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).

Pages

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

12:29pm

Wed April 18, 2012
Movie Reviews

In 'Monsieur Lazhar,' Grief Lingers In The Classroom

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 12:36 pm

Fellag, an Algerian comedian, plays the title character in the Oscar-nominated Monsieur Lazhar, who steps in to teach a class of middle school students after tragedy has struck their classroom.
Music Box Films

Teacher movies tend to be more alike than unalike, but Monsieur Lazhar makes the familiar unusually strange. The note on which it opens is shocking, tragic: A Montreal middle school student, Simon, enters his classroom ahead of the other kids and finds his teacher hanging from a pipe, dead by her own hand.

Read more

11:14am

Fri April 6, 2012
Movie Reviews

A Sublime, Impressionistic 'Deep Blue Sea'

Rachel Weisz plays the adulterous Lady Hester Collyer in The Deep Blue Sea, turning in a performance as luminous as a Pre-Raphaelite portrait.
Music Box Films

Terence Davies' films aim for and often achieve a state of music, the camerawork in harmony with the soundtrack, the images connected by emotion rather than narrative.

Adapting Terence Rattigan's 1952 play The Deep Blue Sea, he throws out the drama's tidy structure and much of the dialogue, and shows the events through the eyes of the adulterous Lady Hester Collyer, played by Rachel Weisz.

Read more

11:35am

Thu March 22, 2012
Movie Reviews

Acting Trumps Action In A 'Games' Without Horror

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 9:47 am

In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her little sister's place in a killing ritual televised to the masses.
Lionsgate

Suzanne Collins' novel The Hunger Games and its two sequels are smashingly well written and morally problematic. They're set in the future, in which a country β€” presumably the former United States β€” is divided into 12 fenced-off districts many miles apart.

Each year, to remind people of its limitless power, a totalitarian government holds a lottery, selecting two children per district to participate in a killing ritual β€” the Hunger Games of the title β€” that will be televised to the masses, complete with opening ceremonies and beauty-pageant-style interviews.

Read more

2:42pm

Fri March 16, 2012
NPR Story

David Edestein Reviews 'Casa De Mi Padre'

Transcript

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

At age 44, Will Ferrell has played an anchorman, championship NASCAR driver, ice skater, an elf, and George W. Bush. What's his next challenge? Making a movie in which he speaks nothing but Spanish. The Mexican-set action comedy "Casa de mi Padre" is directed by Matt Piedmont, who collaborated with Ferrell on his website Funny Or Die. Film critic David Edelstein has a review.

Read more

5:39pm

Thu March 8, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Friends With' Benefits From Its Complications

In Friends With Kids, Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) play two best friends who decide to have a baby together while keeping their relationship platonic β€” so that the baby doesn't interfere with their own romantic relationships.
JoJo Whilden Roadside Attractions

The premise of Friends with Kids is the stuff of high-concept romantic comedies: Writer-director Jennifer Westfeldt plays Julie, who's at the age when her odds of childbearing lessen each year, and there's no mate in sight. So her best friend, Jason, played by Adam Scott, volunteers to impregnate her.

Read more

11:25am

Fri March 2, 2012
Movie Reviews

'The Lorax': A Campy And Whimsical Seussical

Originally published on Fri March 2, 2012 1:02 pm

The Once-ler (voiced by Ed Helms) and the Lorax (Danny DeVito) are surrounded by bar-ba-loots in Truffula Valley in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.
Universal Pictures

At the far end of town
Where the Grickle-grass grows
And the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows
And no birds ever sing excepting old crows ...
Is the Street of the Lifted Lorax.

Read more

11:43am

Fri February 24, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Wanderlust': A Zany Blast From The Communal Past

Originally published on Fri February 24, 2012 2:15 pm

Orange You Glad We Wound Up Here? George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) play an unemployed Manhattan couple who stumble into a hippie farming commune whose denizens include characters played by Justin Theroux and Alan Alda.
Gemma La Mana Universal PIctures

In sophisticated comedy, what's funny is the tension between proper manners and the nasty or sexy subtext. Whereas in low comedy, there are no manners, and the nasty or sexy subtext is right there on the surface.

And then there's Wanderlust, in which the subtext is blasted through megaphones β€” the characters say so insanely much you want to scream. The satire is as broad as a battleship and equally bombarding. But it takes guts to do a comedy this big without gross-out slapstick, and the writers and the actors are all in.

