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  • The biggest problem with Founding of a Republic is that it is quite dull. An historic, or quasi-historic, film about the origins of the current government in China, the movie tends to be surprisingly free of anything of cinematic interest. The action is sparse, the dialogue is neither amusing nor animated, and all the major events are well-known to history students. The cameo appearances by several major Chinese stars, such as Jackie Chan, Jet Lee and Zhang Ziyi, are so short as to be hardly worth mentioning. We already know the outcome, and there is little in the film to hold the viewer's interest, aside from some of its subtle if unexpected features, such as its surprisingly enlightened attitude toward Chiang Kai-shek.

    In much of the propaganda that pervades previous characterizations of Chiang and his Nationalist forces, the Chinese Communists have tended to portray the Chinese civil war as one of black v white, good v evil, with victorious communist forces "liberating" the people from an evil regime. These words still appear today when it is advantageous to Chinese communists' interest. But in this film Chiang seems reflective, fair-minded and concerned over excesses in his own regime--a rather positive image.

    Mao is treated to several revisions, appearing jovial, tolerant, and even permissive of some forms of capitalism, the latter something Mao never actually was in his revolutionary days. Indeed, there is little revolutionary fervor in Mao's dialogue in this film, a fervor which in real life permeated Mao's thinking. This seems deliberate, as these ideas would accord little with the current regime in Beijing. In one scene where Mao is shown in an avuncular, loving role with children, even though in real life Mao abandoned his children to pursue his broad revolutionary ambitions.

    While KMT excesses are detailed, including several assassinations, there is absolutely no mention of CCP atrocities committed during the Chinese civil war. And, while KMT violations of the interim treaty between the two sides are highlighted, there is no mention of CCP violations of the same pre-civil war accords.

    While most of the film is richly detailed in costumes and settings, the special effects are not very realistic, with several airplane scenes being utterly unconvincing as they are obvious CGI. The film is a product of Chinese film makers, but political interests in Beijing factored heavily in its production. I doubt that the movie will generate much interest outside of China.
  • The year is 1945. The two leaders of China's civil war meet in Chongching and agree to form a coalition government and prepare for peace and democracy.

    For reasons that aren't entirely clear, one side - the Nationalists (KMT) under Chiang Kai-Shek - decides it rather prefers to go back to the war, and the Communists (CPC) under Mao defends the future of Chinese democracy.

    Throughout the film, Mao is a benign presence. He's greatly admired by his followers and considerate even to his cook, mourning him when he's killed. He plays and dances with children. He is stoic in the face of disaster and he remains keen to include other parties (the Chinese Democracy League and even the KMT, although not Chiang) in a coalition government before bringing democratic reform. He takes decisions by reaching a consensus and demonstrates decisive wisdom by implementing land ownership reforms. At one point, and without any sense of irony, Mao says before giving a direct order, "I'll be a dictator for a change". Without any cities in their hands Mao plans a new country: the lack of a city for a capital is phlegmatically described as "inadequate" by the Great Helmsman.

    Meanwhile, the KMT has problems. The party is split with factions conspiring against Chiang Kai-Shek. Assassinations are organised. Corruption in areas they control is rampant - it's "in the bones" of the KMT, says Chiang, revealingly. There are food shortages and rampant black-marketing. Chiang is apparently another benign presence, but seemingly impotent in the face of such problems. Elsewhere, KMT soldiers and agents kill pro- democracy activists.

    The rest, as they say, is history.

    But that's precisely the problem with the film: the history.

    For overall, the film is a rather pedestrian telling of an alternative version of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Any sense of drama is limp like a balloon deflating, and thus fails. The dialogue is preoccupied with explaining events and giving background rather than (say) developing characters and it feels at times like a dramatised documentary. Indeed, in a couple of places, it even uses archive footage.

    As we know, though, this isn't just a film: it has (another) Official History to tell and tell it it will, come what may. It is an Orwellian exercise.

    The revision of Chiang Kai-Shek has been remarked upon above but the point missed. Chiang has been rehabilitated to a certain extent as a great Chinese patriot, although one who is mistaken. A key scene in the film occurs with his son: the KMT are deciding to negotiate with the CPC, and the proposal is that China be divided along the Yangtze River. Chiang himself says that this would be something he would never allow. This is in line with the "one China" ideology espoused by the CPC, and also by today's KMT, even if they can't agree precisely what that China is.

