...and a movie that I can't find a C-word for. I actually had to visit the multiplexes for two of these films, and they're showing a whole lot more that I want to see. And I admit I occasionally let mediocre reviews sway me, which is why I haven't yet made the effort to catch EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED (and am placing ELIZABETHTOWN, which opens today, far down on my to-see list).


This historical re-creation of Edward R. Murrow's televised expose of Joseph McCarthy is a strong second directorial effort from George Clooney. An impressive ensemble is headed by David Strathairn, who delivers a career-best performance as Murrow; also good are Frank Langella as CBS chairman William Paley, Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson as newsroom co-workers (and a couple whose secretive marriage is used as a counterpoint to McCarthyism), and Clooney himself, who has never shown so much restraint and ease, in a supporting role as Murrow's producer Fred Friendly.

With its relatively low budget, the film painstakingly recreates the breakneck chaos of a TV newsroom of the time. Instead of casting an actor to play McCarthy, Clooney incorporates actual footage of the man himself. Along with the inclusion of period commercials, it gives the film a documentary feel, although the stunning black-and-white cinematography and commenting intrusions from jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves are, in contrast, heavily stylized. But the mesh works anyway. The only major flaw? Clooney ends up sanctifying Murrow a little too much, occasionally obscuring vital issues of journalistic objectivity. Although smug, at least Murrow doesn't come off as completely humorless: his off-camera demeanor is given fair depth, especially his inclination to educate an audience, rather than conduct yet another fluffy interview with a fluffy celebrity like Liberace. (rating: 4/5)


If you loved the earlier shorts, I can't imagine you'll be disappointed by this wonderful, long-awaited feature-length adaptation. It's true to the spirit of these beloved characters: you get all the expected Rube Goldberg-like contraptions, delightfully bad puns, Wallace cheese-worshiping and the most dynamic facial expressions you'll ever see on a silent clay canine. Here, it all comes together in a sly, genuinely thrilling homage to THE WOLF MAN. Practically each frame is packed with inventive, blink-or-you'll-miss-them sight gags and typically droll British humor that may appeal to adults more than children, but it never feels condescending or cheap like many American animated films that employ similar tactics. The two big celebrity voices (Helena Bonham Carter as the desired heroine, Ralph Fiennes as the dastardly villain) also fit in perfectly without seeming like distractions. Sympathetic to both googly-eyed rabbits and the oversized vegetables they desire, this just edges out TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE for the year's best Halloween-friendly stop-motion animated epic. (5/5)


Boy, was I underwhelmed by this. The whole intersecting, mostly unpleasant Los Angeles characters being really awful to each other thing has already been done to death (see the superior SHORT CUTS or MAGNOLIA) and this one repeatedly hits you over the head with the groundbreaking revelation that not only is racism bad, but also as omniscient as ever. Watch to see who finds redemption, and who doesn't! Writer-director Paul Haggis' general idea behind this film is fine, but the execution totally lacks nuance, coming across as shallow as some of the characters. And don't even get me started on some of the most schematic, implausible plot twists you'll ever see. Of course, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, even Ryan frickin' Phillipe are all fine, but if you want to see an insightful, innovative study of race relations, rent Cassavetes' SHADOWS, or NOTHING BUT A MAN, or even DO THE RIGHT THING. (1.5/5)


This Thai film begins as a generally straightforward, refreshingly matter-of-fact gay romance between Keng, a soldier, and Tong, a young man from the provinces. This goes on for about an hour, building up a heady sense of erotic tension and longing until it reaches its breaking point. Then, the screen goes black, a new title appears, and with it, seemingly a whole new film. Set in the Thai jungle, it casts the two leads from the previous half as mythical figures in a traditional, dialog-free, hour-long Thai folk tale. Although knowing the film's structure ahead of time (as I did) may take away some of the surprise, it does make it a little less frustrating to watch. I'm still trying to draw parallels between the two halves and figure out what the director's intent was regarding such structure. But that doesn't make the second half any less visually mesmerizing or atmospherically tense. So, although the whole isn't as intriguing as its parts, I'd recommend this one for more adventurous viewers when it comes out on DVD next month. (4/5)