Read more

4:08pm

Thu February 16, 2012
Movie Reviews

A Veteran's 'Return' To The Front Lines Of Home

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 1:36 pm

Linda Cardellini plays a vet who returns from overseas with no way to make sense of where she was and what it meant in director Liza Johnson's new drama Return.
Dada Films

The coming-home genre is so rife with stock ingredients that first I'd like to tell you what Liza Johnson's very fine drama Return doesn't do. The camera doesn't move in on returning-veteran Kelli, played by Linda Cardellini, as the sound of battle rises and she's back in her head on the front lines. The film doesn't give you what I call the "psychodrama striptease," in which a past trauma is revealed piece by piece until you're finally, at the end, shown the essential bit.

Read more

12:11pm

Thu February 9, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Safe House,' 'Haywire': Watch Them Back To Back

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 12:19 pm

Mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano stars as Mallory Kane, a highly trained covert operative, in a twisty, tautly wrought thriller.
Claudette Barius Relativity Media

The flashy Denzel Washington thriller Safe House will probably gross in a few hours what Steven Soderbergh's Haywire has made in several weeks, but if you like action you ought to catch both back to back. Soderbergh's film is a reaction to the jangled, high-impact style of Safe House and its ilk.

Read more

11:23am

Thu January 26, 2012
Movie Reviews

In 'Albert Nobbs,' Glenn Close Does More Than Pass

Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 1:39 pm

Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close) and Helen (Mia Wasikowska) go on a series of awkward dates in Albert Nobbs, a film based on a 1918 George Moore story.
Patrick Redmond Roadside Attractions

As Albert Nobbs, Glenn Close has hair that's cropped and orangey, and a voice that rarely rises above a nasal croak. She lives and works as a waiter in a high-toned hotel, where she stands with lips pressed together, tight yet tremulous, her searching eyes her only naturally moving parts. She resembles no man I've seen, but no woman, either. She's the personification of fear β€” fear of being discovered to be a woman. Because hers is a society that treats all poor people badly, but poor women worse.

Read more

11:57pm

Thu January 19, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Coriolanus': A People's Hero Turns On His Own

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 12:16 pm

Bare-Knuckle Politics: The battle-hardened Roman general Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes) runs for office at the urging of his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) β€” but it turns out he's no booster of majority rule.
Larry D. Horricks The Weinstein Co.

Ralph Fiennes showed up for a frenzied cameo near the end of Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, and her hand-held, adrenaline-charged approach clearly inspired his film of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, which he both acts and directs the bloody hell out of.

Read more

3:02pm

Thu January 12, 2012
Movie Reviews

An 'Iron Lady' Fully Inhabited By Meryl Streep

Originally published on Fri January 13, 2012 12:12 pm

Meryl Streep (center) stars as Margaret Thatcher in Phyllida Lloyd's biopic about the former prime minister of the United Kingdom.
The Weinstein Co.

I admit I was biased against the Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady. Not, you understand, against Thatcher and her Tory politics. Against Meryl Streep and her accents. Which are great, no doubt. But I went in resolved not to fall for her pyrotechnics yet again. I wanted realism.

Well, it didn't take long to realize that I was watching not only one of the greatest impersonations I'd ever seen β€” but one that was also emotionally real.

Read more

11:46am

Fri January 6, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Extremely Loud' And Incredibly Manipulative

Originally published on Thu February 23, 2012 5:24 pm

A year after his father's death in the World Trade Center, 11-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) sets out on a citywide scavenger hunt to find a missing lock that he hopes will reveal a message from his dad.
Francois Duhamel Warner Bros. Pictures

Some critics are indignant over Stephen Daldry's film of Jonathan Safran Foer's book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. They say the appropriation of Sept. 11 for such a sentimental work is exploitation.

Read more

11:05am

Fri December 16, 2011
Movie Reviews

An 'Impossible' Mission Full Of Fun And Wonder

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his Impossible Mission Force go to great heights to combat the threat of a nuclear confrontation in Mission: Impossible β€” Ghost Protocol.
Paramount Pictures

The fourth Mission: Impossible picture is nonsense from beginning to end β€” and wonderful fun. The director is Brad Bird, of Ratatouille and The Incredibles and The Iron Giant, and there's no doubt now, in his live-action debut, that he's a filmmaker first and an animator second. Part 4, titled Mission: Impossible β€” Ghost Protocol, is in a different league from its predecessors.

