So, here are three reviews of movies that don’t have anything to do with each other aside from my having watched them recently.
Uncle Buck – I never saw this as a kid, and pretty much all I knew about it was John Candy flipping a giant pancake with a snow shovel, and the poster where the family is trying to keep him out. The former did actually happen, but the latter did not. The movie is basically about kids with rich parents who tend to ignore them, contrasted with their lazy, uncouth uncle who actually cares about them. Two of the kids like him pretty much right away, while the oldest daughter hates that he doesn’t want her sneaking off without permission to see her sleazy boyfriend. He has to save her from being raped in order to win her over. I think the movie is a bit inconsistent on how much of a screw-up Buck is supposed to be, in that he’s mostly nice but unorthodox, but I don’t think it’s that cool that he curses out the principal or lets the dog drink out a toilet with that blue cleanser stuff in it. Those things might be even worse than betting on a fixed horse race, which he decides not to do. The class divide seems to be a favorite theme for John Hughes, although in Home Alone everyone appears to be rich except the really mean, really dumb burglars. Even the lonely old man looks well-to-do and lives in a fancy house. Anyway, I do miss John Candy.
Willow – This is another one from my childhood that I didn’t see then, and I’m not sure why. I remember thinking it was the kind of thing I would like, but apparently not enough so to seek it out. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it then, and I did as an adult as well. It stars Warwick Davis (who doesn’t receive top billing, but is the main character) as a Nelwyn, a sort of little person similar to hobbits. Willow himself is a family man with two kids, a farmer, and a stage magician who desires to learn real magic. When the evil Queen Bavmorda (played by Jean Marsh, who had a similar role in Return to Oz) threatens to have a baby killed due to a prophecy foretelling her downfall, a midwife places her on the river in Moses fashion, and Willow’s kids find her. Willow is charged with taking the baby to safety, and is joined in his quest by a comically arrogant swordsman played by Val Kilmer, two brownies, and a transformed sorceress. This review of the movie was posted just a few months ago, and it makes some good points about how it’s a progressive film in giving major roles to little people (Billy Barty is also in it) and making a woman a warrior without anyone commenting on the fact. This warrior, Bavmorda’s daughter, is initially loyal to her mother, but switches sides when she falls for Kilmer’s character Madmartigan. That was a little difficult to buy, but I suppose love conquers all, or something. There’s also a definite tenderness to Willow, both with his own family and the baby. The movie is full of fantasy tropes, but that’s actually part of what makes it work.
Captain America: Civil War – I had wanted to see this at the theater, but never got the chance. It’s based on the Civil War storyline in the comics, but that was about secret identities and most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe versions of these characters don’t have them, so instead it was about United Nations oversight for the Avengers. Captain America is opposed to this, and we can see where he’s coming from, but that’s partially because we already know the superheroes are well-intentioned. If they existed in real life, I’m sure I WOULD want them to have some kind of oversight. This issue is never actually resolved, because the UN is bombed during the talks on the convention, with the bomber framing Bucky. This becomes the focus of the movie more than the oversight thing, with Steve wanting to help his friend, and Iron Man wanting to turn him over to the government. The whole thing turns out to be a plot by a guy whose family was killed during an Avengers mission, and who seeks to divide the team in order to bring it down. His trump card is a video of Bucky killing Tony’s parents while brainwashed. Ant-Man shows up to fight on Steve’s side, and at one point turns into a giant. The film also marks the first MCU appearances of Black Panther and Spider-Man. The latter is introduced quickly, but does anyone NOT already know the basics of his back story? The main difference between this Peter Parker and his earlier film counterparts is that his Aunt May is younger than usual. Obviously there was a lot they wanted to pack into this film, yet it still seemed to gloss over some things too quickly and drag others out. Does every superhero movie these days have to be so long? I also felt that it was somewhat lacking in humor, which sort of makes sense for a movie with such a dark theme, but other Marvel movies have worked in some more levity even when the overall themes were pretty bleak. Still, it did a good job at exploring and developing Steve’s character and how he relates to his compatriots. I like that there’s an ongoing narrative to these films, with even the side stories often having some lasting effect on the big picture.