A Note To Our Readers Who Have Survived May Day

Congratulations!  You have survived May Day and you’ve also survived the first four months of 2023!  Let us take a moment to celebrate this milestone.  The past few years haven’t been easy for a lot of people but we’ve survived.  As we look forward to the months to come, there are a lot more movies to watch and a more television shows to binge and more books to read and more to which to listen!  Here at the Shattered Lens we have big plans for the rest of the year.  Thank you to all of our regular readers for sticking with us and we hope that rest of this year is a great one for you!

AMV of the Day: The Phoenix (Ace Attorney)

With Law Day coming to a close (not to mention Loyalty Day and International Workers Day), it seems like it’s time for another Ace Attorney AMV of the Day.  Really, they should just rename this holiday Ace Attorney Day.

Anime: Ace Attorney

Song: The Phoenix (performed by Fall Out Boy)

Creator: Lise Cupcake (please subscribe to this creator’s channel)

Past AMVs of the Day

Here’s The Trailer for Ordinary Angels

In case you were wondering what Hillary Swank has been up to (other than starring on that television show about newspaper in Alaska), here’s your answer!  She’s playing an alcoholic in Ordinary Angels, which appears to be another “uplifting, based on a true story” film of 2023.  This film is scheduled to be released on October 13th.  That’s Friday the 13th, by the way.

Actually, I imagine that this film might do well with an October release date.  Consider it to be counter-programming for all the folks who aren’t into horror.  Here at TSL, we’ll be in the middle of our annual horrorthon.  As the song goes, “if it makes you happy….”

Here’s The Trailer for Maggie Moore(s)

Apparently, A Haunting In Venice is not the only crime-related film that Tina Fey (who one does not usually associate with crime films) has coming out this year.  On June 16th, she will be co-starring in Maggie Moore(s), along with Jon Hamm and Nick Mohammed.  The film was directed by Hamm’s Mad Men co-star, John Slattery.  Here’s the trailer:

Based on a true story, eh?  To be honest, the trailer make it look like this film might be trying too hard to be quirky and Coenesque but who knows?  Sometimes, a good film gets a bad trailer and, more often, a bad film will get a really good trailer.  The cast is certainly talented so we’ll see!

The Eric Roberts Collection: Free Lunch Express (dir by Lenny Britton)

Eric Roberts appears about twenty minutes into 2020’s Free Lunch Express.  He plays a man standing in line at a Vermont welfare office.  He tells a youngish Bernie Sanders (played, at that point in the movie, by Sam Brittan) that the easiest way to make some extra money is to run for public office because there’s no limit on the amount of money you can raise and you can keep whatever you have left after the campaign.  Having been recently kicked out of a commune and having no interest in getting a real job, Sanders is intrigued by the advice and soon embarks on his first political campaign.  Roberts only appears in that one scene.  It probably took an hour or two of his time to film.  Roberts spends the entire scene laughing, supposedly because he’s amused over the idea of making a living as a perennial political candidate.

(For that matter, Eric Roberts is not the only familiar face to pop up in Free Lunch Express.  Not surprisingly, Kevin Sorbo shows up.  He plays the ghost of George Washington and I’ll admit that I chucked at his Elizabeth Warren joke.  Far more surprisingly, Malcolm McDowell shows up as the narrator and epically rolls his eyes at every major moment of Sanders’s life.)

As for the rest of the film, Free Lunch Express is an attempt to do an Adam McKay-style satire about the career of Bernie Sanders.  Unfortunately, the problem with trying to make fun of Bernie Sanders is that even Bernie’s most fervent supporters already realize and often acknowledge that he’s a vaguely ludicrous figure.  Indeed, the very things that the film pokes fun at — like Bernie’s permanently messy hair, his thick Brooklyn accent, his habit of yelling out his comments while pointing upwards, and his apparently inability to make normal small talk — are the same things that most of his supporters find to be appealing about him.  I disagree with Bernie on the majority of the issues and I would probably move to another country if he was ever elected President but, at the same time, I can’t help but kind of like him.  One reason why so many people voted for him in 2016 is because he seemed to be authentic in a way that other politicians did not.  It’s easy to poke fun at a slick politician but it’s far more difficult to do so at someone who looks like he just got out of bed and who tends to say whatever pops into his mind.  It’s far easier to satirize the personality of a Hillary Clinton or a Mitt Romney than it is to satirize a Bernie Sanders.

