Why does the movie The Hunger Games: Catching Fire excite today’s kids so much? Maybe because it plays to their childish views, which in many cases are interwoven with the central thinking of liberalism. Here are five reasons why childish liberals love The Hunger Games.
1) By spoofing yet glamorizing the media, it pretends you can have your cake and eat it too.
The Hunger Games thinks it’s a vicious satire of media-obsessed culture, particularly reality TV shows such as Survivor, which the movies literalize by imagining kids from around the country being brought to the decadent Capitol City to fight each other to the death for the amusement of TV watchers. But that satire has to be lost on the audience, which is attracted to the films for such spectacles as heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) riding a chariot into an arena filled with thousands of screaming fans in an amazing dress that lights on fire for extra wow. Media-saturated kids walk out of the film picturing themselves being treated as superstars for no reason except being randomly selected in a lottery.
What does all this have to do with politics? Liberals who, for instance, keep proposing minimum wage increases or tariffs to keep out foreign competition are forever blasting things that in reality they love and couldn’t live without, like cheap laborers to redo their fancy kitchens or mow their lawns.
The Oscars won’t be given out until March, but Oscar season is already well underway as studio flacks hold parties and special screenings intended to sway voters. The leading contenders so far are:
10 and 9. American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street
Both films make the list solely because of the track record of their respective directors, David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook) and Martin Scorsese. Unlike all of the other movies on this list, these two haven’t been publicly shown yet. Scorsese is still editing his Leonardo DiCaprio-starring film about finance-industry debauchery and isn’t expected to be finished until the end of November.
Russell says his movie, which stars Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in a drama about a 1970s political scam, is almost ready. American Hustle is due in theaters Dec. 18, Wolf a week later.
Likely Oscar nominations: Best Picture?
It’s been all of six months since the last so-so Marvel superhero movie, and yet here comes another weak entry: Thor: The Dark World. Despite the hype, this one is easily skippable. Here are six reasons why the Thor franchise is strictly B-list.
1) A hammer? Seriously?
Thor’s all-powerful weapon “mjolnir” is simply and literally a blunt instrument. What else can you do with a hammer except smash things with it? It’s not like flying, or the ability to cast webs out of your palms: It doesn’t open up a world of possibility.
A hammer is such a short extension of reach and force that Thor might as well just punch enemies in the face. And when he winds up the hammer by swinging it in super-fast circles he just looks as ridiculous as a character from an old Warner Brothers cartoon.
Superhero weapons are supposed to be deeply marinated in myth, not in cheap jokes, and yet you can tell from Thor: The Dark World exactly how seriously the writers take this supposed all-powerful item when Thor, on a visit to Earth, simply hangs the object on an ordinary coat rack. Isn’t the hammer supposed to be so heavy only Thor can lift it? Why doesn’t it rip the coat rack off the wall and maybe smash through the floor below it?
With its dinosaur stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the new action thriller Escape Plan looks like a standard semi-trashy ’80s throwback flick. Guess what? It is. But guess what again? It’s actually pretty good. Here are five reasons why.
1) A cool concept.
Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a master breakout artist who, along with his partner (Vincent D’Onofrio), runs a profitable business that sends him, incognito, into a series of prisons that he then promptly busts out of. The idea is to expose the flaws in the prisons’ security plans and earn the partners nice consulting fees.
That idea yields a fun prologue in which Ray, who appears to be an ordinary inmate, gets in a prison-yard fight, is sent to solitary confinement and yet devises a way out by using the full range of MacGyver-tastic tricks. Did you know the film from inside the wax coating of a half-pint of chocolate milk can be used to obtain the secret security code of a maximum-security cell? I didn’t either, and maybe it can’t, but the details of Ray’s breakout are plausible enough for an action movie.
I especially loved the way he makes a sextant out of a pair of eyeglasses.
With the true-life maritime thriller Captain Phillips Tom Hanks has his best movie since Catch Me If You Can 11 years ago. Here are the reasons it works so well — and the reason its leftist politics cause it to fall into a trap while reaching for social significance.
1. Paul Greengrass.
Captain Phillips is very much in that vein of breathless suspense. Vermonter Captain Richard Phillips was piloting the Merchant Marine vessel the Maersk Alabama off the Gulf of Aden when Somali pirates using simple skiffs were lurking in the waters looking for a lone ship they could pick off and hold for millions in ransom. Phillips himself endured a five-day ordeal, harrowingly depicted with Greengrass’s trademark quasi-documentary style.
