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
11:52 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Undead Hipsters And An Abstract Alien Star In Two Arty Horror Pics

In Under The Skin, Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who adopts an English accent and cruises Scotland enticing hitchhikers into a darkened building.
Film4

Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 12:20 pm

Every so often a high-toned arthouse director dips a toe into the horror genre and the results are uplifting: You realize vampires and space aliens are subjects too rich to be the sole property of schlockmeisters. That's the case with two new arty genre pictures: Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin and Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive — both slow, expressionist, non-narrative, the kind of films that drive some people crazy with boredom and put others in their thrall.

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Movie Reviews
9:11 am
Fri March 28, 2014

In 'Noah,' Earth And The Bible Get A Computer-Generated Reboot

Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 12:20 pm

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Darren Aronofsky had a surprise hit in 2010 with "Black Swan," which won an Oscar for its star, Natalie Portman. His latest film, "Noah," is a big budget Bible epic based on the story of Noah's Ark. Russell Crowe plays the title character, and the movie also features Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson.

Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

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Movie Reviews
8:13 am
Fri March 21, 2014

'Nymphomaniac': Chasing Sex, But Only On Her Terms

Felicity Gilbert, Shia LaBeouf and Stacy Martin in one of the episodic flashbacks that spin out the story of Nymphomaniac: Volume I.
Christian Geisnaes Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 12:09 pm

Lars von Trier's latest provocation is an episodic sexual epic called Nymphomaniac, which comes in two two-hour parts, or "volumes," though it's basically one movie sliced in half. The thinking must have been, "Who wants four hours of hardcore sex and philosophizing?," and if you say, "Me, me!," I suggest seeing both back to back: It's an art-house orgy!

Should you see it at all? I recommend it guardedly. It's dumb, but in a bold, ambitious way movies mostly aren't these days, especially when there's sex in the equation. And it's funny, sometimes intentionally.

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Movie Reviews
2:02 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

'Grand Budapest Hotel': Kitsch, Cameos And A Gloriously Stylized Europe

Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave H., a hotel concierge given to bedding his elderly guests, in Wes Anderson's latest film.
Bob Yeoman Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 2:46 pm

Wes Anderson has his share of groupies and his somewhat smaller share of skeptics who find him a tad precious. As someone who leans toward the precious view, but is open to his grace notes, I found The Grand Budapest Hotel mostly delightful.

It's a madcap comedy, but with hints of tragedy lurking outside the usual Anderson dollhouse frames. The central character is Gustave H., played by Ralph Fiennes. He's the concierge of a kitschy, opulent, high-class European hotel between World Wars I and II.

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Movie Reviews
11:24 am
Fri February 28, 2014

Liam Neeson's Action Chops Take Flight In 'Non-Stop'

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Liam Neeson became a bankable action hero in 2008 with the thriller "Taken." Now almost 62, he's still getting out of tight corners with his fists in the new action thriller "Non-Stop," most of which unfolds on a transatlantic flight from New York to London. The film also stars Julianne Moore and Michelle Dockery. Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

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Movie Reviews
11:14 am
Fri February 21, 2014

'Wind Rises' Is Exquisite, And Likely To Be Hayao Miyazaki's Last

In the film, which Miyazaki says is his last, the wind carries off the parasol of a fragile girl, Nahoko, into the hands of Jiro — who will fall in love with her.
Studio Ghibli Nibariki

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 4:57 pm

The 73-year-old Japanese animation titan Hayao Miyazaki says The Wind Rises is his final film, and if that's true — and I hope it's not but fear it is, since he's not the type to make rash declarations — he's going out on a high.

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Movie Reviews
12:18 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Masterpieces In Peril, 'Monuments Men' Protects, But Also Panders

Critic David Edelstein says that The Monuments Men has "an all-star cast" — including Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett — but that "the stars are all low-wattage."
Claudette Barius Columbia Pictures

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 1:32 pm

George Clooney's The Monuments Men tells the largely true story of a squad of art experts who, near the end of World War II, are assigned to protect the masterworks of European society from Nazi theft and Allied bombardment. You'll notice those are two separate goals.

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Movie Reviews
8:31 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Middle-Aged And Divorced, 'Gloria' Takes On Life's Uncertainties

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 2:23 pm

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. "Gloria" is a new film from Chile that centers on a late-middle-aged divorced woman whose life is full of uncertainties. She's played by Paulina Garcia, who won the top acting prize - the Silver Bear - at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, where the movie was a surprise hit. It opens this week in New York and Los Angeles, and wider next month. Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

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Movie Reviews
9:59 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Jack Ryan Gets A Makeover, And A Quick Trip To Moscow

Chris Pine and Keira Knightley anchor Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, opposite Kevin Costner as a CIA veteran and Kenneth Branagh as the story's big bad.
Larry Horricks Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 1:05 pm

A franchise is what we used to call a Burger King or a Shell station, but nowadays the word appears more often in relation to movies: the Star Wars franchise, the Hunger Games franchise, the Jack Ryan franchise — or in the case of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the Jack Ryan franchise reboot. I don't know what's more depressing: that what fires up studio execs is the hunt for a new franchise or that critics have adopted this business lingo uncritically.

