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Caryn James

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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  • 1 Comment
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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  • 0 Comments
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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  • 0 Comments

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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  • 0 Comments
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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  • 0 Comments
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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  • 0 Comments
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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  • 0 Comments
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.

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