By Marc S. Sanders

When you are a sexy, sultry lady killer, infamy can just about save you from a hanging.  That’s what Rob Marshall’s Oscar winning adaptation of Bob Fosse’s Broadway jazz musical capitalizes on in Chicago. The movie is hot, steamy, dazzling and blazing with magnetic song and dance numbers that are easy to follow while getting your pulse racing.  The design, direction, music, and choreography are magnificent.  The cast is outstanding too.

During the glitzy 1920’s in the Windy City, Roxy Hart (Renée Zellweger) is a wanna be night club performer who gets arrested for the murder of her extra marital lover (Dominic West).  She’s thrown in the pokey where the well known warden Matron Mama Morton (Queen Latifah) oversees all of the other murderesses, and often profits off of their sensationalistic crimes.  Roxy’s loser schlub of a husband, Amos (John C Reilly), manages to hire the hottest defense attorney in town, the handsomely slick and underhanded Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), to represent Roxy at trial.  Billy has never lost a case because his specialty is to manufacture drama for his accused clients, generating sympathy in the papers and among the jury.  In the film, there is a scene where Billy is literally pulling the strings on his puppets, particularly a marionette appearance of Roxy on his lap while he does the obvious ventriloquism.  A memorable moment for both Gere and Zellweger.  On the side is Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a double murderer of her husband and performing partner/sister.  Velma owned the public outcry until Roxy’s name was splashed along the headlines.  Now, the spotlight is quickly moving away from Velma.

Rob Marshall choreographed and directed Chicago.  He demonstrates the fun that can be had with murder.  Call it a new kind of excitement that normally we take jubilant delight with episodes of Murder She Wrote or Agatha Christie tales. 

The theme of this picture is how the story is narrated in a colorful reality.  On a parallel level it is performed on a stage nightclub with a bandleader (Taye Diggs) introducing the players who then breakout into their own testimonial song amid large choruses and dancers to enhance the attraction of headlines and sleazy, operatic narratives.  Christine Baranski is the reporter whose front and center, trying to collect the next big chapter development of whoever leads the hottest storyline at any given moment. 

Marshall will turn a courtroom proceeding led by Billy Flynn into a three-ring circus, while at the same time he’ll cut away to the nightclub.  Billy will be on stage, but he’s now wearing a glittery three-piece suit and doing a ragtime song and dance with a chorus of scantily clad, Burlesque women to apply a little Razzle Dazzle for the judge and jury.  Richard Gere is not who you think of for stage musicals, but he is positively charming.

Queen Latifah has a scene stealing moment to show off her entrance into the picture.  Mama Morton is in a skintight evening dress, complete with a swanky boa while performing When You’re Good To Mama on stage at the nightclub. Frequent cut aways have her dictating her powerhouse tune to the inmates.  John C Reilly performs Mr. Cellophane. He lays out certainty that there’s nothing inauthentic about the pushover loser husband he really is.  Both actors got well deserved Oscar nominations.

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger are a perfect pair of competitors.  They each have their individual moments and they act with such solid gusto; tough broads not to messed with.  The confidence they exude on screen with character acting, singing, and dancing is second to none.  The script will offer moments when Roxy and Velma think they are high and mighty, and winning the court of public opinion.  Then it will be undone when their hotshot attorney, Billy Flynn, knocks some sarcastic sense into them and a dose of reality sets in.  Roxy isn’t so fond of wearing a conservative black dress with a white collar in court until she sees a fellow cellmate lose her last motion of appeal, and there’s nothing left but to be punished by hanging.  She might be putting on a helluva performance, and signing autographs while souvenir dolls of her likeness are selling on the streets, but none of that ain’t gonna mean a thing if the jury finds her guilty of murder.

Just like I began this article, infamy is the word that kept coming back to me while watching Chicago.  Infamy bears celebrity.  Granted, it’s enhanced for a lively musical motion picture and stage show.  However, there’s a very, sad, and no longer surprising truth to that ideal.  A few years back, I recall news reports about a criminal’s sexy mug shot where he had donned a tattooed tear drop below his eye.  This guy was prime for runway modeling.  However, he was proven to be a violent car thief. He actually got signed by a talent scout following his bail out.  (I think the agent posted the bond.)  Later, he got arrested for some other crime. 

