REVIEW: THE ROCK

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CAST

Sean Connery (Highlander)
Nicolas Cage (Gone In 60 Seconds)
Ed Harris (The Abyss)
John Spencer (The Negotiator)
David Morse (Disturbia)
William Forsythe (Raising Arizona)
Michael Biehn (The Terminator)
Vanessa Marcil (Las Vegas)
John C. McGinley (Highlander II)
Tony Todd (Candyman)
Bokeem Woodbine (Total Recall)
Steve Harris (Minority Report)
Claire Forlani (Mallrats)

Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Danny Nucci (Titanic)
Jim Caviezel (The Passion of The Christ)
Stanley Anderson (Spider-Man)
Raymond Cruz (Breaking Bad)
Philip Baker Hall (Boogie Nights)
Pat Skipper (Bosch)
Kevin Weisman (Alias)
Stuart Wilson (Hot Fuzz)

A group of rogue U.S. Force Recon Marines, led by disenchanted Brigadier General Frank Hummel and his adjutant Major Tom Baxter, seize a stockpile of deadly VX gas–armed M55 rockets. The next day, Hummel and his men seize control of Alcatraz Island and take eighty three tourists hostage. Hummel threatens to launch the rockets against San Francisco unless the government pays $100 million from a military slush fund, which he will distribute to his men and the families of Recon Marines who died on clandestine missions under his command and whose deaths were not compensated.

The Pentagon and FBI develop a plan to retake the island with a U.S. Navy SEAL team led by Commander Anderson, enlisting the FBI’s top chemical weapons specialist, Doctor Stanley Goodspeed. Goodspeed’s confidence, already shaky as he is a “lab rat” with minimal combat training and experience, is further tested when his fiancée Carla reveals she is pregnant. FBI director James Womack is forced to turn to federal prisoner John Mason, a 60-year-old British national who has been imprisoned without charges for three decades. Mason is the only Alcatraz inmate ever to escape the island, doing so in 1963 through uncharted underground tunnels. While in custody at the Fairmont Hotel, Mason flees. He steals a Hummer H1 and Goodspeed pursues in a commandeered Ferrari F355, resulting in a chase through the streets. Mason seeks out his estranged daughter Jade; Goodspeed arrives with a team to re-arrest Mason, revealing to Jade that he is aiding the FBI.

Goodspeed, Mason, and the SEALs infiltrate Alcatraz. However, Hummel’s Marines are alerted to their presence and ambush them in a shower room. All the SEALs, including Anderson, are killed, leaving only Mason and Goodspeed alive. Mason sees his chance to escape custody and disarms Goodspeed, but Goodspeed convinces him to help defuse the rockets, since Mason’s daughter is also at risk. Mason and Goodspeed eliminate several teams of Marines and disable 12 of the 15 rockets by removing their guidance chips. Hummel threatens to execute a hostage if they do not surrender and return the guidance chips. Mason destroys the chips, then surrenders to Hummel, trying to reason with him as well as buy Goodspeed some time. Though Goodspeed disables another rocket, the Marines capture him. With the incursion team lost, the military initiates their backup plan: an air strike by F/A-18s with thermite plasma, which will neutralize the poison gas but kill everyone on the island.

Mason and Goodspeed escape, and Mason explains why he was held prisoner: he was a British SAS Captain who stole a microfilm containing details of the United States’s most closely guarded secrets, refusing to give it up when captured because he knew he would be killed if he did. When the deadline for the transfer of the ransom arrives, Hummel and his men fire one of the operational rockets. During the launch of the rocket Hummel changes the coordinates and diverts the rocket away from its original target and instead detonates at sea. Hummel then reveals that the mission is over and it was all a very elaborate bluff, as he never had any intention of taking innocent lives. When confronted by two of his men, Captain Frye and Darrow, Hummel orders them to exit Alcatraz with a few hostages and the remaining rocket to cover their retreat, while he will assume blame. Realizing they will not be paid their $1 million apiece, Frye and Darrow mutiny against Hummel and Baxter, killing the latter and mortally wounding the former.

