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

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Whale Rider (Special Edition)
Whale Rider (Special Edition)
by J.K.Rowling
Edition: DVD
17 used & new from CDN$ 1.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Whale of a Tale, Oct. 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.

Sunset Boulevard (Bilingual)
Sunset Boulevard (Bilingual)
DVD ~ William Holden
Offered by MusicMoviesAndMore
Price: CDN$ 34.95
15 used & new from CDN$ 9.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well, I'll be a monkey's pallbearer!, Oct. 6 2003
This review is from: Sunset Boulevard (Bilingual) (DVD)
Screenwriter Bill Holden is trying to lose the repo men on his tail when he coasts up a little used driveway on Sunset Boulevard. The inhabitants angrily yell at him to come into the house, which he does, only to find that they've mistaken him for an undertaker for the funeral of a dead monkey. Times like this, you should know to back out and get going, but he decides to hang around as an "advisor" to monkey mourner Gloria Swanson, a faded silent movie star who has spent years penning her comeback movie script. Doesn't take long for him to move up (or is it down?) to being her gigolo, and be filled with self-loathing in the process.
I greatly enjoyed seeing "Sunset Boulevard" only a few months ago at NYC's Film Forum. I had a dim recollection of it from years before, so I was glad to catch it again on the big screen. Swanson is just wonderful in her role as Norma Desmond, who "used to be big", according to Holden. It's a crying shame that this movie didn't result in a true comeback for her, as she obviously was capable of being a first-rate sound actress. On hand as her chauffeur and one-time director (and husband!) is Erich von Stroheim, himself the mad director who was arguably responsible for the crack-up of Swanson's career with the notorious "Queen Kelly" movie produced by Swanson's then-lover Old Joe Kennedy. These two--Swanson and von Stroheim--really had a lot of guts to set aside past differences to make this film about silent movie has-beens, which both of them were considered by 1950. Just watch the subtlty of von Stroheim's acting, which is often centered, of all places, in his hands. Only a veteran director/actor of a silent screen era would think of conveying that much with his appendages!
How about Holden? Well, he's good certainly as this heel of a guy. The only qualm I have about him is that he doesn't suggest an extremely young man, which is an important plot device in this movie. The audience is supposed to be reviled by the idea of the older woman pursuing so relentlessly this younger man--and she's successful, to the point where she does manage to land him sexually if not emotionally! Bill is younger than Gloria, yes, but since the actress was in remarkably good condition physically, he doesn't seem like so many years her junior. Interesting, now of course from year 2003, to see how this idea of the older woman/younger man romance is supposed to appall you, when the 1950s would showcase two actresses--Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn--whose movies always seemed to link them romantically with years-older leading men like Cooper, Grant, Bogart, Crosby, Astaire. How come that's okay, but this Swanson character's desire is supposed to repel you? Sexism, sexism, sexism.
Kick that idea to the curb, and set about enjoying "Sunset Boulevard" and the great performances offered by Swanson, von Stoheim, and Holden.

Working Girl (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
Working Girl (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Melanie Griffith
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 35.17
11 used & new from CDN$ 5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, to be 30 again!, June 9 2003
When I first saw this movie, I was about 25 years old, and when I heard that the two women characters were both 30, I thought to myself, "How old!" Ahem. Now being a few years past 30 myself, I'm thinking, "wow, Sigourney Weaver had gotten so far so young!" Shows you what 15 years'll do for ya.
Just saw it for only the second time the other night at the New-York Historical Society, tie in to their "Women in Business" exhibit with a gaggle of girlfriends. I was a little antsy, because I was afraid maybe it wasn't going to be as good as I recalled. But thanks be, it was! And the girlfriends all loved it, too, except that Lorraine wondered why it was her coworker's favorite movie. I can't answer that, but it's a great ride notwithstanding.
Melanie Griffith turns in her best performance as our Working Girl, an extremely competent would-be businesswoman. Trouble is, with her big hair, jingle jangle bangles, and questionable wardrobe, she's having a hard time being taken seriously. Finally, she gets assigned as secretary to a female boss, Sigourney Weaver, who epitomizes class and breezy elegance. Melanie thinks she's found her mentor at long last, only to discover, while running errands for the hospitalized Weaver, that the lady boss has stolen her Big Idea. Then she finds her boyfriend in bed with another woman. All this pushes her over into making a wild reach for the brass ring by stealing the clothes and business contacts of the absent Weaver and hacking off that head of hair to steal back her own idea and make it work. Along the way, she attracts the attentions of banker Harrison Ford and together they scramble to pull off the deal, Ford not in on her true identity as a mere secretary.
The only thing that's a bit much in the movie is too much gratuitous Merry Widow lingerie, but small complaint for a really fun, really good movie. Although there's the usual "oh no!" kind of climax, rest assured that the righteous come out on top after all.
"Working Girl" still works, after all these years. Check it out!

