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Linda McDonnell's Profile

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Reviews Written by
Linda McDonnell "TutorGal" RSS Feed (Brooklyn, U.S.A)

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No Title Available

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pros Go Slummin', December 27, 2004
Yes, when I saw the coming attractions in the theater, I gasped to see that the Almighty Barbra Streisand was in this movie. She's joined by Dustin Hoffman, and of course Robert De Niro. So how many Oscars do these folks have among them? And yet here they all are, in a Ben Stiller movie. The pay must have been GOOD.

But you've got to hand it to Stiller, because it stayed His Movie. He's the star, to the end.

Is this a bad movie? Oh no, not at all. Is this a good movie? Ah, well, there you might have me. It's a so-so movie. It's got plenty of bathroom humor (including several scenes in bathrooms, as a matter of fact), but many Americans like that sort of thing, judging by the roars of laugher in my Forest Hills movie theater. It's really nothing more or less than another entry in the Two Families That Have Nothing At All In Common Will Now Be Related By Marriage category. You saw it in "The In-Laws" with Peter Falk/Alan Arkin back in the 70s. Probably even back in the 60s with "Lovers and Other Strangers". You'll see it again, years from now with some other stars who are young now, maybe even Ben Stiller's daughter marrying Keanu Reeve's son or something.

So, if you don't mind sex-filled, poopy pants dialogue and stars that could have done any number of other things but decided to have a good time over the summer, this just might fit the bill.

Cheaper By the Dozen [VHS]
Cheaper By the Dozen [VHS]
Offered by VHS movies for your VCR
Price: $7.48
16 used & new from $2.29

12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I remembered it..., October 10, 2004
...though not a bad movie.

Like many of the other reviewers, I had seen this as a child and I had even read the book written by two of the children. Parts of it are very good, particularly the performance of my great favorite, Clifton Webb as Frank Gilbreth, efficiency expert and father of a dozen children.

Where it suffers are those parts that make it an "old movie", chiefly, the voice over narration of Jeanne Crain as the oldest daughter recollecting and introducing each episode. I wish they hadn't opted for that contrivance, because it's so much better when a script can just flow from scene to scene. That's where "Life with Father" starring William Powell is more successful, because even though it's rather episodic too, it comes off less so because there is no narrator.

After having seen the movie again last night after many years, I got into a conversation with my family about the mother's having gone on to become a major figure in motion studies and industial psychology. Well, when I got home, I did an internet search for her, Lillian Gilbreth, and found a wealth of information on her achievements, both before the husband's death and afterwards. This unexpected discovery made me disappointed further in the film, as there is an obvious bias towards the father's work and the mother is only mentioned as a helper. In point of fact, Lillian Gilbreth was a Ph.D (her husband had not attended college) and had a fifty year career AFTER his death during which she invented labor-saving devices like the step-on garbage can. How ironic that the Hollywood movie could not depict how extraordinary the mother really was--another indicator of a time when women's achievements were downplayed.

Be that as it may, audiences can still enjoy the movie as one of those "large family with a large heart" entries which ultimately maxxed out with "Sound of Music" or perhaps more appropriately, "Yours, Mine, and Ours". Good performances by the child actors, Myrna Loy as Mother, and again Clifton Webb doing a very out-of-character turn as a loving husband and family man. Very little of his signature Mr. Belvedere in this production, and even some hint of his first career as a song and dance man.

No Title Available

3 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of Bounds, September 26, 2004
I don't play or watch tennis, so I don't know if that review title is game-appropriate, but after having seen this movie tonight, I think it just misses, and what's missing is the miss.

Kirsten Dunst is just so "not all that". Why is Paul Bettany interested in her? Why should we be interested in her? She's not pretty and she actually seems like she has a bad personality that she's trying to cover up. This film would have been a lot better if she was revealed to be the "w"itch I think she probably is.

