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May 27th
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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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Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.
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