Mostly Martha (Widescreen Subtitled)
Mostly Martha (Widescreen Subtitled)
DVD ~ Martina Gedeck
Offered by detroit whut (5 STAR SELLER- FASTEST SHIPPING)
Price: CDN$ 67.32
10 used & new from CDN$ 24.73

5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious!, May 27 2003
I have to admit, I was reluctant to see "Mostly Martha" for personal reasons: I had read a description about the main character's having to deal with the death of her sister, and I had just buried my own sister. But I went anyway, and was richly rewarded. "Mostly Martha" was great!
Martha is a control-freak chef. Everything has to be in order at all times. Thus you can imagine what happens when her rigid world is set on end by the sudden death of her sister and her having to take in her young motherless niece. It's a great study of how a woman must learn to unbend and grow in order to meet a situation.
Now, don't get me wrong from what I wrote in the first paragraph--this is NO weeper by any stretch of the imagination. Martha develops not only an interesting relationship with her niece, but with the new Italian upstart chef hired to work in her German restaurant. He's very happy-go-lucky, the complete opposite of our uptight heroine, and of course, you know what they say about opposites and attraction, don't you?
Savor "Mostly Martha" whenever the chance presents itself to you--you'll be deeply satisfied!

Summer Magic
Summer Magic
4 used & new from CDN$ 13.00

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointed, April 21 2003
This review is from: Summer Magic (VHS Tape)
Many a moon ago, I saw the final 15 minutes of this movie on "Wonderful World of Disney" and so regretted coming late--it seemed like it was a really good movie!
Well, about two weeks ago, I came across "Summer Magic" at the public library, and snatched it to my bosom to take home and show the folks. But alas, the 90 minutes or so preceding that last 15 minutes were not so engaging as I had hoped.
"Summer Magic" is not a bad movie, but it is really rather uneventful. Burl Ives just shuffles around his store and Dorothy McGuire's house. We are told at the outset that Ms. McGuire has been recently widowed and left kinda penniless. But when she comes home, she's pretty stylishly dressed for a grieving widow and never seems to rgeret the loss of whoever it was she was married to. I wondered if this was so she could find romance in the new location she was headed for with her family; she'd have to be out of mourning almost to think of such things. But no, nothing like that developed. Her daughter Hayley Mills was the usual HM kind of heroine, except that I did find her a little too cruel to her visiting cousin. I don't know why that girl would elect to keep living there, because nobody does treat her nicely, despite what Ms. McGuire says. Hayley's brothers are weird looking, so much so that I found Burl's son Michael J. Pollard to be better-looking than they, so draw what conclusions you will from that.
So, my quest for "Summer Magic" was an anticlimax for me. Workmanlike Disney fare. Mediocre.

The Quiet American (DVD, 2003)
The Quiet American (DVD, 2003)
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 39.55
16 used & new from CDN$ 2.03

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Caine Stacks Up Another One, March 27 2003
Well, Michael Caine's certainly not going to have to make any excuses about his career in the hereafter, because he always manages to do an excellent job of it, no matter what he's in. "The Quiet American" is no exception to this, either.
Here, Caine is a British journalist living in Vietnam who apparently hasn't done all that much writing in the past year or so. He keeps a years-younger Vietnamese mistress and seems to more or less like his existence in 1950s Vietnam. Then, things begin to change a bit. First, he gets the feeling that his paper will recall him back to London unless he can get a story to write about, and then he meets a young American man, a quiet friendly chap. Caine, the American, and the mistress go dancing, and quicker than you can say, well, whatever, the American informs Caine that he is in love with the girl and wishes to save her from her relationship with Caine by marrying her. To say any more would get close to spoiling the movie, because it is actually something of a thriller, once Caine gets wind of a story to report and meets the person he least expects to see up there.
I didn't know WHAT to expect at this movie, but I must say I enjoyed myself tremendously. In the past, I've always made a point of steering clear of "Vietnam War" movies, but this movie is filmed on location in that country, and I must say, it's breathtakingly beautiful. Caine, as I've written above, is just aces, and Brandon Fraser, the American, is pretty good too. The one person I'm not so keen on is the mistress, who seems rather passive to me. I didn't get the impression that she loved Anyone, Caine or Fraser. I can understand that perhaps she's a metaphor for the country being fought over by old world imperialists and new word anti-communists, but I just didn't find her appealing. I wouldn't have bothered to strike up a conversation with her, let alone fight over her.
But, there's a lot more to "The Quiet American" than that, so never fear, go see it and be amazed by Caine and scenery.


