‘Top Gun – Maverick’ is Action-Based “Dad Cinema” At Its Very Best

‘Top Gun – Maverick’ is Action-Based “Dad Cinema” At Its Very Best

The moving story in “Top Gun: Maverick” of a fatherless son’s journey toward healing is proving popular with audiences worldwide. This is a film highlighting the importance of fatherhood, portraying a tale of reconciliation and redemption.

Top Gun: Maverick is smashing box offices, and it’s easy to understand why.

The film is spectacularly outpacing its weak-because-they’re-woke counterparts, because the film’s unapologetic dad themes resonate.

Alongside the gutsy F-18 camera shots, audiences are in love with the Tom Cruise/Joseph Kosinski sequel because its father-son backstory hits home.

Even the, “it’s all flag-waving, MAGA propagandist tripe” critics are applauding the sequel for keeping to the consistency of the first film’s deep relational backbone.

As The Atlantic’s David Sims explained, the film’s ‘emotional weight rests on Pete Mitchell (Maverick) fighting to earn the respect of Goose’s son (Rooster), who blames Maverick for the tragic loss of his father.’

Childhood Memory

For me, Top Gun: Maverick cut deeper.

My family and I recently saw the film for a birthday bash. The only thing missing was my dad.

Watching the first Top Gun at the cinema with my dad was to be one of the only long-lasting positive memories I would have of him.

It was 1986, I was 9, and we’d turned up late to the cinema.

Missing the iconic afterburner intro of the first Top Gun, dad and I slid into our seats in rhythm with Tony Scott’s smooth golden orange sunset, shot high above a lone F-14 landing on the silhouette of the USS Enterprise.

It became a shared interest, a mutual pursuit, a common bond solely shared between father and son.

From the soundtrack, which always seemed to be on repeat in our broken-down housing commission home, to the old-school Amstrad computer game, the movie connected us.

This was true, right up until my dad’s final week, when, knowing he would never get a chance to wear it, I gifted him a T-shirt with the Top Gun logo on it.

Now covered in dust, I still hold onto the volumes of Warplane magazines he’d chosen to buy me, instead of paying “through the teeth” for participation in a weekend sport.


I related to the second film because of the first.

Similar to ‘Goose’s’ son in the film, I was confronted by what was lost, what might have been, and what my dad chose to abandon somewhere along the way.

The sequel made the memories all the more material when Val Kilmer (Iceman), tells Maverick — still haunted by the death of ‘Goose’ — “It’s time to let go.”

Seeing the first film at the cinema in 1986 with my dad was an oasis event, an anomaly of normalcy in a wasteland of ash.

This explains why, in almost every scene of Top Gun: Maverick, I heard, and felt my dad’s absence, and choked up at Hans Zimmer’s rendition of Faltermeyer’s iconic Top Gun anthem.

We’re taught in The Good Book to raise up thanksgiving in the face of suffering. Even the smallest object or event that is worthy of our gratitude puts points on the board when it comes to healing trauma.

In retrospect, watching Top Gun with my dad in ’86 was the first, and only time he offered me a healthy introduction to manhood.

His wasn’t perfect, but that was a perfect day. That day my dad did good, and for that I thank him.

For me, the only thing missing from Top Gun: Maverick was the man who took me to see the first one, sitting, at his best, beside me and my uber-impressed family.

Top Gun was, and is, about loss, grief, and recovery; fatherhood, and fatherlessness — as much as it is about courage, defiance, and the determination to overcome obstructions encountered along the way.

The sequel builds on its original father-son backstory. It is “dad cinema” at its very best.

To lean on Miles Surrey’s review in The Ringer,

‘Every single dad — past, present, and those who are expecting to be dads in the near future — should check out Maverick, if not for the sanctity of ensuring Dad Cinema doesn’t fade away, then for experiencing a blockbuster that surpasses its predecessor in every respect.’


First published at Dads4Kids.

Thank the Source

Pat Boone Smashes Hollywood’s Slow Death By a Thousand Woke Cuts

Pat Boone Smashes Hollywood’s Slow Death By a Thousand Woke Cuts

American singer and actor Pat Boone speaks up about the toxic effects of declining morals and increasing political correctness on Hollywood productions. Their virtue-signalling is in stark contrast with their cowardice in the face of actual human rights abuses.

Living legend Pat Boone has slammed Hollywoke in a promotional event for his latest faith-based film, The Mulligan.

Boone, 87, criticised Hollywood’s new ‘morality’, and how it is dragging the American entertainment industry further away from its ‘altruistic’ roots.