Darrow and Frye proceed with the plan to fire on San Francisco. While Mason deals with the remaining Marines, Goodspeed seeks out the last rocket, which Hummel reveals the location of with his dying breath. As the jets approach, Goodspeed kills both Darrow and Frye, disarming the rocket. He signals the jets that the threat is over but not before one jet releases a bomb on the island. Though no hostages are injured, Goodspeed is thrown into the sea by the blast before Mason rescues him. Goodspeed tells Mason that Womack tore up his pardon, then informs his superiors that Mason was killed in the bomb explosion. Mason gives Goodspeed a note that holds the location of the microfilm and the two part ways. Some time later, Goodspeed and Carla recover the microfilm containing a half-century of state secrets, including who actually killed John F. Kennedy.

Directed with vigour by Michael Bay, and featuring a talented cast who get right into the spirit of things, this is an enjoyable romp. With plenty of big stunts, gun fights, explosions, thrills and spills along the way it’s big and loud and a lot of fun.

REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (1998)

CAST

Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter)
Uma Thurman (Kill Bill)
Sean Connery (Highlander)
Jim Broadbent (The Legend of Tarzan)
Fiona Shaw (Gormenghast)
Eddie Izzard (Powers)
Eileen Atkins (Gosford Park)
Patrick Macnee (The Howling)
Carmen Ejogo (Selma)

The film opens with John Steed (Ralph Fiennes), agent of The Ministry, in a training course which he finishes successfully. Next, we see Dr. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman) at home where she receives a phone call telling her to go to a gentlemen’s club – no women allowed – where she meets Steed for the first time. The two head off to the Ministry to meet Mother (Jim Broadbent), who informs them the Prospero project – an attempt to influence the weather – was sabotaged apparently by Emma Peel. Dr. Peel claims she is innocent, but she is sent to work alongside Steed to find the real culprit. Mother’s off-sider, Father (Fiona Shaw), claims Peel suffers from a mental disease. They go off to visit Sir August De Wynter (Sean Connery), an old ally of The Ministry. He takes an instant liking to Peel, as they both share a love of weather.Steed and Emma follow a lead to Wonderland Weather – a business that artificially creates heat or rain with a special machine – where they discover two dead men in teddy bear suits. The members of a secret organisation — led by De Wynter — all wear teddy bear suits to disguise their identities. One of them, however, is a clone of Emma Peel. Steed arrives in time to save Peel, as the double jumps off a roof and disappears. Steed and Emma go off to visit De Wynter at his mansion but are attacked by mechanical bees. Alice (Eileen Atkins), a Ministry agent, helps them to flee; nevertheless, De Wynter captures Emma who then tries to escape but finds herself trapped due to the mansion’s ever-changing floor plan. She smashes her way through a window, and Steed rescues her. Back at Steed’s apartment, however, Peel is arrested by Father, as Steed visits Invisible Jones (Patrick MacNee), a man inside The Ministry, to investigate the meaning of a map Steed found at Wonderland Weather. After viewing some photos of failed genetic experiments, Steed determines Father is working with De Wynter. Father and Peel’s clone capture Peel but are confronted by Mother, who is then incapacitated. De Wynter, controlling Prospero and the weather, confronts the world’s leaders. He boasts that he controls the weather, and they will buy the weather from him, will pay a lot for it, and will have until midnight to pay.Father and Peel’s clone take Emma to a hot air balloon, where Emma escapes during a snowstorm. Father and the clone perish when the balloon crashes and explodes. Invisible Jones determines De Wynter is using the Prospero instruments on a secret island, and Peel and Steed arrive at the island to stop him. Emma defuses the Prospero device just as a hurricane forms over London. Steed duels De Wynter and eventually gains the upper hand by impaling him with his own cane, causing De Wynter to be struck by a bolt of lightning. Emma and Steed escape just as the base self-destructs, and share champagne on the roof of a building with Mother.

On reflection there’s a lot to like in The Avengers: Uma Thurman in leather: always a plus, Sean Connery hamming it up more than Porky Pig at a bacon factory, and henchmen dressed as multi-coloured teddy bears. Bonkers. Utter bonkers. It has to be seen to be believed.