In The Line of Duty: Blaze Of Glory (1997, directed by Dick Lowry)

In 1997, NBC’s series of In The Line of Duty movie went out in a blaze of glory with Lori Loughlin and Bruce Campbell!

Lori and Bruce play Jill and Jeff Erickson, an attractive couple who finance their perfect life by robbing banks.  Jeff wears an obvious fake beard and, because he’s played by Bruce Campbell, it is easy to initially treat his crime spree as being a big joke.  Jeff and Jill use their money to buy a big house and to open up their own used bookstore.  Their robberies start to get bigger and more elaborate and Jill goes from being a passive observer to an active participant.  Jill gets such a rush from the robberies that she can’t stop.  While the press treats the two of them like a modern day Bonnie and Clyde, FBI agent Tom LaSalle (Bradley Whitford) tries to bring them to justice before someone gets killed.

Blaze of Glory is based on a true story.  The crime spree of Jill and Jeff Erickson also inspired another film, John McNaughton’s Normal Life, which starred Luke Perry as Jeff and Ashley Judd as Jill.  Normal Life is told almost entirely from the point of view of the bank robbers while Blaze of Glory, like all of the In The Line of Duty movies, is firmly on the side of law enforcement.  Both films tell the same story and stay fairly close to the facts of the case but it’s interesting to see how behavior that was presented as being romantic and tragic in Normal Life is portrayed as being dangerous and arrogant in Blaze of Glory.

Bruce Campbell and Lori Loughlin are the two main reasons to watch Blaze of Glory.  Campbell plays Jeff Erickson as being a slightly smarter version of Ash.  Jeff may enjoy running his used bookstore and talking to people about literature but he simply cannot stay out of trouble.  He has the confidence necessary to rob a bank but he’s also so reckless that he doesn’t think much about what he’s going to do after he puts on his fake beard and fires his gun at the ceiling.  Lori Loughlin, having finally escaped from Full House, gives an uninhibited and sexy performance as Jill, who is never happier than when she’s helping her husband to rob a bank.  Eventually, she turns out to be just as reckless as her husband and even more willing to fight her way out of a police chase.  Campbell and Louglin are so good that it’s too bad that half of the movie is Bradley Whitford as the lead FBI agent and Brad Sullivan as his father.

After sitting out Kidnapped, Dick Lowry returns to the director’s chair for the final In The Line of Duty and it’s one of the best of the series.  The action scenes are exciting and Campbell and Loughlin burn up the screen.  Blaze of Glory was the finale of In The Line of Duty but what a way to go!

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Nicolas Roeg 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 would have been the 94th birthday of the great and enigmatic director, Nicolas Roeg.  As both a cinematographer and a director, Roeg was responsible for some of the most visually striking films ever made.  Today, we honor his legacy with….

4 Shots From 4 Nicolas Roeg Films

Walkabout (1971, dir by Nicolas Roeg, DP: Nicolas Roeg)

Don’t Look Now (1973, dir by Nicolas Roeg, DP: Anthony Richmond)

The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976, dir by Nicholas Roeg, DP: Anthony Richmond)

Insignificance (1985, dir by Nicolas Roeg, DP: Peter Hannan)

Live Tweet Alert: Come Watch Steele Justice With #MondayActionMovie

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in a few weekly live tweets on twitter.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We tweet our way through it.

Tonight, for #MondayActionMovie, we are watching Steele Justice!  Selected and hosted by @Bunnyhero, Steele Justice features the one and only Martin Kove as John Steele!  According to the film’s poster, “you don’t recruit him, you unleash him!”  Also according to the poster, John Steele has been unleashed to take on the Vietnamese mafia.  The film co-stars Sela Ward and Ronny Cox.  That means that the film features at least three actors who have appeared in films nominated for Best Picture!  So, it has to be good, right?  

That’s really all I know about Steele Justice.  I plan to find out more tonight and I invite you to join me.  If you want to join us, just hop onto twitter, start the film at 8 pm et, and use the #MondayActionMovie hashtag!  I’ll be there tweeting and I imagine some other members of the TSL Crew will be there as well.  It’s a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.  And a review of this film will probably end up on this site at some point this week.


