By Marc S. Sanders

Colonel John Matrix (HUGE ACTION STAR NAME WITH MUSCLE AND BULK AND SWEAT AND…AND…MUSCLE, because this is Arnold Schwarzenegger) lives a quiet life in the beautiful nature the mountains have to offer him, along with his 11-year-old daughter Jenny Matrix (Alyssa Milano). SIDE BAR: Imagine roll call at elementary school and that name comes up, Matrix, Jennifer Matrix. OKAY! BACK ON POINT: Father and daughter tickle one another, mash ice cream in each other’s faces and feed gentle deer from the palm of their hands. By and large, Commando is a beautiful after school special.

However, this is also a cheerfully bloody and fiery explosive R rated after school special adventure. Jenny is kidnapped and used as ransom to coax John, better known as Matrix, (cuz it’s cooler that way), into assassinating a foreign political leader. Though that’s not how this film is gonna go.

Matrix makes an escape from his watchful guard who ends up “dead tired,” by jumping out of a commercial airliner. He determines that he has eleven hours to find Jenny and blow everyone up real good. He gets help from an airline stewardess, a hilarious Rae Dawn Chong that pioneered what Sandra Bullock memorably did later in Speed. She conveniently has been taking flying lessons that will get Matrix to the private island where Jenny is being held. Thank goodness for that, or Jenny might never see daddy again. Everything happens for a reason.

Look, the chances this film would ever be Oscar nominated against the 1985 Best Picture winner, Out Of Africa, were slim for sure. However, all these years later and I’m still not exhausted of repeatedly watching Commando. It’s a comfortable crowd pleaser. The film is action packed to the teeth with bad guys getting impaled, razor saw disks being used as frisbees to take off a scalp or two, arms getting chopped off and big bunker houses being blown up into huge balls of fire. Thankfully, lots of blood gets to splurt all over the place.

This is an action film for the eyes and ears. For me, it’s better than any of the unfunny Rambo films with their minimal dialogue. In Commando, you get some fun at a shopping mall with elevators rolling across the floors and swings from balloon streamers. Matrix even pushes 10 security guards off him all at once. There are car chases. In a neighboring hotel room, he takes on another muscle head while a naked couple is going at it in the room next door. Commando is just too damn funny, for sure.

Schwarzenegger is a master of the one liner. He drops a bad guy off a cliff and tells his new stewardess friend “I let him go.” Well, he ain’t lying. Rae Dawn Chong is equally funny in her own way. I’d argue the script called for a nothing woman role and she brought something special to the picture. Her incessant complaints and screams at this ridiculous circumstance she gets caught up in are laugh out loud hilarious. Commando is not just action alone. The characters respond to the hyped-up scenarios.

No, the villains are nothing special. A potbellied cheesy porno lookalike Australian, named Bennett (Vernon Wells), with a chain mail tank top and tight leather pants is a former squad member of Matrix’ team from when they were military mercenaries. Bennett is no James Bond villain by any measure, but he’s pleasurably laughable, even if it is all unintentional.

This is a guy’s movie for the most part. It’s brawny and muscled out. It’s got machine guns, shotguns, handguns, and even more guns along with some grenades, detonators, knives and a rocket launcher that seems to become a character all its own. However, I think there’s an opportunity for chick flick adoring women to have a good time with Commando too, when I once again hearken back to Rae Dawn Chong. She is probably Schwarzenegger’s best female counterpart in any of his films. Yes! Above Linda Hamilton and Jamie Lee Curtis. The chemistry just works so well here.

There’s so much to like about Commando and I believe it remains as one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s satisfyingly best films to date.


By Marc S. Sanders

I don’t get it. Why title a movie with the name of a popular song only to make the movie title seem arbitrary? Some Kind Of Wonderful is a rockin’ great song by Grand Funk Railroad that you turn the volume up on your car radio as you leave work on Friday afternoon. Maybe you get the bar patrons riled up on karaoke night. Some Kind Of Wonderful is also the name of a movie written by John Hughes that has no meaning or relevance to the song it’s named after. It’s as lacking in imagination as the film itself.

Why do you suppose John Hughes didn’t direct this film and left it for Howard Deutch to take over? Could it be that Hughes realized this script was nowhere near as insightful as The Breakfast Club or even Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?

The characters are positively boring in Some Kind Of Wonderful. In fact, they are so boring that they look bored with each other. They look half-awake when they are talking to one another. Unless, that’s how you look cool in the rebellious 1980s. I dunno. To me they all looked flat.

Eric Stoltz plays Keith. He’s a kid who avoids college discussions with his father (John Ashton) while pining over Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), the popular girl who’s dating the popular jerk with the Corvette. We get to hear a song called Amanda Jones not once but THREE TIMES. Where’s the song Some Kind Of Wonderful, though? Why not just call the film Amanda Jones?

