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You’re Trapped on a Desert Island & Can Pick Only 5 Video Games…

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 - by Jeremy Swindle

Editor’s Note: We’re beginning a new series of discussions and debates to determine the greatest titles by genre in video games, music, movies, TV, and everything else of consequence in culture. The infamous Lord Reptile will preside as fight master and referee to ensure both fairness and maximum bloodshed. He was originally asked to start the series by providing his list of best “desert island video games” — the titles one would most want while trapped forever if one had to play the same games over and over again. Being a snarky, overly clever, cold-blooded creature, he then realized that some of the greatest games of all time actually take place on islands and that one could assemble a literal “Desert Island Video Game” list. And so you now have it. A more traditional, “greatest video games of all time” list will be coming later in the tournament. For now, this will more than suffice… 


1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)

How could you not want to play The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker if you were trapped on a desert island for eternity? If you can’t sail away and feel the wind of the gods upon your face as you explore the vast open seas, then you might as well just sit there and do just that in a Zelda game. It beats potentially drowning.


Many people (DUMMIES FOR LACK OF A BETTER WORD) were upset by Wind Waker’s ridiculously fresh and gorgeous cel-shaded visual style. It was quickly labeled a baby’s game by morons who compared it to the darker, more mature looks of Ocarina of Time.


If you’ve got a Wii U, then you’re out of excuses: get this game and get lost in the ocean forever.

2. Super Mario Sunshine (Gamecube)

Some fools may argue that Super Mario Galaxy had the edge over Super Mario Sunshine, but they’re wrong.


Super Mario Sunshine is vastly superior to every 3D Mario game, period. It took the already fun and intuitive controls of Super Mario 64, fine-tuned them so they felt perfect, and then gave Mario a sick water jetpack that transforms the foundation of the game into an even more ridiculously fun platformer. But the most obvious strong point is in the graphics and fresh level design. Every stage has its own unique flow and bosses, and you’ll soon unlock all of the levels and have way too many shine sprites to collect. WHAT A FEAST.

The main levels aren’t even half of what this game has to offer. Around the islands there are dozens of challenging mini levels that will put your platforming chops to the test.

Playing this game feels like a vacation from the merciless vacuum of dreary adventure and shooter games saturating the market.


3. Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

Everyone knows that during the ’90s Mario and Sonic competed directly with one another for the title of heavyweight platforming world champion, but in 1994 a new challenger for the belt emerged from the depths and descended upon them like a gorilla with the strength of a thousand lesser apes: DONKEY KONG COUNTRY. NO ONE HAD EVER SEEN A GAME THAT LOOKED SO GOOD AND HAD SUCH A SWEET SOUNDTRACK. THE REPTILE STILL GETS GOOSEBUMPS ON HIS SCALEY HIDE EVERY TIME HE FIRES UP THIS GROUNDBREAKING GAME.

If you ever watched the Donkey Kong Country promotional VHS tape you had a small inkling of how this title was going to revolutionize platform gaming, but it wasn’t until you were swinging through Jungle Hijinx and smashing through kremlins with Rhambi the Rhino that you realized this was a Mario killer. With the combined abilities of DK and his side chimp Diddy Kong, the duo was far cooler than Sonic and Tails. DKC can be beaten easily in a matter of hours if you’re a platforming genius, but very few players will find all the secret areas.


4. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (Gamecube)


Whoa, wait, that’s not what happened in Escape From New York. Perhaps the Reptile shouldn’t have been feasting on Hamm’s when he wrote that review.

Solid Snake is Kurt Russell’s name in this story, and this time he’s going to Shadow Moses Island in Alaska to embark on a tactical stealth espionage conquest.

SHADOW MOSES ISLAND. YOU WILL NEVER FIND A MORE WRETCHED HIVE OF CRUMMY FOOT SOLDIERS AND BADASS SUPERVILLAINS. Most of the enemies in this game are just a bunch of generic goofuses, but they have strength in numbers. The members of Fox Hound are the ones who really steal the show with their over-the-top combat abilities and supernatural powers. Every character has their own unique personality that makes for a well-rounded cast that’s often missing from the plot in an average action game.
Stealth games had been around long before Metal Gear Solid, but none of them could match the sheer intensity and brilliant story that the first MGS had to offer. Playing this game is like living an American action movie that’s heavily influenced by anime.

If the playstation version of the game hurts your eyes there’s a solid remake for the Gamecube that uses a visual style similar to the sequel and even boasts the same first-person shooting mode.

5. Resident Evil: Code Veronica (Dreamcast)

Don’t let recent installments to the Resident Evil series fool you, Resident Evil used to be an extremely unique game with a killer atmosphere. It didn’t rely on using overly long and flashy cut scenes throughout the game to tell a story. No, the classic Resident Evil game would have one cheesy opener, and then it would throw the gamer into a survival situation where you had to be just as good at conserving health and ammo as you were at killing enemies. Resident Evil: Code Veronica X was arguably the last classic game of the series before Capcom opted for a behind the shoulder action style in Resident Evil 4 on the Gamecube.

You start the game as Claire Redfield on a military prison island filled with zombies, zombie dogs, and several new monsters as you try to find a way off the island. They also bring back classic favorite like the Tyrant, who comes after you like a Terminator robot as you try to escape the island. The game is filled with jump scares and hilariously cheesy voice acting throughout, and tons of great gore.

