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Caryn James

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.

Can Denzel Washington Save Zemeckis' Bogus 'Flight'?

  • By Caryn James
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  • November 2, 2012 11:03 AM
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From the vapid, saccharine Forrest Gump to the overwrought, improbable Flight, Robert Zemeckis has remained a master of manipulation. That Oscar for Gump? Flight’s closing night slot at this year’s New York Film Festival? Forget them and look at the films: emotionally pandering and commonplace, all dressed up in awards-ready fancy clothes.

Review: Terror Meets Humor in Ben Affleck's 'Argo'

  • By Caryn James
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  • October 10, 2012 9:01 AM
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Argo places us so much in the middle of the furious crowd storming the American Embassy in Tehran -- and the captives inside who see it coming -- that the episode is viscerally frightening. Back home, the Hollywood players who create a fake movie as a cover for the CIA rescue mission of Americans is full of hilarious lines sending up the movie business. One of the wonders of Ben Affleck’s extremely entertaining film is how easily he shifts from the threatening to the comic, keeping a steady balance.

'The Paperboy': Nicole, Zac and Alligators

  • By Caryn James
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  • October 4, 2012 9:11 AM
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On screen in The Paperboy and on stage at the New York Film Festival press conference afterwards, Nicole Kidman seemed – and this is compliment though it may not sound like one—less plastic than she has in the recent past. She is fearless and pretty convincing in the film. If she looks too well-scrubbed and well-dressed for the character – Charlotte, a woman you can only call trashy, who writes sexy letters to prisoners and falls in love with a convicted killer – you can almost justify it because her Barbie look fits the conventions of Lee Daniels’s pulpy psycho-sexual drama. As Daniels explained in his part of the press conference, he wanted the film, set in 1969, to reflect the colors and style of a 70’s thriller.

From Don't-Miss to Mystifying: A Glimpse At The New York Film Festival, Week 1

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 27, 2012 9:00 AM
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The New York Film Festival begins on Friday, with a wealth of choices from the obscure to the high-profile (like the opening night film, Ang Lee’s 3D Life of Pi, not yet press screened as I write this). We can all makes guesses about what might be worth seeing, but here’s a glimpse at some films from the first week that I’ve actually seen, festival selections that range from don’t-miss to mystifying.

'The Master' Review: Egotists and the Cultists Who Love Them

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 22, 2012 9:00 AM
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With its expansive 70 mm images, The Master almost pounces on you as it announces its epic scope and ambition – even though the impressive vistas of the sea don’t have anything to do with the heart of the film. In its intelligent, chilly essence, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is an intense, eye-to-eye war between two different yet interdependent psyches. Philip Seymour Hoffman is magnificent as the charming, voracious, monomaniacal charlatan who needs worshippers the way he needs air, a man so much The Master that his name, Lancaster Dodd, isn’t mentioned for most of the film. Joaquin Phoenix is nearly as effective as the jittery, off-putting Freddie Quell, a GI back from World War II, belligerent yet so unconsciously needy he is swooped into Dodd’s cultish vortex almost without realizing what’s happening.

Richard Gere, Slyer Than Ever in 'Arbitrage'

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 13, 2012 9:00 AM
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Supremely realistic though Arbitrage is meant to be, there is a magical twist in Richard Gere’s performance as Robert Miller, a hedge fund manager trying to save his company and his personal life. Gere evokes such sympathy that you’re likely to root for him even though he is cheating his business partners, cheating on his wife, and before long trying to cover up his complicity in an even higher-stakes crime. A less intelligent screenplay and performance would have given us a demonized tycoon - Bernie Madoff as Satan -- who gets the comeuppance he deserves. Arbitrage is far more satisfying, because it creates a fully-realized character who knows his behavior is wrong, believes he’s justified anyway, and is hugely entertaining to watch as he tries to get away with it all.

Paul Dano Saves Flawed 'For Ellen'

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 5, 2012 9:03 AM
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Paul Dano -- pale and gangly, nobody’s preconceived image of a movie star -- is a wonder of an actor, who has made some great choices in films, from There Will Be Blood, to the recent Ruby Sparks and a small but crucial role in the upcoming Looper. In So Yong Kim’s deliberate, meticulous For Ellen, Dano proves he can even make a flawed film worth watching.

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