Candyman- Shocktober is here!

Candyman is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Candyman (1992) – Rated R

“While researching urban myths, grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a hook-handed creature who’s said to haunt a Chicago housing project. In this creepy film based on a Clive Barker story, the Candyman is made flesh by other people’s belief in him. Not surprisingly, Lyle manages to summon him. Soon, the Candyman has committed a series of murders, and the cops are holding Lyle responsible.”

“They will say that I have shed innocent blood…what’s blood for if not for shedding.”

Candyman covers the topic of urban myths far better than the later Urban┬áLegend series of movies ever did – it even throws in a shot of razor blade candy. Clive Barker’s short story, The Forbidden forms the basis for this movie adapted and directed by Bernard Rose. Rose takes Barker’s fanciful tale and grounds it in reality. The opening credits play out over scenes of urban highways and a haunting theme from Philip Glass.

The notorious Cabrini-Green housing project is actually filmed for the movie (exterior shots) as are gang members from the area. The graffiti and the projects are characters in and of themselves. Bernard Rose does well showing how the Lyles live versus life in the projects while still keeping the horror story as the focus.

Virginia Madsen, so good (and nominated for as Oscar) in Sideways, is very engaging as urban legend researcher Helen Lyle. Xander (24) Berkeley is solid as her long suffering husband Trevor Lyle. They both handle a good range of emotions from complacence to fear, anger, and jealousy. Vanessa Williams is also good as the angry but vulnerable Anne-Marie McCoy.

Tony Todd is marvelous as the eponymous Candyman even though it is very much a supporting role. He is very scary, has a nice presence and a wonderful deep voice but is also a wee bit sympathetic. By the way he really did have bees in his mouth – that is true dedication to one’s craft. Candyman’s backstory and motivation could have been better expressed – they are expounded upon more in the sequels.

Unfortunately some of Helen’s early decisions,┬ásuch as venturing unprotected into Cabrini-Green dressed in upscale clothing, seem brain-dead even for someone with a sheltered life. Her climbing through a hole into a an abandoned and heavily graffitied room is a wonderful visual though.

Bernard Rose made so many good design decisions in Candyman. The narrative appropriately plays out over a fairly lengthy period of time. Other than a single brief reflection, we do not see the titular Candyman until forty minutes in. Wonderful shots by cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond really help lift this horror movie up to the level of art.

People Watch: Look for the ever-delightful Ted Raimi in a small role at the start of the film. Writer/director Bernard Rose has a cameo as Archie Walsh.

Sequel-itis: Candyman spawned two lesser sequels: The not bad Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and the direct-to-DVD Candyman 3: Day of the Dead (1999). Both star Tony Todd as Daniel Robetaille/The Candyman. Tony Todd and Clive Barker are interested in doing a fourth film but I suspect a reboot is likely to happen.

Terminator 2 – Second Verse Same as the First week

This week I have decided to cover the unjustly derided vehicle known as the sequel. This is Second Verse Same as the First week. Terminator 2 – Judgment Day is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – Rated R for strong sci-fi (not Syfy) action and violence and for language.

“In this sequel, director James Cameron delivers scene after scene of action-packed thrills. A bigger, better Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is gunning for a shape-shifting T-1000 who is out to kill John Connor (Edward Furlong), the son of Sarah (Linda Hamilton), the original Terminators nemesis”

As with Alien/Aliens, Terminator is a better film than Terminator 2 but Terminator 2 is the more enjoyable film. Cameron is a master of wonderful cuts. In the opening he segues from children playing on a playground to a rather stark vision of the future.

As he did with Aliens, Cameron has also interwoven a theme here. In T2, the overall theme is an examination of what it means to be human. This is more pronounced in the extended version which I was surprised to discover this was. This version contains a scene with Sarah talking to Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), an extra scene with Arnie being worked on, an extra scene with workaholic Miles Dyson, and others.

Cameron loves to have strong female protagonists in his films. This is one of the things I love about Cameron as the action film genre often has a “Men Only” sign on it. Here Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is very buff and capable if somewhat psychologically screwed up. Linda Hamilton does a fine job of grounding many fantastic sequences.

