Back in the Trenches

Or back in the multiplex.

Brief thoughts on some films I’ve watched recently (spoiler alert – no Bond).


I was the only person in the cinema for this ‘spiritual sequel’ to the 1992 film based on a Clive Barker short story. The present day and Anthony visits Cabrini Green in search of inspiration for his art and encounters Burke, who tells him the urban legend of the Candyman. With its themes of social injustice, this is exactly the sort of material Anthony is looking for and it inspires him to create new work. But Burke has an agenda of his own and the Candyman is far more than just an urban legend, as the cast of this film are about to find out to their cost. Cue slaughter. It’s a clever piece, neatly dovetailing the original film into a grander scheme in which the Candyman is reinvented as an expression of the collective consciousness of those who have suffered racial abuse. Taken at face value it’s an entertaining and startlingly different slasher film, with a fine cast, gratifyingly grungy setting, and some eye opening murder set pieces, and you can approach it on that level if that works for you. Dig a bit deeper though, and there are themes of social injustice and the power of myth just waiting to be teased out. A worthy successor to a horror classic (and now can we forget all about those godawful sequels, please?).

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Again I was on my lonesome in the cinema, and arrived so late that they weren’t actually going to start the showing (fortunately the projectionist hadn’t gone home). Shang-Chi is a Marvel character I wasn’t acquainted with (after my time), but the plot template was all too familiar. Our hero is working as a car valet in San Francisco until one day he’s attacked by thugs, at which point we and best friend Katy learn that he is a martial artist of almost superhuman ability. Cue back history, with his father revealed as an immortal gangster thanks to those titular rings, who was persuaded to change his ways by the love of a good woman. Only now she’s dead thanks to enemies from his past and he thinks he can bring her back to life by conquering the magical village where she was born and opening a gateway into some other dimension. And he expects Shang-Chi to help with his nefarious plan, which of course is as foolhardy as you can get. This is what I’ve come to think of as spectacle cinema, with everything the CGI guys and gals can throw at their blue screen up there in front of our eyes. It was exciting and visually stunning while it lasted, but all comes at you at something like a hundred miles an hour, with not enough quiet scenes. There were welcome moments of comic respite and good to see an American made film in which occidental characters are just supporting cast. But despite the best efforts of the scriptwriters to make them seem quirky I couldn’t quite connect with the characters, while the plot just felt like something I’ve seen done plenty of times before and better. Marvel-lite. Lovely to look at, but not much meat on those beautiful bones.

The Addams Family 2

There were five others in the cinema this time, though three of them were children and the other two were fathers (presumably). I should have ‘borrowed’ one of my partner’s grandchildren so I wouldn’t have felt so out of place. Ah, but the film itself was a delight. With questions raised about Wednesday’s paternity, the Addams brood set off on a road trip across the USA as a bonding tactic. It doesn’t take, and Wednesday is off helping mad scientist Cyrus Strange with his experiments under the impression he is her real father, leaving the Family to work their weird magic and win her back. Loads of invention here, with Fester transformed into a giant Octopus, Cousin Itt as a rock star, Morticia her acerbic but lovable self, Gomez winging it as the Addams patriarch, Lurch given a new best friend in the form of Pongo, and Wednesday’s continued efforts to murder Pugsley, and as for Thing… Well, what can you say about Thing? You have to hand it to the guy. It’s huge fun, seeing this oddball bunch touch down in Miami and Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon and California, strutting about like tourists and doing their Addams Family thing, but all of that is only a taster for the over the top showdown at the compound of Cyrus Strange. I have to admit preferring live action Addams to cartoons, but all the same I loved this. It felt like a trip down memory lane.

Did somebody say Rob Zombie was doing a Munsters movie?

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