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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.

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The 10 Best Films of the 1930s

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

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

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Here Are the 10 Trailers of the Movies Opening This Weekend

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Movie Trailer Review

1. Lucy

This seems to echo 2011′s Hanna a bit in style, theme, and marketing doesn’t it? Still — not a bad movie to choose to rip off and Rotten Tomatoes seems to suggest as much with 62% of critics approving and 66% of audiences liking it. The trailer reminds of Watchmen and The Matrix a bit too, looks like Scarlett Johansson ends up going Dr. Manhattan crossed with Neo by the film’s end.

Do you like the international trailer more than the American one?

Paging Susan L.M. Goldberg: looks like a new pop culture goddess may be rising…

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Who Are the Most Terrifying Figures in Fantasy Fiction and Films?

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

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In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email.

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle.

Apostic with a great answer to yesterday’s question, “Which Fantasy Stories Most Inspire You to Want to Fight For Freedom?”

The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad. Nah, just kidding.

Seriously, I’d say The Screwtape Letters, which defines the mechanics of evil, told as advice from a senior demon to a junior demon on how to corrupt people and, upon successful corruption, devour their souls. Thematically there’s not much dif between devouring a soul and “owning” someone; when someone is owned, the owner is, in a sense, devouring that person’s life. Seeing it spelled out like that lets you recognize that kind of life-devouring evil when you see it in the real world — and motivates you to fight against it. Result: Fighting for freedom.

Who are other figures in books and movies who personify evil for you?

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images via shutterstock /  zebra0209

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Will Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings Be As Overrated & Lame As His Previous Films?

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Movie Trailer Review

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Boyhood, a Unique Film 12 Years in the Making

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Clay Waters

The true star of Richard Linklater’s new movie Boyhood is time. Written and directed by Linklater and filmed in his home city of Houston in spurts over a 12-year period, less a slice of life than the whole cake, it’s groundbreaking in technique yet deceptively modest in approach. Virtually everyone who has seen it has loved it (though some conservatives have qualms). Everyone is basically right. Even if you don’t think you want to see it, and I wasn’t sure, you do.

Like Dazed and Confused, his 1993 cult classic, Boyhood mines the Texas landscape of Linklater’s youth. The film gods certainly blessed Linklater with his lead actor. Ellar Coltrane started filming the role of Mason Jr. at the age of seven. Before our eyes, Mason grows up under an older sister (played by Linklater’s daughter Lorelei), a shifting series of step-dads, and a rock-like mother (Patricia Arquette). Watching Coltrane, as Mason, evolve from a slightly dramatic child actor to an assured 19-year-old Bieberesque heartthrob is fascinating on several levels, like a dramatized version of a YouTube time-lapse photo collage of kids. But Linklater’s gimmick is not episodic or jarring.

While Boyhood is immersive, it’s not really a character study: We only glimpse Mason Jr.’s interior life as others see him. Yet Linklater has said that Ellar’s developing personality shaped the evolution of the movie. Linklater has tied plenty of knots in his script’s timeline – presidential elections, new school years, Star Wars rumors, the 6th Harry Potter book – making it a fascinating time capsule while also keeping viewers from being lost in the 12-year time span.

Poignant but not sentimental, Boyhood lopes along like life, with all its missed opportunities and sheer happenstance. Devout grandparents, prodding teachers, and school bullies come, and then go. Scenes that feel like foreshadowing fade into ephemera. Only occasionally does the melodrama seem goaded or forced along. You might suspect one drunken temper tantrum too many, but even that just demonstrates that destructive behavior patterns are part of the warp and woof of human existence, obvious only in retrospect.

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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9 Great Westerns on Netflix Streaming

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

9. McLintock! (1963)

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

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World’s First High 5 Discovered in Obscure French Film

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 - by Michael Sheldon

SEDRO-WOOLLEY—A long-standing controversy erupted into acrimonious debate today when an anonymous source revealed that the world’s first high five occurred in Paris, France in 1959.

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The origin of the universally recognized and widely copied gesture connoting “we just kicked your ass,” had long been attributed to various American athletes. The list includes the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke celebrating a home run on October 2, 1977; the late-1970s Louisville Cardinals “Doctors of Dunk” basketball teams; and various women’s volleyball players in the 1960s.

