Caryn James

Stealth Netflix Arrival: Matthew Rhys in Clever Suspense Film 'The Scapegoat'

  • By Caryn James
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  • June 17, 2013 9:45 AM
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If you like Matthew Rhys as the Americanized KGB agent in FX's terrific 80's spy series The Americans, and think he might be even more dashing with his natural-born British accent, then Netflix is streaming a film for you. In The Scapegoat, set in 1952 and based on a Daphne du Maurier story, he plays the dual role of John Standard and Johnny Spence, one a recently laid-off teacher of Greek, the other his lookalike, the ne'er-do-well son of a once-rich factory-owning family now struggling to stay afloat. Written and directed by Charles Sturridge (a director of the classic Brideshead Revisited), with EiIeen Atkins ideally cast as the family's imperious, morphine-addicted matriarch, The Scapegoat is darkly delightful, with swapped identities, intrigue, murder, and a great pile of an aristocratic house to rival Brideshead. Made for ITV and shown on television in Britain, (and on the Ovation network here) it plays like an exceptional installment of Masterpiece Mystery, except it's not.

'Man of Steel': Superguy For Our Times

  • By Caryn James
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  • June 13, 2013 9:02 AM
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If casting really were everything, Man of Steel would be phenomenal: Henry Cavill soars away with the title Best Looking Superman Ever; Russell Crowe brings emotional depth to the role of his father, Jor-El; Michael Shannon glowers as Jor-El's power-hungry nemesis, General Zod, yet makes us see that Zod believes he's trying to save their planet from destruction. (Why Jor-El has an Australian accent and Zod sounds American remains a nagging mystery. Are they from different parts of Krypton?) Diane Lane and Kevin Costner are unexpected but touching as the lovable and loving Earth parents who found the baby Superman when his pod from outer space crashed on their Kansas farm.

Michael Douglas, Kitsch and Depth: Soderbergh's 'Behind the Candelabra'

  • By Caryn James
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  • May 21, 2013 12:45 PM
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Despite the earnest pr spin surrounding it, Behind the Candelabra invites us to laugh at - not always with - the grinning, gaudy Vegas spectacle that is Liberace. But Michael Douglas' performance is also deep, sympathetic and brilliant, an act of impeccable mimicry that reveals the essence of a man defined by his fame as surely as he is encased in his spangled tux. The wonder of Steven Soderbergh's hugely entertaining film is that it beautifully walks the line between hilarious kitsch and character study.

Good and Bad Surprises in Baz Luhrmann's 'The Great Gatsby'

  • By Caryn James
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  • May 6, 2013 10:26 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Novel? What novel? I went into Baz Luhrmann's 3-D, Jay Z-soundtracked The Great Gatsby assuming that the kindest, smartest approach would be to forget there was ever a book behind it. Surprisingly, the film is more attached to F. Scott Fitzgerald than I expected, and that turns out to be its downfall.

Two Other Gatsbys, Two Better Nicks

  • By Caryn James
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  • May 6, 2013 10:24 PM
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  • 3 Comments
The Great Gatsby is both irresistible to filmmakers and notoriously hard to adapt. All that color and glamour comes crashing up against the eloquence of Fitzgerald's prose and the ineffability of Gatsby's dreams. Baz Luhrmann's new version gives us a wondrous performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and a dreadful, flat performance by Tobey Maguire as the narrator, Nick Carraway. (You can find my review here.) But take a look at two better Nicks and one good, maligned Gatsby:

Underrated At the Tribeca Film Festival : 'Almost Christmas'

  • By Caryn James
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  • April 28, 2013 11:02 AM
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The new film from Phil Morrison (the director of Junebug) has not been embraced by most critics at the Tribeca Film Festival (actually, most of them hated it) but I so disagree. Almost Christmas is one of my favorites from this year's festival, a thoroughly fresh dark comedy - more sly and absurd than laugh-out-loud - with Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd as down-on-their-luck Canadians who come to New York to sell Christmas trees for a month.

'The Reluctant Fundamentalist': Mira Nair's Mirror of American-Pakistani Relations

  • By Caryn James
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  • April 22, 2013 2:25 PM
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In a Lahore cafe, the Pakistan-born, Princeton-educated hero of Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist tells an American reporter about his reaction to the World Trade Center attacks. Changez (Riz Ahmed) was as horrified as anyone – but at first there was an instinctive smile, simple "awe," as he puts it, at the audacity of "arrogance brought low." The journalist, Bobby Lincoln, (Liev Schreiber) responds with a glare of pure, restrained fury.

Francois Ozon's Psychological Cat-and-Mouse, 'In the House'

  • By Caryn James
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  • April 19, 2013 9:00 AM
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Brandon Cronenberg's 'Antiviral' and What We Know About Fame

  • By Caryn James
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  • April 15, 2013 9:01 AM
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Paris Hilton is all but forgotten, the word "Kardashian" long ago became a late-night comedy punchline, and it's hard to remember a high-profile political campaign that did not turn on a candidate's movie-worthy charisma. So why would anyone think that noticing our obsession with celebrity culture counts as something profound? Or even something to say? For all its surface flash - and some of it really dazzles - that sense of rediscovering the celebrity wheel is what makes Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral a sleek but vapid thriller. (It's in theaters and on VOD now.)

Who Is Ben Affleck in Terrence Malick's 'To the Wonder'?

  • By Caryn James
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  • April 11, 2013 9:16 AM
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Like all Terrence Malick's films, To the Wonder is art at its purest. This impressionistic take on a man (Ben Affleck) as he goes through a major relationship with Maria (Olga Kurylenko) and a lesser fling with Jane ( Rachel McAdams), is told almost entirely in voiceover, which blends with poetic images, a range of classical music, bits of dialogue. The actual conversations are so rare you can count them. Despite its clarity of purpose, though, it is not the best example of an art film you'll ever see, and far from the best Terrence Malick.

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