Code Veronica combines everything that made the previous games so compelling and makes the controls much more manageable.

Much to the Reptile’s dismay, the survival horror genre has been buried under action titles posing as horror games.





And check out some of Lord Reptile’s previous lists:

Lord Reptile’s 10 Most Sacred 2-D Fighting Games

Press Start: Lord Reptile’s 7 Ultimate Heavy Metal Albums To Begin Your List Quest

Lord Reptile’s Top 5 Apocalypse Movies

The 10 Most Overrated Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time

The 10 Worst Horror Films on Netflix: Drinking Game Edition

The 10 Most Irritating Fast Food Items You Must Avoid

Do you disagree with the selections? Would you like to start a new debate of your own about the best in a particular category? Contact the Swindle Bros and their loyal colleague/assassin Lord Reptile with your ideas and challenges: TheSwindleBros @ Yahoo.com. Image illustration via Geek Improvement.  

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5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics

Saturday, March 7th, 2015 - by Chris Queen


WARNING: this post contains plot spoilers! If you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, go watch it – RIGHT NOW! – and then come back to read this.

I recently watched Disney’s latest Oscar-winning animated feature Big Hero 6 for the first (and second) time. I loved the film so much that I watched it twice in less than 24 hours. The story of Hiro Hamada, his robot buddy Baymax, and their college pals who become unwitting superheroes surprised me in so many ways that I believe Big Hero 6 deserves a place among the classics of Disney animation, and here are a few reasons why.


5. Big Hero 6 contains some of the most appealing characters Disney has introduced in a long time.

Over nearly a century, Disney has brought us some memorable and wonderful characters, and though the Big Hero 6 originated in the Marvel universe, the characters in the film Big Hero 6 wind up being some of the best Disney characters in recent memory.

Hiro takes many character tropes – the young teen, the plucky orphan, the prodigious genius – and overcomes them with his sense of wonder at the world around him. Tadashi’s selfless nature manifests itself beautifully in his love for his brother, and Aunt Cass is both high-strung and grounded as guardian of her nephews.

Hiro and Tadashi’s friends are terrific characters in their own right. Go-Go counters her surface misanthropy by revealing her heart at just the right times, while Honey Lemon breaks through a vapid exterior with intellect and concern for others. Wasabi’s quirky neuroses belie a maturity that drives him, while Fred proves he’s more than just an apparent stoner ne’er-do-well.

And then there’s Baymax, my personal favorite. His robotic deadpan turns out to be the perfect delivery for some of the movie’s best lines (what he mines from a simple “oh no” is worth its weight in gold). Baymax proves that artificial intelligence can generate genuine heart.

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4. The self-esteem message in Big Hero 6 contains more substance than anything else in our culture today.

Nowadays pop culture tends to send the same message to young people – embrace your weirdness, let your freak flag fly. It seems like films, music, and television tell our kids that unless they’re an oddball in some way they’ll never fit it.

Big Hero 6 conveys a self-esteem message that runs counter to current pop culture: the notion that everyone has talents and ways that they can make the world a better place. Sure, the Big Hero 6 are weird, but their value lies not in embracing their weirdness but in the skills and knowledge they possess (or, to paraphrase Tadashi, their big brains). That’s a message that carries more substance than the freak flag ever will.

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3. Big Hero 6 appeals to boys better than most of Disney’s prior attempts.

Let’s face it: Disney’s animated output has been princess-centric since the beginning, and it seems like the studio has upped the ante since discovering the princesses’ marketing power a few years back. Disney has attempted to appeal directly to boys over the years, but for various reasons, those attempts haven’t really stuck long term.

As wonderful as The Sword In The Stone is, it has never ranked among the classics with long-term staying power. The Black Cauldron? Nope, too dark. Unfortunately, Aladdin has had to suffer the “Princess Movie” label, despite the fact that the protagonist and titular character is a guy. The Lion King is one of the rare Disney “boy movies” that rank among the classics, and I firmly believe Big Hero 6 will join that short list.

Big Hero 6 is the total package for a guy’s movie: edge-of-the-seat action, high and low comedy, and a heroes-versus-villains tension (even if the villain’s evil is driven by family revenge). The movie balances these elements with the right amount of heart, as well as including sly jokes that parents can laugh along with. I feel strongly that the film has the kind of staying power that will resist changing trends and attitudes, despite it’s current cutting-edge style.


2. There are elements of countercultural conservatism in Big Hero 6.

Whether the filmmakers intended them or not, we can find threads in Big Hero 6 that suggest countercultural conservative themes. I’ve already discussed the unique (and positive) message of self-esteem we see in the film. We also see evidence of the value of hard work and perseverance when Baymax shows Hiro the footage of Tadashi working on his prized robot.

In spite of his off-the-charts intelligence (the kid graduated high school at 13, for crying out loud!), Hiro must work hard to produce a unique invention to ensure his admission into the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology’s robotics program. He even receives in invitation to work with the billionaire industrialist Alistair Krei as a result of his presentation.