Unbeknownst to Keith, his tomboy best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) plays it cool, while carrying around her cool looking drumsticks, like she doesn’t love him when it couldn’t be more apparent. Keith is so unbelievably stupid that he can’t even detect the slightest crush that Watts has on him when she practices kissing him so he’ll be prepared for an upcoming date he has with Amanda. Now I’d buy this routine if Keith were at least playing dumb to Watts’ advances. However, Keith is not playing dumb. Keith is just dumb.

As a community theatre actor and playwright at times, even I follow at least a slight discipline of exploring character backgrounds. Watts and Keith are best pals yet I don’t recall one tender moment or discussion that even slightly recollects their history or friendship. Pretty In Pink offered plenty of moments that shaped the Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer relationship. Not in Some Kind Of Wonderful, however. Every time Stoltz and Masterson meet up for a scene together it feels as if they never met each other before. They never look like they are familiar with one another and really know what makes the other tick. Are they acting with their stand in doubles?

I also was not so convinced of Keith’s attraction to Amanda. There’s nothing to this girl beyond Lea Thompson’s sultry looks. Granted, I recall having a day or even a month-long crush on a number of girls in high school simply based on appearance alone; girls who never gave me the time of day. Raging hormones naturally will do that to teenage boys but remember this is a movie. In a movie, I need to be shown why there is a crush. Not just told in a statement of dialogue.

Recently, I reviewed Can’t Buy Me Love. I didn’t like that film either. However, the popular girl in that film at least revealed a knack for poetry and a sudden interest in astronomy and an old airplane graveyard. The popular girl here only opts to go out with Keith to anger her jerk of a boyfriend. I don’t know anything about Amanda from beginning to end.

Keith only paints and draws images of Amanda. A talent for art is a springboard for sweet and sincere in a John Hughes movie, but it’s all Keith ever learns about Amanda. So it’s all we ever learn about Amanda. Great! You sketched a third picture of Lea Thompson. Sorry, but I already know what Lea Thompson looks like.

The date between Keith and Amanda tries to aim for cuteness and maybe some comedy. I say maybe because I’m not sure if the cast with Hughes and Deutch are looking for laughs. But see Masterson volunteers to be the limo driver complete with the hat and uniform, and drive the lovebirds around town. A limo uniform on a character can be funny like if Kramer in Seinfeld did it, or if it was one of the Three Stooges. Problem here is no one in this movie sees how funny it could be. So, it’s not funny. See how that works?

No one was at the wheel of this D grade fare teenage 80s flick. Beyond all that’s wrong with the story and characters and performances, ultimately again I ask, where is the song Some Kind Of Wonderful in the movie Some Kind Of Wonderful? If that doesn’t even occur to you, then I can’t have much faith the film will have any provocation of thought either…and it doesn’t!!!!!


By Marc S. Sanders

So here is a movie I thought I had figured out; the twist, I mean. Yet it’s ending didn’t turn out to be that way at all.

So, what did I get from Secret In Their Eyes? Well, I guess the confidence that I am probably a better writer than the ones who doctored this crap.

This is another mystery thriller, where everybody working in the same law enforcement department must remain divided and have animosity towards each other because if they didn’t have conflict they’d only get along and solve a very basic murder case.

See, it has to be this way.

The main character played by Chiwetel Ejiofor must play the obsessive (13 years obsessed!!!) FBI investigator prone to making dumb and impulsive mistakes because if he didn’t there’d be no movie.

Julia Roberts, effectively departing her glamour roles, as the cop/mother of a murdered daughter will only conveniently appear to make things awkward for Ejiofor and DA Nicole Kidman who is unnecessarily, overtly sexy to drive a subplot for more awkwardness. Oh, hi Julia. Didn’t expect you to step on to the elevator. Well, look who showed up at the office just as I get into town; things like that.

Nothing that these characters do seem very wise or necessary but we are supposed to believe these are some of LA’s best legal minds; break in and steal evidence without a warrant, solve a murder by looking at a picture from company picnic, beat a confession out of a suspect, and presume you found the killer again because a guy made parole 13 years later and the ages match up. He might have had a nose job, but that’s gotta be the guy. Ejiofor says it is. So it must be true. Stop arguing with me. Ejiofor says he’s right and you’re wrong. Case closed. Shouldn’t these great legal minds look a little deeper before they make their conclusions? There’s more concrete evidence in a game of Clue than anything I found in Secret In Their Eyes.