Free Lunch Express follows Bernie through three stages of his life.  As a child, Bernie (played by Jonah Britton) swears a blood oath while standing in front of a poster Joseph Stalin and he declares that he’ll never be bullied again.  As a young man, Bernie (Sam Brittan) moves to Vermont and annoys all the other hippies to such an extent that he’s forced to take Eric Roberts’s advice and run for political office.  And, as an old and ineffective Senator, Bernie (now played by Charles Hutchins) runs for the presidency and only drops out after Hillary (Cynthia Kania) promises to campaign in Wisconsin and Ohio in the general election.  There were a few moments that made me chuckle, like the portrayal of Ben & Jerry as being two hippies who can’t have a conversation without shouting out the name of their latest flavor or Bernie cluelessly traveling to dreary Moscow for the worst honeymoon ever.  But, for the most part, the humor falls flat and the jokes are often too repetitive to really be effective.  Having a young and nerdy Bernie swear his allegiance to Stalin because he thinks that Stalin, who killed millions of his own citizens, will create a world without bullies is funny.  However, having the ghost of Stalin randomly speak to Bernie throughout the years is a joke that grows tiresome and never really pays off.  It’s pretty much the same issue that I had with Adam McKay’s Vice.  Much as Vice did with Dick Cheney, the film tries so hard to take down Sanders with ridicule that it instead makes him seem almost likable.  Indeed, by focusing on the times that Bernie was, in the film’s view, humiliated by Hillary Clinton, the hippies at the commune, and basic economic realities, the film actually portrays Bernie as someone who refuses to surrender his principles, regardless of how often the rest of the world tells him that he’s wrong.  The film aims to be Tartuffe and instead turns into Candide.

Finally, on a personal note, I think anyone who ever runs for office should be ridiculed, regardless of what they believe or whether or not they’ve done a good job.  It’s a good way to keep them honest and to remind theme that they’re supposed to work for us and not the other way around.  If one’s beliefs can’t survive a joke or two, that says far more about the beliefs than it does about the jokes.

Previous Eric Roberts Films That We Have Reviewed:

  1. Star 80 (1983)
  2. Blood Red (1989)
  3. The Ambulance (1990)
  4. The Lost Capone (1990)
  5. Love, Cheat, & Steal (1993)
  6. Love Is A Gun (1994)
  7. Sensation (1994)
  8. Doctor Who (1996)
  9. Most Wanted (1997)
  10. Mr. Brightside (2004)
  11. Six: The Mark Unleased (2004)
  12. Hey You (2006)
  13. In The Blink of an Eye (2009)
  14. The Expendables (2010) 
  15. Sharktopus (2010)
  16. Deadline (2012)
  17. Miss Atomic Bomb (2012)
  18. Lovelace (2013)
  19. Self-Storage (2013)
  20. This Is Our Time (2013)
  21. Inherent Vice (2014)
  22. Road to the Open (2014)
  23. Rumors of War (2014)
  24. A Fatal Obsession (2015)
  25. Stalked By My Doctor (2015)
  26. Stalked By My Doctor: The Return (2016)
  27. The Wrong Roommate (2016)
  28. Stalked By My Doctor: Patient’s Revenge (2018)
  29. Monster Island (2019)
  30. Seven Deadly Sins (2019)
  31. Stalked By My Doctor: A Sleepwalker’s Nightmare (2019)
  32. The Wrong Mommy (2019)
  33. Her Deadly Groom (2020)
  34. Top Gunner (2020)
  35. Just What The Doctor Ordered (2021)
  36. Killer Advice (2021)
  37. The Poltergeist Diaries (2021)
  38. My Dinner With Eric (2022)

Here’s The Trailer For A Haunting in Venice

Somehow, I missed this trailer when it dropped last week.  Well, no matter!  The movie’s not being released until September 15th so I still have time to share the trailer for A Haunting in Venice, the latest Agatha Christie adaptation from Kenneth Branagh!  This film finds Poirot retired and living in self-imposed exile in Venice.  When he attends a séance, he is dragged back into the world of mystery solving.

The cast of suspects includes: Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Jude Hill, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, Kelly Reilly, Riccardo Scamarico, and Michelle Yeoh!  Not having read Christie’s Hallowe’en Party, I can’t tell you who the murderer is or even who the victim is.  But, personally, I suspect Tina Fey did it.

Here’s the trailer!

Here’s The Trailer For After Everything

That right, everyone!  We’ve got yet another After movie coming out this year.  So far, I think I’ve listed every single After movie on my annual “worst films of the year” list and, judging from this trailer, I have a feeling that it might happen again.