The most interesting countercultural conservative thread runs through the villain story. When Alistair Krei approaches Hiro after his robotics presentation, the earnest Professor Callaghan decries Krei as a selfish robber baron. Yet the villain turns out to be Callaghan, and Krei is his target. It’s also worth noting that, with Krei’s obvious success, his major failure is the government-sponsored teleportation project.

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1. Big Hero 6 conveys a message about innovation that would make Walt himself proud.

One underlying – and possibly intentional – lesson from Big Hero 6 has to do with innovation, and the movie delivers it in a way that would make Walt and his inner circle proud.

For starters, the competition which results in Hiro’s admission to SFIT is one where prospective students seek to create truly innovative robotics applications, and Hiro wins over both Krei and Professor Callaghan with his microbots. But the kicker is Tadashi’s encouragment to Hiro which leads to his invention of the microbots.

When Hiro hits a dead end in coming up with ideas for the competition, Tadashi gives his younger brother advice in an unusual way:

Tadashi: Hey, I’m not giving up on you.

[Tadashi grabs Hiro by the ankles and hangs him upside-down over his shoulders. He begins jumping around the room, with Hiro flopping behind him.]

Hiro: Ahhǃ What are you doing?

Tadashi: Shake things up! Use that big brain of yours to think your way out!

Hiro: What?

Tadashi: Look for a new angle.

[Hiro groans and decides to humor Tadashi. He looks around the room from a new angle and spots Megabot. He gets an idea.]

Tadashi’s advice would make Walt proud and even reads like a page out of The Imagineering Way. Hiro dishes it out when the team runs up against trouble in their battle against Callaghan. He tells the team, “Listen up! Use those big brains of yours to think your way around the problem! Look for a new angle!”

And while we’re at it, let’s consider the coolest innovation of all – Baymax. Tadashi set out to help people, and in doing so he created the ultimate innovation in health care, one that didn’t require massive federal bureaucracy.

I’m telling you, Walt would be proud.


Please join the discussion on TwitterThe essay above is the twelfth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

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Press Start: Lord Reptile’s 7 Ultimate Heavy Metal Albums To Begin Your List Quest

Friday, March 6th, 2015 - by Jeremy Swindle

All of you feeble mortals can consider this list Lord Reptile’s love letter to classic heavy metal albums. The Reptile does not necessarily like any genre of metal more than the other, but that might be because the standards that he holds metal to are actually quite narrow. If you want to begin to have a true grasping of what metal is, you must go back to the beginning. Only then will you notice when some heavy blues and psychedelic rock bands shed their flower rock influences and evolved into something darker and much heavier.

1. Judas Priest – Stained Class (1978)

Judas Priest may have been the most important band when it came to the full realization of heavy metal in the eighties. Their album Stained Class is but one of several monstrous heavy metal albums that they released back when heavy metal was only a term and had yet to be truly defined. But Stained Class was far more metal than anything that came before it.

From that often-imitated double kick bass at the beginning of “Exciter,” to Rob Halford’s hair-raising falsetto screams throughout the entire album, or Glen Tipton and KK Downing’s blazing riffwork on tracks like “Savage” and “Beyond the Realms of Death,” this album appeals to the heavy metal maniac in all of us.

Essential Tracks for biker metallers: “Exciter,” “Better By You,” “Better Me,” “Savage,” “Beyond the Realms of Death”

2. Motorhead – Overkill  (1979)

If Stained Class raised the question “Just how much is a 70’s heavy metal band capable of?” Then Motorhead’s Overkill album is the answer. Although Lemmy may simply refer to Motorhead’s music as “Rock n’ roll,” this album is the closest sounding thing to speed metal. If Black Sabbath is responsible for creating heavy metal, then Motorhead invented speed metal. With those punk-influenced lyrics and fast tempos, Motorhead was arguably the biggest band to influence thrash metal until Venom released their debut Welcome to Hell. Overkill is the perfect album for going fast.

Best tracks for going fast: ”Overkill,” “Stay Clean,” “(I Won’t) Pay Your Price,” “No Class,” “Damage Case”

3. Rainbow – Rainbow Rising (1976)

Ritchie Blackmore was arguably just as important as Tony Iommi when it came to his influence on heavy metal. Deep Purple’s early albums were ridiculously abrasive for early 70’s hard rock, and Ian Gillan’s high-pitched shrieking left a huge impression that would later influence falsetto giants like Halford and King Diamond.

But why would the Reptile review one of Deep Purple’s albums when Rainbow Rising is vastly superior? As much as I acknowledge Ian Gillan as one of the very first metal vocalists, he has nothing on Ronnie James Dio. Before Dio’s solo band, before he replaced Duke Osbourne in Black Sabbath, RJD had already established himself as the greatest heavy metal singer of all time in Rainbow.

Personally, my favorite release from them is the live album Rainbow On Stage but I’ll talk about that at another time. When you hear the song “Stargazer” you’ll be hooked on Rainbow Rising. That was the first epic metal song ever made. Ritchie Blackmore’s neo-classical harmonic minor scale abuse, which was somewhat rare at the time save for Uli Jon Roth’s early mastery of shred, also served as an influence to the power metal genre.

