NPR: David Edelstein

David Edelstein is a film critic for New York magazine and for NPR's Fresh Air, and an occasional commentator on film for CBS Sunday Morning. He has also written film criticism for the Village Voice, The New York Post, and Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section.

A member of the National Society of Film Critics, he is the author of the play Blaming Mom, and the co-author of Shooting to Kill (with producer Christine Vachon).

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12:04pm

Fri March 8, 2013
Movies

'Oz': Neither Great Nor Powerful

Originally published on Fri March 8, 2013 1:34 pm

James Franco stars as the Wizard of Oz before the Wizard meets Dorothy in Oz the Great and Powerful.
Walt Disney Pictures

Oz the Great and Powerful. Say that name aloud and you will smile, I guarantee you: It will conjure up so many images, characters, actors, songs. Then hold that smile as long as you can, because you won't be doing much smiling at the movie called Oz the Great and Powerful, the so-called "prequel" to The Wizard of Oz from Disney Studios.

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2:26pm

Fri March 1, 2013
Movie Reviews

A Disappointing Thriller Channels Hitchcock And Bram 'Stoker'

Nicole Kidman (left) and Mia Wasikowska star as Evelyn and India Stoker in Park Chan-wook's new thriller.
Macall Polay Fox Searchlight Pictures

Stoker has a ripely decadent, creepy-crawly feel that would have gotten under my skin if the tone weren't so arch and the people so ghoulishly remote. It's like a bad Strindberg play with added splatter. But director Park Chan-wook certainly works to make you uncomfortable. Take the early shot in which the teenage girl protagonist, India Stoker, played by Mia Wasikowska, sits in a meadow and muses in voiceover on the subject of free will versus destiny. She says, "Just as a flower doesn't choose its color, so we don't choose what we are going to be" — while draining a blister.

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1:09pm

Fri February 8, 2013
Movie Reviews

'Caesar' Comes Alive In An Italian Prison

Brutus (Salvatore Striano) fixes a wild stare at the witnesses and conspirators after Julius Caesar's murder, in a scene from Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's Caesar Must Die.
Adopt Films

In the early '80s, Italy's Taviani brothers, Paolo and Vittorio, made one of the true modern masterpieces, The Night of the Shooting Stars. Set in the last days of World War II, when Germans laid mines all over Tuscan villages and Fascists loyal to Mussolini killed their own countrymen, it was a very cruel film.

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10:20am

Fri February 1, 2013
Movies

'Gatekeepers' Let Us Inside Israeli Security

Originally published on Fri February 1, 2013 10:24 am

The documentary The Gatekeepers examines Israeli security policy in interviews with six former heads of the secretive Shin Bet agency.
Sony Pictures Classics

The Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers centers on Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but from an unusual vantage — not the Palestinians or Israelis on the ground, but six men at the pinnacle of the country's security apparatus: the former heads of the security agency Shin Bet.

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12:06pm

Fri January 18, 2013
Movies

'Mama': A Good Old-Fashioned Horror Movie

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 1:29 pm

Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and her sister, Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), are near-feral orphans in the horror thriller Mama.
Universal Pictures

I was weaned on horror movies and love them inordinately, but the genre has gone to the dogs — and to the muscle-bound werewolves, hormonal vampires, flesh-eating zombies, machete-wielding psychos, etc. It's also depressing how most modern horror pictures have unhappy nihilist endings in which everyone dies and the demons pop back up, unvanquished — partly because studios think happy endings are too soft, but mostly because they need their monsters for so-called franchises.

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12:28pm

Fri November 23, 2012
Movie Reviews

A Boy, A Boat, A Tiger: Reflecting On 'Life Of Pi'

Originally published on Fri November 23, 2012 1:54 pm

Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) begins a journey of personal growth and spiritual discovery after being lost at sea.
20th Century Fox

Director Ang Lee has a surprising affinity for the Indian hero of Life of Pi — that's his name, Pi, and he's seen at several ages but principally as a 17-year-old boy adrift on a lifeboat in the South Pacific. He's the lone survivor of a shipwreck that killed the crew, his family and a variety of zoo animals his father was transporting to North America for sale.