As far as I can tell, Tessa is still angry that Hardin turned their extremely boring relationship into a book.  So, Hardin decides to pout, scowl, probably start drinking again, and eventually he continues to stalk her because that’s pretty much what happens in every After film.  I really do have to wonder what type of contract was signed by Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin that requires them to spend the rest of their careers playing these extremely shallow and unlikable characters.

(And yet, as shallow and unlikable as Tess and Hardin are, I’ve still watched every film in this stupid franchise.  I’m not sure why, to be honest.  I think it might have something to do with the terrible fascination that everyone tends to have with natural disasters and grisly car accidents.)

To me, it will never not be funny that Hardin Scott, one of the most pretentious and self-pitying characters ever forced on the reading and viewing public, is apparently now to be portrayed as the literary voice of his generation.  I don’t know if it’s sad because it’s so silly or because it’s so plausible.

Anyway, here’s the trailer for After Everything.

The TSL Grindhouse: Guyana: Crime of the Century (dir by Rene Cardona, Jr.)

In the late 1970s, the Rev. Jim Jones was a very powerful man.

The leader of the California-based People’s Temple, Rev. Jones had made a name for himself as a civil right activist.  As a minister, he made it a point to reach out to the poor and to communities of color.  (It was said, largely by Jones, that he had been forced to leave his home state of Indiana by the Ku Klux Klan.)  Local politicians eagerly sought not only Jones’s endorsement but also the donations that he could easily raise from the members of the People’s Temple.  Though there were rumors that he was more of a cult leader than a traditional preacher, Jones was appointed chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority.  Everyone from Governor Jerry Brown to San Francisco Mayor George Moscone appeared with Jim Jones at campaign events.  Among the national figures who regularly corresponded with Jim Jones were First Lady Rosalyn Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale.

Of course, what actually went on behind the closed doors of the People’s Temple was a bit of secret.  Jones was a self-proclaimed communist who claimed to have had visions of an upcoming nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia.  In his sermons, he often claimed that it would be necessary for both him and the rest of the People’s Temple to eventually leave the United States.  Jones spoke of enemies that were trying to destroy him, like the reporters who investigated Jones’s claim of being a faith healer and who followed up on reports that Jones was sexually exploiting both the women and the men who followed him.  Jones secretly started to make plans to leave the United States in 1973 but it would be another four years before he and a thousand of his followers arrived in Guyana.  The People’s Temple Agricultural Project sat in the jungle, isolated from oversight.  It was informally known as Jonestown.

Over the next year, Jonestown did not exactly thrive.  Rev. Jones demanded that his people work hard and he also demanded that they spend several hours a day studying socialism and listening to him preach.  Jones ran his commune like a dictator, refusing to allow anyone to leave (for their own safety, of course).  Anyone who questioned him was accused of being an agent of the CIA.  In the U.S, the families of Jonestown’s citizens became concerned and started to petition the government to do something about what was happening in Guyana.  A few people who did manage to escape from Jonestown told stories of forced labor, suicide drills, rape, and torture.  The People’s Temple claimed that those people were all lying and, because Jones still had his government connections, he was largely left alone.

Finally, in 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan, a Democrat who had a history of opposing the political establishment, flew down to Guyana so that he could see Jonestown for himself and also bring back anyone who wanted to leave.  Despite the efforts of Jones to disguise the truth about life in Jonestown, several people did ask to leave the colony with Rep. Ryan.  Jones sent his most loyal men to meet and open fire on Rep. Ryan’s entourage at a nearby airstrip.  Rep. Ryan and four others were shot and killed, making Ryan the first Congressman to be assassinated since 1868.  Nine others, including future Rep. Jackie Speier, were wounded in the attack.

Back at Jonestown, Jim Jones announced that his prophecy was coming true and that the imperialists would soon descend on Jonestown.  Though 85 of Jones’s followers managed to escape into the jungle, the other 909 residents of Jonestown subsequently died.  Though some showed signs of having been murdered by Jones’s followers, the majority committed suicide by drinking poisoned Flavor-Aid.  Jim Jones shot himself in the head.

The world was horrified and the term “drinking the Kool-Aid” entered the discourse.  And, of course, many filmmakers were inspired by the horrific events that happened in Jonestown.  Ivan Rassimov, for instance, played a Jim Jones-style cult leader in Umberto Lenzi’s Eaten Alive.  Meanwhile, Powers Boothe would win an Emmy for playing Jim Jones in a 1980 television miniseries called Guyana Tragedy.