I guess now that I’ve watched the film and see that my predicted ending never turned up, maybe I’ll keep it to myself, jot it down on paper and sell my own screenplay. If this crap could attract a Hollywood budget with top talents to fill the roles, how bad could I do?


By Marc S. Sanders

Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity is the story that occurs after the story, with a compellingly determined performance from its lead Matt Damon.

A man floating in the rain swept Mediterranean Sea is recovered by a fishing boat. Two bullets and a capsule containing a Swiss bank safe deposit box number are removed from his back. The man also has amnesia as he can’t recall his name or background or why any of this has happened. Yet, he does remember his fighting skills, weapon handling (even if it’s a BIC ball point pen) and strategic abilities. Eventually he recovers a lot of cash and passports from the box, but he leaves the gun. (No cannoli to take.)

The agency that does know what happened, code name “Treadstone” developed secretly by the CIA, is represented by a frazzled administrator named Conklin, played well by Chris Cooper. Apparently this mystery man did not carry out an assassination as orchestrated and now this assassin must be located and terminated or Conklin will have a lot of explaining to do to Abbott, another, more calm, authority played by favorite character actor, Brian Cox. However, this mystery man is Jason Bourne, and he is not going to be easy to kill or outsmart by the ones who essentially trained him.

Famke Potente portrays a gypsy that Bourne pays to escort him by car through Europe as he tries to remember and uncover the truth. She’s also very good, as the inevitable brief romance brings just the right dimension to the characters. Now there’s something at stake amid the danger.

There’s not much story to this film. In fact, there’s not much story to the sequels that followed. Liman set the standard for the Bourne films that director Paul Greengrass eventually took over. Just keep the pace at high octane. Crash the cars, break the bones, fire the guns. Only make sure Bourne just gets a cut on the head and recovers with a limp. Nothing more. We know that Bourne will never die. The fun is in how he manages to stay alive following one dangerous encounter after another.

Damon is surprising in this first entry in the series. Perhaps that’s because he’s not a repeat action star like Stallone or Schwarzenegger. He was Good Will Hunting!!!!! So, in this film, he’s got the college prep appearance and walks like a short lightweight boxer. I think that’s great. When we see him disable two policemen early on, it is literally jaw dropping. Liman presents the unexpected in Damon’s performance because the plot can’t offer much more development.

The Bourne films remain as one of the best action series of all time. If anything, I think the taxpayers are getting ripped off by the clandestine shenanigans happening within the CIA. The CIA was meant to be secret. However, “Treadstone” better be MORE secret. That way our secrets can hide our secrets. Right? Wait, what? Forget what I said.

As each movie is happy to demand from an authority in a suit, “Find me Jason Bourne!”


By Marc S. Sanders

Alfred Hitchcock’s beloved classic Rear Window remains absolutely relatable today.  Before the age of the internet and reality TV, people already had a voyeuristic instinct about them.  Heck, movies are voyeuristic!  The audience watches the behaviors and actions of people on a large screen.  Snooping into the activities within your neighbor’s private apartments is not much different.  Though likely less ethical.

When photographer L.B. Jeffries, aka “Jeff,” (James Stewart, in one of his most famous roles) is bound up in a wheelchair with his broken leg wrapped in a waist high cast, there’s not much adventure like his traveling career demands.  So, he gets caught up in looking at the goings on of his Greenwich Village apartment neighbors like a beautiful hourglass figure dancer he dubs “Miss Torso,” or the newlywed couple and their never-ending sexual escapades.  There’s also an elderly couple who find comfort in sleeping at night on their outdoor balcony next to one another.  He can also take pleasure in a struggling musician trying to write his next piano tune while also entertaining a collection black tie guests.  Another woman he dubs “Miss Lonely Hearts,” for her desperate attempts at entertaining herself with imaginary escorts she’s “invited” for dinner, also leaves him curious to keep up with.

The most inquisitive occupants in this building are a husband (Raymond Burr) and his seemingly ill and often irritating and nagging wife.  Over one rainy night, Jeff takes notice of the husband leaving his apartment with a suitcase at three different times and the wife is nowhere in sight ever again thereafter.  Later glimpses of the husband handling a carving knife, a saw and some rope tied around a storage trunk are also eye opening.  Jeff recounts this sequence of events to his desperate love interest, Lisa (Grace Kelly, with a gorgeous on-screen entrance in one of costumer Edith Head’s legendary dresses) and his nurse caretaker Stella (a smart allecky and perfectly cast Thelma Ritter).  When the likelihood of murder has probably occurred, Jeff also lets his detective friend Tom Doyle in on what’s seen.  All seem skeptical at first. 