Top tracks to listen to while praising Lord Dio: ”Tarot Woman,” “Starstruck,” “Stargazer”

4. Black Sabbath – Master of Reality (1971)

Black Sabbath’s debut is widely recognized to be the very first heavy metal album, making Black Sabbath the very first metal band. But it wasn’t until a year later that Reptile is convinced the master doom rockers released the album that truly DEFINED heavy metal once and for all: Master of Reality. This was the very first metal album young Reptile bought on vinyl.

When Sweet Leaf comes on you know this is the album that if it could talk, its breath would reek of liquor, stale beer and great weed. Sweet Leaf was the first anthem of stoner doom metal. The galloping song of doom that is “Children of the Grave” might as well be my funeral dirge. Then you flip the side and “Lord of this World” comes on and crushes that nerd Eric Clapton and his silly flower rock band Cream into bits. As the placid flute ballad Solitude comes on take a minute to reflect on your pathetic life until the low tuned opening riff of “Into the Void” lurches into the scene like a George Romero zombie. Near the end As Lord Iommi rips some nonsensical guitar solo over Master Butler’s heavy bassline you ponder if this flawless slab of metal could have come from human hands. Well they didn’t: Tony Iommi’s fingertips are fake.


5. Mercyful Fate – Melissa (1983)

Heavy metal simply doesn’t get much better than Mercyful Fate. King Diamond is arguably the most iconic frontman of all time. His early lyrics focused on themes of Satanism and witchcraft, and this album stands out for telling a story of sorts. Concept albums were an almost non-existent gimmick in metal at the time, as was corpsepaint. Mercyful Fate was really the first band of their kind. To this day I still think King Diamond is one of the only legitimate heavy metal musicians to use corpsepaint.

But when you peel away all the theatrics and evil lyrics, you’re left with an undeniably solid heavy metal band. Hank Shermann and Michael Denner are easily one of the most underrated guitar duos in the genre. The solo exchange in “Evil” can match the intensity of any Judas Priest or Iron Maiden solo. Mercyful Fate’s twin guitar approach was as groundbreaking as it was heavy and melodic.

Top tracks for your Halloween metal playlist: ”Evil,” “Curse of the Pharaohs,” “Black Funeral,” “Satan’s Fall”

6. Iron Maiden – Killers (1981)

Iron Maiden’s last album before their acrimonious split with frontman Paul Di’anno is one of the last truly memorable albums of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Although Bruce Dickinson was definitely the right frontman for Maiden and they went on to create some of the greatest ’80s metal albums with him, to me Killers stands out by representing everything that one could possibly hope for in a NWOBHM album.

The sheer intensity of Di’anno’s vocals on tracks like “Wrathchild” and the titular track are simply unmatched. Steve Harris serves as an example to all bassists that even when there’s two dueling guitarists like Adrian Smith and Dave Murray trying to blow everyone away it’s those galloping and abrasive bass licks that really make the songs move. “Genghis Khan” is also arguably the finest instrumental heavy metal song of all time, very technical but also unforgettable.

Top tracks to listen to while stalking the subway: ”Wrathchild,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “Another Life,” “Genghis Khan,” “Killers,” “Purgatory,” “Twilight Zone” (special edition only)

7. Angel Witch – Angel Witch (1980)

The most heroic sounding band of the NWOBHM was years ahead of everyone else when it comes to their heavy riff game. If you don’t get hyped when you hear the first solo on the title track you should probably check to make sure you still have a pulse. Guitarist/vocalist Kevin Heybourne sings in the melodic yet gritty style that NWOBHM is known for but his high-pitched wailing is a far cry from that of Biff Byford of Saxon or Paul Di  Anno of Iron Maiden. Still, he makes up for this with his fantasy-themed lyrics and the fact that he’s handling both lead and rhythm guitar duties while still being a competent vocalist.

Tracks for NWOBHM enthusiasts: ”Angel Witch,” “Atlantis,” “White Witch,” “Gorgon”


This article begins PJ Lifestyle’s Culture List Project, in which we begin looking backward at the section’s previous years of lists that argued about and ranked everything in popular culture, while also starting to think about the future for new approaches to the infamous “Listicle” genre that has come to conquer the internet both to jeers and applause.

What pop culture lists and debates do you want to have at PJ Lifestyle in the future? We want to figure out the best, worst, most overrated/underrated across all categories and genres. Movies, TV, Video Games, Food, Books, People, Culture and History — on Fridays it’s List Day. Get in touch with The Brothers Swindle on Twitter with your suggestions and ideas for what you want to read and argue about. (Submissions can be emailed to DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com Here’s an assortment of Lifestyle lists across genres to chew on in the meantime:

Lord Reptile’s Top 5 Apocalypse Movies

The 20 Best Films of the 1930s

The 10 Most Overrated Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time

The 10 Most Cringe-Worthy TV Flops

10 Movies Much Sexier Than Fifty Shades of Grey

The 20 Best Films of the 2000s

4 Fallacies Killing Feminism

The 10 Worst Horror Films on Netflix: Drinking Game Edition

The 10 Most Underrated Movies of 2014

13 Reasons to Fall in Love with Lana Del Rey

15 Songs Millennials Must Listen to in Order to Understand the 1980s

The 10 Most Irritating Fast Food Items You Must Avoid

The 20 Best Films of the 1990s

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Lord Reptile’s Top 5 Apocalypse Movies

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 - by Jeremy Swindle

You’re reading the concluding post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terrorby James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.