    We know that Chiang and Mao were both ruthless dictators who both could be personally cruel and who both presided over corrupt regimes. Both before and after 1949, both were responsible for the murder of large numbers of their own citizens, although Mao wins the numbers game if we're counting corpses. We also know that the remarked upon land reforms of Mao - who is officially 30 percent wrong - were a catastrophic failure, while those of Chiang Kai-Shek in the 1950s were in fact a success.

    Finally, we also know that democracy was never really the intention of either leader. The references to democracy in the film are surely in very poor taste when - as I write this - Liu Xiabo, the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace, languishes in jail and a number of his peers were earlier killed in the Tiananmen Square massacre of 4 June 1989 for demanding precisely that: democracy in China.
  • A previous reviewer (erroneously) noted that you need to know "Chinese history" to appreciate this film. In actuality, what you need to know is "PRC history"--the repeatedly revised history of the PRC (which is far shorter than "Chinese history") that deifies Mao Ze Dong and aligns the meaning of WWII and post-WWII historical events with a nationalist narrative sanctioned by the PRC state.

    This film downplays the theme of "ideological struggle" that saturates previous films about the founding of the PRC in place of a dramatized struggle of power between different historical personalities. An extensive list of Chinese entertainment celebrities (from Jet Li to Donny Yen) make 2 minute cameos to portray an equally extensive list of notable Chinese political celebrities from that time period. It's as if someone thought it would be a good idea to adapt the formula for the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" to the story of the PRC's founding-- except it's not nearly as romantic or interesting.

    The film portrays Chang Kai Shak as a conscientious political leader unable to contain the corruption of the KMT and compelled to make choices that dashed any real possibility of a multi-party democratic government in post-WWII China. The filmmakers show him struggling with KMT party members who seek to usurp his presidency and attempting to fight war-profiteering backed by political nepotism, all the while minimizing the actual scope of the corruption in order to market the film to a Taiwanese audience that is probably even more critical of Chang's historical role in this dark chapter of "Chinese history." Meanwhile, Mao is his usual mythologized self--a caring leader, a humble revolutionary, a loving father, a forgiving man, a light-hearted philosopher, and perhaps even a psychic. In one dialogue, Mao is seen emphasizing the need to get help from the "petty bourgeoisie" to rebuild China's war-devastated economy as if predicting (and giving his blessings to) the current free market reforms that began decades later with Deng Xiao Ping.

    This is not a film for serious historians and enthusiasts, unless you are looking for an over-budgeted bad comedy. In fact, it's not that different from previous PRC films on the same subject. It's just updated with newer techniques of storytelling for contemporary Chinese film audiences that works in a more subtle way to legitimate the party's current vision of the PRC state. Thus, propaganda version 2.0.
  • A Chinese film, financed by the government of China, about the formation of said republic. This is all out propaganda. What is interesting is that it's big budget, and it's on par with the many similar American propaganda films (from Hollywood). Stuff like Independence day, Black Hawk Down, Argo and so on.

    The acting is perfect. It's a star studded cast. They got all the biggest Chinese stars to do this. And you can tell. Both Jackie Chan and Jet Li have minor supporting roles. Their stars aren't bright enough to crowd out the better talent. So that's saying a lot. Great dialogue, as well. Anyway, cool to see a film like this where USA is the villain. While I'm in no way pro-Chinese. I do like variety and shifts in perspective.

    There's zero soul searching going on in this film. In this film Mao is the best guy ever. Truly loved and respected by all who know him. Although Chiang Kai Shek didn't actually kick a dog on screen... you just knew he did off camera. This is a bad man.

    I'm a history buff. So I've read biographies about all these people. They didn't need to do it this way. The Chinese communist party (ou tin the real world) already declared Mao an incompetent leader, and purged all his "henchmen". They did that in the 70'ies. So there should be zero contemporary controversy, in China, to do an accurate portrayal of both Chiang Kai Shek and Mao. But they chose to do it this way instead. Which took me a bit out of the drama. It's fun when the American ambassador is shown as a coward who doesn't stick up for his friends. Again... just nice to see, for a change, a high quality film that doesn't endlessly repeat the Hollywood messages of America's perfection.