I never saw the reality program Chrisley Knows Best, about a God loving family who proudly live among the finest that money can buy.  Recently, the ultra-vain mother and father were sentenced to over a decade in federal prison for fraud and tax evasion.  Yet, their brand is stronger than ever, as the gossip columns can’t get enough, and their adult daughter’s podcast has millions of listeners.  Word is that a new program is being designed as a follow up to their prison sentences. 

Infamy bears reward.

Chicago pokes fun at the obsessions adhered by the media, the public, the courts and within the penal community.  The well known musical is now decades old, but the topics contained within clearly identify how news is not reported in a simple, objective Walter Cronkite kind of way, anymore.  Everything is heightened.  Everything is dramatized.  It’s not enough that Roxy kills her lover.  That will get her only so much mileage, until the next lady killer comes along (in the form of Lucy Liu, for example).  Roxy must stay relevant.  Announcing she’s pregnant will keep her on the front page (It could help that she faints while doing it). Velma knows all too well that the public favoritism she once had, accompanied with Billy’s sleazy promotion, is even further away. 

Rob Marshall presents a film where any song can be pulled out of context just for its sizzling entertainment.  Try not to forget the Cell Block Tango with solos from Zeta-Jones, as well as her fellow inmate chorus girls, each proudly describing how their guy “Had it coming!!!”.  All That Jazz is arguably one of the best opening numbers to a show, and Catherine Zeta-Jones owns the performance.  Individually, these songs and the performers win my attention in the car or the shower or during a workout.  Assemble them together with the overall storyline, and Chicago becomes a fast paced, kinetic roller coaster that makes you think while you smirk at all the scruples and vices being dismissed. 

The last time I saw Chicago was in theaters in 2002.  I had also seen a stage production of it before then.  I loved it both times.  Rewatching it recently gave me such a jolt of energy.  It is why theatre is a vital source of escapism. Here is an example where you can feel positively entertained while reflecting on a sad truth.  It might be sad, but you’re smiling all the way through while you mouth the brilliant lyrics and tap your feet.

Roxy Hart, Velma Kelly, Billy Flynn and the rest of the cast of characters make Chicago red hot and gleefully sinful.


By Marc S. Sanders

Walt Disney Studios is the granddaddy of animation. No one questions that. Yet when I watch a film like Wreck-It Ralph, I am enthralled at not just the imagination of story or the eye-popping visuals, but most importantly the made-up science the film’s video game characters interact with.

There are rules in play. All arcade game personalities can schmooze with each other after hours. Cross each other’s paths at “Cross Central Station” where a Pac Man cherry is offered up to a homeless Q-Bert, and even attend a Bad Guys Anonymous Group, moderated by the orange ghost Clyde (infamous rival of Pac Man). That last bit is one of my favorite parts of the movie. So inspired to have a Satan character console a dejected hulking, overalls wearing Ralph, aka Wreck-It Ralph. He’s the villain in the arcade game known as Fix-It Felix.

One rule to watch out for though, if you die in an arcade game you normally don’t inhabit, you can die permanently. When our title character gets overanxious, that’s a threat to not only himself but other important characters like Fix It Felix Jr (Ralph’s adversary), Calhoun (a first person shoot ’em up military woman) and Ralph’s inadvertent best pal Vanelloppe (the unfortunate glitch of a candy land racing game called Sugar Rush).

The jokes are great. The vocal cast of John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBryer, Jane Lynch and Alan Tudyk is perfectly assorted, as if the script was written specifically with these performers in mind.

There’s a lesson to be learned, because this is a Disney movie after all. It’s a pretty good lesson in knowing to love everything about yourself, glitches and all. Thankfully, the film does not patronize and melodramatically bash it over your head.

I love the arcade 80s relatability of the games and the settings of games like Fix It Felix, Heroes Duty, and especially Sugar Rush, looking as if ideas from Willy Wonka were swiped and polished to bring chocolate mud puddles, peppermint stick trees, Nesquik quicksand, and stalactites made of Mentos that drop into a lava like pit of diet cola that molten upon impact.

Soon after Ralph almost broke the arcade, he breaks the internet in a subsequent adventure, and that’s as endlessly hilarious and fun as his feature film debut.


By Marc S. Sanders

Meryl Streep can do anything. Comedy, drama, accents, age defiance, make unbearable choices, even play opposite Roseanne; anything! She can even go white water rafting. She’s a real life James Bond.

