Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

The Practical Side of Star Wars

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Stephen Green

PRACTICAL

Most encouraging Star Wars news I’ve read since George Lucas sold his franchise:

As if videos from the set of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars movie featuring live-action alien costumes and full-scale X-Wing Fighters haven’t been enough of a clue, Rian Johnson, who will pick up the franchise after Abrams, says Star Wars: Episode VII will feature more practical, traditional effects.

“They’re doing so much practical building for this one. It’s awesome,” Johnson said on the latest Girls in Hoodies podcast. “I think people are coming back around to [practical effects]. It feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back toward it. I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick.”

This goes right back to a conversation we had in this space just last May:

Up until, and I guess including Jurassic Park, Hollywood could drop our jaws with only the special effects. Something really new might come along every once in a great while like the wire work from The Matrix, but once the computers took over we became jaded pretty quickly. We used to marvel at practical special effects, because some smart and talented people had to figure out a means to make something jaw-dropping happen, really happen, in front of a camera. Now the computer artists just draw it, if you’ll allow me to oversimplify the amazing work that they can do. But we’ll never again wonder, “How did they do that?”

Maybe Star Wars will bring back some of the wonder.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

thumbnail image via showatcher.com

Read bullet |

10 Movies For Understanding the Civil War

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by James Jay Carafano

“We must settle this question now,” Abraham Lincoln warned in 1861. Four years later, Honest Abe declared America had secured “a new birth of freedom.” But it came at dreadful cost. Over 600,000 soldiers died.  And civilians, North and South, endured destruction, privation and misery.

Hollywood has had a long relationship with the “Brothers War.” Each of the 10 movies discussed below* present that terrible struggle quite differently, yet together they underscore the sad truism that “freedom isn’t free.”

10. The Battle (1911)

American moviemakers’ obsession with the Civil War predates Hollywood.  D. W. Griffith filmed this 19 minute action-romance feature in his studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey. While many silent classic films from that period—like The Battle of Gettysburg (1913)—are lost, several film archives still hold copies of The Battle. It’s also available on DVD along with several other films the pioneering Griffith made about the Civil War era, including Birth of a Nation (1915) in which he infamously glorifies the founding of the Ku Klux Klan.

*Two of the best Civil War movies in recent memory—Glory (1989) and Gettysburg (1993)—are omitted from this list. Though richly deserving, they were already included in an earlier list of war movies.

Read bullet |

God’s Not Dead, But Some Are Trying

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

Take a look at some of these reviews for the religious indie hit God’s Not Dead:

From Britain’s Socialist newspaper The Guardian:  ”This warped evangelist item…  veers from the suspect…  to the outright hateful: by the jawdropping climax, wherein a preacher is effectively granted divine right to mow down non-believers, “doing God’s work” has become indistinguishable from Grand Theft Auto. Ban this sick filth.”

Here’s one from Movie Nation:  ”It’s a movie where rare is the voice that is raised, but deep is the rage bubbling through its rabid anti-intellectualism. When a non-believer is considered to be better off dead, that’s not brimstone you’re smelling. It’s bile.”

And from my old employers The Village Voice:  ”Judging by the ignorance and contempt with which the script treats nonbelievers, the real goal here is proving that non-Christians are worthless.”

I admit those reviews are the extreme ones. I disagreed with Claudia Puig’s negative review at USA Today but it was fair and honest and gave credit where credit was due. She and I saw the same flaws and strengths but came out with a different overall impression. Tastes differ.

My take? God’s Not Dead, is a pleasant and touching little entertainment, the core of which is an intelligent, succinct, well-reasoned and well-stated response to popular atheist arguments. There’s no Bible thumping, there are no threats of hellfire, there’s no attempt to “prove” God’s existence — the film admits it can’t be proved. But the script makes clear what I have thought for a long time: most atheist arguments, no matter how brilliant the scientist or philosopher who makes them, are just simply not very good judged on the merits.

