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5 Deadly Director’s Cuts You Should Avoid At All Costs

Friday, April 17th, 2015 - by Roy M. Griffis

Among the many blessings of civilization is the BluRay. BluRays (and DVDs and home video before them) meant that if you loved film, you, too, could finally own a copy of some classic like Casablanca and sigh over its greatness time and again. But like many other gifts of Western capitalist culture, there is a downside.

One of them is the “Director’s Cut.”

Film history would be a lot more boring without the stories of enfant terribles (and later, adult pain-in-the-asses) like Orson Welles battling against the men with the souls of accountants over their art. Most of the time, it turned out the accountants had a wicked right hook and the artist would end up on the canvas while their vision was butchered.

Some director’s cuts are good. Dances with Wolves added additional backstory without seeming like Costner was giving himself a public handjob. Peter Jackson hit the height of his craft as a director with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and he gave his fans more of what they wanted, more time in a Middle Earth that was both familiar and fantastic.

Then there are those… other efforts. Recompilations of beloved, fondly remembered work that are suddenly as welcome as a visit from your creepy uncle who just finished a 25-year stretch in San Quentin for his bad habits.

Ego? Ambition? Pharmaceuticals?

Whatever it is, there are some “Director’s Cuts” that took otherwise fine, fun films and turned them into something as thrilling as watching a carousel slide show of your eight year-old nephew’s geology field trip. Here is just a palate-wrinkling sample of some of the worst of the once-good.

(Note: we’re going to completely overlook that charming genre “UnRated and Now with More Torture Porn!”)


1. Last of the Mohicans

What a great, thrilling film this was. I saw it three times in the theatre when it was first released and owned the soundtrack on CD. Then came the day Michael Mann looked at either his bank account or the film and decided, “let’s take another run at that.”

Mann, a notoriously demanding director, for whatever reason hadn’t quite gotten the verisimilitude he was hoping for when he made a great movie out of a justly-mocked book from the 1800s. To give the Mann-iac his due, the additional character scenes and background were acceptable, but to really put us into the world of the time, he apparently randomly airbrushed india ink over huge sections of the film.

By God, he wanted you there, and if we were watching a scene set in the forest on a cloudy night, then it was going to be dark. Not just artfully shadowed, but blackcat inside a coal mine dark. I’m talking “Mommy, we wandered off the trail four days ago and I think the bears are coming down from the mountains to eat us, but they’ll only be able to find us by scent because I haven’t seen a shimmer of light in hours” dark.

For whatever reason, Mann took a compelling adventure/love story and turned it into a lengthy exercise in eye-strain.


2. The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Most comedy seems to work when it has heart, and this film had that, with Steve Carell channeling a kind of Jim Carrey vibe while managing to remain recognizably human (hint: guess which one will have a longer career).

But that heart and the sweet story of a guy finally finding love was hidden underneath MORE potty jokes and MORE ad-libbing that went on way too long (were they stoned only when they filmed those scenes or did the party continue back in the editing bay?) and MORE whacky boobies.

Take a movie that borders on eew (while it was funny, about 20 minutes in I was finding the gratuitous profanity kind of battering) and what do you add?  MORE eeeewwww.


3. Blade Runner 

This film (and Watchmen, below) are ones that many cognoscenti (and even myself, depending on the day) would argue against including on this list.

The original Blade Runner as I first experienced it in a strip mall in Alexandria, Virginia, is still my favorite (confession…I loved the bored voice-over… it was right out of 50’s noir). But as of last count, there have been 176 “authorized” versions of the film pressed onto plastic disks for purchase and I’m pretty sure there’s a Lego-version in the works.

Was it just a cash grab? A tax-write off?

No matter, because after one has waded through the work-print, the first Director’s Cut, the re-release version, and the final Authorized Gold-Stamp of Approval, what do you get?

(Spoiler warning! Editor’s note: a page break speed bump put in for anyone who still hasn’t seen Blade Runner)

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The Best New York Cinema is Indie Cinema

Friday, April 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

In terms of New York while Mr. Wargas named many good box office hits, he left out the entire genre of independent, low-budget cinema that screams New York in ways big directors and big dollars cannot. Case in point: Crossing Delancey, my soul’s addiction that requires yearly viewing.

The almost Yiddishkeit story of a Jewish girl who shook off her Lower East Side roots for the promises of the elite literati, only to find herself falling in love with a Pickle Man from the old side of the tracks, Crossing Delancey is like the city itself. It is spiritually rooted in the past, firmly grounded in the present, ever-questioning the future. It is both literal and visceral, practical and mystical. It is the pursuit of love in person, place, and idea altogether inseparable.

Joan Micklin Silver directed the film produced by its star, Amy Irving. The shout-out to the Guerilla Girls was a snide flip of the finger at the grotesque bias against women in the film industry. Jennifer Westfeldt owes her career in part to these trailblazers of Working Girl-era film feminism.

Infused with the neshama, the spiritual nature inherent to the female sex, Crossing Delancey asks of its protagonist and its audience, “Who are you?” That is the question every immigrant, visitor and newborn has and will hear when arriving on her stinking golden shores. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” It is brutal, incisive and promises the gift of Divine truth if answered honestly. Crossing Delancey captures the idea of New York, the gateway to the goldena medina, the promised land where anyone, immigrant and indie filmmaker alike, can make their dreams come true.

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The 10 Best Steven Spielberg Films

Friday, April 17th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Though a bit silly in places, this followup starring Harrison Ford and Spielberg’s soon-to-be-wife Kate Capshaw was also bursting with energy and wickedly amusing stunts, not to mention the thrilling moment when Indy avoids death by slipping below a sliding door but then reaches back for his battered fedora. It’s a quintessential example of Spielberg’s good-natured wit.


9. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Spielberg’s definitive WW II picture frequently makes no sense —  why would a simple infantry platoon try to take on an armored battalion, when all Capt. Miller’s troops have to do is stroll across a bridge and blow it up behind them? But it deserves a place in the annals of cinema history for its breathtaking, nerve-shattering opening scene of the D-Day invasion, a tableau that redefined what gritty, gruesome war realism could be.


8. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Leonardo DiCaprio has never given a better performance than he did as the boyish con artist Frank Abagnale, who breezes through the 1960s on forged checks and pretends to be a pilot, a surgeon, a lawyer and anything else that strikes his fancy. Alas, Tom Hanks’s Boston accent as the FBI man on his tail is unfortunate.


7. Always (1989)

A beautifully told, romantic ghost story, this uncharacteristically disarming adaptation of Spielberg’s childhood favorite A Guy Named Joe featured the most nuanced and appealing female character he ever conjured up, Holly Hunter’s Dorinda, who loses her courageous boyfriend (Richard Dreyfuss) when he dies piloting a plane in the course of trying to put out a forest fire. He continues to exert a supernatural pull on her life even as she finds love with another man.