In The River Wild, Streep takes a while to outsmart bad guys Kevin Bacon and John C Reilly, but she always maintains the raft through dangerous rapids while protecting her husband and son (David Strathairn and Joseph Mazzello).

See, according to Curtis Hanson’s adventure film, the best way to outrun the law following committing a robbery is to go white water rafting, even if you have no experience with the sport. That becomes a downer for Meryl Streep’s family getaway where tensions are high in her marriage to her workaholic husband. Fortunately, this setback might get them on the right track and Strathairn will find an appreciation for the dog that has come along. Reader, I won’t give it away but like I said, Meryl Streep can do anything. So, the odds on the family pet making it out of this alive are pretty favorable. Too bad Mazzello and the dog won’t listen to dad when it’s necessary.

The plot of The River Wild is very simplistic. Hanson quickly gets to the river following some exposition of familial discourse at home. However, just because he gets to the river so soon, doesn’t mean that the thrills begin right away. There’s a lot of beautiful nature footage here and everyone is happily getting along. Bacon connects with Mazzello much to Strathairn’s chagrin, and he flirts charmingly with Streep. Then lo and behold, oh my stars, Kevin Bacon is a bad guy??? What? The Footloose guy?????? Why he’s six degrees of any one of us!!!!!

Hanson gets some good action moments on the rapids. There close up shots against the rocks, and right into the water and down the impossible falls. The suspense is lacking though. Strathairn makes an escape in the woods. He’s got a good head start, and the best option he can come up is to climb a steep rock wall in plain sight with no coverage whatsoever. Kevin Bacon, what are you doing? Shoot the guy!!!! Mr. Hanson, you just brought your stride to a screeching halt.

That’s the problem with The River Wild. There’s a lack of thrill to it all. This is not a film brave enough to really endanger the dog, nor the kid, nor Streep. The worst that’s really done is a couple of punches to Strathairn and a cut above his eye.

Mazzello made it as the screamer kid star in his adolescent years in film (see Jurassic Park). Bacon seems like he wanted to get a little crazier in the villain role, but he held back. I wanted him to cross the line a little more, a lot more actually. He wasn’t dangerous enough for me. Reilly was just a bumbling, worried accomplice in tow.

Hanson has done way better than this with his supreme effort like L.A. Confidential and even Eminem’s 8 Mile. Thank goodness I can still respect the man’s career beyond this doused misfire.


By Marc S. Sanders

Boogie Nights was director Paul Thomas Anderson’s second feature following a very different and very quiet film debut with the gambling addiction piece Hard Eight.

Heck, it’s fair to say all of Paul’s films are very different; here is the seediness of porn while later in his career he will focus on the ruthlessness of a wealthy and angry oil man and then an obsessed dressmaker devoid of care for the models who parade his accomplishments. (See There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread.). Paul was definitely striving for recognition with his familial depiction of life in the California pornographic film industry.

What I’ve always liked about Boogie Nights was Anderson’s intent to show the naive innocence of this large cast of characters. Filming blatantly oblivious awful porn scenarios can still be regarded as very proud efforts by its talent.

The main character is Eddie Adams (aka the amazing Dirk Diggler) played with macho pathos by Mark Wahlberg. It’ll likely be the best role of Wahlberg’s entire career. Dirk is proud of his natural talent in front of the camera. He’s even more proud of what God has gifted him. Don Cheadle is another porn star named Buck. He’s also proud of his accomplishments and simply a kind fellow looking to make country cowboy a trendy look for a black man while selling the “Hi-est Fidelity” in stereo equipment on the side. Julianne Moore is Amber Waves, the maternal porn mom of the bunch; very affectionate, very comforting and very reassuring when Dirk shoots his first porn scene. The one individual who really holds all of these misfits together is Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner, the porn film director. He’s the paternal one who believes in his artistic merits of shooting porn but with a story, and only with the integrity of film, and never the cheapness of videotape. So, Jack is like any artist who insists on a certain type of canvas. It might be smut, but he has principles, and he has pride.