What’s more, the movie is bracing in its vigor. It doesn’t hesitate to depict both the unkindness and the pain of a Muslim father when his daughter discovers Christ. His is a perfectly plausible reaction and we all know there are Muslim fathers who would do much worse. Nor does the movie fail to confront the fact of suffering and death that many non-believers find a dispositive argument against faith. I was happily surprised at how far the filmmakers were willing to go in making their case.

Read bullet |

11 Lessons About Religion I’ve Learned from Pop Culture Polytheism

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.

Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.

Read bullet |

The Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies Coming in 2015

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Next year stands poised to break box office records. So many successful franchises have highly anticipated releases in 2015 that you may need to make a category in your budget just for tickets and concessions. It’s going to be huge, due not just to the franchises themselves, but the circumstances under which many of them have returned.

Expectations are high and, with this much competition, damn well better be met. Here’s our top 10 most anticipated movie releases coming in 2015.

10. Pan

Hugh Jackman has done a bang up job of building a career beyond his bread and butter role as X-Men’s Wolverine. Next year, he goes full bad guy in Joe Wright’s take on Neverland, Pan. A prequel to the classic we know, Pan will tell how the titular boy adventurer came to be. Tron: Legacy’s Garrett Hedlund will play an up-and-coming James Hook. It sounds like he may have a rival/mentor in Jackman’s Blackbeard.

In the above interview, actor Nonso Anozie tells about his experience working with Jackson, Hedlund, and Wright. He also offers some insight into his new character, Bishop.

Read bullet |

Top 10 Most Popular Midsummer Movie Trailers

Friday, August 15th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

The month of July produced a bevy of movie trailers for releases we can look forward to in the fall. The holiday season tends to be where studios place releases they stand most proud of, a showcase for the Academy Awards. That said, there are also some good old-fashioned popcorn flicks on this list, the top 10 most popular trailers released throughout July.

10. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth saga comes to its presumptive close with this final chapter of The Hobbit film adaptation. Perhaps you’ve been putting off upgrading from your old DVDs to The Lord of the Rings trilogy on Blu-ray in anticipation of the inevitable super-mega-funtime edition of the complete Middle Earth anthology.

News that 2012’s The Unexpected Journey would be the first of a new trilogy adapted from the relatively short J.R.R. Tolkien novel evoked suspicion that Jackson and the studio were stretching to wring every last bit of cash out of the franchise. But The Desolation of Smaug redeemed that impression, demonstrating that there was indeed enough story to warrant three films. This final entry looks poised to begin with a bang and sustain the novel’s climax throughout its running time.

Read bullet |

America’s First Wars in 10 Movies

Friday, August 15th, 2014 - by James Jay Carafano

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville concluded that fractious republics were little good when a “nation must defend itself against other nations.” Still, he thought America would get along fine since in the new world, man “has no enemies other than himself. To be happy and free he has only to wish it.”

Boy, did Tocqueville miss the boat on that point! Even on a continent protected by two oceans, Americans have always found it necessary to fight for our freedom.

Most Americans give scant thought to the sacrifices made by the fighters who forged our nation. Filmmakers aren’t much different. But when it saw the chance to make a buck, even Hollywood couldn’t resist cranking out a few film gems that remind us of the heroism of the early republic.

10. The Shot Heard Round the World

Few Americans can name even one serious revolutionary war movie other than The Patriot (2000) with Mel Gibson. But four decades earlier, Hollywood produced a doozy: The Devil’s Disciple (1959). During the Saratoga Campaign, “Gentleman” Johnny Burgoyne (Laurence Olivier), the British general, takes time out from battling the Continental Army to root out revolutionaries in Websterbridge, New Hampshire. A brooding, black-sheep colonial (Kirk Douglas) finds his courage, risks his life, defies the British and puts the American cause above his own.