6. Jurassic Park (1993)

That the film was a special-effects landmark wasn’t really the key to its success: Spielberg made the dinosaurs matter by taking the time to establish his cast of characters and their conflicts well before any monsters appear. And he found brilliant ways to use his trademark tongue-in-cheek humor to offset the terror. Who else but Spielberg could get a laugh out of the familiar legend, “Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear”?


5. Jaws (1975)

Forty years on, the shark thriller has lost much of its shock value, and its pace now seems deliberate rather than frenzied. But the 27-year-old Spielberg’s ability to manufacture dread and suspense from a malfunctioning prop (the crew couldn’t get the damn mechanical shark to work half the time) was uncanny, and the manly camaraderie of Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss as they ventured out alone into the wilderness to save the townsfolk was like that of a trio of gunslingers daring to settle the West.


4. Schindler’s List (1993)

Releasing two defining films in a single year proved Spielberg was still operating at peak levels two decades into his unprecedented career. The problem of how to do a Holocaust film was one that had essentially flummoxed Hollywood for 50 years before Spielberg found the proper approach: Amid the squalor and the massacre, he cast his vision toward the shining light of humanity embodied by the savior Oskar Schindler, personified by the quiet dignity of Liam Neeson in a star-making performance.

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Profit from a Glimpse of TomorrowLand

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

This featurette evoking the creative futurism of Walt Disney, which took one form in his Epcot Center and will take another in this year’s feature film Tomorrowland, reminds us how vast the entrepreneur’s vision truly was. He clung to an optimistic view of the future where urban planning would improve the quality of life for new generations.

When we consider such past visions of the future, like that of 2015 imagined in 1989’s Back to the Future, Part II, we clearly see how much they deviate from our modern reality.

Why is it so difficult to predict future developments, and what lesson should we take away from that observation? Technology futurist Daniel Burrus relates in the clip below how we tend to focus on the wrong things when predicting the future. He provides some insights into how to focus on the right things, and profit from it.

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5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Stream The Prince of Egypt on Netflix

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Michael van der Galien

Dear Dave,

Yesterday evening you suggested I watch The Prince of Egypt, in your opinion the best movie inspired by the book of Exodus. Although I didn’t have time then, I got to it this morning. It impressed me mightily.

The top 5 reasons why I loved it – and why everybody who reads this article should watch it if they haven’t already – are:

1. Moses never doubts God, only himself.

This is a vital lesson for believers of all kinds; you can doubt your own abilities, but never doubt the most high God, who created everything, and without whom nothing would be.


2. The Pharaoh (or Moses’ adopted brother) initially has a kind heart at least towards those he holds dear, but is hardened by pride and a blind adherence to tradition.

It’s not a story about evil people, but about evil values. There’s a difference between the two, those who worship God should be aware of that and act accordingly, which also means they have to reason in favor of good values; people have wrong opinions, their hearts and souls can still be saved.


3. The story isn’t merely one of victory or redemption, it’s a tragedy at the same time.

Moses does what God orders him to do, but he’s not doing it in order to take revenge. He’s acting out of love – for his people, and even for his adopted brother, the crown prince who eventually becomes the new Pharaoh.


4. The story shows what a God-fearing leader can do for his people… and what a blasphemous leader can do to his people.

A leader’s character and values matter. A lot. The first type of leader will bring redemption to his people, the latter will lead them to ruin.


5. The Jewishness is actually not emphasized that much because it’s a story for the ages and for all people, of all religions and of all backgrounds.

The same can be said for the Bible itself in its entirety; you don’t have to be a Christian in the traditional sense to read it and learn from it.

Back to you Dave. What would you like to add to these points? Why should people – of all creeds – watch The Prince of Egypt and what did you get out of it?



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Wonder Woman Loses Director: Was She Hired for the Wrong Reasons?

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Not long after it was announced that Warner Bros. and DC Comics would be producing a Wonder Woman feature film starring Gal Gadot in the title role, the studio made clear their intention to hire a female director for the project. In November, they secured Michelle MacLaren, whose credits including episodes of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul.

Now, MacLaren has departed the project over “creative differences.” AMC Movie News editor-and-chief John Campea expresses his concern in the above clip.

Adding to his observations: was MacLaren hired first and foremost because of her gender? Could these “creative differences” have been avoided had the creative vision taken precedence from day one?

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What’s the Best New York Movie?

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 - by Robert Wargas

I just learned by accident that the actor Paul Sorvino turned 76 on April 13. You’ll recall that Mr. Sorvino played the role of the mob boss “Paulie” in Goodfellas, the classic New York gangster movie released in 1990. Seeing this news, and reflecting on the 25th birthday of Goodfellas itself, I have to ask myself: Is Goodfellas the greatest New York movie ever made?

I will doubtless get pushback on this for all kinds of good reasons. Maybe you think the best New York movie is Taxi Driver, or When Harry Met Sally, or The French Connection. Those are all fine choices, to be sure. Or maybe you don’t think there is such thing as “the best New York movie.” I admit the question presupposes its own importance.

But I bring it up because casual conversation is full of such unanswerable questions as “what’s your favorite movie?” In fact, I was asked this recently… twice. I always find myself answering Goodfellas. It has become a reflex. I generally trust my reflexes.

Maybe it’s because I’m from New York and half Italian, and despite the fact that my Italian heritage includes no mob connections, I can still see flickers of my past in the way the characters talk, act, and eat. How many people’s favorite movies are merely those which remind them of their childhoods?

In any case, there are fewer movies with better dialogue than Goodfellas. (Perhaps The Last Boy Scout?) And New York retains a certain mythical quality for everyone, including those who hail from its streets. It’s a city simultaneously full of immense beauty and ugliness. What better way to represent this duality than the mob, which is itself a bizarre combination of opulence and violence?

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6 of History’s Biggest Military Failures Memorialized on Film

Friday, April 10th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

Spring is the time “when kings go off to war.” It’s in the Book! Twice!! (2 Samuel 11:1 and Chronicles 20:1).

Springtime therefore has seen more than its fair share of military defeats. On April 1, 1865, for example, General George Pickett suffered a defeat far worse than “Pickett’s Charge” at Gettysburg. His troops were cut off and crushed at the Battle of Five Forks, Va. The loss of Pickett’s forces pretty much ended Confederate hopes of defending Richmond. The Confederacy surrendered just eight days later.

America has seen more than a few military setbacks of late. The administration’s latest reversal came this week, when it had to hastily pull our special operations forces from Yemen.

Americans prefer not to dwell on defeats, but they are worth pondering. Sometimes the worst setbacks can be the best teachers. Here, courtesy of Hollywood, are six cinematic accounts of thumping failures that are worth revisiting.


6. Khartoum (1966)

You think Obama has an Islamist insurgency problem? In 1883, the “Madhi” leads a revolt that overruns much of the Sudan. The British government dispatches Major General Charles George Gordon (Charlton Heston) to Khartoum. Gordon decides to defend the city. It doesn’t end well for the Brits: the garrison is slaughtered, 4,000 civilians are put to the sword and the general loses his head (literally). Gordon hoped that if he refused to retreat, the British would send reinforcements to crush the Madhi. They didn’t.