Besides his genius at pacing that I mentioned yesterday, Cameron also excels at injecting appropriate humor into deadly, often grim, encounters. I say “appropriate” because the humor is funny without detracting from the seriousness of the situation.

The opening action sequence where Arnie acquires clothing has great action and humor. Unfortunately if you stop to consider it, the scene makes no sense. For an example of what The Terminator series looks like without humor, watch Terminator Salvation.

Arnold returns as a different T-800 and all jokes aside about his robotic delivery, he makes an excellent Terminator. In the first film he was the ultimate Terminator but here he is practically obsolete next to the new T-1000 model.

Robert Patrick plays the new liquid metal Terminator and the smoothness of his face really lends credibility to the changes. Of course a large part of the new Terminator are the special effects used. It seems with every film, Cameron graphically pushes the envelope of what can be accomplished.

Edward Furlong plays John Connor, future leader of the human race. Unfortunately John Connor at this stage is just a juvenile delinquent. Furlong is pretty good but it is often difficult to see where his leadership qualities will spring from.

Joe Morton has a small but meaty role as Miles Dyson, whose discoveries lead to Skynet and ultimately armageddon.

It can be no surprise that I wholeheartedly recommend one of the greatest action films of all time. The special effects hold up quite well.

Netflix presents T2 in high-definition for those of you with adequate internet connections. The picture is better than DVD quality but a bit shy of the Blu-Ray.

People Watch: Xander Berkeley (Mason in 24) and Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez in Aliens) have brief roles here as foster parents to John Connor.

Air Force One – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. Air Force One is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Air Force One (1997) – Rated R for Violence.

“Harrison Ford stars in this high-stakes thriller set in the skies aboard Air Force One, in which Russian terrorists (led by Gary Oldman) conspire to hijack the aircraft with the president and his family on board. The commander in chief finds himself facing an impossible predicament: give in to the terrorists and sacrifice his family, or risk everything to uphold his principles — and the integrity of the nation. Glenn Close co-stars.”

Wolfgang Petersen is an excellent director. He made the classic Das Boot – a film that wonderfully detailed the harrowing and claustrophobic life of a U-Boat crew. He then came to Hollywood and then made the thrillers In the Line of Fire and Outbreak. While Das Boot is clearly his best, this film is probably his second best. Unfortunately he has had some misfires recently (Troy, Poseidon).

As with any good modern action movie, this one begins with an action setpiece. In this case, we have a rapid high-tech snatching of General Radek (Jurgen Prochnow, star of Das Boot).

It is quite difficult to discuss this film without mentioning the obvious influence of Tom Clancy. This thriller is exciting and full of action without being dumbed down. It features (then) state-of-the-art technology and its use by both heroes and villains. These are all Clancy hallmarks.

In addition the film is extremely jingoistic, another Clancy hallmark. Go America!

Harrison Ford is just right here. He is old enough to carry the gravity of the President of the United States while being young enough that his heroics are not outside the realm of possibility.

Gary Oldman chews up the scenery as the hijacker trying to trade for General Radek. He is quite fun to watch. I am quite glad that he learned to tone down his performances when he portrayed Gordon in the two most recent Batman movies.

Glenn Close plays our first female vice-president (Sorry Hilary!), Kathryn Bennett. I know, I know that is as unrealistic as the thought of our ever having a person of color in the White House (they do not call it the White House because of the paint job).

She and Dean Stockwell (as Defense Secretary Dean) have a fun time sparring both with each other and Gary Oldman.

Backing the President up on the plane are Paul Guilfoyle (Captain Brass from CSI) as Chief of Staff Shepherd and the always wonderful William H. Macy as Major Caldwell.

Air Force One was nominated for two Oscars. One was for sound (Con Air was also nominated) and the other for film editing. Titanic won both of them.

Unlike Con Air yesterday, I have no qualms about recommending this intelligent exciting thriller. For those of you watching this on set top boxes, Air Force One is in high definition.

People Watch: Look for Xander Berkeley (George Mason on 24) as Secret Service agent Gibbs. It is a little funny to see him in this as a fair amount of the plot here is recycled later in 24.