* Good Night, and Good Luck -- Nat & I waded over to Harvard Square for pizza and leftist rhetoric with The Namesake & Sarah. George Clooney wisely makes his political points through a medium that suits him, film, unlike certain other celebs I can think of. This crisp B&W essay on Edward R. Murrow, pioneering frontman of the "liberal media," and his stand against Sen. McCarthy is chilling yet smooth, like a good historical martini. David Strathairn as Murrow manages to be wry, passionate, and professional all at once, while Clooney leads an all-star chorus of character actors to fill in the bare-bones sets. The movie is small in scope, with a curiously truncated ending, but it echoes broadly in a future far more corrupt than Murrow probably ever imagined possible. Extra points for the evocative stylings of Dianne Reeves! (A)
* Serenity -- Move over, Star Wars: the true successor to The Empire Strikes Back has arrived, in the form of a tiny, Sino-Anglo space bootlegger from the 26th century! Forget the ravening hordes of Buffy fans bleating about this movie, just go see it for the sheer enjoyment of a smart, original, and funny adventure flick -- they are few and far between these days. You can rent the Firefly DVDs later, once the brooding Captain Solo, uh, I mean Reynolds keeps popping into your mind. Sure, it's about a telepathic girl-child assassin, but don't hold that against it. Extra points for great computer effects smoothly mixed in with some hilariously cheap-o set design: I noticed a "hologram chamber" upholstered in plain old bubble wrap, nice! (A+)
* Proof -- Two word review: Gwyneth, Oscar. In a few more words, a strong adaptation of a big deal play that nearly always succeeds in being a movie, not a play, on screen. G.P. is compelling as the abrasive, nerdy, possibly crazy Katherine (do you see all the Oscar bait here?), dutifully caring for her totally crazy math genius father (Anthony Hopkins in full Hemingway mode) and fending off the realities of life, love (in the form of Jake Gyllenhaal, yow!), and her own talent. Gwyneth looks believably sad, lonely, and unwashed here -- what role could better deserve an acting award? Extra points for Hope Davis playing totally against type as the heartless, banal yuppie sister. (B)
* I'm going to see In Her Shoes tonight, and will update with a surely estrogenic and positive review next week. I (heart)
Can you tell it's movie season -- I may attend 5 flicks this week! Why the hell does Hollywood still overload the fall instead of putting out something decent between August 1st and September 30th? It can't be that all the publicists are on vacation that whole time...can it? Grr.
* Not ticketed but still noteworthy -- I watch the CBS/Lifetime movie Martha Behind Bars and wow, does Cybil Shepherd need a gig! She was deliciously evil in NBC's 2003 Martha, Inc., filling the denim tunics and chinchilla wraps of The Big M with eerie aplomb. This lower-budget sequel is sort of like the cotton-polyester blend to the the 400-thread-count pima cotton of its predecessor. Cybil sports a sasquatchian blond wig half the time, giving the whole thing the air of a creepy summer camp skit version of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Even worse, the naughtiest thing that happens at the women's prison is sugar packet hoarding (no double entendre there). Martha makes her bunk with perfect hospital corners, Martha folds origami cranes with her cellmates for Christmas, Martha scrubs the shower stalls. All as dull as the grey sweatshirts the prisoners wear -- bring back the beeyotch Martha from the first half, the one who shouts "This is not the proper knife! Where is my favorite serrated carving knife?!!" It was also disappointing that the movie didn't touch on what real-life Martha managed to at her post-prison press conference: that most of her fellow inmates were serving long mandatory sentences on drug charges stemming from their dealer boyfriends/husbands' activities, while she had supportive family and friends visiting her, eventually whisking her away in a private jet to house arrest on her sprawling Westchester estate. Now that's hard time. (C-)