The lesson: Hope is not a strategy.


5. Zulu Dawn (1979)

In 1879, the British dispatch a column under Lord Chelmsford (Peter O’Toole) to beat back the Zulu tribes. The Brits are armed to the teeth with the most modern military weapons of the time including rockets, field artillery, and breach-loading rifles. Yet 1,300 of Chelmsford’s 1,800 troops are cut down by spear-carrying warriors.

The lesson: God isn’t always on the side of the biggest or best-equipped battalions. Never underestimate your enemy.


4. Gallipoli (1981)

During World War I, Winston Churchill had an inspired idea: “Let’s outflank the enemy, attack Turkey and seize a key maritime chokepoint—the Dardanelles. How hard can that be?” ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand) troops land on April 25, 1915. They are joined by forces from Britain, France, British India and Newfoundland.  Lacking accurate maps or solid intelligence, the invading army has no idea what it is in for. Eight months later, the allies withdraw in abject failure. They have taken 180,000 casualties. The film shows the futile campaign through the eyes of young Australian trooper named Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson).

The lesson: Know your enemy before you pick a fight.


3. Hamburger Hill (1987)

America may have lost the Vietnam War but our troops won most of the battles. One of the bloodiest was the assault of Ap Bia Mountain, aka “Hamburger Hill,” in 1969. In a 10-day fight for the summit the US troops suffered over 400 casualties. In the film, future television and movie stars including Dylan McDermott, Steven Weber, and Don Cheadle are part of a platoon that fights its way to the top. In real life, after the troops took the hill—they abandoned it. Ap Bia Mountain had no strategic value.

The lesson: Even victories can be blunders. Winning wars is about imposing your will on the enemy—that is not always measured in how much you territory take or how many enemy you kill.


2. Diên Biên Phu (1992)

In 1954, the French had the bright idea that they could hold on to Vietnam by seizing a base deep in enemy territory, then launching attacks to control the surrounding area. Unfortunately for the French, they seized a base in a valley. The enemy occupied the surrounding high ground. Cut off, after a 55-day siege the last of the garrison were overrun, surrendered or fled. The film provides a docu-drama history of the battle, in part recounted by an American reporter, Howard Simpson (Donald Pleasence,) based in Hanoi.

The lesson: Don’t cede your enemy a decisive competitive advantage.


1. They Died with Their Boots On (1941)

It’s 1876. An over-confident, over-zealous George Armstrong Custer (Errol Flynn) leads a punitive expedition along the banks of the Little Bighorn River. They are all wiped out—Custer, two of his brothers, a nephew, a brother-in-law and 261 other soldiers. The movie is horrible military history, but Custer’s reckless, vainglorious leadership made for a horrible military operation, so maybe it was a good fit.

The lesson: Hubris hurts.

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The 8 Worst Steven Spielberg Films

Friday, April 10th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

8. The Terminal (2004)

While certainly well-intentioned, and endearing on a certain level, this Tom Hanks comedy about a baffled immigrant who is forced to live at JFK Airport because of political turmoil that dissolved his native country while he was en route was thin, bland, and obvious. Spielberg’s point about America being a wonderland and a melting pot isn’t wrong, but he makes it in a saccharine — bordering on cloying — way.


7. Empire of the Sun (1987)

Again: not a horrible movie but still a major disappointment. Loose, meandering, and soporific, this early Christian Bale film combined several of Spielberg’s favorite themes (WW II, childhood, airplanes) in a stiff, would-be epic about a British boy separated from his parents in Shanghai after the Japanese invade. Atmosphere and the exotic setting supersede all else as young Jim (played by a 12-year-old Bale) learns to get along at an internment camp where a rascally American (John Malkovich) teaches him the ropes.


6. Lincoln (2012)

Daniel Day Lewis’s strangely captivating performance fails to rescue the film from feeling airless and procedural. Veering from highly improbable and dramatically clunky (would ordinary soldiers from the battlefield really chat so familiarly, and dismissively, with the commander-in-chief, as they do at the start of the film?) to shouty (Tommy Lee Jones’s performance), this snail-paced work was like watching 50 pages of the Congressional Record come to life.


5. 1941 (1979)

Spielberg’s first flop, a huge money loser that was meant to be Universal’s big Christmas entry for 1979, had an amusing premise (an overestimation of Japanese military capabilities that led to fears that bombings would reach all the way to the American mainland). But this loud, wearying, only intermittently funny film starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as troops sent into a tizzy by the attack on Pearl Harbor fell awkwardly between action spectacle and slapstick comedy. The goal seemingly was to spend as much money as possible rather than to tell a coherent story.


4. The Color Purple (1985)

A shameless piece of weepy, four-handkerchief Oscar-mongering, this period piece that takes place over 40 years in Georgia was a transparent attempt for Spielberg to be taken seriously. Instead of earning that, he wallowed in cliches about abusive black men and passive but enduring black women. Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey made their mark, though.


3. Amistad (1997)

Anthony Hopkins’ off-putting performance as John Qunicy Adams is the least of the film’s problems. Another lumbering historical message picture, this time about a slave uprising aboard a ship that landed near New Haven, Connecticut, in 1839 and resulted in murder trials for the slaves. The movie could have been trimmed by an hour.

The legal case was fascinating, and the moral stakes could hardly have been higher, but Spielberg bludgeons all the life out of the case and practically shouts all of his points.

Spielberg’s preachy side led him to make poor use of Morgan Freeman and Matthew McConaughey (though not of Djimon Hounsou, who effortlessly inhabited his part as the leader of the uprising and should have received an Oscar nomination). The climactic courtroom scene, in which Adams pleads for the slaves’ lives at the Supreme Court, not only bears little resemblance to what actually occurred but comes across as playing to the cheap seats.


2. The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

The lifeless and weird motion-capture animation makes the film unengaging on even the most basic level, but the crusty, old-fashioned slapstick humor, the insistently cardboard characters and the tiresome and convoluted boy-detective plot make the film worse than interminable and close to excruciating.


1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Could Indy 4 be the most disappointing film ever made, even considering that the previous two installments fell well short of the standard set by Raiders of the Lost Ark? Discuss.

Likewise: Who was more annoying, Shia LaBeouf or Cate Blanchett? Could the mushroom-cloud ending have been any more wrong?

Certainly George Lucas bears much, if not most, of the responsibility for this bizarre, ridiculous campy and heartbreaking desecration of the legacy of Indiana Jones. But Spielberg directed it, and we should never let him live it down.


image illustration via here

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Will Digital Star Wars Soar Through the Stars or Crash into the Swamp?

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

The force is back with us. On April 10, Walt Disney Studios, Lucasfilm Ltd. and 20th Century debut “digital” downloads” of the Star Wars saga.

They will be looking not only to cash in, but to heighten the frenzy for a new slew of films starting this summer.

Are movie-goers again ready to travel to a galaxy far far away?