He told Fox News,

“I don’t know how to put it strongly enough, but I just think the film industry is committing suicide. It’s killing itself as far as I’m concerned. America’s image is being destroyed. High ratings have become more important these days. We used to try to put our best foot forward.”

The biggest name next to Elvis in the 1950s described movies being made today as ‘immoral’, unimpressive, and devoid of meaning.

Mucked-Up Media

For Boone, it’s not just the film world. The depravity is also infecting streaming services and television.

He added,

“On television, you can hear all sorts of swear words. Nothing short of actual pornography is celebrated now. Sure, people can criticize those films today and call them unrealistic, but we were being altruistic. We wanted to present people in the best light. Now, we’re just taking pleasure in profit, presenting people in the worst light and celebrating it.”

Boone, a friend of Christian vaudeville-esque rock musician Alice Cooper, used Netflix’s Big Mouth as an example, with Fox noting the animated show’s “vulgar sexualising” of children in their early teens.

Expanding on this, the NYPost wrote, Boone, who is still a devout Christian, laid the blame for the mess Hollywood is in at the feet of ‘studio executives.’

Boone ‘claimed’ they were ‘resorting to shock tactics in a desperate bid to gain ratings.’

The NYP article cited the Walk of Fame star’s moral backbone, explaining how his consistent morality was linked to his faith, and how this, coupled with a discerning work ethic, keeps Boone from “scrapping his moral code for the box office.”

He once turned down a Marilyn Monroe film, expressing concern about playing a man who has an affair with an older woman.

Pat Boone has sold over 45 million albums and starred in 12 Hollywood films. Billboard rated the singer as the ‘second-biggest charting artist of the later 1950s.’

His latest film, The Mulligan, tells the story of an avid golf player and businessman who meets a retired golf pro. He is then challenged to repair his damaged life by turning towards God, and ‘what really matters in life.’


Boone’s criticisms of Hollywood’s corrosive moral downgrade are shared by Hollywood in Toto editor, Christian Toto.Virtue Bombs Hollywood book

Toto’s new book, Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost its Soul, analyses the politically correct paralysis holding back creativity.

One of his key premises is that the woke revolution is the ‘antithesis of creativity.’

Quoting God’s Not Dead and Unplanned co-creators Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, Toto asserted “the goal should be to tell a good story or great story.”

However, going woke means applying Cultural Marxist restrictions to storytelling:

“The stories that the woke people want to tell are for only one point of view and one perspective […] They don’t want our virtues. They don’t want our vision of what’s right and wrong. They don’t believe in families, in traditions.”

Peeling back the layers of wokeism, Toto explains how Hollywood is, always has, and always will be, guided by fear.

On top of the fear of missing out, aging, and offending the wrong director sits the new fear of ‘being cancelled’ for not being “woke” enough.

In light of Toto’s analysis, Pat Boone’s blunt critique of the industry he’s called home for over 50 years takes on sharp poignance.

Boone is closer to the bone of fact than disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s fairytale assertion in 2009, “Hollywood has the best moral compass.”

As I stated in a Caldron Pool article criticising actor John Cena’s woke apology to the CCP from June last year: Christians and Conservatives are out. Cultural Marxism is in.


Putting to one side the terror of McCarthyism, Hollywood and Communism have a shared history.

The ongoing appeasement of Chinese Communists is not far from Hollywood’s celebration of Stalin’s barbaric “antifascists.”

(See Disney’s “social justice” woke warriorism vs. Disney’s silence on the CCP’s human rights abuses, such as the persecution of Christians, mistreatment of prisoners, and ethnic minorities.)

This appeasement is also not far from Hollywood’s decision in the 1930s to maintain neutrality wherever possible. In order to keep from directly enraging the Germans, Hollywood practised a selective self-censorship of anything which displayed blatant opposition to the Nazis, or Nazi ideology.

When Hollywood did move to oppose Nazism, it froze that activism, in support of the Soviet Molotov-Ribbentrop-pact from which the Soviets and Nazis carved up Poland.

This two-faced nature of the Hollywoke industry is probably why A.W. Tozer called the entertainment world one of the ‘sleaziest fields of human endeavour.’

Thank the Source

King of Kings: Reflections of a 14-Year-Old Girl

King of Kings: Reflections of a 14-Year-Old Girl

Memories of a classic film on the life and death of Christ bring forth moving reflections on the wonderful gift of love and salvation which God has bestowed on us all. This Good Friday, let us contemplate the immeasurable love which God has for each of us, that He chose to die on the cross for our sins, that we may join Him in peace and joy forever.