Read bullet |

The 10 Lauren Bacall Films You Should See

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Written on the Wind (1956)

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

Read bullet |

Here Are Robin Williams’ 10 Most Underrated Performances

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Deconstructing Harry (1997)

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

Read bullet |

Robin Williams’ 10 Best Performances

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

542647-121222-rev-dead-poets-society

The world mourns the passing of one of the truest talents of all time – Robin Williams. The Juilliard-trained comedian and actor won an Oscar, two Emmys, five Grammys, and — dearest to me — became a Disney Legend in 2009. Williams made his struggles with depression and addiction public, yet he was unable to overcome them. But here at PJ Lifestyle, we’re going to celebrate his life. Here are Robin Williams’ ten best performances. I hope you’ll take as much comfort in these wonderful moments as I have.

YouTube Preview Image

10. The Crazy Ones (2013-2014)

One of the most underrated television series of the past season paired Williams with Sarah Michelle Gellar as father-and-daughter partners in an advertising agency. The Crazy Ones featured a terrific ensemble, sharp writing, and plenty of space for Williams to let loose. Williams had his best moments on the show when he had the chance to blend his trademark humor with sweet sentiment (as in the clip above). He couldn’t have a much better alter ego than the character of Simon Roberts — he and the writers even made recovery from addiction a huge part of the character. The Crazy Ones showed such promise, and it’s such a shame that CBS didn’t see fit to give it a second chance.

Read bullet |

10 Reasons Why Howard the Duck Is Poised for a Comeback

Monday, August 11th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Waugh!

Howard the Duck is back!

Does Howard’s appearance (in a speaking role no less!) suggest a bigger part for the malicious mallard in the next film? (There was a “Guardians of the Galaxy will return” consumer warning at the end of the movie…) If so, there will likely be many happy fans who hold fond memories of Howard from comics of the 1970s and ’80s, when the character was riding high and didn’t mind pointing out the absurdities of human behavior in general and skewering establishmentarianism in particular. What rich pickings he’d have in the Guardians’ corner of the universe with its amalgam of alien civilizations, warring empires, and mashed-up values! (Imagine Howard face to face with the self-important Thanos!) He might even find his way to the Earth of the Avengers where audiences can be treated to the spectacle of Captain America debating the finer points of the Constitution with him! (Howard would likely get along better with the more cynical Tony Stark.)

But first, Howard will need to convince audiences to accept him.

Which may be easier than some might believe. With today’s moviegoers mostly being under the age of 30, they have no direct knowledge of Howard’s last disastrous brush with movie stardom. And though they may feel some instinctive negativity toward the character, they likely have no idea that it has been inculcated into them by the overwhelming condemnation that had been aimed at George Lucas’ original Howard the Duck film. Over the years since, the poison has long since filtered into the public consciousness. Howard the Duck has become synonymous with camp, junk, and the worst kind of movie making.

But a lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1986 and there’s definitely a sense that audiences are ready to move on with the subject of Howard the Duck. The electricity felt in theaters over the tag scenes at the end of the new Guardians film was palpable. Thus, it’s perhaps time to review a bit of Howard’s checkered history and find out if the madcap mallard is really ready for a comeback…

10) Howard the Duck, movie star

It’s been 27 years now since Howard the Duck crashed Hollywood in a big way starring in his very own big-budget movie produced by Star Wars super genius George Lucas. At the time, following his breakout film American Graffiti and then the worldwide phenomenon that was Star Wars, it was widely accepted that Lucas, like his contemporary Steven Spielberg, could do no wrong. That belief was quickly dispelled with the release of Howard the Duck in 1986, a film roundly savaged by critics and filmgoers alike. It not only proved to be a Waterloo for Howard, but Lucas as well, as the myth of his infallibility was burst forever. For the maligned mallard however, things would be a little different. Although his comic book career continued to be much admired by fans, to the general public he was at his lowest ebb, reduced to a laughingstock and a tinseltown untouchable seemingly for good.

Read bullet |

10 Lessons on Abiding in Everyday Life I’ve Learned from The Dude

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

See the previous installment in Susan’s Dudeism series: How to Become an Official Dude in 10 Easy Steps

Warning: Given that the f-bomb is dropped in The Big Lebowski over 200 times, some of these clips will most likely be NSFW.

