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Will Alien Nation Reboot Include Amnesty Propoganda?

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

Read bullet | Comments »

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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6 Common Sense Moves We’d Like to See TV and Movie Characters Use More Regularly

Saturday, March 7th, 2015 - by Karina Fabian

I watch Grimm, a TV series about Nick, a cop who hunts monsters that can pass as humans most of the time. Previously, a spell turned Nick’s fiancé into a hexenbiest, a pretty horrible witch-type with whom he’s had a lot of confrontations. In this episode, she shows him what she’s become. It was a tense, touching moment, but I wanted to stand up and cheer. Finally! A character doing something smart!

We’ve all had times when we’ve smacked our heads at a character putting themselves or a relationship into danger because they failed to use common sense. Here are six common sense moves I wish writers would use more.

1. Shoot the Head

How many times has the hero (or sacrificial character #5) shot and shot at the body of the oncoming villain or monster, even though the torso is clearly armored or the monster just jerks and keeps advancing? Limb shots are not easy, but the head is larger and more stationary. Plus, it houses the brain. People and monsters can still defend themselves with wounded arms, but take out the brain, and it’s Game Over. So be smart – if body shots fail, then double tap to the head shoot.

There are plenty of reasons in real life to aim for the body. But in the movies? Think of all the times a good guy manages to successfully hit something without aiming, shoot two-handed effectively, or do a “called shot” to an extremity or even a handheld weapon. Can hitting that big round target above the shoulders be such a challenge?

Head shot. Double tap. ‘Nuff said!

2. Spill the Beans!

There’s nothing better for plot complications than keeping a secret. But wouldn’t it be refreshing if characters didn’t keep a secret when a good explanation could solve the big crisis, or maybe just avoid some angst at home?  But no, the hero keeps his secret to “protect” his loved one.

Has that ever really worked? More likely, they leave their loved ones to wonder about the awkward silences, the half-truths, and the sudden disappearance. So much for a trusting relationship. Even worse, this has never stopped a determined bad guy.

What you end up with is a potential physical and emotional ally kept in the dark, a relationship lacking trust, and a loved one who doesn’t even know she should protect herself. Ironically, when she finally finds out, things get easier.

There are so many other ways to stress a relationship than with the stupidly kept secret. If you have an intelligent, compassionate, morally upstanding main character, let him reflect that in his personal life, too.

3. Go Away from the Danger

You’ve had trouble or are expecting it. Maybe you are hiding from a monster. Maybe someone’s been stalking you. Maybe your boyfriend with the superhero identity he’s not shared with you is acting strangely worried and protective. Either way, you come home to find the door ajar. You know you locked it. So what do you do? Traipse on in, and if you see your living room has been tossed, be sure to head to the bedroom – but pick up the fireplace poker en route. You’ll feel better, and when the trained henchman comes out from behind and nabs you, you can at least say you tried.

Unless the character is an idiot or doesn’t have a choice, how about letting her emulate sensible people of real life? Even if someone thinks a burglar is long gone, common sense says, “Take no chances. Do not enter, call 911 and wait someplace you think is safe.” Aside from actually making the victim look intelligent, it makes a nice twist when the savvy henchman is waiting in the neighbor’s apartment or the monster is really down the alley.

4. Use the Tech!

You don’t need to be MacGyver to get creative with technology – or even to realize that if you can solve a problem with it once, you can do it again. It’s not even a matter of having an advanced degree. I’ve got a taser. It’s non-lethal; I should shoot the threatening, scary guy.

The corollary of this is the awesome tech that isn’t used again. When dealing with a 30-minute or even a two-and-a-half hour story, writers can paint themselves into a corner, and then either go for the deus ex machina or have the sudden intellectual leap that says, “Bet this thing from Scene Six can save the day.” Once the miracle cure or awesome tech can solve one problem, do us a favor: keep using it or give us a reason why it can’t become the solve-all of the future.

5. Keep Your Distance.

Seriously, how close do you need to be to cover someone with a gun? Guns are projectile weapons, meant for distance. Why, why, why would anyone get close enough to let the bad guy leap up and incapacitate her? Back up, draw and tell him to get on his knees, hands behind his head. If he runs, shoot. She can wing him – it’s the movies.