Certainly, Star Wars still has a hold on our popular culture. After all, Americans petitioned the White House to build a Death Star.

But the real magic of Star Wars was the imaginative mythology and original character-driven story lines. Reloading the franchise might be a cash cow, but it’s no more inspiring than Fast and Furious 7. If audiences are content with Xerox cinema, maybe it’s a sign we have lost our mojo–more new movies may not mean imagination and innovation are the core of American culture anymore.

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Who’s That Villian in the New Bond Trailer?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Last weekend, we got our first solid glimpse of the upcoming fourth entry in Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond. Retaining creative and narrative elements from the highly successful Skyfall, the new film will continue to mine the character’s previously unspecified past while setting up a future for the franchise rooted in its classic formula.

Titled simply Spectre, this Bond film will finally restore 007′s most persistent and lethal foe, the titular terrorist organization which surpasses the capabilities of nations. Hopefully, this continuity will build up to the return of Bond’s all-time arch nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Could it be that Christoph Waltz’s “Oberhauser” is really that classic mastermind?

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7 Big Bible Movies for Your Holiday Weekend

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

In 2013, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett produced The Bible, a television miniseries that drew a cable audience of over 13 million. They then recut the miniseries into a successful theatrical release: 2014’s Son of God.

Late this March, the National Geographic Channel attracted a record-breaking audience with its adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling book, Killing Jesus.

The Christian ratings rampage seems a bit of a head scratcher. The statistics say our nation is rapidly becoming less religious. The Pew Forum finds, for instance, that “[w]hile nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic.” And, for the first time, Protestants are on the verge of becoming an American minority.

Yet, the Almighty’s resurgence on screen is not restricted to niche cable channels. A.D. The Bible Continues, a sequel to Burnett’s original mini-series, has a primetime broadcast premiere on Easter Sunday.  The suits at NBC wouldn’t green-light a project like this unless they thought it would pull a broad audience.

Maybe the Bible is back because it never left. While Americans may be less likely to self-identify with a particular formal religion, they are part of a nation whose roots are grounded in a strong religious heritage. “We ignore at our peril,” writes scholar Mark David Hall,

“the Founders’ insight that democracy requires a moral people and that faith is an important, if not indispensable, support for morality.”

The Judeo-Christian faith has always been entwined with American culture, even in hedonistic Hollywood.  Here are seven of the most significant Bible-based movies from Tinseltown.

7. The Ten Commandments (1923)

Cecil B. DeMille was, as one paper wrote, “the Golden Age of Hollywood in a single man.” He knew the kinds of films the American public would hand over their hard-earned cash to see. DeMille delivered a string of films based on the Bible, beginning with this silent screen epic depicting the exodus from Egypt (as well as a modern-day morality tale showing the wisdom of following the 10 Commandments). At the time, it was one of the most expensive movies ever made—and a huge box-office hit.

6. The King of Kings (1927)

DeMille followed-up with a film based on the life of Jesus. He enlisted a cadre of religious advisors to help steer clear of charges of antisemitism. However, not everyone was satisfied on that score. The resulting controversy, in part, led Hollywood to adopt the 1930 Production Code provision that barred “[w]illful offense to any nation, race or creed” from the silver screen. Still, it was a good film on the final days of Jesus’ ministry, better than many of the “talkies”—such as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)—that followed.

5. The Ten Commandments (1956)

DeMille returned with a remake of the story Moses, this time on an even grander scale (and in Technicolor!). It was the height of the Cold War and Americans craved a shot of moral courage. With Charlton Heston in the lead, the film was a phenomenal success at the box office and nominated for seven Academy Awards. One wonders how Ridley Scott thought he could top that. His 2014 remake was a disaster for the Egyptians and moviegoers. Many consider it the worst movie Scott ever made. Stick with Heston and DeMille.

4. Barabbas (1961)

Not every Bible-themed movie was made by DeMille. Indeed, some of them—like Barabbas—have precious little to do with the Bible. In this gritty, action-packed movie, Anthony Quinn plays the thief Pontius Pilate freed instead of Jesus. The movie imagines the rest of Barabbas’ life, including his own confession and redemption.

Similar films like The Robe (1953) and Ben-Hur (1959) also played on themes related to the life of Jesus Christ, part of Hollywood’s effort to cash in and be bigger than the Bible. Barabbas also marked the beginning of the end of Hollywood’s Bible craze. After the upheavals of 1960s, the only way God could get on the silver screen was in rock-n-roll musicals like Godspell (1973) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) or an irreverent comedy like Life of Bryan (1979).

3. King David (1985)

Trust me, this movie is not on the list because it’s particularly good. Making heartthrob Richard Gere the king of the Israelites must have seemed like a good idea at the time but the movie bombed. Gere was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for worst actor (though he lost to Sylvester Stallone). What was significant about the film was that the Bible was back after a long hiatus in Hollywood. Hollywood’s anger and post-Vietnam War, anti-establishment angst mellowed in the Reagan era.

The Bible was once again okay—although King David’s dismal box office dampened the suits’ enthusiasm for Bible epics for a good while.

2. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Another not very good film that needs to be on the list. “Artsy” types liked the Martin Scorsese movie, but the box office was just so-so. For years, this and other films that played with the Christian story were disconnected from Americans. As a result,they received little attention.

1. The Passion of the Christ (2004)

It’s hard not to respect this controversial and disturbing film by Mel Gibson. “The violence aside,” wrote the film critic for Christianity Today, the movie conveys “the divinity and humanity of Christ, respectively; and, more than any recent director, Gibson captures the grand supernatural conflict which gives the death of Christ its meaning.”

Compare this movie to recent “big” Hollywood productions like Scott’s Exodus or the unwatchable Noah (2014) and you’ll see why films that try to tell the Christian story touch something in Americans, while those that try to cash in by turning the Bible into another Fast and Furious sequel flop with most movie-goers.

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What Will Shock Fans in the Next Star Wars Trailer?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

From Collider comes news that the next trailer for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed will be attached to every copy of Avengers: Age of Ulron. The anticipated Marvel blockbuster hits theaters on May 1st. However, some of us will get to see the new Star Wars trailer even sooner than that.

The new trailer will first premiere at the Star Wars Celebration convention, which runs from April 16th to 19th, and Age of Ultron’s international release starts rolling out on April 22nd, so the question is when Disney/Lucasfilm will decide to put the Star Wars trailer online to avoid a low-quality version hitting first…

That seems likely. Certainly, releasing the trailer ahead of any bootlegs would be in keeping with previous choices Disney has made, such as when the first teaser for Age of Ultron was leaked online a few days before schedule.

The Star Wars teaser, which landed in December a full year prior to the film’s scheduled release, surprised fans with its reveal of a Sith cross-saber. The weapon generated more than a little controversy. What other surprises does director J.J. Abrams have in store?

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Will Alien Nation Reboot Include Amnesty Propaganda?