This is one of those "can the underdog athlete amaze everyone by coming out on top?" movies. But it's just so formulaic with no surprises AT ALL that it borders on boring. If you think back to the most classic "underdog" movies, there usually is some kind of twist. For instance, in "The Champ", broken-down pug Wallace Beery wins his match but dies of a heart attack; in "National Velvet", Elizabeth Taylor is disqualified when she is discovered to be a girl; and of course in "Rocky", Sly Stallone pummels the surprised Apollo Creed but still loses the match. What happens in "Wimbledon", in comparison? The underdog has absolutely no setbacks worth mentioning and marries the girl, who forgives him for distracting her enough to lose her match because he abases himself on national TV. The two opponents--the girl's trainer/father and her old boyfriend/underdog's last rival--together don't add up to much adversarily. I simply kept waiting for The Problem That Never Really Emerged.

We were at this one tonight because Chris wanted to see his childhood neighborhood near the tennis stadium and be nostalgic and it was good to have someone there to tell me what section of England we were in next. Granted, the place looked great; ironically, even the "dumpy" apt Paul Bettany keeps is actually pretty nifty by NYC standards. So "Wimbledon" was something to look at, if not think about. See what else is being served up at your theatre first.

No Title Available

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More sublimal messages about the disabled, September 16, 2004
Okay, here's your warning: SPOILER ahead. Alright with you? Then read on:

As I sat watching this film, I was unpleasantly reminded of the Bruce Willis flick, "Unbreakable", where the villain turned out to be the disabled freak in the wheelchair, proof evidently that crippled bodies cause crippled development, whether emotional or moral. Sure enough, I go home and see what else the filmmaker for "The Village" had done, and up pops "Unbreakable". Perhaps if I were to see a third film by M. Night I would find a similar strand again, but I'm going to do my darndest to avoid seeing such a third film by this person, who seems to want to make this point over again.

"The Village" is a little like the town of Walnut Grove in "Little House on the Prairie"--gingham and such. What's a bit different from the norm is that this Village has a mandate against a few things, like wearing red or going outside the set boundaries. This is to avoid meeting up with a creepy force surrounding the Village. Basically, the plot concerns how the rising generation feel steps should be taken to venture into that no-man's land to make contact with the outside world for health supplies, etc. Much as you might expect, things turn dangerous before The Surprise Climax of the film occurs.

Good points? Yes, the film has good atmosphere and great cinematography, which many of the reviewers note. Good performances by "elders" William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver.

Bad points? Besides what I mentioned up front about demonizing the disabled character in the film, another thing that stretched belief was making Joaquin Phoenix and Adrien Brophy of the "Young'uns" generation. Okay, they're not as old as the hills or anything, but c'mon, they're not teenagers either. Jake Gyllenhaal would have been better casting for the Joaquin character, for instance.

While I could see The Surprise Climax coming, others of my acquaintance maintain they were astounded at the development. Just depends on how much you read or seen about "isolated societies" themes.

To sum up, it's discouraging to see how a movie like "The Village" takes us all back not just a few steps but several centuries in attitudes about the disabled and "blame" for bad events. Hopefully, these old prejudices won't creep into the subconcious minds of young people viewing something like this.

No Title Available

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I, Lobot(omy), September 13, 2004
Yep, some serious surgery has been performed on Isaac Azimov's book in order to serve up this summer thriller, and the end result is suspiciously like a lobotomy, 'cause they totally forgot what the original stories were!

Prior to having seen this movie, I had never read Azimov; in fact, I'd never read anything that could be termed science fiction. My closest attempts were years ago taking a shot at "The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet" and then decades later, "A Wrinkle in Time". But neither book did I pursue past the first few pages. Thus, my nebulous ideas of science fiction are that ordinary humans (usually teenaged boys)find themselves put upon by wacky characters who take them on an odd journey. So, as "I, Robot" played on the Big Screen in front of me, I said to myself, "Hmm, what's the likelihood that Azimov had written about this hiphop guy duking it out with this somewhat effete robot?" Clearly, a trip to the library was in order, and in due time I came to the amazing realization that all that survived out of Azimov's famous collection of stories were 1) the title and 2) the name of the female character. And that's about it.

