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Kyle Smith

Kyle Smith is a film critic for the the New York Post. His website is at www.kylesmithonline.com.
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Looking for Something to Netflix this Weekend? Here Are the 10 Best Films of the 2010s

Friday, January 30th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

Editor’s Note: This is one of the last lists in Kyle Smith’s series ranking films by decade. Recently he expanded his ’00s list to a top 20 here, his ’90s list here, his ’80s list here, his ’70s list here, his ’60s list here, his ’50s list here, and his ’40s list here. Do you disagree with Kyle’s choices? Do you have your own ideas for lists of movies or other cultural subjects? Which years and what subjects would you most like to see covered at PJ Lifestyle? Email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com. Also check out Kyle’s top 10 movie picks for the ‘30s before he expands them to a top 20 too, completing the series. Click here to read “What Makes a Great Movie?,” Kyle’s essay explaining his criteria for these lists.

The second decade of the century has seen a surge in effects-driven, superhero-centric movies. But that’s okay, because there is so much money floating around the system that talented independent filmmakers seem to have little difficulty evading the strictures of the popularity-chasing studio system and producing personal artistic statements. Moreover, the blockbusters are pretty good too: they’ve gotten increasingly sophisticated and now attract some of the best writers and directors. Here’s one critic’s look at the best films of the first half of the 2010s:

10. War Horse (2011)

Looking at WW I’s madness, evil and destruction through the eyes of an innocent beast, Steven Spielberg’s best film since Catch Me If You Can resonated like a parable. Only rarely does a war film take in such a broad panorama.

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The Secret Reason for American Sniper‘s Breakout Success

Friday, January 23rd, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

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American Sniper isn’t just a huge box office success. It’s in a category of its own. It’s set to be (at least) one of the three highest-grossing films released in 2014 (it opened on Christmas Day on four screens, before going nationwide on Jan. 16). It’s the only one that will make last year’s top 15 that isn’t a fantasy or a comedy. It’s on track to become perhaps the second highest-grossing R-rated film of all time and the second highest-grossing film about a real person. Number one in both those categories is The Passion of the Christ, meaning a Navy SEAL is giving Jesus a run for his money.

When comedian Seth Rogen in a tweet said American Sniper reminded him of a Nazi propaganda film, he showcased how utterly out of touch Hollywood is about the military. Not only did this thought occur to Rogen, which tells you a lot, but he actually thought it was innocuous enough to publish on Twitter. Instead it seems likely to cost him millions of ticket sales because Rogen, never previously identified as particularly anti-American, is now as popular in military-loving communities as he is in North Korea.

American Sniper is a hit for several reasons: It’s a great movie, with a riveting set of TV commercials. The audience-survey firm CinemaScore says it is getting a rare A+ rating from viewers. Clint Eastwood’s name on the marquee also means something — but Eastwood’s movies have never made huge amounts of money. His biggest-ever hit, Gran Torino, earned $148 million in North America. American Sniper will nearly double that.

What American Sniper has going for it is that it’s unabashedly patriotic and pro-military. That matters, because the military is by far the most beloved institution in American life.

I can hear Hollywood, the land where saying U.S. troops remind you of Nazis isn’t even considered controversial,  spitting out its arugula-and-endive salad at that. That can’t be. Can it?

For nearly half a century, American culture has been a story of gradual destruction of trust in everything. Banks, in a June Gallup survey, had a 26 percent trust rating. The presidency was at 29 percent. Newspaper journalists were at 22, with Internet and TV news lagging behind even that. Congress? Seven percent.

Confidence in the military, though, was at 74 percent. After decades of anti-military and antiwar propaganda from Hollywood, that’s astonishing. The only other institutions that commanded majority support were small business (62 percent) and the police (53). The trend is consistent: The military’s approval rating hasn’t dipped below 60 percent since 1988.

The American public is saying something very simple: We love our military. Give us more films that show our troops as heroes, and we’ll turn up for them.

Some liberal Hollywood types have been scratching their heads and saying, “Wait a minute, though. American Sniper is a very downbeat film. Its central figure is shown being tormented by survivor’s guilt and PTSD. It isn’t ‘rah-rah.’  So why do those rubes in the heartland love it so much?”

