Cover-Up (1991, directed by Manny Coto)

After an overseas U.S. army base is bombed by terrorists, L.A. Times reporter Mike Anderson (Dolph Lundgren) is sent to Israel to get the story.  Before he became a reporter, Mike was a Marine and he has connections within the U.S. intelligence services.  Mike quickly figures out that CIA honcho Lou Jackson (Lou Gossett, Jr.) is covering something up about the bombing.  The terrorists who bombed the base have also stolen an experimental nerve gas.  Mike is ordered to stay out of the investigation but after Mike’s best friend, Jeff Cooper (John Finn), is blown up by a car bomb, Mike is determined to get justice.  He’s also determined to sleep with his dead best friend’s girlfriend (Lisa Berkley), who is also Mike’s ex.  It turns out that it’s a lot easier to betray a friend’s confidence than to stop terrorists from stealing nerve gas.

When it came to the second-tier action stars of the 90s, Jean-Claude Van Damme was the one who could actually do everything that he did on screen in real life, Steven Seagal was the one who never seemed to get the joke, and Dolph Lundgren was the one who could actually act.  Even in a film that was pure schlock, like Cover-Up, Lundgren usually gave a good performance.  Unfortunately, Lundgren’s performance couldn’t make up for Cover-Up‘s anemic action scenes and incoherent plot.  No one seems to be sure what they’re supposed to be doing in this movie.  Lou Gossett, Jr. survives by playing his role as being pissed off all the time.  Lundgren survives by playing Mike as being even more confused than Gossett.  There’s a weak car chase and a weak shower scene.  Mike really doesn’t waste any time when it comes to hooking up with his best friend’s girl.

Cover-Up was filmed on location in Israel and it does work as a travelogue.  Towards the end of the film, Lundgren runs through a mass of people who are reenacting the Twelve Stations of Christ.  The people were actually in Israel to celebrate Easter and no one informed them that they were about to become a part of a movie.  When Lundgren comes barreling through the crowd, their shock is authentic.  It’s the best part of the movie, even if it did lead to Lundgren being temporarily detained by security.  Fortunately, production was able to clear-up the misunderstanding and Lundgren was freed so that he could go on to star in Universal Soldier and reprise Ivan Drago in Creed II.  I’m glad the Lundgren survived filming but Cover-Up is otherwise forgettable.

Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 2.5 “Julie’s Aunt/Where Is It Written?/The Big Deal”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Wednesdays, I will be reviewing the original Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986!  The series can be streamed on Paramount Plus!

Things get a bit icky this week.  Ugh!

Episode 2.5 “Julie’s Aunt/Where Is It Written?/The Big Deal”

(Dir by Allen Baron, originally aired on October 14th, 1978)

How icky can one cruise get?

Well, consider this.  On this week’s episode of The Love Boat, Captain Stubing’s uncle (Red Buttons) is a passenger on the boat.  Uncle Cyrus decides that he likes Julie.  How does he express how much he likes Julie?  He invites her to his cabin and then lunges at her and starts kissing her.  Julie runs out of the cabin and Uncle Cyrus chases her through the corridors of the boat.  Once Julie does get away from him, she tells Doc and Gopher about what happened.  Doc and Gopher both think that it’s funny.

(Uhmm, guys, this isn’t some old guy with a crush.  This is someone who invited the cruise director to his cabin …. AND ATTACKED HER!)

Everyone agrees that Julie should just try to avoid Cyrus and that she should not tell the Captain about what happened.  Unfortunately, because Uncle Cyrus told the Captain about how much he enjoys Julie’s company, Stubing insists that Julie spend as much time as possible with Uncle Cyrus.  Every time that Julie goes down to his cabin, Cyrus grabs her and starts kissing her.  Scene after scene, Julie has to push Cyrus off of her so that she can escape, screaming, into the hallway.

Finally, realizing that she can’t go on like this, Julie realizes that she has to do something, even if both Doc Bricker and Gopher refuse to take the situation seriously.  Out of the three choice below, which do you think she goes with?

