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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
This movie is about the meaning of LIFE, 7 April 2005

*** This review may contain 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.

The Chorus (2004)
8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
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.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
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.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
An impeccable masterpiece, 12 June 2004

*** This review may contain 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.

7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
A moving journey, betrayal and struggle, 12 June 2004

*** This review may contain 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.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
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.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Very dark...brilliant, 9 June 2004

*** This review may contain 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?

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.

Dead Man (1995)
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.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Extreme passion, 31 May 2004

*** This review may contain 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.


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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