has to start over every single morning to charm her and make her fall for him again.

Not as powerful as 'The Wedding Singer', but Sandler's romantic side is very touching and the chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore works well. Suitable for a depressing rainy day but nothing beyond that. 5/10
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Dead Man (1995)
8/10
A journey towards death- where a new life begins
31 May 2004
All the way from Cleveland to the end of the railway line town called Machine, William Blake (Johnny Depp) embarks on a journey to the far West for an accountant job which has been offered to him. After a long train ride, he realises that he is one month late and the company has already employed a new accountant. Blake then meets a saloon girl and later, for self-defence, shoots dead her lover (Gabriel Byrne) and himself is also wounded, the woman being gunned down by her lover as well. While escaping, Blake meets a Native American named Nobody (Gary Farmer), an outcast who has been transported from one place to another since boyhood and eventually is shipped to England where he is educated- and for one moment he believes that Blake is the dead English poet of the same name. The dead man happens to be the son of the boss of the company which has turned Blake down, and now he has hired three most notorious killers to find Blake, dead or alive.

Now Blake is going through an amazing transformation- an Easterner who turns into the hunted, a serial killer (for self-defence purposes) and an explorer of the dead poet's poetry. Meanwhile, Nobody is about to show Blake a spiritual world, where all spirits dwell.

It is an awesome idea to shoot this film in black and white as this adds much more to the ambience. Johnny Depp is just spectacular and so is the rest of the cast. Perhaps this movie should be re-entitled 'Dead Men', since there are several of them. Still, the story focuses on the life (and the eventual death) of William Blake, so maybe it is appropriate to call it 'Dead Man'. This movie is about one man's adventure and a whole new world that awaits him. 'Dead Man' is atmospheric, mysterious and inspiring. This is a journey many would wish to be on. This flick is almost flawless. I remember after seeing it in the cinema, I rushed down to the box office, bought a ticket and rushed back to see it again. Own the video.

And the soundtrack is VERY, VERY impressive.
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Fascinating
11 April 2004
In 1997, there will be a nuclear war. Skynet, a computer, becomes self-aware and the machines dominate the world. Humans suffer from their ruling immensely. But one man teaches the rest of them how to fight back and they eventually win. His name is John Connor.

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a young, gentle waitress who lives in 1984 has become the target of termination, and a cyborg called The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been sent from 2029 to assassinate her, so the existence of her unborn son, John Connor, will be entirely wiped out. One soldier, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) has also been sent from the future by John Connor to protect Sarah. Now The Terminator is out there, after Sarah, and her life is about to be changed forever...

For the film industry, 'The Terminator' is very inspiring, regarding its special effects and even the idea of time travel- 'Twelve Monkeys''s concept upon time travel and what eventually happens to the hero is very similar to the one of 'The Terminator'. For 1984, the visual effects are amazing. Although the second and the third Terminator flicks have even more powerful technology, this one is still the most original among the three. The action scenes are stunning, the suspense is always there, quite spine-chilling, and surprisingly, there is even romantic chemistry- which is rather interesting. AND the acting is good. Not to mention the dazzling directing by James Cameron- highly recommended.
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Bridget Jones- the modern Cinderella
3 April 2004
Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) is 32, overweight, working at a book publishing company, always embarrasses herself in public AND single. She decides to do something with her life, starting with keeping a diary, in which she candidly tells what she observes in her daily life. She also makes plan for herself- stop smoking, stop drinking, go to the gym, eat less, find a man...when her boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) begins flirting with her, she joins the game all at once. Meanwhile, she seems always unable to avoid the annoying presence of Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), a renowned barrister who saw Bridget running around naked when she was 4 in a paddling pool- and they just hate each other. In the meantime, Bridget also has to deal with the breakdown of her parents' marriage (which is portrayed in a rather comic way).

Eventually, Bridget painfully realises that Daniel is nothing but a j*rk, and gradually she and Mark become more and more attracted to each other, surprisingly. They both confess to each other that they 'like' each other. Bridget ends up kind of like a modern day Cinderella.