There was even a hoax claim, involving Lamont Sleets Jr., who allegedly named the high five after his father’s 5th Infantry Battalion, which served in Vietnam.

Americans have been celebrating National High Five Day on the third Thursday in April, since 2002.

The slap heard round the world

With so much at stake, it’s not surprising that this new discovery has raised heated emotions on every side.

The movie in question is an obscure French “art” film called Breathless. It was filmed in Paris in 1959. The high fivers were a couple of Franco-Italian gangsters played by Jean-Paul Belmondo and Henri-Jacques Huet. Belmondo needs to get a bad check cashed, so he meets Huet outside a café where he is busy taking blackmail photographs. They set up a rendezvous for the next day, and that’s when the high five occurs. It’s shoulder height with pretty good form, as the palms make full contact. However, Huet’s thrust clearly overpowers that of the shorter Belmondo.

International repercussions expected

U.S. President Barack Obama placed a phone call to French President Francois Hollande after hearing outrage from numerous special interest groups. Sources say that he demanded that Hollande “retract that movie, Breathless.”

When asked, Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest said that, while he didn’t participate in the actual conversation, he understood that President Hollande professed to be confused over how it was possible to retract a movie that had been released more than half-a-century ago and seen by millions of people.

Obama retorted that he had many close friends in the film industry who doubted that more than “a handful” of people could have lasted past the “endless bedroom scene” without falling asleep—or leaving.

“Then what is the problem?” Hollande asked, allegedly.

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New Trailer: Meet Eccentric Artistic Con Artist Mark Landis And the Man Determined to Catch Him

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Movie Trailer Review

Hat tip: Deadline Hollywood

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4 Incredible Cult Films Coming to Criterion Blu Ray In August, September, and October

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

4.  Y Tu Mama Tambien on August 19, 2014

Special features of note:

  • Two new pieces on the making of the film, featuring interviews, recorded at the time of production and in 2014, with actors Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, and Maribel Verdú; Alfonso Cuarón; cowriter Carlos Cuarón; and Lubezki
  • New interview with philosopher Slavoj Žižek about the film’s social and political aspects

This 2002 coming-of-age comedy-drama from Mexico was one of my favorites during my high school and college years working at an art house movie theatre. It starts with the American Pie premise but infuses it with amazing, artistic photography and then deeper insights about life and death, philosophy, friendships, and relationships. Looks like it’s on Netflix streaming… I should probably give it a re-watch…

And what’s the deal with this trendy neo-Marxist, postmodernist “philosopher” Slavoj Žižek showing up all over the place? His documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is also on Netflix and while I’ve tried watching it a few times I have yet to succeed in completing it… So silly and boring, but, alas, rising in influence and popularity in the culture such that he’s probably in need of a dissection soon in list form…

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10 Barriers to Healthy Relationships Explored in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial style in his debut Don Jon proves a bit jarring. But that fits the blunt, vulgar character he plays in the lead. You have to endure Don Jon to see it for what it is. It tramps deliberately through cliché expectations before finally defying them. Along the way, it explores 10 barriers to healthy relationships encountered in real life.

10. Overvaluing Appearance

As Don Jon begins, Gordon-Levitt’s title character establishes himself as a porn-addicted philandering bachelor whose tastes prove highly superficial. He spends a lot of time at the gym maintaining his physique, and takes great pride in the appearance of his “pad.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with nutrition, exercise, and cleanliness. It’s Jon’s motivation which deserves scrutiny.

On the prowl with his pack of like-minded friends, Jon rates women at the club on a scale of 1 to 10, basing his assessment solely on physical attributes. Upon meeting his match in the stunning Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), Jon rates her a perfect 10. It’s her sultry appearance that drives Jon to pursue her, and blinds him to the uglier aspects of her personality.

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Trailers For the 7 Movies Opening This Weekend

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Movie Trailer Review

1. Wish I Was Here, Zach Braff’s follow-up to his cult film debut Garden State

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The 10 Most Popular Movie Trailers Released So Far This Summer

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

This month sees a new feature here at PJ Lifestyle, our review of movie trailers promoting upcoming theatrical releases. This will be a work in progress, guided heavily by your feedback and insight. So don’t hold back.