Kidnapped: In The Line of Duty (1995, directed by Bobby Roth)

Arthur Milo (Dabney Coleman) is an IRS agent who uses his government position and the powers that with it to commit heinous crimes.  (A corrupt IRS agent?  What a shock!)  Milo kidnaps the children of the wealthy, using legally-filed tax returns to select his target.  Most of his accomplices all have the perfect alibi because they’re all in prison!  As an agent of law enforcement, Milo is able to check them out of prison for hours at a time.  Milo claims that they’re helping him out with an investigation but actually, they’re kidnapping children and digging graves in return for Milo’s help with their tax problems.  Once the crime has been committed, Milo returns them to jail.  It seems like the perfect plan but Milo may have met his match in hard charging FBI agent Pete Honeycutt (Timothy Busfield).

Loosely based on a true story, Kidnapped was the tenth of NBC’s In The Line of Duty films and it was one of the few not to be directed by Dick Lowry.  It’s also the only one of the In The Line of Duty films to not feature a member of law enforcement getting gunned down nor does it end with a title card of statistics about the number of cops who are killed on the job each year.  All of this leads me to suspect that Kidnapped was not originally meant to be an In The Line of Duty movie and that it was added to the series at the last minute.  NBC was obviously hoping that the rating success of Ambush in Waco would rub off on Kidnapped.

Kidnapped is a pretty typical eccentric criminal vs eccentric investigator movie.  Pete is obsessed with taking down Milo and Milo is obsessed with showing up Pete.  It’s not a surprise when Milo starts to personally taunt Pete and it’s also not a surprise that Pete’s family is put at risk.  There are a few strange moments of humor, most of them supplied by Tracey Walter as Milo’s spacey accomplice.  The humor, though, doesn’t always seem to go along with a fact-based story about an IRS agent who abducted children and held them for ransom.

The best thing about the film is Dabney Coleman as Arthur Milo.  Coleman has always been an underrated actor.  Nobody did as good at a job at playing a curmudgeon as Dabney Coleman.  In Kidnapped, Coleman takes his usual persona up a notch by playing Milo as someone who is not just annoyed by people but who is willing to kill them too.  While Arthur Milo’s schemes are usually clever, he’s so arrogant and determined to show off how much smarter he is than everyone else that he’s usually his own worst enemy.  He’s the type of criminal who wears a white suit and a panama hat, despite the fact that his outfit will make him instantly recognizable to anyone who witnesses his crimes.  The character is a strange one but Coleman brings him to life and makes him believable.  Kidnapped is a pretty standard police procedural but worth seeing for Coleman’s villainous turn.

So, I Watched Girls of Summer (2008, dir. by Max Tash)

I was looking for a baseball movie to help me get over the Losing Season Rangers Blues.

I settled for a softball movie.

I won’t make that mistake again.

Jake McBride (Tom Pilleri) makes a bet that he can turn a group of models into a championship softball team.  The only problem is that none of the models know how to play softball, except for Christine (Sasha Formoso) and Jake’s cousin, Holly (Tarah DeSpain).

Christine and Holly, I liked.  Everyone underestimated them because they were girls and they proved all of the boys wrong.  Plus, Tarah DeSpain was believable as an athlete.  Those were the only characters that I liked.  None of the other models had any personality and Jake was a jerk even when he was doing the right thing.  Who is dumb enough to bet that much money on a softball game?  The humor was frat boy humor and the movie looked like it was filmed on someone’s phone.  A League of their Own, this was not.

Girls of Summer did not make me feel better about the Rangers currently being 50-63 for the season.  In fact, it made me feel even worse because, as bad as the model were, they at least had a winning season.  But then I remembered that the Athletics were 41-73 and I felt better.  One good thing about the AL West is that, even when the Rangers aren’t having their best season, there’s usually at least one other team doing worse.  Go Rangers!

6 Shots From 6 Films: Special Wim Wenders 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 77th birthday to the great German director, Wim Wenders!  It’s time for….