Anderson is wise in how he divides up the developments. The film begins in the late 1970s during evening night life and decadence and everything seems fine and innocent and right despite the endless debauchery of reckless sex and drug use on a Disco backdrop. Wahlberg’s character is welcomed lovingly into this world, and nothing appears wrong. It all seems to stay that way for Dirk until New Year’s Eve, 1979. The 80s begin with a gunshot and then Anderson’s cast must pay for the revelry of their sins. A great moment presented on this night is where Amber Waves introduces Dirk to cocaine. Dirk has been thriving, making money, developing a following and now it is jeopardized in one moment thanks to his naivety. Julianne Moore is superb in this particular scene against Wahlberg. She’s the mentor with the peer pressure to pass on her high and keep it running.

Drug addiction, violence, sexual abuse and even changes in pop culture lead to hard times for these likable people.

It’s a hard life. It’s a complicated life. Yet it’s not all necessarily illegal. Morally, it might appear wrong, but it’s a life nonetheless.

Anderson was wise to use (at the time, relatively new) filming techniques of Martin Scorsese with rocking period music and fast edits along with savored moments of great steady cam work. One long cut especially works when the film first begins on the streets of Reseda and on into a crowded night club. This industry doesn’t sleep. So, neither will the camera that follows it. The music must also be celebrated. I do not listen to Night Ranger’s Sister Christian without thinking of firecrackers and a dangerously drug addled Alfred Molina playing Russian roulette. Though I know which came first, I also wonder if Three Dog Night’s Momma Told Me Not To Come and Spill The Wine by Eric Burton & War was written to enhance the celebratory introduction for Dirk when he attends his first party at Jack’s house. It’s another great steady cam moment from a driveway, followed by steps in and out of Jack’s house to simply a bikinied girl’s dive in the swimming pool. As a viewer I was absorbed in the California haze. Superior camera work here.

The cast of unknowns at the time were a blessing to this film. Anderson writes each person with care and attention and dimension. They have lives outside of this world like Amber’s child that we never get to meet, thanks in part to her lifestyle. She might be maternal but that doesn’t make her a good mother. Julianne Moore should have won the Oscar she was nominated for. Burt Reynolds’ own legacy seems to carry his role. His distinguished silver hair and well trimmed beard earn him the respect of every cast member and he performs with a quiet grace of knowledge, and insight, even if he will inevitably be wrong with how things turn out. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays the dumb kid Scotty insecure and unsure of his homosexual attraction to Dirk. It’s not easy to play a dumb character when you are not doing it for laughs. Hoffman makes a huge impact with little dialogue but Anderson is wise enough to capitalize on him.

Boogie Nights offers one of the best cast of characters and assembled talents in any film ever made. An individual movie could be made about each of these people, and it’d be interesting and entertaining.

Try to avoid a blush and mock at the industry depicted because then you’ll see how another walk of life truly lives day to day. It might be porn. It might be smut. Yet, it’s still a thriving industry.


By Marc S. Sanders

Forgive me! I’m going into the woods or, rather, outer space a little on this review.

Director James Gunn brings new perspective to Marvel Studios’ Guardians Of The Galaxy, by recognizing the one instinct that every person possesses but is not acted upon often enough…the instinct to dance.

I love to watch characters (not part of a standard song and dance musical) break out into dance. It comes out of nowhere while it humanizes the person. I write my own plays that way, and I award my characters the opportunity to dance as well. I love it when I see it because it’s always a surprise and always welcomed with a smile. Think of that great moment in John Hughes The Breakfast Club, when the five kids let it all out after they’ve let it all out among themselves in confidence. Look at Eddie Murphy boogie in a night club in 48 hrs and Beverly Hills Cop, and look past the crappy script of Footloose for one of the silliest and most fun dance soundtracks to bop your head to. That last bit offered some inspiration for James Gunn especially. Dancing is needed in life. Dancing brings a surge of security as we shed our inhibitions for a fleeting moment. James Gunn reminds his audience of that. If you can’t smile and tap your toe to at least one fresh minute of GOTG then I worry for your soul.

Try not to smile when you first see lead hero Peter Quill aka Star Lord shake, slide and lip sync out by himself on a marooned, wasted planet to the melody of Come And Get Your Love by Redbone. Yes. Don’t deny it! Your head was shifting and your foot was shaking when you first saw this moment.

Gunn hit on all the right notes with a film that could have torpedoed straight to B class junk in another director/writer’s hands.

GOTG focuses more on the humor than any of the zippy outer space special effects. Everyone is having a good time, even the bad guys.