Actually, Pi is the lone human survivor. He shares his boat and its dwindling food supplies with a man-eating Bengal tiger.

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12:33pm

Fri November 16, 2012
Movie Reviews

In 'Silver Linings Playbook,' Lawrence Is Golden

Originally published on Fri November 16, 2012 3:14 pm

Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker also help round out a team of actors who score a touchdown with the critics.
The Weinstein Co.

The best thing about David O. Russell is that he cultivates his disequilibrium. In Silver Linings Playbook, his hero is disturbed and his heroine possibly more so, and his other characters have a grip on reality that is only marginally more secure. Russell might have made them seem the dreaded "q" word — quirky — and OK, he does, a bit, at the end, which broadly conforms to the rom-com template. But until then, Bradley Cooper's Pat Solatano is someone you'd be less likely to dream about than get a restraining order against.

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11:53am

Fri November 9, 2012
Movie Reviews

Historical, Fictional Icons Take To The Big Screen

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 1:52 pm

Daniel Craig stars as the quintessential MI6 agent, James Bond, in Skyfall. The Bond franchise is 50 years old this year.
Francois Duhamel Sony Pictures

Two icons, Abraham Lincoln and James Bond, make triumphant appearances this week in movies with more in common than you'd expect. True, Lincoln is a titan of history, liberator of slaves, and as such an adversary of Western colonialism, while 007 is an outlandish stereotype embodying white male Western authoritarian power. But the makers of these films do a sterling job of testing their respective subjects in front of our eyes — before pronouncing them fit to carry on in our collective imagination.

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2:43pm

Fri October 26, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Cloud Atlas': You're Better Off Reading The Book

Zachry and Meronym are only two of the combined 12 characters Tom Hanks and Halle Berry play in Cloud Atlas. It is a challenge that bests both actors, according to David Edelstein.
Jay Maidment Warner Bros.

First I need to talk about the book, because it's not as if Cloud Atlas the movie came from nowhere — and if you think it's only the movie you want to know about, I think you need a context for what's onscreen.

Author David Mitchell writes exquisite pastiches, and Cloud Atlas is in the form of six distinct and enthralling novellas set in six different eras with six different literary styles.

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10:51am

Fri October 19, 2012
Movie Reviews

'The Sessions': Sex, Comedy And Something More

Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 10:53 pm

Living most of his life in an iron lung forces Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) to see the world from a different point of view.
Fox Searchlight

In 1983, Berkeley poet and journalist Mark O'Brien wrote an article about sexual surrogates — women and men trained to help people with disabilities learn to use their bodies to give themselves and others erotic pleasure.

For O'Brien, the subject wasn't academic. After a bout of childhood polio, he had spent much of his life in an iron lung. He could talk, and tap out words on a typewriter holding a stick in his mouth. He could feel things below the neck. But he couldn't move his muscles.

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12:38pm

Fri October 12, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Argo': Too Good To Be True, Because It Isn't

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 1:01 pm

CIA agents Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) and Jack O'Donnell (Bryan Cranston) plan a risky mission to save six Americans trapped in Iran.
Claire Folger Warner Bros. Pictures

Ben Affleck's Argo is two-two-TWO movies in one, and while neither is especially original, by merging them Affleck pulls off a coup. First, he gives you espionage with the You Are There zing of a documentary. Then he serves up broad showbiz satire. For his final feat, he blends the two into a pulse-pounding nail-biter of a climax. And this all really happened. Most of it. Except for that climax.

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2:10pm

Fri October 5, 2012
Movie Reviews

At College, A 'Pitch Perfect' Musical Comedy

Originally published on Tue October 16, 2012 5:23 pm

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Actress Anna Kendrick was nominated for an Academy Award for her supporting role in "Up in the Air." Now she stars in the film musical, "Pitch Perfect," in which she plays a college freshman who reluctantly joins the school's illustrious all-female a cappella group. Director Jason Moore is best known for his work on the satirical Broadway musical, "Avenue Q." Film critic David Edelstein has this review of "Pitch Perfect."