Now the action of murder is never seen by Jeff, nor by the audience, mind you.  For the most part, Hitchcock limits the viewer only to what Jeff sees with his own eyes or with the help of his binoculars and his long lens camera.  Midway through the film, the director allows Jeff to doze and gives us a glimpse of something the husband does.  Now, we the audience, have a slight edge of knowledge that our hero doesn’t.  This plays with Hitchcock’s approach to suspense.  We know there’s a “bomb” under the table.  The people sitting there don’t however.  It pains us to wonder if our protagonists will discover the bomb before it goes off.

I’m a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies because they never get too complex.  The stories he chose to direct normally place an everyman in a scenario he/she never expected to find themselves in, much less be invited to.  With a screenplay from John Michael Hayes, Hitchcock puts out only a few pieces of a puzzle.  Then, it’s up to his handicapped hero and the audience to solve it.

The voyeurism for Jeff seems like a harmless vice while his time at home slowly passes painstakingly by.  Hitchcock and Stewart do very well in assembling this film.  A close up of Stewart will have him turn his eyes to his right and then we will see what the newlywed couple are doing.  Then we will cut back to Stewart and see his reaction with a smirk.  A look down will cut to the dog, curiously digging away in a flower bed.  Then once again back to Stewart for a close up that maybe has him wondering if the dog is getting at something pertaining to this husband and his now missing wife.  The smirk leaves Stewart’s face.  Now, it’s an expression of puzzlement.

I noted earlier that Rear Window can easily be related to what drives people’s obsessions today.  We are people driven by internet surfing and television streaming and social media.  The known statistic that half of marriages end in divorce is still prominent.  (Maybe that percentage is even higher by now.) Stewart’s character of Jeff becomes so obsessed with keeping up with these people’s stories, that he hardly finds time or enthusiasm to accept the romantic gestures of Lisa.  It’d be fair to argue that technological devices of today serve as an equal distraction in relationships.

Grace Kelly is well cast here.  Arguably one of the most beautiful women to ever appear on screen, dressed in some of the most artistic and fascinating costumes provided by Edith Head, and even she can not divert Stewart’s attention away from the activities of others that Jeff doesn’t even have an intimate knowledge of.  Kelly begins her performance in the film with an approaching close up followed by a sensual kiss upon a sleeping Jeff.  She arranges a catered dinner, delivered by the renowned New York restaurant, Twenty-One.  It just doesn’t completely sway Jeff away from what he becomes obsessed with.  Much like people are with social media, Jeff has been addicted to his vice.  When Lisa tries to implore with Jeff to take their relationship further, James Stewart raises his voice to tell her to shut up and insists that her beautiful hairstyles, wardrobes and high heel shoes could never keep up with him on his travels to far off deserts, jungles and war-torn areas that he photographs.  Yes, Jimmy Stewart tells Grace Kelly to shut up.  It’s shocking.  However, maybe the film will eventually demonstrate that Jeff really doesn’t know anything about Lisa.  The everyman of cinema at that time has been corrupted by what he’s focused on, and in an Alfred Hitchcock film, it is bound to get him into more trouble than he ever expected.  More importantly, the one who cares for him may open his eyes to what he really can’t see as this mystery proceeds.  Broken leg or not, Jeff has never truly seen the real Lisa.

I recall visiting Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida when there was an Alfred Hitchcock attraction there.  I miss it.  It was taken over by a Shrek ride and soon it will be another Minions adventure.  Before ever having seen Rear Window, the attraction featured a look at the Greenwich Village courtyard setting of the film.  It was fascinating.  It was four floors of apartments directly across a courtyard that had a flower bed, folding chairs and the like.  There was also an alley that presumably led to a bustling New York City street.  Naturally, you couldn’t see much of the street.  Just a sliver.  Hitchcock arranged with Paramount Pictures to build the set this way.  Audiences would have wide open views of activities within the window frames of these apartments, the hallways beyond the front door of each dwelling and that one slim alleyway.  The viewer is as limited in what can be seen as Jeff.  This mysterious husband may be going somewhere at odd hours of the night, but once he passes that alleyway, there’s no way of knowing where he went.  Today, we might call something like this one of those “Escape Rooms.”  Solve the mystery, but only with what you can see and only from your one stationary position.  If something takes an unexpected direction, you could find yourself in danger without any means of escape.  That’s how Hitchcock sets up the limitations for Jeff.

As the film progresses, Lisa proves that she can be adventurous like Jeff claims that she isn’t.  In her beautiful gown, heeled shoes and coifed hairdo, she climbs into the apartment of the likely murder suspect looking for clues.  Jeff, however, can’t do anything but watch.  There’s not much he can do either even when the suspect returns while Lisa is still there.  He’s helpless to help her or even himself.  This assembly of direction again falls in line with the “bomb under the table” idea.  It’s one of many devices Hitchcock uses to keep Rear Window as suspensefully entertaining as it was for audiences in the 1950s.