The story more or less focuses on the pursuit and take away/get back of a MacGuffin. Because that’s so simple, Gunn doesn’t have to concern his script with logic and over plotting. Instead, he can offer time for great naive one liners from brutish Dave Bautista as lovable Drax The Destroyer (do I really need to explain this character? ) and Rocket Raccoon (do I really need to explain this character as well?). There’s a giant tree named Groot who will happily tell you “I am Groot” in case that wasn’t clear to you, and a tough as nails, green skinned Gamora played by Zoe Saldana. She, along with Chris Pratt as Quill, have great chemistry together as they develop a caring friendship amid their competitiveness and wacky action. A pause in the play to allow a sway and flow dance for Saldana and Pratt to Elvin Bishop’s Fooled Around And Fell In Love is hypnotic as Gunn stages it against a gorgeous purple galaxy sky with random yellow sparkles raining down. I could stay in that scene forever.

Main focus goes to Quill who pirates the galaxy while not knowing much about his father and keeps the memory of his Earth mother alive with her “Awesome Mix Tape Vol 1.” He’s a lone pirate with no allegiance, and happily scavenges items for pay from the highest bidder. Pratt has fun with his breakout cinematic role. He laughs, he teases and yup, he dances.

On a first viewing, GOTG can leave you a little bewildered as you try to comprehend what weird name belongs with what weird character and what is everyone talking about. Your next viewing will feel like an invitation to a night club because you’ll realize whatever exposition Gunn’s script offers is really not significant.

James Gunn offers a pleasure piece of sights and musical sounds. One motif I like about his fictional galaxy is that no two characters look the same. It reminded me of George Lucas’ first Star Wars film. The famous cantina scene never shows two of the same species of alien. That’s all that’s needed to imply the vastness of the population. Unlike the Aquaman, James Gunn doesn’t feel the need to show you every inch of this universe to prove just how big it all is. He adopts the means of many extras all with their unique look.

The villain is Lee Pace, a guy who’d make a great Bond villain actually. He’s hidden behind a lot of costume and makeup as Ronan, and maybe he could’ve been given more to do. There’s not much one on team time between him and the Guardians.

Other fun moments abound though, including a ridiculous daylight chase through a busy planetary downtown, and a ridiculous prison break led by Rocket and Groot that reminded me of a lot of the Zucker brothers humor from their Airplane! and Naked Gun films.

James Gunn manages the biggest and bravest departure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s oh so right and necessary to keep the franchise alive and fresh.

Guardians Of The Galaxy is Marvel Studios’ answer to Looney Tunes and The Muppets. The great Mel Blanc and Jim Henson would have applauded a ridiculous film like this for years on end.


By Marc S. Sanders

Ernie Anderson was the cool voiceover for the ABC television network that would introduce upcoming programs for years. He was a staple of the television industry from the 1970s through the ‘90s. I promise that you or your parents know his sharp, recognizable tempo. So, it makes sense that his son Paul Thomas Anderson would center his multiple story crossover film Magnolia around the television industry, within a 10-block radius in the Hollywood Area. Magnolia presents the off-chance coincidences that somehow happen and the unusual phenomena that can occur when never expected.

Anderson’s three hour epic offers storylines centered around former and present day game show quiz kids (Jeremy Blackmon, William H Macy), the game show host stricken with cancer (Phillip Baker Hall), the drug addicted daughter he’s estranged from (Melora Walters), the dying game show producer (Jason Robards), the producer’s son who is a motivational speaker for men to sexually conquer women (Tom Cruise), and the producer’s gold digging wife (Julianne Moore).

Because the narrative of the film has a biblical theme specifically referencing Exodus 8:2, there are also two good natured guardian angels involved. John C Reilly as a sweet but clumsy police officer proud of his work, and a sentimental hospice nurse played beautifully with bedside sympathy by Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Anderson’s film opens with three stories of random coincidence that resulted in the deaths of three different men. More than likely most people would say these tall tales of legend could only occur in a movie. Yet, the voiceover narrator , Ricky Jay, says they did not, and thus begins one specific day with torrential downpours of rain, where all of these random characters will come in contact with a personal experience of monumental impact that will change their individual lives forever. Oddly enough, all these people are somehow connected to one another and are within blocks of each other located near Magnolia Blvd in the Hollywood Hills.

