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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Movie Reviews
10:01 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Two New Stories With A New-Wave Vibe

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their roles as Jesse and Celine in Before Midnight, the latest in Richard Linklater's series about a couple's relationship over the years.
Despina Spyrou Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 10:31 am

Lately I've been re-watching vintage Truffaut movies, and I've been struck by the resurgent influence on American independent films of the French New Wave of the late '50s and '60s.

The Truffaut borrowings are fairly explicit in Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha, while Richard Linklater's Before Midnight takes its cues from Eric Rohmer's gentle but expansive talkfests. That's not a criticism: With mainstream movies seeming ever more machine-tooled nowadays, the impulse to reach back to an age of free-form filmmaking feels especially liberating.

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Movie Reviews
10:16 am
Thu May 16, 2013

'Into Darkness,' Boldly And With A Few Twists

Zoe Saldana is Uhura and Zachary Quinto is Spock in the new J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek: Into Darkness, the 12th installment in the franchise.
Zade Rosenthal Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 12:04 pm

Before I tell you about J.J. Abrams' second Star Trek film, with its youngish new Starship Enterprise crew, let me say that just because I've seen every episode of the original Star Trek and of The Next Generation, and most of the spinoff series, and every movie, I'm not a Trekkie — meaning someone who goes to conventions or speaks Klingon or greets people with a Vulcan salute.

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Movie Reviews
9:41 am
Fri May 3, 2013

'Iron Man 3': Tony Stark As Homebrew Hero

In Iron Man 3, Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), and Gwyneth Paltrow reprises hers as his girlfriend, Pepper Potts.
Paramout Pictures

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 2:01 pm

The third time might be the charm for some things, but the number three after a movie title is typically shorthand for a deal with the devil.

The studio thinks there's more money to be squeezed from a particular property, and voila: Spider-Man 3, Superman III, The Godfather — God help us — Part III. OK, The Godfather's a special case. Most other threes, though, are what happens when a too-thin plot meets a too-fat budget.

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Movie Reviews
10:39 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Two Indie Directors Go Confidently Mainstream

In Ramin Bahrani's At Any Price, Zac Efron stars as a teen rebelling against his family and dreaming of becoming a professional race car driver. Sound like a generic summer pic? Critic David Edelstein says the film has "a hell of a sting in its tail."
Hooman Bahrani Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 11:42 am

Studios are putting most of their eggs in $100 million baskets these days, even as American independent filmmakers go hungry from lack of mainstream attention. But two of my favorite American indie writer-directors, Jeff Nichols and Ramin Bahrani, have new films with bigger stars than they've had before — films they hope will break through to wider audiences. The results, at least artistically, are impressive.

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Movie Reviews
10:03 am
Mon April 22, 2013

Tom Cruise's Latest Headed For 'Oblivion'

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 9:05 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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Movie Reviews
9:48 am
Fri April 12, 2013

Terrence Malick And Every Man's Journey 'To The Wonder'

Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck play two lovers in Terence Malick's latest film, To The Wonder.
Mary Cybulski Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri April 12, 2013 11:17 am

The voiceovers from Terrence Malick's To the Wonder, which has a lot of them, are intoned on the soundtrack while the characters stare into sunrises or sunsets — whenever the light is right, what cinematographers call, "the magic hour." This film and Malick's last, The Tree of Life, suggest that he's evolved into a blend of director and Christian minister: These are psalms writ on film.

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Movie Reviews
9:57 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Going 'Mental' And Enjoying The Ride

Shaz (Toni Collette), a hotheaded stranger new to the Australian town of Dolphin Heads, becomes the unlikely answer to a local politician's problems when she steps in to nanny his children.
Dada Films

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 12:39 pm

Mental is madder than madcap. I heard one critic sniff, "It's kind of broad" — and, Your Honor, the defense agrees! But if broad means "unsubtle," it doesn't have to mean "unreal." Mental makes most other movies seem boringly, misleadingly sane.