This doesn’t happen in movies because oftentimes, a tight shot (pardon the pun) works better for camera angles and tension. Of course, in real life, people still go for the close and intimidating. Most people will freeze when staring down a muzzle, while being some distance away may give them the courage to run or draw a weapon. However, there’s always that one time when the person would rather fight back than roll over.

6. One Amazing Fighter? Mob Him!

How many times does the one awesome fighter prevail against a group because the group decides to go after him one at a time? Maybe this makes sense in Kung Fu movies, where there’s some kind of honor at stake, but who doesn’t understand the power of superior numbers?

The corollary of this is the human superweapon, recently revived on The Flash. Human superweapons are still, well, human. Overwhelm them with numbers or a spray of concentrated firepower (at a distance. Remember Rule 5.) You can stop them before they become a weapon of mass destruction.

What idiocies do characters do in the movies that set your teeth on edge? Share them in the comments below. What would you have them do instead?

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

Saturday, March 7th, 2015 - by Chris Queen


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hiro: Ahhǃ What are you doing?

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

Hiro: What?

Tadashi: Look for a new angle.

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

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

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

I’m telling you, Walt would be proud.


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

Volume II

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

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

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

Read bullet | Comments »

Clint Eastwood’s 10 Greatest Acting Performances

Friday, March 6th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

Clint Eastwood’s unexpected career renaissance this winter with American Sniper has reaffirmed his position as one of the most respected and formidable filmmakers. But what were his best performances as an actor?

10. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Like Gary Cooper turned ruthless, Eastwood made under-acting his byword as he and Italian director Sergio Leone created the mysterious, almost wordless “Blondie,” aka the Man with No Name, who finds himself partnered with a clownish criminal (Eli Wallach) in a race with the bloodthirsty Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) to find a stash of gold. Eastwood perfected the terrifying squint but in his performance (and Leone’s direction) there’s a hint of witty self-mockery also.

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9. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

Clint plays a bank robber whose habit of breaking into safes with a cannon earned him the nickname “Thunderbolt.” His buddy-movie chatter with a manic young driver (Jeff Bridges) showed off Eastwood’s gruff-but-dry sense of humor as the two hook up for a major heist. Eastwood even gets to play a minister and a cop along the way.

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8. In the Line of Fire (1993)

Eastwood isn’t the first guy you’d think of to play tortured, but he did fine work as a Secret Service agent forever haunted by his failure to stop the Kennedy assassination in Dallas. Beaten-up but still a pro, he gets another chance to redeem himself when a lunatic former CIA operative (John Malkovich) plots another presidential assassin. Eastwood used his age to great effect, making his character unusually damaged and vulnerable.

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7. Gran Torino (2008)

A victim of changing economic and cultural times, Clint’s Walt Kowalski clings to his notion of an Archie Bunker-era America the same way he keeps his 1972 Ford in primo condition, as a monument to manufacturing greatness when he used to work at the Detroit plant. It’s a measure of Eastwood’s deep appeal that he could make an embittered racist so strangely sympathetic, and Eastwood slyly modulates the character’s attitudes without dropping the snarls.

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6 Reasons the Wife and I Should’ve Skipped 50 Shades of Grey

Friday, March 6th, 2015 - by Michael van der Galien

So I went to 50 Shades of Grey yesterday. The Missus and I had noticed that it had caused quite a stir, and we wondered what all the fuss was about.

Well, that was a mistake of epic proportions. Why, you ask? How about this:

1. It’s advertised as a movie about hot and steamy sex, while the sex ends up being anything but…

The director apparently tried to soften the movie a bit so it wouldn’t, you know, be banned by the authorities. Great idea. The only problem? All the supposedly hot and steamy sex scenes start and end with foreplay.

2. Clichés, clichés, clichés

Supposedly hot, mean rich man seduces innocent, naive poor girl. Angelic sweet girl has a promiscuous (and hot) roommate. Really? That’s the best storyline you could come up with?

3. Female lead character Anastasia is a virgin but acts like a sex addict

She says that she kept all men at bay during her life, but has no problem losing her virginity to some guy she just met. What’s more, the scene in which she becomes a woman, so to speak, is completely ridiculous: there is no discomfort, no pain, no nothing. She pushes up her legs and let’s him have a go at it. Bye, bye, sweet innocence.