The most influential movie regarding the Gospel, at least in my ‘B.C.’ (Before Christ) young life, was this:
Back in the 1960s, King of Kings came to the screen. Jeffrey Hunter, a dark-haired handsome young man with piercing blue eyes, played the role of Jesus Christ.

TormentKing of Kings blu-ray

I remember sitting in our house on one Good Friday. I had showered and washed my hair, mopping the water up with a turban twist towel. All I could do was cry and cry.

Being a teenager, I was a bit conscious of my blubbering and kept the noise level down. I was brokenhearted and deeply touched at the Gospel come to life.

My towel mopped up tears without ceasing.

Jesus was stoic and “opened not His mouth” through the cruel, inhumane punishment he was subject to. I, on the other hand, was screaming silently in abject terror and horror at what my Jesus suffered.

Unexpected Revelation

The Holy Spirit was revealing God to me.

Another layer of reaching out with such infinite love. Hollywood, the most self-indulgent bunch of people walking on the face of the earth, had put His story to film and brought it to life. Those were more tolerant times regarding Christianity, of course. Ask Mel Gibson what he faced when working toward and through The Passion of the Christ!


As I write this, it’s Palm Sunday 2022.

As I remember the impact King of Kings had upon me that afternoon, I remember being incensed at the thought that anyone could possibly call the day He died ‘Good Friday’.  How could they?

Now I know why. He took EVERYTHING that was bad and miserable about ME and made it Good. Only His Blood could forgive and take away my sins; there was no other way.

The Lamb of God, slain from the foundations of the world, was going to be enough to save me from hell, eternal separation from Him. Had you or I had taken His place, it would have been woefully inadequate, even though well-intentioned.

He was the ONLY spotless one. The ONLY sinless one. The only truly GOOD One.

From Sorrow to Joy

My old Pastor used to say to me, “Leonie, injustice is like waving a red flag in front of a bull to you.” And I still rage against the machine in this regard.

How was I to know that this injustice produced righteous justice? Salvation and restoration became available to mankind, once and for all.

Greater Love has no one than this: that a man should lay down his life for his friends.

Jeffrey Hunter died not long after the making of King of Kings. I pray He came to really know Jesus personally, and his biography signifies the chances of it being very likely.

Because his portrayal of my Saviour certainly impacted my life forever, I remember that Good Friday with bittersweet memories of a young girl crying her heart out in a towel. Tears of grief became tears of repentance, then tears of joy. How Great Thou Art!

Music: Ivan Robson, Lyrics: Leonie Robson. 1987

Calvary, on a dark April day
While the cold wind it blows,
Thunder roars, the sun holds back its rays.

See Him, hanging there on that tree,
By the palms of His hands,
And His feet, ripped with spikes of steel.

Tortured, by the lash, flaying skin
And His head crowned with thorns,
Inches long, His skull they gash and pierce.

Weeping, all His loved ones they grieve,
Watch as life slips away
From the Man they followed and believed.

In His dying moments, spoke this sinless Man
Prayed and asked His Father,
Forgive those killing Him!
Look at His face, His loving eyes
He saw the truth they all hid inside
He knew them all, their every sin
And so they sought to silence Him.

So, He was rejected, accused of blasphemy
By all those priests and rulers
Who claimed that they knew God!

And so He died, in anguished pain
His life of good seemed was lived in vain
God’s miracles, wrought by His hand
Now lost in hate, at a man’s command…

First flickers of sunlight, breaking through the trees,
A still and heavy calmness fills the air;
The tomb in which they laid Him stood open to the day,
But Jesus, no Jesus wasn’t there! He wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there…

He’s risen, He’s risen!
He defeated the powers of death and hell
He truly is the Son of God, why couldn’t they all tell?
They waited for His coming, and yet they didn’t know Him,
Or His love.

He’s risen, He’s living
Died on earth but broke death’s chains
His purpose completed, victory form sin and pain!

Lamb of God,
Holy One,
Son of God,
Prince of Peace,
King of Kings,
Jesus Our Lord!


Image: Titian, Christ Carrying the Cross (c. 1565)

Thank the Source

‘The Batman’ May Be Worst Bat Film Ever Made

‘The Batman’ May Be Worst Bat Film Ever Made
The Batman

“The Batman” might be the worst Bat film thus far. Its sins are numerous and horrendous, starting with the run time. The film is 176 minutes, and you feel every second almost as if it were unfolding in real time. In case there’s any ambiguity in that observation, this is a very bad thing. It’s a slow, bloated quagmire.

Until now, the longest Batman film was “The Dark Knight Rises,” at 165 minutes. That film, now a decade old, managed to cram in several major action set pieces, from a jet plane heist to the destruction of a football stadium. It was epic in scope to the point of being unwieldy.

