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Caryn James

Tina Fey as Blerta, The New Roommate on 'Girls' (SNL Video)

  • By Caryn James
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  • September 29, 2013 10:18 AM
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  • 1 Comment
It's easy to spoof Girls, from Lena Dunham's very particular delivery to her character's unlimited insecurity and narcissism. But host Tina Fey took an entirely fresh approach in the best of the sketches from last night's otherwise tame Saturday Night Live, as a new roommate -- a peasant crone named Blerta who blurts out the truth to the friends. "Don't speak. They will know you are simple," she advises Shoshanna. But she saves the most perfect observation for Hannah (perfectly played by new cast member Noel Wells) at the end.

'Broadchurch': BBC America's Great New Detective Series

  • By Caryn James
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  • August 5, 2013 9:05 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Great detective series are never about the crimes; they're about great detectives, and BBC America's Broadchurch has one. With a depth that goes beyond formula drama, Olivia Colman plays Ellie Miller, a wife and mother in the sea- side town of Broadchurch, who finds herself investigating the murder of the 11-year-old boy next door, her own son's best friend. Ellie has a practical, crimped hairstyle that may be the worst in the history of haircuts. She wears the drab gray pantsuit that lady-detectives in most crime shows try to glam up; she doesn't. She is empathetic, engaging, and down-to-earth -- qualities that only grow as she slowly realizes that someone in her own apparently wholesome community, someone she has to know, killed that little boy and left his body on the beach.

John Oliver Plays 'Where in the World is Edward Snowden?' (Video)

  • By Caryn James
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  • June 25, 2013 10:45 AM
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  • 0 Comments
During the reassuringly funny Jon Oliver era at The Daily Show, the substitute host has begun every night by telling us why Jon Stewart isn't around. Last night Oliver explained Stewart "is currently in Moscow, or Ecuador, or on a flight somewhere or has escaped from the National Zoo -- we don't know." That intro set up a later segment tracing not leaky Edward Snowden's travels, but the U.S. ineptitude in getting him back -- Oliver imitated a sad former boyfriend trying to call Hong Kong -- and the television coverage that has been almost entirely based on filling time with maybes. His commonsensical yet outraged response: if you don't know where he is, stop guessing!

Michael Douglas, Kitsch and Depth: Soderbergh's 'Behind the Candelabra'

  • By Caryn James
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  • May 21, 2013 12:45 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Despite the earnest pr spin surrounding it, Behind the Candelabra invites us to laugh at - not always with - the grinning, gaudy Vegas spectacle that is Liberace. But Michael Douglas' performance is also deep, sympathetic and brilliant, an act of impeccable mimicry that reveals the essence of a man defined by his fame as surely as he is encased in his spangled tux. The wonder of Steven Soderbergh's hugely entertaining film is that it beautifully walks the line between hilarious kitsch and character study.

Seth and Stefon's Big SNL Wedding, and Iran's Reply to Argo (Video)

  • By Caryn James
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  • May 19, 2013 11:35 AM
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Stefon -- the guide to New York's hottest, most twisted clubs - was never my favorite Bill Hader character, but he grew on me. And since last night's SNL was Hader's last, it was inevitable that Stefon would pop up on Weekend Update. But who could have guessed that, tired of his unrequited love for Seth Meyers, Stefon would leave to marry another man, only to have Meyers run after him like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate? Take a look at Stefon's big wedding, with Amy Poehler and Anderson Cooper.

Al Pacino, 'Phil Spector,' and Media Justice

  • By Caryn James
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  • March 21, 2013 9:12 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The gigantic frizzed-out wig on Al Pacino's head might be enough to make you curious about Phil Spector, the new HBO drama written and directed by David Mamet. In a multitude of wigs as conspicuously creepy as the actual Spector's, Pacino plays the fantastically successful music producer and reputed loony-tunes guy convicted of the 2007 murder in his home of Hollywood wannabe and club hostess Lana Clarkson. The first question the film raise isn't about the murder though. It's an issue that comes up with both Pacino and with Mamet today: are you getting the good or the evil twin? Pacino the actor who can still dazzle, or the over-the-top sputtering blowhard? Mamet the disciplined writer of The Untouchables and Glengarry Glen Ross or the self-indulgent filmmaker (The Winslow Boy) who dictates that everyone to speak in artificial, terse Mamet-talk?

Justin Timberlake's All-Star, All-Good SNL (Video)

  • By Caryn James
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  • March 10, 2013 12:13 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Justin Timberlake was totally aware of the high expectations for his hosting gig on SNL - "Thank you, Internet," he said during the monologue - but there was no need to worry. He was so on, he even gave just the right sly, I-know-it's-hokey reading to the line "Five Timers Club" when announcing his membership as a five-time host.

Stephen Colbert Asks James Franco, 'Are You a Fraud?'

  • By Caryn James
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  • March 6, 2013 11:06 AM
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  • 2 Comments
James Franco has taken on one of his most mainstream roles in the new Disney film, 'Oz the Great and Powerful'; nothing is more mainstream than Disney. (You can read my review here.) But his entire career still has the shape of wide-ranging performance art -- and with a lot more focus, Stephen Colbert's on-screen right-wing persona has so overshadowed the "real" Colbert that the character can be considered one of the most successful, long-running pieces of performance art of all time. So consider the many layers of reality and artifice when Colbert asks Franco, the professor-filmmaker-writer-actor-whatever: "Are you a fraud?"

Watch Justin Timberlake's 'SNL' Promo

  • By Caryn James
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  • March 6, 2013 11:05 AM
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  • 1 Comment
I don't believe in jinxes, so I'll flat-out say that nothing is a safer bet for fantastic television than Justin Timberlake hosting 'Saturday Night Live'. He's back this week, and even his promos are better than SNL's usually are (better than some of the sketches lately.)

Review: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Stoppard and HBO's Dreamy 'Parade's End'

  • By Caryn James
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  • February 26, 2013 9:07 AM
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  • 0 Comments
In Part 3 of HBO’s lyrical, nuanced, romantic and tough-minded World War I era series, Parade’s End, the aloof Sylvia Tietjens says of her aristocratic husband, “Christopher is the last decent man in England. How dare they put their knives into him – he’s mine.” By then we know that she is not simply complaining that Christopher’s colleagues in the British government have turned on him; she is saying the he is hers to manipulate and torture in an endless dance of love and hate. This is the most fun we’ve had with Edwardians since Downton Abbey.

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