George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a paid “hatchet” man whose job is to fire people for corporate executives who don’t have the guts to do it themselves. Touted as a “transition specialist”, he spends 322 days a year flying from one city to the next while living out of a one-room rental at a place that looks like the Hampton Inn.

His goal: To achieve membership in the 1,000,000 mile club and receive the airlines club card that identifies him as only the 7th man in the world to reach this milestone.

Bingham loves his work and he truly believes he is a performing a positive service. This, however, is not an upbeat movie. It is a timely and very poignant look at getting downsized in the worst job market in decades. Director Jason Reitman has chosen to cast real people who have been recently fired for the roles of the employees that Bingham meets.

Bingham has no relationships, even with his family, and no commitments. He finds this very satisfying. So too, does the female “road warrior” Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) he meets in a hotel bar, naturally.

His boss, played by Justin Bateman, brings in a new whiz kid Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who has found a way to cut expenses by firing people through videoconferencing. Kendrick is energetic, smart and likable. Bingham takes her on the road to show the hotshot how he does it, and then to attempt the changeover. Clooney is at his best in these scenes. He is smooth and warm and engaging.

We follow Bingham to Wisconsin to attend his sister’s wedding who he hasn’t seen in years. There we get another glimpse of the character’s bravado while really seeing that he is just a lonely guy.

A late scene with Alex is, thankfully, not your “Harry Met Sally” happy ending. It is also unexpected and it is in this scene that you witness the great actor Clooney has become.

Kendrick and Farmiga are good additions to the cast and this is Clooney’s best role. Academy Award nominations for sure for the movie and possibly Clooney.

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JANUARY

Mon., Jan. 4
Early registration opens for Niles District
cardholders who bring their completed
10-punch film card. 
&
WATCH TO WIN contest begins

Mon., Jan.11
Registration opens for all Niles District cardholders


Mon., Jan. 25
Registration opens for all NON-Niles District cardholders

Tues., Jan. 26, 2pm
Rebecca, Not Rated, 130 min

FEBRUARY

Mon., Feb. 8
PICK THE WINNERS contest begins

Tues., Feb. 9, 2pm
The Lost Weekend, Not Rated, 101 min


Wed., Feb. 17, 7:30pm
Road to the Oscars® with Reid Schultz:
2009 in Film! (R)

MARCH

Tues., Mar. 2, 2pm & 6pm
My Fair Lady, Rated G, 170 min — SINGALONG


Sun., Mar. 7, 7:00pm
Oscar® Night Party! (R)

(R) Registration required

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December

*Sat., Dec. 5, 2pm—Angels and Demons, PG-13, 138 min
*Thurs., Dec. 17, 2pm—Four Christmases, PG-13, 88 min
*Sat., Dec.19, 2pm—Josh Groban in Concert, NR, 60 min

January

*Sat., Jan. 2, 2pm—My Sister’s Keeper, PG-13, 109 min
*Mon., Jan. 4—WATCH TO WIN OSCAR CONTEST begins —
see the AV Desk for details.
*Sat., Jan.16, 2pm—Gypsy Caravan: When the Road Bends, NR, 60m.
*Thurs., Jan. 21, 2pm—Julie and Julia, PG-13, 123 min
*Tues., Jan. 26, 2pm—Rebecca, NR, 130 min
*Thurs., Jan. 28, 2pm—Classical Composers in Hollywood

February

*Sat., Feb. 6, 2pm—The Proposal, PG-13, 108 min
*Mon., Feb. 8—PICK THE WINNERS OSCAR CONTEST begins —
see the AV Desk for details.
*Tues., Feb. 9, 2pm—The Lost Weekend, NR, 101 min
*Thurs., Feb. 11, 2pm—Amélie, R, 122 min
(in French with English subtitles)
*Sat., Feb. 13, 2pm—Patsy Cline: Sweet Dreams Still, NR, 60 min
*Wed., Feb. 17, 7:30pm—Road to the Oscars® w/Reid Schultz:
2009 in Film!
*Thurs., Feb. 18, 2pm—My Life in Ruins, PG-13, 95 min

March

*Tues., Mar. 2, 2pm & 6pm—My Fair Lady, G, 170 min — SINGALONG

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Clint Eastwood directs and stars as a former violent cowboy who turns over a new leaf. Now a father and a widower, he finds out whether he still has that violent streak. Eastwood and a friend (Morgan Freeman) decide to collect a bounty in a corrupt town, run by a detestable sheriff (Gene Hackman). Called a “psychological” Western, this film won Eastwood his first Oscar for Best Director, in addition to snagging Best Picture and a Supporting Actor Oscar for Hackman.

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When I saw Monster or The Queen, I felt like I had seen movies where the actors (in these cases, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren respectively) embodied the persona of a real-life person. In La Vie en Rose Marion Cotillard takes it one step forward…she embodies the persona and the SOUL of the Edith Piaf. When I was watching this, I just became immersed with Piaf and this movie. I was in a trance…mesmerized in the performance. I had seen Cotillard in A Good Year, a romantic comedy in which she played the love interest to Russell Crowe. She was a striking, tall, stunningly beautiful woman with close-to-perfect features and almost an ethereal quality. In La Vie en Rose, she is truly Piaf…hunched over, small, course, and beautiful only the eyes of a few select people. What is beautiful, mostly, about Piaf, is her voice. Watching Cotillard, though, makes this short, awkward woman a striking person without an overabundance of physical beauty. Without adding any physical attributes to her, Cotillard brings out the inner beauty of Piaf…in both the depth of the fabulous performance and with the sparkle always shining through Piaf’s eye whenever Cotillard is shown. The movie, itself, is a good deal too long and would be quite tedious if I were not memorized with the performance. I’m sure it could have benefited with some serious time in the editing room…as long as no scenes featuring Piaf were cut out. She’s way too good to leave on the cutting room floor.