Read more

11:17am

Fri December 9, 2011
Movie Reviews

Spies Like Them: 'Tinker, Tailor' And Other Odd Ilk

Originally published on Fri December 9, 2011 1:28 pm

Operative Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) goes undercover in Hungary to find out more about a possible Russian spy within the U.K.'s secret intelligence agency.
Focus Features

Most people will find the first 20 minutes of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy difficult to follow β€” I did, and I've read John le Carre's novel and seen the haunting 1979 BBC miniseries starring Alec Guinness, although decades ago.

The movie is chopped up into short scenes featuring people we don't know working for a circus β€” what? β€” and for someone called "C," and talking about a woman called Karla? Meanwhile, the star, Gary Oldman, doesn't say a word for the first 18 minutes.

Read more

12:23pm

Fri December 2, 2011
Movie Reviews

For Fassbender, Two Perspectives On The Perils Of Sex

Fassbender's Carl Jung β€” Sigmund Freud's protege β€” struggles to reconcile theory and practice in A Dangerous Method.
Sony Pictures Classics

The Irish actor Michael Fassbender stars in two current films that revolve around the perils of sex β€” which means you see him have a lot, so he'll have something to regret.

You know how the sex will play out in Shame, because of, well, the title. Fassbender plays a sex addict, Brandon Sullivan, born in Ireland, raised in New Jersey, and he seems to work in advertising, which is unfortunate since he resembles Mad Men's John Hamm.

Read more

1:42pm

Wed November 23, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Hugo:' A Dazzling 3-D Display Of Movie Magic

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 12:53 pm

Orphan Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield and his vivacious new friend Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) marvel at the magic of the motion picture in Hugo.
Jaap Buitendijk Paramount Pictures

In Hugo, Martin Scorsese has hired himself a bunch of A-plus-list artists and techies, and together they've crafted a deluxe, gargantuan train-set of a movie in which the director and his 3-D camera can whisk and whizz and zig and zag and show off all his expensive toys β€” and wax lyrical on the magic of movies.

The source is Brian Selznick's illustrated novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which takes place in 1930 and centers on an orphaned 12-year-old, played in the film by Asa Butterfield, who lives in a flat in the bowels of the Paris station.

Read more

7:58pm

Thu November 17, 2011
Movie Reviews

'The Descendants': In Paradise, A Stranger To Himself

Island Son: George Clooney (left, with Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller) navigates tricky territory as a Hawaii man whose wife is on life support.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Writer-director Alexander Payne is either the American cinema's most acerbic humanist or its most empathetic jerk. Whichever it is, the protagonists of the novels he adapts are outsiders who pay an emotional price for their sense of superiority.

Payne's The Descendants is his first film to be told from the perspective of a person of privilege, but real-estate lawyer Matt King (George Clooney) is the ultimate outsider: a stranger to his family and his lifelong home, Hawaii.

Read more

12:10pm

Fri November 11, 2011
Movie Reviews

As The World Ends, A Certain 'Melancholia' Sets In

Kirsten Dunst's well-planned wedding takes place as a planet called Melancholia heads directly towards Earth.
Magnolia Pictures

Metaphors don't come balder than the one at the center of Lars von Trier's Melancholia. It's both the emotional state of the protagonist Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, and also the name of a small planet on what might be a collision course with Earth. Actually, it does strike Earth in a lyrical, eight-minute, slow-motion prelude, but there's no way to know if that's real or a dream. Of course, the whole film can be taken as a dream, a bad but gorgeous one scored to the same few bars of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde.

Read more

1:54am

Fri November 4, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Crazy' In Love, And Feeling Every Moment Of It

In Drake Doremus's drama Like Crazy, the lovestruck Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) are forced to separate when Anna violates the terms of her student visa.
Fred Hayes Paramount Vantage

Movies are often about falling in love and sometimes falling out of love, but the best for my money are about falling in and out of love in a way you'd need a higher order of physics to graph. That higher physicist could start with Drake Doremus's drama Like Crazy, which evokes as well as any film I've seen the now loopy, now jagged flow from infatuation to intoxication to addiction to withdrawal to re-addiction. It's not an especially deep or psychological movie. It's just crazy painful.

Read more

11:19am

Fri October 28, 2011
Movie Reviews

Shakespeare, Thompson: Stick To The Print Versions

Rhys Ifans plays the Elizabethan aristocrat Edward de Vere in Roland Emmerich's Anonymous. The movie speculates that de Vere, not Shakespeare, was the real author of the bard's works.

Reiner Bajo Columbia Pictures

Two new films show how tough it is to do justice to good writers on-screen. Johnny Depp certainly means to do right by his pal Hunter S. Thompson in The Rum Diary. He played Thompson in Terry Gilliam's rollicking but not especially watchable Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and narrated a documentary about him.