Like Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson directs a film of very weighty emotions that thematically focuses on the sins of fathers that carried over to the futures of their children. The game show is titled “What Do Kids Know?” which likely symbolizes what they didn’t know while at the behest of their parents during their youth. What they know now about their fathers is a burden to bear in insecurities, drug abuse and outright cruelty for the opposite sex. Every character represents some aspect of this ongoing theme during Magnolia. It’s a lot, a whole of information, but fortunately it moves at a very swift pace with an energetic steady cam and dramatic notes of instrumental soundtracks.

Anderson consistently shows different references to Exodus 8:2 by either using the numbers in clocks or decks of cards or temperature readings of the weather or on marquee signs. It’s almost like a scavenger hunt when seeing the film on a multiple viewings.


“But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs.”

Sure. Most recognize the Bible verse as Moses’ decree to Pharaoh to release the Jews from Egypt. I like to think Anderson used Magnolia to release his beloved, but damaged, characters from their own sins or the sins of their fathers. Set them free even if it could be by means of confession, judgment, offering and begging for forgiveness, or journeying towards a personal salvation.

The smart device that Anderson uses is the angelic music of Aimee Mann. Often I talk about how I love when film characters would spontaneously dance. In Magnolia, the cast surprisingly breaks into song with Mann’s confessional number entitled “Wise Up.” It more or less summarizes each individual plight that all the various characters must endure. Magnolia is only an even better film because of Mann’s music.

Magnolia is a beautiful film that I draw many personal parallels from, especially having now lost both of my parents and being by my father’s bedside during his difficult final days of illness.

It is very touching, sometimes funny, and sometimes a difficult film to watch with a belief in random coincidence that is only stronger after watching it.

Like the film insists “we may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” After Magnolia finishes, you won’t be through with Paul Thomas Anderson’s film. It’s a film that will stay with you.


by Miguel E. Rodriguez

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman
My Rating: 4/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 87% Certified Fresh

PLOT: In a dystopian near-future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or be transformed into an animal.

[So, yeah, this is about 1,800 words of how much I disliked the majority of this movie, so this review is FULL OF SPOILERS, because it pissed me off so much…if you have ANY interest in seeing this movie, I’d seriously advise against reading this review.  I’d advise you MORE against SEEING the movie, but whatever, dealer’s choice.]

“The course of your relationship will be monitored closely by our staff and by me personally. If you encounter any problems, any tensions, any arguing, that you cannot resolve yourselves, you will be assigned children. That usually helps, a lot.” – Hotel Manager (Olivia Colman)

(That’s the best line in the movie, just thought you should get the highlight now.)


I first became interested in The Lobster after discovering The Favourite, one of the very best films of 2018.  I thought director Yorgos Lanthimos’s vision and directorial style were stunningly original, and the story was exquisitely well-acted by all three of the female leads.  So, by extension, I figured The Lobster would be more of the same.  It came highly recommended by other friends, and I remember seeing it in stores with that now-familiar “Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes” sticker.

Well, I just finished watching The Lobster on Netflix.  It was, putting it mildly, a major letdown.

It had a promising start.  The opening scene features a woman driving wordlessly through some countryside.  She stops on the side of the road, and as she exits the car, you can see she’s carrying a revolver.  She calmly walks into a field and approaches a nearby donkey and…well, let me just say that my attention was immediately grabbed.

Eventually, the audience is fed enough information to deduce that, for reasons left unexplained, single people from The City (it’s never referred to by its proper name) are being trucked to a resort hotel in the country.  Their personal possessions are confiscated, and they are assigned small rooms with single beds.  They are calmly informed that, if they manage to pair up with another hotel guest, they will both be relocated to a room with a queen bed, and from there to a yacht.  (They are mum about what’s supposed to happen after that.)

If, however, you are unable to pair up with someone after 45 days, you will be literally transformed into an animal.  You are permitted to decide which animal.  Well, naturally. (David, our “hero” (Colin Farrell), wants to be a lobster if his time comes, although not for any reasons that Phoebe Bouffay might celebrate…)

So…yeah.  You’ve basically got Logan’s Run meets Black Mirror.