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By far, Harrison Ford’s finest performance…here as a Philadelphia cop who loses his partner in a shooting where the only witness is a little Amish boy. With his mother at a train station, the boy is in the bathroom at the same time the cop is shot…peering through the stall door, getting a good look at the shooter. Knowing the boy is in considerable danger, Ford’s detective tries hiding the boy and his mother in Philadelphia…but when that doesn’t work, he is forced to take them back home to Amish Country and stay with them for protection (and because he gets shot himself). Of course, this leads to some issues…mostly having to do with the mother’s father-in-law who has more than a few suspicious about this rough-and-ready city cop. Though the mother is recently widowed, the problem with Ford’s presence on the farm is not so much that he’s a man…but that he’s “English,” meaning not Amish. Everyone is on top of their game here…especially Ford who starts off as a smart, tough cop and has to somehow amend his characteristics to fit in with the Amish.

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The only way Dustin Hoffman can get work as an actor is to become a woman, which he does to get a role on a soap opera. At first, it is only temporary, but after his character improves the show greatly, they sign him on for a longer stint. When he falls for co-star Jessica Lange (who won a supporting Oscar for her role as a lonely single-mother and actress), he needs to stop the charade…but can he? Directed by Sidney Pollack, who has a small role in the film, as well as a young Bill Murray, who steals his scenes with his dry, deadpan humor.

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One of the more powerful films I’ve seen all year, the one word I keep using to describe this film and especially the main character of Daniel Plainview is ruthless. Here is the story of a man who at the VERY beginning of the film, sets his mind on a goal…to find oil on his land. We see him deep in the earth, checking the rocks to see if they lend any clues about what’s below. Once oil is found, we see Daniel’s progression to businessman. He no longer is LOOKING for oil. He has found it. And he wants to keep finding it on other pieces of land. Then, we see him as entrepreneur…a man who has a diversified and successful business in oil mining. The end of his life (shown just at the tail end of this lengthy movie) is about what his years of ruthlessness has led to…how it has taken its toll on him as a man and as a human being. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a fabulous performance as Daniel and conveys convincingly to the audience to what lengths Daniel will go to in order to succeed as an oilman…no matter how nefarious. Lying, cheating, stealing, killing are never out of the question, when oil and power are at stake.

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When young rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) becomes involved in a case that requires the assistance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), she quickly finds herself in over her head. Clarice is assigned to the case of a serial murderer who calls himself Buffalo Bill. In order to track down Buffalo Bill, Clarice needs to talk with Dr. Lecter, a psychiatrist turned cannibal, who is serving a life sentence for his crimes. Dr. Lecter might hold the key in unlocking the identity of Buffalo Bill, but in exchange for information, Clarice has to give up some of her past secrets to him. The crimes and horror of this film are not what makes this a stellar movie, but rather it’s the intense psychological battle that is fought between Clarice and Dr. Lecter that adds to the perfect combination of fear and tension to this film. Ms. Foster’s performance as the inexperienced, innocent agent who is not emotionally ready to take on the evilness of Dr. Lecter is right on target. The audience can see the terror in her eyes as she does her best to stare down Dr. Lecter. Mr. Hopkins, though, steals the show with his cunning and tense portrayal of the intelligent, shrewd killer. Dr. Lecter plays a game with Clarice as he tries to weed secrets out of her. Both performances were honored with Academy Awards, and when you watch the film, you will most definitely see why. In addition to Academy Awards for acting, the film, directed by Jonathan Demme, won Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay (based on the novel by Thomas Harris).

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Are the hills alive? Well, if they weren’t before this movie, they sure are now. Take the premise from Maria von Trapp’s life story and add songs and dancing and what do you have—magic! That’s what Rodgers and Hammerstein must have discovered when they began adapting this story for the stage. And, shortly after its success on Broadway, Hollywood came calling and Rodgers and Hammerstein answered, taking director Robert Wise and writer Ernest Lehman along for the ride. If you don’t like musicals, you might be advised to be especially leery of this one. The Sound of Music takes the sappiness and melodrama you normally find (in small amounts) in musicals to new heights. But, in this film with this story and with these characters, it just seems to work and I love it. Julie Andrews (never better) plays Maria, a young, fledging novice nun who just can’t seem to make her convent life work with her rebellious and free-spirited personality. Christopher Plummer plays stern and ill-tempered Captain von Trapp, the head of a family for whom she governesses. Since I already said it was sappy, you can assume that a love story between these two unlikely people develops. Now seen as more of a children’s film, this movie is very much for everyone. Sure, children like the singing and the fact that there are six kids in the cast. But, adults should also appreciate that this film, though a bit overdone, is one of the best examples of the Hollywood musical ever produced.

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