This is sheer projection, because it’s liberal sophisticates who have an amazingly simplistic, indeed kindergarten-level, view of war: Killing is wrong, so we should loathe all troops on an equal basis, regardless of whether they’re fighting for, say, the Fuehrer or liberal democracy. “The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer,” ran the headline of an especially infantile piece in The Guardian, by American liberal Lindy West.

Was Chris Kyle supposed to be full of love as he shot to death cowards who disguised themselves as civilians as they planted deadly remote-controlled booby traps, or hurled grenades at Americans attempting to build a democracy? Was he supposed to feel benevolent toward jihadis trying to establish a medieval theocracy in which women would be stoned to death for adultery, and even belonging to the wrong sect of Islam would be a crime punishable by  death?

The patriots who are lining up to buy tickets to American Sniper are aware that war takes an enormous toll and can be agonizing even to those without visible wounds. That’s precisely the appeal of the film: By showing the price our troops pay to fight for our values, it reminds us just how much respect we owe them.

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The 20 Best Films of the 2000s

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

Editor’s Note: This is an expansion of Kyle Smith’s list of the 10 best films of the 2000s published here in July 2014. I’ve asked Kyle to expand his series as PJ Lifestyle begins offering more lists, articles, essays, and blog posts exploring culture, art, technology, and history by decade. Recently he expanded his ’80s list to a top 20 here, his ’70s list here, his ’60s list here, his ’50s list here, his ’90s list here, and his ’40s list here. Do you disagree with Kyle’s choices? Do you have your own ideas for lists of movies or other cultural subjects? Which years and what subjects would you most like to see covered at PJ Lifestyle? Email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com. Also check out Kyle’s top 10 movie picks for the ‘30s before he expands them to a top 20 too, completing the series. Click here to read “What Makes a Great Movie?,” Kyle’s essay explaining his criteria for these lists.

20. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

A glorious union of Eastern martial arts and Hollywood production values, Ang Lee’s timeless 18th century story is magical, exciting, romantic and sweeping, one of the most beautiful and bewitching action films ever made. 

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The 10 Most Underrated Movies of 2014

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

You’ve seen the superhero movies, but what about all the great films that didn’t have $50 million marketing budgets or didn’t attract much of an audience? There were plenty of sleepers in 2014, and many of them are now available on home video or on streaming services such as Netflix. Here are some don’t-miss films.

10. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Chris Pine isn’t much of an actor to play the Tom Clancy take on James Bond, but in this origins story Pine isn’t expected to be Harrison Ford but merely the fresh-faced, slightly nervous young recruit just gaining his footing. A careful, methodical spy thriller that puts story over cheap thrills, Kenneth Branagh’s film features an able supporting cast including Kevin Costner as the mentor, Keira Knightley as a wily girlfriend and Branagh himself as a Russian terrorist with a plan to kneecap the U.S. economy.

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The 20 Best Films of the 1990s

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

Editor’s Note: This is an expansion of Kyle Smith’s list of the 10 best films of the 1990s published here in June. I’ve asked Kyle to expand his series as PJ Lifestyle begins offering more lists, articles, essays, and blog posts exploring culture, art, technology, and history by decade. Recently he expanded his ’80s list to a top 20 here, his ’70s list here, his ’60s list here, his ’50s list here, and his ’40s list here. Do you disagree with Kyle’s choices? Do you have your own ideas for lists of movies or other cultural subjects? Which years and what subjects would you most like to see covered at PJ Lifestyle? Email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com. Also check out Kyle’s top 10 movie picks for the ‘30s and the ’00s before he expands them to top 20s. Click here to read “What Makes a Great Movie?,” Kyle’s essay explaining his criteria for these lists.

20. Braveheart (1995)

Mel Gibson’s stirring, vigorous historical epic about Scottish nationalists taking on the more powerful English is a throwback to ’50s filmmaking – big battles, yes, but also attentive to the love scenes and most of all to the sense that heroic individuals shape history, even if they lose, because they’re so inspiring to others long after they fall.

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10 Great Films That Flopped in the Last 20 Years

Thursday, November 27th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

Let’s look back at 10 of the best money-losing movies over the last couple of decades.

1. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

Joel and Ethan Coen’s fond sendup of 1930s screwball comedies was an ingeniously plotted story of a neophyte businessman (Tim Robbins) charged with becoming the puppet leader of a corporation that wants to depress the stock price. Instead, he turns out to be an entrepreneurial visionary who invents the hula hoop. An irascible Paul Newman is hilarious as the scheming board member frustrated by the simple honesty of the Robbins character. The movie deserves the cult success that later attached to The Big Lebowski.