Few directors still can’t keep audiences on the edge of their seat like Alfred Hitchcock.  He had such an intuition for knowing what would keep viewers engaged and wanting to know more.  Unlike other films from him, there’s not much of a twist to Rear Window.  The resolution falls in lifting the veils.  Jeff must reveal himself to this mysterious husband.  (When they come face to face finally, Hitch is smart to position Jeff as a silhouette in darkness.)  Lisa must show Jeff a side to her that he refuses to acknowledge in order to save their relationship. Most importantly, a mystery has to be confirmed.  You find yourself more and more breathless as the film moves on, and then more facts are revealed implying that Jeff is truly on to something.  When the picture finally ends, if you got caught in Hitchcock’s web of suspense, you’ll likely let out a satisfying sigh of relief.


By Marc S. Sanders

Humans were meant to be distressed.  It just goes with the territory.  It’s in our nature to distress one another and respond with another layer of distress.  It’s also a cosmic element of practically any environment we find ourselves in.  Within our journeys of life, when we are striving to be better as a spouse, a parent or worker, it takes an acceptance of stress to get to where we want to be.  It’s only when we die that we can truly rest in peace.  Wedding planning or road rage or airline travel can be overly taxing. Your car could get towed, a person from your past could turn up or you can even become unreasonably extorted when faced with extenuating circumstances.  It all seems so unfair or inconvenient or intrusive.  So, I find it interesting that director Damián Szifron would provide the credits of the cast and crew for his film Wild Tales against a backdrop of wildlife animals.  Humans may be the dominant species, but even they have animal instincts that can spiral wildly out of control.

With writer, Germán Servidio, Szifron offers up six different short stories in this Argentinian film that was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2014 Oscars.  Each story focuses on an opportunity for revenge or an experience of high stress where people come in contact with other people.  Granted, some of the stories are so outrageous in circumstance, response and outcome that I’d find them hard to believe they truly happened if someone vouched for it.  For example, you likely never saw a wedding reception like the one staged in this film.  I don’t care who you are.  YOU NEVER SAW A WEDDING LIKE THIS!!!!  Still, this is a very entertaining film that left me curious with how each story was going to play out.

A truly engaging airline experience prologues the credits when a beautiful model strikes up a conversation with the elderly gentlemen across the aisle.  When a woman in the next row can’t help but eavesdrop on their exchange, a most unexpected event occurs.  Doom awaits!!!  More importantly, though, why does it await?  It’s a brilliant opening, likely never to occur in real life, but altogether unexpected and humorously shocking.

Following the credits, a question of morality and revenge plays out in an after-hours diner when someone from a waitress’ past enters for a late night meal.  This is the most incomplete vignette of the bunch, but the narrative remains interesting. 

Listed below the airline tale, my next favorite tale involves a road rage incident between the driver of a beautiful black Audi and someone who drives an old jalopy of a car.  Likely, it is the most relatable of all the stories.  We’ve all either experienced some form of road rage, or read about it, or have committed or been tempted to engage.  There’s a strong lesson to be learned from this story and it is rather incredible how this encounter between two descends into madness.

Stories of extortion and unfair city policies fill out the other slots, before finally closing on a wedding from hell.

What’s interesting is that while the stories may rely somewhat on their dialogue, I believe I could watch Wild Tales without knowing much of what is being said.  The cast is phenomenal in expression and response.  Szifron quickly sets up the scene and then has his various token characters react to what faces them.  We see the extremes a bride goes to when an unexpected guest appears at her reception.  We are the lone witness to how a driver will seize an opportunity when another driver is stranded on a lonesome highway with a flat tire.  We can understand the persistence a man will uphold in order to prove he did not commit a parking violation.  Wild Tales does not depend on crackling dialogue.  Instead, the visuals and the performances do a lot of the work.

Too often, I hear that people will not watch films with subtitles.  They cannot stand to “read” a film.  Come on!!!!  You have to allow yourself the opportunity to uncover amazing documents of cinematic escapism beyond the American fare.  No film hinges on the subtitles that flash across the bottom of the screen.  Like any movie, the primary element is the photography of the piece.  Since I am not much of a traveler, domestic or international, it is so refreshing when I’m reminded that cultures, behaviors and customs outside my comfort zone of the United States, are not any different from me or the people I surround myself with.  We are all capable of love, drama, humor, sacrifice, crime and an innate possibility of flying off the handle in very, very extreme ways, whether we are justified or not. 