4.0 out of 5 stars When Louis Jourdan turns creepy, watch out!, March 25 2003
This review is from: Julie (VHS Tape)
What struck me most about "Julie" was that the situation it depicts, while it may have seemed outlandish at the time in the 1950s/60s, is actually more true than not. Modern US social history has given us plenty of examples of women married to violent men, men who would rather kill them than let them leave.
Doris Day turns in a pretty good performance as Julie, a remarried widow who has had it with her new husband's jealous fits. It's when she tells him that maybe she wants out of the marriage that he betrays deeper problems, jamming her foot down on the accelerator in a terrifying car ride, that she can no longer make any excuses for him. Then, old family friend Barry Sullivan tells her there was no reason for her first husband to kill himself, and then she and he begin to wonder what Jourdan could possibly have to do with that. What do YOU think, dear reader? Yup, you guessed it, but this gets disclosed about 15 minutes in anyway, so that's no big surprise.
As I wrote above, what is the surprise is how realistic the storyline is in depicting how such a woman would be stalked and terrorized. The police tell her there's nothing much to be done on their end, and sadly, that hasn't changed enough 40 years later, as many domestic homicides would attest.
I thought "Julie" was exceptionally well made for a very obscure film. Previously, I had thought Doris' only movie like this was "Midnight Lace", but this predates that by a few years. The only discordant note is the theme song, sung by Miss Day over the titles, which show us Doris hurrying to her car to escape Jourdan. Very insensitive musical scoring at that point.
Otherwise, I recommend "Julie" as a suspense movie that really works. It's a pity that it's not so well known.

Reap the Wild Wind [Import]
Reap the Wild Wind [Import]
Offered by raremoviefindercanada
Price: CDN$ 31.98
5 used & new from CDN$ 4.76

4.0 out of 5 stars probably John Wayne's sole dishonorable role..., March 20 2003
Yes, all about "heroic salvage masters" from 1840s Key West, "Reap the Wild Wind" packs a surprise or two, and I think the Duke's actions may take quite a few of his fans aback.
I remember this film from way back, with the exciting climax concerning "a red and yeller shawl" and the Giant Squid, but most of everything else was a blur for me, until I saw it again last week. I liked almost everything in it, but man, do I have one big ol' criticism!
The Good Stuff first:
1. One big surprise were the astounding technicolor marine shots of Key West, where most of the action takes place.
2. Susan Hayward and Robert Preston are supporting cast playing forbidden lovers--what a joy to watch them as they were almost unknown at the time, seeing how their undeniable star power was evident from the start.
3. Hedda Hopper as Paulette Goddard's aunt, pre hat and pre gossip column--she was pretty good herself!
4. Ray Milland; does anything else need to be said?
5. Tension filled battle with the Giant Squid: who will survive?
and best of all, young John Wayne as an earnest young sea captain in love and in trouble because his ship sank while he had been knocked unconscious by a devious first mate. Sis in law had to confess that she'd never known he was so handsome without his 10 gallon cowboy hat. He plays a man who is in over his head dealing with treacherous Raymond Massey, and therefore does something quite un-White Hat. Could only have happened early in his career.
So what's my beef? Well, it's a pretty serious flaw: basically, the heroine stinks! Paulette Goddard's character is just not a good woman. At one point, Raymond Massey accuses her of playing Milland and Wayne off against each other, and frankly, it's the truth. At the end of the movie, there are no recriminations against her, and there really should be. I don't want to disclose too much of the plot to illustrate why I think that, but if you'll see it, you'll be aghast that she gets off scot-free. Meanwhile, Goddard's a beautiful woman; maybe that's all you're supposed to be thinking about during the movie.
So, overall, with the exception of my major problem with the Paulette Goddard character, I thorougly enjoyed "Reap the Wild Wind", and I'm sure you would too!

