By Marc S. Sanders

Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is a fun frolic through the Quantum Realm, another dimension that was uncovered in previous chapters within the Ant-Man series of films.  I’m not watching a potential Best Picture nominee for 2023.  I’m watching a glorious kaleidoscope of colors and visual effects with likable characters, and the setup of a new big bad villain for upcoming installments for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It’s not a perfect movie.  It’s corny and hokey at times, but I was with the picture the whole way.

I do believe these sci fi superhero franchise films are getting way too diluted.  I think there are more Marvel films now, all working within a shared universe, then there are episodes of single seasons of television shows.  A lot of these films do not stand apart any longer and hinge on events or hanging threads that occur in prior installments.  It makes for a lot of homework and time spent on the consumer to keep track of everything, and where everyone was last left off.  With Disney + adding in multiple Marvel streaming series to watch as well, I’m sorry but my days feel like they need to be extended beyond the standard 24 hours.  The economic term known as “The Law Of Diminishing Marginal Utility” hearkens back to me at this point, all these years later after we first met Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man in 2008.  Are viewers getting tired of the superhero phenomenon?  Superhero movies rule the box office these days.  Westerns did it four or five generations ago.  How many new westerns do you now see each year?

The blessing of Quantumania is that it does not rely abundantly on other material in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) reintroduces himself in a very adoring Paul Rudd-like way with a voiceover and thereafter, he is unexpectedly sucked into the Quantum Realm, along with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), his current partner Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), aka The Wasp, and his mentors Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne (Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer).  The gang must primarily depend on Janet to navigate them through this world of inconsistency and oddball inhabitants where no two characters seem to look alike.  Janet was marooned in the Quantum Realm for thirty years before finally being rescued.  What concerns her the most is one who is first referred to as “The Conqueror,” and later identified as the frightening superman known as Kang (Jonathan Majors), who was mysteriously exiled to this place.  As Janet describes, Kang has made the prison of the Quantum Realm his empire and now he wants to use the technology that our heroes possess to break free of this dimension and cause all kinds of chaos in the real world and other parallel universes.

The best assets to the film are the scenes between Jonathan Majors and Michelle Pfeiffer.  Granted, their dialogue could apply to any other kind of movie.  A lot of ping pong arguments between the villain and hero, which if I remember correctly go something like “You don’t understand.” and “I’ll never let that happen.”  This verbiage could also be suitable in a Meryl Streep tearjerker or a courtroom drama.  It’s pretty standard.  We’ve seen discussions like this a million times before.  Fortunately, my state of mind was not demanding of thought-provoking conversation.  The magnetism of their acting in front of the expansive CGI environment kept me hooked.   Jonathan Majors simply looks like a very frightening threat.  He’s calm at one point and later raging like a lunatic.  The man has levels.  If he were reciting the ingredients of chocolate chip cookies, I’d be on pins and needles. 

I do not think Quantumania is going to wow most audiences.  In fact, it’ll be a divisive film.  It’ll go half and half.  Though I really do not like to rank films any longer because it feels so pointless, I got into a debate with my wife and daughter about which one was better.  Quantumania or Wakanda Forever.  Both films have their merits, but I left the latest Black Panther film feeling a little depressed and exhausted.  That was a long time to feel morose for a superhero film.  The ladies, however, appreciated the story of that film over this one.  (I wanted to see the Black Panther suit a lot sooner.  I wanted a handful of people to be cut from the film, and I thought the Namor character was very boring.  Look for my review on this site.)

With Quantumania, audiences are either going to like the weirdness that is splashed all over the screen.  Splashed is not a strong enough word.  Try SPLATTERED!!!! Everywhere you look there is something abnormal to see from one corner to the next.  On the other hand, viewers will think the Quantum Realm and its inhabitants are just too bizarre, and the Marvel filmmakers are scraping the bottom of the barrel in imagination.  Sorry, but I got a kick out of the tall stilt guy with a spot light lamp for a head.  I thought the pink goo guy was cute.  I also giggled at the fat head henchman, with scrawny arms and legs, known as M.O.D.O.K. (with Corey Stall, making an MCU return).  The functionality of this character is deliberately lacking and comes off like Looney Tunes cutting room material, but that’s also why he is here.  If there was anything looking remotely normal in the Quantum Realm, well then it isn’t the Quantum Realm, I guess.  Bill Murray even shows up, but if you need a bathroom break, this is when you should go.  All of this looks way too stupid, yes!  Then again, stupid can be entertaining and stupid is often taken with subjectivity. So, I’m just one guy’s opinion. 