1) It’s not so much a movie as an all-consuming, mindblowing cinematic experience.
Director Alfonso Cuaron’s cinematographer and visual and sound effects teams have created an immersive 3D spectacle with few parallels in the history of moviemaking. Sound like hyperbole? You’ll be hearing a lot more along the same lines, because no film has ever made you feel space in all its awesome, terrible majesty like Gravity.
When Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, playing U.S. astronauts, get caught up in a debris belt and separated from their spacecraft and from one another, you’ll be spellbound by the scale of what they’re up against. When sound effects can’t be deployed (there is no sound in space, although there is plenty of it inside the helmets of the characters and inside the pressurized chambers of the various spacecraft they visit), a magnificently evocative musical score takes over, providing an approximation of what the catastrophic events the astronauts are witnessing might sound like on Earth, or in the imaginations of the overwhelmed characters.
The animated children’s movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 lands in theaters this week with a strange anti-food processing message: The bad guy wants to take adorable anthropomorphic animal-foods and feed them into his giant food processor to make energy bars.
Surprisingly, this movie is actually less obnoxiously political than lots of other offerings being sold to your kids. Here are five especially egregious examples of kids’ movies with intrusive political messages.
1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009).
The original film took a fun kids’ book and loaded it up with political freight: it’s set in a struggling island town that hits a windfall when a young inventor named Flint Lockwood invents a machine that can turn water into food.
Before you know it, it’s raining meat and produce. Sounds like a resource-management problem: If it rained gold, would we figure out a way to profit from it or scream that doomsday has arrived?
The movie turns into a lecture on materialism, inviting us to see the connection between consumer habits and extreme weather/global warming. See, if we don’t get out of our big comfy SUVs and stop craving so much food, the weather-gods will plague us forever. Hollywood’s neo-Puritanism is alive and well.
As summer trickles out with the usual hopeless Labor Day menu of schlock that should have gone straight to video, Hollywood takes its usual breather for a few weeks, but starting in October some of the year’s most keenly anticipated movies will begin to roll out. Here are five that look like major potential crowd-pleasers.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street (Nov. 15)
Leonardo DiCaprio is an overrated actor, but the principal reason he’s overrated is that he’s usually very good in Martin Scorsese films like this one (though he stumbles with other directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Clint Eastwood).
The movie sounds like a gleefully cynical, Goodfellas-like take on the booming 1990s financial industry, minus Oliver Stone’s groaning liberal cliches about corruption. Instead, the adaptation of a memoir by former stockbroker Jordan Belfort (an outsider who made it into one of America’s most exclusive clubs, much like Henry Hill in Goodfellas, before an equally spectacular downfall) is being billed as a boys-will-be-boys black-comedy spree.
Through Scorsese’s mischief-loving eyes, Wall Street will be shown in a state of ecstatic excess characterized by dwarf-tossing, coke-snorting and wanton sexual misbehavior. The movie sounds buzzy, funny, dark, rude and politically incorrect.
The Oscar-for-Oprah campaign starts now, with the oversimplified Hollywood tearjerker Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a film by the director of Precious that plays Hollywood’s white liberal guilt like a Stradivarius. Marching through the decades like a chocolate Gump, the title character (Forest Whitaker) is a stolid, nonpolitical White House servant (Winfrey plays his wife) in every administration from Eisenhower to Reagan. Through his eyes we witness many of the most telling chapters of the Civil Rights epic. But the movie doesn’t treat the topic with the seriousness it deserves. Here are five big conceptual errors in the movie.
5. It overstates its case.
Whitaker’s Butler is a tortured soul (largely the creation of screenwriter Danny Strong, who also wrote the Sarah Palin hatefest Game Change) who has known all kinds of heartbreak, but the Washington Post article about a real long-serving White House butler that was the original basis for the movie is free of the anguish or anger with which the movie is loaded. In the first two or three minutes there are references to two lynchings, a rape (of the butler’s mother) and a racist murder (of his father). None of these things happened to the actual butler, who also didn’t have an activist son or another son who died in the Vietnam War.
This week Matt Damon hits theaters with the thinly veiled, pro-amnesty sci-fi parable Elysium. It’s a movie in which struggling Latinos stranded on a wrecked planet Earth 150 years from now plot ways to steal citizenship on a utopian space station called Elysium where the richest and whitest people have fled. This is all nothing new for Damon, who has pushed a liberal political agenda many times before. Here are the five worst political ideas that have been central to his films.
