By Lynn Venhaus
When the U.S. Department of Justice sounded the alarm bells this week, after having no choice but to act on such egregious disregard for national security by seizing 11 sets of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, information trickled out, each revelation more concerning than the day before regarding what was found at the former president’s residence.

But those initial knee-jerk reactions by far-right extremists, propaganda media and dog-whistling GOP elected officials caused a great deal of harm.

Without knowing what transpired, they shouted to “Defund the FBI” and claimed Nazi tactics. Really? Without any supporting facts and taking the word of a pathological liar, their rush to judgment was disturbing. They continued to rile up the partisan divide that seems irreparable at this point. so irresponsible. If no one listens to logic, we are a long way from public leaders using common sense.

Isn’t there any moderate who is willing to go on record with “Maybe there is something very wrong here, and lives are at jeopardy?” But when no one cares about anything but power and winning, this is where we are in 2022.

The talking points fueling conspiracy theories were nonsense. How fast their violent rhetoric escalated lies and misinformation, damaging the foundations of our judicial institutions. And this is just accepted behavior. Fan the flames because they can?

And to what end? Defending abuse of the rule of law because they think any investigation into #45 is unjust and uncalled for?
Blind support for his unsubstantiated claims that he was the victim, it is a “witch hunt” and “nothing to see here,” which has been debunked, is troubling. Surely you can’t support someone’s abuse of the law, no matter what party you are affiliated with? That is not being a patriot.

TFG is not above the law. Why is it so hard to understand?

Why can’t more citizens admit they were wrong and distance themselves from a man who clearly continues to be a danger to democracy?

While more will come out, of course, so many laws appear to be willfully broken. Time will tell just how serious these charges are, if it comes to that. And there is such rampant speculation, so the sooner we know the truth, the better.

But the national security experts are shocked at the blatant disregard for national security and how at-risk the lives of government intelligence employees are — and it is beyond the pale.

The mind is blown because these laws and procedures are to protect the safety of not only our country’s military, but our allies as well.

No excuse makes this OK. No amount of blaming others makes it legal.

The twice-impeached former president will knock the investigation to further distract people, but this is serious. While he has committed so many other infractions and seemingly isn’t punished – yet, these questions remain a concern.

1. Why have this stuff?
2. Why lie about having it?
3. Why disregard a subpoena?

This isn’t ‘he said, she said,’ but rather based on written evidence, surveillance videos and irrefutable behavior. Interrogations will follow.

I have long wondered what would be the tipping point for those die-hard devotees to realize what an actual liability Trump is, a morally bankrupt demagogue whose mob-boss tactics and long history of corruption has led us to this very scary point. And how the political parties move forward. When will accountability matter?

This inexplicable grip he has is being tested, and while his radicalized supporters become increasingly violent and threats are up, what happens next will be very revealing.

Attorney General Merrick Garland

Now would be a good time to drop the cult-like devotion, say “Enough!” aloud, and understand that supporting a traitor means you are in favor of treason.

When people learn they are on the wrong side of history is a day I hope they must deal with the consequences. But most of all, right the ship. Start over from Day 1 for the betterment of all of us.

I fear if people do not de-program the craven acolytes, we are at a grave juncture.

Every day seems like authoritarianism is imminent because so many people are unwilling to stand up, do their duty and uphold the US Constitution.

And for what?
Be afraid, be very afraid.
I know I am.

Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss:
“Rule of law. Protect our institutions of democracy. Defend our national security. There should be nothing partisan about any of this.”

God bless America, my country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty. Let freedom ring.

To read the complete document:

By Lynn Venhaus
The lengthy hunt for a sicko responsible for torturing, raping and murdering multiple teenage girls, known as “The Truck Stop Killer,” deserves better than the poorly executed “Midnight in the Switchgrass.”

An undercover FBI agent (Megan Fox) teams up with a Florida state police officer (Emile Hirsch) to investigate a string of unsolved murder cases.

This true-crime thriller involving a long-haul trucker living a double life, Robert Ben Rhoades, here known as Peter (Lukas Haas), had the potential to be an absorbing drama, but first-time director Randall Emmett, although a veteran producer, and rookie screenwriter Alan Horsnail serve up a plodding standard operating procedural. They fumble with erratic pacing and cookie-cutter characters.

Nevertheless, Hirsch’s earnest, intense performance as Pensacola lawman Byron Crawford stands out in the tall prairiegrass.

But don’t expect a decent turn from Bruce Willis, who is merely window dressing as a jaded FBI agent close to retirement, Karl Helter, who verbally spars with fellow investigator Rebecca Lombardo on intent and methods.

They are teamed to infiltrate sex trafficker rings, but Lombardo, a convincing Fox, stumbles onto the trail of a mass murderer. Fox’s character is committed to caring about the victims, mostly “invisibles” – runaways, prostitutes, hitchhikers, drug addicts, and thinks their lives matter.

That concern is shared by Crawford, who goes rogue when another young woman’s body is found, this one with the same bite marks that he has seen on other victims. And then when a prostitute is killed at the Oasis Motel, he thinks it is the guy that was planning to meet Rebecca, who had engaged “BigRigGlory” online. The pair set up a sting that goes horribly wrong.