Quantumania is maybe the most unsophisticated of all the Marvel films.  More so than the Guardians movies, or the most recent Thor installment.  With a happy go lucky Paul Rudd, an army of ants and some of the most bizarre CGI extras found anywhere it proudly stands tall on that pedestal of ultra, ultra, ULTRA weird.  I think director Peyton Reed accomplished what he set out to do with this film.  The question is will the film win majority of approval within the nerd land of keyboard warriors like myself, who share their perspectives on the internet.  Well, the movie gets my vote at least.


By Marc S. Sanders

Robert Zemekis’ Romancing The Stone is one of those perfect Saturday afternoon rainy day movies. Since it focuses on best-selling author Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), it seems apropos that the movie feels like curling up with a good book.

Upon discovering that her New York apartment has been ransacked, Joan gets a call from her terrified sister who has been kidnapped in Columbia. Joan is instructed to deliver a treasure map in exchange for her sister’s safe return. However, Joan is not as romanticized or adventurous as the characters in her novels. So, her three-piece suit and heels won’t serve well in the wet jungles in which she ends up completely lost. Fortunately, she meets a heroic, handsome guy in the form of Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas). Together, they flee from the parties interested in the map, while trying to find the titled priceless gem.

Zemekis might have been taking an Indiana Jones route with this picture, but it finds its own identity, nonetheless. The fun comes with how Joan adapts to the outdoor elements and escapes the safe and lonely concrete jungles of city life. Turner is great as the one with no clue for travel or the instinct to stay out of a bad situation. It’s amusing to see her encounter and respond to one approaching cliffhanger after another.

There are great scenes here with mud slides, vine swinging, shoot outs and car chases. The best adventures never rely on CGI. A favorite sequence involves a meet up with a Columbian drug runner who helps the pair evade the bad guys in his 4 x 4 truck. That’s one of the many unexpected and wild moments offered here.

A third star is Danny DeVito fast on the trail of Joan and Jack. He’s here as the stooge more or less but he’s added comedy.

The one sad thing about Romancing The Stone is that it’s screenwriter Diane Thomas passed away shortly after her script was sold. Imagine what she could have done based on the promise of this film. This script has focus, fun and outstanding action sequences.

Romancing The Stone is just great escapism.


By Marc S. Sanders

Peyton Reed not only capitalizes on Edgar Wright’s interpretation of Marvel’s Ant-Man, but also on the first chapter of the MCU, Iron Man. The similarities in the two films are so familiar that Ant-Man seems a little boring and redundant. You’ll turn to your seat mate midway through and say “We’ve seen this.”

Nevertheless, Reed’s film is saved thanks to a likable Paul Rudd, a welcome Michael Douglas and a scene stealing Michael Pena. Evangeline Lilly is here but she’s as useful as Gwenyth Paltrow has been. Corey Stoll is the bald villain, like Jeff Bridges before him, and well… LOOK!!! You just needed to find someone to be the villain; the guy interested in stealing technology to use for making a lot of money and other nefarious purposes. You’ve seen it all before.

Pena is given the best stuff to do as Reed takes advantage of visually recounting a “telephone game” story of what he and then what she said and then what he said after that. Michael Pena is a really funny guy who deserves more work. He’ll likely get a lead in an ABC family sitcom one day called Pena or Michael!, let’s say.

Rudd has fun with the stupidity of his superhero name and abilities. Let’s face it. Controlling the minds of ants is not as flashy as Batman and his gadgets or Spider-Man web slinging through the city. Rudd smirks through all of it. So, I felt okay to smirk as well.

The film suffers from a lot of exposition and a few too many characters. In a flashback 80s scene, Douglas’ character (the original Ant-Man) breaks some SHIELD agent’s nose. What’s so special or offensive about this guy? I don’t know. Also, Bobby Cannavale is a pain in the ass cop for Rudd to deal with, but more or less you’d have the same film if he was excised from the final cut.

Reed saves his movie with a really fun ending consisting of a battle involving shrinking and enlarging and shrinking again aboard a Thomas The Train Engine toy playset. It’s Rudd as Ant-Man vs Stoll as Yellowjacket (very cool looking and not used enough). As well, you can’t help but smile when you see a fifty foot high toy train crash through a house.