Guyana Tragedy is often described as being the definitive film about Jim Jones.  However, a full year before Guyana Tragedy aired, the Mexican director, Rene Cardona Jr., was in theaters with his own version of the Jim Jones story.  To anyone who is familiar with Cardona’s style of filmmaking, it’s perhaps not surprising that 1979’s Guyana: Crime of the Century did not win any awards.

Cardona’s film opens with a rather odd title card, explaining that, though the film is based on Jonestown, the names of certain characters “have been changed to protect the innocent.”  But if you’re going to start the film by announcing that it’s about the biggest news story of the past year, what’s the point of changing anyone’s name?  And for that matter, why is Jim Jones renamed James Johnson and his colony rechristened Johnsontown?  Jones was hardly one of the innocents, not to mention that he was dead and in no position to sue when the film came was released.  Why is Leo Ryan renamed Lee O’Brien, especially when the film portrays Ryan as being the type of hard-working and honest congressman that anyone would be happy to vote for?

The film opens with Rev. James “Johnson” (played by Stuart Whitman) giving a lengthy sermon about how it’s time for the congregation to move to Guyana, which he describes as being a Socialist paradise.  Oddly, in the film, the People’s Temple is portrayed being largely white and upper middle class whereas, in reality, the opposite was true.  Indeed, Jones specialized in exploiting communities that were largely marginalized by American society.  One reason why Jones’s claim of government persecution was accepted by the members of his church is because the People’s Temple was made up of people who had very legitimate reasons for distrusting the American government.

A few scenes later, Johnson is ruling over “Johnsonville.”  Since this is a Cardona film, the viewers are shown several scenes of people being tortured for displeasing Johnson.  A child is covered in snakes.  Another is shocked with electricity.  A teenage boy and girl are forced to kneel naked in front of Johnson as he announce that their punishment for trying to run away is that they will be forced to have sex with someone of Johnson’s choosing.  Once the torture and the nudity is out of the way, the film gets around to Congressman O’Brien (Gene Barry) traveling to the Johnsontown.  Since the audience already knows what’s going to happen, the film becomes a rather icky game of waiting for O’Brien to announce that he’s ready to go back to the landing strip.

Because the film has been released under several different titles and with several different running times, Guyana: Crime of the Century has gotten a reputation for being one of those films that was supposedly cut up by the censors.  I’ve seen the original, uncut 108-minute version of Guyana and I can tell you that there’s nothing particularly shocking about it.  Instead, it’s a painfully slow film that doesn’t really offer much insight into how Jim Jones led over 900 people to their deaths.  While Gene Barry make for a convincing congressman, Stuart Whitman gives a stiff performance as the Reverend Johnson.  There’s very little of the charisma that one would expect from a successful cult leader.  One gets the feeling that Whitman largely made the film for the paycheck.

Of course, Whitman was hardly alone in that regard  The film features a host of otherwise respectable actors, including  Yvonne DeCarlo, Joseph Cotten, John Ireland, Robert DoQui, and Bradford Dillman.  As well, Cardona regular Hugo Stiglitz appears as a photographer.  (Stiglitz is perhaps best known for starring in Nightmare City and for lending his name to a character in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.)  Of the large cast, I appreciated the performances of Cotten and Ireland, who play Johnson’s amoral but well-connected attorneys.  (The characters are based on the Temple’s real-life attornes, Charles Garry and Mark Lane.  Lane also wrote the first JFK conspiracy book, Rush to Judgment.)  I also liked Yvonne DeCarlo’s performance as the most devoted of Johnson’s followers.  Even Bradford Dillman’s natural blandness was used to good effect as his character comes to represent the banality of evil when it comes time for him to start administering the Flavor-Aid.  But those good performances still can not overcome the film’s slow pace and the fact that the film didn’t bring any new insight to the tragedy.

The film sticks fairly close to what is believed to have actually happened at Jonestown but, in the end, it barely even works as an example of shameless grindhouse filmmaking.  It’s not even offensive enough to be enjoyable on a subversive level.  Instead, it was just a quick attempt to make some money off of the crime of the century.

Missile X: The Tehran Incident (1979, directed by Leslie H. Martinson)

The international terrorist and casino owner known as The Baron (Curd Jurgens) has stolen a Soviet-made nuclear warhead.  With the help of Prof. Nikolaeff (John Carradine), the Baron is planning on dropping the warhead on an international peace conference that is being held off the coast of Iran.  American Alec Franklin (Peter Graves) and Russians Konstanine Senyonov (Michael Dante) and Galina Fedorovna (Karin Schubert) want to prevent the Baron from doing that but, in order to stop the Baron, they’re going to need the help of Leila (Pouri Baneai), a member of the Shah’s secret police.

