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.
Shedding many of those trappings that make a James Bond movie well a James Bond movie Quantum of Solace is really the first sequel ever in the long-running series. While it’s always exciting something gets seriously shaken and stirred in the translation. Picking up exactly where the brilliant Casino Royale left off we see Bond (Daniel Craig) trying to get to the bottom of why his love Vesper Lynd had to die jumping right into the first of many MANY chases as he traverses six countries. Still on rogue patrol Bond then inadvertently meets the crafty and gorgeous Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who introduces Bond to the evil Dominic Green (Mathieu Amalric) the head of an eco-phony stealth operation angling for some prime desert land while financing a crooked Bolivian general’s planned coup. With the ever resourceful M (Judi Dench) trying to keep him in line at all times Bond must put his revenge plans on hold as he crosses paths not only with Greene and his fake pro-environment front but also the intriguing and mysterious group known as Quantum. In this outing Daniel Craig -- leaner and meaner than any previous Bond -- really becomes a man of single-minded determination and grit. He’s less like the James Bond we know and love and more a humorless killing machine like Jason Bourne (those two should really get together). Still Craig is such a compelling actor that we are with him all the way even if he doesn’t go for the suave Bond moves. Olga Kurylenko is a great foil but not totally in the tradition of a Bond girl. A later encounter with Gemma Arterton as a British agent in Bolivia does however briefly recall the heyday of Goldfinger. Judi Dench has taken the perfunctory role of M and turned it into a full-blown supporting role. Her dry wit and take-no-prisoners attitude is welcomed every time she shows up on screen. French star Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) doesn’t really pull off his villainous alter-ego ecologist while Jeffrey Wright is pretty much wasted as U.S. agent Felix Leiter. At least Giancarlo Giannini returns for some nice moments with his Craig. Although they usually leave the challenging job of steering the Bond ship to an English director oddly this time the baton was handed to Marc Forster known more for his intimate dramas such as Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball. His grip on the action sequences is secure but he never really seems to have a handle on what distinguishes this legendary movie spy from everyone else. There’s a reason Bond has survived as a screen icon for almost half a century but the sort of workman-like filmmaking Forster displays here does not represent 007’s finest hour. It’s almost like the producers had a checklist: car chase on winding roads; boat chase; airplane chase; rooftop chase -- all check. Quantum of Solace is definitely worth checking out however. I mean it IS Bond and we wait for these movies on bated breath. Just maybe next time a little less Bourne please.
Quincy, M.E. TV star Jack Klugman has married for the second time, at the age of 85.
The star--most famous for his role as a Los Angeles medical examiner in the long running series--exchanged nuptials with his partner of 20 years, Peggy Crosby, at the Little Brown Church in Studio City, California on Saturday.
Crosby is the ex-wife of Bing Crosby's son Philip. Klugman's first wife Brett Somers died last year. They married in 1953 and separated in 1974, but never divorced.
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Let the Pokémon backlash begin.
First, there was the recall of Burger King toys over safety concerns. Then there was the Michigan man who was granted a refund by a Kmart after saying his cute, little Pikachu doll dropped the F-bomb when its circuits were punched rapidly. (To be fair, cussing when one's circuits are being rapidly punched does seem a natural response.) Anyway, the man's calling for yet another nationwide recall.
And if that weren't enough, Nintendo, the gamemaker responsible for the video craze that spawned a TV show and hit movie, is being threatened by a lawsuit from spoon-bending psychic Uri Geller.
Geller says his image (not to mention his name) is being ripped off by the evil Pokémon character called "Un-Geller" (or, as its known in Japan, "Evil-Geller"). Un-Geller, by the way, carries spoon and boasts psychic powers.
On the plus side, the character does not spout the F-word.
AN ODD COUPLING: Jack Klugman is proud and happy with his surgically enhanced -- er, asset. The 77-year-old "Odd Couple" star spills all on his penile implant in the new TV Guide.
"I'm not ashamed of that," Klugman tells the magazine. "It's a medical thing, a surgery that is done millions of times. But there's all this humorous ridiculing and silliness that goes along with it."
Fine, but the question is -- is it working?
Klugman is both married -- and dating. His marriage to ex-game-show fixture Brett Somers is still legal (although they've been legally separated since 1974). On top of that, he's dating actress Peggy Crosby. Klugman says he never divorced Somers so that he wouldn't be tempted to marry the women he sleeps with.
Says the erstwhile Oscar Madison: "I can't live with anybody."
'SOUTH PARK' ON ICE: Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano was parodied in the musical number "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" in "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut". Now the figure skater will eschew his usual classical repertoire to perform to the song on the NBC special "Brian Boitano: Holiday Skating Spectacular," to air Sunday at 4 p.m. EST.
No hard feelings then apparently between Boitano and the "South Park" scamps -- unless, of course, Boitano tries to kill Kenny with an ice skate.
CAREER PATH EXAMINED: No, despite tabloid reports to the contrary, Jan-Michael Vincent is still not dead.
The 1970s-era leading man ("Big Wednesday," "White Line Fever") and 1980s TV star ("Airwolf"), whose career was plundered by substance abuse and domestic-violence allegations, is now clean and sober and ready to take on a new role: grand marshal of Van Nuys, Calif.'s, New Year's Eve party.
Vincent, now 54, will be paid $4,000 for the job, a far cry from his $250,000-a-week paycheck on "Airwolf." Can he make it all the way back? Well, feathered hair did.
STEEL CITY BACKS KELLY: Gene Kelly fans may see a familiar sight in Pittsburgh next year: The city is considering a statue honoring the late actor, who was born and raised in the city and attended school there before hitting Broadway and twirling an umbrella in "Singin' in the Rain."
Y2K STARWATCH: Despite increasing Y2K jitters, some stars are still braving the millennium in front of a crowd. Will Smith will be in Washington, D.C. (with Jack Nicholson, Steven Spielberg and Warren Beatty in the crowd). Gloria Estefan ("Music of the Heart") will perform in Miami, the Eagles will play Los Angeles, Billy Joel performs in New York and Bette Midler will put on a show in Las Vegas.
But if you're holed up in the house, lacking the significant moolah to see any of these acts, fear not: You can catch the biggest of them all, Barbra Streisand, in the comfort of your own home.
Streisand, whose own Vegas concert is boasting $1,500 to $2,500 ticket prices, will appear live (from her show) on ABC on New Year's Eve -- her first singing gig on live television in more than three decades.
In return, ABC will give Babs a live feed of its millennial coverage so her audience in Las Vegas can watch various New Year's celebrations around the world. According to the New York Daily News, Streisand will show up on the tube between 12:45 and 1 a.m. EST on Jan. 1.
Provided the world doesn't end.