This is a scrappy little film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and not much seems original, but you got a cast that’s likable and an ending to be entertained by.

Nothing special, but nothing terrible either.


By Marc S. Sanders

When Adrian Lyne’s Oscar nominated film hit theatres in 1987, apparently men thought twice about having an extra marital affair. It wasn’t enough that a man could violate the marital bond of commitment. No. Now he could get his loving wife and child killed.

Fatal Attraction works as a great psychological study for its first three quarters of film. Then it slogs its way into a slasher/horror fest of burned bunnies and gutting kitchen knife hysteria. The ending was an insult to the intelligence of everything we had seen before.

An unstable woman who knows she’s destroying a man’s happy home life is doing even worse by destroying herself. Mentally she cannot control what she commits and what she obsesses over. She is ill. This unstable woman is played by Glenn Close, and it is evident that she has done her research in psychopaths. Close is great at simply changing the inflection in her voice. In the beginning of the film, she has a relaxed whisper about herself as she exudes seductiveness.

Later, her tone is sharp, accusatory, patronizing, and intimidating. By the end, a new whisper of a psychotic personality threatens. The role is played by Close as if she is changing from one number to the next on a musical instrument.

The man in this scenario is worse. He gets his rocks off and tries to move on unaware of the collateral damage he leaves the woman with, and beyond presumption of how his break in trust will wreak havoc on his loving wife and young child. His moral crimes are nowhere near as apparent as the obsessed woman’s. At least she has evidence of a psychological symptom. He’s just an ignorant jerk when it comes down to it. Michael Douglas was just right for this role of a very successful lawyer with good looks and brash silliness with his friends and wife, while also being an attentive father. Yet, he’s also good at letting his guard down, foolishly assuming he can put it back up again once his weekend fling is over.

The film really is a duel in the aftermath of adultery. Disturbing phone calls, the demand for contact to stop, the nagging need for ongoing affection. It’s all orchestrated very well. Then, comes the crazy person who boils a bunny to generate a frightful scream from its audience followed by knives and blood and the last minute (SPOILER ALERT) “she’s not really dead” shocker. The delicate nature of a common and sensitive scenario is exploited for sudden jumps and terror.

James Dearden’s screenplay is so well thought out until it is executed desperately for box office returns in its last five minutes. Granted, Dearden had a different ending in mind, more appropriate to earlier references to Madame Butterfly. Hollywood decided to nix that plan and go with a more satisfying comeuppance for the villain, or rather one of the villains. What a shame.

Personal note: I’d seen Fatal Attraction before, but this is the first time I’m watching it in well over 11 years. I could never get myself to watch a late scene in the film where Close’s character takes Douglas’ daughter for a day of fun on a roller coaster. It was too real. Too disturbing. It was too easily done, and as a father it was too nightmarish for me.


By Miguel E. Rodriguez

Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, etcetera, etcetera…
My Rating: 10/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 96% Certified Fresh

PLOT: After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War, the universe is in ruins. With help from some of their remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more to try to undo Thanos’ actions.

I have tried several different drafts of this review, and I simply am unable to write a decent review without necessarily revealing spoilers.





You have been warned.

For starters, Avengers: Endgame is not my favorite movie in the MCU.  (That title still goes to the incredibly complex, endlessly debatable Captain America: Winter Soldier, the superhero movie for people who hate superhero movies.)  BUT…Endgame contains my single favorite moment in the entire franchise.  It occurs during the climactic battle, and it involves…hardware.  YOU know what I’m talking about.

That aside, while Endgame is a more-than-worthy sendoff for the 11-year-long story arc, and is Hollywood spectacle at its best, I gotta be honest and say that the 3-hour running time was starting to get to me around about the 2-hour mark.  Yes, the plot threads all had to be woven together to bring everything to a head for the ultimate showdown, and I wouldn’t dream of eliminating anything that I saw, but it just was feeling a little slow.

Other than that…it gets all A’s across the board.