5) The CIA is evil.
The 2006 film The Good Shepherd is loosely based on the early days of the OSS and the CIA, with Robert De Niro directing and playing a figure modeled on “Wild Bill” Donovan (the founder of the OSS, which became the CIA after World War II) and Damon starring as James Jesus Angleton, the CIA executive who befriended British turncoat Kim Philby.
The movie is a somber, depressing affair of a descent into darkness that amounts to a sort of Greatest Hits of anti-CIA liberals obsessed with such disappointments as the agency’s experiments with LSD and the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Though few outside the liberal establishment can see the wisdom in letting the KGB go unanswered during the Cold War, the film portrays the CIA as fatally morally compromised — a kind of cancer on the whole idea of America.
From the trailers, this week’s new thriller 2 Guns looks like a tasty new dish in the long buffet of fun action movies. But it doesn’t have all of the five things that would earn it the coveted title of “kick-ass.” Here’s a brief rundown of what every action flick that hopes to endure must have.
5) A genuine take-him-to-the-bank movie star. Preferably two.
Despite his shaky start, Mark Wahlberg did turn out to be a likeable, physical, often funny star, and Denzel Washington exudes star qualities. Both of these guys have the don’t-mess-with-me look. But sorry, Shia LaBeouf, your look is, “Please give me a wedgie and then stuff me in a locker.” Leonardo DiCaprio, your look is aging pretty boy. Jake Gyllenhaal, you can get as pumped up as you want but you still look more like a poet of Pasadena than the Prince of Persia. None of you looks like the guy I want standing behind me with his arms crossed calmly over his chest when I get into an argument with half a dozen Hell’s Angels in a roadhouse. An action-movie star has to have presence, like Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jason Statham.
Six movies into the X-Men series, it’s clear that this is the superhero franchise with the most overt and unapologetic leftist sympathies. As the series continues with The Wolverine, let’s review some of the most outrageously politicized elements of the saga. Here are the top four loony leftist lies that sneaked into the X-Men movies.
1. Animal rights trump human rights.
The Wolverine begins with the title figure (Hugh Jackman) living like a caveman in the lonely Yukon, where he can’t stop himself from fighting for justice and righting wrongs. He comes across a grizzly bear that’s been fatally wounded with what turns out to be a poison arrow. This kind of hunting may be poor sportsmanship and it may be illegal, but what Wolverine does is far worse: He finds the hunter in a bar, slaps him around and rams one of the man’s own poison arrows into the man’s hand, leaving him to die. Rough justice? No, that’s just murder. Sorry, X-Men, but hunters are not evil and a bear’s life and a man’s are not equivalents.
Even in Hollywood, you have to deliver results if you want to remain employed. Every year stars fall off the A-list — ask circa 2009 Nicolas Cage about that — and find themselves in a shame spiral of B-movies, supporting roles, and eventually television (sorry, Robin Williams, who will be appearing in the CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones, and as the dad, no less). Who is about to fall off the top of the perch?
1. Tom Cruise
The success of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol less than two years ago gave his stock a bump, but apparently it was the stunts that were the star of that movie. In the three consecutive flops he’s made since — Rock of Ages, Jack Reacher and the aptly-named Oblivion – audiences didn’t even show up on opening weekend out of curiosity. Before Protocol, don’t forget, no one showed up for Knight and Day, Valkyrie or Lions for Lambs, either. Cruise is 51 years old, his boyish charm is finally gone, and he isn’t an action hero anymore. Audiences see him as their weird dad. He should give up on trying to rule the multiplex and start nosing around for more interesting roles like the one he had in Magnolia. Not that he’s fond of Paul Thomas Anderson anymore after Anderson made fun of scientology in The Master.
Next up: Fighting aliens next summer in All You Need Is Kill. Sure.
A lot of forgettable movies have rained down on the multiplexes during Hollywood’s nonstop deluge of blockbusters this summer. But what are the ten most essential summer blockbusters of the last decade? Here’s one fan’s take.
10. The Avengers (2012)
Too comic-booky to be a truly great movie, and degenerating into a meaningless pow-biff-bam climax, Joss Whedon’s superhero omnibus nevertheless sparkled with clever dialogue and launched what looks like a new era in movie mashups by managing to fit a squad of mythic larger-than-life figures on a single canvas.