4. The lines come straight out of a bad German porn movie

You know, the ones from the ’80s? “Oh ja, das ist geil” is the equivalent of “I don’t make love, I f***.” Who actually says that? Another example: “Some people say I don’t have a heart.” “Why do they say that?” “They know me.” Ugh. Please, give me a gun so I can shoot myself.

5. The movie ends in horrible physical abuse

Just when you think it may become somewhat romantic, Christian suddenly abuses Anastasia in a scene that left my wife traumatized. Hey, Mr. Director, we’re paying for a good movie, not for PTSD!

6. Male lead character Christian isn’t a womanizer, but a psychopath

If you’re a woman who’s attracted to Christian, please go visit a shrink. The guy is a rapist in disguise, a violent psychopath to the core. If that turns you on, you’ve got serious psychological issues.

In short, whatever else you do, don’t take your wife to watch this movie. Unless, of course, you and the Missus enjoy a serious psychological trauma every now and then. In that case, you’re good to go.


Related at PJ Lifestyle:

Why American Sniper Is a Much Better Love Story Than Fifty Shades of Grey

10 Movies Much Sexier Than Fifty Shades of Grey

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Spock’s Trek Through the Stars in 10 Clips

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

We’ve had some time to process the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death. The character which Nimoy helped create inspired generations to seek balance between discipline and feeling. Let’s take a look back through Spock’s trek through the stars in these 10 clips from the franchise.

What It Means To Be Vulcan

In one of the most definitive moments from the original series, Spock finds himself torn between his dual natures when a debilitating attack upon Captain Kirk leaves Spock in command of the Enterprise during a critical diplomatic mission.

The wrinkle is that Spock’s father lies sick among the delegation, succumbing to a malady that only a transfusion from Spock can resolve. But yielding to the procedure would compromise Spock’s capacity to command while the ship is under threat, and so logic dictates that he mind his Starfleet duty and allow his father to die.

Spock’s human mother pleads for him to reconsider in this heated confrontation.

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Hey, Christy Carlson Romano — Is That You Turning Fifty Shades of Blue?

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

It seems that the former Disney Channel star of Even Stevens and of my movie (co-written with the great Gail Parent), Cadet Kelly, recently lost a bet over Fifty Shades of Grey with her husband and wound up… well, see for yourself:

Christy Carlson Romano, aka Ren from “Even Stevens,” has a problem with the #Consent issue in “Fifty Shades of Grey.” In fact, she had so much disdain for the movie that she bet her husband it wouldn’t win the box office in its second weekend, and the loser would have to stand outside in the freezing New York weather in their underwear.

From the title of this article, you can pretty much guess what happened. Unfortunately for Romano, the historic plummet at the box office for “Fifty Shades” wasn’t enough to take it out of first place, so she had to strip down to some lingerie and head outside in the freezing cold. And to make matters worse, she also had a little trouble staying on her feet when she came back indoors.

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Even with the fall, Romano was a good sport about the whole thing and later tweeted encouraging people to discuss #Consent with their loved ones.

Or, as I like to call her, Cadet Captain Jennifer Stone. Somewhere, Hilary Duff, who played our tormented cadet to Christy’s hard-ass officer, is laughing:

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What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by David S. Bernstein

Many conservatives are upset that American Sniper and director Clint Eastwood were (predictably) snubbed at the Oscars; but they shouldn’t be. The fact that a film with an overtly conservative message, directed by an openly conservative pop-culture icon, has grossed more than $400 million is a sign that conservative messages hold a powerful resonance with the American public.

American Sniper is hardly an aberration.

When high-quality entertainment that reflects conservative and/or libertarian ideals is presented to the public, it finds a broad and enthusiastic audience. From the various Marvel Films superhero barn-burners to novels by authors such as James Patterson, Brad Thor, and the late Vince Flynn; from graphic novels like Frank Miller’s 300 to TV shows like Downton Abbey, great stories with conservative sensibilities have proven to be commercial winners.

