Monday Live Tweet Alert: Join Us For Miami Connection and Dressed to Kill!

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in hosting 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, the film will be 1987’s Miami Connection!  Selected and hosted by Matthew Titus, this movie takes place in Miami, at the height of the cocaine boom!  So, you know it has to be good!


Following #MondayActionMovie, Brad and Sierra will be hosting the #MondayMuggers live tweet.  We will be watching 1981’s Dressed to Kill, starring Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson!  The film is on Prime!

It should make for a night of fun viewing and I invite all of you to join in.  If you want to join the live tweets, just hop onto twitter, pull up Miami Connection on YouTube, start the movie at 8 pm et, and use the #MondayActionMovie hashtag!  Then, at 10 pm et, switch over to Prime, start Dressed to Kill, and use the #MondayMuggers hashtag!  The live tweet community is a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.   


Scenes That I Love: Michael Caine in The Dark Knight Rises

Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a happy 90th birthday to Sir Michael Caine.

With 177 acting credits listed on the imdb, Michael Caine has been working regularly since 1956.  (Though he actually made his acting debut, at the age of 10, in a made-for-TV movie in 1946).  There are many great Michael Caine performances and scenes to choose from but, for today, I decided to go for a scene from 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.  Caine was 79 when he played Alfred in this film and he showed that, after decades of work, he hadn’t lost a step as a performer.  As well, he also showed his ability to take a character who could have been ridiculous — the loyal butler of a superhero — and instead make him surprisingly poignant.

Harry Brown (2009, directed by Daniel Barber)

Today, we wish a happy 89th birthday to Michael Caine!

For longer than I’ve been alive, Michael Caine has been a star.  He’s one of the last surviving icons of the British cultural invasion of the 1960s, a venerable actor who went from being Alfie to being Carter to being Scrooge to being Alfred Pennywise without missing a step.  In many ways, he was the cockney Jack Nicholson, a working class actor with his own very identifiable style who still managed to play a wide variety of different characters.  Like Nicholson, there have been frequent reports that Caine has retired from acting and, if anyone has earned the right to enjoy their retirement, it’s Michael Caine.  Caine himself has said that he doesn’t ever see himself fully retiring from acting and he’s already proven that, even in his twilight years, he’s still as capable of giving a good performance as he was when he first started acting.

Take Harry Brown, for example.

Michael Caine was 76 when he played the title role in this violent British thriller.  Harry is a former Royal Marine who, now elderly and suffering from emphysema, lives on a London council estate that has been taken over by a gang of violent drug dealers.  The nearby underpass is so dangerous that even Harry is scared to walk under it.  Because Harry has to take an alternate route to the hospital to avoid all of the gangs, his wife dies without Harry being at her side.  When his only friend is then killed while trying to stand up to the dealers, Harry snaps.  Harry starts tracking down and killing the dealers and the gang members who have made retirement so unbearable for him.  Detective Frampton (Emily Mortimer) suspects that Harry is the vigilante but, before she can move to stop him, both she and Harry are targeted by the local drug lord, who turns out to be someone who Harry never suspected.

Harry Brown is really just an updated version of Death Wish, set in London instead of New York.  It has its share of good action scenes and director Daniel Barber does a good job making London look like the worst place on Earth but, ultimately, it’s as predictable and heavy-handed as any of the films Michael Winner made with Charles Bronson.  What makes Harry Brown special is not the script but instead the presence of Michael Caine, giving one of his best and most heartfelt performances and making the movie work, even when the story tries to sabotage him.  Caine brings an appropriate amount of righteous fury to the role but he also plays the role with a lot of heart.  Harry would much rather be enjoying his twilight years in peace but he feels that he was one last mission to pursue.  He would rather die protecting his friends and his neighbors than live his life in fear.  Harry also knows that, because he’s old, everyone underestimates him.  That’s a mistake that he uses to his advantage.

Harry Brown is like many Michael Caine films in that the main reason to watch it is because it’s a Michael Caine film.  At the time he made the film, he said that he expected Harry Brown would be his last lead role.  It wasn’t.  Just like Harry Brown, Michael Caine still has more to show the world.