10. Abiding is a science as well as an art.

Patience is an inherent aspect of abiding. Other definitions include “to endure without yielding,” “to accept without objection,” and “to remain stable.” In the world of the Internet and social media technology, abiding is an anachronistic action. We have been shaped by our media to function at rapid speeds. One of the biggest goals of Common Core is to increase the speed at which students mentally process information. Not study, analyze and comprehend, but process and regurgitate the way they would like and share a Twitter or Facebook post. Abiding flies in the face of today’s high-speed reactionary culture.

Read bullet |

The 10 Most Underrated Live Action Disney Films

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

ParentTrap1 (700x374)

Last week I shared my picks for the ten most overrated films in Disney’s live action canon. This week, we’re going to take a look at the flip side and explore the most underrated live action Disney movies.

Believe it or not, some Disney productions just don’t get the respect that they deserve. That fact could be for a number of reasons: the movie didn’t make enough of a dent at the box office, the picture was overshadowed by another film, or the release just hasn’t had time for fans to consider it a classic. Whatever the reason, these ten films have gone underrated for too long. Enjoy!

YouTube Preview Image

10. Pete’s Dragon (1977)

The first movie I remember seeing in the theater was Pete’s Dragon.  (I had to have seen Star Wars earlier in the year, because I remember the excitement of a Star Wars watch I received for Christmas, but I just don’t remember it.) Disney first optioned the story of an orphan boy and the dragon he befriends back in the ‘50s, but sat on the property for two decades.

The film contains the hallmarks of a classic – great songs, an Oscar-nominated score, plenty of talent in the cast. Unfortunately, it came near the tail end of the Ron Miller area, which was a low point in quality for the studio. I can’t help but believe that had it debuted at another time in company histor, people might remember it more fondly today. Still, it’s worth checking out.

Read bullet |

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

Friday, August 8th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

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

10. Happy Gilmore (1996)

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

Read bullet |

10 Movies Stolen Right Out of The Odyssey

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

Homer’s epic poem about homecoming and adventure, The Odyssey, is one of the great action stories of all time. For the ancient Greeks it had the same white-knuckle thrills and intensity as Die Hard. It’s also a pillar of the Western canon, and its influence is so pervasive that it gets copied and replicated in every corner of pop culture almost without our noticing.

1. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

As the great EveryMan (EverySponge?) of our time, SpongeBob was destined to reinvent Odysseus’ archetypal hero quest for a new generation. On his journey to rescue Bikini Bottom from the evil Plankton, Spongebob battles a giant “cyclops” (a deep-sea diver), makes a royal mess out of a magic bag of wind, and negotiates a nasty vendetta from the sea-god, Neptune. That’s all lifted right out of books 9, 10, and 11 of the Odyssey. Legend has it Homer strongly considered opening with, “Tell me, muse, / Who is the man who lives in a pineapple / Under the sea?”

Read bullet |

The 10 Most Underrated Classic Science Fiction Films

Monday, August 4th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

In these days of seemingly weekly science fiction blockbusters (which are usually SF in name only… they’re actually just big gun actioners that take place in the future) and the hype that surrounds them, it’s easy to forget that once such films were the low man on the totem pole. Stuff fit for kids and juveniles but not serious adult audiences. Thus, in past decades, except for a few A list films like Them and The Day the Earth Stood Still in the 1950s and Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, and Logan’s Run in the ’60s and ’70s, many SF movies slipped under the radar or were simply shrugged off by the critics.

But in our more enlightened age, as the serious adult film has given way to the tastes of teenagers and young adults, the science fiction film has come to be accepted as just another genre, even worthy of professional criticism. Ironic in that as such films have become more accepted, their intellectual content has shriveled. As a result, SF fans have been forced to search through back catalogs in hopes of finding lost gems that, if nowhere as sharp-looking as 21st century fare, at least offer ideas to think about and to ponder.

