CLOUD ATLAS

Hello again readers.
As you know, I don’t make it out to the cinema often.  I am, however, a Netflix fiend.  So when my humans went and saw a crazy flick called CLOUD ATLAS and raved about it, I thought I should put it on my Netflix queue.  That way I could take a look at it when it was released on DVD.  This past week, I saw it.  And what a trip it was.

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CLOUD ATLAS, with a budget of over $100,000,000, is one of the most expensive independent films ever.  Based on the novel by David Mitchell, it interweaves six separate story lines that take place between 1849 and 2321.  Using crazy makeup that sometimes turned Hugh Grant into a passable Asian and Halle Berry into a not-quite-as-passable Jew, the film uses the same core cast to portray different characters in each story.  This highlights the film’s underlying themes of universal connective tissue and global cause-and-effect.

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Since there are six separate stories, I shan’t go into each one here.  Suffice it to say, though, that the cast handles the odd material with finesse, and the cinematography is spell-binding.  Each setting, ranging from a 19th-century slaving ship to a 1970’s San Francisco warehouse to a futuristic South Korean city with flying cars and laser guns, has its own feel, its own palate, and indeed, its own director.  Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski shared the screenwriter, producing, and directing credits in this behemoth, and I think the collaboration paid off in spades.

But really though, Franny, what’s the deal with the cats?  Where can we find them?  Ahh, dear readers, this film is – unfortunately – not cat-heavy.  The one instance of cat takes place in the story of Henry Cavendish.  Played in spectacular fashion by Jim Broadbent, Henry Cavendish is a book publisher living in London, 2012.  Due to some unforeseen events (having somewhat to do with a rough-neck author version of Tom Hanks with a giant prosthetic nose pushing a critic over a balcony), he finds himself examining his life and what he has made of it.  He dreams of yesteryear and muses on his salad days, when he was courting a young woman named Ursula.

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There is a flashback scene with a young attractive couple canoodling naked under some bed sheets when Ursula’s parents walk in.  Young Henry Cavendish leaps up and grabs the closest thing he can find to cover his genitalia – a cat.  Oh, that my species should be used in such a manner as this is thoroughly unbecoming of our inherent high status, but these things do happen sometimes for the sake of comedy.  The cat meows and scratches at the boy’s nether regions, distressed by the prospect of being a human’s underwear (the finest bit of acting in the entire film), and Henry Cavendish falls out of the window in a panic.

All in all, although the cat presence in this film leaves something to be desired, the film is quite good.  It’s so good that it makes me want to cuddle up on the couch with my humans and read the original novel.  I’ll make them hold it for me, though.  No opposable thumbs, you know.

So, the final score for CLOUD ATLAS is………………………………………

Cloud Atlas Pawprint Plot

50 points!!!!!!!!

Wow!  That surprised even me!

Well done, CLOUD ATLAS!

Until next time, readers, I remain yours in reviewing.

– Franny

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UNCLE BUCK

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Sometimes it’s nice to revisit the past.  And by the past, I don’t mean as far back as my last review.  I also don’t mean a past that I can remember.  I do mean a past that my humans can remember, though.  Well, kind of.  Both of my humans were at least alive the era of John Hughes.  And more importantly, the era of John Candy.  And even more importantly, the era of UNCLE BUCK.

UNCLE BUCK (1989) has a simple premise: What happens when you put your schlub of a relative in charge of three high-strung kids?

The answer is, of course, movie magic.

Here’s how we start: Cindy and Bob Russell are average middle-class Americans who are very focused on their work and their busy lives.  They have three kids, one of whom is a “dreamer” of a little girl, one who is a young Macauly Culkin (literally), and one who is really angry teenage girl.  They don’t know their kids, their kids don’t know them, and they eat Chinese food for dinner a lot, apparently.  So not good things here in Chicagoland.

One night, however, Cindy’s dad has a heart attack.  The couple need to go to Indianapolis.  Immediately.  They can’t even wait until the morning (so the film purports).  Who should they get to watch the kids?  They have school, after all – they can’t come.  The neighbor?  Oh no.  Friends from work?  Out of town themselves.

“What about Buck?” asks Bob.

Bob’s brother Buck, played by John Candy, is the black sheep of the familiy – big, loud, living in an apartment, no job, an avid bolwer (the shame of it!), dating a woman who (gasp!) sells tires, smokes cigars, drinks a lot, and is often seen at horse races.  Not necessarily Mary Poppins, here.

Ahh, but they have no choice.  Best call him up.  He comes over in his lemon of a car, and the chaos ensues.

The film from there on is basically a series of vignettes that detail the ridiculous insertion of this character into the formerly orderly lives of the three children.  There’s a lot of angry teenage fighting, especially when Uncle Buck disapproves of Tia’s new boyfriend.  There’s a lot of Macauly Culkin with his eyes wide open looking surprised.  And there’s a lot of John Candy just being a funny fat guy, including a particularly great scene where he makes a giant breakfast for Macauly Culkin’s birthday.

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Eventually, all the humans learn the importance of family, and the kids appreciate their parents a little more for all they do.

It’s sweet.

Now, the cat factor:  In a terribly funny scene, Uncle Buck tries to get the family cat to come inside.  He calls for it, he chases it through the bushes, and he picks it up.  He carries it inside while it caterwauls in dismay and scratches his face and arms.  Once inside, he asks, “Who let the cat out?”  One of the children answers, “We don’t have a cat!”  Out the cat goes back on its merry way.

Now, as much as I don’t appreciate a scene of a human forcing a cat to do something against its will, I even have to applaud the comic timing in this bit.  Well played, John Hughes.  Well played, John Candy.  Well done, Johns.

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UNCLE BUCK is a quintessential end-of-the-eighties film and, even though my parents probably weren’t even alive then, it’s cinema gold.

And the final cat factor is………………………………

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50 points!!!  

It’s a good flick with just a bit of cat, but that bit of cat is a bit of great.

Thanks for stopping by!  Check back soon for more reviews!

– Franny

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