    They do a quite good job dramatising, what essentially just is, a series of talks where a bunch of elderly men negotiate at various tables. There is a lot of smoking, and talking about smoking. I never figured out the symbolism of that. Or perhaps it just was historically accurate? The film does get a bit boring at times. There's a fun segment where Mao has taken sleeping pills but needs to get to safety in a bomb shelter. But he's high as a kite from the pills, and has no intention of cooperating with his handlers, who end up having to carry him by force on a stretcher (not a spoiler, since everybody who knows anything about history knows Mao survived).

    They do show some of the fighting. But this isn't a war movie. This film is only about the, behind the scenes, negotiating that later led to what became the formation of the republic. It spends a lot of time explaining why and how each member of the first Central Committee was elected. Which might be more fun if I knew more about recent Chinese history. Most of these names mean nothing to me. But it's pretty clear the viewers are supposed to be impressed. Which is another thing I like about it. Just like American propaganda films, it's shot for a domestic audience. It's obvious that this is shot for a Chinese audience, and only a Chinese audience. So they don't bother explaining, lots of stuff, you just have to know. I've read a lot of history, so I could mostly follow it. But far from everything. I did a lot of pausing and looking up stuff on Wikipedia. I must admit that I liked that aspect of it. It adds to the immersion, somehow. Despite it's flaws I did learn a lot, which I think is what's most important when it comes to historical dramas.
  • This is not a movie as such; but more of a propaganda film from some Chinese government brainwashing program. The films producer, the China Film Group (CFG) is actually a state owned media branch of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and are the sole importer/exporter of film in China. 'The Founding of a Republic' has to be the most classic example of communist propaganda to be produced by the CCP. Completely geared at glorifying the communist regime now in control of China, historical fact takes a back seat in this zombifying dissemination which is comparable to such films found in 1930s Germany. In the film the antagonists are the party who governed China during World War 2, the Kuomintang (KMT), while the protagonists are -yup you guessed it- the CCP; and not mention history's biggest mass murderin' glorious leader -Chairman Mao Zedong. And while the KMT ruled brutally, no one was prepared for the bloody reign of terror of Chairman Mao who left a body count greater than that of Hitler's and Stalin's combined. The regime has obviously spared no cost at producing a high quality production, but it can't hide the fact this film is cheesy and over dramatic as it attempts to incite ultra-nationalist sentiment in Chinese viewers. This film glorifies the dictator, it glorifies the regime, it glorifies the party. This government mouthpiece of a movie points the fingers at everyone else's wrongdoings, and condemns them for it, yet refuses to accept responsibility for or even acknowledge the crimes the communist party have committed, and indeed, are still committing. Whenever a film about a political party is made it can't amount to anything but propaganda and you just can't take it seriously. And less so when the direction and dialog is corny and the 'facts' are inaccurate and over-dramatized, and as the 2008 Olympics have taught us the regime in 'The Peoples Republic' are not shy to boast of their glory yet completely ignore their own heinous crimes.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I generally do not take motion pictures too seriously (although I fully respect artistic achievements in them). TFOAR has painted as favourable a picture of Mao Zedong as you can see anywhere. I do not have a problem with that, simply shrugging it off with "It's only a movie". And if it is going to do this anyway, the period covered by the movie would certainly be a good one to do it with.

    On the other hand, this movie has come a long way from the heavy-handed political propaganda-type of movies usually produced by Mainland China. It is quite palatable, with what you can almost (but not quite) call minimalism approach. You do not find contrived vulgarization of the KMT or exaggerated glorification of the Communists. It fact, the first hour (i.e. about 2/5) of the movie was so much like a dull documentary that I had difficulty staying awake. But as it became more focuses and dramatic conflicts intensified, I got more and more interested.

    The first thing you would notice is the almost complete absence of gritty battle scenes, particularly when the story is essentially about the military struggle between the KMT and the Communists for the control of post-WWII China. The focus of this movie is on the political background, with characters and dialogue aplenty. The fateful, decisive Wei Hai Battle is all but briefly mentioned, after which the mood turns even lighter. The changing point is a playful scene of two official photographers setting up their camera at the unassuming entrance of a humble house and capturing the arrival of key personalities (a complete "who's who") to a meeting that sets the course of the founding of the PRC.