How to Marry a Millionaire (Widescreen) [Import]
How to Marry a Millionaire (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Marilyn Monroe
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 52.94
16 used & new from CDN$ 2.71

5.0 out of 5 stars The whistle blows, and they're off!, Feb. 17 2003
And so we follow the escapades of three models as they take a luxury apartment together in the hopes of snaring a rich husband in this delightful comedy starring Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and then-newcomer Marilyn Monroe.
Bacall is the ringleader, the level-headed woman who seems as tough as nails. Seems she got burned once years before with a poor guy, and she's not letting that happen again, no siree. The other ladies, Grable and Monroe, don't have quite her hard-nosed ambition, so there's lots to laugh at as Grable digs more working class fellas and near-sighted but not wearing her glasses Monroe can never quite tell who she's talking to. All three women have great wardrobes and as they're models in the storyline, there's even an opportunity to have a mini-fashion show with ensembles that otherwise wouldn't fit into the plot.
The supporting cast is solid too, with exceptional work from the married man who thinks he can have an illicit liaison with Grable, and the always wonderful William Powell as the silver fox older man Bacall is trying to lasso for herself, stubbornly refusing the advances of loutish seeming Cameron Mitchell. Of course, if I were in this movie, I wouldn't have to convince myself to go with Powell! But I guess I'll have to console myself with the millionaires in my own life instead. David Wayne does one of his better jobs as a four-eyed millionaire on the lam who finds himself sitting next to Monroe on a plane bound for -- but that's part of the gag!
I really enjoy myself every time I watch "How to Marry a Millionaire" as every gal winds up following her heart anyway to a satisfactory conclusion. It's certainly "How to" have a good time with the telly tonight!

Auto Focus (Widescreen Special Edition) (Bilingual)
Auto Focus (Widescreen Special Edition) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Greg Kinnear
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 15.00
25 used & new from CDN$ 3.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Schmile!, Feb. 16 2003
That's the cornball line Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear) runs on every woman he photographs, whether in the beginning of his career for autograph hounds, or later as a sick pornographer in this excellent though dispiriting movie.
First off, let me say that I have never seen an episode of "Hogan's Heroes"; my father, a WW2 vet from the European theatre, refused to have it on in our house. Thus, I have no clear image of the real Bob Crane, meaning that I can't really tell whether Kinnear's portrayal is cariacature, dead-on, or way off.
But that didn't bother me none. He actually reminded me of a somewhat unsavory man I know in real life, so I had no trouble making the leap that this seeming family man was actually a Real Creep in sheep's clothing. Kinnear does a great job as we see him disintegrate from a respectable vaguely naive man into a joyful then joyless sexaholic. It's a shame, really, that neither he nor his talented co-star Willem Dafoe got Oscar nominations for their work in this film. Dafoe brings to mind every lounge lizard you've ever seen as the Mephistopheles character to Bob Crane/Faust. It's Carpenter (Dafoe) who, as a pioneer in video tech doing some work for "Hogan" co-star Richard Dawson, introduces Crane to swinging and videotaping their joint sexual escapades. The two feed off each other for well over a decade until a final ugly altercation. Shortly after, Crane is found murdered in a motel room; the filmmakers imply that the guilty party is Carpenter.
While I may not be conversant with Bob Crane's visage, like anyone else from the 1970s I do know "Family Feud" host Richard Dawson, and I have to say that this guy was terrible casting in that role. I don't know how long it took even for me to realize who this actor was supposed to be playing--nothing like him at all! More like Tommy Tune than the short somewhat stocky real
But that's about the only complaint I have about "Auto Focus", with the possible exception of the unhelpful title. When I went to the theatre, I couldn't for the life of me remember what this movie was supposed to be about, even though I knew I'd seen the trailer before. It just doesn't communicate anything to its potential audience, which may explain that a lot of people didn't find out about this movie, good though it is.
"Auto Focus" does a creditable job of capturing the emptiness of Crane and Carpenter's sex addiction; one telling moment is when the two men are comparing notes on which cities have the best in certain sexual specialties, the way some others might talk about bus service. Another time, the two men are watching footage of themselves and begin to masturbate, each alone in his addiction despite the other's presence. Interesting too that Crane is up for any kind of action except homosexual; he goes ballistic when he sees Carpenter's hand on his own naked posterior during an orgy.
In the end, the main moral of "Auto Focus" is that loss of control in one area eventually spells disaster in every facet of Crane's life, whether professional or personal. Like a modern update of a morality play, we are all well warned to stay on the straight and narrow to avoid such a downfall as Bob Crane's.

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