5. Mortal Kombat

If the apocalypse means having my skull smashed open on the rocks by Goro while Napalm Death plays then count me in. After all, Reptile is just Shang Tsung’s humble bodyguard for swatting down mortal weaklings in this film. The Reptile can take a few body slams with no problem.

Anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with the Mortal Kombat video games’ plot it shouldn’t matter. The movie involves a brutal tournament between the mortals of Earthrealm and Shang Tsung’s flunkies of Outworld. If Earth’s warriors lose the 10th tournament, the emperor Shao Khan becomes the ruler of Earthrealm.

I’m not going to spoil the ending but it should be fairly obvious that a certain Shaolin monk by the name of Louis Kang lays the smack down on the evil sorcerer and reappears for the sequel, Annihilation. This is the only proper MK film. Don’t bother with any others.

Mortal Kombat is a fine apocalyptic movie for parties or any situation.

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The 20 Best Films of the 1930s

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

Editor’s Note: This is the last list in Kyle Smith’s series ranking films by decade, an expansion of his top 10 films of the 1930s list from July of 2014 here. Previously he expanded his ’00s list to a top 20 herehis ’90s list here, his ’80s list here, his ’70s list here, his ’60s list here, his ’50s list here, and his ’40s list here. Also see his list of the Click here to read “What Makes a Great Movie?,” Kyle’s essay explaining his criteria for these lists.

20. Duck Soup (1933)

The Marx Brothers’ freewheeling word association, irreverence and physical comedy were all in high gear in their funniest film, in which Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, the appointed ruler of the fictional land of Freedonia. The much-imitated mirror scene is a tour de force of precision physical comedy.

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R40: The 6 Best Rush Albums

Monday, February 16th, 2015 - by J. Christian Adams

This summer Rush launches the R40 tour celebrating 40 years as a band. The Canadian trio was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, years after other acts like ABBA, Jefferson Airplane and Grandmaster Flash were inducted.  Unlike those era-centric acts, Rush has 24 Gold, 14 Platinum and three multiplatinum albums spread across 40 years. Their most recent studio album, Clockwork Angels, debuted at #2 on Billboard’s 200 album chart in 2013. Only the Beatles and Rolling Stones have more consecutive gold and platinum albums.

Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have been producing music since they they first took the stage together at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena in August 1974. Peart was the new guy in the band then, but has since become its voice, penning lyrics that made hipster critics cringe – touching on, in chronological order – Tolkien, male baldness, the Solar Federation, starship Rocinante, forced equality of outcome, FM rock, automobile bans, Space Shuttle Columbia, concentration camps (Lee’s parents survived Auschwitz), Enola Gay, China, clever anagrams, chance, AIDS, the internet, expectations shattered by 9-11, more expectations shattered and finally, carnies.  It’s hard to find a list of rock’s greatest drummers that doesn’t include Neil Peart.

Over the decades, hipster critics praised acts like Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and the Talking Heads while they mocked Rush. But 40 years later, Rush fills arenas and tops album charts, forever reinventing a sound that defies categorization. It’s just Rush.

This summer, you can catch Rush in hockey arenas as well as lots of outdoor venues starting May 8.  Here’s a PJ Lifestyle ranking of the six most important (and best) Rush albums.

6. Roll the Bones (1991)

Roll the Bones is the album where Rush got its groove back.  The first Rush album to hit the Billboard Top 5 since Moving Pictures (eventually going Platinum) Roll the Bones marked the end of a ramble through the electronic wilderness where the songwriting and the sonic grandeur returned. After Moving Pictures in 1981, Rush released a series of roaming (yet often very good) albums dabbling or drenched in synthesizer and driven by aural tones rather than raw guitar energy. Grace Under Pressure, for example, was a very good, but very alienating work. By the time Hold Your Fire was released in 1987, the biggest rock power trio was drowning in synth. Presto in 1989 broke free from the trend with excellent songs that were shrunken by timid production.  It was Roll the Bones where it all finally came together.

“Dreamline” received massive radio airplay in an era when massive radio airplay mattered. “You Bet Your Life” is about how everyone rolls the bones on their life, they take their chances and either win or lose. “Heresy” might be the only rock song about the fall of Soviet Communism:

The counter-revolution/ at the counter of a store/ people smiling through their tears/ who can given them back their lives/ and all their wasted years?

The album is simply filled with good songs, period.

Highlights: “Dreamline,” “Bravado,” “The Big Wheel.”

We travel in the dark of the new moon
A starry highway traced on the map of the sky
Like lovers and heroes, lonely as eagle’s cry
We’re only at home when we’re on the fly, on the fly

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The 13 Most Shocking Insanity Pleas: Does Chris Kyle’s Killer Qualify?

Saturday, February 14th, 2015 - by Alex Shelby

#Honor #ChrisKyle and #ChadLittlefield

A photo posted by Andrew (@andrewdecker593) on

Since the release of the movie American Sniper a collective interest has surrounded the trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the killer of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. Now that Routh’s trial is officially underway, his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity provokes a sense of, shall we say, injustice.

