Caryn James

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).

Risk-Taking James Franco In Risk-Free 'Oz the Great and Powerful'

  • By Caryn James
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  • March 6, 2013 10:00 AM
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Flying moneys, good. Flying baboons, bad. That's one difference between the classic, 1939 'Wizard of Oz' and 'Oz the Great and Powerful,' Disney's pricey new extravaganza with James Franco as the pre-wizard carnival con man. More important: don’t go on comparing them. The new 'Oz' is loaded with references, some direct and some tongue-in cheek, but mostly it is a sweeping, kinetic adventure all its own.

'Beautiful Creatures': Smarter, Wittier, Better Than 'Twilight'

  • By Caryn James
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  • February 14, 2013 9:00 AM
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Beautiful Creatures, the story of high-school students in love – only one of them with supernatural powers – is bound to be compared to the Twilight movies, but that’s just wrong. Richard LaGravanese’s sumptuous-looking film is crisply directed, wonderfully cast and far wittier than the drippy, earnest Twilight Saga. Better to think of Beautiful Creatures as a Harry Potter substitute with wizards and muggles facing adulthood, a film smart enough to have fun with its magical premise.

'The Gatekeepers,' An Unexpectedly Fascinating Doc About the Middle East

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 30, 2013 9:00 AM
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After you retire, “You become a bit of a leftist,” says Yaakov Peri – a startling comment considering the job he retired from: head of the Israeli security agency, Shin Bet. 'The Gatekeepers' the Oscar-nominated documentary in which Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh talks to six former heads of Shin Bet, is the very definition of a film that sounds boring but is totally fascinating and unexpected.

The Best Films of 2012

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 18, 2012 9:00 AM
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My top three films of 2012 were easy to name, if not to order. Each is amazing, each wildly different from the other two, but they form a trio of incomparable experiences. There’s a deep dropoff from those three to the others, all fantastic --  though more flawed. I didn’t reach for ten movies (you do remember that I’m math-challenged?) because lists are arbitary enough. But every one of these eight films is worth your time, over and over again.

'The Hobbit' Review: Bilbo Lives! Everyone Else, Not So Much.

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 4, 2012 12:00 AM
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  • 104 Comments
I have never been a Lord of the Rings fanatic, so take that into account, but The Hobbit made me miss Voldemort. I spent a fair amount of time during Peter Jackson’s latest installment in his Tolkien franchise comparing it to the Harry Potter movies, thinking how savvy J.K. Rowling’s approach to magic has been, how successful in the broadest way those films are.

The Little Jolie-Pitts' Dad Is A Lethal Weapon In 'Killing Them Softly'

  • By Caryn James
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  • November 30, 2012 9:15 AM
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If you need proof that casting is everything, Killing Them Softly delivers it. This noirish crime story about hired killers would be an entirely different, less enjoyable film without Brad Pitt as an expert hitman. I’d say he’s working against type, but really, isn’t his type these days Mr. Dad-of-Six-Little-Jolie-Pitts, with a side of philanthropy? Or the guy talking mumbo-jumbo on those Chanel ads? Any fictional character is likely to be different from that. Still, good-guy Pitt as a walking, talking lethal weapon is a pretty good joke for a film to start with.

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