By Marc S. Sanders

Moonstruck has to be one of the most delightful romantic comedies of all time thanks to an outstanding cast, an intuitive director (Norman Jewison) and a script full of brilliant dialogue and set ups from John Patrick Shanley.

Loretta Castorini (Cher in her Oscar winning role) is a 37 year old widow. Her husband of two years got hit by a bus. So, naturally when her father, Cosmo (the hilarious Vincent Gardenia), hears the news that Loretta got engaged to the boring schlub Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), he knows this is a bad omen and she should not get married again. Sure, her husband got hit by a bus, but that can only mean that marriage is no good for Loretta. When they wake up Rose (Olympia Dukakis in her well-deserved Oscar winning role), Loretta’s mother, to share the news, she just opens her eyes and asks, “Who died?” This is an adorable Italian family living in Brooklyn and somehow an Irishman wrote the script which was then directed by a Jewish mensch, and everyone is working on all Italian cylinders.

Two minutes into the film and I’m laughing. I’m laughing at Johnny’s wimpy proposal in the local Italian restaurant. I’m laughing at Rose and Cosmo who’ve seen enough of life to know that you don’t get married for love anymore. Rose is for Loretta getting married though. Cosmo doesn’t wanna spend the money.

Just after Johnny proposes, he flies off to Sicily to be by his dying mother’s bedside. He requests that Loretta invite his brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage), who he hasn’t spoken to in five years, to the wedding. Ronny is upset with Johnny. Ronny got his hand chopped off in the bread slicer at his bakery when Johnny was talking with him and Ronny looked the other way.

When Loretta approaches Ronny, before you know it, they are sleeping with each other. Ronny then invites Loretta to see La Boheme at the Met that night. Loretta knows it’s wrong and can’t keep this up. It’s a sin. She goes to confession, but then she also goes to buy a new dress and dye the greys out of her hair.

As well, Cosmo is stepping outside of his marriage, only Rose is not so stupid. She knows what’s going on. When Rose is dining alone, a college professor who strikes out with one attractive student after another joins her table. Rose isn’t gonna do anything. Instead, she asks the question on everyone’s mind “Why do men chase women?” Then she answers it. “Because if they don’t, they think they’ll die.” But they’re gonna die anyway. Right?

It sure looks like my column is just summarizing the film but my breakdown of Moonstruck simply celebrates all that’s good about it. Here’s a film that doesn’t stereotype a New York Italian family. Instead, it shows how they regard one another as well as the people within the neighborhood from the eager to please waiter in the restaurant to the mortician that Loretta works for. The mortician spills butter on his tie. Loretta takes the tie off of him and says she’ll get it cleaned.

Life in the home of Castorini family is shown beautifully with natural humor to display its atmosphere. Cosmo’s quiet elderly father with five yappy dogs on leashes is only a part of every passing day. Like I’ve made claim on other films, the best movies offer smart characters. Everyone has a way of carrying themselves in Moonstruck, and they’re not dumb. They might be cheap like Cosmo or wimpy like Johnny or a little dim like Ronny, not dumb, but they’re all wise to how they handle themselves.

This might seem like a relatively easy, untechnical little New York comedy. Norman Jewison, however, uses a great approach that makes each setting feel like you’re watching the most alive stage play you’ve ever encountered. I’m actually surprised this film has yet to be adapted for the stage. Maybe, just maybe, Moonstruck hasn’t made it to live theatre yet because it’d be damned near impossible to recapture the harmony of this magical cast.

I love Moonstruck.


By Marc S. Sanders

Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse is a spectacular new take on a beloved American tradition.

You know you are in for something good when Peter Parker’s Spider-Man introduces himself by reminding the audience how we know his story and the impact his alter ego has had including a cheesy street dance (Spider-Man 3) and an awful looking popsicle stick from the neighborhood ice cream truck. Then it swiftly jumps to a Brooklyn kid named Miles Morales, a good student who loves art and loves his mom and dad as well, even if he gets embarrassed to be seen stepping out of his dad’s patrol car.

Miles resides in one universe that we soon learn is separate from other universes that each have a spider version of their own. Look out though, because the universes are about to collide thanks to the dastardly Kingpin.

I’ll save the rest of the storyline for you to check out. There are some terrific surprises embedded in Miles’ journey to becoming a Spider-Man mixed with tragedy and surprising humor.

The animation took me a little to get used to but it was not a challenge. It’s a slick rainbow of different splashes of color. The action moves fast and I even got chills when a variation of Peter Parker encourages Miles to take a leap of faith, a moment that is inspiring for any young kid no matter if they are a boy, girl, White, Black, Hispanic or whatever.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse reminds you that you can be whatever you want to be. Nothing and no one can stop you. Sure, its lesson sounds trite and done before but this film allows you to soar through inspiration. It’s difficult to describe the exhilaration, really. You have to see it for yourself to understand. Some might not accept this interpretation of the wall crawler. Some will embrace it. I never expected to love this film as much as I did. I was reluctant to see it and only opted to do so, once the incredibly positive reviews came out. This film is worthy of its praise.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse might just be the best animated film of 2018.