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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.

Is Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi' More Than An Adventure Movie?

  • By Caryn James
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  • November 20, 2012 2:27 PM
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Life of Pi is not entirely about a boy and his tiger; but there is a lot about a boy and a tiger, and if you don’t like adventure tales, this is not the film for you.

Clunky Title, Terrific Film: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence in 'Silver Linings Playbook'

  • By Caryn James
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  • November 16, 2012 9:00 AM
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David O. Russell is the master of messed-up families, from the incestuous mother-son duo in Spanking the Monkey through the loving fraternal rivalry of The Fighter and even the band-of-brothers military guys in Three Kings. But he has never had a family so superbly cast and played as the one  in Silver Linings Playbook.

Keira Knightley In An 'Anna Karenina' Cold As A Russian Winter

  • By Caryn James
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  • November 14, 2012 9:03 AM
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With its snowy landscapes, sumptuous costumes and old-world aura, Anna Karenina is as pretty as a holiday window – and just about as lively and surprising. Placing Tolstoy’s enduring story of a married woman’s deadly, passionate infidelity in a theatrical setting – nearly all the action takes place in a theater -- is a disappointing  gamble by the director Joe Wright, even with a screenplay by the usually incomparable Tom Stoppard.

'Skyfall' Review. Bond At 50: Older, Wiser, Much Better Written

  • By Caryn James
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  • November 8, 2012 9:15 AM
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Daniel Craig looks craggier than ever in Skyfall, which is part of the film’s sly, obvious-yet-effective theme. Without slowing down the intricate, explosive action that defines a Bond movie, director Sam Mendes and a sharper-than-usual screenplay create a story in which Bond is feeling his middle-age; gizmo-happy Q is a young computer-whiz played by Ben Whishaw; and in this new world where terrorist threats arrive on your hacked laptop, M -- played once more and quite touchingly by Judi Dench -- is considered an old fart.

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