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4:12pm

Thu September 27, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Looper': Time-Travel Nonsense, Winningly Played

Old Joe (Bruce Willis) and his younger self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), two iterations of the same assassin, play a particularly personal game of cat and mouse in the time-travel thriller Looper.
Alan Markfield Sony Pictures

I adore time-travel pictures like Looper no matter how idiotic, especially when they feature a Love That Transcends Time. I love Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, The Time Traveler's Wife, even The Lake House with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in different years sending letters through a magic mailbox. So terrible. So good. See, everyone wants to correct mistakes in hindsight, and it's the one thing we cannot do. Except vicariously, in movies.

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11:34am

Fri September 21, 2012
Movie Reviews

The Art Of Preserving A High School 'Wallflower'

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 12:57 pm

Charlie (Logan Lerman), Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) navigate the joys and pains of high school in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
John Bramley Summit Entertainment

The hero of both the novel and the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a high school freshman loner named Charlie whose best friend committed suicide the previous spring. He's on psychiatric meds, lots of them, and still has blackouts and mysterious visions of a doting aunt who died when he was 7.

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1:10pm

Fri September 14, 2012
Movie Reviews

'The Master': Filling A Void By Finding A Family

Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 1:45 pm

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Navy veteran Freddie Quell in The Master.
Phil Bray The Weinstein Company

Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is both feverish and glacial. The vibe is chilly, but the central character is an unholy mess — and his rage saturates every frame. He's a World War II South Pacific vet named Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix to the hilt — the hilt above the hilt. We meet him at war's end on a tropical beach where he and other soldiers seek sexual relief atop the figure of a woman made out of sand.

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1:21pm

Fri September 7, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Bachelorette' Sounds Dark Comedic Depths

Originally published on Fri September 7, 2012 1:55 pm

Party Animals: Lizzy Caplan (from left), Isla Fisher and Kirsten Dunst play the brazen bridesmaids who make trouble for bride-to-be Becky (Rebel Wilson) in Bachelorette.
Radius-TWC

Long before Bridesmaids convinced studio executives that a raunchy, female-centric comedy could find a huge audience, Leslye Headland was busy adapting her play Bachelorette into a movie. So this isn't a copycat rom-com, but the themes do overlap. Each film turns on a female rivalry: In Bridesmaids, it's between the maid of honor, Kristen Wiig, and the bride's rich friend, played by Rose Byrne. In Bachelorette, the rivalry is more complicated, more ... ugly. It's between the three, 30-ish, unmarried central characters and the bride.

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1:03pm

Wed August 8, 2012
Movie Reviews

Sixty And Sexless, But 'Hope Springs' Eternal

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 2:58 pm

In Hope Springs, Kay (Meryl Streep) forces Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) into a week of couples therapy after she gets tired of — among other things — sleeping in separate bedrooms.
Barry Wetcher Sony Pictures

The last time my 14-year-old daughter saw me and my wife being affectionate, she said, "Ewwww, old people kissing." Now, I'm not so old — barely half a century. But let's be frank. My daughter's no different from many people whose objects of fantasy are young and freakishly fit. So even a mild, cutesy little comedy like Hope Springs about two sexagenarians trying to have sex can seem shocking, even transgressive.

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12:06pm

Fri July 27, 2012
Movie Reviews

Two Films Shoot Past Realism To Weirder Territory

Originally published on Fri July 27, 2012 3:12 pm

A Dallas hard-luck case (Emile Hirsch, left) hires a corrupt cop (Matthew McConaughey) to kill his estranged mother when he hears about her rich insurance policy. Needless to say, the plot of Killer Joe doesn't quite work out as planned.
Skip Bolen LD Entertainment

Amid the slapstick comedies, sequels and superhero movies that have come to define summer moviegoing, two films opening today center on disturbed and disturbing romantic ties. Ruby Sparks and Killer Joe aren't fantasy or horror pictures, but they're within screaming distance — close enough to remind you how much deeper artists go when they barrel past realism into weirder areas of the psyche.

