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Feb 11th
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RED CLIFF

film_REDCLIFFIf you don't know anything about Third Century Chinese politics, don't study up on it before you see Red Cliff. One of the strengths of this vast and bloody dramatization of a decisive battle between feudal warlords, at least for the uninitiated, is not knowing who will win the war, or how. The suspense factor is a plus in this two-and-a-half-hour action epic from director John Woo, who, after a career in violent Hong Kong gangster melodramas and Hollywood thrillers, turns to the mystical, martial-arts spectacle. The characters are mythic, the film's visual scale humongous, the bloodletting frequent and exhausting, and there's plenty of opportunity for Woo to show off his trademark explosions.

But Woo sweetens the deal with a handful of commanding actors to help sort out the dense plot, while some remarkable sequences of clever strategies and counter-ploys keep the story galloping along and the viewer engaged. In 208 A.D., ambitious Prime Minister Cao Cao (iconic veteran actor Zhang Fengyi) bullies the weak young Emperor into letting him lead the vast Imperial Army against two rebellious kingdoms in the south. One rebel army is routed when their warlord leader orders them to fall back to protect the evacuation of civilians. But the warlord's wily strategist, Zhuge Liang (magnetic Sino-Japanese heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro, from House Of Flying Daggers) strikes up an alliance with the other rebel kingdom, which hinges on Zhuge convincing warrior general Zhou Yu (Tony Leung, of 2046 and Lust, Caution) that their joint cause is just, and winnable. Soulful, spiritual Zhou agrees, hoping "this war will prevent future wars." There's not much in the way of irony in this straightforward good vs. evil plot, but there are some terrific set pieces: the "tortoise defense;" a tutorial on stealing one hundred thousand enemy arrows film_red_cliff_ver3using hay bales and fog. There's a plucky girl-soldier and spy (Wei Zhao), and an elegant wife (Chiling Lin) as well-versed in the Art of War as the Art of Tea. On the other hand, a subplot about a deadly Typhoid epidemic is dropped suddenly with little or no aftermath, and the repetitive battles not only become yawn-inducing, it's impossible to tell who's skewering whom. Still,  while it's never as emotionally resonant as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (or even Flying Daggers), sheer visual splendor, and the charismatic Kaneshiro and Leung give the film plenty of class. (R) 148 minutes. In Mandarin with English subtitles. (★★★) —Lisa Jensen. Watch movie trailer >>>
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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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