It's a real shame that I guess these folks acquired the rights to the book and then chucked it because it's a lot more imaginative than this somewhat boring and predictable storyline:

It is the future when robots perform menial tasks for humans. Everyone takes it in stride, except this Luddite cop played by Wil Smith, who hates the guts of all robots everywhere for A Good Though Mysterious Reason. A robot inventor has been tossed out his office window. Could the culprit be...a robot?

In case you are too young to remember, the idea of menial nonhumans deciding to overthrow their human masters was done already in the 1970s, in "Conquest for the Planet of the Apes", so this is a tired idea already. Azimov's stories, on the other hand, are very intriguing, depicting how the seemingly innocuous Three Laws of Robotics can be surprisingly re-interpreted by the robots once they think a little too hard--we can make a pretty good comparison to the Founding Fathers' not really anticipating where 21st century man would like to go with that Bill of Rights thing. So, that's an exciting premise. This "I, Robot", however, is not so blessed.

Be that as it may, there sure are a lot of thrills in the movie, with scary car crackups and a tumult of robots chasing Smith around from time to time. Special effects are the star here, not the storyline. I didn't like Smith's character, though, so I really wouldn't have been upset if the robots triumphed in the end. See if it computes for you.

No Title Available

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When Tomorrow is Really Cold!, September 13, 2004
For years we've heard about it, the global warming that will one day wreak havoc with the climate, but if you're like the average American, that's a real "I'll think about it tomorrow" situation. Well, that's the kind of attitude addressed by name in the movie, "The Day After Tomorrow", in which the long-foretold day of reckoning arrives with a vengeance.

Of course, films like this are somewhat formulaic. A scientist tries to warn government officials that the earthquake/ tidal wave/ volcano/ prehistoric monster etc., is on the verge of destroying civilization as we know it. The officials scoff at him and his crack-pot ideas, until it all comes true exactly as the scientist said. Then, puny humans try to cope with the looming disaster, with varying success, as the fadeout tells us that it's only a matter of time before this hypothetical situation really occurs, unless we take action NOW.

But it's not really the plot that drives disaster movies. Like Elizabethan sonnets that had to conform to pre-established rhyme schemes, in a disaster movie it's what you do within the established form that creates interest. And the daring thing for the filmmaker this time round was where to set the disaster, Manhattan island. I must confess that I, TutorGal, was squeamish about watching New York City destroyed by a gigantic wave in the wake of 9/11, and many reviewers have condemned the movie just for that, as being insensitive to those who had lost so much in the real-life disaster of that day. Indeed, the strangest point of the whole night were the cheers of audience as the Statue of Liberty just about kept her head above the waves as they crashed past her and down the streets of midtown-and this was an audience only a few scant blocks from the Empire State Building itself. Should we ask ourselves then whether New Yorkers are on the road to emotional recovery, if they can not only stand watching the city destroyed all over again, but even show excitement about it? Or is recovery the right word for that? Is it instead a measure of some perverse defense mechanism?

Biggest stretch of probability: I guess as a foreboding of the kind of dangers that will await Americankind in the new Ice Age, three college males have to do battle with three devilish wolves that escaped from the zoo just prior to the big wave that subsequently froze over. Like these kids don't have enough problems with subzero temperatures? And with all the recent carrion available for the wolves, why would they venture into the hold of a trapped Russian cargo ship? And how did the wolves cope with the giant wave, anyway? Then at one point, I had my own private break with reality when Dennis Quaid's character Jack Hall announced that he'd been on the phone consulting with Terry Rapson (the character played by veteran British actor Ian Holm). "Teddy Ruxpin?", I wondered until I realized I had heard it wrong, because it was highly unlikely that useful information about climate shifts could come from a talking teddy bear doll.