“The Batman” is the opposite in almost every way. Depending on how you define action, there might be two action set pieces, and both are underwhelming and disappointing for a superhero film.

Therein lies the problem: this is not a superhero film. This is something new for the genre of comic book adaptation, and it simply doesn’t work. The closest precedent would be “Joker,” an excellent and powerful meditation on existential trauma akin to “Taxi Driver.” Joker took the idea of Batman’s archnemesis and told a dark tragic tale of madness completely separated from the world of Batman.

“The Batman” is trying to do something similar but fails at almost every turn. When Christopher Nolan did his Batman trilogy, it was hailed for being dark and serious. Compared to “The Batman,” Nolan’s “Dark Knight” is downright whimsical.

That’s because, as much as Nolan wanted to do something grounded in reality, he still understood that Batman is larger than life. His trilogy was both grounded and operatic. It balanced the inherent silliness of the character with the deep layers of meaning that decades of interpretation and reinterpretation have accomplished.

It’s become evident now, in light of “The Batman,” that there was a lot of fun to be had in the darkness of Nolan’s trilogy. He created a brilliant balance between light and dark.

Voice-Over Is Cringe-Worthy

On the contary, there’s no balance to “The Batman.” The focus is almost entirely on the title character. In fact, for the first time in a live-action bat film, the audience is subjected to a voice-over.

Narration either works in a film or it doesn’t. It’s either “Goodfellas” or the theatrical cut of “Blade Runner.” Thankfully, the narration in this film is limited, but those brief moments are cringe-worthy to the point of self-parody. For example: “They think I am hiding in the shadows. Watching. Waiting to strike. But I am the shadows.”

This falls completely flat, for at least two reasons. The first is that this Batman is no ninja. Rather, he’s a bullet-proof bruiser who isn’t particularly skilled in combat. He’s a hammer, not a surgeon; a puncher, not a boxer.

In the name of ultra-realism, the character has regressed physically to a point below Batman ‘89’s barely mobile molded rubber. So the idea that “he is the shadows” is absurd. He’s nothing of the sort, moving slowly towards his prey, making no attempt to hide, and pummeling them with all the art of a schoolyard thug.

Emoting, Not Brooding

More importantly, this is meant to be the poetic moans of a tortured soul, not a commentary on his crime-fighting modus operandi. What he’s saying is something like, “They think I like to use the darkness, what they don’t understand is that I AM DARKNESS.”

A character that tells the audience something this pretentious is unbearable and completely unrelatable. He may as well look in the camera and say, “I really want you to understand that I’m dark. Like, I’m the darkest thing you’ve seen. My soul looks like space without the stars.”

This Batman is an exercise in masturbatory emoting, not tragic dark brooding. Robert Pattinson has become a great actor since “Twilight,” and it was clear even then he was a good actor. The material was bad (so were as many of his costars), but he played the sparkle emo vamp to the hilt. The issue isn’t Pattinson. It’s the conception of the film and the writing.

In fact, all the actors are quite good, Colin Farrell and Paul Dano being the real standouts. The film is also beautifully shot. But this can’t save it. In fact, the fundamental weaknesses are highlighted by its virtues. It’s the epitome of lipstick on a pig.

Hopelessness Overcome, But Without Explanation

Now for spoilers.

The plot of “The Batman” is highly reminiscent of modern noirs like “Seven,” in which the hero accomplishes absolutely nothing because he’s trapped in the maniacal grasp of an evil beyond his ken. This is an anti-superhero film.

No matter what he does, Batman cannot meaningfully contribute to the narrative beyond what the Riddler allows. This is par for the course with film noir. Some might argue it makes the film more interesting, but I disagree.

The reason is that the film doesn’t fully embrace its own darkness. The viewer is repeatedly beaten over the head with how bleak and meaningless this world is, then, at the end, after Batman has accomplished nothing aside from leading some people to safety, he realizes he needs to be nicer. Vengeance and anger for the sake of vengeance and anger won’t solve anything. But after three hours of utter futility, it’s hard to understand why this answer makes any sense.

“Seven” has one of the most hopeless endings in film history. They felt the need to tack on a short, narrated coda to mitigate the nihilistic ending: “Hemingway said the world is a good place and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part.”

That is in essence what Batman learns by film’s end: the world is brutal and meaningless, but Batman must fight for it anyway. But why? Nothing that happens has motivated this conclusion. The reason is obvious: despite its best efforts to be anti-superhero, it is still a Batman film and he is still the good guy. He has to learn something positive, and so he does. It’s terrible writing.

