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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guy Ritchie’s ‘King Arthur’ Flopped Because its Hero Lacked Virtue



Hollywood has a mixed record when it comes to transposing classic works of literature into film. You can count such movies as The Lord of the Rings and the recent The Jungle Book remake among its successes. Unfortunately for lovers of the Arthurian canon such as myself, director Guy Ritchie’s new King Arthur: Legend of the Sword will not be joining them.
King Arthur was reportedly intended to kick off a six-part franchise that would embrace the whole sweep of Arthurian legend, but with the film’s dismal 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and paltry $15 million opening weekend (on a $175 million budget), there will likely be some serious soul-searching at the studio about going forward with that ambitious venture.
What went wrong? Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes) brought his signature dazzling visual style to the project, but in an otherwise favorable critique, National Review’s Armond White dismissed it as borrowing too heavily from the likes of 300 and The Lord of the Rings; and the fusion of Ritchie’s British crime underworld sensibility with the sword-and-fantasy genre resulted in what less charitable critics are calling an incoherent mess.
SPOILERS AHEAD
But the core problem with King Arthur is, well, King Arthur. I’m willing to forgive a lot in an action-adventure film if it features a protagonist who inspires me to come along on his hero’s journey; on that score, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword surprisingly falls short, and that could be the reason it’s not connecting with audiences.

Why The Rock Shouldn’t Run for President



Dwayne Johnson is riding about as high as one could get these days. The Artist Formerly Known as The Rock is the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, and the NAACP’s Entertainer of the Year. His current film, The Fate of the Furious, set the record for the highest-grossing opening of all time, and two more films, Baywatch and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, are slated to open this year. The third season of his HBO series Ballers premieres this summer as well. His multimillion-dollar smile gleams from covers of magazines ranging from GQ to National Review. It’s enough to go to an ordinary mortal’s head.
And perhaps it has, because Dwayne Johnson is now openly speculating about taking a run at the White House.
The Washington Post ran an op-ed last year suggesting that the now 45-year-old star would make an intriguing candidate with a serious shot at winning a future presidency. It’s not like there aren’t precedents for Hollywood stars conquering politics. Ronald Reagan, to name the most successful example, went from B-movie actor to conservative presidential icon. Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California. And of course, Donald Trump, while not a Hollywood star per se, used his success in the world of reality TV as a springboard into the Oval Office.
Since that WaPo article, Johnson seems to have been mulling over his own ascendance to the White House, because he told GQ in a recent interview, “I think that it’s a real possibility”:
“A year ago it started coming up more and more. There was a real sense of earnestness, which made me go home and think, ‘Let me really rethink my answer and make sure I am giving an answer that is truthful and also respectful.’ I didn't want to be flippant—‘We'll have three days off for a weekend! No taxes!’”
“If [becoming president] is something he focused on,” says Ron Meyer, the NBC Universal vice chairman, “he probably would accomplish it. I think there's nothing that he couldn't do.” I agree. The question is not whether Dwayne Johnson could become President, but whether he should.

Timelessness, Not Political Timeliness, Makes the Best Stories



Timely. Relevant. Resonant.
These are the promotional watchwords for must-see TV and movies in our politics-saturated pop culture today. The New York Times recently published a piece about the “timeliness” of the new Amazon series American Gods, because of the show’s pro-immigration theme. The Times also advertised Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale as “newly resonant,” because of the widespread, unhinged fretting that President Trump is going to usher in a misogynistic theocracy in which women are stripped of their rights and reduced to being childbearing livestock.
There is more. Director Ron Howard revealed that a Nazi character in his Nat Geo series Genius was modeled after President Trump, and that an episode with an immigration theme had “vital resonance” with current events. The alt-history Amazon series The Man in the High Castle is seen as relevant because of the absurd fear-mongering over imaginary, “deeply disturbing parallels” between the Trump administration and the show’s depiction of a fascist America. Not even kids’ movies can escape this hysteria: analogies are actually being drawn between Trump and the titular character from the animated film The Boss Baby.
The list of examples could go on and on, but while the trend seems ubiquitous, it did not begin with the rise of Trump. Hyping the topical nature of a book, movie, or TV series is a common, longstanding promotional strategy, particularly if the story being advertised also promotes a particular political agenda. Every story that can be politically weaponized is marketed breathlessly as “timely.”

The Nightmare Reality of the Communist Dream



With a Republican in the White House threatening to – horrors! – make America great again, nostalgia for the Communist-utopia-that-could-have-been is running high among dejected leftists. Last Monday on May Day, otherwise known among Reds as International Workers’ Day, the New York Times actually published an encomium to those thrilling days of yesteryear “when Communism inspired Americans.” But it’s not just American communists keeping the dream alive; in the run up to May Day the week before, writing for the digital news publication Quartz, Australia’s Helen Razer explained “Why I’m a Communist—and Why You Should Be, Too.”
According to the website description, the chief focus of Razer’s work “has been what she sees as the crisis of liberalism.” The real crisis is that true liberalism has been shoved aside by a radical left that embraces violent totalitarianism, but that’s not Razer’s take. In her mind, the crisis is that pure communism hasn’t been given enough of a chance to succeed. “Communism is a system of social organization that has never been truly tried and, these days, never truly explained. Yet it inspires fear in some, derision in others, and an almost universal unconcern for what it is actually intended to convey.”
This is the excuse communists repeatedly trot out in the face of a tsunami of evidence that their ideology has indeed been tried all over the world and has proven to be arguably the most devastating, inhumane belief system ever imposed on mankind. Every country where communism has been “tried” has gone to hell because of it. That’s not a coincidence nor is it just a failed effort to get it right; that is the inevitable consequence of communism.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Are Kids' Movies Too Violent?



