Caryn James

Jennifer Lawrence Outwits Outlasts Outplays in The Hunger Games

  • By Caryn James
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  • March 22, 2012 8:49 AM
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  • 4 Comments
The massive audience for The Hunger Games is easily split into two camps. There are fans of the books, who are likely to approve of the terrific Jennifer Lawrence while picking out all the details missing from Suzanne Collins’ novels. And there are people like me, blank slates about Collins’ tween-targeted series, for whom the film is a sleek, competent example of a big-budget, sure-fire commercial hit without much soul or style. And if you can’t get excited about characters in a televised fight to the death  - the premise that has Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, shooting arrows through a forest for survival – what can you get excited about?

Will Ferrell Sings, Rides, Says Hola In Casa de Mi Padre

  • By Caryn James
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  • March 16, 2012 8:26 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Over time I’ve come to recognize my reaction to Will Ferrell comedies – they’re funny on first viewing, though not relentlessly laugh-til-you-cry hilarious. But on second or third viewing their cleverness kicks in even more, scene-for-scene, and their humor seems to grow. (That’s especially true of the praying to the Baby Jesus scene in Talladega Nights.) So while there is plenty to laugh at in Casa de Mi Padre, his Spanish-language spoof of bad old Western movies, I suspect its many moving parts will seem even more comic over time.

Being Flynn: Yes, De Niro's Still Great

  • By Caryn James
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  • February 29, 2012 7:36 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Being Flynn is a perfectly good title for a film about an aimless young man who works in a Boston homeless shelter, where his long-vanished father turns up one night. But the memoir it is based on has a GREAT title: Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. Despite that loss,  the acerbic, thoughtful, colorful drama of Nick Flynn’s book comes through in Paul Weitz’s film. Even more impressive, it delivers Robert De Niro’s fullest role and strongest performance in years as the father, Jonathan Flynn, a proud, self-deluded writer on a relentless downward spiral.

Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy In "This Means War" (On The Audience?)

  • By Caryn James
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  • February 14, 2012 9:00 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy – any one of them could carry a romance or an action movie alone. Put all three together and the results are at least three times worse. Or maybe it’s just that the director, McG, has misplaced the feel for slick, popcorn action that made Charlie’s Angles fly. Whatever the reason - and we can’t ignore the abysmal, cobbled-together script -  This Means War is a mess of an action romance. Witherspoon plays Lauren, a workaholic unaware that her two competing boyfriends not only know each other, but are best friends and partners in the CIA. Yes, they’re spies in love, so they spy on her and on each other and ... just go ahead and fill in the rest because it’s all completely obvious.   

Madonna's W.E.: Half Truth, Half Dare

  • By Caryn James
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  • February 3, 2012 9:00 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Madonna could not have had a more enthusiastic and welcoming audience for W.E. than I was when I walked into the screening room. I’m fascinated by the inexhaustible Wallis Simpson story. We may never understand the psycho-sexual-political drama that led Edward VIII to abdicate so he could marry his twice-divorced American honey, but we can be pretty sure neither one of them schemed to end up as the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Glenn Close and Janet McTeer In Their Oscar-Nominated Albert Nobbs

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 25, 2012 10:47 PM
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  • 0 Comments

Walloping Action In Soderbergh's Haywire, Plus Fassbender And McGregor

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 17, 2012 11:59 PM
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  • 0 Comments
When a man is contracted to kill kickass undercover agent Mallory Kane, he says with mild curiosity, “I’ve never done a woman before,” and gets the perfect deadpan reply: “You shouldn’t think of her as being a woman. That would be mistake.” That doesn’t even sound sexist, because Kane is as much a lethal machine as she is a person, an approach that works just fine in Haywire, Steven Soderbergh’s walloping (literally; everybody gets walloped) spy-action movie.

Ewan McGregor In Perfect Sense

  • By Caryn James
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  • January 12, 2012 9:30 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Perfect Sense is one of those clever, minor, almost-good films saved by Ewan McGregor. (It’s kind of shocking how many there are: how about Rogue Trader, Stay and I Love You Phillip Morris for starters?) This one is a too self-consciously poetic yet more ambitious variation on Contagion, with McGregor and Eva Green as lovers who meet at the start of some unexplained blight sweeping across Glasgow.

"War Horse": Is It Steven Spielberg Or Monty Python?

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 21, 2011 9:18 AM
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  • 3 Comments
It is as sweeping and as comfortably old-fashioned as a John Ford movie, but War Horse has the soul of a hollow chocolate Santa. It’s not as if Steven Spielberg has forgotten how to make a crowd-pleasing blockbuster. All the pieces of this World War I movie are in place, from Janusz Kaminski’s velvety cinematography to a sweep over time and history that self-consciously -  and in this case falsely - announces some ambition. But Spielberg has never been so lethally cliched before, settling into a tired, sentimental genre without any attempt at either modernization or homage. I’m sure all those people who left the film weeping are sincere, but we know how easy it is for a story about a boy and his dog – or a horse, or whatever – to play on obvious emotions without really registering anything.

Angelina Jolie's Shockingly Good "In the Land of Blood and Honey"

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 20, 2011 9:35 AM
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  • 15 Comments
For years, it has been easy to dismiss Angelina Jolie as an extremely beautiful flake. Even her work for humanitarian causes could seem like the image-burnishing, manic-y upside of her earlier, darker bad-girls days. Not anymore. In the Land Of Blood and Honey, which she wrote and directed, is a surprising triumph in so many ways. I have to say, I completely underestimated her.

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