Up in the Air
In theaters December 25
Here's an antihero for the great recession: a guy who lays people off for a living. Based on Walter Kirn's acclaimed novel, Up in the Air gives us Ryan Bingham (George Clooney in charming-rake mode), who jets back and forth across the country doing the dirty work for downsizing companies. Living in planes and hotels, Ryan is happily tethered to no place and no one, until pivotal encounters with a corporate upstart ( Twilight' s Anna Kendrick) and an alluring fellow business traveler (Vera Farmiga) make his free-agent lifestyle look like a dead end. Like Juno, director Jason Reitman's previous film, Up in the Air is a brassy, snappy comedy that only gradually reveals the big heart up its sleeve.
In theaters November 25
In The Road, nothing on Earth can come between a father (Viggo Mortensen) and his job: protecting his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from the dangers of a brutal postapocalyptic landscape. A gripping, faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel (a onetime Oprah's Book Club pick), the movie is not for the squeamish. (A scene depicting a certain dinner-foraging technique will rattle your bones.) But while The Road is bleak and grueling, it's never depressing, because the cold, scared, exhausted characters (who are never named) are lit up and kept warm by a father's dauntless love. Sitting passively in the movie theater, one could almost envy the man's indestructible sense of purpose.
Get the Oprah's Book Club reader's guide to the The Road