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Caryn James

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.

Black Comedy Gem, 'It's A Disaster'

  • By Caryn James
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  • April 10, 2013 9:15 AM
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An offbeat little gem of a black-comedy, It's a Disaster is the kind of film that plays much better than it sounds like it should. It's another end-of-the-world (maybe) ensemble piece, but the deft writing and directing by Todd Berger and the straight-faced comic acting by America Ferrera, David Cross and Julia Stiles make it all feel fresh.

Danny Boyle's 'Trance': James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Twisted Memories

  • By Caryn James
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  • April 4, 2013 9:10 AM
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Playing a sophisticated London auctioneer, James McAvoy gazes into the camera with cool, nerveless clarity as his voiceover gives us the inside tricks of protecting and stealing a painting. This opening sequence of Danny Boyle's Trance is no more than exposition with a dash of red herring, and shouldn't work at all. Yet it does because McAvoy's voice is so captivating, already layered with deception and delusion, and because Boyle's visual creativity sweeps us along. We zoom into the auction room; we're in a van with a gang of mercenaries hired by the auction house in case of trouble; a black and white flashback shows us the good old days when it was easy to steal a Rembrandt. Keep in mind how well McAvoy and Boyle save this opening; that will be extremely relevant to the ending of Trance, a film that looks like a heist movie wrapped in a memory puzzle, but is itself a kind of red herring.

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in 'The Place Beyond the Pines'

  • By Caryn James
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  • March 28, 2013 9:20 AM
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Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines is a giant ambitious triptych -- Ryan Gosling dominates the first part, Bradley Cooper the second, and two younger actors when the story leaps ahead in time -- and this trenchant view of fathers, sons and the determinism of class is two-thirds of a terrific film. If the last part seems a letdown, it's only because the first two work so powerfully to create believable, fraught, opposite lives occupying the same time and place.

'Room 237,' Kubrick Fanatics And a Bonus Recommendation

  • By Caryn James
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  • March 27, 2013 9:15 AM
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The rapturous responses to Room 237 that came out of the Sundance Film festival seem wildly overstated, but understandable. This modest, entertaining, and at times visually clever documentary about The Shining -- in which a handful of obsessives decode the signposts to supposedly "true" meanings lurking in Kubrick's subtext -- is exactly the kind of inbred film that some cineastes go bonkers for. Not as bonkers as the theorists interviewed for the film, of course. They are hard to top in the thinking-gone-haywire department.

Timeliest DVD: Nanni Moretti's 'We Have A Pope'

  • By Caryn James
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  • March 13, 2013 1:08 PM
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Why is this pope hiding in the bushes? The first comic conceit in Nanni Moretti's delightful and touching 2011 film We Have A Pope (Habemus Papam) is that no one wants to be pope, especially the guy who is elected, Cardinal Melville -- played by the extraordinary Michel Piccoli. There is no timelier film to catch right now on DVD or streaming (on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon).

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