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The Top 20 Films of the 1970s

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

Editor’s Note: This is an expansion of Kyle Smith’s list of the 10 best films of the 1970s published here in June. I’ve asked Kyle to expand his series as PJ Lifestyle begins offering more lists, articles, essays, and blog posts exploring culture, art, technology, and history by decade. Recently he expanded his ’80s list to a top 20 here, his ’60s list here, his ’50s list here, and his ’40s list here. Do you disagree with Kyle’s choices? Do you have your own ideas for lists of movies or other cultural subjects? Which years and what subjects would you most like to see covered at PJ Lifestyle? Email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com. Also check out Kyle’s top 10 movie picks for the ‘30s’90s, and the ’00s before he expands them to top 20s. Click here to read “What Makes a Great Movie?,” Kyle’s essay explaining his criteria for these lists.

20. The Way We Were (1973)

Mistakenly confused in the memory with the sentimental theme song, the film is actually a barbed character study that explores how politics can become a kind of obsession that in this case drives a wedge between a happy-go-lucky, apolitical screenwriter (Robert Redford) and his stridently leftist wife (Barbara Streisand) during the McCarthy period. 

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The 20 Best Films of the 1940s

Saturday, November 1st, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

Editor’s Note: This is an expansion of Kyle Smith’s list of the 10 best films of the 1940s published here in July. I’ve asked Kyle to expand his series as PJ Lifestyle begins offering more lists, articles, essays, and blog posts exploring culture, art, technology, and history by decade. Last month he expanded his ’80s list to a top 20 here, his ’60s list here, and his ’50s list here. Do you disagree with Kyle’s choices? Do you have your own ideas for lists of movies or other cultural subjects? Which years and what subjects would you most like to see covered at PJ Lifestyle? Email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com. Also check out Kyle’s top 10 movie picks for the ‘30s, ‘70s,  ’90s, and the ’00s before he expands them to top 20s. Click here to read “What Makes a Great Movie?,” Kyle’s essay explaining his criteria for these lists.

In the 1940s, patriotic films meant to rally the nation competed for attention with escapist fare and wonderfully felt nostalgia, but some of the best films of the decade are the uncharacteristically dark ones that were far ahead of their time. Here’s one critic’s expanded list of the 20 best films of the decade.

20. Red River (1948)

An ambitious rancher (John Wayne) and the boy (Montgomery Clift) he adopts and turns into his heir clash on a massive cattle drive north on the Chisholm Trail. Howard Hawks’s film is a rambling, broad-shouldered Western that captures the courage, resourcefulness, self-sacrifice and the sometimes extreme measures involved in the building of great American fortunes. Wayne’s thorny, complicated hero give the lie to those who would claim his performances lacked depth.

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What Makes a Great Movie?

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

Often film critics like to break a film down to its elements and weigh each of them independently, as though great cinematography, editing, acting, whatever adds up to a great movie. Not necessarily. These trades can all be brilliantly done or poorly done but they aren’t the reason we go to the movies. A film about industrial lathing techniques could be impeccably shot and edited and carry the most magnificent musical score since Wagner, but it probably wouldn’t make anyone’s top ten list — because film exists to tell us stories.

The acting, sets, score and everything else are on hand to serve the story and characters. Does the narrative hold your interest? Do you care what happens to the people (or animals, or plants, or Lego figures) in it? Are you caught up in their quest? Movies are simple. In the words of David Mamet, when you’re watching you want to know, “Who’s this guy? What does he want?”

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The 20 Best Films of the 1950s

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

Editor’s Note: This is an expansion of Kyle Smith’s list of the 10 best films of the 1950s published here in June. I’ve asked Kyle to expand his series as PJ Lifestyle begins offering more lists, articles, essays, and blog posts exploring culture, art, technology, and history by decade. Last month he expanded his ’80s list to a top 20 here and his ’60s list here. Do you disagree with Kyle’s choices? Do you have your own ideas for lists of movies or other cultural subjects? Which years and what subjects would you most like to see covered at PJ Lifestyle? Email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com Also check out Kyle’s top 10 movie picks for the ‘30s,  ’40s, ‘70s,  ’90s, and the ’00s before he expands them to top 20s.

