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Monthly Archives: December 2014

You don’t mess with Uncle Buck. (unless you need shelves putting up)

I watched this with my family one Christmas when I was young and thought it was hilarious. Now – many years later, while not bad in any way, it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered.

The story : After a Russell family emergency Uncle Buck is called in (he was last choice) to look after the children: Cold know-it-all teen Tia, and the mischievous Miles (Macaulay Caulkin pre-Home Alone) and Maizy (Gaby Hoffmann). Buck is an unconventional uncle, he’s unemployed, a bit of a slob, dries the children’s clothes in the oven, and often strays close to the wrong side of the law. He is also big (he’s John Candy after all) and is loud and clumsy.

These days comedies are faster with less down-time, and better acting. What this does have however, is heart, and the fact that it doesn’t feel the need to give the audience a laugh every few seconds actually works in it’s favour – since this leaves time for story and emotions to develop. Buck is well meaning, and eventually his warm intentions even defrost the heart of Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly) – the Russell’s cynical eldest daughter.

Buck despite being huge is always full of energy, ready to cause trouble or kick someone’s ass. This film is a good reminder of how great and energetic a comic actor John Candy was. Although watching it now with more realistic eyes, the truth is, he probably needed a lie down between takes.

Watch this as an Xmas or holiday film like I did and it’s good fun, any other time and it’s probably not funny or fast enough to keep your attention for long.

6/10

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A brief moment of tenderness in an otherwise tempestuous relationship between mother Violet (Meryl Streep) and daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts).

I have to admit before watching this I was expecting a slow, over-long and over-indulgent Meryl Streep vehicle. Instead I was pleasantly surprised.

Here is a drama that is genuinely dramatic. It moves from one dramatic scene to the next, often not taking a breath in the process, but yet still managing to give breathing space to it’s characters. Their personalities and backstories are neatly fleshed-out in the way they behave and by implied events in the past. The way it should be done.

The story : A death in the family – Violet’s (Meryl Streep’s) husband, means that her extended family and friends gather at her house for the funeral and to lend support. There’s a lot to fit in: there are raging arguments, cat fights, family secrets being exposed, pot-smoking and incest. It’s funny and interesting, yet sad and tragic all at the same time.

Yes Meryl Streep is very good and despite my earlier concern rarely over-acts. However it’s Julia Roberts who impresses the most. It’s unlikely you’ll ever have seen her this aggressive and this foul-mouthed as she comes to terms with the widening gap between her and her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and the fact that yes – she is very much her mother’s daughter.

My only criticism is that it’s stagey origins (it’s based on a play) are sometimes noticeable – in the way that it does jump straight from one big scene to the next. However this could also be seen as a positive.

Overall a very good film with a quality script and a high standard of acting. Well worth watching  8/10