To kick things off, we present a list of the top 10 movie trailers released in June, based on their online popularity. There’s a surprising mix of several-hundred-million-dollar would-be blockbusters and smaller independent films, everything from chick flicks to the epic actioners you might expect. We begin with:

10. Very Good Girls

Two actresses work to advance their careers in this sexually charged coming-of-age drama. Dakota Fanning continues to shed her child star image, while Elizabeth Olsen continues to distinguish her individual brand from that of her more widely known elder sisters. The two play girls who “make a pact to lose their virginity during their first summer out of high school,” a plan complicated when they both pursue the same man.

Both Fanning and Olsen have portrayed older roles, and this may seem like a step backwards but for the mature subject matter. Peter Sarsgaard looks to turn in another performance as a pervy creeper, something he’s quite good at. The film also stars Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, and Marvel’s Agents of Shield lead Clark Gregg.

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Depressed? Here Are the 20 Best Shows & Movies on Netflix for Mood Improvement

Sunday, July 13th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

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Dear Hannah,

I’m so sorry for your troubles this week. I hope this list can help. Here’s some streaming sunshine with potential to provoke more positive moods via a variety of genres.

20. New Girl

I was very shocked at just how effective, funny and likable this sitcom was. Starring Zooey Deschanel as a perky, klutzy young woman moving in with three guys, the show has a sense of lightness and Deschanel is immensely sympathetic and entertaining. I don’t really watch sitcoms these days, but New Girl is done so well and is so consistently funny episode-to-episode that it’s worth checking out.

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The 10 Most Obnoxious, Overrated Alien Cultures in Star Trek

Friday, July 11th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

10. The Romulans

What exactly do the Romulans have that justifies their defining quality, their arrogance? They’re among the most boring species in all of Trek, the kind of evil twin to the Vulcans, known for their deceitful and warlike nature.

Their only redeeming feature seems to be how cool and genuinely intimidating their warbird ships are:

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5 Blockbuster Franchises That Should Learn from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Friday, July 11th, 2014 - by John Boot

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a darkly thrilling second episode of version 3.0 of the Planet of the Apes saga, a brooding tale about a desperate band of humans who survived a catastrophic plague. They live near a band of wary forest apes who just want to be left alone but are skilled with weapons and are harboring a bad-tempered would-be leader who is itching to start a war. Thanks to excellent special effects, a suspenseful storyline and bold, frightening action scenes, a 46-year-old series is now as fresh as if it had been dreamed up yesterday.

Here’s what some of the less successful blockbuster franchises that have overstayed their welcome could learn by waking up to Dawn.

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The 10 Best Films of the 1940s

Thursday, July 10th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Double Indemnity (1944)

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

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10 Romantic Comedy Myths About Women

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. We’re so fiercely independent that the only thing we need to be happy… is a man.

Post-second wave feminist romantic comedies rely on the Sheryl Sandberg boilerplate: upper-middle class, successful career woman with an impossibly huge apartment in big city stuffed with everything she could ever want. (See: Reese Witherspoon in Just Like Heaven.)  The genre gives the image one slight twist: our heroine is secretly one step away from cultivating her very own cat collection. (See: Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail.) True to Hollywood fashion, who better than the big, strong male superhero to fly in to save the day?

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The Most Inventive Special Effects Since The Matrix?

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

There’s a fake “Star Wars VII location footage” video up on YouTube, which Jim Dalrymple praised as “really well done,” but I just can’t agree. It’s nothing more than Imperial ships and walkers flying and walking around the Frankfurt airport for a couple minutes. Once you get past the fact that amateur filmmakers can do digital animation like the pros, the thrill is gone. And we got past that fact years ago.

For a real treat, click on the video I posted above. It’s a Cops parody called “Troops,” set on Tatooine on the day Luke and C-3PO went looking for runaway R2-D2. There are just enough special effects to keep it grounded in the Star Wars universe — the joy is in the clever writing and the spot-on performances. Even more impressive, Kevin Rubio did all this with much more primitive computer equipment, way back in 1997. It’s only ten minutes long, but I remember waiting ages for each little clip to download from TheForce.net over a dialup connection. And it was worth the wait, too.

