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

Claus Von Bülow was not a well liked man. In the 1980s he was put on trial for the attempted murder of his wife Sunny Von Bülow and was found guilty in a courtroom within the state of Rhode Island. However, even guilty men need a lawyer. Alan Dershowitz accepted Claus’ invitation to be his appellate attorney and successfully won the case with the assistance of the best students to come out of his law school classes. Reversal Of Fortune directed by Barbet Schroeder documents the month and a half that Dershowitz had to make a case for overturning Claus’ conviction. The film is based on Dershowitz’ book Reversal Of Fortune: Inside The Von Bülow Case.

Jeremy Irons won the 1990 Best Actor Oscar for portraying the cold and cavalier Claus. He plays the part as if he looks so completely guilty that it’d be foolish to actually think he committed any sort of crime. It’s too obvious to seriously jump to that conclusion.

Glenn Close is Sunny, Claus’ wife. She serves as a narrator from her permanent, seemingly brain dead comatose state. She also appears in flashback moments that account for either her perspective, or Claus’, or the suppositions of Dershowitz (played very effectively by Ron Silver) and his young legal team. Sunny’s voiceover asks the viewer early on “What do you think?”

Sunny was hooked on various pills, chain smoked, ate an abundance of sweets and drank very heavily. She preferred to stay in bed for most of her days. One instance seems to show her in a comatose state lying next to an unalarmed Claus. The maid is disturbed by the nonchalance of the aristocratic husband. A doctor or the police have yet to be phoned. Sunny comes out of that episode but a year later falls into another comatose state. Flashbacks hint at the theory that perhaps Claus was poisoning Sunny to obtain her fortune and keep up with his extra marital affairs. Following her second coma, Sunny’s children hire a private investigator to obtain evidence that was eventually used against Claus in his trial. As an honorable servant of the law, this infuriated Alan Dershowitz who believed this private investigation was biased from the start. Schroeder uses a debate scene with a student (a young Felicity Huffman) for the lawyer to justify his choice to fight for such a hateful man’s appeal. Why were private investigators permitted in the trial? Where’s the public investigation? It also helps that Claus agrees to a large fee to help Dershowitz fund the defense of two brothers on death row for a crime they did not commit.

Schroeder’s film does not make its own claim on the case or the circumstances that accompany it. Rather, he shows you a process. Dershowitz knows that Claus Von Bülow is a “very strange man.” Claus responds to him by saying “You have no idea.” Yet, that doesn’t add up to guilt. A victim can be a victim by means of numerous possibilities and a court of law is fallible. Dershowitz wants to be sure.

Jeremy Irons’ performance is that of a gentleman of an aristocratic and well dressed nature. He finds the humor in being considered the villain. Irons plays the role with determined vagueness. Vague does not account for guilt.

Glenn Close is very good too. Her intoxicated episodes are so delirious that it seems to work in favor of Claus’ innocence. Yet her voiceover narration is sober and clear, but not necessarily accusatory. So it’s hard to know what to believe.

Ron Silver as Alan Dershowitz only focuses on the law and commanding a team of the best legal minds he ever taught. He turns his two story home into a headquarters where his students are compartmentalized into different aspects of the case from the drugs that Sunny took to the background of the Von Bulow’s turbulent marriage. As a means to keep them alert, the departments have basketball tournaments in his driveway. Dribbling the ball and slam dunking while still weighing evidence and legal precedents. Dershowitz is only interested in seeing if there is a case that shows Claus could have been innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. The case swept the nation and in the court of public opinion this creep was found guilty. Ironically, the one who is closest to him now is the one who does not see guilt, despite disturbances in his client.

Reversal Of Fortune is a different kind of mystery caught up in possible outcomes and nothing else. Barbet Schroeder with the help of Dershowitz’ case notes, book and public records made certain to offer all avenues for what really led to Sunny Von Bülow’s vegetative state.

The only concrete fact that this film does offer is that Claus Von Bülow was an untrustworthy creep draped in elegance and formality. There’s no crime in that. Is there?


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.