Even the fact that he so clearly learns a lesson is a moment of high cringe. The climax occurs and then we’re treated to a corny summation voice-over about how scars make us stronger.

The Riddler wins, and Batman doesn’t accomplish anything in the course of three hours except solving a few riddles, usually just in time for something terrible to happen. It would be more logical for him to come to the opposite conclusion — that increased ruthlessness might make him more effective for crime fighting.

That said, the world-building aesthetic may be stronger than it’s ever been in a bat film. Gotham feels like a real place. That combined with very good casting gives this Batfan great hope for the inevitable sequel.

A much shorter film and a good script with this cast and production would be phenomenal. This film was misstep after misstep, but maybe the next film will build something amazing upon this dismal new chapter in the bat saga.

A.C. Gleason is a proud alumnus of Biola University and Talbot Seminary. He teaches Philosophy full time. His writing has appeared in numerous outlets including Hollywood in Toto, The Daily Wire, and The Imaginative Conservative. He co-hosts and co-produces The AK47 Podcast with fellow Talbot Alum Kyle Hendricks.


MSNBC Talking Head Compares Jan 6th Footage To Films Of NAZI DEATH CAMPS

MSNBC Talking Head Compares Jan 6th Footage To Films Of NAZI DEATH CAMPS

MSNBC Talking Head Compares Jan 6th Footage To Films Of NAZI DEATH CAMPS

Claims the historical footage will be used to go after ‘conspiracy theorists’ and ‘deniers’

Steve Watson

Just when you thought leftists couldn’t get any more offensive in comparing the infiltration of the Capitol last year to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, one MSNBC guest managed it.

Historian and TV pundit Douglas Brinkley directly compared the boomers rearranging the furniture in Nancy Pelosi’s office to Nazi death camps.

“It is like December 7th, Pearl Harbor, it is like the 9/11 tragedy,” Brinkley said, repeating the Democratic talking point. But he one upped them.

“Dwight Eisenhower during World War II made sure all the Holocaust camps were filmed, so we’ve got the films.” Brinkley proclaimed, noting that the footage will be used to go after ‘conspiracy theorists’ and ‘deniers’.


Brinkley further stated that “we also need to not be afraid to call the Trump Insurrection of January 6th because in the end, all roads to what went wrong that day lead to Donald Trump’s ill behavior, his anti-democratic stance he took, the Big Lie, after the presidential election tallies came in. And Joe Biden had won by millions of votes.”

Brinkley also stated that Jan. 6 “has to be a crusade that’s every day,” referring to a recent New York Times editorial that declared”every day is Jan. 6.”

Brinkley’s offensive comments came in the wake of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Jen Psaki all directly comparing January 6th to the attacks on 9/11 and Pearl Harbor.

Biden said that the anniversary remind everyone that there is an ongoing “battle for the soul of America,” and a “dagger at the throat of democracy.”

“The former president’s supporters are trying to rewrite history,” Biden further claimed, adding “They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection and the riot that took place here on January 6 as a true expression of the will of the people.”

Harris referred to “dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars, but a place in our collective memory. December 7th, 1941. September 11th, 2001. And January 6th, 2021.”

Psaki said that Trump supporters are “lemmings” following a leader “who fomented an insurrection.”

Former green beret and gold star husband Joe Kent slammed the “deeply offensive” comparisons of January 6th to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, noting  that it “allows people to compare Trump supporters to Nazi’s, to actual members of Al-Qaeda. And with that imagery comes the justification to turn the tools of the state against them.”

“These are very deliberate words. We’ve seen this playbook befor,” Kent went on, adding “They are echoes to the lead up to the Iraq War. That they have some intelligence that there’s something they can’t tell us but we have to trust them, therefore we have to give them the authority to send us into a war, a new war, but that war is here. And that war is against the deplorables, Trump supporters, whatever you want to call it. And that war has allowed them to deprive our citizens of their constitutional rights.”

The veteran continued, “Those that are still sitting in a gulag in Washington, DC deprived of their rights and then even other Americans who dissent from the current regime’s narrative. Just look no further then what they did to the parents who had the audacities to show up to school board meetings. They had the FBI’s counterterrorism centers turned against them.”


Tucker Carlson himself noted “If you take three steps back as historical events go, January 6 barely rates as a footnote. Not a lot happened that day.”

“The Presidential Election was not overturned. The Capitol was not destroyed. The government was never toppled, no matter what you may have heard. Not a single elected official was injured,” Carlson continued.

“Looking back you can probably call what happened on January 6 a riot. Maybe. Just barely,” the host added.

Carlson also stated that the comparisons of the Capitol incident to dark events in American history are “so ridiculous we’re not even going to bother to deconstruct it,” adding that “It’s self-discrediting.”