In the 1950s, the Golden Age of Hollywood faded and glorious old-school films like The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur began to give way to grittier, wised-up films like those of Billy Wilder, creating an interesting tension between impish youth and pompous elders. Here’s one critic’s list of the twenty best films of the decade.

20. Sabrina (1954)

Billy Wilder’s romcom starred the unmatched trio of Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden as a poor chauffeur’s daughter and the two rich brothers angling for her after ignoring her while she was growing up under their noses. Though effervescent and elegant, the film had typically Wilder-ish dark touches, such as the scene where the title character nearly succeeds in committing suicide.

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The 20 Best Films of the 1960s

Friday, September 26th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

Editor’s Note: This is an expansion of Kyle Smith’s list of the 10 best films of the 1960s published here in June. I’ve asked Kyle to expand his series as PJ Lifestyle begins offering more lists, articles, essays, and blog posts exploring culture, art, technology, and history by decade. Earlier this month he expanded his ’80s list to a top 20 here. Do you disagree with Kyle’s choices? Do you have your own ideas for lists of movies or other cultural subjects? Which years and what subjects would you most like to see covered at PJ Lifestyle? Email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com Also check out Kyle’s top 10 movie picks for the ‘30s,  ’40s, ’50s, ‘70s,  ’90s, and the ’00s before he expands them to top 20s.

20. A Man for All Seasons (1966)

Though the film’s historical accuracy is a matter of debate, an exacting and precise Paul Scofield made one of the great principled heroes in screen history as England’s Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More, who for a time was canny enough to evade the death penalty from Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) as the king purged his kingdom of clergymen who opposed his break with the Church of Rome. More, who is both canny and devout, refuses to sign an oath declaring Henry the head of the church, but he refuses to say why he is not in violation of law. Rich with palace intrigue and legal maneuvering, the film is thrilling on both the level of personality and plot, and its historical reverberations are immense. 

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The 20 Best Films of the 1980s

Friday, September 12th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

Editor’s Note: This is an expansion of Kyle Smith’s list of the 10 best films of the 1980s published here in June. I’ve asked Kyle to expand his series as PJ Lifestyle begins offering more lists, articles, essays, and blog posts exploring culture, art, technology, and history by decade. Do you disagree with Kyle’s choices? Do you have your own ideas for lists of movies or other cultural subjects? Which years and what subjects would you most like to see covered at PJ Lifestyle? Email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com Also check out Kyle’s top 10 movie picks for the 30s ’40s, ’50s’60s, ‘70s,  ’90s, and the ’00s before he expands them to top 20s.

20. Arthur (1981)

A throwback to ’30s screwball comedies, this light confection about a drunken playboy (Dudley Moore, in his prime) and the caustic butler (Oscar-winner John Gielgud) who serves as his counselor, nanny and father figure showcased Moore’s comic gifts but was also an oddly endearing buddy movie.

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The 10 Lauren Bacall Films You Should See

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Written on the Wind (1956)

Douglas Sirk’s soapy melodramas had an element of tongue-in-cheek camp that later came to be appreciated as sly subversion, and in this one Bacall played along beautifully as a canny Manhattan career woman in the advertising business who marries the scion (Robert Stack) of a wild oil clan while secretly making time for the poor outsider (Rock Hudson) who has worked his way up in the family business. 

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Here Are Robin Williams’ 10 Most Underrated Performances

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Williams’ only Woody Allen film is essentially a series of sketches in which Allen works out his demons. Williams is in the film for only a few minutes but he makes them count in a brilliant bit part as Mel, a film actor whose life is such a blur that he has literally gone out of focus. 

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The 10 Funniest Comedies of the Last 25 Years on Netflix Streaming

Friday, August 8th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

Netflix’s streaming service offers hundreds of comedies, but which ones are the best? Here’s one critic’s list of the ten finest laffers since 1990 that you can punch up tonight on Netflix.

10. Happy Gilmore (1996)

Adam Sandler has had his ups and downs, but in his early films his lost little kid act was inspired. The way the title character makes the world around him adapt to his skills (he’s a hockey player whose slap-shot style makes him a strangely gifted golfer, and he needs to win a tournament to save his grandma’s house) neatly jibes with how Sandler nudged Hollywood comedy to accommodate his peculiar persona. And who else would have been willing to fistfight Bob Barker?