Spring Breakdown: Jaws: The Revenge (dir by Joseph Sargent)

The 1987 film, Jaws: The Revenge, opens with Amity Island (last seen in Jaws 2) preparing to celebrate Christmas.  Longtime police chief and veteran shark hunter Martin Brody has died but his widow, Ellen (Lorraine Gary), still lives on the island.  Also living on the island is Ellen’s youngest son, Sean (Mitchell Anderson).  Sean is now a deputy and he spends a lot of time patrolling the ocean.  This worries Ellen because the Brodys don’t exactly have the best luck when it come to the water….

Or continuity for that matter!  Anyone who has seen Jaws 3-D knows that Sean Brody moves down to Florida, became a cowboy, hooked up with Lea Thompson, and worked with his older brother at Sea World.  And yet, as Jaws: The Revenge opens, Sean is suddenly back in Amity, he’s not a cowboy, and he’s engaged to someone who is not Lea Thompson.  Throughout the film, no mention is made of Sean having ever gone to Florida or going through a cowboy phase.  Basically, this film ignores the entire existence of Jaws 3-D.  That would be okay if Jaws: The Revenge was actually a better film than Jaws 3-D but it’s not.  That’s right, Jaws The Revenge fails to even improve on Jaws 3-D.

Anyway, Sean goes out on patrol and promptly gets eaten by a shark.  Ellen loses her mind at the funeral and announces that she doesn’t want her oldest son, Michael (Lance Guest), going anywhere near the water.  Unfortunately, Michael is working in the Bahamas as a marine biologist so …. well, sorry, grandma.

Perhaps to try to help Ellen get over her fear of water, Michael brings Ellen back to the Bahamas with him.  Ellen gets a chance to spend some time with her daughter-in-law, Carla (Karen Young) and her granddaughter, Thea (Judith Barsi).  Ellen also pursues a tentative romance with the local pilot, Hoagie (Michael Caine, who gives a likable performance but who also has absolutely zero romantic chemistry with Lorraine Gary).  However, Ellen still has nightmares about the ocean and she suspects that the shark that killed Sean might be on its way to the Bahamas.  Why?  Because this time it’s personal!

Actually, as crazy as that sounds, it turns out that Ellen’s right.  Unfortunately, it takes the shark a while to get down there and, as such, the audience spends a lot of time watching Ellen, who was always the least interesting character in all of the Jaws films, wander around the Bahamas.  The island scenery is lovely but when you’re watching a Jaws movie, you’re watching for the shark action.  Jaws: The Revenge is only a 90-minute film and the shark doesn’t make its second appearance until the 50 minute mark.

Once the shark does show up, of course, it gets right down business.  It eats a swimmer.  It eats an airplane.  It sinks a boat.  At one point the shark bites someone in half and someone off-screen is heard to shout, “Get a doctor!” as if a doctor is going to be able to do much in that situation.  Ellen sets out to get some revenge of her own, which would be a thrilling moment if Ellen was as iconic a character as Jaws: The Revenge seems to think that she is.  My favorite moment is when Michael Caine reveals that, despite the odds, he somehow managed to avoid getting eaten by the shark.  When someone asks him how he did it, he replies, “It wasn’t easy …. bloody Hell,” and that’s pretty much all that’s said about it.

Ultimately, though, this is the least of the four Jaws films, duplicating neither the suspense of the first two films nor the camp silliness of the third film.  Fortunately, though this film may have been the last official sequel to Jaws, the legacy of the classic original will live forever.

10 Bloody Essential if Lesser Known Michael Caine Films

A Shock to the System (1990, directed by Jan Egleson)

Today is the 88th birthday of the great actor and British cultural icon, Sir Michael Caine!