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Movie Reviews
11:59 am
Fri January 10, 2014

'Invisible Woman' Charts Charles Dickens' Hidden Relationship

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 12:30 pm

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross. The new film, "The Invisible Woman," charts the hidden relationship between Charles Dickens and a young actress for whom left his wife, but who for years never showed up in biographies of Dickens. It's the second film directed by Ralph Fiennes, who also plays Dickens and features Felicity Jones as the actress, Nelly Ternan.

Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

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Movie Reviews
10:18 am
Fri December 20, 2013

A Man And His Machine, Finding Out What Love Is

In the sci-fi romance Her, a lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) finds love in a rather unexpected place — with a computer operating system named Samantha.
Warner Bros.

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 1:24 pm

Her is the best film of the year by a so-wide margin. It's gorgeous, funny, deep — and I can hear some smart aleck say, "If you love it so much, why don't you marry it?" Let me tell you, I'd like to!

I certainly identify with the protagonist, Theodore Twombly, who falls in love with his computer operating system, his OS, which calls itself — sorry, I gotta say "who calls herself" — Samantha, and who sounds like a breathy young woman.

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Movie Reviews
10:34 am
Fri December 13, 2013

A 'Hustle' With Flow (And Plenty Of Flair)

A '70s con-artist couple (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced to team up with an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper, right) in American Hustle, inspired by a real-life sting targeting corrupt politicians.
Francois Duhamel Columbia Pictures

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 12:46 pm

David O. Russell hovers at the top of my list of favorite directors. He captures the messy collision of self-interests that for him defines America. In American Hustle, he whips up a black comedy based on Abscam, the late-'70s FBI sting that centered on a bogus sheik and led to the bribery convictions of sundry U.S. politicians. But he doesn't tell the real Abscam story; he adapts it to fit his theme, which is that most of us are busy reinventing ourselves and conning one another.

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Movie Reviews
11:34 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Great Soundtrack Aside, 'Inside Llewyn Davis' Hits A Sour Note

In the Coen brothers' latest film, down and out Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is trying to make ends meet as a folk singer in New York in the early 1960s.
Alison Rosa Long Strange Trip/CBS Films

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 1:05 pm

The films of Joel and Ethan Coen pose a challenge: How do we reconcile their wildly disparate tones? Consider O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a burlesque of Homer's Odyssey centering on three stumblebums — but with a soundtrack assembled by T Bone Burnett of heartfelt historical gospel and country music. Ditto The Ladykillers: venal idiot characters, soaring African-American spirituals. The ridiculous and the sublime sit side by side, with no spillover.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 am
Fri November 29, 2013

A Korean Cult Thriller Gets A Spike Lee Makeover

After 20 years in captivity, Joe (Josh Brolin) is released into the world with a hammer and an appetite for revenge in Oldboy, a Spike Lee remake of the 2003 South Korean film.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle FilmDistrict

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 8:04 am

Spike Lee's movies typically carry the label "A Spike Lee Joint," but Oldboy doesn't. He calls it "a Spike Lee Film," which my guess is Lee's way of saying he's a gun for hire — and that after a line of box office failures and difficulty getting financing for personal projects, he can make a fast, violent action thriller.

And as it happens, he can — a more-than-decent one. But this is also the first time I've come out of a Spike Lee film, bad or good, and not known why it had to be made. It's brutal, effective and utterly without urgency.

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Movie Reviews
12:57 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Across 'Nebraska,' On A Journey That Goes Beyond The Trip

David (Will Forte, left) and his father, Woody (Bruce Dern, center), take time out of their quixotic journey to stop in Woody's small Nebraska hometown — where Woody's old business partner, Ed (Stacy Keach), is still nursing a grudge.
Merie W. Wallace Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 3:47 pm

Last month, I saw the trailer for Alexander Payne's Nebraska, and only the fact that it was a Payne film made me want to see it.

The premise seemed a dead end: Bruce Dern plays an elderly man named Woody Grant living in Billings, Mont., who gets a letter saying he's won $1 million. All he needs to do is call a number and maybe buy a magazine subscription.