'Bridget Jones's Diary' is a finely-made romantic comedy, and Renee Zellweger's English accent is quite consistent and convincing (although still not as good as Gwyneth Paltrow's), unlike some other American actors. Hugh Grant is nice playing a different (from most other characters he had played) type of role this time, and Colin Firth is simply graceful and charming as Mark Darcy. The soundtrack is fantastic, and there are many memorable scenes and quotes, among them the very sweet cooking scene and the ultra-hilarious fighting scene. This is worth watching (and even owning!) for its hilarity and sweetness. 7/10
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Haunting- a permanent burnt mark
3 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Although I must admit that my knowledge upon Russian history is not enough, I nevertheless do know certain facts about the era of the Stalin repression. There is not much I can say, since I've just pointed out that I'm far from being an expert, but one thing I can tell- this film overwhelms me.

Col Kotov (Nikita Mikhalkov, also the director and co-writer) is spending a carefree summer with his much younger wife Marusia (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) and their six-year-old daughter Nadya (Nadezhda Mikhalkova, Mikhalkov's daughter in real life), along with their family and friends. Everything seems perfect, until the unexpected arrival of the old lover of Marusia, Dimitri, aka Mitya (Oleg Menshikov), who comes with a warning for Col Kotov. Then the film turns into a tragedy.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The rising of the giant portray of Stalin in the air symbolises the shadow which eventually consumes Col Kotov's life (and many others'). His wife and daughter are also arrested, and later Nadya is released. Because of such dire consequences, Dimitri chooses to kill himself. Totalitarianism was just horrifying- repression, suppression and oppression. Dimitri's and Marusia's love is ruined by Col Kotov, who gives Dimitri two choices- working for the government or die- what a love triangle.

As the ending statements tell the fate of Col Kotov, his wife and daughter, we see little Nadya runs freely in the field, which is an extremely poignant scene- as Nadya, Nadezhda Mikhalkova delivered an absolutely impressive performance at such a tender age. 'Burnt by the Sun'/ 'Utomlyonnye solntsem' is a haunting grand piece of work.
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Il Postino (1994)
A heart-warming friendship and the beauty of being simplistic
3 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
When the beloved poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) arrives on the small fishing island in Italy while being exiled from Chile for his political beliefs, all of a sudden there come massive quantities of post for him and an extra postman is needed. The unemployed son of a fisherman Mario Ruoppolo (Massimo Troisi) takes the job and delivers mail to the famous poet. Gradually, they befriend each other and as a lowly educated man, Mario nevertheless becomes fascinated by poetry and Pablo shows him the beauty and the power of words, then Mario wins the heart of the most beautiful woman in the village, Beatrice Russo (Maria Grazia Cucinotta) and marries her. On their wedding day, Pablo receives the notice that after all the while, he and his wife are finally allowed to return to their homeland, Chile. So they leave. But Pablo promises that he will come back one day...

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Mario waits and waits, while others say Pablo definitely has forgotten the people he met in this small village, Mario still believes that, some day, Pablo will return. One day, he is overwhelmed by a letter from Chile, only to find out that it's written by Pablo's secretary, asking him to post back Pablo's belongings. Among them is a recording device, once Mario was encouraged by Pablo to say something- anything, to be recorded by the gear. Now, he starts recording the sounds of his beautiful island and gives each part a brief introduction, which is intended to be posted to Pablo. While everybody says Pablo has forgotten them, Mario humbly insists that 'who am I to be remembered?'

Years later, Pablo and his wife finally return to the village to visit Mario, only to find out that Mario had died during a political demonstration, exactly when he was about to read a poem dedicated to his good friend, Pablo, on stage. Now what remains is Beatrice and their son, Pablito, named after Pablo, who was born days after his father's death.

So now Pablo walks alone on the seaside, remembering all those moments...as his memories gently flow in his mind, the warm friendship they once shared...but now it's too late...