Less than 1% of defendants charged with homicide attempt the insanity plea, and about 25% of them are actually successful. This comes out to about 25 murderers annually in the United States who end up in a mental hospital rather than a prison. Nearly half of the residents in mental hospitals are there as a result of a crime conviction, misdemeanors and felonies alike.

So where does Routh fit in to this mix? How does his case compare to some of the most notorious insanity pleas and, based on what we currently know, will he be able to avoid prison?

1. Andrew Goldstein (1999)

Exhibiting behavior consistent with schizophrenia, Andrew Goldstein shoved a woman into the path of an oncoming N train in New York. Prior to this murder he voluntarily attempted to check himself into a mental hospital 13 times, but was put on a waiting list due to overcrowding.

Verdict: Guilty – 25 years to life (he eventually admitted to being consciously aware of his actions)

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The 10 Most Overrated Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time

Friday, February 13th, 2015 - by Jeremy Swindle

Editor’s Note: this list is an expansion of “The 5 Most Overrated Guitarists in Heavy Metal“ from earlier this month. It’s also a continuation of an on-going series exploring the highs and lows of the genre. Send Jeremy your ideas and arguments for which bands and albums are worthy of praise and others in need of rhetorical decapitations. He can be challenged to battle on Twitter here.

Due to the commotion that was roused in the comments section by Lord Reptile’s Guitar list, he has returned with a vastly superior lineup this time. Lord Reptile enjoyed reading your petty squabbles and thought it appropriate to KO 5 more guitar players. Lord Reptile is a generous god.

Every guitarist on this list (except maybe the dude from Avenged Sevenfold) was hugely influential to Reptile when it came to learning how to play guitar. That being said, as a musician it’s very important to look at other musicians objectively and poke fun at each other’s antics from time to time.

If you can’t handle some internet writer’s witty jabs to your guitar idol then maybe you’re just better off hiding under your bed until your mom says it’s okay to use the computer again.

No disrespect is intended towards anyone here unless they have stupid hair or tribal tattoos.

10. Nigel Tufnel (Spinal Tap)

Spinal Tap is an absolute rubbish band. The fact that they cannot even function on the same level of stupidity without lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel is quite pathetic, really. His solos are among the clumsiest in heavy metal, one is almost reminded of master Angus Young but without any sense of finesse or substance.

And then there’s his infamous guitar solo where he kicks a guitar on the ground and plays his main guitar with a fiddle. I know it’s a joke, but let’s be honest: he probably couldn’t play an impressive, self-indulgent guitar solo even if he had a sheet of acid in his headband.

9. Richie Faulkner (Judas Priest)

Come on, Judas Priest chose this scrub to replace the retired master KK Downing? What were they thinking? They probably could have picked any world-class guitarist, but no, they had to choose this nobody. The fact that Richie Faulkner was the guitarist who composed Christopher Lee’s cringe-inducing Christmas metal album should have been a huge red flag.

Priest simply just does not have the same blazing, dual-guitar approach that helped make them the greatest heavy metal band of the ’70s. On the one hand you had Glenn Tipton’s superior finesse and melodic soloing, and then BAM, KK Downing kicks you in the face shredding on the other channel playing the most passionate rock ‘n’ roll guitar solo to finish off the exchange. Glenn and KK played off each other brilliantly, and that’s sadly missing from the newest Priest album. Hopefully Lord Halford will release a new solo album because he’s still shattering skulls with his screams of vengeance.

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10 Movies Much Sexier Than Fifty Shades of Grey

Friday, February 13th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

The erotic bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey has hit the screen with some sizzling bedroom (and dungeon) action featuring leads Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as a naive college student and a zillionaire with peculiar bedroom demands. Let’s take a look back at the sexiest mainstream movies (not counting outright porn) ever made.

10. Body Double (1984)

Brian De Palma’s fixation on Alfred Hitchcock drove his sexy 1980 thriller Dressed to Kill, which was obviously inspired by Psycho, and also this even more erotically charged thriller, which was an homage to both Rear Window and Vertigo. Deborah Shelton plays the dancing neighbor whose nightly routine attracts the voyeuristic attention of a journeyman actor (Craig Wasson) who discovers a strange link between the girl he watches through the telescope and a porn star (Melanie Griffith, then a red-hot ingenue). 

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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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10 Science-Themed Rock Songs For Your Internet Debates

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Allston

Back when, I was a Moderator/Science Expert at a certain large, science-themed message board. Here and there, debate points would be illustrated by a person’s posting a piece of music to illustrate their points, or to emphasize what they were stating, or just because. It’s all good.

There has been the all-too frequent debate over, “what would a helicopter do on the moon?”  Billy Preston essentially nailed the question.

1. Billy Preston – “Go round in Circles”:

I wanted the SSC. I needed the SSC. Sadly, it was not to be. We were fools, because we instead spent the money on what? Paying to study gay whales in Patagonia?

2. Tribe – “Supercollider”:

We know that Closed Timelike Curves are possible, as well as other, more esoteric methods of time-travel not precluded by the Standard Model.  Listen, if you find a blue police box in your den, just go for it. We won’t think the lesser of you, assuming that you ever return.

3. Timelords – Doctoring the Tardis”:

Who knew that Vanadium and Americium could be so…entertaining?

4. Tom Lehrer – “Elements”:

He is simply insane. Then again, Brain does, in fact, match the personality of many a multiply-degreed scientist I’d worked with. Come to think of it, I also recollect some graduate students who bore a close resemblance to Pinky too.