6 Shots From 6 Wim Wenders Films

Kings of the Road (1976, dir by Wim Wenders, DP: Robby Muller)

The American Friend (1976, dir by Wim Wenders, DP: Robby Muller)

Paris, Texas (1984, dir by Wim Wenders, DP: Robby Muller)

Wings of Desire (1987, dir by Wim Wenders, DP: Robby Muller)

Until the End of the World (1991, dir by Wim Wenders, DP: Robby Muller)

Pina (2011, dir by Wim Wenders)



Scenes I Love: Steve Martin performs Maxwell’s Silver Hammer in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Today, the Shattered Lens wishes actor and comedian Steve Martin a happy 77th birthday.  Originally from Texas, Martin has been a cultural mainstay for longer than I’ve been alive.  He’s a master of both comedy and drama, as anyone who has watched Only Murders In The Building can tell you.

And he can sing too!

Here he is, performing Maxwell’s Silver Hammer in 1978’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Though this was not Martin’s film debut, it was his first “big” role.  Steve Martin was 33 years old here.  Remarkably, he only seems to have aged a few years in the decades since appearing in this film.

Happy birthday, Steve Martin!

In the Line of Duty: Hunt For Justice (1994, directed by Dick Lowry)

When New Jersey State Trooper Philip Lomonaco (Dan Lauria) pulls over a car for having mud on its license plate, he doesn’t know that the car is being driven by two members of the United Freedom Front, a group of left-wing revolutionaries.  While Lomonaco talks to Tom Manning (Miguel Ferrer), Dickie Williams (Dell Yount) opens fire.  Lomanaco is killed and Tom and Dickie flee to their safehouse in New England.  While the United Freedom Front plots their next series of bombings and bank robberies, Lomonaco’s ex-partner (Nicholas Turturro) teams up with an FBI agent (Adam Arkin) to track down the terrorists and get justice for his fallen friend.

Hunt For Justice was the ninth of NBC’s In The Line of Duty films.  The previous films featured religious cults, anti-tax protestors, drug lords, and mobsters.  In this one, the antagonists are all former 60s radicals who are still trying to overthrow the system.  The FBI views the United Freedom Front as being a threat to national security while Lomonaco’s partner just wants to make sure that Lomonaco’s death won’t go unpunished.  Dan Lauria was actually a mainstay of the In The Line of Duty films, appearing previously in A Cop for the Killing and and Ambush in Waco.  (Nicholas Turturro was previously featured, on the other side of the law, in Mob Justice.)  Since most people who watch this film will probably remember Lauria as being Kevin Arnold’s father in The Wonder Years, everyone will want his killers to be brought to justice.

As with the previous In The Line of Duty movies, the action is evenly divided between law enforcement and the criminals that they’re pursuing.  At first, Miguel Ferrer seems like odd-casting as a leftist who admires Che Guevara but he gives a good performance as someone who regrets some of the decisions that he made in the past but who knows that he can’t change them now.  Melissa Leo is also very good as his wife.  Stephen Root and Dean Norris, two other actors who you would not necessarily expect to see playing left-wing revolutionaries, are cast as the other members of the United Freedom Front and Hunt For Justice does a good job of contrasting their middle class lifestyles with their revolutionary rhetoric.  One of the ironies of the film is that the revolutionaries are leading much more comfortable and financially-stable lives than the men who are trying to hunt them down.  In fact, the main problem with the movie is that the revolutionaries are so interesting that it’s always a letdown when the action shifts over to Turturro and Arkin, whose characters are far less interesting.  Arkin and Turturro go through the expected paces.  The FBI doesn’t like it when local cops try to interfere with their investigations.  Who knew?

Hunt for Justice is a pretty standard In The Line of Duty movie but no movie featuring Miguel Ferrer, Melissa Leo, and Stephen Root is ever going to be a total loss.  The cast is the best thing that Hunt For Justice has going for it.

Film Review: The Fallout (dir by Megan Park)

The Fallout, which premiered on HBOMax way back in January, opens with a scene of a sandwich being made.  It’s a peanut butter sandwich but the person making it is putting way too much peanut butter on the bread.  The kitchen counter is a mess.  The knife looks dirty.  To be honest, it’s kind of sickening to watch.