  1. Call the police
  2. Tell Captain Stubing and demand that he call the police
  3. Have Gopher dress up like a woman and pretend to be a member of the police

If you picked number three, you could have been a writer for The Love Boat!

Ugh!  I hated everything about this storyline!

I wasn’t a fan of the other two storylines as well.  The first featured Hope Lange as Sandra Newberry, the wife of publisher Alfred Newberry (Gene Barry).  She is upset to discover that Alfred has invited a Norman Maileresque writer named Mark Littlejohn (Richard Mulligan) to accompany them on the cruise.  Alfred wants Mark to hurry up and finish the final chapter of his autobiography.  Make wants to steal Sandra away.  In the end, Alfred and Mark get into a fight.  They’re too clumsy to actually hit each other but they do manage to knock out Captain Stubing.  Again, you would think that this would be the sort of thing that would eventually involve the police but instead Stubing just accepts a payment that will come from the royalties of Mark’s book.  Whatever.  Go deal with your uncle, Captain.

Finally, Martin Scott (Allen Ludden) is a businessman who is selling his business to Brad Collins (Sam Groom).  Martin’s daughter, Allison (Mackenzie Phillips), feels like she has to date Brad even though she’s actually in love with a musician named Jim Warren (Erik Estrada).  It was hard not to feel that, intentionally or not, Martin was basically pimping out his daughter.  Again, it was just icky.

This was not a fun cruise.  Hopefully, next week will be better.

Film Review: Luther: The Fallen Sun (dir by Jamie Payne)

A serial killer (Andy Serkis) is terrorizing London.

With the help of a worldwide network of hackers, the Killer is able to spy on random people and catch them doing and saying things online that they wouldn’t want their friends, families, and coworkers to find out about.  The Killer than blackmails his targets, forcing them into committing bigger and bigger crimes for him.  The Killer pushes his victims to their limits and then he arranges for them to die.  Sometimes, he kills them.  Sometimes, he forced them to kill themselves.  The Killer is a smirking sadist, a force of chaos who is empowered by the isolation and loneliness of the modern world.

The Killer’s latest victim is a young cleaner who disappears on a rainy night.  Assigned to the case is DCI John Luther (Idris Elba), a detective who is famous for both his brilliance and his determination.  Luther promises the missing cleaner’s mother (Hattie Morahan, giving a poignant performance in a small but important role) that he will find her son.  The Killer is frustrated to discover that Luther doesn’t spend much time online and, hence, cannot be blackmailed.  However, the Killer’s associates discover that Luther has frequently broken the law in order to catch criminals.  When this information is released to the press, Luther is not only kicked off the force but he also ends up in prison.  All of his fellow prisoners want to kill him.  The police view him as being a disgrace.  Luther has very few allies left in the world but he’s determined to keep the promise that he made to the cleaner’s mother.  When the Killer himself starts to send taunting messages to Luther, Luther decides that his only option is escape from prison and bring the Killer to justice himself.

Luther: The Fallen Sun is a follow-up to the BBC television series, which followed Luther as he worked for London’s Metropolitan Police Service and as he struggled with his own personal demons.  The film begins by bringing Luther’s career as a police detective to a close but it also ends with the suggestion of new career path for John Luther.  In between, we watch as Luther chases the Killer through London and eventually across Europe.  Sometimes opposing  him and sometimes helping him is his former boss, Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley), and his replacement, DCI Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo).

Luther: The Fallen Sun is at its best when the action is centered on Luther searching for the Killer in London.  A confrontation between the two in Piccadilly Circus is especially well-done and it leads to genuinely exciting chase through the London Underground.  Idris Elba displays both his fierce intelligence and his exciting physicality, while also doing a good job of suggesting that Luther is always just a frustration or two away from mentally snapping.  Elba is entertaining to watch, a perfect hero for these chaotic times.  Andy Serkis, meanwhile, plays the Killer without a hint of subtlety but that approach works for the character.  The Killer is someone who is evil because he enjoys it.  And, throughout the majority of this film, the Killer really does seem to be having the time of his life.