Carlson also noted that Biden ludicrously compared the event to the American Civil War.

“That would be the war that killed more than one million people,” Carlson emphasised.



(TLB) published this article from Summit News as compiled and written by Steve Watson

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2021’s Top 10 Family Films, Biopics, And Movies You Might Have Missed

2021’s Top 10 Family Films, Biopics, And Movies You Might Have Missed

As Hollywood release strategies continue to evolve — with fewer films opening in theaters and nearly a dozen major streaming services all putting out exclusives — even being aware of what’s out has become a challenge. 

The effort gets harder when one attempts to sift through and decide the best films of the past year. You could look at top box-office earnings or most-searched-for films, although that’s only part of the story. Longtime film critics will roll out their lists, whether populist or reflecting a serious student of cinema. It’s a long conversation, really, as the Oscars occur in late March. 

Because people seem to want different things out of movies, opinions often vary wildly. Films based on real-life events that inspire, challenge, and provide new perspectives often resonate with me and my wife. The big-budget popcorn flicks usually get a couple spots. But then so do select documentaries and animated flicks (no, they’re not just for kids). 

Admittedly, this list is not comprehensive. Even in biopics and related genres, a few films have so far escaped my watchlist (namely: director Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” Disney’s “Encanto,” “Pig” starring Nicholas Cage, Steven Spielberg’s reimagined “West Side Story,” and Denzel Washington’s “A Journal for Jordan” out on Christmas). Based on dozens of theatrical and streaming films seen this year, the following ten gems are worth seeking out.

1. American Underdog

(sports biopic, PG, 112 min.)

[embedded content]

Versions of Kurt Warner’s rise to stardom have circulated for decades: how he stocked grocery shelves after being cut by the Packers, played two seasons of arena football, and, upon finally debuting with the St. Louis Rams, won the Super Bowl. Throw in his concurrent love story with a spirited mother of two kids, and any biopic must be too saccharin and beyond belief — right?

With pitch-perfect leads Zachary Levi (“Shazam”) as Warner and Oscar-winner Anna Paquin (“The Piano“) as love interest Brenda, “American Underdog” removes a few layers of gloss from the Hall of Famer, who starts out as self-centered. In the tradition of “Rudy,” it’s a story of determination that delivers dynamic NFL action while keeping relationships at the forefront. 

2. The Courier

(spy thriller, PG-13, 112 min., on Amazon Prime Video)

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Benedict Cumberbatch has contributed a lot more to cinema than “Doctor Strange,” proven again in this historically grounded Cold War thriller. As Welsh businessman Greville Wynne, he’s an everyman recruited by MI-6, portrayed sublimely by Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) and the CIA to take sales trips to Moscow, which is a cover for trading top-secret information with a Soviet double agent.

Keeping his service secret even from his wife, his actions help avert the Cuban Missile Crisis. Yet attempting to get out from behind enemy lines reveals the peril and sacrifice of those who serve in espionage.

3. Spider-Man: No Way Home

(superhero/action, PG-13, 150 min.)

[embedded content]

To sidestep spoilers, suffice to say that the closing entry in Sony/Marvel’s latest “Spider-Man” trilogy fulfills the promises it set out in previews. Against a backdrop of high-school senior year angst, fans will get more edge-of-your-seat action, quick-witted comebacks, digitally de-aged villains, and mind-bending sci-fi visuals than you’d think possible.  

In no way accessible for superhero movie newbies, this flick assumes viewers are quite familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (at least review the last movie’s plot before entering). Surprisingly talkie at times for a teen-targeted action-adventure, it shifts from drama to comedy in seconds and plays a lot like fan fiction. But there’s a reason the MCU has become the one common cultural trough in an age of narrowcasting: this blockbuster delivers the goods.

4. Blue Miracle

(inspirational biopic, PG, 95 min., on Netflix)

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In a banner year for family films, this one may be the biggest surprise. After a devastating hurricane, the world’s largest offshore fishing competition held in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico changes their entry rules to benefit locals. It forces pro fisherman Captain Wade Malloy (Dennis Quaid, dialing up cantankerous to 11) to launch out with a crew of inexperienced orphans. 

He and the kids’ guardian Omar Venegas (Jimmy Gonzales) spar over fishing techniques, prize money, and every aspect of their journey on the water. Even if you can guess some of the ending, this sleeper hit’s sharp script, eye-popping cinematography, and street-party rap soundtrack make “Blue Miracle” more than the sum of its parts.

5. Luca

(animated fantasy, PG, 95 min, on Disney Plus.)