We all know the standards that no one questions: 2001, Forbidden Planet, Things to Come. But what about the less well known films? Are there any worthy entries from BCGI (Before CGI) that may not have received their proper share of recognition when they were first released? And if so, how have they fared in the decades since as the magic of VHS and then DVD and now Netflix have placed them at viewers’ fingertips? Have they been rediscovered? Reevaluated? Newly appreciated?

Answer: Many of the best still haven’t.

But how to discern the good but underrated SF films from those deserving oblivion? First, any solid science fiction movie must be driven by one or more science fiction concepts such as a new invention, social novelty, or exploration of other worlds, times, or dimensions. In that regard, some films such as Forbidden Planet or Logan’s Run are chock full of many such concepts while others like Colossus: The Forbin Project or The Andromeda Strain concentrate on only one.

Another thing that’s needed are filmmakers who take the subject matter seriously no matter the size of the budget. If that happens, then a film that cost a few hundred thousand dollars with cheesy FX can still top one of today’s hundred million dollar blockbusters.

With the foregoing in mind, we come to our list of the 10 most underrated classic science fiction films which will be rated not strictly from least underrated to most underrated, but from good to best of the bunch. All of them, in any case, are films that never really took the screen world by storm, nor the SF community for that matter, but that offer elements that deserve the attention of any SF film fan. All are solid little films each with surprising angles that will reward the patient viewer willing to look past production values and embrace the singular worlds they bring to life.

10) The Twonky

Included here because you can never go wrong when you adapt a classic SF story…well, almost never! Loose and whimsical adaptation of the story by Henry Kuttner produced and directed by Arch Oboler, this 1953 film follows a college professor who finds himself in possession of a new TV set that not only displays intelligence but proceeds to control his life apparently for his own good! Much of the entertaining short story is preserved in this film except for the ending. In the story, the Twonky disposes of the college professor while the movie version has the contraption destroyed in an auto accident. Extremely low budget and not very well acted, the film updates the story’s radio/twonky to a television set but is worth viewing due to its unique concept as well as its sheer audacity!

Read bullet |

How to Become an Official Dude in 10 Easy Steps

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Watch The Big Lebowski a minimum of 3 times.

The first time you watch Lebowski, encounter the film fresh and unfettered. Invite a friend or two over. Make it a casual affair and, if you can, do a double feature. Watch The Maltese Falcon beforehand so you have some understanding of how incredibly screwed up the plotline is going to be. The second time you watch Lebowski, do so with a Caucasian in hand. Immerse yourself in the experience, not as a moviegoer, but as a key aspect of the mise en scene. Discover your favorite quotes. By your third go-round, call in sick, lounge in your bathrobe, and when your friends say, “You wasted a sick day on that movie?” respond with, “Well, that’s like, your opinion, man.” Be sure to obtain the collector’s edition and review the special features for complete immersion.

Read bullet |

The 10 Most Overrated Live Action Disney Films

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Chris Queen

The_Love_Bug_37697_Medium

Not long ago, I compiled my ranking of the ten most overrated and underrated animated films in the Disney canon. Now it’s time to look at Disney’s live action output. Over the years, the studio has released an astonishing array of live action movies covering just about every topic and genre. While many of them are indisputable classics, a few of them are simply overrated. Here are the top ten. Enjoy!

YouTube Preview Image

10. The Rocketeer (1991)

I had such high hopes for The Rocketeer when it debuted right after I graduated high school. The previews looked amazing, and Disney hyped the film as an exciting period superhero film. I didn’t get a chance to see it until it came out on video, and it disappointed me.

The Rocketeer just isn’t an engaging film. I’ve only been able to make it through one viewing, and the times I’ve tried since, I can’t make it through the whole thing. (The presence of Jennifer Connelly, who I’m convinced is the most boring actress of all time, doesn’t help.)

The Rocketeer showed such promise, but it never delivered on that promise. That’s a shame, because, had it been a better movie, The Rocketeer could have been a classic.

