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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Created by author Henning Mankell, Kurt Wallander is not your typical police detective. He’s dirty, he smells, he’s a bad family man, he’s practically suicidal at times…and he looks awful all the time. But, he is good at what he does…it is by far what he does best…solve crimes. The crimes nag at him, infest his person, enter his soul and will not leave until they are solved. To say he takes things personally is a true understatement. Sure, Frost and Morse are both grumpy, unkempt at times and lacking in social skills, but compared to Wallander, Morse/Frost would be your favorite cuddly grandpa. And, these BBC/PBS productions are so skillfully done, they really get into the mind of Wallander. We can almost feel his pain and his angst. We are right along with this daughter as she pleads with him to eat and sleep. Branagh is perfectly cast as Wallander…he is not afraid, here, to let anything show…he is completely exposed. Most actors wouldn’t be able to do this…even if they could. The stories are your average crime fare. What makes the series as great as it is is the character Wallander and Branagh’s portrayal.

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Dr. Tony Hill is a psychologist. A pretty dang quirky one. He talks to himself. He tries to work out his cases by posing as both the criminal and the doctor. He’s a little strange…but boy is he clever. He plods and thinks and analyzes and examines and will not stop until he has solved the puzzle…always one step ahead of both the criminal and the police. Working with him is Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan who has a pretty major crush on Dr. Hill (and vice-versa) but neither will ever let anything happen. They are both too professional for that. But, as a crime-solving duo, they work together flawlessly. DCI Jordan calls Dr. Hill in on special cases…stumpers — mostly multiple murder cases or serial killings. Hill can almost “get inside” or see inside the brain of the killer. In the first case, Dr. Hill gets more than he bargains for when he helps DCI Jordan on a serial killing case and he gets targeted by the killer and captured and tortured. Does Jordan save him in time? Well, let’s just say that the series goes on.

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Ray Winstone embodies what all police want to be. He’s good at what he does. He’s great with the ladies. And he looks cool while doing it all. Vincent is an excellent show that really gets into the persona of the detective. Many cop shows brush on it…but this one gets inside. Winstone is an appeal, loveable yet slightly worn character that makes you wonder why he does what he does. But, when he starts solving crime, it all makes sense, since the puzzle pieces fall into place for him with such ease. A great show!

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A well-made British show about a vice cop who just cannot leave his work at the office. His passion for getting girls off of the streets consumes him…ruining every aspect of his personal and private life. Well-written and extremely well-acted by Ken Stott, who is best known for his work in another British show, Rebus. A must see for anyone crime TV aficionado!

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What a wonderful, eccentric detective Detective Inspector Frost is. He’s a whip-smart guy who never lacks that witty comeback or that well-timed pun. He loathes paper-work and patronizes his boss whenever he has the chance. All in all, a perfect British crime solver. The seasons I watched were (1 and 2, I believe) filled with good mysteries. Ones where you don’t see the outcome right from the beginning, which is good because with those predictable ones, you’re bored a third of the way through. But, regardless of the crimes, Frost would be entertainment on his own. In season one, his wife is ill and eventually passes away. But, during even this tragedy, Frost holds onto his famed “edge” never leaving a missed opportunity for a quick, snappy remark. Some would call that in bad taste. I just call it funny. I mean the character is set-up so you never really do take him THAT seriously. Why would he let us down by getting all serious when his wife is ill. He is serious, though, as a crime solver. That is when he shapes up and means business. But, then again, he does find ample chance to “stick” quips to the criminals. Don’t you worry….

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Sometimes a movie comes and changes your world. I would like to say that this movie made me a better person, but I think that would be a fantasy. It did, though, move me. It reaffirmed my faith in movies and moviemaking and acting. No action here. No sex. No blockbuster styling or CGI. Just a touching story that is perfectly acted, simply directed, and one of the best movies I have seen all year…if not even longer than that. The main character here is Walter, a stuck-in-a-rut Connecticut college professor and widower who craves some “music” (meant both figuratively and literally) in his life. We see him in the beginning taking piano lessons. He’s not that good…but we can tell he wants to keep trying. He is a complacent person who we can tell is looking for something. But, what? He is so complacent he even balks at going to NYC to deliver a paper he co-authored (though he had little to do with it, apparently). In NYC, he finds a couple living in his apartment. This couple is Walter’s salvation. They are the “music” he has been looking for. I’m making it sound like Walter’s change is overnight. It is not. He’s a middle-aged man who is set in his ways and it takes time and energy to get him out of his rut. Though Walter’s transformation is a positive change, this movie does not paint everything in a rose-colored light. This is a tough world…dirty and stark. Walter’s awakening is just one ray of sunshine. But, what a ray it is! If there is a movie to change your world, this one just might be it.

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