'Il Postino' is a very touching tale about an everlasting friendship formed under unlikely circumstances. Look at Pablo's eyes at the end of the film, which are full of the warm feelings, regret and tears. Massimo Troisi delivered a very powerful performance as the simplistic and yet lovable postman. The score is, again, really moving. The film is, in every way, inspiring. This great piece of work, marvellously directed by Michael Radford, is, as a Taiwanese/Chinese saying, 'a refreshing stream in this corrupted world'. Watch this movie and be enlightened.
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Intriguing- and John Malkovich is WICKED!!!
3 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) is set out to seduce the virtuous lady Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the young virgin Cecile de Volanges (Uma Thurman), and the mastermind behind these dangerous games is Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close), who also manages to seduce Chevalier Danceny (Keanu Reeves), who has fallen in love with Cecile. According to the plan, de Valmont must betray and dump de Tourvel in the end and satisfy de Merteuil's desire for revenge. Watching de Tourvel succumb to her manipulation and suffer is her ultimate pleasure, and as well as Cecile's loss of innocence. Meanwhile, de Valmont has also become a pawn of de Merteuil's and eventually becomes a pitiful victim- he falls in love with de Tourvel, but, when he painfully chooses to carry out his mission, he breaks her heart by saying 'it is beyond my control'. Followed by an untypical ending for a Hollywood film.

The costume design and the set design are fabulous indeed, but the acting is even more superb (except Keanu Reeves- he REALLY couldn't act, why didn't they find someone else?)- Glenn Close was simply stunning and John Malkovich was perfect for his role and he was just so wicked that I wish I was the one being seduced by him! HE WAS (AND STILL IS) HOT. Michelle Pfeiffer was convincing as the broken-hearted de Tourvel and the transformation of Uma Thurman's character- Cecile, is simply amazing. The dialogue is well-written, the direction is good, and the story is just fascinating. Highly recommended. John Malkovich once again impresses me. I also recommend the modern version remake 'Cruel Intentions', which I watched years later after seeing 'Dangerous Liaisons'.
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Thought-provoking, but not flawless
31 March 2004
Those who haven't read or are not familiar with the Bible would find this film difficult to follow. However, here in Taiwan, the movie has been highly recommended within the Christian community. The film focuses on the passion (suffering) of Jesus Christ, unlike many other movies about Jesus previously made, and it depicts the torture from which Jesus suffered, I believe, in a very realistic way. I found it a delightful surprise to hear the actors speaking Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew instead of English, which makes the work itself even more convincing. However, I cannot say this is an impeccable masterpiece- the slow-motion is heavily abused, and because the film concentrates on the gory violence upon which Jesus was imposed so much, the movie takes too much time to show certain scenes (in fact, quite a lot of them) and often the movie just becomes rather too slow. The flashbacks are nice, and the message this motion picture delivers is clear: Christ suffered so immensely for mankind and this does touch the viewers' souls. At least some of ours. Still, this film could have been far better. The whole structure, regrettably, is somehow loose, in spite of the fact that the violence is intense. Mel Gibson had been devoting to his research on this project since 1992, and I believe he wanted to make it a great piece of work. Unfortunately, 'The Passion of the Christ' is not even as good as 'The Man Without a Face', let alone being compared with 'Braveheart'.

James Caviezel did a good job, though.
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The Pianist (2002)
10/10
One man's struggle for survival; one people's tragic history; one story about war and humanity- an all-time masterpiece
28 March 2004
Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) was a renowned Jewish pianist in Poland. As the Second World War broke out, Jews were forced to move to the Jewish ghetto. Later, Szpilman's family were sent to a concentration camp but he managed to escape, and his hiding began. He went through fear of being found, starvation, thirst and any horror you can imagine. He survived. He once again worked for Polish Radio and became a soloist, and regained his human dignity.

The true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman is intense and poignant, the film itself is outstandingly directed by the brilliant Roman Polanski (Chinatown) and he realised Adrien Brody's amazing potential. Brody's performance is simply stunning, just perfect. Captain Wilm Hosenfeld (Thomas Kretschmann) as the surprisingly sympathetic Nazi officer who, not only did not arrest Szpilman, but was so overwhelmed when listening to him play the piano, as though Captain Hosenfeld at long last heard the most wonderful sound, not the sound of bombs and gunfire, and gave Szpilman food and his coat. This other side of one Nazi soldier was just astounding. It's all about humanity.