    The ominous elements is given almost exclusively to the KMT side, focusing mainly on Chiang Kai-shek who is depicted, however, with surprising generosity. The several scenes between him and his son Cheung Ching-kuo verge on tenderness, while the latter is even given an impeccably heroic persona. The only really dark side is Chiang Senior's order to secretly eliminate over a dozen Communist supporters on the eve of his fled to Taiwan. The harshest moment on the Communist side is, ironically, at the most glorious juncture, the victors' procession into Beijing. The rousing reception is led by an "old soldier" (not literally in age) portrayed brilliantly by the inimitable Liu Ye, representing an army that suffered horrendous casualties. The bitterness in this old soldier's dramatic salute in left for the audience to interpret.

    Overall, however, the movie bathes in a light, almost cheerful, atmosphere, which is totally understandable as it is made to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the PRC. Who would want to recall blood and pain on a birthday party? It concludes with the "soft" history of the selection of the national anthem and flag for the new republic.

    The single most remarkable thing about this movie is Tang Guoqiang who has made a career out of portraying Mao. When, in the inserted newsreels, the real Mao appears, you wouldn't think it's a different person from what you see in the movie. He is just that good. In this movie he did a marvellous job in bringing out the charisma of this charismatic leader.

    It would be a sin not to mention the two women in this movie, Xu Qing playing Soong Ching-ling (Madam Suen Yat-san) and Vivian Wu Soong May-ling (Madam Cheung Kai-shek). While I am not familiar with Xu, her grace and poise I simply cannot think of another actress that can match. But my own favourite is Vivien Wu who would be better known to the global audience and played the same role in "The Soong sisters" (1997), but at a younger age. These two complement the superb performance of Tang and brighten up this movie. As to the huge cast of cameos of who's who in the Chinese movie scene, more than enough has been said, especially by incompetent movie reviewer who don't know what else to say.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    From my opinion, 'Jian Guo Da Ye'(abbr JGDY) is a fairly good film anyway. This time the government stands out and makes a movie, what you expect? Usually government doesn't invest money on commercial films, once it does, it should reflect the highest film making level of this country as least. John Woo made the movie in which five pigeons fly out, whilst Han made this one nearly 5,000 pigeons fly out with a gunshot, what a difference! The CGI of warfare in this film is pretty good, though not as realistic as some newly released 'District 9' or sth but pretty good, reminding me of 'Pearl Harbor' when it comes to Kuomintang bombing Yanan. We know that many world-famous stars are participating in this film and Han wisely made the arrangement which no one performs out of the scenes. Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Ziyi Zhang...they are all soaked in their roles.

    Historical and political thing is not always that bad...even US had its own - I still own a completely collections of ABC's 'War & Remembrance' series which panoramically goes from the start of WWII to the end with bunches of celebrities and Hollywood stars. Movies of course, shorten the story more than TV series. Actually JGDY just tells the story about 1945-1949's main political events that happened in China, and the story of two parties' leader - Mao & Jiang. The delicate plot ensures that the it doesn't look too messed up.

    I think Han really did his best this time - Kaige Chan successfully portraits warlord Feng Yuxiang, Jet Li as a hero and Andy Lau as an air force commander, Jackie Chan as a journalist..oh my what a crew... The most unforgettable role that I think is Jiang Wen as Mao Renfeng. Actually it is a personalized history of Han himself - the story telling almost sticks with Zhang Guoli and Chen Kun from the start to the end. The Shanghai gang bloodbath is the most decent scene in this film, full of Han's style. If you've watch some movies he made you will realize that. This is definitely not, as some unknown media says, a government's propaganda film.

    To say JGDY is about the rise and victory of the Communist, is not as proper as to say, JGDY is about the falling and defeat of the Kuomintang(Nationalist & Democratic). It has the historical reasons though, but a little bit more dramatic than the fact. Most people will not feel uneasy about it as Kuomintang and Communist are getting closer and closer after Kuomintang taking over Taiwan again in 2008. This is a good sign as people live both in China Mainland and Taiwan expect.

