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
9:41 am
Fri June 1, 2012

A 'Snow White' As Bleak As It Is Grimm

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

Originally published on Fri June 1, 2012 5:09 pm

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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Movie Reviews
10:30 am
Fri May 25, 2012

A Wes Anderson 'Kingdom' Full Of Beautiful Imagery

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

Originally published on Fri May 25, 2012 2:11 pm

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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Movie Reviews
11:15 am
Wed May 16, 2012

'The Dictator' Rules With A Satirist's Fist

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

Originally published on Wed May 16, 2012 12:30 pm

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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Movie Reviews
11:36 am
Thu May 10, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Fri May 11, 2012 9:22 am

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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Movie Reviews
10:54 am
Thu May 3, 2012

'The Avengers': A Marvel-ous Whedonesque Ride

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

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 5:29 pm

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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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

A 'Five-Year Engagement' Leaves A Bitter Taste

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

Originally published on Fri April 27, 2012 8:38 am

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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Movie Reviews
11:19 am
Wed April 18, 2012

In 'Monsieur Lazhar,' Grief Lingers In The Classroom

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

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 11:36 am

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.

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Movie Reviews
10:14 am
Fri April 6, 2012

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.

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Movie Reviews
10:35 am
Thu March 22, 2012

Acting Trumps Action In A 'Games' Without Horror

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

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 8:47 am

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 — presumably the former United States — 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 — the Hunger Games of the title — that will be televised to the masses, complete with opening ceremonies and beauty-pageant-style interviews.

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NPR Story
1:42 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

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.

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Movie Reviews
4:39 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

'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 — 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.

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Movie Reviews
10:25 am
Fri March 2, 2012

'The Lorax': A Campy And Whimsical Seussical

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

Originally published on Fri March 2, 2012 12:02 pm

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.

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Movie Reviews
10:43 am
Fri February 24, 2012

'Wanderlust': A Zany Blast From The Communal Past

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

Originally published on Fri February 24, 2012 1:15 pm

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 — 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.

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Movie Reviews
3:08 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 12:36 pm

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.

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Movie Reviews
11:11 am
Thu February 9, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 11:19 am

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.

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Movie Reviews
10:23 am
Thu January 26, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 12:39 pm

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 — fear of being discovered to be a woman. Because hers is a society that treats all poor people badly, but poor women worse.

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Movie Reviews
10:57 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 11:16 am

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.

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Movie Reviews
2:02 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

An 'Iron Lady' Fully Inhabited By Meryl Streep

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

Originally published on Fri January 13, 2012 11:12 am

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 — but one that was also emotionally real.

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Movie Reviews
10:46 am
Fri January 6, 2012

'Extremely Loud' And Incredibly Manipulative

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

Originally published on Thu February 23, 2012 4:24 pm

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.

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Movie Reviews
10:05 am
Fri December 16, 2011

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 — Ghost Protocol.
Paramount Pictures

The fourth Mission: Impossible picture is nonsense from beginning to end — 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 — Ghost Protocol, is in a different league from its predecessors.

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Movie Reviews
10:17 am
Fri December 9, 2011

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

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

Originally published on Fri December 9, 2011 12:28 pm

Most people will find the first 20 minutes of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy difficult to follow — 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 — what? — 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.

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Movie Reviews
11:23 am
Fri December 2, 2011

For Fassbender, Two Perspectives On The Perils Of Sex

Fassbender's Carl Jung — Sigmund Freud's protege — 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 — 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.

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Movie Reviews
12:42 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

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

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

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 11:53 am

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 — 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.

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Movie Reviews
6:58 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

'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.

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Movie Reviews
11:10 am
Fri November 11, 2011

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.

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