Read more

6:02pm

Thu October 20, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Margin Call': A Movie Occupied With Wall Street

Kevin Spacey gives "a major performance, his best in a decade," as a Wall Street executive trying to do the right thing in the middle of a financial panic.

JoJo Whiden Roadside Attractions

The timing is almost too good: a terrific Wall Street melodrama at the moment the Occupy Wall Street protests are building. We haven't seen the like since Three Mile Island had a near-meltdown a couple of days after The China Syndrome exploded into theaters. Now, Margin Call seems anything but marginal.

Read more

5:30pm

Thu October 13, 2011
Movie Reviews

Almodovar Gets Under The 'Skin,' But How Deeply?

Originally published on Fri October 14, 2011 3:54 pm

Vera (Elena Anaya) is both patient and obsession for plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), who is bent on creating a synthetic skin that can resist any kind of damage.

Sony Pictures Classics

At festivals and in interviews, Pedro Almodovar is such a furry cuddle bear that it's possible to forget what a perverse filmmaker he can be β€” that is, until you watch something like his nasty new gender-bent Frankenstein picture, The Skin I Live In. It's a self-conscious, madly ambitious work, rife with allusions to countless other films. But does it have a soul? I couldn't detect one amid all its borrowed tropes.

Read more

12:10pm

Fri June 17, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Buck': A Horse Whisperer Wrangles His Dark Past

As a child, Buck Brannaman was badly abused by his father. Cindy Meehl's documentary, Buck, tells the story of how Brannaman overcame his troubled childhood and become the inspiration for the book and movie The Horse Whisperer.
Emily Knight IFC Films

Our therapeutic culture is lousy with stories of people struggling to spin childhood traumas into something positive, something that leaves the world a better place than the one that damaged them; but I've never seen a film in which the link between a trauma and its transmutation is as vivid as in Buck.

Read more

6:10pm

Thu June 9, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Super 8': Close Encounters Of The 'E.T.' Kind

'Super' 4: Gabriel Basso (left), Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths play teenagers shooting a homemade movie when a spectacular crash draws them into a world they weren't supposed to know about.
Francois Duhamel Paramount Pictures

It would be easy to malign J.J. Abrams's Super 8 as a shameless ripoff of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and Jurassic Park β€” that is, if Abrams didn't rekindle at least some of the excitement of seeing those films way back when.

We didn't just consume Close Encounters and E.T. like so much disposable pop culture. We were dazzled by a new mode of storytelling, accessible to all and yet personal and pure, the product of one visionary dreamer.

Read more

5:18pm

Thu June 2, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Beginners': A Marvelously Inventive Comedy

MΓ©lanie Laurent plays Ewan McGregor's whimsical partner Anna in Beginners.
Focus Features

There's a genre of romantic comedy perfected by Woody Allen in Annie Hall that, when done right, can make you feel not just happy but liberated. It's philosophical and free-form, jumping around in time, indulging in flights of fantasy like a first-person comic novel.

Read more

5:01pm

Thu May 26, 2011
Movie Reviews

'The Tree Of Life': A Creation Trip Worth Taking

Part creation epic and part family drama, The Tree of Life stars Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt as the parents of three boys in the '50s. Critic David Edelstein says Terrence Malick's film is self-indulgent β€” but that some selves are better indulged than others.
Merie Wallace Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Tree of Life is Terrence Malick's big one β€” part creation epic, part Oedipal family drama, an answer to Kubrick's 2001 and maybe Paradise Lost. Malick's films all touch on Eden, the natural world into which humans are born, and the Fall, marked by male aggression as well as the soulless aspects of civilization.

Read more

6:36pm

Thu May 19, 2011
Movie Reviews

A 'Paris' Review: Woody Allen, In Fine Form

Owen Wilson, playing the time-traveling hero Gil, wants to write novels instead of movies, much to the horror of his fiancee Inez, played by Rachel McAdams.
Roger Arpajou Sony Picture Classics

Woody Allen isn't religious, but he has a rabbinical side, and over the last decade his films have become more and more like Talmudic parables for atheists. On the surface, these movies are streamlined, even breezy, and they often have voice-over narration to get the pesky exposition out of the way fast. Philosophically, Allen has settled on resignation, a cosmic shrug: There's no God, no justice, people are inconstant, life is meaningless β€” so where do you wanna eat?

Read more

Pages