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Caryn James

TV Review: Eye-Opening HBO Doc About “An Afghan Fallen Star”

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 26, 2011 2:30 AM
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  • 6 Comments
Afghan Star, Havana Marking’s illuminating 2009 doc about the Afghan version of American Idol, leaves you wondering what happening to its most compelling character: not the young man who won the competition, but Setara, who responded to being voted off by doing more than singing in her modestly veiled costume. She actually danced – scandalous enough even in the post-Taliban years – and let her scarf fall off her head, leading to death threats against her. Now Marking give us an eye-opening follow-up about Setara, who is not quite the rebel many viewers might have expected. .
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What the Oscar Nominations Got Right and Wrong

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 25, 2011 5:22 AM
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There were some genuine, mostly happy, surprises among the Oscar nominations – hard to do with those nominations coming so late in the glut of awards season. Here are some highlights and lowlights:

Will James Franco Be the Best Oscar Host Ever?

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 25, 2011 3:56 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Here’s what I learned watching the Oscar nominations on TV this morning: James Franco could be the best host ever if he goes off message and abandons the hokey script the writers are bound to give him.

TV: Skins Returns, Resembling The Little Fockers

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 24, 2011 6:22 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Since MTV’s Skins premiered last week, the show about sex-drug-and-alcohol-fueled teens has hit the headlines in a snowball of outlandish responses, beginning with an inflammatory front-page story in the New York Times. According to the story, unnamed MTV executives suddenly worried that the show might violate child pornography laws, which say children cannot be shown in sexually explicit or suggestive situations. And (whoops!) MTV had already made a big deal of the fact that its actors are actual teenagers. Since then, several advertisers dropped out of the series, including Taco Bell, GM and Wrigley. (Even though the first show had a substantial audience for MTV, over 3 million viewers.)
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Sundance-At-Home Film Review: Visceral Australian Drama “Mad Bastards”

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 24, 2011 2:30 AM
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Set in the isolated Kimberley region of Western Australian, director Brendan Fletcher’s gripping, unsentimental father-son film is even more intriguing when you know its background. Mad Bastards follows three generations: 13-year old Bullet, a budding arsonist; his grandfather, Tex, a police officer who tries to set him straight; and TJ, the wayward father Bullet has never known. Not a fresh idea, but one that steadily draws us in with its realism.

Sundance-At-Home Film Review: Gregg Araki's "Kaboom"

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 23, 2011 5:12 AM
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Here’s a line you’re not likely to hear in any other story of college love gone wrong. Smith, a bisexual freshman, tells his worried best friend Stella about her ex-girlfriend: “Dude, you have a fatal-attraction stalker with supernatural powers – you have every right to be freaked out.” Kaboom is the most playful film Gregg Araki has done yet, a comedy shot in crisp bright colors that sends up horror movies and sci-fi, and even toys with Araki’s own constant theme of voracious sexuality.

The Company Men: Best on Screen This Weekend

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 21, 2011 4:59 AM
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  • 0 Comments
A year after it played at Sundance, The Company Men opens wider today, with Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper as executives whose lives spiral down when they're laid off. And despite any rumblings of an economic recovery, John Wells' tough, poignant film is as wrenching and realistic as ever.

Rickygate, Day 5: Ricky Speaks. Video Highlights.

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 21, 2011 3:52 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Piers Morgan was trying – more like straining – to be clever when he deadpanned his intro to Ricky Gervais’ appearance on Piers Morgan Tonight: “Some say his crime was worse than Watergate.” But it does feel like we’re in Day 5 of Rickygate, the post-Golden Globes dissection of his brilliant skewering of Hollywood self-importance and egotism. This was a much luckier booking for Morgan's show than Oprah was.
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TV Tonight: Amy Poehler's "Parks and Rec" and Other Smart Sitcoms

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 20, 2011 6:24 AM
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There are so few really smart network sitcoms -- I'd count four, including ABC's Modern Family -- it's hard to say whether it's good or bad that three of them are back-to-back on NBC on Thursday. The network has been floundering for years, but it has also been steadily redefining its comedy with series like The Office and the brilliant 30 Rock that rely on droll wit rather than punchlines.
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TV Review, Onion News on IFC

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 20, 2011 4:23 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The Onion’s website promotes its new mock-news show, Onion News Network, with a pitch-perfect skewering of cable blowhards and anchors: the fake network’s stereotypical blonde anchor, Brooke Alvarez, is “Smugger than Keith Olbermann. Louder than Sean Hannity. Prettier than Anderson Cooper.” That ad is also funnier than most of what you’ll find on the half-hour show. (It starts Friday on IFC, 10 ET.)
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