The runaway winner of the Inaugural A.V. Club Film Poll (in its first year, already the Internet's definitive movie survey), A History Of Violence (New Line) may be David Cronenberg's most conventional work to date, but it's a pared-down entertainment that functions both as a white-knuckle thriller and as a political allegory about American-style justice after 9/11. First-time viewers are best off just seeing it on faith without knowing anything about it, because the inciting incident may be the biggest of the film's several shocks…

George Clooney's Joseph McCarthy-era period piece Good Night, And Good Luck (Warner Bros.) is heavy and portentous with warnings about today's politics, but then, it's fairly heavy and portentous in general. David Strathairn makes a terrific Edward R. Murrow, grimly standing up for journalistic independence and challenging McCarthy's divisive politics of fear. Clooney's black-and-white cinematography is gorgeous, and his decision to have McCarthy play himself via vintage footage is a daring gamble that pays off in unquestionable authenticity. But while the film is a brilliant, serious thought-piece, it's also dry, slow, and almost airless. Load up on coffee before watching…

In his quickie horror film Marebito (Tartan), The Grudge creator Takashi Shimizu follows a freelance videographer who goes on a quest for images of violence and ends up playing nursemaid to a naked teenage vampire. Shimizu intends to comment on the soul-sucking voyeurism of horror fans, but while Marebito is dotted with memorable scenes, it's also wordy and pretentious, ruminating bluntly on the meaning of fear, and how we suck on media violence like—guess what?—vampires…

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It's fitting that the basketball documentaries The Year Of The Yao (New Line) and Through The Fire (Disney) would première the same week on DVD, because suffer from the same problem: In order to get any kind of access to their charismatic stars—Houston Rockets center Yao Ming and high-school phenom Sebastian Telfair, respectively—they have to soft-pedal any troubling   issues that arise along the way. The Telfair documentary, especially, turns away from the many controversies surrounding the young guard's ascent to the pros, which are plain to anyone with eyes and ears.