5. Pinky and the Brain – “Brainstem”:

Scientists can be like that – think up some astounding idea, and be so fixated on it that they’ll walk out into moving traffic while pondering it all.

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5 Songs for Surviving a Blizzard

Monday, January 26th, 2015 - by Allston

Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne in July 1945, during a heat wave, no less:

1. Frank Sinatra – “Let It Snow”

A call-and-response duet, in which the male singer tries to convince the female to stay at home for a romantic evening, because the weather is so fierce:

2. Ray Charles and Betty Carter – “Baby It’s Cold Outside”

What with two (plus) feet on the white stuff en route, oh yes, we will all assuredly be “blue”:

3. Muddy Waters – “Cold Weather Blues”

The 1933 song was featured in the 1943 movie of the same name:

4. Etta James – “Stormy Weather”

From a master of cool jazz for a cold day:

5.  Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond – “Wintersong”

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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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Which of These 7 Versions of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony Is Your Favorite?

Monday, January 5th, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

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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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7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives

Thursday, January 1st, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard


The conservative movement faces many challenges as we turn the calendar to 2015. There are ongoing battles with those on the left who think we are stupid or evil (or both) and with those in the Republican Party who find more in common with the big-government Democrats than with those on the right who favor smaller government and traditional values. As we look forward to a new year, it’s a good time for all of us to consider how we can be more effective activists, so I offer a list of some areas for improvement. This is in no way an indictment of the entire conservative movement or an attempt to stereotype anyone — I am fully aware that most movement conservatives already do these things. But I’ve needed to work on all of them at one time or another (and need to do so on a continuing basis) and so I thought perhaps they might inspire you to set some new goals for 2015.

1. Talk to People with Whom You Disagree

It’s tempting to think of people on the other side of the political spectrum — both those in the other party and those within our own party — as enemies. And while it’s true that there are some extremists who are literally trying to destroy this country from the top down (and the bottom up), the vast majority of people we have disagreements with are really decent people who see the world differently than we do. They have children and families and go to work every day and really do want to make the world a better place, however misguided their efforts may be.

The truth is we have very deep divides in this country and they’re not going to be healed if we demonize our opponents and shun dialogue, so let’s resolve to have more meaningful conversations with those on the other side of the political spectrum in 2015.

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The 10 Most Essential Christmas Specials and Holiday Movies

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Editor’s Note: This article was first published as “Essential Christmas: The 10 Best Holiday Specials And Movies” in 2011 and is now resurrected and republished as part of today and tomorrow’s Ghost-Lists of Christmas Past Series.

In a day when parents and children rarely watch the same TV shows, Christmas TV specials and holiday movies still somehow manage to continue to bring families together.

These days it’s even easier than it used to be to share these traditions. ABC Family has made an art out of holiday programming with their “25 Days of Christmas” programming blocs that package specials throughout the month of December. Home video and streaming services also allow families to watch programs whenever they want.

In the spirit of Christmas, I’m offering to you this list of the ten most essential specials and movies of the season.

We’ll start with a pair of very different types of animation from a production company synonymous with Christmas specials…

10. The Year Without A Santa Claus

Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass are synonymous with their stop-motion Christmas specials of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Viewers not familiar with their names will recognize their unmistakable round-headed characters, candy-colored landscapes, and softly falling snow. A few of their specials are on this list, starting with The Year Without A Santa Claus.

In this 1974 special, Mrs. Claus (voiced by Shirley Booth) tells the story of the year Santa (voiced by Mickey Rooney) decides — on doctor’s orders — to take a vacation. Two of his elves and the young reindeer Vixen take a trip to find enough Christmas spirit to cheer Santa up. Along their way, the elves battle the Heat Miser and Snow Miser and visit Southtown, USA, where they get lost. Santa journeys south to find Vixen and discovers that the children of the world need him. He can’t skip Christmas.

The Year Without A Santa Claus is a clever story with some memorable scenes and catchy songs, including those involving the villains.

It’s not as ubiquitous as Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer or Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, but The Year Without A Santa Claus is trippy holiday fun.

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12 Wonderful Christmas Songs

Monday, December 22nd, 2014 - by Allston

An Irving Berlin song about an old, traditional Christmas, this was one of the wonderful songs featured in the 1942 film Holiday Inn. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this is the number one hit single of all time, with over 50 million copies of the Bing Crosby version sold, and over 100 million counting all of the remakes.

1. Bing Crosby – “White Christmas”

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5 Creative Musical Acts You Probably Haven’t Heard of But Should Know

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Allston

Australian by birth, Tal Wilkenfeld began playing guitar at age 14. Two years later, feeling “this just isn’t going to work out for me,” she dropped out of high school and emigrated to the United states. A year later, having changed her instrument to bass guitar, she graduated in 2004 from the prestigious Los Angeles Music Academy College of Music.

That same year, she moved to New York City, and began performing with numerous greats – as a guest with the Allman Brothers, then with Chick Corea, Jeff Beck, Wayne Krantz, Herbie Hancock, Eric Clapton, and many others. As the lead for her own act, she has earned critical acclaim as one of the most exciting new artists of recent memory.