Missile X was a German-Italian-Spanish co-production that was shot on location in Tehran with the full cooperation of the Shah of Iran.  The film goes out of its way to attempt to present the Shah-era Tehran as being a modern and welcoming city, the type of place that anyone would by a fool not to choose for a vacation.  The Shah’s secret police are portrayed as being friendly and heroic and the only time the name “Ayatollah Khomeini” is mentioned is when Alex and Leila are listening to a radio and a news report mentions that Khomeini is far away in Paris.  Leila turns off the radio in the middle of the report, as if to say, “There’s someone will never have to think about again.”  Unfortunately, for both the film and the world at large, that was the case.  In an example of truly bad timing, Missile X was not released in the United States until December 10th, 1979, six days after Khomeini officially took control of Iran and a month into the Iran hostage crisis.  By the time the film was released, the Shah had long-since fled Iran and was seeking asylum and medical care in the United States.

As for the film itself, imagine a Bond film with no car chases, no exciting action sequences, no creative gadgets, and no one-liners.  Imagine also that the main Russian was played by an American who don’t even attempt to speak with any sort of accent.  On top of that, imagine if James Bond himself came across less like a ruthless super spy and more like an insurance executive trying not to overspend on the company account while on a business trip.  Curd Jurgens actually did play a memorable Bond villain in The Spy Who Loved Me but he sleepwalks his way through Missile X.  Not even giving him a mute henchman with a knife-hand can make the Baron seems dangerous.  Even if you can overlook all of that, the Baron’s plan never makes sense.  What does he have to gain from blowing up a peace conference?  Alec and Konstantine both agree that the Baron’s actions will probably start World War III and lead to the end of the world but it’s never explained why the Baron would want that.  Presumably, the Baron would end up getting blown up with everyone else.

Of course, you don’t have to imagine any of this.  You can just watch Missile X — The Tehran Incident.

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 4.15 “The Tall And The Short Of It” and 4.16 “Just Friends”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Today, YouTube makes watching Hang Time difficult!

Episode 4.15 “The Tall and the Short Of It”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 31st, 1998)

Rico has finally got a girlfriend!  She loves video games and basketball almost as much as he does!  The problem, as far as Rico is concerned, is that Rico is short and Gail (Bree Turner) is tall.  Rico is worried that the team will make fun of him because of the height difference and, from what we’ve seen of the team, he’s probably right.  Then again, Rico was addicted to marijuana just a few weeks ago so maybe he’s still having episodes of paranoia.

When the team starts to suggest that Rico is lying about having a girlfriend, Rico decides that the best possible solution would be pay his cousin, Lisa (Constance Zimmer, who later starred on Unreal), ten dollars to pretend to be his girlfriend.  Knowing Rico, that’s probably not the first time he’s paid a cousin to make out with him.  Needless to say Gail sees Rico with Lisa (who, at least, has a good name) and she breaks up with him.  But then Rico apologizes and dances with her at the school’s 70s party so I guess everything’s resolved.

Honestly, who cares?  It’s Rico. Rico makes Vince seem like an interesting character.

While this was going on, Mary Beth searched for Hammer’s lucky jacket, which she lost after he gave it to her for safekeeping.  Don’t worry.  She found it.

Episode 4.16 “Just Friends”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 31st, 1998)

In this episode….


Yep, it’s sad but it’s true.  As far as I can tell there are only two episodes of Hang Time that can’t be found online and this is one of them.  Obviously, I can’t review this episode but I can tell you what apparently happened.

According to the imdb, this episode found the team working, once again, as counselors at a basketball camp.  You may remember that Coach Fuller bought the camp last season.  Fuller’s gone but apparently, the camp is still a thing and now Coach K. is in charge of it.  Did Coach K. buy the camp or did Fuller ask him to keep an eye on it?  I can’t tell you because I can’t watch the episode but, from my knowledge of Hang Time, I have a feeling this question was probably never even addressed.

Anyway, it appears that this episode featured Julie kissing some other guy and realizing that she and Michael were better as just friends.  Poor Michael!  What’s funny is that, at this point, I’m so used to Julie cheating on her boyfriends and then making them feel as if it’s their fault that I feel as if I’ve seen this show without having seen it.