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

As Hollywood continues to rake recent decades for old material to tell in new form, The Hollywood Reporter reveals that 1989′s Alien Nation will be remade soon:

The original was set in a near future where humans and a race of aliens are forced to co-exist, tenuously, as humans keep the newcomers mostly segregated and without rights. The story then told of the first alien police officer, who is paired with a racially insensitive partner. Soon, however, a case comes along that brings the two together in friendship and respect.

Alien Nation managed the feat, rare for its time, of combining science fiction elements with an otherwise relatable human story. While promoting a clear social agenda, it remained entertaining and engaging, and didn’t feel too overwrought or preachy. Will a modern retelling model similar restraint?

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VIDEO: Feminism Needs This Disney Princess Power

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Lily James and Kenneth Branagh provided truly thoughtful, eloquent answers to the question of how Disney’s newest Cinderella embodies the reinvention of the princess in a 21st century feminist light.

Contrary to popular culture’s interpretation of sex as power through the crowning of figures like Queen Bey, the star and director of Cinderella each proffer the concept of a feminism that draws its power from a woman’s spirit rather than her body. It is Cinderella’s graceful attitude and her desire to treat others with goodness that is the source of both her beauty and ultimately her power as a woman.

The real question is, in a world full of Dunhams and Kardashians, is feminism ready to go spiritual to find the purpose it so desperately needs?

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VIDEO: On This International Day of Happiness, Just Shut Up & Dance

Friday, March 20th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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How the Latest Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer Restores the Fun

Friday, March 20th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

That first teaser trailer for the forthcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron was remarkable. The menace in James Spader’s voice performance crafted a tone befitting a threat big enough to bring Earth’s mightiest heroes back together.

But lost amidst the darkness was any sense of fun from the original. A big part of what made the first movie such a success was the humor and tense banter between the heroes. Working as a team doesn’t necessarily mean you always get along, and the vast differences in personality between characters like Iron Man and Captain America set the stage for some fun rivalries.

With the latest TV spot for Age of Ultron, shown above, we finally get a glimpse of that light-hearted banter and the popcorn-munching fun that comes along with it. Everyone’s having a good time here, even as they face an existential threat to the human race.

This is also the first promotion since the teaser trailer that delivers a significant amount of new footage. Those spots which have landed in the interim have only been tweaked slightly from the teaser. Here we get to see a lot more of each hero in action, along with additional dialogue.

The one weak point seems to be Quicksilver, whose incarnation by Godzilla and Kick-Ass star Aaron Taylor-Johnson will inevitably be compared to Evan Peters’ portrayal in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s a little odd to have two interations of the same character appearing in two ongoing Marvel franchises. The fact that Peter’s Quicksilver was so well-received, described by many as stealing the show, sets the bar high for Taylor-Johnson. From what we get of him in this trailer, he’s got a lot of catching up to do.

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Road Hard: How Adam Carolla Circumvented Hollywood

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

Editor’s Note: Be sure and get caught up on the previous parts of the series before enjoying today’s conclusion:

January 21: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative? 

February 6: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism

February 26: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?

It was a dark and stormy March night when Adam Carolla brought Road Hard to town, typical weather in these parts.

I’d been writing on assignment about Carolla since the beginning of the year, expositing at length in an exploration with a broader context—how does Carolla figure in the universe of countercultural conservatism, assuming such a place exists?

It’s no secret that the mass conundrum facing conservative counterculture is the progressive stranglehold on the means of production and distribution, specifically in the creative and influential realms of film, television, and the literary arts.

Actually, the rain on March 14th was atypical, at least for 2015. The Portland premiere of Carolla’s crowd-funded, romantically intertwined comedy brought the first steady downpours of what has been a record dry year-to-date.

I was probably a good choice for the Carolla assignment, because up until a few months ago, I’d had no real history with Mr. Carolla’s entertainment career.

Love Line? I prefer getting my sex advice from Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

Now my essay subject was in the Rose City. I knew there’d be a meet-and-greet, and it was natural that I’d want to meet him in the flesh.

I had no idea what Road Hard was about, but have always valued independent films produced on low budgets which become hits. Like The Blair Witch Project, a quirky little picture that spooked its way to obscene profitability in a horror landscape glutted with low-to-midrange-budget teen attrition flicks.

I refused to even consider looking at a Road Hard synopsis, because I wanted to go in cold. Neither a fan nor disgruntled former fan, I came to the story neutral, or, objective, as we used to say back in high school journalism classes.

And I certainly wasn’t a member of the leftist press.

Though Carolla’s embattled and self-depreciatory humor threads the narrative like a business-trip hangover, Road Hard actually reminds me of a typical Hollywood-style film, the kind I never see.

Carolla’s Bruce Madsen, a character facing the waning of the show business performance dream, is apparently spot-on autobiographical. His options are less than optimal, emotions are pulling him in other directions, and his next production is to figure out where to go from here.

Along the way, from Hollywood to the hinterlands, Madsen finds that there is no escape, either on the road or at home, from the life he has sown, and the madness of our times. In Road Hard’s world, touring becomes a means of perpetuating a lifestyle that seems to be crumbling around you. The promise of artistic fame and fortune has become a slog.

One interesting takeaway was the apparent difference between the offstage lives of touring rock stars and standup comedians on the road. I don’t know about Carolla, but when Bruce Madsen is hitting the sticks, he doesn’t come with an entourage. And the groupies don’t quite work out as one might hope.

It was also interesting to take stock of Carolla’s audience, a different sort from the conservative, khakis-with-collared-shirts brigades I’m used to covering.

Carolla’s crowd was pure Portlandia, with a libertarian edge. Patrons mingled dressed in the muted tones of politically correct raingear, drinking beer and acting civilized, as if they’d internalized Carolla’s anti-narcissism diatribe from President Me.

My sense was that not one ticketholder in attendance would be caught dead showing up on an airliner without shoes.

The bottom line on Road Hard? There are no witches, but bitches, pardon the vernacular, are well represented.

Carolla’s hangdog persistence and inchoate quest for meaningfulness save the film from becoming yet another manipulative Hollywood journey movie with a foxy, age-appropriate female soul mate as the ultimate prize.

Road Hard’s showcase wasn’t the only shoe dropping for Carolla on Saint Patty’s Day weekend. On Saturday, his home improvement sting operation, Catch a Contractor, was set to begin production of its third season, which will debut on Spike TV this summer.

It was that show–which I discovered in its second season–and Carolla’s appearances on The O’Reilly Factor–that put the Gen X comedian, author, and entertainment entrepreneur securely onto my radar.

After a brief Q&A at the film’s end, Carolla met with local supporters who had backed his project, and then came out for his meet-and-greet at the merch table.

I got the opportunity to meet Carolla, mention the PJ Media assignment, and get my copy of President Me signed. I also offered a special thanks for Catch a Contractor, the show I turn to when things get too professional and predictable on This Old House.

It was time to move along. There was a long line waiting behind me, and another line waiting outside in the pouring rain for the second showing at the Aladdin that night.