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5:55pm

Wed July 18, 2012
Movie Reviews

As Class Warfare Brews, A 'Dark Knight Rises'

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 11:54 am

The Dark Knight Rises begins eight years after The Dark Knight, with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) living a reclusive life at his mansion alongside Alfred (Michael Caine). The movie is the finale of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.
Ron Phillips Warner Bros. Pictures

The canvas is epic, the themes are profound, the execution is ... clunky. Welcome to Christopher Nolan's third and allegedly final Batman picture, The Dark Knight Rises — that so-called rising taking hours, by the way. No Batman film ever had less Batman.

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5:03pm

Thu July 12, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Margaret': The Tortured Journey Of A Girl, On Screen

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 12:56 pm

Sarah Steele, Anna Paquin and Matthew Broderick in Margaret. The DVD release of Kenneth Lonergan's long-delayed second film includes the theatrical version and an extended 186-minute cut.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

"A fiasco with a great first half" is what I called Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret when it was dumped in one New York theater last fall, five years after it was shot, amid a legal battle between Lonergan and a producer.

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11:06am

Fri July 6, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Savages:' A Violent, Drug-Induced High

Originally published on Fri July 6, 2012 11:57 am

In Savages, the love triangle among Chon (Taylor Kitsch), O (Blake Lively) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) is disrupted when O is kidnapped by a Mexican cartel.
Francois Duhamel Universal Studios

Often I'm asked, "What's the worst movie ever made?" and I say, "I don't know, but my own least favorite is Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers." The early script by Quentin Tarantino was heavily revised, and the final film became a celebration of serial killers, now existential heroes with absolute freedom. Beyond the bombardment that was Stone's direction, the worldview was abominable.

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5:03pm

Thu June 28, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Beasts': Taking Southern Folklore To The Next Level

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 3:58 pm

Hushpuppy, the 6-year-old at the center of Beasts of the Southern Wild, is played by Quvenzhane Wallis, who was found by director Benh Zeitlin in a Louisiana elementary school.
Fox Searchlight

The parents of director Benh Zeitlin are folklorists, which is as good a way as any to account for the ambitions of his first feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild. The film is a mythic odyssey laced with modern ecological anxieties, captured in a free-form, image-driven narrative that recalls Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. It's clear from the outset that Zeitlin aims to take the family folklore business to the next level.

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1:29pm

Fri June 22, 2012
Movie Reviews

Pixar's Fast And 'Brave' Female Comedy: 'Delightful'

In Brave, Merida goes in search of a spell to get back at her mother, who wants to force her to marry a suitor.
Disney/Pixar

First, I hate the title, and not because it's an adjective. Notorious, Ravenous, Rabid: great titles. Brave? Generic. And with the poster of a girl with flame-red curls pulling back a bow, it looks like yet another female-warrior saga, another you-go-girl action picture suggesting the biggest injustice to women over the last millennium has been the suppression of their essential warlike natures.

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12:15pm

Fri June 8, 2012
Movie Reviews

In 'Dark Horse,' A Wasted Life Plays Out On Screen

Originally published on Fri June 8, 2012 3:46 pm

In Dark Horse, Abe (Jordan Gelber) and Miranda (Selma Blair) meet at a wedding and start a relationship soon after, though not for the most romantic reasons.
Jojo Whilden

It's tough to get on Todd Solondz's wavelength, but boy is it worth the emotional gyrations. Just when you've decided he has too much contempt for his characters to do more than take cheap shots, he'll shock you with flashes of empathy, insights that cast a revelatory light over what came before. You could never call Solondz a humanist, but he achieves something I've never seen elsewhere: compassionate revulsion.

