‘Up’ finally airborne while ‘Avatar’ soars
Those who keep an eye on the annual Oscar race have been hearing about “Up In the Air” since September, when director Jason Reitman flew his comedy-drama to back-to-back film festivals in Telluride and Toronto. Buzz has steadily increased as more people (both inside and out of the industry) managed to screen the gem, an adaptation of a Walter Kirn novel. Finally, Paramount delivers “Air” to arrival gates in every major city so mainstream audiences can get a look at what’s sure to be a Best Picture contender early next year.
Reitman’s timely tale follows Ryan Bingham, a professional corporate downsizer played to perfection by the suave, sophisticated George Clooney. Bingham lives a mobile existence, only feeling truly at home when he’s flying to his next job. The introduction of two women, however, force Bingham to park it on life’s long runway and assess if his life has any meaning.
Clooney keeps Reitman’s film grounded, though he’s assisted by three outstanding female co-stars Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick and Melanie Lynskey as Clooney’s soon-to-be-wed sister. But it’s the film’s commentary on our nation’s current unemployment crisis that makes “Up” extremely relevant, and a film tailored specifically for its time.
Unlike James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which – from a visual standpoint – is light-years ahead of our time. With his first feature-length adventure since “Titanic,” Cameron takes audiences to the mythical planet of Pandora, where a former Marine (Sam Worthington) attempts to infiltrate an alien race but ends up falling for a beautiful native (Zoe Saldana). Cameron’s eye-popping visuals are the story, particularly because the actual narrative is too simple to sustain the 150-minute run time. But “Avatar” does take 3-D technology and IMAX projection to new heights.
Meanwhile, “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” drops Hugh Grant’s romantic-comedy career to new lows. The stammering Brit stars alongside Sarah Jessica Parker in a flat fish-out-of-water farce that transports New Yorkers to Wyoming after they witness a murder. Transport yourself to a different theater, one that’s showing a better film.
“Up In the Air” – **** out of 4
“Avatar” – *** out of 4
“Did You Hear About the Morgans?” – *1/2 out of 4