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Caryn James

'Blue Jasmine': Woody Allen's Most Successfully Tragic Yet Witty Film

  • By Caryn James
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  • July 22, 2013 2:50 PM
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Witty about social pretensions, eloquently moving about failure and loss, acerbic about family relations -- Blue Jasmine feels like a rich destination Woody Allen has been heading toward for years. It's as if the sibling drama of Interiors were handled (more successfully) with credibility and humor, and Manhattan's skewering observations about money and class given tragic weight, in a film that elicits full, grounded performances from actors as predictably good as Cate Blanchett, as head-spinning as Andrew Dice Clay.

'Only God Forgives': Ryan Gosling in a World of Sick Pups

  • By Caryn James
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  • July 16, 2013 9:01 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Take Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas out of the equation, and Only God Forgives is no more than a stylish midnight movie about murder, vengeance and drug-dealing in Bangkok. But there they are, exuding talent and legitimacy: Gosling stony-faced yet magnetic as Julian, who runs a boxing gym, and Scott Thomas breaking her own mold in a Donatella Versace platinum wig as his drug-boss mother, Crystal. They make this the latest in Nicolas Winding Refn's strenuous attempt, after the cult-y Valhalla Rising and the mainstream Drive, to blur the line between exploitation and something that approaches art. They almost help him get there.

Michael B. Jordan in Taut, Flawed 'Fruitvale Station'

  • By Caryn James
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  • July 12, 2013 9:03 AM
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Fruitvale Station is tense, galvanizing and a little disappointing -- an odd combination that is easily explained. The drama, which won both the arty Grand Jury Prize and the populist Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, is brilliantly acted by Michael B. Jordan in the fact-based story of Oscar Grant, a young black man trying to pull his life together, who was shot to death by a white transit cop in Oakland. His performance is matched by Octavia Spencer's as his mother. And Ryan Coogler has directed an extremely well-made example of a certain kind of film: gritty-indie style, full of hand-held tracking and camera-phone inserts. But Coogler's screenplay is too neat and manipulative -- a quality that undermines the film artistically, yet may be the key to any commercial success. Fruitvale makes everything easy on the audience.

Steve Carell in the Sweet, Endearing 'The Way Way Back'

  • By Caryn James
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  • July 5, 2013 9:00 AM
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Just when it seemed that the days of overpaying for Sundance movies had ended, this year Fox Searchlight spent almost $10 million for the very conventional-sound coming-of-age movie The Way Way Back. That deal sent me into the screening room recently wondering if they'd lost their minds; I left thinking they're smarter than ever. The film is warm, engaging, and thoroughly charming even though we can predict every turn in the story of 14-year-old Duncan, who finds his inner, confident self over the summer.

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