Speaking of Dennis Quaid, many reviewers seem to want to pan his earnest climatologist who tried in vain to warn the Vice President of the impending danger, but I had no problems with him. By far the more annoying character is the homeless guy with the pet dog who starts as "local color" but much to my disappointment, evolved into a major supporting character with those college kids seeking refuge in the New York Public Library. Incidentally, if the waters did start to rise in the 42nd Street area, I'd have thought it made more sense to head for nearby Lord and Taylor, which is ten floors as opposed to the NYPL's three, and has a few restaurants to boot. Jake Gyllenhaal is pretty good as the college kid who also happens to be Quaid's son, a relationship that means Quaid must set out cross-country ski-style from DC for NYC to rescue Junior, but not before recommending to the President that most of the US has to evacuate post haste to Mexico. And that got the most chortling out of the audience as thousands of white Americans storm the Mexican borders, only to be let in on condition that the US forgive Latin American debt. Science fiction, huh?

While it might not be not be the most scientifically accurate picture, The Day After Tomorrow still manages to wow you with exceptional special effects and amuse you with throw-in details like the aforementioned surge across the Rio Grande. Highly recommendable fare.

No Title Available

8 of 42 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Check, please!, July 14, 2004
I read about this film in the lobby of my neigborhood indy movie house, and thought, "Well! That sounds like it could be very interesting!" A series of vignettes all centering on people meeting over coffee and cigarettes. Names you must know, like Cate Blanchett, Alfred Molina, Bill Murray, et al. Concept, yes. Execution, no.
Despite there being so many different actors, almost every vignette was basically the same--one person is trying awfully hard to please or make a good impression on the other, who isn't having it. And, the object of desire is never worth it, either.
The exceptions: Two old Italian guys in a diner somewhere, cursing up a storm at each other. This was very New York and very real; there must be about 1000 longshoremen here just like that. Taylor Meade and another old guy wind up the film as two friends on a coffee break hearing a tune in Taylor's mind. Clever and artful.
But all the rest--even the much lauded Cate as two cousins--were just TOO irritating, I suppose because my own Personal Motto is "Don't cast your pearls before swine." The idea of trying so hard to get a hostile person to like you is anathema to me, sorry, and this whole movie turns on that. The odd thing is that it seems the filmmaker is on the side of the "hip" unpleasant people, so I guess I won't be meeting him for coffee and a biscotti (I don't smoke) any time soon. Misanthropic without a filter.

