Up In The Air

“Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks.” One of the many philosophies of Ryan Bingham, a man who lives his life on the road and literally calls Hilton one of his homes. Bingham works for a corporate downsizing agency that steps in and fires people, and his biggest aspiration is to reach the 10 million mile mark with American Airlines. He also prides himself on perks, earning all kinds of points and jumping to the front of any line at an airport or hotel. This film is a dark satire about business, relationships and being on the road.

George Clooney (Oceans 11, Michael Clayton, Burn After Reading) plays the man Ryan Bingham. Although his role seemed to be the type that Clooney is best at, and to me kind of  Clooney being Clooney, this just might be enough to earn him a Best Actor Oscar. I think he will for sure be nominated, and I can’t really think of a leading role that would beat him. He plays a go getter and on the move businessman, and is really top notch in his role. Of course part of what makes George Clooney so good is his surrounding cast, and the two women that are with him throughout the movie are very good. Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Orphan) plays Alex who is a business woman who has much of the same attitude as Bingham, proud of her plastic cards, hotel and airport perks. Bingham’s coworker and travel partner is played by Anna Kendrick (Twilight). Her character Natalie Keener is the antagonist of Bingham, standing for commitment and settling down in relationships, yet she is the very one pushing the cutting edge in business about to knock Bingham out of a job. Jason Bateman (Juno, State of Play), Sam Elliot (The Golden Compass, The Contender) and J K Simmons (Juno, Spiderman, Rendition) all make appearances.

All in all, I think Up In The Air is a terrific film. Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking) has a wonderful style for satire. Already nominated for Best Picture in the Golden Globes, I can see this getting an Oscar nod as well. Especially with the new field of 10 nominees. With great directing and superberb charaters throughout the film, this is worth catching for sure.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Went out Saturday morning to see Fantastic Mr. Fox. Going off a friends recommendation, a friend that loved The Life Aquatic and I hated, I was not sure what I was in for. Sitting through the first two previews of a sequel for Alvin and the Chipmunks and a new film that has the Rock dressed in baby blue tights playing a tooth fairy, I did not have a good feeling at all.

Ok, so I can be wrong and what a nice surprise this film was. Directed by Wes Anderson, known for his fun and quirky style (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore), if this is your cup of tea, you will love this movie. And even if it isn’t, it is not so over the top that it can’t be enjoyed by all.

The film is about Mr. Fox, a newspaper reporter, that is bored with life and decides to go back to his old habits of stealing chickens from the local farmers to help pay for his new above ground home. Involving many others in his schemes, he eventually gets his visiting nephew in trouble. Of course Mrs. Fox disapproves and wants him to stop before he gets everyone in over their head, and that is exactly what happens.

Normally I don’t like really big names playing animated parts, just because you see a lot more in a character than you should, but George Clooney (Oceans 11, Syriana, Michael Clayton) is great as the quick talking know-it-all center of attention Mr. Fox. Meryl Streep (Bridges of Madison County, Doubt) is the voice of Mrs. Fox. Wes Anderson regulars Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Caddyshack), Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited) and Owen Wilson (Shanghai Noon, The Royal Tanenbaums) play significant characters as well.

To me, this film was a very refreshing animated film and a change from the normal picture perfect Pixar releases. Not that there is a thing wrong with Pixar, just nice to see someone venture out and do a totally different style of animation. The roughness of the animation really adds to the overall feel and tone of the movie. If you are one normally scared off by Wes Anderson films, go ahead and give this one a chance. This film is a lot of fun with great dialog and story. Worth catching for sure!

Leatherheads

937_frontTo be honest, when I saw this in the theatre, I was on the fence about liking this film. After watching this again on bluray, I certainly enjoyed it more the second time around. Maybe because my expectations are were lowered a bit since going into it the first time, I really was wanting laugh out loud funny, and it didn’t deliver on that. Seeing it for what it is now, it is a light-hearted film with pleasantly funny scenes.

George Clooney (Oceans 11, Best Supporting actor for Syriana, Michael Clayton) directs and stars as “Dodge” Connelly, one of the veteran players in a dying professional football league. Clooney is adequate in this movie, but doesn’t deliver on the funny lines like O Brother Where art Thou. He still has some good chemistry going with Renee Zellweger (Chicago, Bridget Jones Diary), especially in the scene when they first meet. Trading one liners back and  forth was great and could almost used a few more of those type of quick witted fast talking scenes in the movie. The Film also stars The Office regular, John Krasinski (Away We Go) who is nicely cast as the young college super star.

Ok, would I recommend it to people, yes. Not to mention enjoying period pieces, especially from the roaring 20’s era, this film is solid, and enjoyable from start to finish. It is a lot of fun seeing the old-time football, leather helmets, wooden scoreboards, very few rules and half empty stands. Nothing groundbreaking or innovative from this film, but it is film that is well done in all areas. Just sit back and enjoy this easy-going and lighthearted journey about the beginning of professional football.