Note what all of these examples have in common, though: none of them are political polemics. Rather, they are well-crafted pieces of middle-brow entertainment, aimed first and foremost at telling a compelling story that (as any great story does) reveal truths about the human condition. Any specific political or ideological message is, thankfully, secondary.

It’s exciting (and rare) when a surge of creativity jibes with consumer preferences. In fact, I believe we are witnessing the start of a great renaissance in conservative creative culture. As the Publisher of Liberty Island, I’m continually impressed at the quality of the short fiction and novels that come across my desk from self-described conservatives and libertarians. These are not folks who can get their scripts produced in Hollywood or on Broadway, nor can they expect mainstream publishing houses to take a chance on their novels. However, they are the farm team, the next generation of conservative creators who will replace the Eastwoods and the Flynns.

Like any renaissance, this one requires nurturing and encouragement of nascent creators and that is a job we take very seriously. All of this has come with a surprising finding: we’ve found that the greatest enemy of creative conservatives isn’t the liberal cultural establishment; after all, it’s easy to bypass gatekeepers in the age of digital distribution.

Rather, the real enemy is a DC-based conservative establishment that is indifferent or outright hostile to cultural pursuits. They argue that building a conservative counterculture is a waste of time, and will make no difference. Some even go so far as to argue that middlebrow culture is inherently liberal or corrupting.

It’s as if the right side of the conservative brain has atrophied to such a degree that the people who claim to speak for us can’t see beyond the next election cycle or next Sunday’s news shows.

The very people who claim the legacy of Ronald Reagan denigrate the medium that made his career, and made him the extraordinary leader that he was. Reagan understood the power of the narrative; and he further understood that the story of the average man doing extraordinary deeds defined both conservatism and American exceptionalism.

That, more than any policy choices, is the legacy Reagan left to conservatives. And I firmly believe that the next Reagan will be found not among politicians and lawyers and investment bankers but among writers and directors and actors.


Join the discussion on Twitter. And submit your answer to David’s question for publication at PJ Lifestyle: DaveSwindlePJM [AT] Gmail.com

The essay above is the fourth 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.

Volume II

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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Lord Reptile’s Top 5 Apocalypse Movies

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 - by Jeremy Swindle

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

5. Mortal Kombat

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

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

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

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

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VIDEO: Whatever Happened to Reagan’s Hollywood?

Saturday, February 21st, 2015 - by Andrew Klavan

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Why American Sniper Is a Much Better Love Story Than Fifty Shades of Grey

Friday, February 20th, 2015 - by Lisa De Pasquale

For the last several weeks the mainstream media has been promoting the movie Fifty Shades of Grey as if their life depended on it. For NBC Universal, perhaps it does. As Roger Sterling on Mad Men said, “Hollywood isn’t happy unless things are extreme.”

After the Today show on NBC spent weeks building up the movie with exclusive clips, interviews and insight on its presumptive popularity, it’s no surprise that millions of women flocked to theaters over the three-day weekend.

However, I’m worried that men may think that Christian Grey is what women want.

A male friend emailed me:

The majority of women have spoken as to what they want out of a man. I’m not interested in competing with the character in 50 Shades because I actually have a conscience. Do the majority of women who are fans have a conscience?  At this point I’m not convinced they do.

The worst lesson men could take from the movie’s temporary and forced success is to think it represents the real desires of women.

All of the attention the media is giving to Fifty Shades of Grey reminds me of the fervor for Sex and the City. For years women have been told by the media that it is cosmopolitan to consume sex-obsessed entertainment and pursue casual, and physically and emotionally dangerous sex.

Now that Fifty Shades of Grey has surpassed The Passion of the Christ’s opening weekend the media is drooling. Have women finally embraced the message Hollywood and the mainstream media have been feeding them?


Image illustrations reimagined by Lisa De Pasquale and Brett R. Smith.

Ultimately, I’m not worried about what women take away from Fifty Shades of Grey because it’s fantasy. Also, the media seem to leave out of their reporting on casual sex as entertainment and “mommy porn” that the endings [SPOILER] usually portray a traditional relationship. The women of Sex and the City ended up with significant others and all but one married. Would Fifty Shades of Grey be as popular if the female character lived the rest of her days as a sex slave? Women might imagine life with a billionaire in a helicopter, but not life in a dungeon as a kept woman.

