The Rock

This review was originally written for French Toast Sunday.

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.  Nicolas-Cage-in-The-Rock-nicolas-cage-18205121-1067-800 Continue reading

Safe

Carol (Julianne Moore) is a bored housewife, sorry, homemaker, in the San Fernando Valley. Her husband Greg (Xander Berkeley) is a successful businessman, and the pair live in a lavish home with Greg’s son Rory (Chauncey Leopardi). Carol has many friends and an active social life, attending various parties and gym classes. There’s nothing wrong in Carol’s life, other than her new sofa being delivered in black rather than teal, yet she suddenly finds herself becoming ill, which she soon believes to be caused by the “chemicals” found in modern life. But is she suffering from a real sickness, or is it all in her head? Maybe moving to the secluded, desert-based Wrenwood Centre, a “chemical-free facility”, will result in a cure.

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Candyman

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.
Choose life 4/10

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

How do you make a sequel to Terminator? It seems like the perfect movie to create a franchise with, featuring the possibilities for labyrinthine time-travel plotting, self referencing paradoxes and a villain who can be killed, but can also always return, but therein lays the biggest stumbling block. The villain from the original, Schwarzenegger’s unstoppable mechanical monster, the main draw of the first film, surely must return for the second, especially seeing as, in 1991, he was one of the biggest stars in the world. But how could the same robot come back as the villain? The sequel must somehow build upon the original, develop it further, else why bother? Having the same villain, with essentially the same plot, would seem a waste of time. So, proving that necessity is indeed the mother of invention, director James Cameron pulled a full character flip on not just Arnie’s T-800, now here as protector rather than foe, but also of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, discarding the ditzy 80s hairdo for some badass fighting skills, tank tops and a permanent ticket to the gun show. The introduction of John Connor (Edward Furlong) as a ridiculously irritating teenager spouting laughable phrases (Asta-la-vista, baby? Seriously?) is also a diversion from the expected, as he’s the so-called saviour of mankind, but he’s so goddamn annoying that whenever he was onscreen I found myself rooting for the bad guy.