Whedon’s trick was to shrink them a bit, treating them as squabbling fraternity brothers mocking each other’s amazing backstories the way the lads at Delta House would taunt each other for being fat or having an ugly girlfriend. Whedon made these demigods relatable without making them absurd.
Brad Pitt is not the world’s greatest actor, but he does have talent and movie-star charisma. More important, though, he has good taste which proves he’s not a hack. Movies like Moneyball, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Tree of Life and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button prove he’s interested in quality material that isn’t necessarily commercial. He isn’t Sly Stallone or Steven Seagal.
So what is he doing producing and starring in World War Z when he could be doing something a lot more interesting than shooting zombies in the face? That’s easy. He’s in Paycheck Mode. He thinks he needs to carry a bona-fide blockbuster series in order to keep him in the style to which he’s become accustomed. Here are five ways you can tell he’s doing it strictly for the bucks.
1) The New Movie Is High-Concept, Meaning Low-Effort on the Part of the Audience.
You can’t explain the appeal of Moneyball or Jesse James in a sentence, but World War Z is simply a movie about your average ordinary expert UN diplomat/action hero/scientist/dad who singlehandedly saves the world from an unexplained zombie outbreak. Problem: the audience figures out early going in that this is pretty much going to be the whole story, so the only reason to stick around is to ogle the special effects and worship his Bradness. The movie is set up to launch a franchise that would replace the Ocean’s series with an easy way for Brad to replenish the bank account every couple of years, but with cost overruns driving the budget up to some $200 million — some say the true figure is closer to $300 million — the zombie thriller seems unlikely to spark a sequel.
Man of Steel may not measure up to the classic 1978 Superman, but it’s a refreshingly grownup film in a sea of the summer sillies. Here’s why it easily tops Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Oblivion, After Earth and the rest of the blockbuster slate so far.
1. It’s a classic story told seriously, with no goofy elements.
If comic-book movies run from Batman & Robin on one side to The Dark Knight on the other, Man of Steel, which essentially begins like Superman and morphs into Superman II, is much closer to the psychological and foreboding end of the spectrum than the campy and ridiculous one. The Christ-like story of a godlike man sent to Earth as our savior is dressed up with impressive special effects on Krypton (where Kal-El’s father Jor-El, played by Russell Crowe, sends him to Earth as the planet expires beneath him) and again on this planet, where Superman moves with bullet-like speed in visceral, believable scenes shot like those in the found-footage film Chronicle. There are hardly any jokes in the film, and that’s a good thing.
We’ve been through a lot with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson through the years. We laughed at them in Wedding Crashers, chuckled at Old School (though Owen was played by his brother Luke), and cried along with Marley and Me, in which Vaughn was disguised as a Labrador Retriever. We even forgave The Break-Up, because at least Vaughn was nailing his then-foxy costar Jennifer Aniston, and You, Me and Dupree, because though it caused no laughter whatsoever in theaters it at least led to a funny letter that Wilson wrote to Steely Dan after they accused him of ripping off a song title.
But…Fred Claus. Four Christmases. Couples Retreat. The Watch. Those Vaughn misadventures can’t be forgiven. As for Owen: Marmaduke. Hall Pass. How Do You Know. Now here’s another one for the anti-resume: The Internship. Here are five reasons it’s no Wedding Crashers.
1. Cool, resourceful guys are a lot more interesting than clueless dorks.
Again and again in The Internship, we see childhood pals Nick (Wilson) and Billy (Vaughn) falling upwards. This could be funny as a satire on how the undeserving can be amazingly successful, but that’s not what the movie is going for. It imagines that two idiots who fraudulently claim to be programming whizzes and physics majors could somehow convince the extremely smart people at Google to offer them internships.
When the two claim they’re online students at the University of Phoenix and call it the Harvard of the West, their interviewers go with it as though they didn’t have hundreds of Harvard of the East applicants begging them for gigs. Watching a gag that would never work in real life, though, simply alerts you to how dopey and Hollywoodized the conception of the movie is. In Wedding Crashers, the guys had a much more dead-on scheme: Being cute and charming at wedding receptions would allow them to meet cute, unsuspecting, slightly tipsy girls who might be in the mood for a romp.
Each spring, the showbiz hype machine talks up the excitement level of the summer blockbuster slate. In fact, despite a big May, Summer 2013 is looking like one of the dreariest and most useless summers ever, loaded with sequels to movies that weren’t worth seeing in the first place, lame vanity projects, overdone epics, and dull retreads.