When last I saw Carolla, he was taking center stage in a forty-something couple’s celebrity selfie.

It was more than just a moment of Adam Carolla’s life imitating Bruce Madsen’s art. It was a glimpse at how artists do what is necessary to tell their stories when the implacable entertainment gatekeepers won’t let go of the green light.


Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the twenty-ninth 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
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?
  17. Mark Ellis on March 12: The Future of Civilized Society: One World
  18. Aaron C. Smith on March 12: Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies
  19. David S. Bernstein on March 12: Nihilism & Feminism for Girls: Has Judd Apatow Let Lena Dunham Self-Destruct Intentionally?
  20. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 15: Why I Am Jewish
  21. Chris Queen on March 15: Why I Am Non-Denominational Christian
  22. Allston on March 16: Counter-Culture Wars, Part 1: Why the Fellow Travelers Hijacked Folk Music
  23. Ronald R. Cherry on March 17: How To Untangle Orwellian Doublethink: 4 Secrets To Help You Spot BS
  24. Dave Swindle on March 18: Do Fairy Tales & Scary Stories Hide Secrets For Defeating Evil?
  25. Walter Hudson on March 18: The Case Against Freedom, Part I: What Are ‘Externalities’?
  26. Chris Queen on March 18: Can Conservatives & Libertarians Unify? A Review of The Conservatarian Manifesto
  27. Frank J. Fleming on March 19: Today’s Question: Are We All Sociopaths In Our Own Special Ways?
  28. Aaron C. Smith on March 19: Animals Kill. Humans Torture. Why?

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

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

  1. Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
  2. David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
  3. Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
  4. Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
  5. Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
  6. Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
  7. David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  8. Liberty Island on November 22nd, 2014: A Unique Team of 33 Creative Writers
  9. Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
  10. Kathy Shaidle on November 25, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)
  11. Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
  12. Kathy Shaidle on December 3, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)
  13. Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
  14. Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose

January-February 2015 – Volume I

  1. Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
  2. Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
  3. Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
  4. Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
  5. Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
  6. Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
  7. Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
  8. Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
  9. Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
  10. Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
  11. Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
  12. Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
  13. Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
  14. Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
  15. David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
  16. Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
  17. David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
  18. Kathy Shaidle on February 9, 2015: Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?
  19. Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
  20. Spencer Klavan on February 12, 2015: How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes
  21. Kathy Shaidle on February 16, 2015: David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite
  22. David P. Goldman on February 18, 2015: Understanding This Bloody Truth About the Bible Will Save Your Life
  23. Lisa De Pasquale on February 20, 2015: Why American Sniper Is a Much Better Love Story Than Fifty Shades of Grey
  24. Spencer Klavan on February 24, 2015: How Bad Ideology Destroys Good TV: Why Glee Crashed and Burned

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Tribeca Festival to Close with Remastered GoodFellas

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran


This year marks the 25th anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s mob masterpiece GoodFellas. The film will close the 14th Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, April 25, 2015 at the Beacon Theatre.


Based on Nicholas Pileggi’s book, Wise Guy, GoodFellas looked at the rise and fall of half-Irish, half-Sicilian mobster Henry Hill—and his rebirth as a government informant. Pileggi adapted the book for the screen, and the film starred Ray Liotta as a handsome, charismatic Hill; an unforgettable Joe Pesci as volatile Tommy DeVito; Robert DeNiro as the wise Jimmy Conway (“Look at me, never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.”); and a fantastic Lorraine Bracco as Hill’s beleaguered wife Karen.

The screening will also feature a discussion about the film, with creators and cast members moderated by Jon Stewart, who channels GoodFellas every time he does a wiseguy accent on The Daily Show.

The film has been remastered using a 4K scan of the original camera negative, overseen by Martin Scorsese. A Blu-Ray edition is set for re-release on May 5 and includes Digital HD with UltraViolet. The Blu-Ray edition will also include a documentary which includes interviews with the director, as well as some of Scorsese’s most notable gangster characters, including Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Jack Nicholson and Joe Pesci.

The late film critic Roger Ebert called GoodFellas the best gangster film ever made. It’s a subjective call, but it’s hard to argue with the excellent quality of the actors, writing, direction, and photography.

When the film was released in 1990, Ebert wrote that GoodFellas was a personal triumph for Scorsese:

Scorsese is the right director – the only director – for this material. He knows it inside out. The great formative experience of his life was growing up in New York’s Little Italy as an outsider who observed everything – an asthmatic kid who couldn’t play sports, whose health was too bad to allow him to lead a normal childhood, who was often overlooked, but never missed a thing.

There is a passage early in the film in which young Henry Hill looks out the window of his family’s apartment and observes with awe and envy the swagger of the low-level wise guys in the social club across the street, impressed by the fact that they got girls, drove hot cars, had money, that the cops never gave them tickets, that even when their loud parties lasted all night, nobody ever called the police.

That was the life he wanted to lead, the narrator tells us. The memory may come from Hill and may be in Pileggi’s book, but the memory also is Scorsese’s, and in the 23 years I have known him, we have never had a conversation that did not touch at some point on that central image in his vision of himself – of the kid in the window, watching the neighborhood gangsters.

Everyone has their favorite scenes from GoodFellas. How about Joe Pesci at his most threatening, scaring the hell out of Ray Liotta before it becoming clear he was only joking? (Warning: Strong language)

Pesci won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Tommy DeVito. The film was nominated for 5 other Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Lorraine Bracco as Hill’s wife), Best Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Is this the best gangster film ever made? It’s a genre that has kept Hollywood in the black for more than 80 years. Films like White Heat and Public Enemy may look and sound dated to us, but they were gritty and realistic for films made at the time. I thought that Bogie’s Key Largo was one of his best, and a gangster film you would have to put in the top 5. And some critics rank Miller’s Crossing at or near the top.

Certainly, the grand sweep in the telling of GoodFellas, following the life of Henry Hill from teenager to older adult, is an outstanding achievement, seamlessly accomplished. But what makes GoodFellas a cut above all the rest is its perfect evocation of a time and a place. Ebert notes in his review:

For two days after I saw Martin Scorsese’s new film, “GoodFellas,” the mood of the characters lingered within me, refusing to leave. It was a mood of guilt and regret, of quick stupid decisions leading to wasted lifetimes, of loyalty turned into betrayal. Yet at the same time there was an element of furtive nostalgia, for bad times that shouldn’t be missed, but were.

The Godfather trilogy told the story of one family. The fact that they were mobsters was incidental to the story. In GoodFellas, on the other hand, the mafia was the story. It was an ugly story, with little to redeem the characters. But most of us understood the attraction of the lifestyle and harbor a secret admiration for the “wise guys.”

It’s a guilty pleasure that all gangster pictures have offered for decades, which is why we keep going to the theater to experience it.

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7 Films to Get Your Irish Up Today

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

It is anybody’s guess why it is so all-American to be Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. Maybe it is because so many Americans trace their roots back to the land of the four-leaf clover. According to Census Bureau data, there are seven times more Irish in America than in Ireland. Still, that doesn’t explain why so many of the other 300 million Americans feel compelled to drink green beer and eat corn beef and cabbage every March 17.

