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Caryn James

TV Review: Shameless, Now With U.S. Welfare Fraud

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 7, 2011 3:21 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Can a falling-down drunk, single father of six, who pays his $700 a month bar tab – when he pays it at all – with his fraudulently-gotten disability checks be the hero of a series? Well, sure. It’s not easy. The original British Shameless, about an irresponsible father and his children, all of them resourcefully skirting the law, was about a family with accents that were sometimes hard to decipher, living in Manchester council housing. They were original, surprising, and they were Britain’s problem. The American remake follows the original almost to the letter, but the distance vanishes when the family lives in Chicago and is cheating the U.S. government.
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Michel Gondry Sells You His Stuff

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 6, 2011 6:17 AM
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  • 0 Comments
TV Gondry Episode One from Michel Gondry on Vimeo.
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TV Review, Downton Abbey: Such Elegant Social Upheaval

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 6, 2011 2:56 AM
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  • 3 Comments
In 1912, the aristocrats and servants at Downton Abbey live in a world where bad news comes by telegram – like the one informing Lord Grantham that his cousin and heir has been lost with the Titanic. By the end of this sumptuous, endlessly entertaining miniseries, it is 1914, a new-fangled telephone has been installed, and we can see far better than the characters can that World War I is about to explode their stable world.
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TV Review, Showtime’s Episodes: Matt LeBlanc Outsmarts Joey

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 5, 2011 4:12 AM
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  • 14 Comments
Infotainment and the internet have created a country of show-biz insiders, shrewd about every Hollywood ploy. What dark corners are left after you’ve heard Mel Gibson rant? That makes satire harder to pull off than ever, and it doesn’t take much to see where Showtime’s new Matt LeBlanc series will go.
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Howl on DVD: We're Not in Franco Overload Yet

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 4, 2011 5:54 AM
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  • 0 Comments
You may think you’re already in James Franco overload, and he hasn’t even hosted the Oscars yet. And here’s a link to what he just told Entertainment Weekly about his plans for directing Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Those ambitious projects might seem a stretch, but watch him as Allen Ginsberg in Howl (just released on DVD) and you’ll see his deep literary instincts at work.

Gwyneth Sings . . . on Jimmy Fallon

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 4, 2011 4:05 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Gwyneth Paltrow has been singing all over the place lately, on Glee, on the Country Music Awards, all to promote her new film Country Strong (coming Friday, after a very limited December opening). January, of course, is generally losers’ month at the movies, and Country Strong belongs in that dumping ground. Paltrow’s role as a Kelly Canter, a country star trying to come back after half-hearted rehab, is a much lesser yin version of Jeff Bridges’ yang in Crazy Heart.

Movie Review, The Other Woman: Natalie Portman’s Latest, Straight Off the Shelf

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 3, 2011 6:10 AM
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  • 7 Comments
Long before Black Swan, Natalie Portman was making some daring choices. Her bravado as the stripper in Closer and her delicately-directed short for New York, I Love You would be enough to signal an adventurous career. And in The Other Woman she creates sympathy for a truly idiosyncratic character. Emilia was a pregnant mistress turned wife, then grieving mother when her infant died. You can feel a big “But ...” coming here. Don Roos’ misbegotten screenplay and muddled direction are so hopeless all you can do is wonder “Who are these people?”

TV Review: Oprah’s OWN Network, Where Fluffy Meets Smart

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 2, 2011 3:32 AM
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  • 20 Comments
Oprah Winfrey has the amazing ability to say things – or rather make pronouncements - that might sound alarming from other people. As she told Barbara Walters about starting OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, “People deserve to have value-centered, inspirational programming.” What? Imagine that value-centric statement coming from some tea-partying Sarah Palin clone and it takes on a far less innocuous tone.
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Restored Version of The Leopard for New Year's: How Did It Survive the 1963 Trailer?

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 30, 2010 3:22 AM
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  • 1 Comment
What better way to begin a new year than watching The Leopard, Luchino Visconti's ever-enthralling saga about a proud aristocratic family trying not to crumble when Garibaldi's army lands on its doorstep, marching toward a unified Italy and the 20th century? The epic is at once a magnificent escape into the past and a warning about the dangers of clinging to it. In New York, Film Forum begins a two-week run of the latest restoration, which premiered this year at Cannes, on New Year's Eve. (Next best if you're not in New York: The Criterion Collection Blu-Ray.)

Standouts Of The Year

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 28, 2010 4:30 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Top Tens are fine, but what about those films and events too idiosyncratic for lists? A few highs and lows of the year:

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