Forget the summer’s biggest hits. What will the biggest flops of the season be? Here’s an educated guess based on advance buzz.
1. After Earth (May 31)
This is a movie that goes wrong early. Really early. In the credits. “Story by Will Smith”? Huh?
Starring the top-billed Smith son Jaden Smith, who is no longer the adorable little kid he was in Pursuit of Happyness and The Karate Kid but is now a sullen teen? Directed by notorious hack M. Night Shyamalan, he of The Happening and The Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender, the guy who hasn’t made a movie that wasn’t laughed out of theaters in a decade?
Despite all of these obvious problems, plus the additional worry that the similar Tom Cruise movie Oblivion came out in April and fulfilled its title’s destiny almost instantly, After Earth is somehow managing to underperform expectations, causing early viewers to wonder why the former biggest star in the world, the elder Smith, spends most of the second half of the movie injured and stuck in a chair giving his son long-distance pep talks after the two crash-land on Earth to fight monsters a thousand years in the future. And why do both of them talk like they’re from New Zealand? This one is headed for the Bad Idea Hall of Fame, and the Stale Prince’s stock is plummeting after Men in Black III and Seven Pounds.
As a general rule, it’s all fine and good for a comedian to be funny-looking. Zach Galifianakis is not only funny-looking, he’s hilarious-looking: He could be the lonely love child of Chewbacca and Rosie O’Donnell. But Zach G’s big problem is that, after four years in the spotlight as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after comedy stars, he still has nothing else going for him but the way he looks.
Here are five reasons it’s time to stick a fork in this meatball of an actor.
1) He Keeps Doing the Same Shtick.
Galifianakis is forever playing the same strange, foolhardy egomaniac whether in the three Hangover movies, Due Date,or The Campaign. In the completely unnecessary sequel The Hangover Part III he takes over starring duties as Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms step aside. But a little of Zach goes a long way.
Among his big moments are the one where the dudes are looking at a doll house modeled after the real house they’re about to break into to steal $20 million worth of gold and Galifianakis says, “We’re not gonna break into this house, right? This house is too small.” No one is that stupid, sorry.
Leave aside the fact that the second episode in the relaunch of the Starship Enterprise should have been called Star Trek: Into Derpness. Try to get past the fact that Bones McCoy kind of looks like Dan Rather and speaks in Rather’s bonehead country-fried metaphors, or that Uhura keeps whining at Spock for not being a caring enough lover (what’d she expect when she started dating a Vulcan), or that the filmmakers don’t even pretend to come up with a valid reason to show curvy blonde actress Alice Eve (who plays a new character) in her underwear, or that a fratboy actor as lightweight as Chris Pine would have had a hard time nabbing a role as a private first class in a 1940s war movie.
Let’s get to the issue none of the liberal writers will touch: What does this movie tell us about Hollywood and the War on Terror? First, that la-la land thinks the war is over. And second, the filmmakers now feel the coast is clear to resume their normal anti-American propaganda.
The far-left stance of the movie is fairly overt. Things gets rolling with a terrorist attack in London launched by a mysterious rogue officer (Benedict Cumberbatch, whose acting is so superior to everyone else’s that it’s like watching John Gielgud do a guest shot on Friends). Wedged amongst the reams of techno-gobbledygook in the script, here are four ways the movie is infecting young minds with left-liberal rubbish. (Mild spoilers follow, but I’ll keep it vague.)
1) The Voice of Reason and Morality Warns that It’s “By Definition” Immoral to Kill a Known Terrorist on a Foreign Battlefield Instead of Bringing Him to Trial.
On a mission to hunt down the murderous Harrison (Cumberbatch), Spock (Zachary Quinto) tells the hotheaded Kirk (Chris Pine) that assassinating the terrorist — whose lethal acts Kirk and others have eyewitnessed — would be obviously wrong. Director J.J. Abrams and his team of hack screenwriters (Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof) are striking a stance on the demise of Osama Bin Laden so extreme that no one to the right of Michael Moore would dare utter it. But because the message is concealed in a noisy blockbuster, the filmmakers are hoping they can get away with it.
Baz Luhrmann’s splashy, extravagant, highly watchable 3-D remake of The Great Gatsby is certainly a vast improvement on the lackluster 1974 Robert Redford movie, but those hoping for a classic adaptation worthy of the Great American Novel are going to be disappointed. Here are five ways Luhrmann’s Gatsby could have been great.