Not that everybody loves the Irish. Liberals often describe Irish-Americans as intolerant and small-minded. Last year, to “celebrate” St. Patrick’s Day, a Salon writer penned a piece titled “How did my fellow Irish-Americans get so disgusting?”

Despite the progressive pouting, most Americans can relate to the Irish ethos—the emotion, the energy, the passion for triumph and the familiarity with tragedy. Hollywood gets that. That’s why Irish-themed films have always been a staple of the cinema. Here are seven movies that will have you fist-pumping “Erin go Bragh.”

7. The Departed

Nothing bridges the Emerald Isle and land for people yearning to be free than this story of Irish gangsters run amok in Boston. Loosely based on the career of the infamous crime boss Whitey Bulger and featuring music by the Dropkick Murphys, this 2006 Martin Scorsese film is just this side of awesome.

6. Darby O’Gill and the Little People

Here is a heavy dose of Irish folklore, American-style. Darby is captured by the leprechauns, and the high jinks commence. This 1959 Disney flick wound up paving the way for cinematic history. When Darby came out, American film producer Albert Broccoli was casting about for someone who was ruggedly handsome—and would work dirt cheap—to play a spy in his next film. The actor playing Darby’s replacement caught his eye, and that’s how an “Irish” Sean Connery (who is Scots-Australian) became the consummate English gentleman spy, James Bond.

5. The Wind That Shakes the Barley

You can’t be Irish without a strong dose of pathos over the “troubles” leading up to Irish independence. This engrossing film shows all sides of the conflict as two brothers get caught up in the guerilla war that tried to throw off the yoke of British rule. It’s a haunting, beautiful, moving movie.

4. Riverdance: The Show

You can’t be Irish if you don’t have a musical soul. This hit song-and-dance-fest took America by storm with stage shows all over the country. Riverdance was also captured on film. A 1995 performance at the Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, is available on DVD.

3. Good Vibrations

Not all Celtic music is harps, raven-haired sopranos, and barrel-chested baritones. Meet Terri Hooley, a radical, rebel-rousing music lover in 1970s Belfast. In this 2012 film, Hooley’s record shop becomes ground zero for rekindling the spirit of a crumbling community and birthing Ireland’s punk rock craze. This film is a high-energy funfest.

2. The Angry Red Planet

Perhaps, the most schlocky science fiction film ever made. This 1959 movie-matinee mainstay features a trip to Mars where the intrepid crew faces giant bats, man-eating plants, and a massive, one-eyed amoeba. They just don’t make them like this anymore.

The ship’s misogynistic captain calls one of the crew Dr. Iris Ryan (Naura Hayden) “Irish” instead of Iris. Naura Hayden was actually born in Los Angeles and isn’t Irish. In fact, other than the nickname, the film has nothing to do with Ireland, but if you have been out celebrating all St. Patrick’s Day you won’t really care.

1. Rudy

Nothing is more Irish-American than Notre Dame, and that storied university has inspired two immortal football films: 1940’s Knute Rockne All American (with Ronald Reagan as the Gipper) and this 1993 classic starring Hobbit Sean Astin as the kid who just won’t quit. At the end you will join everyone in the stadium chanting “Rudy, Rudy!”

From sports films to musicals to devastating dramas and silly films, it is all Irish cinema that’s not to be missed when all Americans celebrate Lá Fhéile Pádraig.

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Shocker: How the Cinderella Re-Make Does Something Almost Unthinkable Since Walt Disney’s Death

Monday, March 16th, 2015 - by Scott Ott

Cinderella at the ball from the 2015 re-telling of the classic Disney story.

The tale of Cinderella has been retold, directly or indirectly, countless times in recent years, but something just happened to it that I would not believe if I had not seen it.

The latest rendition, released in theaters this past weekend, tells the story with delightful charm, breathtaking beauty, squeaky-clean morality and — most surprising in this age of sly sarcasm — “without a hint of irony.”

That last phrase I stole from another princess film — Enchanted — which was, phrase notwithstanding, rich in irony (as well as terrific humor and great music).

With Cinderella (2015), director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz have done the almost unimaginable. They’ve displayed sincere affection between a prince and a servant girl, without post-modern angst or politically correct messaging.

In a word, they made a “Disney movie” the likes of which I feared had faded to black with each year since Walt’s passing.

If there is any seemingly obligatory commentary about the role of women, gender equality, and the impossible dream of true love, it’s among the bitter on Twitter, not in the film.

Perhaps more shocking than the genuine and chaste love between the prince and Cinderella is the sincere respect, love and admiration between the prince and his father, the king, as the son struggles to balance his love for the mysterious maiden, with his desire to honor his father. Most men yearn for a such a relationship with their boys.

Fairy tales were meant to sweep us from our mundane lives, captivate our hearts, lift our spirits and make us dream again. This Cinderella does all of that better than anything I’ve seen since Beauty and the Beast (1991).

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Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

See Frank J. Fleming opening the discussion: “ And Mark Ellis: “The Future of Civilized Society: One World

Most people use the word “civilization” as a sign of progress, something to which we should aspire. We’ve slowly worked our way out of the muck, pulling ourselves towards enlightenment. Someday, we will all be shiny and happy. History will end.

That’s bunk.

The dirty little secret that people don’t want to admit is that hard men and women built our society. The soft could not conquer the New World or rise in the industrial revolution. The great conflicts of the twentieth century – two hot wars and a half-century of cold war – required men and women with steel in their bones and ice in their blood to fight.


We’ve tried to polish off those sharp edges and call it improvement.

And in doing so, we allow bullies to flourish.

Cruel prey upon the weak.

We act civilized. We pass rules, tell kids to talk to adults. I got bullied as a kid. And let me tell you something. Adults are useless. Rules are crap. The most well-meaning adults trying to enforce rules can’t be everywhere.

And when you fight back, zero-tolerance policies punish prey the same as predator. And it goes on. More rules get passed. “Civilization” isn’t the answer.

Violently making sure everyone on the playground knows you will not be a victim is the answer. Celebrating your son or daughter when they come home with a bloody nose and split lip is the answer.

Think back a couple centuries ago. People used to duel over slights to their honor.

Has “civilization” and departing from this tradition changed anything? Are our kids any safer with “zero-tolerance” rules that treat the predator and prey the same?

Can we honestly call that civilization?

We know it’s wrong. Our television shows, the windows into our cultural subconscious, prove that we hate how rules bind the good and empower the vicious.

My parents grew up in a “less civilized age,” when society possessed less formal rules but ran on unwritten consensus and understanding. They understood the system and watched Dragnet and The FBI, stories about hardworking men in gray suits working within the system to enforce the law.

Today, with all of our rules and regulations, we cheer for the anti-heroes.

I just watched Bosch this weekend. Aside from being a great adaptation of Michael Connelly’s series, LAPD detective Harry Bosch gives us a great example of a good man trying to find justice in a civilized world.