As I did with Chuck Norris earlier this week, I want to commemorate Michael Caine’s birthday by sharing ten of his essential roles.  Since 1950, Michael Caine has appeared in over 130 films and countless TV productions.  Trying to narrow his long and prolific career down to just ten films is not easy, nor is it really necessary.  All of Caine’s films are worth watching, even the ones that he made during the period where he basically accepted every part that he was offered.  Because he’s so prolific and because so many of his films are already well-known and regarded as classics, I’ve decided to focus of listing ten of his lesser-known but no less essential roles.

  1. A Hill in Korea (1956, directed by Julian Aymes) — This nearly forgotten war film is significant because it featured Michael Caine in his first credited screen role.  (He had appeared in three previous films but wasn’t credited.)  A veteran of the Korean war, Caine was hired to serve as a technical advisor and he was given the small role of Private Lockyer.  Years later, Caine would say that, “I had 8 lines in that picture and I screwed up 6 of them.”  The film is a standard war film and Caine is barely onscreen but everyone had to start somewhere and this film did allow Caine to appear opposite Stanley Baker, Robert Shaw, and Harry Andrews.
  2. Billion Dollar Brain (1968, directed by Ken Russell) — In 1965, Michael Caine shot to stardom by playing the working class secret agent, Harry Palmer, in The Ipcress File.  Caine went on to play Palmer in four more films.  Billion Dollar Brain finds Harry trying to keep a computer and a mad millionaire from starting World War III.  This was Ken Russell’s first major feature film and, through not as flamboyant as some of his later films, Billion Dollar Brain still feels like Harry Palmer on acid.  Caine gives a typically good performance, as does Karl Malden in a key supporting role.  Caine’s future Eagle Has Landed co-star, Donald Sutherland, has a small, early role.
  3. Zee and Co. (1972, directed by Brian Hutton) — Caine is married to Elizabeth Taylor and having an affair with Susannah York.  This is the type of movie that probably could have only been made at a time when studio system veterans like Elizabeth Taylor were trying to prove that they could keep up with the new wave of filmmakers and stars.  Providing proof of his acting abilities, Caine somehow keeps a straight face and gives a credible performance while Taylor emotes all over the place.  The end result is loud, vulgar, and undeniably entertaining.
  4. Beyond The Poseidon Adventure (1979, directed by Irwin Allen) — I’m including this film as a stand-in for all of the films that Caine made strictly for the money.  It’s a ludicrous film but hard not to enjoy.  Michael Caine plays a tugboat captain who, with the help of Sally Field, attempts to salvage the cap-sized Poseidon before the luxury liner finally sinks.  Also showing up: Telly Savalas, Slim Pickens, Peter Boyle, and Billion Dollar Brain‘s Karl Malden.
  5. Mona Lisa (1986, directed by Neil Jordan) — The same year that Michael Caine appeared in his Oscar-winning role in Hannah and Her Sisters, he also played a gangster named Mortwell in Mona Lisa.  Caine is chillingly good in a rare villainous role.
  6. The Fourth Protocol (1987, directed by John MacKenzie) — This underrated spy thriller features Michael Caine as a world-weary British spy who has to stop KGB agent Pierce Brosnan from detonating a nuclear device.  This is a well-made spy thriller and it’s interesting to see Caine (who started his career as the anti-James Bond in the Harry Palmer films) acting opposite future Bond, Pierce Brosnan.
  7. Without A Clue (1988, directed by Thom Eberhardt) — This genuinely funny comedy stars Caine as Sherlock Holmes and Ben Kingsley as Dr. Watson.  The catch is that Holmes is actually a clueless actor who was hired by Watson to pretend to be a great detective.  When Prof. Moriarty targets Watson, Holmes is forced to actually solve a case on his own.  Caine and Kingsley make for a surprisingly good comedy team.
  8. A Shock to the System (1990, directed by Jan Egleson) — In this very dark comedy, Caine plays an executive who, sick of being passed over for promotions and criticized by his wife, decided to just kill everyone who annoys him.  This is one of Caine’s best performances and this underrated film’s satire feels just as relevant today as when it was released.
  9. Blood and Wine (1997, directed by Bob Rafelson) — This underrated neo-noir gave Michael Caine a chance to act opposite Jack Nicholson.  The two iconic actors bring out the best in each other, playing partners in a jewelry heist gone wrong.
  10. Is Anybody There? (2008, directed by John Crowley) — In this low-key but emotionally effective film, Caine plays an elderly magician who is suffering from the early stages of dementia.  Having entered a retirement home, he befriends the son of the home’s manager and the two of them search for evidence of life after death.  Though the film didn’t get much attention in the States, Caine described it as a favorite in his most recent autobiography, Blowing The Bloody Doors Off.  75 years-old when he appeared in the film, Caine proved that he could still take audiences by surprise and create an unforgettable character.