5. A Better Lead Actor.
Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t an accomplished performer and his screen magnetism was largely linked to his boyish appeal. Now that’s gone, and nothing more interesting has come along to take its place. DiCaprio can’t convincingly play anguish, nor can he seem physically threatening (a scene in which he nearly comes to blows with Joel Edgerton, who plays his romantic rival Tom Buchanan, is almost laughable; Edgerton could flatten DiCaprio without even trying).
A better choice would have been Johnny Depp, who, like Gatsby, came from nowhere (Kentucky in the case of the actor, North Dakota in the case of the screen character) or Christian Bale, who has already showcased his ability to play the charming playboy in the Batman movies. It would have been a natural fit: Batman is basically Gatsby with a cape.
There’s nothing that makes Hollywood more nervous than portraying Islamist terror. As far back as 1994, James Cameron’s True Lies was denounced as racially insensitive for imagining a chillingly plausible Islamist terror threat involving nuclear weapons. Cameron, anticipating accusations of unfairly linking terrorism with Islam and Arabs, took care to try for “balance” by placing an Arab-American character on the good guys’ side (the actor who played him, Grant Heslov, this year won an Oscar as one of the producers of Argo). Yet the advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) slammed the film anyway. The hysterical 1998 movie The Siege imagined that, in an overreaction to a terrorist attack, Brooklyn would be placed under martial law and all young Muslim men would be interned in Yankee Stadium. Ridiculous.
Since 2001, of course, Hollywood has almost completely avoided showing any Muslim involved in terror, changing the bad guys in 2002’s The Sum of All Fears from Palestinians to neo-Nazis. The 2005 Jodie Foster movie Flightplan, about an abduction on an airplane, used a hint that Arabs might be responsible as a red herring. The actual villain: an all-American air marshal played by Peter Sarsgaard. Several Middle East themed movies like Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies essentially saw a moral equivalence between the U.S. and the Islamists, saying both sides were up to comparably nasty stuff in the War on Terror.
Does the new Michael Bay movie Pain & Gain glorify evil? Its protagonist Daniel Lugo (played by Mark Wahlberg) is currently on Death Row in Florida, and the film is mostly seen through his eyes, with his thoughts frequently popping up in narration. Relatives of the victims of his crime spree — an outlandish 1994 kidnapping plot that led to attempted murder and finally murder — understandably don’t find the movie very funny. A Miami Herald story said the families thought the film would make the killers look “sympathetic” or “play down the brutality” of the murders.
Neither is the case. Daniel Lugo was a personal trainer who grew jealous of the business success of a client (played by Tony Shalhoub) who owned a deli by the Miami airport but hinted that true wealth came from shadier dealings. With hardly a second thought, Daniel decides that the American Dream means getting rich no matter who gets in his way, so he enlists a couple of gym-rat pals (Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie) to put on superhero costumes, kidnap the deli owner, and torture him until he signs over his house and property. Along the way the three bodybuilders suffer such misadventures as impotence, getting a toe shot off by police, and the malfunction of a Home Depot chainsaw they are using to try to cut the head and fingertips off a corpse.
The movie treats this nutty plan as an escapade, but with black comic irony. These killers are by no means lovable. And the viciousness of their actions isn’t sugar-coated at all. Despite the kinetic, ultra-modern style of the movie, its underlying stance on good and evil would not have angered the defunct film censor the Hays Office. Rule number one for crime movies was always: Crime must not pay. Rule number two: The criminal may be the most prominent character, but he can’t be the hero.
Both these rules were regularly broken in counterculture hits like Bonnie and Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But whereas the deaths of the bandits in those films fill us with sympathy, nothing of the kind is happening in Pain & Gain.
The stirring new movie 42 tells the story of how, in 1947 America, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford) broke the unwritten rule about hiring black players and called up Negro League superstar Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to join his team. Robinson would go on to win the Rookie of the Year award and later the Most Valuable Player honors on the way to a Hall of Fame career.
What are the conservative lessons about Jackie Robinson’s life to be learned from 42?
1) Merit is colorblind.
Rickey (a lifelong Republican) tells Robinson he is hiring him for one reason: Robinson (who then played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League) was a baseball phenom and Rickey wants to win the World Series. This is Moneyball before Moneyball: Finding untapped talent others are ignoring. Rickey had in mind not only Robinson but Roy Campanella, the black catcher who would soon follow Robinson into the big leagues, as players who could help him win the Series and make money in the process. Rickey says there’s no black or white in sports, just green. Manager Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni) tells the team, “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays.