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Return of Sad Clooney

Plus: Pimply teens must consense upon a new movie theater

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Previews

As 2009 becomes history Thursday night, so will one of Humboldt County's movie venues. The Movies at the Bayshore Mall will close its doors permanently when its lease expires at the end of the year.

"Honestly, it's high time," General Manager Anibal Polanco said Tuesday afternoon. Attendance had dwindled in recent years to a measly trickle as the mall theater became a dumping ground for second-run films. Still, it's kinda sad to see the place come to such a piteous end. I recall watching the Shelly Long vehicle Troop Beverly Hills there when I was in seventh grade. OK, that particular film may not be worthy of whimsy, but the mall is also where I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, Titanic and Out of Sight.

The staff will be transferred down the street to the Broadway Cinema, Polanco said. If you'd like one last mall-movie hurrah, I suggest you go to a closing day showing of Fantastic Mr. Fox or Brothers. Then again, the disaster-bonanza of 2012 might be a more fitting end.

-- Ryan Burns

Reviews

UP IN THE AIR: George Clooney is pitch-perfect as the smooth-talking Ryan Bingham, a corporate henchman who travels from city to city as a "career transition counselor," firing downsized employees so that their bosses won't have to. He loves his life up in the air -- flying in airplanes, living out of a single carry-on suitcase, eschewing long-term personal connections so that he's physically and emotionally unencumbered. And Bingham is good at his job -- he manages to convince people that getting canned can be a positive life-transforming experience. We know he's doing something bad, but we like him anyway, mostly because he has Clooney's old-school movie star charm. Thus we accept his superficial life goal: racking up millions of frequent flyer miles.

Then he's knocked off course -- by women. First there's fellow traveler Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga, The Departed), a vivacious, seemingly like-minded executive he meets in a hotel bar. Then it's Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick from the Twilight franchise), a snippy, green Cornell grad hired by his boss Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Juno), to transform the firing business into an Internet-age concern, replacing face-to-face encounters with teleconferenced ax-jobs.

When Ryan takes Natalie on the road to show her what firing people is really like, they both come away with life lessons. A side trip to his hometown for the wedding of a sister he's kept distant takes him closer to accepting emotional commitment, especially since he brings Alex along. Will our hero open up and become a better man? Will love conquer all? Will Natalie downsize Ryan or vice versa? We're not telling.

Director Jason Reitman started out cynical with his first feature, Thank You for Smoking, a parable about a tobacco lobbyist/spin doctor who (almost) finds redemption, and moved on to heart-on-his-sleeve naïveté with the award-winning Juno. Here he takes a 2001 novel written by Walter Kirn, initially adapted for the screen by Sheldon Turner, and jazzes it up, stirring in a touch of old-fashioned screwball comedy (the chemistry between Clooney and Farmiga is palpable). It's tempered with a dose of topical pathos -- real laid-off workers were used for some of the downsizing scenes.

It's all as carefully packed as Ryan's suitcase, and for the most part it works. It's not a perfect movie: The character transformations seem somewhat predictable and the indie rock songs injected into the soundtrack tend toward overkill in underlining plot points. (Juno had the same problem.) The exception, soundtrack-wise, is the opening number, a soul version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" reimagined by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings that plays over a montage of moving aerial landscapes like you'd see from airline windows. Woody's anthem was a protest song; Jones' dark take on it strengthens the critique on the downside of the American dream. It goes down easy, but Reitman's rumination on the erosion of personal connections in modern times has something deeper to say. Clooney's skill makes it work. Rated R for language and some sexual content. 109m. At the Broadway.

-- Bob Doran

IT'S COMPLICATED: There's nothing complicated about this movie for the intended viewer: It is a (writer/director/producer) Nancy Meyers specialty, a middle-aged confection expertly rolled out and baked into flaky, perfect triangles of layered temptation to indulge the homey-romantic fantasies of the smart, wannabe-well-heeled-but-comfy-in-old-tennies mature woman (and chill, mature feller). Such a viewer knows that the film will provide a couple of easy hours of gentle yo-yoing -- with a few wild flips -- over a major life decision, one that could turn back the clock or propel the heroine forward into a lovely future. The Meyers film fan will know which outcome to hanker after, and at the same time half-hope she's wrong.

