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Caryn James

Was it Smart or Dumb? Who Survived the 'Homeland' Season Finale?

  • By Caryn James
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  • December 17, 2012 12:08 AM
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There are very few things in Homeland, with its endless twists and reversals,  that are irrefutably true, but this comment from Saul to Carrie in the season 2 finale is one of them: “You are the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I’ve ever known.”  Sometimes you can say the same thing about the show. (If you haven’t watched the finale yet – why are you reading this? Come back later. Because here’s what did and didn’t happen.)

Might Live Free, Might Die. The Last Season of 'Breaking Bad' Begins.

  • By Caryn James
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  • July 13, 2012 9:15 AM
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Where do you go after you’ve blown off the face of your rival, the area’s biggest meth-lord? Really blown off his face, the way Walter White (Bryan Cranston) did at the end of last season’s 'Breaking Bad,' when he set a bomb and lured Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) to visit a supposed old rat in an assisted living community, so that Fring lurched out of the room like one of the zombies from 'The Walking Dead,' half his face a bloody red mask over a skeleton?  As you may have been reminded by teasers for the new season (which begins Sunday on AMC) Fring had threatened Walt with, “I will kill your infant daughter,”  so if anyone had it coming . . .  

Aaron Sorkin Moves 'The Newsroom' To Fairyland

  • By Caryn James
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  • June 24, 2012 9:45 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Aaron Sorkin has always had a huge, corn-fed Capraesque streak, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.  Even in his own day, Capra’s Americana was more willful than trenchant, but at least it suited its Greatest Generation era. Sorkin’s high-blown patriotic speeches, transferred from America to the glorified image of what was once Serious Journalism, are the main reason his new HBO series The Newsroom is so uneven and shaky. There’s so much that is good about the series – its intelligent characters, the zooming narrative that captures the adrenaline rush of breaking news, Jeff Daniels’ and Sam Waterston’s fierce yet grounded performances - that it’s disappointing to see how much goes wrong. The Newsroom is absolutely worth watching, but measured against its own ambition is a frustrating, partial success.

How 'Mad Men' Ended Its Season of Old-Fashioned Sexual Politics

  • By Caryn James
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  • June 11, 2012 1:15 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Matthew Weiner loves to tease Mad Men viewers and keep them off guard, so of course the season finale refused to give us the expected, explosive plot turn. There were enough of those in the  past few weeks: Joan agreed (yes, agreed) to be pimped out to a client, Peggy quit, Lane killed himself. You want more? And throughout the season, Don gradually discovered he was not married to a doormat. Now that it’s over, we can see that this season – a season as good as this spectacular series has ever been – was mostly about what would come to be called, soon after the Mad Men years, sexual politics.

Femme Fatale Meets Literary Lion: Nicole Kidman And Clive Owen in "Hemingway and Gellhorn"

  • By Caryn James
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  • May 28, 2012 9:00 AM
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Three of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives were maternal or authority figures. There was Hadley, the starter wife, gentle but nearly eight years older than the young Hemingway. Then the boyish-figured Pauline came along, took charge and led him away -- willingly, but still. Wife number four, white-haired Mary, was the ultimate maternal caregiver for the older, lionized writer. But wife number three was a whole other story, as we see in Philip Kaufman’s sometimes dazzling, sometimes cliched HBO film Hemingway and Gellhorn. War correspondent and femme fatale, Martha Gellhorn was the only Hemingway wife who could match his daring and ambition, who could challenge his fame, who viewed him level-eyed as an equal. The relationship was destined to flame out as soon as her independence and growing reputation threatened his control.

Still Lying: How "House" Ended The Series

  • By Caryn James
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  • May 22, 2012 12:19 AM
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  • 2 Comments
It would not  be true to the spirit of House to get all sappy at the end – the show didn’t and there’s no reason for us to either. Most of the series’ last hour seemed bizarrely off, not like House at all as he sat in a burning building, visited by the ghosts and hallucinations of friends, employees and cast members past, apparently suicidal enough to stay there. Was Hugh Laurie’s House ever so passive before?

Sherlock Meets Bieber And Fifty Shades of Grey

  • By Caryn James
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  • May 3, 2012 8:45 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Downton Abbey is not the only buzz-worthy upscale/downscale gem from PBS’s Masterpiece this year. Season 2 of Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch as the 21st century version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s ultra-rational hero, begins on Sunday with “A Scandal in Belgravia.” The episode is smartly written by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and directed by Paul McGuigan with enough flair to make a cinephile smile – nothing too surprising about that. But it turns out  that Cumberbatch himself inspires the kinds of squeals more often associated with Justin Bieber, as I saw first-hand at a preview screening and Q&A in New York on Wednesday.

Jon Hamm, Paul McCartney Guest On Hilarious, Live 30 Rock (UPDATED WITH VIDEO)

  • By Caryn James
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  • April 26, 2012 10:47 PM
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  • 1 Comment
When recorded series go live, it’s usually hard to overcome the stuntiness of it all. (Alec Baldwin promised in a promo that the live 30 Rock would be “liver” than ever, so we all get to make up new words). But 30 Rock found a brilliant, hilarious meta-solution by making its live show about live TV.

Where Even The Spoons Are Political: "Veep" and "Scandal" Do D.C. For TV

  • By Caryn James
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  • April 17, 2012 11:51 AM
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  • 1 Comment
“We live in a culture now where it’s almost like we are used to being lied to,” Julia Louis-Dreyfuss said in a recent New York Times Magazine piece about her HBO series Veep – to which any thinking person can only respond, “ALMOST?”  (Or hope that she delivered that line with more irony than the profile made it sound.)

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