Being a survivor of the Holocaust, Roman Polanski vividly depicted the era of mass destruction and genocide in the motion picture, the scenes are truly graphic and yet downright realistic, therefore shocking in every way. Adrien Brody also has Polish ancestry and he made Szpilman once again come to life. The movie itself is splendidly made, and words simply cannot describe the impact it has made upon me. Polanski and Brody are absolutely triumphant. This is even better than 'Schindler's List', in some people's opinions. I give this film 10/10. Do not miss it.

P.S. In the movie, we never know what happened to Szpilman's family.
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Magnificently acted, finely written, superbly directed
23 March 2004
Having received letters from a death row inmate named Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn), who committed murder and rape, Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) decided to visit Poncelet and help him to be put off his penalty. As the short, remaining days went by, Sister Helen gently guided Poncelet to re-discover the humanity that's inside him, and in the meantime, she also visited Poncelet's and the victims' and families to comfort them. Sister Helen did her utmost but the governor would not change the verdict. Before Poncelet was executed, Sister Helen made him confront the truth, the crimes that he committed. She was there to be the face of love for him, at his last minutes, last seconds.

We see the suffering of Poncelet's mother for her beloved and to-be-executed son, and of the young couple's (the victims') families. We see the hatred that was inside Matthew Poncelet, we see the remarkable spirit of Sister Helen and the final confession and atonement of Poncelet. Through this film we see that to take a life in order to do justice cannot bring the lost lives back and not an individual, nor a government has the right to take a life, no matter what that person has done. For man is not to play God.

I am not sure if this part has been fictionalised, since I have not read the book, but as the movie progresses, Sister Helen recalled the cruelty towards animals she manifested when she was a child. Who can say he or she is never guilty? Who would not seek forgiveness when one is genuinely willing to atone? 'Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her/him'.

We also witness the transition of Poncelet's mentality, from lying about his innocence to acknowledging his crimes, he eventually set himself free by seeking the truth and facing it.

The picture deals with the issues regarding capital punishment, the idea of 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth', the suffering of all parties as human beings, and the struggle for forgiveness. Sean Penn delivered an absolutely powerful performance which leaves you breathless and Susan Sarandon was as amazing as ever. Much credit must be given to writer-director Tim Robbins, who wrote very, very moving dialogue and presented the images with overwhelming effects. With an ending that expresses that there is always hope and the chance to obtain peace of mind. 'Dead Man Walking' is brilliant.

We are all human beings.
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One of my all-time favourites
19 March 2004
In the cold war era of 1984, the brand new Russian nuclear submarine is on its way to the United States. The captain, Marko Ramius (Sean Connery), along with a few senior officers, as a matter of fact, have the intention of defecting. Now they must find a way to get rid of the rest of the crew, while being attacked by the Russian navy whose government has learnt the truth and their success of their defection entirely depends on how the US deal with them. Dr Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin), a CIA analyst who has done detailed research on Ramius, believes he wants to defect and manages to convince the government officials about the idea. He then is assigned to enter the US submarine Dallas, which, unbeknown to the crew, has traced the Red October. Dr Ryan must prove in time that Ramius's intent is not to release missiles to America, but simply to defect. There isn't much time left.

This is a brilliant piece of work and the cast is well chosen, albeit when speaking Russian, Sean Connery's accent is not authentic, but this doesn't spoil the grace he manifests that much. The film is full of intense atmosphere and suspense and the direction is flawless. Sam Neill is very likeable as Captain Vasily Boradin, who works for Ramius and who is loyal and considerate to him. Many credits for Alec Baldwin as the self-assured and eager CIA analyst, he really did it well. 'The Hunt for Red October' is one of my favourite movies. 9/10
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Sandler and Barrymore at their best
18 March 2004
Floating back in time in 1985...Robbie (Adam Sandler) is a wedding singer who aspires to become a singer/songwriter but now is just looking forward to marrying his fiancee, Linda (Angela Featherstone), who eventually dumps him at their wedding. Robbie then meets Julia (Drew Barrymore), a waitress at the restaurant at which he works. She's engaged to Wall Street stock broker Glenn (Matthew Glave), whom later Robbie finds out has been unfaithful to her and doesn't give a da*n about the wedding planning. While helping Julia planning her forthcoming wedding, Robbie falls in love with her. But misunderstanding causes an undesirable consequence and Robbie must chase the right girl of his life...