    Anyway, 9 out of 10. If you like China history around 1940s, you will enjoy it.
  • Currently, every film that is to be made in China has to be approved by the government first. Since this film is about the founding of the PRC, I expected that this film will be full of communist propaganda rhetoric materials. I was surprised that it has very few. It actually has some scenes which can be inferred to the current situation of Chinese communist party.

    Sundry celebrities appeared in the film, it is almost like watching the CCTV's yearly Chinese new year show.

    It seemed that it showed the history correctly without trying to make the Kuomintang people acting like idiots or clowns. Even though many historical people appeared in the film, this film is not hard to follow. I was captivated by it for the entire two hours.
  • capnconundrum22 February 2013
    It is rare for a movie to deserve one star. This would receive negative ten if such were possible.

    This isn't just a bad movie. This was made by the state owned China Film Group to mark the 60th anniversary of their happy fascist regime. This "docu-drama" is a shameless, disgusting attempt to ram a skewed history, in which Mao is seen as a paragon of kindness, down a viewer's throat. To call this a documentary is an offense to all historians. This is history with a political agenda (not a rare thing for fascists). As a movie, it deserves one star. But again, this is not a movie. It is a shameless bid by an evil government to deify the monster who created it. IMDb should offer "black hole ratings" or something to illustrate the amount of genuine evil a film/documentary attempts to inflict on humanity. With such a rating system, this horrid spectacle would get ten out of ten.

    You may be tempted to purchase this due to the martial arts stars on the cover. That's why it was purchased, as a gift, for me. Many famous Chinese actors make cameo appearances. Nothing more. Jackie Chan plays a journalist (although all he does is hand Chiang Kai-Shek a newspaper, so he could just as well be a salesman) and has a total of 2.5 seconds of screen time. I wasn't able to spot Jet Li. It isn't hard to imagine these stars being in the film just for the money, but given the content I was left to wonder if there was something more ominous at work. Again, I implore you, do not be fooled by their faces on the DVD cover into thinking that this is an actual movie.

    Should you watch this out of morbid curiosity, look at the way they construct the drama. Notice the music--ominous in the background whenever the KMT is portrayed, jolly and twinkly whenever Mao shows his haircut. Mao smiles, lives (the idea that he is hiding is well hidden in the direction) in mud huts with villagers whom he always treats as equals. He is kind and a paragon of benevolence. Chiang is not portrayed as an evil man. The modern Chinese audience is too sophisticated for that. But he never takes off his military uniform. He is constantly cosseted during his time on screen.

    Propaganda is in symbolism as much as content. This film is saturated with the former and heavily skews the historical accuracy of the latter. This is shameless propaganda. The more you know about politics, advertising, writing, directing, or the construction of any art, the more horrified you will be. The more you know about history, the more disgusted.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film tells the story of China from shortly after the end of the Japanese Occupation in 1945 when Mao Tse-tung, chairman of the Communist party met with Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek to discuss the future of the country, through a bitter civil war till the founding of the People's Republic of China and the retreat of the Nationalist it the island of Taiwan.

