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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

THE MATADOR If someone were to greet James Bond by stating, "You look good," the answer would doubtless be something on the order of "Why, thank you" or "That's true." But here, the reply is bitter and blunt: "I look like a Bangkok hooker on a Sunday morning after the Navy's left town." OK, so it's not actually Agent 007 who utters this sharp retort, but coming from Pierce Brosnan, cast as another character who's been given a "licence to kill," it's the next best thing. Brosnan stars as Julian Noble, a career assassin whose life exists on a never-ending loop of getting drunk, getting laid and getting his target. Burning out at a rapid clip, he opens up to a businessman (Greg Kinnear) he meets in a bar in Mexico City, thereby jumpstarting an unusual relationship. Brosnan is performing his own high-wire act here, daring us not to like his sleazy, vulgar, insensitive, immoral character. As a human being, Julian's not much, but as a movie character, he's a keeper. Rating: ***

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