There is one movie in theaters that tells an amazing love story. Speaking of Fifty, this movie recently became one of only 50 movies in history to surpass over $300 million in domestic ticket sales. This feat was done without the mainstream media begging the public to see it. That love story is American Sniper.

Though you wouldn’t know it by the coverage, American Sniper had far less blood-thirst than Fifty Shades of Grey and a much more realistic depiction of a romantic relationship that women and men should want to emulate.  Though a majority of the movie is devoted to Chris Kyle’s four tours in Iraq, the story of Chris and Taya’s relationship is significant.

Chris ultimately decided to retire and focus on strengthening their marriage and raising their children. While Fifty Shades of Grey is about a transactional relationship, American Sniper is one of a love greater than oneself. It shows love for another person, love for country, and love for family.


In a recent interview with People, Taya Kyle said,

I miss him so much. I loved being in his arms. I loved holding his hand. But what I miss most about Chris is the feeling when he was in the room. He just changed the feeling whenever he walked in. I missed him even when he was just gone from the room.

Taya went on to say of Chris, “He was a man with a huge heart and charisma and kindness.”

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The Best Disaster Movie You’ve Never Seen

Friday, February 20th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 8.34.24 AM

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

Who hasn’t fantasized about being the last man on Earth? The notion of having the whole world as your personal playground with unlimited resources and all the time you need to do whatever you want is a pretty enticing one.

At first glance anyway.

But then, as your imagination continued to explore the scenario, loneliness would enter the picture and then wild animals and pets gone feral, and physical injury that you might not be qualified to handle.

So your imaginings become broadened to include finding the last woman on Earth (beautiful naturally) and training yourself to handle weapons against both the beasts and other humans who’ve allowed their base instincts to overcome their civilized veneer.

From there, it’s a short step to fending off packs of other people eager to kill you and steal your supplies (not to mention that last beautiful woman).

Books such as M. P. Shiel’s classic Purple Cloud, movies like The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, and television episodes like the Twilight Zone‘s “Time Enough at Last” have all explored the theme of last survivors following some disaster that wipes out the human race, but few have dealt with a realistic approach to the theme: what would it be like to really live and survive in a post-disaster world?

That question is raised by terrorism expert and former Army Lt. Colonel James Jay Carafano in his new e-book Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror.

In his book, Carafano provides a to-do list of items that any ordinary person can accomplish in preparation for not-too-unlikely end-times-type scenarios from cyber warfare and EMP events to terrorist-caused bio-warfare and natural disaster.

In his introduction, Carafano gets to the heart of the matter, making an argument that a logical approach based on traditional American self-reliance could go a long way in ensuring a person’s survival in a post-holocaust world, and that the shattered society can avoid the bloodletting that’s often depicted in Hollywood-style end of days epics:

The most useful steps for protecting everyday Americans against the very worst life has to has offer are about cultivating the kinds of commonsense skills, knowledge, and attributes that make for more productive, resilient and self-confident citizens…. They strengthen our faith in God, caring in our community, and love of family. They reduce stress, build confidence and inspire creativity. Every right-thinking American ought to be doing them anyway.

The author goes on to note how decades of Hollywood disaster films haven’t helped, conditioning people to think there will be no hope for the average person and that the only ones that will have a chance of surviving are the Rambo types who dispense with accepted moral conventions:

Hollywood’s message is there is no middle ground–no place for sensible, rational precautions or actions.

In general, the author’s estimation of how popular entertainment addresses post-disaster scenarios is pretty accurate —  just take a look at any episode of TV’s The Walking Dead for instance. But there’s at least one exception I’d suggest: Panic in Year Zero!, a low-budget film released in 1962 that follows an average American family as they try to stay alive in the wake of a nuclear bomb falling on Los Angeles.

If Carafano’s advice on how to prepare for such a disaster is on the money, then Panic in Year Zero!, if not a perfect film, comes the closest to a realistic depiction of how an ordinary family can survive by “cultivating commonsense skills, knowledge, and attributes” that in turn allow its members to become “productive, resilient and self-confident.”

