Not a real big movie goer and having missed a number of big ones this year (like T3 and Matrix3), I’m definitely not missing Lord of the Rings. I saw The Last Samurai only because a couple of my friends wanted to go. I’m really glad I did, despite me not being a big fan of Tom Cruise.
I saw The Last Samurai twice. The second time, it was more powerful emotionally to me. I was able to appreciate the actor’s and character portrayals more and realized that was a big reason for its effect. Probably won’t get a lot of awards but definitely for me a big winner. The movie spoke to me and I wasn’t sure if it was due to my “Asian-ness” or because of the universal (maybe, maybe not) virtues of service and honor. My swedish friend saw it twice and was also completely taken in by the movie and the virtues the movie tried to depict through the movies characters.
Don’t know enough about Chinese history to say whether or not there have been any similar classes in China. Service, honor are also very Confucian type of virtues. Going to do some preliminary research into this but probably won’t turn up much. I think this movie is a Top 5 movie of all time for me.