The Rock (1996)

The Rock

John Mason (Sean Connery) and Stanley Goodspeed (Nicholas Cage) defusing a missile.

The upcoming generation (as well as my fellow millenials) will find it hard to believe there was once a movie as entertaining as The Rock. Afterall, it is hard to find phrases these days like “quality Michael Bay movie” or “entertaining Nicholas Cage film” (the latter has had better films).

Revisiting The Rock since I first saw it multiple times as a child, I realize it does still have flaws. There are the explosions that have come to define a Michael Bay movie, but at least they are there for a reason (as opposed to something like The Transformers franchise, where the explosions are there for us to look at, not because it adds to the story). There are also some rather stereotypical characters (such as the black trolley driver) as well as a huge embrace of the military (which this movie actually does with more heart than any other movie Bay has made). Still, if there is one reason to see this film, it is because of Sean Connery.

This may have actually been the first movie I ever saw with Connery in it (leading me to his work as the best Bond ever). I remember watching him, thinking I was looking at a true myth, a legend. That is actually the aspect of his character. When a war Hero, General Hummell (Ed Harris) finds out that the government will not pay for the efforts and recognition of men who have died under his command, he steals missiles with toxic gas that he threatens to shoot at San Francisco from Alcatraz (which he is holding 81 hostages on). The best person at working with this toxic gas is a FBI chemistry specialist, Stanley Goodspeed (Nicholas Cage). Still, the FBI needs to know how to maneuver under the island, so they release the only known man to have escaped it, John Mason (Connery).

A lot of readers know how it has been a rough many years for Cage (don’t get me started on Left Behind), but there was truly a time when he was a great actor. Here, he does his normal, over the top craziness, but only when needed (he actually only swears one time). Harris’s General is a villain, but not entirely cruel (notice he makes sure the kids leave the island before he takes it over). He does not want to kill so much as just right a wrong. Still, it is Connery who steals the show,  proving his myth and legend as a movie star.

Parents, the movie is rated R mainly for swearing and violence (though it would be violence like that of a hard PG-13 movie nowadays). There is also a brief sex scene (totally not needed) without any nudity, but a lot of sound effects. Skip that scene, and I would say middle school and above.

It is hard to think of any other Michael Bay movie that is better than The Rock. Sure, it had begun with some of the negative aspects we now see too much of in his films, but it is still a blast of a movie over two decades later.

 

Overall: Three and a Half Stars *** 1/2

Left Behind (2014)

Left Behind

Nicolas Cage as the pilot, who is also Left Behind…

Since I am not a paid movie critic (as of this writing), it is a blessing and a curse when movies go under my radar and others have to watch them. I am not just talking about missing hidden gems that deserve a wider release, but those that are butchered by the critics. It seems that the best critics can do is have fun saying how bad a film is, which is why I seek them out from time to time. Enter the movie Left Behind, clearly one of the worst, um, things, ever to be called a full length feature film. I doubt you will ever come across it, but in case you do…here is your warning.

The movie stars Nicolas Cage, and (believe it or not) that is far from the worst part of the film. I still believe that Cage is a great actor (he is even an Oscar winner). It is really just the fact that he picks some bad movies to be in. Here he plays Rayford Steele, a pilot on his way from New York to London. His daughter Chloe (Cassi Thomson) is home from college to surprise him, but learns from her mother Irene (Lea Thompson) that he won’t be home. We learn he is in fact cheating on his wife with a flight attendant. We also get Chad Michael Murray as a popular reporter named Buck Williams, who falls for Chloe.

We get scenes of characters who believe in God warning that the end will come on any day. Steele and his daughter don’t believe it, even though Irene has become a firm believer. Eventually, in the blink of an eye, people vanish. No trace except for the clothes they were wearing and their belongings. This is happening all around the world. All the kids (including Chloe’s little brother Raymie) are gone, and so is Steele’s co-pilot.

The panic scenes show one of the major flaws of this movie. While all the actors (and I mean all of them) give bad performances, none do worse more than every single extra in the film. Ok, it is understandable that extras may not have as much talent or experience as veteran actors (like Cage), but it seems like these people did not even get time or direction to know what to do and how to do it. It is like the director (Vic Armstrong) just told everyone “When I say go, PANIC!”, and nothing else.

It also takes everyone in the movie a long time to find out that God has taken those that are not left behind. After they finally do, it is a lame and bland (understatement) attempt to finally see if Cage can land his plane (he does. I doubt I am spoiling it because it is doubtful anyone else will see this movie.)

Parents, if all you care about is if a film has sex or violence in it, don’t worry. It is just thematic elements. If, however, it is quality, wit, and over all good in a movie you want, keep your kids far away.

I have stated before that I am saddened by the fact that most movies that are “Christian” movies are not always done well (let alone received well). Left Behind is on a whole level of awful by itself. How many other movies are hated by both non-believers and believers as well? They may despise the movie for different reasons, but that alone shows more of why the film sucks in general.

As for me, I am a believer, and hope to be taken in heaven with God for eternity. The alternative (hell) is by far the absolute number one worst thing that could happen. While I have not made a list of other bad things that can happen to me, watching Left Behind again may be up there.

 

Overall: 1/2 Star