I bring this up for a couple reasons. The first is that I was just talking about this same issue — Hollywood’s reliance on special effects over quality storytelling — in a post from just a few weeks ago. But the second and more important reason is last week I got to see a rare instance in which a dazzling special effects sequence was used to delightful storytelling effect.

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The Top 10 Film Noir Classics

Monday, July 7th, 2014 - by Don Sucher

If you’d asked the director of any of these Top 10 Film Noir Classics just how he’d personally define “film noir” he’d most likely have responded “film wha?” But way before these films were noticed and dissected by “arty” types and given a French name (“Film Noir” French for “black film”), we the people loved them. These were dark and shadowy Saturday afternoon movies. Films filled with hard boiled cops, tough-talking private eyes, cruel and evil “bad guys” and dangerous women – oh yes, especially dangerous women. And that’s exactly what we loved about them.

Studios turned them out by the score – many pure dreck – largely just to fill theater seats on dreary afternoons. Back then they were called “melodramas,” “mysteries” or even just plain old “B movies.” But among the many there were more than a few that proved to be much more than “cheap thrillers,” films that have stood the test of time. Truly great films filled with memorable characters, scripts that bordered on brilliant, and dark, visually compelling, stories one can watch over and over again even after one knows how the underlying mystery has been solved.

So, call them whatever you wish. Here’s our list of the Top 10 Film Noir Classics…

10. The Big Sleep (1946)

How could one not include a film that has one of the most cynical private eyes ever to stand before a camera? We’re talking about Humphrey Bogart as Phillip Marlowe. Add to this a femme fatale so sultry (actress Lauren Bacall playing playgirl Vivian Rutledge) that during the film’s shooting she won over, not only that hardened detective’s heart, but actor Humphrey Bogart’s as well.

Thoroughly entertaining, witty, and with several dark mysteries waiting to be revealed, The Big Sleep has a place on any list of essential film noir.

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The 10 Best Films of the 2000s

Saturday, July 5th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

10. Almost Famous (2000)

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

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10 Movies That Make You Proud to Be an American

Friday, July 4th, 2014 - by James Jay Carafano

When it comes to the “land I love,” the movies that move us most happen to be based on the stories of real Americans. They get to the core of what America really means and show why this nation is truly exceptional.

America’s dedication to liberty makes it a nation like no other. That’s why, whether the setting is war, politics, courtrooms, sports, or science, when Hollywood makes movies about exceptional Americans they celebrate the true value and meaning of liberty. And that inspires us.

10. The Patriot

Farmer Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a peaceful, pastoral father of seven, pretty much winds up winning American independence all by himself. A composite character drawing from the biographies of several historical figures, the farmer Martin has been called “the Wayne Gretzky of the Revolution.” While it might not be a perfect history lesson, The Patriot (2000) is an exciting, moving and inspiring American war film — and easily the most entertaining movie ever made about the fight for independence.

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8 Great Movies and 1 Rotten TV Show You Can’t Watch on Netflix Anymore

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

8. Live And Let Die

Is the first Bond movie with Roger Moore the best one in which he starred? Was it all downhill from here? I tend to think so. Moore took over the series from Sean Connery with this fun 1973 spy thriller set in New Orleans and featuring a blaxploitation and Black Panther-inspired villains. My friend Chris Queen included the theme song on his list of best Bond songs in 2012:

Paul and Linda McCartney banged out a unique title tune for 1973’s Live And Let Die. While previous 007 themes fell into more of an easy listening vein, “Live And Let Die” blends bracing rock and intense orchestration by Beatles producer George Martin, who scored the film.

According to The Billboard Book Of Number Two Singles, Wings almost missed out on the chance to record it, and subsequently the producers almost missed out on the song itself. Martin recalled that when he played the Wings track for producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli, they complimented Martin on the song and asked who should record it.

The producers suggested future disco diva Thelma Houston, and otherwise insisted that a black woman perform the song because of the film’s New Orleans setting. Martin and McCartney held firm that there would be no song if Wings couldn’t perform it. Looking back nearly 40 years later, it’s hard to imagine anyone but McCartney belting those immortal words, “Live And Let Die.”

Did the Bond films just get too silly with Moore? Are they better when there’s more of a balance between tough spy action and the occasional jokes and clever gadgets?

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