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Essentially a story about pre-teen friends enjoying summer and pursuing shared goals, “Luca” brings the sights and sounds of the Italian Riviera to glorious life. Granted, there are some fantastical elements -– two boys are sea monsters who take on human form when on land. But it’s a breath of fresh saltwater air that there’s not a superhero, princess, or wizard in sight.

A fixture at Pixar for the past 15 years –- showing how deep their storytelling bench goes -– first-time director Enrico Casarosa drew from his boyhood spent in small Italian seaside locales for this story that reflects the awkwardness and wide-eyed wonder of growing up.

6. Respect

(music biopic, PG-13, 145 min.) 

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The life of Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” hits the big screen in a film that depicts Franklin’s journey from a church choir soloist to a pop superstar. Despite being a major Hollywood film budgeted at $55 million, the film doesn’t shy from religious themes. It also doesn’t sugarcoat abuse and trauma Franklin experienced — nor her reliance on God to overcome it. 

From the pain of broken relationships, Franklin (Jennifer Hudson) discovers her voice. Yet with fortune, she turns to substance abuse until a spiritual experience changes her. She convinces executive Jerry Wexler to put out a live hymns record, saying: “This album is not for me or for you or for anybody else. This album is for God.” “Amazing Grace” became her biggest best-seller.

7. Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street

(documentary, PG, 107 min., on HBO Max)

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Colorful puppet-driven edutainment program “Sesame Street” premiered in 1969, since copied by dozens of shows. No matter what one thinks of current iterations, their early experimentation was trailblazing. Using newly unearthed archive footage, “Street Gang” explores how diverse creative talent came together to get parents talking with their kids about learning concepts. 

Educational producer Joan Ganz Cooney teamed up with storyman Jon Stone and Muppets creator Jim Henson to form the show’s creative triad. “Joan, Jim, and Jon, the three J’s, (led) this gang of creative rebels,” said producer Ellen Crafts. From outtakes of Henson and his troupe of performers, to sharp questions about how kids learn, it’s sure to spark discussion.

8. In the Heights

(musical, PG-13, 143 min., on HBO Max)

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Call it the “Hamilton” effect. 2021 saw a dozen movie musicals released, partly due to COVID-related delays. Four came from Lin-Manuel Miranda himself — who wrote songs for two animated flicks, “Vivo” on Netflix and “Encanto” coming this Christmas to Disney Plus — in addition to directing the play-about-Broadway “Tick Tick Boom,” worth a watch on Netflix. 

On that sea of soaring notes, Miranda’s first musical “In the Heights” best captures the appeal of his work as a celebration of family and diverse Latin cultures. Notably, Olga Merediz reprises her Tony-winning role as “Abuela Claudia,” portraying the work ethic and struggles of an elder generation.

9. Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal

(documentary, R, 103 min., on Netflix)

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Thanks to heated competition among streaming services, we’re living in the Golden Age of Documentaries with fascinating takes on notable lives, cultural trends, and current events only a click away. One of this year’s best comes via filmmaker Chris Smith, known for “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” and “Tiger King.”

It shocked the world to learn that wealthy parents had conspired to ensure their children were accepted into elite universities on sports scholarships. Days ago, a half-dozen more people were sentenced in the ongoing court proceedings. “Operation Varsity Blues” smartly recounts Rick Singer’s long con by crafting a dramatic film using FBI wire-tapped call transcripts as a primary source for the script. Note the rating for explicit language.

10. The Mitchells vs. the Machines

(animated comedy, PG, 113 min., on Netflix)

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A wacky take on the machine apocalypse plot seen before in “I, Robot,” this fast-paced flick from the creators of “The Lego Movie” follows a family road trip that goes awry. While it’s a tongue-in-cheek comedy, “Mitchells” provides an entry point into real-world issues regarding the power and reach of the “Big Five” technology giants. 

When a tech giant CEO realizes his part in designing their robot overlords, he apologizes to a fellow prisoner: “It’s almost like stealing people’s data and giving it to a hyper-intelligent AI as part of an unregulated tech monopoly was a bad thing.” It’s funny, but it also makes you think.

Honorable mentions:

Family-centered biopic “King Richard” starring Will Smith, “Psych 3” for on-point ensemble comedy, fascinating yet tragic portrait “Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal and Greed,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (especially the first third), and “8-Bit Christmas” for outdoing the holiday comedy it remade. 

Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy for several media outlets including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service, and Providence Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.


Daily Wire Announces ‘Shut In’ As First Original Film, Aims To Undercut Hollywood ‘Monopoly’

Daily Wire Announces ‘Shut In’ As First Original Film, Aims To Undercut Hollywood ‘Monopoly’

“Shut In,” announced Wednesday as The Daily Wire’s first original film, will be an important test.