Escape to Victory (1981, directed by John Huston)

In 1942, during the height of World War II, Nazi Major Karl von Steiner (Max von Sydow) is surprised to discover that professional English footballer John Colby (Michael Caine) is a prisoner of war in France and that he has formed his own soccer league with his fellow POWs.  Seeing a chance for a propaganda coup, von Steiner arranges for a team led by Colby to be travel to occupied Pairs where they will play a match against the German national team.

Colby agrees, on the condition that it be a real game and that the teams not just be made up of officers.  At the insistence of his senior officers, Colby also allows an American prisoner named Robert Hatch (Sylvester Stallone) to serve as the team’s trainer.  Hatch is plotting to use the match as a cover for his own escape.  When it appears that there’s a chance for the entire team to escape during the match, Colby and his team are forced to choose between defeating the German team or making a run for freedom.

I think that, for most people, that wouldn’t be too difficult of a decision to make.  If I have to choose between escaping a POW camp or winning a match, I’m going to go down the tunnel and do what I have to do to make it across the English channel.  In the movie, though, it’s a matter of pride and I think Michael Caine is probably the only actor who could make such a conflict feel credible.  Though Stallone got both top billing and a romantic subplot with a member of the Resistance, it’s Michael Caine’s movie all the way through.  From the minute he demands to know “what the bloody hell” is going on, Michael Caine owns Escape to Victory.

Escape to Victory is an old-fashioned war film.  Think of it as being The Great Escape with tons of soccer kicked in.  Fans of the game will probably enjoy seeing legendary players like Pele and Bobby Moore cast as the POWs who make up Colby’s team.  The movie has some slow spots but it’s ultimately a rousing adventure, featuring good performances from Caine, von Sydow, and Sylvester Stallone.  It’s interesting to see Stallone cast as someone who isn’t automatically the best player on the field.

The film is based on a true story, one that sadly did not share this film’s happy ending.  In 1942, a group of Ukrainian POWs played an exhibition match against their German captors.  When the POWs won the match, the Germans responded by executing the majority of the players.  The true story of the Death Match (as it was later called) was told in 1962, in a Hungarian film called Two Half Times In Hell.

Peeper (1975, directed by Peter Hyams)

Peeper gets off to a good start, with a Humphrey Bogart look alike standing on a dark street corner and reading the opening credits in a reasonable approximation of Bogart’s unmistakable voice.  It all goes down hill from there.

Peeper stars Michael Caine as Leslie C. Tucker, a cockney private detective who is working in Los Angeles in the late 40s.  Tucker is hired by a shady businessman named Anglich (Michael Constantine).  Anglich explains that he knows that he has a daughter but he doesn’t know who or where she is.  He wants Tucker to track her down.  It doesn’t take much time for Tucker to conclude that Anglich’s daughter might be a member of the wealthy and quirky Pendergrast family.  In fact, Tucker thinks that Anglich’s daughter might be Ellen Pendergrast (Natalie Wood, who seems to be bored with the role).  It should be a simple enough case to solve but there are numerous complications along with two thugs (played by Timothy Carey and Don Calfa) who, for some reason, are out to get Anglich and Tucker.