  • ACTION – I haven’t seen CGI action on this scale since the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  Or Avengers: Infinity War, take your pick.  I can only imagine the headaches and nervous breakdowns experienced by the hordes of CGI artists who painstakingly created the outstanding battle scenes.  They were incredibly dense, but I was never unable to see any of the key moments involving key characters.  Nothing was too dark or murky.  It was an event.
  • HUMOR – In spite of the heaviness of the proceedings, the filmmakers never lost sight of their origins: COMIC books.  From the first appearance of Thor in residence at New Asgard, to Stark’s never-ending supply of dry one-liners, to Hulk’s selfie in the diner, the audience is always kept from falling into major depression, even after some really, REALLY dark moments in the story.
  • CLOSURE – The film ends the way it does because it HAD to.  Some of the original actors are just getting too old to do it anymore, folks, that’s just the way it is.  Hugh Jackman hung up his claws on Wolverine because he was getting too old to get into that kind of shape anymore.  And some other actors are just ready to move on.  It’s time.  Regardless, though, the way that certain characters were granted their own particular curtain call…it was IMMENSELY satisfying, not a bit gratuitous, and even noble for everyone involved.  I wasn’t moved to tears myself, but there were audible sniffles in the movie theater.

(I did also REALLY like the abandoned New York cityscapes after we jump ahead in the timeline a little bit.  I’ve always LOVED the concepts of modern edifices and cities left to ruin after abandonment.  That’s one of the reasons I really love I Am Legend.  BUT I DIGRESS.)

So, yes, it’s worth the hype.  They got it right.  It is a fitting final chapter to one of the most amazing cinematic achievements in history.  It IS a little long, but I can get over that.

And I am stoked to see what comes next.


By Marc S. Sanders

David Fincher is a director always focused on playing tricks with the viewer’s mind. His earliest films from Alien 3 (a poor installment in a celebrated franchise) to Se7en (an unrealistic yet frighteningly suspenseful serial killer story) to his third motion picture The Game, a movie that throws you off from the beginning of each scene to the end of each scene are best examples of this technique. It’s a little jarring, and I’m happy to watch it that way.

This film only works if you mask what’s really happening by showing you what’s fake instead. I know I sound vague but those that have seen The Game would probably agree that is the point. It’s based off a screenplay (by John Brancato & Michael Faris) that strategizes itself like a Dungeon Master setting up a Friday night in the basement with some buddies to play some role playing games with a 20 sided die.

Michael Douglas is really the only guy who could play Nicholas Van Orton, a millionaire with everything but really has nothing; no friends, no spouse (any longer), no one to care about. Beyond his fortune, all he has are a weirdly estranged brother, played by Sean Penn, and his attorney only there to ask Nicky “Should I be worried?” The film takes place during Nick’s 48th birthday. Normally, the song would go “Happy Birthday Nicky.” However, for Douglas’ cold protagonist, the lyrics are “Happy Birthday Mr. Van Orton.” A man with everything, who really has nothing.

Penn gives him a card with a number to call. This is his birthday present to Nicky. Then the paranoia presents itself little by little; a wooden clown doll, a tv that talks to Nick, a leaky pen, spilled drinks, and soon Nicky’s life is threatened.

Why are these things happening? What’s with the keys? What’s with the waitress who keeps turning up, played by Debra Kara Unger so effectively that she arguably carries the riddles most convincingly? Unger is brilliant at twisting the story over and over. Another great player is well recognized character actor, the late James Rebhorn (also known from Scent of a Woman) who gets the ball rolling and then wraps up the answers later on.

Fincher plays with the mind quietly but never at a slow pace. There’s a consistent tinkling of piano keys that seem to work as puzzle pieces being matched up. It’s much more disturbing to go this route than with grand horns and bass.

When I saw The Game initially in 1997, I started to piece together how to write multi dimensional characters. There’s a past that gnaws at Nick’s psyche sprinkled with glimpses of his father committing suicide. Fincher offers up a background to Nick by means of grainy home movie footage. It all seems quick and taken for granted but it’s necessary to understand Douglas’ cold demeanor and it circles back beautifully towards the film’s unexpected ending. It works so well as a motivator for Nick that I often circle back to its presentation when I write my own scripts.

There’s a great, short scene that sets up the 3rd act. Probably Michael Douglas’ best scene ever in a film, in my opinion. Nick walks into a diner in a dirty suit with scratches on his face. He asks for everyone’s attention and offers up his last $18 to anyone who can offer him a ride. The character is humbled and changed. An arc is completing itself on the other end. It’s a scene that maybe doesn’t belong here until you realize it does. In another director’s hands, a scene like this would be cut or never shot. Fincher took advantage of Douglas’ technique for substituting intimidating power with humble gratitude to simply be able to just ask for a favor. A new character is born in a most efficient 90 seconds of film. It’s a great moment.