No, the film is not about the sandwich.  In fact, the sandwich never appears again.  But I have to admit that sandwich represents the entire film to me.  That scene, I think, is meant to tell us that we’re watching a film about real people and sometimes, real people prepare disgusting food in a cluttered kitchen.  And that’s true.  Then again, sometimes they don’t and that’s something that some filmmakers don’t want to acknowledge.  Indeed, there’s something rather condescending about the cinematic belief that being authentic is the equivalent of being a slob.  It’s an interesting phenomena how a film can try so hard to be “real” that it instead becomes the opposite.

The Fallout certainly deals with an important subject.  Vada Cavell (Jenna Ortega) goes to high school on a day like any other day and, without warning, finds herself in the middle of a school shooting.  The shooting itself is handled well.  We don’t see the shooter nor do we learn anything about him.  We just hear the gunshots while Vada, Mia Reed (Maddie Ziegler — yes, of Dance Moms fame), and Quinton (Niles Fitch) hide in a bathroom stall.  It’s a terrifying scene and it immediately reminded me of what it was like when I was in high school and I would see stories about school shootings and wonder if my school was going to be next.

The rest of the film deals with the emotional, political, and mental fallout of the shooting.  Quinton struggles with the death of his brother.  Vada’s best friend, Nick (Will Ropp), becomes a self-righteous David Hogg type.  And Vada starts spending all of her time with Mia, a dancer and influencer whose Dads are in Europe and apparently can’t even be bothered to come back to the States even after their daughter is involved in a school shooting.  Vada, who has a total crush on Mia, starts hanging out at Mia’s mansion.  Mia is happy to finally have a friend that she can talk to, even if Vada is kind of annoying.

(The whole thing with the Dads being in Europe and Mia living alone in her mansion feels a bit too convenient, to be honest.)

The film is dealing with important issues, which is one reason why it’s gotten so many good reviews.  This is one of those films that many people feel obligated to like because otherwise, they might run the risk of being told that they don’t care about school shootings.  But, honestly, the film doesn’t really have that much to say.  It hits all of the expected beats and, as much as the film tries to make everything messy and real, it often seems like it’s trying too hard.  Of course, Vada is going to use drugs to get through her first day back at school.  Of course, Vada’s father is going to encourage her to shout out her frustrations at the top of her lungs.  Of course, Vada’s mother is going to be remote and controlling.  Of course, her little sister is going to have a breakdown.  Of course, her best friend is going to get mad at her for not wanting to get involved with his nascent political career.  Of course, there’s going to be an absolutely cringey moment where Vada starts talking a mile a minute just because she smoked one joint.  To be honest, I’ve never seen anyone react to weed quite the way that Vada does.  She’s like the person who gets drunk off half a beer and then won’t stop talking.  It’s freaking annoying.  Throughout the film, there are occasional moments that work but, ultimately, it’s never quite as insightful as it obviously believes itself to be.

Jenna Ortega does give a good performance as Vada.  As written, the character is often annoying but, then again, the same can be said of most people and one can only imagine what Vada would have been like without Ortega’s likable screen presence.  The film is pretty much stolen, though, by Maddie Ziegler.  Ziegler reveals the lonely reality behind the influencer façade.  Since Ziegler is herself a dancer and an influencer, she brings a lot of her own persona to Mia but, at the same time, she also makes Mia into a believable character who has a life and an existence that’s separate from the actress playing her.  After The Book of Henry and Music, The Fallout actually gives Ziegler a chance to prove that she can act as well as she can dance.

As opposed to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant or Fran Kranz’s Mass, which both that the courage to acknowledge that violence and its consequences can never be truly understood or easily defined, The Fallout tries too hard to find definitive meaning in an incomprehensible tragedy.  For all of its good intentions and its attempts to be realistic, there’s a shallowness at the heart of The Fallout that keeps it from working.

6 Shots From 6 Films: Special Alfred Hitchcock 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!

123 years ago, the master of suspense was born in England.  Today, we honor the career and legacy of the great Alfred Hitchock with….

6 Shots From 6 Alfred Hitchcock Films

The Lodger (1926, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP:Gaetano di Ventimiglia )

Shadow of a Doubt (1943, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: Joseph A. Valentine)

Vertigo (1958, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: Robert Burks)

North by Northwest (1959, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: Robert Burks)

Psycho (1960, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: John L. Russell)

The Birds (1963, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: Robert Burks)