It’s hard to know what to make of Peeper.  It’s meant to be an homage to the detective films of the 40s but it also tries to parody the genre.  Unfortunately, Peter Hyams has never been a director known for his light touch and, in this film, his idea of comedy is to have everyone shout their lines.  (Michael Constantine is the worst offender.)  Michael Caine is also miscast in the lead.  The film tries to get some comedic mileage out of Caine delivering Bogart-style dialogue in his cockney accent but it’s a joke that’s never as funny as the film seems to think.

Peeper was a critical and box office failure but fortunately, there were better things in store for both Michael Caine and Peter Hyams.  Hyams went on to direct Capricorn One while Michael Caine established himself as one of the most durable character actors around.

4 Shots From 4 Bloody Films: Special Michael Caine Edition

4 Shots From 4 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 is the 87th birthday of the great actor and icon of all things British, Michael Caine!

Caine is famously prolific and, when it comes to picking shots from his films, it’s hard to narrow them down to just four.  At a certain point in his career, the big joke about Michael Caine was that he would appear in literally everything.  He even missed accepting his first Oscar in person because he was busy filming Jaws: The Revenge.  Not surprisingly, it was after Jaws: The Revenge that Caine started to become more discriminating when it came to picking his films.

Despite the fact that he’s now a bit more careful about picking roles that allow him to show off his considerable talent as opposed to just supplying him with an easy paycheck, Caine remains a busy actor.  In his autobiography, Blowing the Bloody Doors Off, Caine wrote that he plans to keep acting as long as he is physically and mentally able to do so.  I look forward to seeing what future, great performances Michael Caine is going to give us.

For now, here are:

4 Shots From 4 Films

Get Carter (1971, directed by Mike Hodges)

The Man Who Would Be King (1975, directed by John Huston)

A Shock to the System (1990, directed by Jan Egleson)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012, directed by Christopher Nolan)


2018 In Review: Lisa’s Top 12 Non-Fiction Books

All day today, I’ve been posting my favorites (and least favorites) of 2018.  If you’ve missed the previous entries …. well, that’s kind of on you.

Anyway, we have now reached the part of our program where I list my top twelve non-fiction books.  There was actually quite a lot of good non-fiction published this year.  The list below is a nice mix of memoirs, politics, and true crime.  Read them all and then be sure to come back here and thank me.

Here’s the list!

  1. The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy by Daniel Kalder
  2. Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna
  3. Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman
  4. You’re on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir by Parker Posey
  5. I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell
  6. The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustraed History by Stephen Jones
  7. True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking by Don Coscarelli 
  8. Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir by John Banville
  9. Blowing the Bloody Doors Off by Michael Caine
  10. The Contest: The 1968 Election and the War for America’s Soul by Michael Schumacher
  11. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
  12. The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman

I’ve got three more topics left to cover: music, television, and my favorite movies of the year.  For now, I need to take a small break and stretch my legs so expect to see the rest of my picks for the best of 2018 later tonight or tomorrow.

(Probably tomorrow, to be absolutely honest.)

Lisa Looks Back At 2018:

  1. Ten Worst Films of 2018
  2. The Best of Lifetime
  3. The Best of SyFy
  4. Lisa’s 10 Favorite Novels of 2018

Music Video of the Day: Michael Caine by Madness (1984, directed by ????)

From the minute that I read Lisa Marie’s review of The Island two weeks ago, I knew that I wanted to highlight this video from Madness.

As you can tell from the title, the song is a tribute to Michael Caine and his status as a British cultural icon.  The video is based on The IPCRESS File, the best known of the five films in which Caine played Harry Palmer.  Harry was the working class equivalent of James Bond.  Bond was a glamorous bachelor who slept with beautiful women and traveled the world.  Harry, on the other hand, lived alone in a shabby flat, wore glasses, and never got paid what he deserved.

That actually is Michael Caine repeating his name for the song’s hook.  When the band first approached him, Caine turned them down because he had never heard of them.  Only after his daughter told him how popular Madness was did Caine change his mind.  The sample of Caine repeating his own name was meant as a tribute to a scene in The IPCRESS File, in which Harry Palmer resisted a brainwashing attempt by repeating his own name.

Michael Caine spent 8 weeks on the British charts, peaking at number 11.