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Caryn James

Homeland's Second Season Terror: American Politics

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 30, 2012 9:01 AM
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Most of us don’t know much about counterterrorism – the illusion of peering into a secret world is one of the many enticing elements of Homeland – but we all know something about politics. As it starts its enthralling second season, the Showtime series goes beyond global terror and exploits another kind of nightmare: the weirdness, to the point of stupidity, of American politics.

From Don't-Miss to Mystifying: A Glimpse At The New York Film Festival, Week 1

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 27, 2012 9:00 AM
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The New York Film Festival begins on Friday, with a wealth of choices from the obscure to the high-profile (like the opening night film, Ang Lee’s 3D Life of Pi, not yet press screened as I write this). We can all makes guesses about what might be worth seeing, but here’s a glimpse at some films from the first week that I’ve actually seen, festival selections that range from don’t-miss to mystifying.

Jimmy Kimmel Hosts the Emmys (UPDATED With New Video)

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 23, 2012 11:45 PM
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Jimmy Kimmel was a perfectly smooth host for the Emmys, though not a perfect fit. One of his trademarks, prankish humor – he asked viewers to Tweet that Tracy Morgan had passed out – didn’t translate to an awards show. His other trademark, irreverently taking swipes at the self-importance of show busines, was oddly missing. That was left to a few clever nominees. What worked best were the pre-arranged comic bits by winners and the people they beat. Julia Louis-Dreyfus read an acceptance speech Amy Poehler had supposedly slipped into her hand (that piece of paper was too big and crumpled to be anything other than a prop). Even better, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert wrestled Jon Stewart to the ground to keep him from heading to the stage when The Daily Show won Best Variety show.

'The Master' Review: Egotists and the Cultists Who Love Them

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 22, 2012 9:00 AM
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With its expansive 70 mm images, The Master almost pounces on you as it announces its epic scope and ambition – even though the impressive vistas of the sea don’t have anything to do with the heart of the film. In its intelligent, chilly essence, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is an intense, eye-to-eye war between two different yet interdependent psyches. Philip Seymour Hoffman is magnificent as the charming, voracious, monomaniacal charlatan who needs worshippers the way he needs air, a man so much The Master that his name, Lancaster Dodd, isn’t mentioned for most of the film. Joaquin Phoenix is nearly as effective as the jittery, off-putting Freddie Quell, a GI back from World War II, belligerent yet so unconsciously needy he is swooped into Dodd’s cultish vortex almost without realizing what’s happening.

'Parks and Recreation' Goes to Washington

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 19, 2012 10:06 AM
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In the perfect season premiere of Parks and Recreation, Amy Poehler’s character is now City Councilwoman Leslie Knope, and how satisfying is that to someone who aspires to the White House, even though the City Council is a part-time gig? She goes to Washington to visit her boyfriend Ben (Adam Scott) - more perfect for Leslie than we could have imagined when his character turned up - and meets some real-life politicians, in what might have been nothing more than a stunt, but turns out to be much more. With cameos by John McCain, Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe, the story is Leslie’s dream come true . . . except. In the shrewd, funny way of the series, she learns that she is a very tiny fish in the giant, shark-infested sea of Washington. And while she may enjoy being a big fish in Pawnee, it’s never fun to be reminded of that.

SNL: Jay Pharoah Takes On Obama, But Sudeikis' Romney Steals the Scene (Video)

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 16, 2012 9:49 AM
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The best SNL political impersonations capture some essential truth about that person’s character, hilariously exaggerated: Darrell Hammond’s gleeful,hound dog Clinton, Will Ferrell’s squinty-eyed doofus W. spouting words like “strategery.” Fred Armisen’s Obama never managed that, and so this season he literally handed the role off to Jay Pharoah. In the opening sketch, Armisen’s character introduced the president with “Wouldn’t want his job, right?” – an edgy reference to being replaced but probably better than ignoring it. And Pharoah’s Obama? So far, a little skimpy, but he seems to be shaping up as a guy who may be too cool for his own good, saying “I’m not worried. I should be,” which at least makes him a caricature with a point rather than an bland impression.

Richard Gere, Slyer Than Ever in 'Arbitrage'

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 13, 2012 9:00 AM
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Supremely realistic though Arbitrage is meant to be, there is a magical twist in Richard Gere’s performance as Robert Miller, a hedge fund manager trying to save his company and his personal life. Gere evokes such sympathy that you’re likely to root for him even though he is cheating his business partners, cheating on his wife, and before long trying to cover up his complicity in an even higher-stakes crime. A less intelligent screenplay and performance would have given us a demonized tycoon - Bernie Madoff as Satan -- who gets the comeuppance he deserves. Arbitrage is far more satisfying, because it creates a fully-realized character who knows his behavior is wrong, believes he’s justified anyway, and is hugely entertaining to watch as he tries to get away with it all.

Jimmy Fallon Channels James Taylor: "I've seen Romney, I've seen Bain."

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 8, 2012 8:28 PM
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James Taylor wrote some enduring lines with:

Paul Dano Saves Flawed 'For Ellen'

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 5, 2012 9:03 AM
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Paul Dano -- pale and gangly, nobody’s preconceived image of a movie star -- is a wonder of an actor, who has made some great choices in films, from There Will Be Blood, to the recent Ruby Sparks and a small but crucial role in the upcoming Looper. In So Yong Kim’s deliberate, meticulous For Ellen, Dano proves he can even make a flawed film worth watching.

'Side By Side': Watch Dunham, Gerwig And Others In Outtakes As Good As The Film

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 1, 2012 9:30 AM
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Side By Side, the terrific, widely-praised documentary with interviews by one of its producers, Keanu Reeves, has been available On Demand for a few weeks and is has just opened in New York – an event that offers your very own counterpart to the movie’s unexpectedly fascinating debate about film vs. digital technology. Do you watch at home or go old-school and actually visit a theater?

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