The filmmakers have moved the real serial killer’s location from Texas to Florida. Haas, who broke through as the young Amish boy in “Witness,” actually starred in “Alpha Dog” with Willis and Hirsch before, but has no interaction with them here.

Naturally, we get a glimpse of him as a loving family man, doting on his daughter Bethany (Olive Elise Abercrombie), at his remote homestead. A shed on his property is where he shackles his victims and tortures them before discarding their bodies. Haas is creepy as the sadistic pervert, but the story’s predictability doesn’t help. Although the escalating cat-and-mouse game builds in suspense towards the film’s resolution, that in itself is rather abrupt.

Fox, who met her current boyfriend, Machine Gun Kelly, on the set – he plays an abusive pimp, using his real name of Colson Baker – conveys street smarts and a dedication to her job, while hinting at a troubled life.

The supporting cast includes Sistine Stallone, Sylvester’s daughter, as Heather, the sister of a missing girl, Tracey, well-played by Caitlin Carmichael, who handles a harrowing escape with real grit.

Welker White is moving as one of the dead girls’ mothers, Georgia Kellogg, who is visited by Crawford.

The music is maudlin and despite Hirsch’s interesting portrayal, not much distinguishes this from a “Dateline” episode.

“Midnight in the Switchgrass” is a true crime thriller directed by Randall Emmett and starring Emile Hirsch, Megan Fox, Lukas Haas and Bruce Willis. Rated R for violence and language throughout, its runtime is 1 hour, 39 minutes. It is in theaters and available Video on Demand on July 23 and released on DVD and Blu-Ray July 27. Lynn’s Grade: C.
Lynn’s Grade: C

By Lynn Venhaus

When the Academy Award nominations are announced on March 15, I will wager that Andra Day will be among the five names listed for Best Actress. She is ferocious in her portrayal of the troubled, self-destructive and talented vocalist – and even more remarkable, it is her first major acting role.

Day, a Grammy-nominated R&B singer, summons raw emotion when depicting Holiday’s sad, sordid life. When she is on stage, singing Holiday’s classics, she is incandescent.

Costume designer Paulo Nieddu, known for “Sex and the City” and “Empire,” provides an elegant and opulent look for the entertainer, while the hair and makeup department’s work is award-worthy.

Starting in 1947, iconic jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday (Andra Day) was targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics for not only her heroin use, but also for singing the praised yet controversial “Strange Fruit,” which is about a lynching. An undercover sting operation is led by black federal agent Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), with whom she had a tumultuous affair.

Unfortunately, Day is far better than the film’s material. While focusing on the last 10 years of Holiday’s life, director Lee Daniels and screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks cram too much into the narrative and allow characters to come and go with little context.

It’s frustrating to watch because of the inconsistencies, and the rest of the characters are caricatures.

Parks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, adapted the screenplay from Johann Mari’s book, “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs,” specifically the chapter “The Black Hand.”

The bold “Strange Fruit” helped Holiday gain prominence, but the ballad was a lightning rod for controversy and her defiance was a source of aggravation for the feds.

 In 1999, Time magazine called it “The Song of the Century” and it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978. The song is credited as a catalyst in the civil rights movement.

But back in her day, Lady Day suffered for her art.

Garrett Hedlund, who desperately needs a hit after a string of duds since his breakout role in the 2004 film “Friday Night Lights,” plays the antagonistic bigoted bully Harry Anslinger, head of the bureau, almost as if he’s Snidely Whiplash.

Natasha Lyonne plays actress Tallulah Bankhead, who was rumored to have a relationship with Holiday, but it’s a useless part of the narrative, and just dropped in with little context.

Faring better is Trevante Rhodes as Jimmy Fletcher, a complex agent who falls in love with Holiday. Their relationship is confounding, mainly because of Holiday’s other husbands and lovers – and hard to keep who’s who straight because of the jumps back and forth. Rhodes, who played the grown-up Chiron in “Moonlight,” does what he can with playing a real, conflicted character.

Holiday’s personal life was messy, and the movie shows how drug use, excessive drinking, non-stop smoking and abuse by awful men lead to her decline. It’s a tragic tale, to be sure, but the graphic shots of injecting heroin and the physical assaults are tough to watch.

However, as the third film this past year showing how evil J. Edgar Hoover’s moves as the director of the FBI were, it is always worth remembering his abuses of power. (The other two films: “MLK/FBI” and “Judas and the Black Messiah”).

While Day shines a light on this legend, the film ultimately disappoints. Holiday, and Day, deserved better.

Andra Day stars in THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY from Paramount Pictures. Photo Credit: Takashi Seida.

“The United States vs. Billie Holiday” is a biographical drama, directed by Lee Daniels and starring Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund,. It is rated R for drug use, domestic violence, language, nudity and mature themes and the run time is 2 hours, 9 minutes.
Lynn’s Grade: B. Now available streaming on Hulu.