There will be giggles. Sentimental tears. Uncertain moments. There will be delicious and becoming food and lush, when-I-get-rich homes to die for -- the sort of places you feel crass for sighing over in those magazines you never read, like Country Living and Condé Nast Traveler. There will be a happy ending. Oh, and there won't be any damned kowtowing to the "equality" freaks who hate to think a professionally arrived single woman -- Jane owns a posh bakery -- with an occasional touch of the blues can be perked up by a man entering her life. Get over it, stingies: Love (or lust) puts a spring in anyone's step, even if she's already bounding over tall buildings on her own, and this movie is a love (and lust) story.

So, Meyers fans, this one's for you -- and it's as joyful and warm and funny as her other light but oddly substantive fare of this ilk (Something's Gotta Give; The Holiday; What Women Want).

Now, as for the complication. That would be the dilemma of 50-something Jane (Meryl Streep), who after a 10-year man-drought following her divorce from Jake (Alec Baldwin), finds herself getting drunk beside him in a bar while their three cherubic young-adult kids party it up somewhere else. Perfect Jane and Rogue Jake end up in the sack, and she winds up sick with mortification (and the hangover) while he gloats on his good fortune in falling in love again with his great-catch ex-wife. It helps that home life with his young, hot current wife, Agnes (Lake Bell) -- for whom he ditched Jane -- has become a domestic nightmare, complete with time paid at the fertility clinic; however, to Meyers' credit, the blame for that falls as much on the beefy shoulders of the boisterously juvenile Jake as it does on the wippet-thin shoulders of the imperious, insecure Agnes.

But even as the obvious unenlightened one in this drama, Jake steals the show with his lovable vulgarity and pathetic lost-boyness. If Jane is the harlequin heroine in all of this, he is the tragicomic hero -- because it's his scoundrelly behavior, after all, that pries our timid Jane out of her dormancy.

Well, him and the gentle, kind architect Adam (Steve Martin) -- still shattered from his own divorce -- who's designing the addition to Jane's seaside palace. Just takes a sparkly woman like Jane and an unexpected doobie moment to loosen his sad-sack self up, though -- nothing complicated there. Jane must choose between him and Jake -- and Jake's pulling hard, while Adam just hangs about tentatively. Plus Jane has her unbelievably puppylike children to think of, who are still quivering from their parents' divorce.

Oh, whatever will she do? If you gotta ask ... Just remember, it's the journey (and the croissants, laughs and rekindled old hearts) that matter, not the destination. Rated R for some drug content and sexuality. 118 min. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

--Heidi Walters

Continuing

ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL. Alvin and the gang meet their female rivals, the Chipettes. Watch the fur fly! Rated PG. 88m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

AVATAR. Military forces attempt to control and exploit a region and its people they know little about (In 3D). Rated PG-13. 162m. At the Broadway (3D), Fortuna (3D), Mill Creek and The Minor.

THE BLIND SIDE. A homeless African-American youth is taken in by a well-to-do white family who help him realize his football potential. Rated PG-13. 126m. At the Broadway, the Minor, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS? A successful Manhattan couple witness a murder and become the targets of a contract killer. Rated PG-13. 104m. At Broadway and Mill Creek.

INVICTUS. True story of Nelson Mandela's relationship with the captain of South Africa's national rugby team and their attempts to unite the country. Rated PG. 133m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and The Minor.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. Disney reverts to old-school animation for a fairy tale featuring a princess... and a frog. Retro! Rated G. 95m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

SHERLOCK HOLMES. Robert Downey Jr. stars as the updated, more ass-kicking version of the legendary sleuth. Rated PG-13. 128m. At the Broadway, the Minor, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

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