I am not familiar with many foreign pictures.  Honestly, I don’t get motivated enough to seek them out.  I need to lighten my reluctance.  It is fortunate that my colleague, Miguel E Rodriguez, provided this entertaining, mischievously fun collection of devilish short thrillers to our Cinephile movie group for a Sunday viewing.  Damián Szifron has crafted a film that you can’t take your eyes off.  The photography is striking with amazing camera angles such as a point of view from inside an airplane luggage compartment or from the sidewalk ground level where an automobile owner discovers that his car has been wrongfully possessed.  Miguel says moments like these are Tarantino inspired.  Maybe.  I like to think I’m watching a film by Damián Szifron, an insightful and skilled director at the top of his game.


By Marc S. Sanders

Jurassic Park III.  What’s to say?  Well not much.  The third film in the dino franchise plays like an extension of the first two.  Sam Neill is brought back as paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant.  Sadly, the rest of the cast is terrible.  Yet, the dinosaurs remain marvelous.

Following an opening sequence parasailing adventure gone wrong, an enormously wealthy couple, the Kirbys (William H Macy, Tea Leoni), recruit Dr. Grant and his apprentice Billy (Alessandro Nivola) for a vacation excursion to the restricted island of Ilsa Sorna as a twentieth anniversary celebration for them to see the exotic, resurrected animals.  Grant and Billy are to be their tour guides.  The offer is too good for the doctor to refuse and off they go. Once on the island, the mayhem we’ve all grown accustomed to commences.

The intelligence of the Jurassic films only comes from one source, and that is the special effects makers of these animals.  The attention to detail in skin texture, eye movement, teeth, roars, claws, limbs and facial expressions are sensational.  You truly believe these are actual living creatures.  These wizards reinvent themselves with a new dinosaur known as the Spinosaurus.  Bigger than a T-Rex and at least as fast as the velociraptors.  This is a BEAST!!!!!! 

Director Joe Johnston takes the director chair from Steven Spielberg. While the magic is lacking this time around in some of the thrills and scares, at least the new director has some fun with a couple of gags.  A cell phone (the new novel household item at the time of this film’s release) plays for some laughs, especially when the Spinosaurus appears on the scene.  There’s also a magnificent sequence in the Pteranodon bird cage.  Love the Pteranodons.  Finally, we get to see the winged dinosaurs in action as they lift the various members of the cast into the air with their claws and snap their beaks for a couple of nips.  There’s a great close up of one Pteranodon that is one for the ages.  He turns his sinister head over his shoulder towards the camera with a “Wanna fuck with me?” expression.  It’s like it was modeled off of Robert DeNiro.  Great stuff.

Raptors are back, and while we may have seen all of this before, I don’t get tired of it.  It’s like seeing a thrilling car chase for the fiftieth time.  As long I’m thrilled, I guess I’m satisfied.  Nevertheless, being that this is the third chapter, I was hoping for something more with some insight in the film.

My colleague, Miguel Rodriguez, notes that this installment as well as the prior one serves merely as amusement park fun rides.  All true.  I think I’ve backed that up here.  However, there are so many unexplored elements within the franchise originally conceived by novelist Michael Crichton.  For example, there’s the secret scientific research and development company known as InGen – the party responsible for discovering how to resurrect dinosaurs in the modern age.  Three movies in, and we’ve barely gotten to know InGen.  I think it’s time we do.  There’s gotta be a CEO at the top who is twirling his mustache amid his or her dominance.  That would really play for some good storytelling.  At best, in all three films to this point, we just get the InGen logo printed on the side of some motorized vehicles and laboratory doors. 

Much like the Alien franchise (with Weyland-Yutani), these puppet masters are never fully realized.  One of the three (THREE????) co-writers of Jurassic Park III is director/writer Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt).  With a genius mind like that couldn’t we have been treated to something that had more depth than just jaws, beaks, teeth, claws and roars?  What we are left with is an annoying William H Macy (one of his worst career roles) and an even worse Tea Leoni (feels like I’m watching Chrissy from Three’s Company) as the Kirbys.  They quickly provide a twist to their purpose in the movie.  It’s a dumb twist.  It’s hard to believe a doctorate mind like Alan Grant is supposed to have never seen this unexpected turn of events coming and it takes up space where the writers could have spent time bringing more back story to the Jurassic Park universe.  Crichton lined it all up!  Why didn’t the filmmakers pounce on these golden ideas?

That’s all there is to say.  Jurassic Park III is a popcorn movie.  Nothing else.  It’s only just a somewhat satisfying popcorn movie, though.  You miss the Spielberg touch, and you wish for just a little more dimension.  You don’t get it, but you do get the “don’t fuck with me” attitude of a nasty looking Pteranodon.  That alone is worth ninety minutes of your time.