See The Game whether you haven’t seen it yet or to watch it again to remind yourself how all the pieces come together.

You might argue that this can’t be realistic but suspend your disbelief because that is what David Fincher always strives for. You’ll be glad you did. Trust me, or maybe…don’t trust anyone?!?!?!?


By Marc S. Sanders

After watching One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for the first time in many years, I recognized a political dual taking place on the battleground of an insane asylum. Director Milos Foreman sets the stage for one patient to win over the community from the Head Nurse in charge.

Jack Nicholson is Randall P McMurphy, a criminal who is transferred to the asylum for examination even though there are likely suspicions he’s faking his current condition as a means to escape prison life work detail. Louise Fletcher is his opponent as Nurse Ratched who has maintained an organized control over the floor of 19 men with an assortment of mentally unwell behavior.

McMurphy is a cut up as soon as he joins the gang. At first he appears observant during Ratched’s daily sessions where she asks the men to contribute to the discussion but at the same time she couldn’t be less encouraging. She’s happy to welcome ideas with open arms but don’t disrupt the process. There will also be “Medication Times” and there will be samples of classical and childlike music to subdue the patients as well. McMurphy may request the volume be lowered, but that’s not a simple request that Nurse Ratched will honor.

McMurphy’s experience outside the realm of insanity works as a wake up call for some of the men which consist of introductory performances from great character actors like Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito and Vincent Schiavelli. The stand out is Brad Dourif as Billy Bibbit, the stuttering suicidal young man with the baby face who fears his mother’s judgment as Nurse Ratched methodically continues to imply.

McMurphy wins over the crowd eventually. A fascinating scene is when Ratched challenges McMurphy to obtain enough votes among the men in order to watch the World Series. The count of raised hands appears to tie, but then Ratched reminds him that he needs one more vote to win. Before he can get to that point, the session is ended by Ratched. The call for election is lost due to a technicality by the governing control. An election won’t silence the voice of the people as McMurphy quickly encourages the masses to watch a blank television screen imagining his own interpretation of the game. Ratched can only domineer to a certain degree. Here’s the flaw in the Ratched character. At last a breakthrough among these ill men is established as they’ve learned to vote for themselves. They want to watch a baseball game. Ratched won’t stand for progress though.

Questions arise in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Is McMurphy truly faking his mental condition? Is Ratched so drunk on control to disregard doctors’ opinions for his release and keep him institutionalized? If he’s not insane, then why would she want him there? Is it all about Ratched’s obsession with winning?

Ken Kesey wrote the original novel the film is based on. He hated Foreman’s approach particularly with disregarding telling his story from the perspective of the deaf/mute six foot five Native American that McMurphy regards as “Chief” (Will Sampson). Chief seems to be the quiet one who does not take sides until McMurphy demonstrates the ease of obtaining freedom such as when the Chief helps him escape over a barb wire fence and then takes the men on a boating joy ride. I can’t side with Kesey’s insistence that the film be done from the perspective of the silent, yet memorable Chief. Film is a different medium than what’s read on a page. You can’t watch people’s thoughts. What I do find interesting is that Kesey opted for a Native American as McMurphy’s best sidekick. This is a man whose ancestors historically lost their land. McMurphy attempts to rob the rule of the asylum from Nurse Ratched. The political undertones just seem so apparent. The government control, however, is hard pressed to surrender even after McMurphy arranges for his own party of celebration complete with booze and alcohol. Ultimately, and sadly, the fate of McMurphy shows that he eventually becomes a product of his own environment. The Chief however, acknowledges his independence though.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is the second of three films to win the five main Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay). It deserved it, and because of the film’s unsettling and messy nature it’s almost surprising that it was so well received. It’s not a glamorous film. It can show the ugliness of men drowning in their own consciousness.

At the same time, the film shows the subtle yet brutal control of those living fulfilling lives at the expense of the constituents they oversee. Sure, let’s have an open minded community of provoking thoughts, but only if it’s confined to the restrictions that remain in place. Step outside those lines and a more permanent technique will be applied so you adapt to what’s mandated…unless you can bodily lift a concrete water fountain and smash it through a cage bar enclosed window to freedom.