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
10:30 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 10:42 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
9:03 am
Mon April 22, 2013

Tom Cruise's Latest Headed For 'Oblivion'

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 8:05 am

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

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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Movie Reviews
8:48 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 10:17 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
8:57 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 11:39 am

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
10:59 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
8:43 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 2:37 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
9:04 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 10:34 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
11:26 am
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
8:53 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 10:09 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
7:24 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
9:32 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 10:29 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
9:28 am
Fri November 23, 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 10:54 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
9:33 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 12:14 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
8:53 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 10:52 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
11:43 am
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
7:51 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 7:53 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
9:38 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 10:01 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
11:10 am
Fri October 5, 2012

At College, A 'Pitch Perfect' Musical Comedy

Originally published on Tue October 16, 2012 2:23 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
1:12 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
8:33 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 9:57 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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