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The Future of Civilized Society: One World

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

See Frank J. Fleming opening the discussion: “

In more dystopian moods, it is easy to agree with David Gelernter and other esteemed analysts that the future of civilized society moves away from nationalism and toward globalism.

Even when in a hopeful frame of mind, it is hard to see a future where borders demark true nations, cultures differentiate, and international relationships of enmity, accord, and alliance in constant flux survive the One World homogenization of humankind.

H.G. Wells’ prescient novel The Time Machine can be interpreted instructively when envisioning a globalist world.

In Wells’ classic, grotesque Morlocks exchanged for their captive Eloi masses relative safety and equalitarian comfort, as prelude to a final solution (Elois as Morlock food).

With Morlocks at the top of a denationalized globe, everything will be on the One World table, and precious little will be on anyone else’s table.

On planet Earth in 2070, the nationalistic lifeblood of our species may well have been drained away by centralized, authoritarian governance.

With no meaningful borders, no nationalistic instincts surviving, the globe will be comprised of regionalized clumps of loosely aggregated peoples, who call a family home, and call a house home, but have no nation.  A planet of exiles, rootless but for the whims of procreation and geography.

Eskimos still populate the Arctic Circle, but they are less Native Americans than contemporary Cro-Magnons, with electric heat and Sno-cats, under the yoke of something so far distant as to be mythical—until you make the wrong move.

Frenchmen still revere the Eiffel Tower, Frenchmen-in-name-only.

As unchecked in-migration globalizes Europe from within, encircled Israel invites Jews to make pilgrimage to the seat of Judeo-Christianity, and the Third World overwhelms the United States, the last voices for nationalistic life on Earth will not simply become marginalized. They become Morlock food.

What is now the European Union becomes the Hemispheric Union, answerable to a World Union ruled by progressive, anti-nationalistic “states-people,” subversive Machiavellians, and grand planners like Jonathan Gruber. Three heroes of the history of the march to globalism: President Barack Obama, Obama Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and the aforementioned Gruber, to name a few.

For nationalist die-hards, “Going, Galt” will be an option-in-extremis.

Godless oligarchs, bolstered by globe-spanning enforcement arms, (let’s just call them Morlocks), will control markets, infrastructures, institutions, and the modes of inescapable surveillance. Pockets of resistance will come under the jurisdiction of entities with the power to bleed-out “neo-patriots” who opt to go down fighting for whatever flag they fly, on whatever hill they are willing to die on.

The panoply of national flags themselves becomes quaint memorabilia, emblematic of a time when humans organized themselves territorially under variant symbolic imagery. The stars and bars, as viewed by the enlightened group-think of the globalists, may well be presented in the history books (assuming Old Glory survives them) sans irony beside the Nazi swastika and the Soviet hammer and sickle.

All will be congregated under one image, brainstormed by the mid-millennial heirs of Gruber, vetted by committees for whom nationalistic identification has become a Neanderthal vestige, and unveiled by whatever alarming potentate or de facto death panel first mounts the throne of globalist dominance.

George Orwell’s 1984 triumvirate of Big Brother truths–war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength–will break down like: There is only one real seat of power; regional conflicts are treated as tribal warfare, and allowed to play out or be snuffed out as befits the grand design. The only real wars, which won’t last long, will be when the World government moves to suppress forces that would restore a nationalistic society.

The truly free will be hunted, and the masses propagandized by the everlastingly repeated deconstruction of the old countries, as ancient now as cave paintings, and the everlastingly repeated atheist prayer that the New Order is the new illumination of life on Earth.

Ignorance is valued when religion falls and nation states die off. It will be deemed counterproductive to remember a time when a nation was something to pledge allegiance to, to fight for, and to love.

It is countercultural conservatism’s job, and the job of all patriots looking to preserve their countries, to keep an eagle-eye on the twin heralds of One World: multiculturalism and diversity.

There’s a difference between when global culture is being celebrated, and being foisted.

There is a place for the acknowledgement and even celebration of myriad world cultures, but there is no place for slick, subliminal messaging aimed at convincing us that the world is one big happy family, and that the best way to live life on Earth is to abandon the thought that there is anything special about our homelands.

End Times believers worry that the black hole of Revelations is nigh, and that the Return is imminent. (So, repent.) But even if unthinkable weapons are let loose by ancient enemies, God forbid, some globalists, like the underground Morlocks, will survive.

When they emerge from the rubble of the nation states, there will form a new consensus. That consensus will criminalize nationalism, abolish identification with all but one flag, and use Armageddon to justify the propagation of One World: “Imagine” devoid of John Lennon, without the national pride that the hungry Morlocks wiped off the face of the earth.


Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the seventeenth 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
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?

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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The Ghostbusters Revival Just Got Weird

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

You’ve probably heard by now that director Paul Feig will helm a rebooted Ghostbusters film starring an all-female cast. From his previous work on the highly successful Bridesmaids, he’s bringing over Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. They will be joined by SNL performers Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

The official announcement came after many years of perennial rumors, mostly driven by original Ghostbusters star Dan Aykroyd. The actor desperately sought a revival of the franchise in the form of a third sequel to the original film. The elder cast would perhaps hand the reins over to a group of younger paranormal investigators. With last year’s untimely death of actor Harold Ramis, who also co-wrote the original, the prospect of a Ghostbusters 3 seemed to fade.

Sony Pictures’ choice to reboot the franchise entirely, to dispense with established continuity and begin fresh with an all-female cast, seemed odd enough. Now we get even weirder news.

Not long after Sony announced a deal with Marvel Studios enabling Spider-Man to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and endure yet another reboot), it was also announced that Captain America: The Winter Solider directors Joe and Anthony Russo had signed a deal with Sony to helm projects there. Given the Russo brothers’ history with Marvel Studios and the recent MCU deal, the conventional wisdom among observers was that the Russos were taking over the Spider-Man franchise.

As it turns out, the Russos’ first project with Sony won’t be Spider-Man or a related property. Entertainment Weekly reports:

[Sony], along with Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd, is establishing Ghostcorps, a company that will develop movies, TV, and merchandising around the Ghostbusters…

After the female-led Paul Feig movie, the first task for the company will be a film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, who recently signed a deal with Sony. The Russos will produce along with Reitman, Reid Carolin, Peter Kiernan, and Channing Tatum, who is being eyed to star.

Deadline first reported on the company and the film. “We want to expand the Ghostbusters universe in ways that will include different films, TV shows, merchandise, all things that are part of modern filmed entertainment,” Reitman told Deadline. “This is a branded entertainment, a scary supernatural premise mixed with comedy.”

Absent further details, the whole thing sounds a bit odd. Are there going to be multiple Ghostbuster teams running around? Is the Tatum/Russo project going to follow the continuity of the original films? It seems strange that the same studio would be pursuing two different projects within the same franchise utilizing completely different creative teams.

Are you interested in either of these projects? Or should Ghostbusters rest in peace?

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