For the first section of the film, taking place mostly in and around the resort, I was mesmerized.  It felt like the best films of Spike Jonze, or even Monty Python.  For example, The Hotel strictly prohibits masturbation.  When John C. Reilly’s character breaks this rule, his punishment is bizarre but, I would imagine, 100% effective.  (And let me just say, it’s probably not what you’re thinking.)

Another bizarre moment: sexual intercourse with any other guest while still single is also strictly prohibited, but as part of the “treatment” for a single person, once a day, a maid comes to your room to replace any tranquilizer darts you may have used the previous night (long story) and then performs, for lack of a better word, a lap dance.  This dance, while technically “erotic”, is drained of any sexual chemistry.  It defies description.  It is one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen on film in recent years.

Now, I LIKE bizarre.  This whole opening third of the film is right up my alley.  I had literally NO idea where any of this was headed, and that thrills me. But then…disaster strikes, at least from my point of view.

David, Colin Farrell’s character, can take it no longer and engineers an escape from the Hotel.  In the surrounding forests, he discovers a band of Loners, single people who survive off the land, as they are unwelcome in The City.  They pride themselves on being able to do what they want where they want (as long as it’s not in The City), but they ALSO have strict rules about not pairing up.  Masturbation: A-OK.  Hooking up: VERBOTEN.

From an allegorical point of view, I believe The Hotel represents the cult of Couplehood, or Marriage, if you like, that tends to assault single folks, in one way or another, their entire single life.  (Argue with me all you want, but if you want concrete examples, look no further than television commercials, game, set, match.)  On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the cult of Singularity [my own name, not from the film], the folks who love being single so much that, when their friends couple up, the single friend backs off from invitations and begs off of parties and fades away, because who needs that pressure, am I right?

So the rules of the Loners make sense from that perspective.  But…from a STORY perspective, the movie comes to a stop once David finds himself in that forest.  He meets a beautiful woman (Rachel Weisz, credited only as “Short Sighted Woman”), they flirt surreptitiously, they develop a forbidden relationship, they go undercover into the city with another faux couple (just to prove they can, I guess), and then they are discovered by the leader of the Loners.  The Loner leader tricks Short Sighted Woman into seeing an eye doctor on the pretense of getting her vision corrected, but instead, the doctor [SPOILER ALERT] blinds her as punishment for her transgression.

BLINDS her.  Don’t you think a severe tongue-lashing and two nights without food or water would have sufficed here?  I mean, what the actual f***?

At this point, I was getting tired of this story.  I felt bogged down by melodrama after a seriously promising start.  (For example, the way in which the forbidden relationship between David and Short Sighted Woman was discovered was absurdly preventable; it felt like something that happened only because the screenplay required it, not because it was something the characters would actually do.)


So, now we’re at the REAL reason I disliked this movie so much.  If you’ve stuck with me this long, we’re at the home stretch.  MAJOR spoiler follows, so last chance to bail.

David and the newly-blinded S.S.W. engineer a second escape and wind up on foot on a country road, presumably heading into The City.  At this point, I made a startling realization.  From an allegorical point of view, David and S.S.W., at least to a small degree, represented my relationship with my own girlfriend.  They were in a relationship, but not an officially “sanctioned” one (Marriage), so they don’t belong in The City.  And they’re a couple, but not truly “single”, so they don’t belong at The Hotel.  They’re in relationship limbo, at least as far as cultural designations go.

I was like, “Hey!  Finally, a movie that acknowledges a relationship like mine!  …although I certainly don’t feel like I’m navigating a no-man’s land, but at least we’re being represented in some small way.”

So.  They wind up at a diner, where David makes a decision: he will blind himself with a steak knife.

What.  The f**k.  What is this plot point supposed to represent in this allegory?  The need (requirement?) for one partner in a relationship to make drastic changes to themselves, physically or otherwise, in order to belong with the other person?  I understand the need for change and compromise in ANY relationship, but here’s my two cents: if you decide your relationship depends on you BLINDING YOURSELF for your partner, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself.

So, picture the scene: David leaves blind S.S.W. at the table and heads to the bathroom.  We see him preparing to do the deed.  The knife is in his hand.  He stuffs paper towels in his mouth to stifle the screams that are sure to come.  He holds the steak knife with the point JUST about to penetrate the eyeball.  Suddenly, CUT back to S.S.W. at the table.  Waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting some more.  A waiter refreshes her water glass.  She continues waiting.  Through the diner window, construction is in progress across the street.  She waits.  And waits.  And waits.


