Caryn James

'The Returned': Zombies with Elan and Souls, Speaking French

  • By Caryn James
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  • November 29, 2013 8:30 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The back-from-the-dead characters in Sundance Channel's smart, enthralling series The Returned have much more élan than your usual zombies – and not only because they speak French, although that helps. There's no lurching around, no corroded faces slipping away from the skull. These are flesh and blood people who have returned to their isolated mountain town years after they were dead and buried, resuming their existences where they left off, while time for others has moved on. Camille, 15 years old when her school bus crashed, walks back in the door one day with no idea of how she got there, only to find that her twin, Lena, is now 19.

Not Too Sappy, Not Too Harsh: Dench and Coogan in 'Philomena'

  • By Caryn James
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  • November 19, 2013 9:02 AM
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If you're going to tell a heart-warming story about a sweet, wronged little old lady, it helps -- even if she is played by Judi Dench -- to have a hard-nosed, mordantly witty, cynical journliast along to offset the sugar quotient. That is the brilliant strategy behind Philomena, the fact-based story of Philomena Lee (Dench), whose 3-year-old son was forcibly taken from her by Irish nuns who were her supposed protectors, and adopted away to America. Soft-voiced and touchingly craggy-faced, Dench is the heart of the film. Steve Coogan is its brain; he is a producer, he co-wrote the screenplay (with Jeff Pope) and he suavely plays Martin Sixsmith, a one-time hotshot and now umemployed reporter, who can barely say the words "human interest story" without sneering.

Rotten Tomatoes Meets Fox News on 'Colbert Report'

  • By Caryn James
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  • November 5, 2013 1:26 PM
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Fox News is such an easy target to bash – totally deserved, but easy. Now The Colbert Report brings a hilarious fresh spin, by Tweeting out comments from positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, substituting Fox News shows and names for the movies. Works perfectly, as in this substitution for The Omen: "All references to prophecy and the Antichrist aside, Shepard Smith Reporting achieves its horrors the old-fashioned way. #PraiseFOX"

The Amazing Little 'Broken Circle Breakdown'

  • By Caryn James
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  • November 1, 2013 10:31 PM
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Bluegrass and Belgium are two words I would not have thought to put in the same sentence (or thought about at all, really) before The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium's entry in the Oscar race. Bluegrass is a crucial element in the story, from the sexy beginning to the wrenching end of a romance between a musician and the woman who becomes his wife and a singer in the group. And this exquisitely made, exceptionally moving film -- told in an elegant pattern of present-day scenes and flashbacks, full of music that suits every graceful shift in tone, directed with authority and sophistication by Felix van Groeningen -- comes with a horrendous, understandable marketing problem.

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