This movie is simply sweet. I usually am not especially fond of Adam Sandler's performances but I find him likeable in this one. Drew Barrymore's acting needs refinement, the two 'Charlie's Angels' flicks are nothing but disasters and she has a long way to go to get what she achieved for her work in 'E. T.'. HOWEVER, in 'The Wedding Singer' she is perfect. Not like her other films. She used to be a better actress back in those days when she played 'bad' girls, such as 'Guncrazy' and 'Mad Love'. I am pleased with her performance in this movie, though her hairdo doesn't look that 80s. The scene in which Sandler sings 'Holiday' miserably and 'Love Stinks' angrily is hilarious- he ends up in the rubbish. And on the aeroplane when he sings to Julia 'Grow Old with You' is truely romantic. All in all, a good romantic comedy.
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Titanic (1997)
You LOVE it, or you HATE it, nothing in between
18 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING: SPOILERS

This film took enormous efforts to make and the special effects were outstanding achievement. Why criticising the movie because the two main characters are fictitious? This is a story based on the FACT of the sinking of the unsinkable, just a story. A very emotional one, perhaps at times too sentimental, but for certain good entertainment. The cast were superb, even though the plot seems surreal. Leonardo DiCaprio deserved more credits for his acting, Kate Winslet's and Gloria Stuart's performances were fabulous. The movie received much acclaim and criticism alike, simply because it was such a smash-hit.

Like Romeo and Juliet, Jack's (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose's (Kate Winslet) love would never die, because it is cut short before it can- one brief encounter brings the love that lasts for a life time. I believe love makes anything possible, so even in 1912, an upper-class young woman would fall in love with a third-class male passenger, because Rose is a different girl. She is rebellious and audacious, but feels caged by her upcoming marriage with Cal (Billy Zane), all just for his wealth to support Rose and her mother. Jack falls in love with her at first sight, saves her life and the chemistry between them becomes burning and boiling. Such love affair is possible. Anything is possible. Rose admires Picasso, and Jack is an artist who travels around and only has ten bucks in his pocket. They set each other's spirit free. The party at the lower-class section is great fun, real fun. Rose says to Jack that, when the ship arrives in America, she will go with him.

So it is too late when they have realised that the unsinkable has collided with an iceberg, and the life boats are not enough for all passengers. The mass death is gruesome. When Rose hears the boat coming back, Jack has already been frozen to death, so she lets go, watching his body sink into the deep end.

When the older Rose (Gloria Stuart) has told her story to the crew who have been searching for the Heart of the Ocean, the blue diamond, their faces are all covered with tears. But what really matters is, the Heart of the Ocean has still not been found. Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) gives up his ambition. The diamond will never be found.

Rose gets to the edge of the search team ship, get the Heart of the Ocean out of her pocket, and throws it into the sea. So now it is with Jack, forever.

If it wasn't Jack, Rose wouldn't be here today...

James Cameron created a dazzling work of art. You love it, or you hate it, nothing in between. However, this doesn't apply to me. I am, as a matter of fact, not mad about the film, and don't hate it, either.
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Gattaca (1997)
Will power conquers it all
18 March 2004
Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is one of those who were conceived naturally and in this DNA-dominated futuristic world, he was born to be incompetent- with a congenital heart condition and is destined to die by the age of 30. He dreams of travelling in space, teaches himself and is transferred from one place to another to do manual work- and he ends up being a caretaker at Gattaca, the corporation associating with space travel, using the finest men and women, chosen according to their genes. Vincent assumes the identity of Jerome (Jude Law), a wheelchair-bound former swimmer (his disability is due to an 'accident'...actually, NOT an accident at all, as you shall see when you have seen the film), using samples of his hair, skin tissue, blood and urine to become one of the Gattaca people, plus Vincent's determination to undergo the intense training. Right before his assigned mission takes off, the director is murdered and Vincent has accidentally left his eyelash in the premises. Now the police have the evidence and they begin to search for the murderer. Vincent's safety is at stake.