The movie, scripted by John Morton and Jay Simms, was directed by Ray Milland, who also doubled as the head of the family. In the cast, too, were Jean Hagen as his wife, and Frankie Avalon and Mary Mitchel as his teenage children.

Throughout the course of the film, as the family makes its way to a vacation cabin in the hills, the Milland character retains a cool head and his actions in protecting his family are always relentlessly logical, from his decision to head for the hills to gathering just the right kinds of supplies at stores along their route — which they reach just ahead of the fleeing multitudes — to instructing his son how and when to use a gun when encountering strangers.

And though the film’s focus is on the little things that the family does in order to survive (such as having each family member hide their food in different places without the others knowing where in order to prevent it all being taken should any one of them be forced to tell), there are dramatic exceptions such as when the family encounters a group of hoodlums intent on taking advantage of the breakdown of order. In an initial encounter, Milland and Avalon scare them off with guns but later, they discover them squatting in a farmhouse where they’ve killed the owner and are holding the daughter for their own pleasure.

At first, Milland restrains his son’s impulse to rush in and deal with the thugs. Keeping his family safe and hidden is his overriding concern. But when his own daughter is raped by one the hoodlums, he changes his tune and seeks retribution.

The sequence is necessary in order to keep the Milland character from becoming too unemotional and to suggest that there can be real danger in a post-apocalyptic world.

As the movie progresses, Milland’s stern but clear-eyed precautions and Hagan’s brave and caring example keep the family together. Praying before their first meal in the cave where they’ve decided to hole up, they struggle to preserve a sense of order in their lives while expressing the belief that civilization will soon reassert itself and allow them to come out of hiding.

The movie ends with their faith justified as the family comes into contact with military outliers of a resurgent civilization.

An American International release made with a budget of only $225,000, Panic in Year Zero! surprises in its realistic take on one family’s struggle in a post-apocalyptic environment, an exception to the Hollywood rule that one suspects might earn a thumbs up from Carafano!

Learn more about the inspiration for Disaster Week by downloading Surviving the End on the PJ Store today, and make sure your family is prepared.

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The 20 Best Films of the 1930s

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

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

20. Duck Soup (1933)

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

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Check Out the ‘Best Damn Movie Show on the Planet’

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It may seem like hubris when AMC Movie News editor-in-chief John Campea intros his daily online webcast as “the best damn movie-related show on the planet.” But watch and compare. You’ll soon conclude that AMC Movie Talk and its associated programs stand head and shoulders above their competition.

There’s no shortage of movie reviews and movie news commentary, both online and broadcast traditionally. What makes AMC’s programming special is the quality of their commentators and the savvy with which Campea employs them.

These aren’t amateurs shooting with webcams against a green screen in their mom’s basement. These are industry professionals with insight into the art and business of film. While Campea frequently reminds viewers that “all film is subjective,” the opinions and analysis offered by the AMC crew are always backed by a credible rationale.

For example, when news hit the web that Ben Affleck had been cast to play Batman in the forthcoming follow-up to Man of Steel, the choice was widely condemned by just about everyone. Campea stood alone as a dissenting voice in support of the decision. He wasn’t just being a fanboy. Campea explained that Affleck has emerged as a tremendous asset for Warner Bros. This is an Academy Award-winning actor who has won other industry prizes for his writing and directing. Affleck has come a long way from the days of Daredevil and Gigli. The smart money rides on Affleck directing one or more films in the burgeoning DC Cinematic Universe. Why wouldn’t you want the director of Argo helping you catch up to Marvel Studios?

If you haven’t found AMC Movie Talk yet, now is the time to get on board. Campea took to social media on Monday to announce the launch of a new phase for the organization. In addition to the daily AMC Movie Talk and frequent AMC Mailbag shows, March will see three new weekly additions. As a new age of Star Wars films dawns with this year’s The Force Awakens, AMC Jedi Council will go in depth with news, rumors, and analysis. AMC Heroes will focus on the increasing number of comic book films slated in the coming years. Finally, AMC Rewind will hearken back to films at least 20 years old and introduce viewers to classics they may have missed.

Oh, and if independent film is your thing, check out AMC Indie Spotlight. Housed on a YouTube channel all its own, the show deals exclusively with independent film. There’s something for everyone.

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