1. Tal Wilkenfeld – “Serendipity Live”

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17 Reasons Why I Enjoyed Summer TV More than the ‘New Fall Season’ on Broadcast, Part III

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 - by David Forsmark

5. Life is Beautiful: Dr. Who

Before they brought Holmes and Watson into the 20th century in the excellent personages of Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman, the Sherlock team first produced this marvelous update of the ultimate geek cult classic, Dr. Who.

For the uninitiated, The Doctor is a time-traveling alien, last of his species which was known as Time Lords, who generally is incarnated with some sort of accent from the British Isles, and travels through time and space in a blue time capsule that looks like a blue British police call box circa 1963 (when the series debuted on the BBC.)

The Doctor is of an undetermined age, and regenerates every so often with a new body and slightly different personality. This season, he is played by Peter Capaldi and is, to his initial consternation, an older and grouchier, Scotsman. In the most recent seasons he has been played to great effect by Christopher Eccleson, David Tennant and Matt Smith.

The Doctor travels with an appealing and adventurous sidekick, generally a young and pretty British woman.

Like The Doctor himself, this show has heart to spare, generally with the characters saving some civilization from extinction. While Dr. Who is consistently life-affirming, the show recently aired one of the most blatantly pro-life episodes in the history of television.

Forget wondering if a baby might ruin one’s career, in this case, the dilemma was whether to kill the last of an alien species in utero, even if letting it hatch meant risking the future of Earth itself.

Utterly whimsical and completely addictive, Dr. Who has a sense of wonder and humanity that is unique in modern television.

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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 Songs That Remind Me of Summer

Friday, December 12th, 2014 - by Allston

It’s a cold, windy, rainy, crappy weather day outside here. I don’t know about you, but at the moment I could use something to listen to, a reminder of summer. (Stepping into that pothole full of icy water earlier didn’t help matters much.) It’s a long haul until then, but winter makes us appreciate summer, doesn’t it?

If anyone could make you want to give it all up, move to Brazil, and spend your days walking barefoot on the beach, it would be Bebel.

1. Bebel Gilberto – So Nice (Summer Samba)

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10 Supporting Characters Who Spoiled Their Movies

Friday, November 28th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

You know who they are.

You’ve seen them in movies you really wanted to like only to have the film taken down a peg, maybe two, by those annoying, bothersome supporting characters who, for some reason, writers, producers, or some studio suit considered indispensable. Sometimes they’re sidekicks, sometimes comedy relief, sometimes they’re kids, and sometimes they’re just plain head scratchers. But in every case, they stick out like sore thumbs, dragging down the quality of otherwise decent pictures or films that could have been great but fell short due to bad casting.

We speak of the mysterious extra punch that movie makers throughout cinema history have at one time or another considered indispensable to the success of a film. Often such instincts have proven on the money (literally!) as endless numbers of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers films can attest! And in case modern audiences have become too smug in their belief that today’s filmmakers are way too sophisticated to fall back on such dubious casting, they’re asked to look no farther than the string of Star Wars movies, blockbusters all!

But even as we disparage their use, there has been a method to filmmakers’ madness in casting such annoying characters. Often they’re used to keep the stars from getting too full of themselves — taking the air out of their sails when it threatens to carry them away. Other times, it’s to inject some needed comedy relief in tense situations. In still others, it might be to inject some pearls of wisdom or unconscious bits of philosophical truth to the goings on. Sometimes they might be allowed to display certain kinds of emotions such as fright or sentimentality not allowed the hero lest he seem less heroic. Sometimes he might even play cupid, maneuvering the hero and his romantic interest into each other’s arms. Which is to say, under the proper circumstances, the supporting character can work, but when they don’t, movie buffs end up with Supporting Characters Who Spoiled Their Movies!


10) Alan Hale

Perhaps in love with the jovial nature he projected on film, producers in the golden age of Hollywood seemed to have high regard for Alan Hale, Sr., who appeared in countless films from the silent era until his death in 1950. Although Hale worked in many of his parts, his oft-repeated role as comedy relief for Errol Flynn managed to take such films as The Adventures of Robin Hood, Desperate Journey, and The Sea Hawk down a notch or two from perfection.

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The Top 10 Ultimate Tough Guy Movies

Friday, November 28th, 2014 - by James Jay Carafano

Editor’s Note: See James Jay Carafano’s article from yesterday for the opposite of the films on this list: 10 Tinseltown Turkeys That Make Real Men Choke.

10. Straw Dogs (1971)

Dustin Hoffman made his bones as a misfit Hollywood Holden Caulfield in The Graduate (1967). Who would have thought of him as an action hero? “Bloody Sam” Peckinpah, that’s who. The director of the Wild West’s wildest tough guy movie, The Wild Bunch (1969), followed up with a controversial film starring Hoffman as a meek math professor on sabbatical in rural Cornwall. When a bunch of rowdy locals storm his home, Hoffman goes all Rambo proving his “manhood” in an orgy of violence. Even Hoffman’s character can’t believe what happens. “Jesus, I got ‘em all,” he mumbles at the end of the movie. This film cemented Peckinpah’s place as the king of his generation’s tough guy moviemakers. For some unfathomable reason, the movie was remade in 2011. Stick to the original.

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