Reader, I am being 100% truthful when I say, at that point, I literally flipped the double-bird at my TV screen and yelled out, “WHAT THE F**K!!!”

I mean, seriously…what is the POINT of that dangling participle of an ending?  There are only three possible outcomes: he blinds himself and returns to S.S.W., OR he chickens out and returns to S.S.W., OR he chickens out and bails on S.S.W.  Since we get the Schrodinger’s Cat ending, it is simultaneously ALL of those endings and NONE of those endings, which is extraordinarily FRUSTRATING BEYOND BELIEF.  I got NO resolution to the story OR the characters.  Do they try to find safe harbor in The City, perhaps on forged documents?  Do they travel the country, taking only the back roads and taking shelter in backyard sheds or hastily dug shelters?  ARE THEY BOTH BLIND during all this?

Don’t tell me, “Well, it’s up to you what happens.  What do YOU think he does?”  I don’t know, I DIDN’T WRITE THE SCREENPLAY.  Farrell plays the character with an almost childlike simplicity, so it’s impossible to predict what he’ll do.  This serves the story extremely well in the first part of the movie, but it does the viewing audience no favors when it comes to this absurd anti-climax.

I felt short-changed and cheated at the end of this movie.  And I really liked the characters, and I liked the first third of the story, and I stuck with it hoping it would arrive at a grand conclusion, some epic, symbolic imagery that would bring things full circle or SOMETHING.  And I got bupkis.  That’s not how you treat a viewer, folks.  I felt insulted.

So.  Despite my hatred for the ending, I still give it a 4 (rounding up 1/3 of 10) because of how original and oddball the first third of the film was, and how much promise it displayed.  If they had stuck with that tone all the way through, I could see this REALLY being a gem.  As it is, I would like to quote Admiral Ackbar:



By Marc S. Sanders

You and your family are likely to be entertained with Disney’s Ralph Breaks The Internet featuring John C Reilly voicing the title character and reunited with Sarah Silverman as his trusty, spunky video game racer companion Vanellope.

Reilly and Silverman have perfect timing. Their voice work plays so well, it wouldn’t be too outrageous to see them do a live action comedy together one day.

Disney has made another winning animated film but this Ralph plays superbly as a comedy. As the title suggests, Ralph and Vanellope end up in the world wide internet and beginning with an out of control bid on an item in eBay, they cause a mess of trouble for themselves. Along the way their friendship is tested as they realize things never can stay the same forever. Honestly, Disney’s films have offered up more fleshed out life lessons in other films. Never mind though. It doesn’t weigh down the film in kitschiness.

There’s much to offer in high speed car chases with Gal Gadot as a stunning tough, leather clad roadster in a game called Slaughter Race; a far cry from the innocence of Sugar Rush but still a reminder of the violent fare offered up today. No worries, parents, it’s all shown in a G rated fashion nonetheless. As well, Ralph comes face to face with user commentary that isn’t always the most flattering and the trends of You Tube videos.

Everything is familiar to a 2018 viewer and we are seeing new things as we actually get an imagination as to how the internal workings of the internet engage with one another. It’s an invented engineering of science as we see how viruses might interact and an “Ask Jeeves” encyclopedic character voiced by Alan Tudyk rapidly presumes your question as you offer up a word at a time.

The all time highlights of the film come from the Disney Princesses and how they socialize outside of their films. It’s so hysterical. Maybe the funniest moments on screen of the entire year. Even more impressive is that the original voice actors were recruited to reprise their respective parts like Jodi Benson as Ariel, Ming Na Wen as Mulan and Idina Menzel as Elsa. You read it here first. Disney will be offering a comedy featuring all of their princesses in one film. I’m telling you. It’s coming. I know it.

Ralph Breaks The Internet is an hysterically inventive comedy. It only falters slightly in its overly long final act featuring a gigantic Ralph made up of millions of little Ralphs (just see the movie to understand what I mean), and the lessons are kinda throwaway, but the gags are fast. The animation is sharp and colorful and the voice cast is second to none.

This is a film that’s worth multiple viewings. You’ll have great fun each time you watch it.

NOTE: Stay to the end for an exceptional end credits scene. I mean its truly exceptional. TRUST ME!!