The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red LineMost reviews that you will read on this film will be how great, poetic, masterfully shot this film is. First let me say I did enjoy this film and I have chosen to watch it several times since it came out. I do however think that most of the over the top glorified reviews come from fans and people that believe that Terrence Malick is the be all end all of movie directors. Personally I think he is a bit over rated. This came out the same year Saving Private Ryan did, and I don’t think it comes close to being the film that Private Ryan is. Malick supporters will say I just don’t get it, or I’m not intellectual enough to understand him. I understand him, and get it, he is just a bit heavy handed with his directing and many times to artsy for his own good.

Really the one thing that annoyed me about Thin Red Line was the voice over. Soldiers in war don’t run around thinking in Shakespearean pros or poetic verses as if from a Robert Frost poem. My general opinion on voice overs in films are that if you need one, you are not doing a very good job. I think some of the thoughts and points could have been conveyed through acting and the film score. Most reviews say this film makes you think, to me with the voice over, Malick is trying to do your thinking for you by spelling out what he is trying to say.

This film does has an impressive cast. Sean Penn (Best Actor Milk and Mystic River), Adrian Brody (Best Actor The Pianist), George Clooney (Oceans 11, Burn After Reading), John Cusack (Runaway Jury, Must Love Dogs), Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ, Frequency), and probably the only performance worth bragging about come from Nick Nolte (Cape Fear).

In my opinion this is a good war film, but at times a bit too artsy for it’s own good. I am sure some will love it and think of it as a deeper war film than anything out there, just didn’t come across that way to me. This film is still worth watching, I just wouldn’t put it at the top of the “to watch” pile.

Burn After Reading

barblucoverSeeing this at the theatre for the first time, I left thinking to myself that this film was just an average ho-hum movie. Watching it again on bluray, I thought a bit more of the film. Maybe because I knew the plot line and the story and it was easier to watch it as a dark comedy rater than trying to make sure you get all the facts straight so you can know what is going on. For what ever reason, I did enjoy the humor in the film much more the second time.

 This film is about personal trainers Brad Pitt (12 Monkeys, Legends of the Fall) and Frances McDormand (Best Actress Fargo) who find a disc that is simply information on a novel that belongs to a government employee, John Makovich (Rounders, In the Line of Fire). Linda and Chad, the trainers, try to blackmail Osbourne Cox for a quick get rich scheme. George Clooney (Oceans 11, Best Supporting actor Syriana) has a great character whose only goal is having affairs with women, and one of the women, Tilda Swinton (Best Supporting Actress Michael Clayton, The Deep End) is one of the cheating wives, and married to Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) the government agent. Paths cross, stories overlap and the insanity begins!

This film is directed by the Coen Brothers also known for No Country for Old Men and  Fargo. Don’t think that this film will measure up to those two, they won’t. But if you enjoy their style of comedy, or like me, want to give it a second chance, there are a lot  funny moments, I just needed to know where to look. Worth watching but not a must see.

Solaris

solarisNo question, this film falls into one of those “absolutely love it” or “absolutely hate it.” This is a story about Chris Kelvin who travels to a space station near Solaris after receiving a disturbing message from a friend. It is requested that he show up and investigate some strange happenings that are going on aboard the space station. He of course gets wrapped up right in the middle of what is going on. 

The screenplay was adapted by Steven Soderberg (Best Director Traffic) from the novel by Stanislaw Lem and the film is produced by Titanic producers James Cameron (Aliens, Terminator 2) and Jon Landau along with Rae Sanchini. Soderberg does a magnificent job behind the camera as well. This story slowly pulls you in, peaks your curiosity and makes you do a bit of thinking yourself. The flash back shots are particular nice done with a completely different color palette of warm colors to contrast the cold blues of space.

George Clooney (Best Supporting Actor Syriana) is perfect as the cool headed, deep thinking Chris Kelvin who tries to sort things out in his own mind what is real and what is not. You can almost see the turmoil in his eyes as he deals with his “visitor.” Viola Davis (Doubt) plays Gordon, who is perfectly cast and holds her own, standing up to Clooney, and as a character you think she is the type of woman that would actually win an argument. The surprise performance to me comes from Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan) who plays Snow, who is far out on the edge, coming across very introverted, unsure of what to say and has many personal “ticks.”  

If you start watching and you are bored with it in the first 30 minutes, it may not be for you. So which side did I fall on, I absolutely loved this movie. It is beautifully shot, very well acted with great characters to follow, and is though provoking on so many levels. I hate to compare it to the great sci-fi 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I liked this movie that much. If you like it once, you will like it again and probably see new depth to this film each time.

“There are no answers. Only choices.” –Gibarian