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Film Clips



New Releases

FREEDOMLAND An adaptation of Richard Price's novel that itself owes a debt to the real-life Susan Smith incident, Freedomland is a forceful drama that would be compelling enough without all the needless fuss made by director Joe Roth. Two hard-hitting lead performances combine with some salient points about racial tensions to produce a powder keg of a movie, a far cry from the insipid drivel usually tossed out by studios at this time of year. Samuel L. Jackson stars as Lorenzo Council, a detective assigned to question a woman (Julianne Moore) who claims a black man from the projects stole her car while her young son was sleeping in the back seat. The inner-city locals are outraged at the media attention the story has brought to their neighborhood -- where are all the cameras when their own kids are the ones in danger? -- and it's all that Lorenzo can do to keep the police and the citizens from violently clashing. But with the case continuing to baffle him, he turns to a missing-children activist (Edie Falco) to help him determine what really happened to the distraught mom's child. Moore's performance is hard to take in its intensity, yet it's true to the character and her circumstances -- rarely has a film allowed so raw a demonstration of parental bereavement. Yet it's Jackson who holds our attention throughout, making an indelible impression as an African-American lawman whose loyalties are questioned by both his friends in the projects and his acquaintances on the force. Price's bustling script and the actors provide enough drama to overcome the terrible direction by Roth (Christmas With the Kranks), whose kamikaze style (swerving cameras, rapid edits, a booming soundtrack) displays an inexplicable lack of confidence in his material. Rating: ***

Current Releases

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN The secret behind this adaptation of Annie Proulx's short story is that behind its convenient (and infuriating) designation as "the gay cowboy movie," this is as universal as any cinematic love story of recent times. Scripters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana and director Ang Lee have managed to make a movie that vibrates on two separate settings: It's a story about the love between two men, yes, but it's also a meditation on the strict societal rules that keep any two people -- regardless of gender, race, class, religion, etc. -- out of each other's arms. In detailing the relationship between Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), Brokeback Mountain is about longing and loneliness as much as it's about love -- indeed, loss and regret become tangible presences in the film. Gyllenhaal delivers a nicely modulated performance, but this is clearly Ledger's show: He's phenomenal as Ennis, and his character's anguish causes our own hearts to break on his behalf. Rating: ***1/2

CAPOTE Anyone heading into Capote expecting an exhaustive expose on the literary lion and social raconteur might be disappointed to learn that this focuses exclusively on the period when he researched and wrote his nonfiction masterpiece In Cold Blood. In a way, it is an odd choice for a film: Almost everything you need to know about this incident -- and, therefore, Capote's viewpoint -- can be found in Richard Brooks' superb 1967 screen version of In Cold Blood. But the selling point is the excellent performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman: As much as Jamie Foxx channeled Ray Charles to such a degree that it was impossible to tell where the spirits of the two men separated, likewise does Hoffman tackle the persona of Truman Capote and make it his own. Constantly punctuating the air with his whispery wit and entertaining other people as if to the (diva) manner born, Capote is as original on screen as he was in real life. Rating: ***

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK In his second stint as director, George Clooney (who also co-wrote and co-stars) looks at an inspiring moment in US history, when legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) did the unthinkable by standing up to Joe McCarthy, the junior Senator who was destroying lives left and right in his maniacal pursuit of Communist infiltrators. Clooney has his sights set, and the targets are all big game. Like All the President's Men, the movie celebrates journalistic integrity in the face of political corruption, and like Quiz Show, it shows how television, this marvelous invention that has the ability to educate millions of Americans simultaneously, has instead been dumbed down to placate the lowest common denominator (in the grand scheme of things, it didn't take long for Edward R. Murrow to be replaced by Trading Spouses). Comparisons to the insidious Bush Administration abound, and Clooney decries the lack of modern-day media heroes who could compare with Murrow. Rating: ***1/2

LAST HOLIDAY There's very little innovation on view in this predictable picture (a remake of a 1950 comedy starring Alec Guinness), but Queen Latifah and her supporting cast -- to say nothing of the eye-popping shots of delectable food dishes -- go a long way toward making it digestible. Latifah plays a store clerk who, upon learning that she'll die in three weeks, cashes in all her assets and heads off to a swanky European resort to spend her final days in luxury. The message of the film is that everyone -- no matter their lot in life -- should be treated with dignity and respect, but after watching Latifah receive endless massages, hit the snowy slopes and chow down on lobster and lamb, most moviegoers will be forgiven for believing that the real message is that (duh) it's better to be rich than poor. Rating: **1/2

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