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Movie Reviews
9:49 am
Fri October 25, 2013

In Emotionally Charged 'Blue,' Sex Is Graphic, But Not Gratuitous

Blue Is the Warmest Color chronicles the love affair between high school student Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos, left) and Emma (Léa Seydoux), who is older and more experienced.
IFC Films/Sundance Selects/Wild Bunch

Originally published on Fri October 25, 2013 12:30 pm

Blue Is the Warmest Color is a lesbian coming-of-age movie, and its long and graphic sex scenes have already generated controversy. The director, Abdellatif Kechiche, is a man, and at least one prominent female critic has accused him of leading with his own libido — a charge that I vigorously dispute, but of course I'm a man so take that as you will. Here's what I saw: a film that captures the intensity of sexual discovery — and dependency — in a way I've never seen. It's 179 minutes, every one of them charged. It's a remarkable experience.

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Movie Reviews
9:50 am
Fri October 18, 2013

At Home At Sea: Robert Redford, At His Best Alone

Robert Redford stars in All Is Lost as a solitary man struggling to make his yacht seaworthy again after it collides with a rogue shipping container adrift in the Indian Ocean.
Richard Foreman Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 1:38 pm

As I watched Robert Redford acting all by himself in the superlative survival-at-sea movie All Is Lost, I suddenly realized why the setup feels so perfect: Redford is most in his element when he's alone.

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Movie Reviews
10:11 am
Fri October 11, 2013

A Pirate Saga More Sobering Than Swashbuckling

Barkhad Abdi (middle) plays Muse, the leader of a band of Somali pirates who take over a freighter in Captain Phillips.
Hopper Stone Columbia Pictures

Originally published on Fri October 11, 2013 11:52 am

Most kidnapping melodramas have final scenes — after their climaxes — that are, effectively, throwaways. There are sighs of relief, tearful reunions with families, cameras that dolly back on domestic tableaux to suggest the world has at last been righted.

I think it's telling that in Captain Phillips the most overwhelming scene is after the resolution, in the infirmary of a ship. So much terror and moral confusion has gone down — so much pain — that the cumulative tension can't be resolved by violence. The movie's grip remains strong even when it cuts to black.

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Movie Reviews
11:58 am
Fri October 4, 2013

Houston, We Have A Space Flick: A Sentimental Mission In Zero 'Gravity'

In Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, Sandra Bullock plays Ryan Stone, an astronaut careening through space after an accident.
Warner Bros.

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 12:51 pm

In a season in which we're all talking about AMC's phenomenal Breaking Bad and Netflix's elating Orange Is the New Black, Hollywood needs you, your kids and everyone in Europe and China to get out from behind those TV monitors and into theaters. Movie studios are falling behind on compelling narratives. But they can give you what TV can't: absolute, total bombardment.

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Movie Reviews
9:55 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Gordon-Levitt's 'Don Jon' Is An Openhearted Directorial Debut

Joseph Gordon-Levitt --€” in his writing and directing debut --€” plays Jon, a porn addict with no interest in relationships until Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) changes things.
Relativity Media

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 12:15 pm

In phe last decade, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has worked hard to establish himself as a serious actor, and he's been so successful it's easy to forget he came of age in the '90s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. The guy has comedy chops, and he's exercising them again in a smart new movie he wrote and directed called Don Jon.

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Movie Reviews
11:30 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Gandolfini Is So Vivid In 'Enough Said,' You Forget He's Gone

James Gandolfini plays a divorced TV archivist who falls in love with a divorced masseuse, played by Julia-Louis Dreyfus, in Nicole Holofcener'€™s Enough Said.
Lacey Terrell Fox Searchlight

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 11:42 am

Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said is her most conventional comedy since her 1996 debut, Walking and Talking. I don't love it as much as her scattershot ensemble movies Friends With Money and Please Give, but it has enough weird dissonances and hilarious little curlicues to remind you her voice is like no other. I love it enough.

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Movie Reviews
11:16 am
Wed August 28, 2013

Reaching Across What's Broken, 'Short Term' Fix Or No

In Short Term 12 — named for the youth facility where it's primarily set — John Gallagher Jr. and Brie Larson play young counselors not too far removed from their own adolescent struggles.
Cinedigm

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 2:02 pm

It's easy to make fun of a certain kind of therapeutic language — the kind you hear all through the movie Short Term 12.

That title comes from the name of a group home for abused and/or unstable teens. Early on, a young counselor named Grace (Brie Larson) tells one smart-mouthed kid that "your attitude is not helping either one of us" — which would tend to make her a repressive drag in a typical Hollywood teen picture.

