Welcome to my new web zine Modern Movie Reviews. My name's Danielle Schlaffly and I'm a junior at Northside High. I hope you will use this site to get the scoop on phat flicks showing in our local theatres, what's worth paying $8 bucks to see on the big screen, and which flicks you should wait and rent for a couple dollars.

     NOW SHOWING:  The Last Samurai ·  Beyond Borders ·  Something's Gotta Give · 
                                            Runaway Jury ·  Bowling for Columbine ·  Mystic River  ·  Bubba Ho-Tep  ·  Gothika

The Last Samurai:

Director: Edward Zwick

Cast: Tom Cruise,
Timothy Spall,
Billy Connolly,
Tony Goldwyn,
Ken Watanabe,
Hiroyuki Sanada,
Shun Sugata,
Shin Koyamada.

Cruise topples Guns


Worth $8.50? $6.50? Matinee prices? This one's hard to call in ticket price terms. I won't pay $8.50 for most any movie, and although The Last Samurai has at least one very big draw, whether it's nonetheless most any movie or something distinct and outstanding is up to you, fellow movie goer.

The big draw? I'm not referring to Tom -- Tom Cruise, the heartthrob and superstar (who does wear it well, I'll admit, even if off screen he embarrasses himself hobbling about on his pop religion crutches, Scientology). You know. The guy's a "superstar," so he takes the superstar roles, too often enough, generally crashing bores. Well, that's Hollywood. Okay, he's got more class than that, Tom Cruise. I'm being unfair. Didn't he play that seriously tough fellow suffering like a banshee post-tongue-removal in the kool off-beat flick Magnolia, starred also Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Macy, two of the finest actors in America, and (I adore her) Julianne Moore? Yeah, okay, Cruise is pretty kool a lot of the time; and it's Hollywood and our American idolization that ruins him every third or fourth movie role.

Oh, this is a review of The Last Samurai. Forgive me! I got carried away. He's a charmer, Tom Cruise! And I want to scorn him and I want to change him at the same time.

No need to scorn what he does in this movie, though, because here he subordinates himself to what I take to be a pretty darn gutsy and strong statement this timely flick makes. The Last Samurai is not about Tom Cruise or his tortured character, Captain Nathan Algren. This movie's about conscience, courage, integrity, and the ravages of military profiteering, which didn't begin with WWI, as T. S. Eliot and others suggested in their poetries back then, or Vietnam and Dow Chemicals, or this present fall of man, the Iraq War and the despicable likes of Halliburton and Bechtel and god knows how many other rotten-fink scoundrel outfits pillaging the Middle East. No, war profiteering apparently goes at least back as far as the days of the post-Civil War extermination and genocide of the American indigenous peoples when that Victorian era's Halliburtons and Bechtels, Winchester and Remington, pushed their thugs across continents to manipulate transitional governments like Japan. That's what The Last Samurai boldly and seamlessly dramatises, and for this reason alone is worth the price of admission.

Congrats to Tom Cruise sticking to his courage and integrity with this project. His character Nathan Algren would be a rare hero in this age, I suspect immediately rendered invisible by our media or taunted and marginalized like what they try to do to Michael Moore, who also crusades against weapons manufacturers. Thank you, Tom Cruise! There's more evil and treachery and greed and corruption in the world today than a thousand Last Samurai movies can shake a stick at, but this film of yours gives us hope and delivers a sound thrashing to the kinds of companies and scoundrels who profit from genocide and impose military technologies on vulnerable peoples in need of more human solutions. Many kudos to your guts, Dear Tom! You've come a long way since the days of your so-called Top Guns.


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© Danielle Schlaffly 2003