After breaking out two years ago with the teen pregnancy comedy Juno writer-director Jason Reitman trains his keen acerbic eye on the modern business traveler in Up in the Air a bittersweet comedy about one man’s turbulent journey of self-discovery and redemption.
George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham a corporate downsizer (he fires people for a living essentially) and seasoned road warrior whose aversion to real human connection is reflected in his mammoth stockpile of frequent flyer miles the fruits of a job that calls for 300-plus days spent away from the office. Thoroughly content with a life spent in hotel bars and airport lounges Ryan begins to slowly unravel when he’s tasked with mentoring Natalie (Anna Kendrick) a fresh-faced recent graduate with a bold set of ideas for transforming the business of firing people — ideas that threaten both Ryan’s untethered existence and his budding relationship with Alex (Vera Farmiga) a fellow corporate nomad whose penchant for low-effort commitment-free relationships mirrors his own.
Enchanted by visions of a perpetual booty call replete with racy Blackberry messages and romantic trysts arranged via Outlook Ryan begins to suspect he might have found his soulmate in Alex. Inconveniencing his idealized scenario however is his travel partner Natalie a probing perceptive gal who proves a far more worthy adversary than he initially anticipated. As Ryan exposes Natalie’s real-world inexperience and naivety in a series of mildly disastrous business meetings she in turn refutes his resolutely isolationist approach to love and relationships. Soon their mutual resentment gives way to a father-daughter dynamic characterized by genuine albeit guarded affection. As his carefully crafted barriers steadily erode Ryan’s thoughts increasingly turn to Alex and he begins to contemplate the previously unthinkable prospect of putting down actual roots.
Corporate downsizing emotional detachment and the dehumanizing effects of modern technology aren’t exactly the most lighthearted of topics but Up in the Air avoids wallowing in dour Death of a Salesman territory with the help of Reitman’s sharp perceptive wit and a handful of lively cameos from comic heavyweights like Danny McBride Zach Galifianakis and J.K. Simmons. In fact the whole affair makes for a surprisingly uplifting experience in a "saddest happy ending" kind of way. Though the latter half of the film is hampered by structural deficiencies and a pair of melodramatic sadly predictable twists that move the plot forward but diminish its overall impact it still qualifies as one of the top films of the year and Reitman’s best work to date. Consider Up in the Air a surefire Oscar contender.
According to Reuters, the Backstreet Boys have filed a $100 million lawsuit against Zomba Music Group, claiming the record label misused the group's trademark by using it to send traffic to other Web sites and effectively barred the boy band from recording a new album while Zomba merged with German media giant Bertelsmann AG. The group's lawyer, Carla Christofferson, told Reuters the suit was asking for $75 million for the trademark violation, $5 million for the lost advance on the album and $20 million in punitive damages.
Michael Jackson sure is getting a lot of press in Berlin lately. Last week, he dangled his infant son from a hotel room balcony, causing an uproar with child advocates. This week, Reuters reports, he told the German magazine Bunte he doesn't like pop music. He was seen in a music store in Berlin, without a bodyguard, buying two CDs of classical music. And he's the king of what?
Online magazine Film Threat has come up with the polar opposite version of the ever-popular Hollywood hot list. Called the "Frigid 50," it's a tally of Hollywood's coldest celebrities--and Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe tops it. The Associated Press reports Film Threat calls Crowe "our favorite wild boor, whose bad-boy big mouth and Redwood-sized chip-on-the-shoulder easily cost him an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind." Others on the list include Winona Ryder, Barbra Streisand and Anna Nicole Smith.
Czech film director Karel Reisz, best known for helming the 1981 The French Lieutenant's Woman starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep, died in London Monday. He was 76. Cause of death was not immediately available according to Variety.
Fox is having to do some schedule shuffling to prepare for the second season of its monster hit American Idol. The one-hour audition/performance special will air at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, with the subsequent half-hour shows airing Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. To make room, Fox is moving That '70s Show to Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. and pushing The Bernie Mac Show and Cedric The Entertainer Presents to the 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. slots, respectively.
The British Broadcast Advertising Clearance Center has banned a commercial for a new animated series called 2DTV because it pokes fun at President Bush. The British show mocks celebrities and politicians regularly, and is currently running ads where a cartoon Bush inserts a DVD into a toaster and burns it. The BACC's rules states that living people cannot be caricatured without their permission.
A woman who sued Limp Bizkit's frontman Fred Durst for $5 million, claiming he threw a microphone at her during the band's Anger Management tour, has settled for an undisclosed sum, Reuters reports. Lighting technician Connie Paulson claims Durst hurled the microphone at her "with no provocation," knocking out a tooth and breaking her nose while she was dismantling lights at the end of a show in Birmingham, Ala.