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Movie Reviews
10:31 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Boozy Bromance 'World's End' Rises Above Its Lowbrow Tactics

Nick Frost (from left), Eddie Marsan, Simon Pegg, Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman play a group of friends who reunite for a pub crawl challenge in The World's End.
Laurie Sparham Focus Features

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 1:30 pm

The World's End is a world-shaking, genre-bending, sci-fi comedy, and a splendid capper to what British writer-director Edgar Wright and actor-writer Simon Pegg call their "Cornetto trilogy," for an ice cream they eat on their side of the Atlantic. This one's arguably the best of the three, but who wants to argue over gorgeous satires like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End? It's like ice cream flavors: Have them all.

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Movie Reviews
10:56 am
Wed August 7, 2013

A Future Where Class Warfare Is Much More Than A Metaphor

Jody Foster plays her political opposite as the brutal secretary of defense in Elysium.
Kimberley French Sony Pictures

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 1:19 pm

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Movie Reviews
11:34 am
Fri August 2, 2013

A Good Girl And A Lost Boy, Looking For A Way Forward

Shailene Woodley, who played George Clooney's rebellious daughter in The Descendants, turns in a splendidly calibrated performance as a soft-spoken good girl who falls hard for a high school party animal (Miles Teller) in The Spectacular Now.
Wilford Harewood

The teen romance The Spectacular Now is by turns goofy, exhilarating, and unreasonably sad — just like being a teenager.

It centers on a fast-talking, hard-drinking high school party animal named Sutter Keely, who boasts of living for today and in the now — instead of, say, studying — and how he takes up with a girl named Aimee, who's the opposite of a party animal.

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Movie Reviews
9:57 am
Fri July 26, 2013

'Blue' Rhapsodies: Woody Allen, In Need Of New Tricks

Ginger's (Sally Hawkins) best moments happen while in the company of a persistent suitor named Al (Louis C.K.).
Merrick Morton Sony Classics

Originally published on Fri July 26, 2013 11:40 am

Another year, another Woody Allen picture, and few agree on whether that's a good thing. For some, he hasn't made an interesting film since Husbands and Wives, maybe even Hannah and Her Sisters. Others think more recent morality plays like Match Point and comic parables like Midnight in Paris prove the old dog still hunts.

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Arts & Life
10:38 am
Fri July 19, 2013

Two Documentaries Examine Violence, Human And Animal

The new documentary Blackfish looks at the practice of keeping orca whales in captivity.
EPK

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 11:49 am

Two documentaries, Blackfish and The Act of Killing, are making waves around the world. The first riles you up; the second blows your mind.

"Blackfish" is the Inuits' name for the orca, a creature that they say is worthy of veneration but that you don't want to mess with — the chief example in Gabriela Cowperthwaite's Blackfish being Tilikum, responsible for two, possibly three human deaths.

The movie is Tilikum's story — along with the story of other orcas kept in captivity in theme parks like SeaWorld.

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Movie Reviews
11:57 am
Fri July 12, 2013

Introducing Oscar Grant, The Man Behind The Headlines

Based on a true story, Fruitvale Station won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Michael B. Jordan stars as Oscar Grant and Ariana Neal stars as his young daughter, Tatiana.
Cait Adkins The Weinstein Co.

Originally published on Fri July 12, 2013 12:44 pm

The actor Michael B. Jordan gives a major performance in Ryan Coogler's debut film, Fruitvale Station. He plays 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was shot in a run-in with cops at an Oakland, Calif., train stop in the early hours of 2009. The film opens with cellphone footage of the actual event, so you know what's coming. But the Oscar you meet on the last day of 2008 remains a man, not a martyr.

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Movie Reviews
10:54 am
Wed July 3, 2013

'The Lone Ranger': Summer Fun With Manifest Destiny

Armie Hammer stars as the Lone Ranger in a new Disney adaptation.
Film Frame Disney

Originally published on Wed July 3, 2013 11:42 am

We're at the point when Johnny Depp's dumbest whims can lead to movies costing $200 million. I imagine Depp lying in a hammock on his private island and saying, "I've always wanted to play Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows!" and it's done. Then he says, "I've always wanted to do The Lone Ranger — but as Tonto!" and it, too, gets the green light.

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Movie Reviews
1:01 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Two Master Moviemakers, Two Singularly Fine Films

Saoirse Ronan plays Eleanor, an ancient (and uncharacteristically ethical) vampire in Neil Jordan's Byzantium.
IFC Films

The decade of the 1980s — when major corporations made their presence more felt in Hollywood — was for all kinds of reasons a low point in American moviegoing. But two beacons abroad, Pedro Almodovar and Neil Jordan, reminded us with movies like Law of Desire, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Mona Lisa how films could be personal and still reach a large (or large-ish) audience.

Thirty years later, we have Almodovar's I'm So Excited and Jordan's Byzantium — and these directors are still shining a light.

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