Read bullet |

The 10 Funniest Classic Comedies on Netflix Streaming

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

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

10. Seems Like Old Times (1980)

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

Read bullet |

The 5 Greatest Things About Sharknado 2: The Second One

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

I watched the universal premiere of Sharkado 2: The Second One on SyFy Wednesday night.

Don’t judge, especially if you watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Or any of those bachelor, bachelorette or dating shows. Or any reality TV, really. You’re in no position to judge anything that anyone else watches.

S2TS1 might not be the greatest movie ever. It might even be two hours of my life that to my regret I’ll never get back. If SyFy follows its usual pattern, even if you missed the premiere you still have 17 trillion chances to see it. SyFy will air the thing on a loop until the end of all time and space, when the Big Bang falls into a Big Crunch and we start all over again.

When you watch Sharknado 2, and you inevitably will, here are the five greatest things to look out for in S2TS1.

1. S2TS1 wastes absolutely no time on story.

Literally seconds into the film, star Ian Ziering (whose character’s name is still “Fin”) sees a shark in a cloud backlit by lightning. What follows is a fun riff on the old Twilight Zone episode in which a young William Shatner sees a gremlin on the wing of an airliner, but nobody believes him. Ziering has his own Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, then, because of all the sharks, has to reprise Robert Hayes’ role in Airplane! I’m not even kidding.

SPOILER ALERT: New York’s anti-gun policies end up helping the sharks. But as they say, only criminals have guns under strict gun control. That turns out to be a minor side plot in S2TS1. I’m not kidding.

Read bullet |

Who Took the Hero out of Hercules?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

You wouldn’t think it possible to say something profound about a movie starring The Rock — it seems almost an offense against reason! But over at the classics website The Forum — or as I like to call it “Young Klavan on Old Culture” — my son Spencer delivers a brilliant treatise on why taking the myth out of mythology gives us, not modern profundity, but emptiness and cynicism:

Back in the day, hero myths were how Ancient Greece told the stories that America now tells in superhero comics. An unstoppable renegade throwing a destructive hissy fit then going down in a blaze of glory for the good guys: that’s Phoenix from X-Men and Achilles from the Iliad. An ordinary guy turned extraordinary champion of justice to avenge a murdered father: that’s Batman and Theseus. And the long-lost son of super-parents in the sky, raised by humans to save earth with unheard-of strength and powers? That’s Superman. That’s Hercules.

But Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules is no Superman. In this movie, all that phony supernatural stuff is for suckers, a bedtime story that Hercules perpetuates to pump up his image. Scene after smug scene, the movie knowingly debunks its mythic origins. Son of Zeus? Let the saps believe that so they’ll fear me, says The Rock. Centaurs? Please. Just dudes on horses (from far away . . . before contact lenses). “I have seen too much reality to believe the legends,” says the canny queen, Ergenia, but “the people need a hero.”

In other words: Joe Schmo needs a pretty story so he can believe in “virtue” and “heroism.” The élites know better.

Yowsa! And he’s just getting started. Read the rest of it, really. It’s all good.

****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

Read bullet |

10 Tough Leadership Lessons from Great Movies

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 - by James Jay Carafano

No matter what the dream, to make it come true takes leadership. Luckily, Hollywood can help. Here are 10 films that teach important lessons for leading in tough times.

10. How to Turn Failing into Winning

Twelve O’Clock High (1949) is set in the early days of the American daylight bombing raids over Nazi Germany. The Allied bombers are getting clobbered. Meet Gen. Frank Savage (Gregory Peck), who has just been put into command of a bomber wing that is falling apart. To make matters worse, the previous commander was well loved by all.  Savage has to earn their respect, instill the unit with vision and purpose, and turn his beleaguered bombers into a war-winning machine. Because the film is a realistic portrayal of the dynamics of turning around a failing organization, the U.S. Navy and Air Force still use it in leadership training.

Read bullet |

The Top 10 Gods of the Pop Culture Pantheon

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.

10. Harry Potter

When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),

Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.

Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.

Read bullet |

The 10 Best Films of the 1930s

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

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

Read bullet |