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10:41am

Fri June 1, 2012
Movie Reviews

A 'Snow White' As Bleak As It Is Grimm

Originally published on Fri June 1, 2012 6:09 pm

Charlize Theron plays Queen Ravenna, who literally sucks the life out of female prisoners to keep herself looking young and vibrant.
Universal Pictures

The ads for Snow White and the Huntsman show a glum Kristen Stewart dressed for battle, obviously playing the huntsman. Hold the phone, she's Snow White. Another storybook heroine turned warrior! Just like the princess in this year's first Snow White picture, Mirror Mirror, who not only goes mano a mano with her patronizing, patriarchal prince, but tells him she's sick of stories in which damsels take their distress lying down.

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11:30am

Fri May 25, 2012
Movie Reviews

A Wes Anderson 'Kingdom' Full Of Beautiful Imagery

Originally published on Fri May 25, 2012 3:11 pm

Edward Norton plays a scoutmaster in search of his lost charge in Wes Anderson's latest film, Moonrise Kingdom.
Focus Features

Many people are rapturous over the work of Wes Anderson, and for them, I expect, Moonrise Kingdom will be nirvana. The frames are quasi-symmetrical: a strong center, often human, with misaligned objects on each side suggesting a universe that's slightly out of balance, like a series of discombobulated dollhouses.

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12:15pm

Wed May 16, 2012
Movie Reviews

'The Dictator' Rules With A Satirist's Fist

Originally published on Wed May 16, 2012 1:30 pm

Sacha Baron Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen, the authoritarian, anti-Semitic and unexpectedly sympathetic protagonist of The Dictator.
Melinda Sue Gordon Paramount Pictures

Many fans will be disappointed that Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator is a more or less conventional comedy and not an ambush-interview mockumentary in the style of Borat and Bruno. But that guerrilla-clown shtick would be tough to sustain: Why not let him try something else? The good news is that The Dictator is loose and slap-happy and full of sharp political barbs and has funny actors moving in and out — and at a lickety-split 83 minutes, it doesn't wear out its welcome.

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12:42pm

Thu May 10, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Dark Shadows': A Vampire Returns, Without His Bite

Originally published on Fri May 11, 2012 10:22 am

After Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) rises from the grave in the 1970s, 200 years after he was imprisoned, he returns to his ancestral home and befriends his descendants, including David Collins (Gully McGrath).
Peter Mountain Warner Brothers Pictures

Two score and four years ago, I'd fly home from fourth grade for the 4 p.m. broadcast of Dark Shadows. In 1968, vampires and werewolves weren't mainstream — the era's horror films mostly played drive-ins — yet here on TV was a daily horror soap opera.

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11:54am

Thu May 3, 2012
Movie Reviews

'The Avengers': A Marvel-Ous Whedonesque Ride

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 6:29 pm

Thor (Chris Hemsworth, left) and Captain America (Chris Evans) join up with Iron Man and the Hulk to save the Earth in The Avengers.
Walt Disney Pictures

Two spheres merge in The Avengers: the Marvel Comics universe and the Whedonverse, fans' name for the nerdy wisecracking existentialist superhero world of writer-director Joss Whedon.

The Whedon cult is smaller but maybe more fervent, inspiring academic conferences on such subjects as free will vs. determinism in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I find a lot of Whedon's banter self-consciously smart-alecky, but I love how he can spoof his subjects without robbing them of stature.

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5:03pm

Thu April 26, 2012
Movie Reviews

A 'Five-Year Engagement' Leaves A Bitter Taste

Originally published on Fri April 27, 2012 9:38 am

Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) celebrate their impending nuptials with their families before Violet drops a bomb: She's been accepted at a program at the University of Michigan, and wants to move there and postpone their wedding day.
Universal Pictures

There are many dramas and comedies in which career trajectories take couples to different corners of the country, complicating or ending romantic relationships. There will be many more, at least until someone invents a teleportation machine. What's different about each work is how the problem gets interpreted.

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