    Given that it was made by the Chinese State and dedicated to the 60th anniversary of its founding it is not surprising that it shows Mao in a better light than he is viewed in the west… that isn't the problem with the film; the problem is that it is just too stodgy. There are lots and lots of scenes with people just talking about things that aren't all that interesting at times; perhaps these are more interesting to people who know more about the history of China. The film was further let down by some very misleading packaging in the UK; the DVD cover boldly announces "For the first time in one epic film: Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen"… they may all have appeared but in cameos so minor it would be easy to miss them. There is not much in the way of action and the majority of what there is features sepia tinted footage of unknown foot soldiers rather than protagonists. The cast do a decent job; Guoqiang Tang was particularly good as Chairman Mao; of course it helped that he looked rather like him. On the plus side the film was more even handed than I expected; while Mao was obviously depicted as the good guy the Nationalists weren't shown as the villains they might have been. Overall I found this to be a bit disappointing but certainly not enough to regret watching it; I wouldn't particularly recommend it unless you are particularly interested in this period of Chinese history.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    6 cents to jackie jet and donnie the most three best action kungfu star in asia
  • Warning: Spoilers
    HUGE retelling of the founding of modern China after the Second World War. Its the story of the battle between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong for control of the country. Despite some glimpse of battle this is a film that dwells mostly on the politics of the struggle. Its a fast paced tale that moves at a lightning speed through events. The speed is such that the film frequently uses titles to say where we are and who is speaking. Its large scale story that plays out like many of the American war films of the 1960's and 70's like The Longest Day, Tora Tora Tora, Midway (or to take another bend Towering Inferno) which play things out in a semi-documentary style. Like those films its both good and bad since it tells the huge story with a great deal of clarity, but its bad since the film contains a great deal of emotional distance since we're simply watching events not getting to know the characters. Who are all of these people? You really don't know, unless you already know the history. It kind of helps that the cast is full of many of China's biggest stars (Jackie Chan, Ziyi Zhang,Jet Li, Tony Lung Ka Fai, Andy Lau, Stephen Chow, Donnie Yen, Vivian Wu to name a few) but at the same time many of them are reduced to little more than walk ons. I like the film, but in the the way I'd like a documentary on the History Channel with recreations because it showed me some things I didn't know before. But at the same time what it showed me was kind of disconnected to reality and was floating about in space and not likely to stick because unless you know the history already watching the recreation is going to mean little. Can you tell I'm mixed? I liked it, I think its good and I had no problem following what was going on but its too emotionally distant to the point that I don't know if I need to ever see it again. Worth a look if you stumble across it (especially if you're a fan of the multitude of stars) but its not something you need search out. The very definition of a footnote film or the one film that makes playing 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon with Chinese actors so much more simple.
  • kangshifu26 November 2009
    i think if someone is to watch a movie, they should enjoy it. i mean you paid for it might as well. and not bring up your own opinion about the country you live in. a government cant make EVERYONE happy and for china to rise so high in this world means its doing things right. like the guy above. this is a movie review, not your personal preference of what your prefect government should be. as i am Chinese i am proud to see what my own country has become and was very excited to see this movie. i have seen a lot of china vs. taiwan films and TV series. and i've got to say this was one of the best ones i have seen. and i clearly don't think china needs to make more propaganda film to make people like them. and to be Chinese and not understand the culture...that person should be very ashamed of himself . ^
  • On the UK DVD summary the film is described as; 'Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen star in this action-packed, monumental epic for the first time in film history... With breath-taking cinematography, explosive action sequences" The cover shows the 3 actors above in white outfits taking up most of the cover.

    Ignore this completely!! For one thing Jet Li and Jackie Chan have extremely small cameos which combined last around 2 minutes TOPS!! Their parts in this are not even worth mentioning.

    There are 1 or 2 shots (at the most) that are anything like "breath-taking", one of these consisted of a shot that was in sepia style which was similar (but had unfortunately less impact) to the beach scene in Saving Private Ryan (including the extreme wide panning shots). The editing and many of the shots seem amateur making some parts seem comical, which is a shame as many of the actors seem very talented and don't deserve to be represented as poorly as they are in some of the scenes.

    The "explosive action sequences" consists of a few explosions (one man has his foot blown off) and no action.

    If you are interested in the history of China then this is a film for you, as I would suggest it is a good representation of the events. And the actors who ARE in the film are very good. For educational purposes, this film succeeds.

    But if you read the cover in the UK then choose to buy thinking you will be getting 2 and a half hours of epic battles then you have been fooled. Instead prepare yourself for a very long, unwitty docu-drama. There are epic battles but unfortunately they are only political ones.

    Using Jackie Chan and Jet Li to sell this is practically fraud.
  • People must see this movie this movie as an entertainment, opportunity to see something produced in other country with not conventional story. Some people says its propaganda and judges by their political views, but these same people dont say the same when its US movies like Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan, Chuck Norris and Stallone movies about Vietnam War/Soviets and etc. Those movies arent propaganda??????? Also US movies dont talk about their attrocities commited in those movies, because no country talks bad about yourself. If you expect that dont even watch the movie.

    The movie objective is to talk about the foundation of PRC and the film does well, have great actors, its good in their proposal. If you want to see costumes, behaviour of that times see the movie.