Michael Bay’s The Rock sees U.S. Marines, led by Ed Harris’ Brigadier General Frank Hummel, taking over the island prison of Alcatraz, now a tourist attraction, and keeping the tourists hostage until a ransom is paid to cover the money owed to unpaid troops. If the money is not paid, Hummel and his men will launch deadly chemicals into San Fransisco, killing thousands of people. The FBI arranges for a Navy Seal team to go after the marines, but to do so they need the help of a chemical weapon specialist, Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) and John Mason (Sean Connery), the only man ever to survive an escape from Alcatraz. Continue reading →
Charlie Sheen is Chris Taylor who, after dropping out of college because he wasn’t learning anything, volunteers to fight in the Vietnam war, amongst recruits including Keith David, Forest Whittaker, Tony Todd, Kevin Dillon and a young Johnny Depp. The platoon is split, with half drawn to Willem Dafoe’s free-thinking, laidback stoner Sergeant Elias, with the rest, including brown-nosing Sergeant O’Neill (John C. McGinley), prefer the ethos of scarred Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger), who counts success by how high the bodies are piled, rather than whether peace has been achieved.
There’s an interesting film buried in here somewhere, but it either follows Sheen’s naive, error-realising private or the conflicts between the two sergeants and their unrespected, inexperienced Lieutenant (Desperate Housewives’ Mark Moses). Some gripping moments stand out – a night ambush, and the colour slowly fading back in after a white-out napalm drop – but the rest is underwhelming and littered with trite or cheesy dialogue and 5-cent philosophising: “We did not fight the enemy, we fought ourselves, and the enemy was within us.”
If someone told you that if you looked in a mirror and said the word “Candyman” five times, that a man with a hook for a hand would appear behind you and kill you, what would you do? If the answer is call them an idiot and defriend them on Facebook, congratulations you’re not in a horror movie. Here, of course, the myth is discussed and inevitably activated, with disturbing and horrifying results. Virginia Madsen (remember her?) plays our doomed heroine Helen Lyle, married to university lecturer Xander Berkeley and writing a thesis on local mythology, focusing on the Candyman, an educated son of a slave whose hand was sawn off by hooligans in the late 19th century, before he was smeared with honey, stung to death by bees and burned in a giant pyre. His legend lives on with the residents of Cabrini Green – the area where his ashes were scattered, blaming him for unsolved murders.
A lot is left unclear in the film – possibly clarified in the sequels, I didn’t like it enough to find out, and there is much debate throughout as to whether Candyman, memorably embodied by the imposing Tony Todd, whose breathy voice, sinister smile and nightmarish stare were made for horror films, is real, whether Helen is going insane or if her husband is framing her to keep her out of the way while he gets his leg over a hot young student, something never really explained, and even by the end all three are still a possibility. There is plenty of gratuitous and unnecessary nudity and some horrible imagery – graffiti from smeared excrement – but the unclear nature of Candyman’s powers, origin, intent or motive and the lacking of anything inherently scary makes this a pointless watch.