In a recent interview, beloved actor Dick Van Dyke, who is currently filming a Mary Poppins sequel scheduled for release next year, raised a concern that the graphic violence and scary intensity of today’s video games and movies are having a detrimental influence on generations of young viewers.
So many productions today are “all gunfire and killing,” said Van Dyke. “Violence and entertainment have almost became interchangeable.” He worries that this toxic ingredient incites violent behavior and affects impressionable young people who “idolize it as a romantic way of life.”
“When I was a teenager,” Van Dyke explained, “I modelled myself after the way Fred Astaire or Cary Grant dressed. Now kids emulate street gangs. They like to dress like hoods. That’s just a reversal. They’re picking the wrong role models.”  

‘Tough and Tender’ Mr. T’s Amazing Grace



Nothing tugs at the heartstrings quite as unexpectedly as when a stoic tough guy reveals his tender side, and there is no tougher guy than Mr. T. On last Monday night’s episode of Dancing With the Stars, a show normally notable for its sexy and flamboyant (if sometimes awkward) dance routines, the A-Team star moved everyone with a quiet, unassuming performance of praise and gratitude for the faith that got him through his bout with cancer.
In the episode called “Most Memorable Year Week,” the celebrity participants chose the most important year in their lives and danced to a song that represents that year for them. The 64-year-old Mr. T (“My first name is ‘Mr,’ my middle name is ‘period,’ last name is ‘T.’”) chose 1995, the year he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Nonie Darwish Demolishes the False Equivalence Between Christianity and Islam



Several years ago I was expressing to a friend of mine what I assumed was the undeniable fact that the world has an Islam problem. Her kneejerk response, ingrained by years of Progressive indoctrination, was, “But don’t you think Christianity is just as bad?”
Tragically, this continues to be the instinct among the multiculturalist multitudes in the West: a reflexive defense of Islam and an equally swift condemnation of Christianity. As jihad in all its forms – violent, cultural, legal – advances in the West, willfully blind defenders of Islam keep insisting that it is one of the world’s great Abrahamic religions, that all religions have extremists, and that, if anything, the colonialism and intolerance of the Christian West is the bigger problem. Our cultural elites demonize and fear-monger about the Christian right in ways they would never dream of characterizing Muslims.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Husbands Are Not the Enemy


In the wake of a cascade of articles from The New York Times celebrating January’s Women’s March as a stirring symbol of feminist empowerment – as demonstrated by pussy hats, profane placards, unhinged celebrity poetry, and the rejection of pro-life women – that same paper hit a new low in the blatant bashing of American manhood.

The Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed recently with the outrageous title “Husbands Are Deadlier Than Terrorists” in which he compared the relative risks to Americans of “two critical issues: refugees and guns.” He concluded, predictably, that terrorists slipping in among an influx of refugees are a negligible threat, while guns are the pestilential scourge of our time.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Brave New World of Publishing’s ‘Sensitivity Readers’



Nothing so surely kills artistic expression and the free spirit of the imagination as political dogma. When politics hijacks art the result is propaganda – a blunt instrument of control instead of a vehicle for transcendance.
The Chicago Tribune reports that book publishers have begun making increasing use of so-called “sensitivity readers” to examine manuscripts and to offer feedback in terms of any racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content. Such readers sometimes specialize in areas of expertise that an author might lack, such as “dealing with terminal illness,” “racial dynamics in Muslim communities within families,” or “transgender issues.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What David Beckham Could Learn From Tim Tebow About Humility



Sports reveals character, it’s often said, but sometimes an athlete’s off-the-field actions can be even more revealing – and not always for the better.
Last weekend the Tim Tebow Foundation put on its annual Night to Shine prom experience for a whopping 75,000 people at 350 churches in 50 states and 11 countries. The event is for people ages 14 and older with special needs. “The Night to Shine movement is more than just a prom,” said Tebow. “It is a night where people with special needs shine and they are told that they matter, that they are important and that God has a plan for their life!”
In a promotional video, the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback (and now a Mets outfielder) Tebow is shown flying to Haiti to kick off this year’s celebration and dance with some of the special needs kids before jetting off to other Night to Shine locations. “I love these kids and celebrate them,” Tebow says of the Haitian children, and you believe him.
Love him or hate him – and wearing his Christianity on his sleeve has earned him many from both camps – it’s difficult to doubt Tebow’s sincerity or joyful commitment to charitable works. In fact, Tebow is better known for his unusually forthright Christianity than his on-the-field achievements. And he almost certainly would prefer it that way. One gets the impression that he is unimpressed by his own celebrity status but uses it to serve others.
Speaking of status, very few former athletes have achieved the degree of celebrity of David Beckham. One of soccer’s all-time greats (though many would consider him a better ambassador for the sport than a player), Becks nonetheless is far more widely-known as an influential style icon and Spice Girl husband with a net worth of upwards of $350 million.