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Movie Reviews
11:59 am
Fri March 22, 2013

With Vengeance And Violence, 'Olympus Has Fallen' Flat

Aaron Eckhart and Ashley Judd as the president and first lady in Olympus Has Fallen.
Phil Caruso Millennium Films

What surprises me about the ongoing discussion of violence in cinema and whether it influences violence in the real world is how people fail to engage with the male fantasy behind these films. There's a template for them, a theme; it hinges on violation and vengeance. A seminal action picture of the last 50 years is 1988's Die Hard, in which a lone male cop operates behind the scenes after an ingeniously orchestrated foreign attack on American soil. He's symbolically emasculated — he has no gun or even shoes, his wife is now going by her maiden name.

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Movie Reviews
9:43 am
Fri March 15, 2013

Three New Films Examine What It Means When Girls Act Out

Ginger & Rosa (starring Alice Englert and Elle Fanning) was directed by Sally Potter, who is perhaps best known for her 1992 film Orlando.
Sally Potter

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 3:37 pm

In the '60s, some fervent rock groupies formed a band called the GTOs — short for "Girls Together Outrageously" — and while it didn't last, the name captures the impulse behind stories in which women chafe against the male-centric society that pulls their strings. This week you can see a girls-together-outrageously triple bill: Spring Breakers, Ginger & Rosa and Beyond the Hills.

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Movies
10:04 am
Fri March 8, 2013

'Oz': Neither Great Nor Powerful

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

Originally published on Fri March 8, 2013 11:34 am

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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Movie Reviews
12:26 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

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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Movie Reviews
9:53 am
Fri February 8, 2013

'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

Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 11:09 am

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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Movie Reviews
8:24 am
Fri February 1, 2013

'Gatekeepers' Let Us Inside Israeli Security

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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Movies
10:32 am
Fri January 18, 2013

'Mama': A Good Old-Fashioned Horror Movie

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

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 11:29 am

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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Movie Reviews
12:52 pm
Fri December 14, 2012

Looking For Bin Laden In 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Stationed in a covert base overseas, Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a member of the elite team of spies and military operatives who secretly devote themselves to finding Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty.
Jonathan Olley Sony Pictures

Kathryn Bigelow's kill-bin-Laden thriller Zero Dark Thirty is cool, brisk and packed with impressively real-sounding intelligence jargon. It presents itself as a work of journalism — just the facts, ma'am — but there's no doubting its perspective. It's the story of America's brilliant, righteous revenge.

The prologue is a black screen with sounds of Sept. 11: a hubbub of confusion and then, most terribly, the voice of a woman crying out to a 911 operator who tries vainly to assure her she'll be OK. The recording is genuine.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 22, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Fri November 23, 2012 11:54 am

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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Movie Reviews
10:33 am
Fri November 16, 2012

In 'Silver Linings Playbook,' Lawrence Is Golden

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

Originally published on Fri November 16, 2012 1:14 pm

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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Movie Reviews
9:53 am
Fri November 9, 2012

Historical, Fictional Icons Take To The Big Screen

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

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 11:52 am

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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Movie Reviews
12:43 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

'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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Movie Reviews
8:51 am
Fri October 19, 2012

'The Sessions': Sex, Comedy And Something More

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

Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 8:53 pm

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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Movie Reviews
10:38 am
Fri October 12, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 11:01 am

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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Movie Reviews
11:56 am
Fri October 5, 2012

At College, A 'Pitch Perfect' Musical Comedy

Originally published on Tue October 16, 2012 3:23 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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Movie Reviews
2:12 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

'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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Movie Reviews
9:21 am
Fri September 21, 2012

The Art Of Preserving A High School 'Wallflower'

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

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 10:57 am

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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Movie Reviews
11:45 am
Fri September 14, 2012

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

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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Movie Reviews
11:21 am
Fri September 7, 2012

'Bachelorette' Sounds Dark Comedic Depths

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

Originally published on Fri September 7, 2012 11:55 am

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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Movie Reviews
11:03 am
Wed August 8, 2012

Sixty And Sexless, But 'Hope Springs' Eternal

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

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 12:58 pm

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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Movie Reviews
10:22 am
Fri July 27, 2012

Two Films Shoot Past Realism To Weirder Territory

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

Originally published on Fri July 27, 2012 1:12 pm

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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Movie Reviews
3:55 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

As Class Warfare Brews, A 'Dark Knight Rises'

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

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 9:54 am

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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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 10:56 am

"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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