When Vincent finally reaches the outer space, he opens the letter which Jerome has left to him...as Vincent's dream becomes true, Jerome has gone to the opposite direction, the other path...with his silver medal and his broken heart caused by being 'the second best'...

As I used the word before, the film is very futuristic. Discrimination now is about your genes, rather than your gender, race or religion. But Vincent makes it. He proves that he can get what he wants, as long as he refuses to give up. The movie is magnificently written and made, well acted by Ethan Hawke, Jude Law and Uma Thurman. Hawke is smashing at playing strong characters (eg 'Alive'), Law is very convincing as the depressed former athlete and Thurman as one of the Gattaca people whom Vincent meets and falls in love with, realising the somewhat stunning truth. This film is a moving journey of the human spirit, towards both direction- up there or down the road. Simply spectacular.
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The truth is- I like this film
18 March 2004
Frankie 'Angel' McGuire (Brad Pitt) is a wanted IRA soldier who is sent to New York City from Belfast to purchase a massive amount of weapons. Through a NY judge, with his new identity 'Rory Devaney', McGuire stays with an Irish American family, the master being Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford), a sympathetic police officer. Their friendship is quickly formed, but when a group of masked men breaks in the house of the O'Mearas, O'Meara begins to suspect McGuire's true identity and his purpose of coming to America. When he finds out the truth, he is determined to bring McGuire in, but wants to keep him alive, not being executed by either the US or the British government.

Maybe somebody was right- Pitt seems too nice to be an IRA gunman...but I've never met one in my whole life, how do I know what they are like? People say Pitt's accent is bad. However, forgive me, I cannot tell, although I was in Belfast for one week and met some locals, I can't see why his accent is judged as 'that bad'. I've never been in a riot or a shooting on the streets of Belfast, I can't say whether the one depicted in this film is true to life or not. Forgive me if I'm being naive, but I like this film. I think it's very poignant, albeit I must admit that I am not familiar with how the IRA do their business in the USA, except that I've read a few books about the Troubles and I have been to Belfast.

McGuire's mission is to ship the weaponry back to Northern Ireland, and O'Meara has to stop him...one thing I can tell, this is a typical Hollywood movie, but it's not a dodgy one. It somewhat beautifies the character Frankie McGuire perhaps, nevertheless, this film is far better than many other junk flicks. What I reckon is, this movie has compassion within it. I personally think this film is well made and well acted.

Note that little Frankie watches his father shot dead by a Loyalist paramilitary assassin right before him and the rest of his family while having dinner. This was extremely common throughout the 1970s in Northern Ireland, carried out by both sides- the Republicans and the Loyalists, as punishment. The full-length version of the theme song 'God Be with You', by Dolores O'Riordan, which is only available on the soundtrack album, is profoundly moving.

The ending is sad. Very sad. Forgive me if I'm being over-sentimental again.
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Fargo (1996)
Blood in snow
18 March 2004
Jerry Lundegaard (William H Macy) is in a financial crisis and he comes up with the idea of cooperating with a couple of wee criminals from Fargo, North Dakota to kidnap his wife and demand his wealthy father-in-law to pay the ransom so he can split the money with the kidnappers. His father-in-law is later shot dead by the abductors because he shouldn't even be the one who go see them. Then they gunned down a cop and two witnesses on the highway- things go inevitably wrong. The heavily pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) is in charge with investigating a case about a stolen vehicle, which leads her to a visit with Lundegaard. Gunderson is about to uncover a chain of bloody crimes.

'Fargo' is a gripping, dark film and indeed, in a way, it is a comedy because at times it makes you laugh. Frances McDormand and William H Macy were quite brilliant, Steve Buscemi is funny and his quiet partner (unfortunately I can't remember or locate his name) is even funnier. The whole movie leaves you freezing, literally, not just because of the setting, but also because of the plot. I admire the Coen brothers' work, such as 'The Big Lebowski', which is very different from this one, but is dead hilarious.
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