As pop culture closes its doors to dissidents and the entertainment media landscape splinters into niches, there’s an opening for conservatives to back and create heterodox films. With smart leadership, a big following, and access to some serious cash, The Daily Wire is well-positioned to meet this demand.

In a Wednesday comment to The Federalist, Ben Shapiro made that argument. “We couldn’t be more excited to bring this tense, gripping thriller to our audiences.”

“We entered the entertainment space in order to deliver a message to Hollywood: You no longer have a monopoly,” Shapiro said. “The release of ‘Shut In’ is just the next step in proving it.”

If they succeed, it’ll go a long way toward disempowering Hollywood’s stranglehold over our culture, showing artists there’s a soft place for them to land when they get booted from Tinsel Town over a bad tweet. Case in point: Gina Carano is slated to start shooting her original film with The Daily Wire in October. The partnership was announced after Disney cut her from “The Mandalorian” over a post on social media.

On Wednesday, The Daily Wire announced that “Shut In” will premiere this January as an exclusive to the site’s members before launching internationally. Directed by D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia” and “Redeeming Love”), it stars Rainey Qualley of “Ultrasound.” (Qualley is the daughter of Andie MacDowell and the sister of Margaret Qualley.)

A synopsis provided by The Daily Wire describes the film as a “thriller” that “centers on a young single mother (Qualley) who is held captive along with her two children by a violent ex as she plots their escape before it’s too late.” The female-led action plot is thematically similar to Kyle Rankin’s “Run Hide Fight,” the movie acquired by The Daily Wire and launched by the conservative media company earlier this year.

Like “Run Hide Fight,” “Shut In” was also produced by Dallas Sonnier and Amanda Presmyk of Bonfire Legend, who acquired the script in 2018 from screenwriter Melanie Toast.

According to a Daily Wire press release, “Sonnier first discovered the Shut In script on The Black List website, purchased the rights, and introduced Toast to her agents at UTA. The project went on to be set up at New Line Cinema, and even got as far as starting pre-production with Jason Bateman as the director.”

But, the release continues, “The project fell apart, and after the option period ended, Sonnier chose to take the project out of New Line and over to The Daily Wire.”

Between the streaming-era break-up of the entertainment landscape and the demand for good movies that don’t toe Hollywood’s ideological line, the climate is ripe for projects like “Shut In.” Shapiro’s “message to Hollywood” could ring out loud and clear if the film does well.


Hollywood Hypocrites Push Gun-Control Activism Bankrolled By Michael Bloomberg

Some of the biggest TV networks in Hollywood and the larger entertainment industry have partnered to promote a gun-control initiative being financed by billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The effort, called “Wear Orange,” was started by Everytown for Gun Safety, a Bloomberg-backed gun-control group. The organization has been urging President Joe Biden to enact strict gun-control measures and formerly employed David Chipman, Biden’s pick for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Wear Orange encouraged people to wear the color orange from June 4 to June 6 for both National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend.

WarnerMedia, the multinational conglomerate owned by AT&T, partnered with Everytown in order to “help end gun violence and build safer communities across America.” While virtue-signaling about gun control, the studio has pumped out continuous gun violence scenes in its financed productions, such as in the movie “Joker” or television series “The Sopranos.”

Bad Robot Productions, a company run by Star Wars director J.J. Abrams, is also leaning in on the gun-control initiative. While it purports to care so deeply about ending violence, Abrams’ studio is the brains behind the series “Alias” and the “Mission: Impossible” movies, which include a significant amount of gun violence.

ViacomCBS affiliates Comedy Central and CMT partnered as well. Viacom owns Paramount Pictures, which recently released the film “Without Remorse,” which includes gun violence in a military setting.

MTV and VH1, two other channels involved, continuously put out hip-hop and rap music videos romanticizing illegal guns and killings. Rapper Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” took home MTV honors in 2004, with the song notably declaring, “But ain’t nothin’ sweet ’bout how I hold my gun.”

Despite the already-strict gun restrictions in California, murders have spiked 95 percent in Los Angeles County compared to a year prior. The state has the most gun-control laws in the nation, such as red-flag laws, universal background checks, a ban against K-12 schools letting teachers carry, and a 10-day waiting period.

“Usually people that are going out and killing on the streets are obviously not responsible gun owners,” Julie Haff, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Republican Party, told The Federalist. “Having strict gun control is not going to stop people from going out and killing people on the streets,” Haff continued. “Look at places like Chicago, that’s a good example of strict gun control and they have shootings and killings pretty much every weekend.”



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