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Caryn James

Christmas Oddity # 1: Creepy Santa in "Rare Exports"

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 23, 2010 2:15 AM
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Like many of you I’ll be taking a break over the holiday weekend, but I leave you with a few off-beat recommendations to come back to, no matter what your mood: pre-ghost Scrooge, post-ghost Scrooge, or ready to escape into another world. First: Creepy Santa. Cheers!

TV Review: A Wonderful, Demented "Doctor Who" Christmas Special

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 22, 2010 2:30 AM
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  • 1 Comment
If Michael Gambon is in it, I’m there – but he’s just one reason to watch Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol, an energetic, goofy, time-traveling special that sideswipes the Dickens tale and takes off on its own demented path. I’m not praising this as a Doctor Who fanatic. I like the series just fine, but its premises -- the Doctor crashing into new planets, times and adventures -- are often more intriguing than the results, even when the Doctor runs into Vincent van Gogh, as he did this season.
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Best New DVD: Agnes Jaoui’s Sly, Comic “Let It Rain”

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 21, 2010 3:00 AM
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The world is full of sophisticated French films that are easy to enjoy and easy to forget; they all blend together. Agnes’ Jaoui’s (Look at Me, The Taste of Others) stand out for characters who look more like real people than Parisian models, and for her smooth combination of warmth and acerbic wit with a dash of cynicism. In Let It Rain, Jaoui herself pays Agathe, a feminist writer who reluctantly agrees to run for local office and less reluctantly agrees to have a documentary made about her, not knowing that the filmmaker, Michel (Jaoui’s co-writer, Jean-Pierre Bacri), is having an affair with Agathe’s married sister.

Sofia Coppola's Extraordinary "Somewhere"

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 20, 2010 5:00 AM
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Sofia Coppola’s lovely chamber piece Somewhere feels like – and I mean this is the best possible sense – a love letter to her Dad.

What the Coens Said About "True Grit"

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 20, 2010 2:00 AM
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  • 3 Comments
By sheer luck – or bad planning turned good – the screening of True Grit I was invited to was followed by a Q&A with Joel and Ethan Coen and Hailee Steinfeld, the 14-year old whose screen presence rivals Jeff Bridges’ and Matt Damon’s. No photos were allowed at the screening (it was mostly for Producers Guild and BAFTA members), so trust me: without her braids an old-West costume, Steinfeld looked like the poised, glossy-haired young woman she is.

Best On Screens This Weekend

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 17, 2010 2:45 AM
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  • 0 Comments
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TRON Legacy: The Only Two Sequences You Need to See

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 17, 2010 2:15 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The test of a genre movie is whether it can cross over to a broader audience. Do you care about Harry Potter if you hardly know what Hogwarts is? Alfonso Cuaron’s stylish, haunting Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbakan makes you care. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 zooms its way beyond action-hero fans. The elaborately artificial video-game-come-to-life TRON: Legacy, not so much.

Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole: Beyond the Amazing Frozen Forehead

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 16, 2010 8:00 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Every now and then, between splashy commercial misfires (Australia!) and arty little misfires (Fur) Nicole Kidman does something that proves she didn’t become a star entirely because of high-profile marriages, that she’s more than a walking, talking, cautionary tale about Botox. She really can act, and she is amazingly subtle, restrained and moving in Rabbit Hole, her best work since The Hours. It’s a role that plays to her strength: a woman so brittle it seems as if a slight wind would make her snap.

The Televised SAG Awards: So Good and Yet So Bad

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 16, 2010 5:51 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The Screen Actors Guild has always been the sanest of awards, and its television presence almost perfect until it goes off-the-charts wrong, a so-near-and-yet-so-far thing. Because all the prizes are to actors, the ceremony is stars-stars-stars from movies and TV, none of those pesky lighting and make-up categories that clutter the Oscar show with people we don’t know. No bad songs we'll never hear again. But the SAG ceremony is cluttered with actors giving canned speeches about how wonderful their union is, and when they got their SAG cards, which can only make the rest of us think, “Lighten up, it’s a Hollywood awards show, not a documentary version of Norma Rae.”

Ricky Gervais’ Edgy HBO Special

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 15, 2010 7:01 AM
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  • 2 Comments
I used to think that the title of funniest, edgiest (and the two are connected) comedian around was an impossible choice between Chris Rock and Eddie Izzard, but Ricky Gervais’ HBO stand-up show has him closing in on them. He has always been so cheerful and good-natured that he gets away with skewering the most outrageous targets. In the new special -- innocuously called Out of England 2, premiering Saturday -- he is as funny as ever but even darker.He sounds harmless enough. His voice veers into a falsetto as he imitates a disheartened goat sent as a gift to a starving African family: “A week ago I was gamboling around the Cotswolds!” But the same falsetto turns up as the voice of the suspicious, illogical side of Gervais’ own mind when he sees a Muslim at the airport. He races giddily along telling stories about Christmas presents and insurance coverage, then ends with lines that don’t so much punch as sting. Where was God when some supposed Act of God like a tree falling on a car happened? ‘”I was in Africa that day,” God says, “giving AIDS to babies.”
More: TV Reviews

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