By Marc S. Sanders

Okay. Fair Warning. I am going to spoil this movie with my review. Why? Well, if you haven’t seen Suspect, directed by Peter Yates, then I’m telling you that you absolutely do not ever need to see Suspect directed by Peter Yates.

What is Suspect worthy of 33 years later? Nothing beyond my personal allowance to spoil the film for you. I know! It goes against my principals as a film critic, but I choose, for YOU, MY READERS, to fall on my sword.

Scripts of any variation whether they be stage plays, television episodes or feature films should always show the unusual. If it’s mundane, it should never be made. You don’t want to watch two hours of someone brushing their teeth. You want to watch epic films like Malcolm X or witness a man that flies in Superman: The Movie or the murderous ways a person will devote his affection for his mother in Psycho. Unusual and special stories make the best stories. Unusual! Not utterly preposterous!

Now, I’m sure in the annals of trial law there had to have been a handful of cases where a defense attorney got involved socially and/or romantically with a member of the jury. Otherwise, we’d never hear of the term “jury tampering.” So, there’s something unusual to sink our teeth into. Preposterous though (AND I WARNED YOU) is that within this very same trial, you know the one where the defense attorney and jury member are getting some from each other on the side, that one, the presiding judge turns out to be the killer. Okay. Now Mr. and Mr. Filmmaker, you’re no longer using your imagination. You’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall, hoping it’ll all stick.

Cher plays a public defense attorney named Kathleen Riley. Dennis Quaid is a handsome DC lobbyist named Eddie Sanger serving on the jury. Liam Neeson is the deaf mute title character who is a vagrant homeless person, and John Mahoney is the presiding judge aka the actual killer revealed at the end. Lawyer and juror meet up outside of court to find clues and eventually make out. The judge is the killer. People please!!!! Washington DC is not this effed up, is it? (Maybe don’t answer that.)

Frankly, Kathleen is not a very good attorney. She’s not aggressive enough with her objections and I don’t think she applies herself well enough to win her case. In fact, without Eddie’s self motivation to dig into the case himself and help her out, then this suspect (Neeson) doesn’t have a chance in hell of being exonerated. The victim, a political staff member, had her throat slashed. Kathleen doesn’t even consider if the killer is right or left handed? Really? Eddie did at least. Still, I’m okay with watching an inept lawyer in a movie. Too often, movies show us lawyers that are too brilliant and quick on their toes. They’re almost too brainy. So, okay yeah, I’ll accept a lawyer whose not the sharpest crayon in the box for a change of pace.

On the other hand, Mahoney, the actual killer, is easy to predict when he voluntarily takes this case and then rules against literally every objection that Kathleen brings up. Every single one! Plus it stands to follow Roger Ebert’s economy of characters. There’s only so many characters in your multiple choice of cast members to consider as the killer. I can’t fathom Quaid, the juror, as the killer, nor Cher the defense attorney. So either Neeson, the suspect on trial, is the killer (not likely because then why have a movie) or it’s the judge. Nah! It couldn’t be the judge. Could it? Hmmmm.

Washington DC makes for a great setting for legal thrillers or courtroom dramas. It’s full of secrets and government and dealings and politics. A million and a half motivations and any one of its residents could find a reason to kill. The script for Suspect, written by Eric Roth, never cares to try that hard though. We are treated to a wasteful side story of Eddie doing some lobbying for milk (I’m sorry. MILK? LIKE DAIRY MILK????) when he’s not in court. He sleeps with a congresswoman to get her vote…and why am I seeing any of this?

There’s no build up in the murder trial either. The few expert witnesses called to the stand are forgettable. Nor do they foreshadow anything. Cher’s character doesn’t seem to work hard enough in questioning a witness. Instead, this dumb lawyer relies on a juror she shouldn’t ever be talking to.

Once again, normally, it’s against my policy to spoil a film. After 40 years, I won’t even spoil The Empire Strikes Back, cuz someone out there still hasn’t seen it. However, this film is ridiculous. This would even be too ridiculous for a Maury Povich episode or a Lifetime TV movie. How absurd must one murder trial be?

Think about it. All in one movie. One murder trial. One case. The defense attorney is involved with a juror AND the judge is the killer????? There are odds….and then there are gazillion to one shots.


By Marc S. Sanders

There are few films I come across where a phone call to 911 is immediately put on hold. There are few films I come across where the one in danger has an opportunity to speak face to face with a policeman while the burglars factually can not hear, and will still not relay that she, her daughter and her ex-husband are in danger. There are few films. Just a few. David Fincher’s stupid excuse for a cat and mouse thriller known as Panic Room is one of those few films.