No Title Available

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Face that Launched 1,000 Ships...., May 17, 2004 this movie doesn't belong to Helen of Troy, but to Brad Pitt's Achilles!
This is because the most striking-looking person, very much on purpose as a superblond, is Brad-illes. I had heard that he gave up smoking and worked out in order to be buff enough to be Achilles. Well, the only other movie I ever saw Brad in was "Legends of the Fall", of which I have an imperfect memory, so I'm almost coming to Brad sight-unseen. Therefore, I can say with perfect candor that he's great!
I had my doubts about this movie, I had to admit. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I did like it. Is it a movie for purists, though? Oh, no, not in the least. It's been twenty years since I read the Iliad, but even I can tell what's not true to the text here here.
1. No gods anywhere in sight. A good chunk of the original poem concerns all the machinations of the gods behind (or is it above?) the scenes. Not a breath of that here. Brad-illes makes some comments about the gods, quite reminiscent of how Kevin Sorbo's Hercules character says disparaging things about Hera. Of course, any time a movie has tried to show the gods, it just looks SO dopey; think "Clash of the Titans" and feel yourself blush. So, to dispense with that whole set of characters not only saved paychecks but also face. But the subliminal message I think is that the gods are hooey--no amount of worship, sacrifice, whatever, is of any avail. It's rather nihilistic in feel. Good people die and bad people triumph, if only for a while.
2. Characters die here who don't die at Troy. I guess it would be wrong to say just who, but let me put it this way: At a "trial by combat" kind of scene in the very beginning, a character got slain whom I know for a fact is still alive enough to get a visit from Odysseus in "The Odyssey". Once this happened, I said to myself, TutorGal anything's possible in this here movie! Then there's a big climax scene, when a woman character is being sexually threatened by another Major Character, and she kills him--even though he gets his own play and a different kind of hosing in his legendary bath later on.
3. Other characters don't even appear at all. Like the famous Cassandra, who says in effect "Hey, I wouldn't bring that big wooden horse in here if I were you!" And her mother, Hecuba, who Hamlet takes on about in one of his soliloquys. I guess the story held together without them, but I did miss them.
There's probably a lot of other stuff too, like the Great Balls of Fire (gotta go see it to find out what that means), that aren't in the source material, but still and all, I think it worked well enough.
Some other reviewers take umbrage at the casting, but I don't think there are any problems on that score. Brad looks rather surfer-ish in some respects, but he's not as All-American as others would paint him. He's shown to be a not-very-pleasant person, chuck full-o anger. I found him believable enough.
Yeah, Helen is something of a nonentity, but my rationale on that is that it was necessary to have a very young woman play Helen if your Paris were going to be Orlando Bloom, who seems like a high schooler in many respects. They match well agewise. I also think that to play a different kind of Helen, a more seductive kind, you'd need a much older actress, say about 35, who knew her own sexuality very well. But if there were a Helen like that, King Priam would have given her the heave-ho because she'd have known the repercussions of her actions too well to be forgiven.
Speaking of King Priam, Peter O'Toole is one of my favorites this time around. Once famous as a Golden Boy himself 40 years ago, now Sir PO'T sports his white hair very elegantly. When he sees the 1,000 ships sailing right for his beach, he did what I call "face acting"--he decided to show fear and alarm by making his face long. A trick worthy of the late great Olivier himself--had to lean over to tell my companion, "Looks like he's opening up his can of ham!" There's a very strange encounter between him and Brad-illes towards the end of the movie, where Brad almost seems frightened of him, continually moving away from him. But since PO'T is a rather looming sort of person, I rather got the feeling that Brad was afraid that PO'T was going to plant a big wet kiss on him if he wasn't careful.
Lots of fighting and dying by an incredibly large cast, but rather quick and well edited so you're not too shocked by the proceedings.
In sum, I had a good old time at "Troy" -- it's a summer action film that delivers enough thrills and, with the right audience, laughs to make you smirk as you leave the theater. High art? No. Fun? Certainly is!

