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Up in the Air (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Director Jason Reitman followed up his wonderful Juno with something even better, a movie that somehow manages to make corporate downsizing a sentimental and humorous affair. Don't get me wrong; Reitman's film has much sympathy for those who have lost or will lose their jobs. It's just that he provides laughter with the pain.

Most of the bittersweet humor in this well-balanced movie is provided by George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a professional job-eliminator. Ryan is a man so afraid of commitment that he teaches seminars on how to remain unattached. He travels the country doing the dirty work for corporations that don't want the trouble of looking their employees in the eyes with bad news. He keeps a small apartment in Nebraska, but his main homes are airplanes and hotel rooms. He brandishes his airport and hotel club cards like badges of honor, and longs for the day when he logs 10 million air miles.

Clooney has become modern cinema's master of natural, effortless humor. This isn't to say he can't camp it up with the best of them (see O Brother, Where Art Thou?); he's just amazing at being able to make you laugh and appear like he isn't even trying. He can also handle the heavy stuff with the best of them. This could very well wind up being the movie he is most remembered for 100 years from now.

Reitman's film is remarkably structured, giving sufficient time to both Ryan's job issues and romantic situations. His time with a young up-and-comer named Natalie (Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick) is strictly business. Bingham must go into the field and train Natalie as she attempts to put a Web-based firing system into place, and they make an interesting pair. One of the film's best moments comes when the duo fires a corporate guy (a blisteringly good J.K. Simmons) who really wants to be a cook. Simmons has only a few minutes on screen, but he rocks them hard.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A filmmaker's commentary and some deleted scenes.

Tenspeed and Brown Shoe





(OUT OF 10)

Jeff Goldblum honed his comedic skills in this excellent, short-lived 1980 TV series that was ahead of its time. Goldblum played a bookkeeper who wanted to be a private eye, and Ben Vereen co-starred as a conman with sharp detective skills. Vereen's "man in disguise" shtick preceded Chevy Chase's Fletch, and his rapport with Goldblum was hysterically classic.

The show was a strange mishmash of modern sensibilities and stuff that had become big in the previous decade. Vereen and Goldblum faced such adversaries as motorcycle gangs and cowboy villains, and sometimes, the show had a CHiPs or Charlie's Angels vibe as far as the plot was concerned. But the show's stars were visionaries who refused to conform to conventions. I imagine that this was developed as a run-of-the mill detective-show homage, but when they cast their two stars, things went off in a glorious direction.

I vividly remember the early '80s as a time when I lost faith in American television. Police Squad!, Bosom Buddies and this show were all favorites of mine, and they all faced quick deaths. Combined with the cliffhanger ending for The Empire Strikes Back, they led to a very scarring couple of years for my developing mind.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get nuthin'! And screw CBS for not allowing the pilot episode (to which they own the rights) to go on the DVD. Greedy bastards! Still, it's great to have this show on DVD, even if it isn't a complete collection.

The Kids Are Alright (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I am a rabid fan of The Who, and I view this as the finest rock documentary ever made. Released shortly after the death of Keith Moon, it contains footage from their final concert with their infamous drummer. You also see them clowning around in the studio during a retake of "Who Are You," with Moon clearly having a blast.

Highlights include Moon blowing up his drum kit and allegedly starting guitarist Pete Townshend's hearing troubles during an early American TV appearance. (They give Tommy Smothers a hard time.) And, for sheer rock power, nothing touches their rendition of "Won't Get Fooled Again," featuring a nice laser light show and a massive Townshend knee slide across the stage.

I didn't go into this Blu-ray thinking it would be a big deal, since they released a deluxe version of this on DVD back in 2003, but I was pleasantly surprised. The picture and sound are astounding—so any fan who already has this in his/her collection on DVD needs to upgrade ...

SPECIAL FEATURES: ... But don't throw away the previous version on DVD. It has far more special features, with the Blu-ray retaining only the excellent director's commentary.


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