GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK: With GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK, George Clooney delivers a riveting account of a crucial chapter in 20th-century American history and, in the process, firmly establishes himself as a major force behind the camera as well. The crisply paced, tautly scripted docudrama recounts the events of the mid-1950s leading up to acclaimed CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow's (David Strathairn) decision to stand up against fiery Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was out to rid the country of communism. McCarthy's seemingly reckless behavior, in which he condemned individuals without giving them a fair trial, angered Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly (Clooney) into action. The resulting few episodes of Murrow's show, SEE IT NOW, found Murrow on a personal, patriotic crusade to challenge McCarthy and rid America of his callous persecution.
Set almost entirely inside the smoke-filled, pressurized newsrooms at CBS, Clooney's assured picture moves at a breakneck pace. Cinematographer Robert Elswit miraculously recreates the black-and-white look of that era, giving the film an added air of legitimacy. And while Clooney and co-screenwriter/producer Grant Heslov wisely chose to use stock footage of McCarthy instead of finding an actor to fill his shoes, they couldn't have found a better Murrow than Strathairn, who delivers his lines with heroic conviction. Clooney's stellar ensemble cast also includes Ray Wise, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Daniels, and Frank Langella.
THE AVIATOR: Martin Scorsese's THE AVIATOR is a lavish spectacle of a motion picture that harks back to Hollywood's Golden Era in telling the story of Howard Hughes, one of 20th-century America's most pioneering and influential figures. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the eccentric billionaire, Scorsese's biopic concentrates on Hughes's life between the 1920s and '40s, when he made some of his most striking contributions to both the film and aviation industries. At only 25 years of age, Hughes directed the most expensive film ever made up to that point, HELL'S ANGELS (1930), which Scorsese gleefully recreates here in all its sprawling, audacious glory. At the same time, he became known as an unabashed playboy, bedding the likes of Jean Harlow (singer Gwen Stefani), Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale), and Katherine Hepburn (a brilliant Cate Blanchett). In the mid-'30s, he turned his attention to the aviation industry, where he quickly became world-renowned for shattering speed and distance records. He also continued to test the limits of flight technology, building bigger, faster, and stronger aircrafts. All the while, he struggled with an obsessive-compulsive disorder that sent him into a full-fledged tailspin after a near-fatal plane crash. The film concludes with Hughes being called to the Senate in 1947 to defend himself against the nefarious Senator Owen Brewster (Alan Alda), who accused Hughes of taking money from the United States government during wartime.
Stunningly photographed by Robert Richardson, Scorsese's nearly three-hour drama features an impassioned performance by DiCaprio, who is also credited as an executive producer. Although she appears in less than a third of the film, Blanchett delivers a performance that cements her status as one of the finest actresses ever to appear on the big screen.