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The 10 Funniest Classic Comedies on Netflix Streaming

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

The best thing about classic comedies: when you haven’t seen them for a while, you forget some of the jokes and get to laugh all over. Here’s one critic’s rundown of the top ten funniest pre-1990 comedies available on Netflix’s streaming service.

10. Seems Like Old Times (1980)

Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn’s followup to their hit Foul Play wasn’t as well received, but Neil Simon’s screwball comedy about an accidental bank robber (Chase) trying to win back his ex (Hawn) from her D.A. husband (Charles Grodin) is as funny as it is charming. Chase, who was well on his way to perfecting his Fletch wiseguy persona, proves in one scene that a gifted comic can be funny using just his hands (in a scene in which, hidden under a bed, his character gets his fingers stepped on but can’t make a sound).

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The 10 Best Films of the 1930s

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

The Dead Poets Society model for movies about teachers who create endless opportunity by opening up the potential of young minds can be traced to this heartfelt British boarding-school classic, whose title character was so unforgettable that Robert Donat captured the Best Actor Oscar over Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind.

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9 Great Westerns on Netflix Streaming

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

9. McLintock! (1963)

The Duke’s version of The Taming of the Shrew (co-starring his sparring partner from The Quiet Man, Maureen O’Hara) is one of his broadest comedies, an easygoing romp that showed Wayne being more overtly political in the role of a cattle king with family troubles. As a joke on Hubert Humphrey, the governor of the state for whom McLintock has nothing but contempt is named “Cuthbert H. Humphrey.”

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The 10 Best Films of the 1940s

Thursday, July 10th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Double Indemnity (1944)

Director Billy Wilder and co-author Raymond Chandler set the standard for tantalizing film noir with this cynical, funny, slick and speedy tale of a shady insurance salesman (Fred MacMurray) and a married femme fatale (Barbara Stanwyck) who plot to kill her husband. Marred by some improbable machinations bringing in less interesting subsidiary characters in the third act, the film saves some of its best stuff for the end, winding up with a classic interplay between MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson.

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The 10 Best Films of the 2000s

Saturday, July 5th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Almost Famous (2000)

Cameron Crowe’s reflection on his years as a teen Rolling Stone correspondent has all the warmth, directness and immediacy of a candid first novel — but, critically, Crowe didn’t make it until many years later, giving the film an additional layer of bittersweet nostalgia and emotional depth. The film wriggles with youth and echoes with maturity at the same time.  

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The 10 Best Films of the 1950s

Sunday, June 29th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Dial M for Murder (1954)

Alfred Hitchcock was in his prime, making Vertigo, Rear Window and North by Northwest this decade. None of them made this list. His lean, witty, sophisticated, expertly-plotted murder-mystery starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly is his tightest, most focused film of the decade, suffering from none of the languors and excesses of the other three (particularly Vertigo). There isn’t a wasted moment in it, and the finish is a knockout. 

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The 10 Best Films of the 1990s

Friday, June 27th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. The Lion King (1994).

The importance of The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991) in reviving Broadway musical-style animation shouldn’t be underestimated, and Pixar’s entry into filmmaking with Toy Story (1995) was revolutionary, but it’s the African saga based on Hamlet that gave animated storytelling a depth, seriousness and resonance it hadn’t had since Pinocchio. Now that we’re used to seeing one or two great animated films a year, it’s hard to remember how special it was for a movie to carry so much appeal to both adults and kids.

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The 10 Best Films of the 1980s

Thursday, June 19th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Possibly the greatest film about childhood ever made, Steven Spielberg’s fairy tale is a little too sweet and simple to withstand lots of viewings, but the feel for the pangs and yearnings of youth is deep and generous, and the scene in which Elliott kisses a girl in school is among the best Spielberg ever shot.

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The 10 Best Films of the 1970s

Friday, June 13th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)

A roaring, timeless Kipling adventure directed by John Huston and starring the incomparable duo of Sean Connery and Michael Caine, the film is simultaneously a swashbuckling imperialist adventure and a cautionary tale about venturing into dimly understood lands to take advantage of easy pickings there. The scene in which the two old soldiers laugh their way out of doom — their voices cause an avalanche that seals an unpassable chasm — is a mini-tutorial on the payoff from looking at the bright side.

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