The film gets off to a good start, with plenty of action and atmosphere.  (This is one of those films where nothing happens unless it’s also raining.)  The aerial shots of London capture a certain neon grandeur that suggests a city that is in the process of transitioning into a brightly lit dystopia.  Serkis’s crimes are genuinely disturbing, with a scene involving a burning building feeling nightmarish in its intensity.  Unfortunately, the film loses its way a bit when the action moves away from England and into Europe.  The more that is revealed about Serkis’s plans, the less sense they make and the more the viewer is forced to suspend their disbelief.  In the end, the film’s third act feels as if it belongs in a totally different movie from everything that came before it.

That said, the mystery is still an intriguing one and Luther: The Fallen Sun actually does have something relevant to say about the illusion of privacy in our extremely online world.  One of the better scenes features hundreds of hackers, all sitting at their cubicles and watching as random people across the world go about their lives.  (“Potential target,” one hacker types.)  Andy Serkis is appropriately creepy and Idris Elba shows off the tough but sensitive screen presence that made him a star.  Luther: The Fallen Sun serves as both an effective continuation of the show and, for the viewers who may be meeting him for the first time, an intriguing introduction to John Luther.

A Blast From The Past: The Holy Roman Empire

It may seem strange to celebrate the Ides of March by sharing an educational film about The Holy Roman Empire, seeing as how it was famous for being neither holy nor Roman nor an Empire.  But then again, the fact that the name “Roman Empire” was still being appropriated into the 19th century shows you just how powerful a hold the Roman Empire had over people’s imaginations.  Everyone wanted to be Roman and everyone wanted to be a part of an empire.  Of course, there would have been no Roman Empire if not for the Ides of March.

Add to that, this 1961 film features not only a teacher but also historical reenactments.  I love cheap looking historical reenactments!

Here, for your educational viewing, is a blast from the past.  From 1961, it’s a look at The Holy Roman Empire!

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special David Cronenberg Edition

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a happy birthday to one of our favorite directors, David Cronenberg!  No one has done more to change the way that the world views Canada than David Cronenberg.  Last year, Cronenberg came out of a ten-year retirement to film Crimes of the Future.  Next up, a film called The Shrouds, a film that is described as being a businessman who discovers a way to communicate with the dead.

Here are….

4 Shots From 4 David Cronenberg Films

Crimes of the Future (1970, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: David Cronenberg)

Scanners (1981, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Mark Irwin)

Dead Ringers (1988, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Peter Suschitzky)

Crimes of the Future (2022, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Douglas Koch)

Music Video of the Day: Over by Lindsay Lohan (2004, dir by Jake Nava)

Leave Lindsay alone!

Way back in 2004, both this music video and this song were favorites of mine.  That said, even back then, I found myself wondering if I would still be attracted to a guy if he couldn’t stand up to his father.  Lindsay and her boyfriend (Drew Fuller) have a lot of chemistry but, whenever his father shows up, the guy meekly leaves.  Whenever I watch this video, I want the guy to punch out his father or, at the very least, for Lindsay to kick the old man in the groin.  That’s probably not a very realistic expectation on my part, though.  I mean, assault and battery?  It really would be over!

Reportedly, this video was inspired by one of the worst films to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture, American Beauty.  I’m holding on to hope that someday, Linsday will finally get her Oscar.  Don’t scoff.  Bigger comebacks have happened and, even in this somewhat overwrought video, Lindsay delivered a pretty good performance.  Of course, someone’s going to have to take a chance and write a decent role for her.  You’re not going to win an Oscar appearing in Netflix Christmas movies.  Just ask Kurt Russell.  He totally deserved the award for his performance as Santa Claus but he was snubbed not once but twice.  Stupid Academy.

When this video came out, some of my friends thought Lindsay and her boyfriend were crazy for fooling around in a deserted trailer but I’m a country girl at heart so I thought it was sweet.  Seriously, though, a deserted trailer can be the most romantic place on the planet under the right circumstances.  I would caution everyone to just watch out for snakes because this one time, in Arkansas….

Anyway, enjoy!