No Title Available

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Channelling Lord Nelson!, February 5, 2004
Yes, that's what this movie looked like at the outset. It's 1805--Trafalgar Year! When Master and Commander Russell Crowe is at dinner with his officers, one of them musters up the courage to ask him, "Sir have you ever met the Admiral?" We are then treated to Crowe's reverential view of Horatio Lord Nelson. Then, after a nasty battle, a young lad has had to have his arm amputated. M&C Crowe visits the lad whilst recuperating. He is moved to see what's happened to this little tyke, and says something to the effect of, "Well, here's something you can read in the meantime!" and out comes a life story of Nelson. And, in case some in the audience are light on their Nelson lore, the first few pages of the book are turned to show Nelson with his empty sleeve pinned up--he's an amputee, just like Our Brave Lad. The Lad looks up at M&C Crowe and puts it to him: "What's he like, sir?" Yet Our Man can give no answer, but just moves away.
Well, having been prepared with these Nelsonic emblems, I thought I could predict a thing or two about this movie. The mission of the ship is to track down a French vessel in the Western Hemisphere and stop/sink her. But just a few minutes into the flick comes that sea battle mentioned above that seriously cripples M&C's ship. Everyone's for going back to refit, except--most importantly of course--M&C. He says, I've got my orders and that's it. I, TutorGal, then waited to hear him express WHY this had to be, because of all the Nelson stuff earlier. I mean, it just hung there in the air waiting to be verbalized: BECAUSE ENGLAND EXPECTS THAT EVERY MAN SHOULD DO HIS DUTY. Those are the most famous words of Lord Nelson, you see. Interestingly enough, though, not a peep about this. Now of course, one could argue that the saying comes from the Battle of Trafalgar, which hadn't happened yet in this movie, and you'd be right. But couldn't M&C have said, since he seems really into Nelson, something like, "Every time I ever heard him, he commented on how important it was to do your duty." Not the real famous quote, but something that would suggest that Nelson communicated how essential he found this value to the young M&C.
I also have since learned that this movie is based on a rather well-known and loved book series. This explains something which had baffled me during the movie, precisely: why was I supposed to be into the ship's doctor's scene? He and M&C are always exchanging "meaningful glances" which if you hadn't read these books (like me) you might interpret as "these guys have something going on the side". Actually, it's that they are the best of friends--soulmates but just of the same gender. But herein also must have been a disappointment for those who had come to the theatre because of having loved the books. At one point, M&C is trying to figure out how come these French guys are always able to psych out the English ship's position. Doctor replies, The French navy has their spies, as do we. Then, another of those "glances". What was that about? Even if you were a spy on the English ship, well, what were you going to do with this purloined information--toss it overboard in a bottle? But evidentally, the ship's doctor--in the books--is himself a spy, of all things. But since nothing else was made of this, it was a line that was just there as a table scrap to book readers.
After a while, Sea Literature 101 starts to loom on the horizon. There's some junior officer who always seems to have bad luck on his watch and others begin to grumble that he's...Jonah! Uh oh, know what you have to do with a Jonah, don't you? Then remember, M&C won't listen to reason about turning back. Doctor tried to get through to him. He seems as obsessed as if he were hunting down...a white whale! Well, metaphorically at least. And then, of all things, what starts flying around just above the deck? Did you guess it already? Did you? An...albatross! And some stupid guy gets out a gun and then...calamity!!! Which leads to the most outlandish operation scene I've ever seen in any movie, period. I don't want to spoil it entirely, but let's just say there are some things you just can't do yourself, and abdominal surgery is one of them.
Now, lest you think that this movie ought to be beached, not the case at all!! Actually, it has a lot going for it. Russell Crowe makes for a nice captain--none of that Bligh stuff on this boat. The little kid is quite scrappy and likeable, as are most of the crew. There is a sense of real exhilaration when M&C puts his boot up on the side of his ship and sails along with his ponytail in the wind. And when there's a battle scene, they go for it! So I liked this movie in spite of my scribblings above.
It's a good movie in many respects, but it just seems to be lacking something, which is I expect something from the books themselves. Hence, four not five stars.

Whale Rider (Special Edition)
Whale Rider (Special Edition)
DVD ~ Keisha Castle-Hughes
154 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Whale of a Tale, October 31, 2003
We are told at the outset of the story that a young girl's ancestors came to her land on the back of a whale, and that all the chiefs of her people are therefore descendants of that first early whale rider. Problem is, though, that the chief has to be a male, and this young lady is not, much to the grave disappointment of her paternal grandfather. Over time, the older man learns to love his granddaughter, but her femalehood is a bitter reminder of the endangered nature of their clan. He refuses to consider the girl as a possible chief in her own right, and begins to train all the boys nearby in the old traditions and rituals, looking for the next chief and protector of the the people. The young girl, however, is not to be outdone, and thereby hangs our Whale of a Tale.
"Whale Rider" is a great entrant into the annals of the "when old folks have to learn a lesson from young folks" genre. The cast was unfamiliar to me, but every member gives a sterling performance and is utterly believable, whether as the young girl, the curmudgeonly grandfather, the more liberal-minded grandmother, or the goof-off uncle. The culture of these indigenous people is treated with reverence and respect, and the scenery Down Under is absolutely fabulous. The screenwriters do a creditable job, as well, in demonstrating that the grandfather's reaction to the girl is complicated: he has long ago learned to love her, but the concerns of his people and the lack of a male chief to take his place after him are causing him to reject her on many levels. Though we almost cry for her many times as the story goes on, we always know at the outset of such films that a happy ending will be pulled out somehow, and we are not disappointed in the end. "Whale Rider" is a great bildungsroman piece and I heartily recommend it to all takers.

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