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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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Up in the Air

George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman | R |


Timing is everything. Air would be a terrific movie anytime but coming out right now—during the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression—this surprisingly jaunty comedy about a man whose job is to fire people thrums with zeitgeistian zing. Seeing it, you understand just how much a plucky, heartfelt Frank Capra comedy meant to hard-pressed moviegoers in the 1930s. To laugh is not to forget, but to feel better about feeling bad.

Clooney, as good as he’s ever been (and that’s saying a lot), is Ryan Bingham—a man who avoids serious relationships and is happiest when in the air flying to his next assignment. His job, and he’s the best there is at it, is to go into a company and tell dozens of strangers it’s adios to their paychecks. But when, at a hotel bar, he meets and falls for his female doppelgänger (Farmiga), he begins to consider changing his life.

Director-coscreenwriter Jason Reitman (Juno) knows that Air’s heart is in the scenes where Bingham fires folk (some played by the recently unemployed). Their reactions, ranging from shock to tears to anger, are so raw you know it’s real.


Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal | R |


It’s a story as old as Cain and Abel; one sibling is good and the other is bad in Brothers. Then they exchange roles. In this moving drama (based on Brødre, a 2004 Danish film) two brothers seem to have their paths cut out—one’s a model Marine officer (Maguire), the other a screwup (Gyllenhaal)—until life throws serious and even devastating curves their way. How they react, and what it means for them and those dear to them (including the woman they both love, played by Portman), is the focus of a beautifully underplayed film.