I can forgive loopholes on occasion for the sake of maintaining suspense and to simply have a complete movie. I can not forgive it here however. Opportunities open up easily for Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart to take an upper hand. Equally so, moments open up for the bad guys as well, played ineptly by Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakum and Jared Leto. The game of outsmarting you might find depicted in Home Alone is more sensible than David Koepp’s mindless script.

The three bad guys break into a home equipped with a sealed panic room. As they get in, Foster and Stuart make it into the secure area before being taken captive.

Fincher does great camera work within a 3 story New York brownstone. He can capture in a single shot a close up of a breathless Foster in one half of the screen while a menacing figure walks covertly down an adjacent hallway on the other half. The labyrinth of the house looks good in darks and midnight blues. That’s where the attributes of Panic Room stop, however.

Everything else is controlled by manufactured contrivances offered up by Koepp’s script. Security cameras can be smashed while it just so happens that the thieves are not watching the monitors. When the electronic door to the room is opened, no one will hear a thing until a lamp topples over. You don’t even here the buzzing or slam of the steel plated door. You can also sneak around the wooden floors and will not be heard until Koepp’s writing and Fincher’s direction allow it. Otherwise these old floors will creak and echo. I talk often about how the environment in a film is a character in and of itself, like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Well if this brownstone is giving a performance in this film, then it dropped a line, came in too early, came in too late and missed a dozen cues during its performance.

Policemen will come to the door and nary insist on coming inside the home, where a dead body lay as well as a wounded hostage and various wreckage is strewn about. Foster knows the bad guys can’t hear a conversation while they are in the panic room, but she will still not share the fact that she’s in peril. Why????

Most infuriating is that 911 will take an emergency call and put her on hold. That’s where I checked out. Nothing else mattered.

Panic Room is beyond intelligence in so many ways.

Oh yeah, also there are no neighbors within an adjacent neighborhood of brownstones that ever hear the commotion at hand.

My colleague Miguel might say, “well then you’d never have a movie.” My reply is Panic Room doesn’t seem like it ever was a movie to begin with.


By Marc S. Sanders

The players:

Mr. Green – Michael McKean

Mrs. Peacock – Eileen Brennan

Miss Scarlett – Leslie Ann Warren

Colonel Mustard – Martin Mull

Mrs. White – Madeline Kahn

Professor Plum – Christopher Lloyd

With Wadsworth the Butler (Tim Curry) who “Buttles!” and Yvette the Maid (Colleen Camp).

The roles and who portrays them are the most important thing to follow in the film adaptation of the board game Clue. After that, it’s the ridiculous farce. Motivations and vague connections among the characters are spit out with rapidity by Curry’s zany Wadsworth, the buttler Butler. He’s the real star of the show but every actor makes their own variation of hilarity.

All of them have been summoned for dinner on a dark and stormy night at Mr. Boddy’s mansion. They have been specifically instructed to identify themselves by the colorful moniker documented in their invitations. None of them know each other or Mr. Boddy. Or do they????? Hmmmm!!!

Once they are there, dinner is served accompanied by Yvette’s physical attributes that express themselves quite well in her French Maid’s uniform. Soon after, the board game’s well known weapons (lead pipe, candlestick, revolver, wrench and so on) present themselves and then Boddy turns up dead in the library. Naturally, the players must explore the other well known rooms in the creepy mansion including the kitchen, the billiard room and conservatory to uncover what’s happened…even though he’s dead in the library already.

Eventually, and because the film is fast approaching it’s 90 minute mark, Wadsworth begins to manically explain who the murderer is and how and where it was done. Oh yeah! Other unfortunates have turned up dead as well, including a policeman and a singing telegram.

Clue is on the zany level of Airplane! and The Naked Gun. John Landis co-wrote the film with director Jonathan Lynn and honestly, they could not do anything wrong with the picture as long as they kept everything completely stupid for the sake of comedy. All of the players lend to that ridiculousness going so far as to even pose with the dead corpses to mask the fact that they are truly expired. No matter that the cook has a dagger in her back.

The famous board game is rightly honored even with the square tiled floor in the hall and the secret passages that connect the rooms. Agatha Christie mysteries are targets though too. The assembly of these legendary comedians, who were all pretty much established by the time Clue was released in 1985, know how to find one of Christie’s personality suspects and springboard off of that for great gags.

Look, best I can tell you is don’t pay much attention to whatever motives are rambled about. The visuals are what’s important. Watch how ridiculous Tim Curry gets as he tries to keep this game all in order. Though a sense of order should never be expected. You’ll realize that early on after the Butler accidentally steps in dog poop, and the most important thing over the next five minutes is watching each player sniff for what is that awful aroma. It sounds silly. It sounds immature, but that’s what is specifically fun about the film.