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“Elysium” – Fanboy favorite Neill Blomkamp follows up the Oscar-nominated “District 9” with another uber-violent dystopian genre flick, and this one’s even better. Matt Damon stars as a 22nd century anti-hero trying to hitch a ride to the titular space colony for medical treatment. Jodie Foster and “District 9” star Sharlto Copley do everything they
can to insure that doesn’t happen. A thinking man (and woman’s) sci-fi epic, “Elysium” borrows from Paul Verhoeven (the original “Total Recall”), George Miller (“The Road Warrior”) and even David Cronenberg (“Videodrome”), but still manages to feel completely sui generis. I can’t wait to see what Blomkamp does next. (A).
“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” – Mediocre sequel to a mediocre original (2010 Harry Potter wannabe “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”). After his fine work in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Logan Lerman (Percy) has clearly outgrown such kiddie piffle. For Lerman’s sake, let’s hope he passes on any and all potential sequels. (C-).
“Planes” – Blah, decidedly non-Pixar spin-off of Pixar’s “Cars” ‘toons, this assembly line nonentity was originally intended to be a straight-to-dvd attraction. The big screen only enhances its sheer ordinariness. (C-).
“The Way, Way Back” – Funny and touching coming-of-age story about a teenage misfit
(the terrific Liam James) who blossoms under the tutelage of an adult coworker (Sam Rockwell, fantastic) at a water park. Written and directed by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon (who won an Oscar for their “Descendants” screenplay), it’s a refreshing alternative to
overproduced–and generally underwhelming–CGI extravaganzas. (B-).
New on DVD:
“The Big Wedding” – Surprisingly not terrible. Despite a surfeit of gratuitous vulgarity and smarmy, inappropriate sex jokes, the overqualified cast (including Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace and Robin
Williams) is such affable company they somehow manage to make a fairly dreadful script seem quasi-bearable. (C-).
“The Company You Keep” – A fantastic cast (Robert Redford, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, et al) toplines this low-key adult drama about former ’70s college radicals. Too bad director Redford isn’t able to bring a sense of urgency–or even a pace quicker than his own shuffling gait–to the borderline somnambulant proceedings. As a result, the movie just sort of lies there for two
very long hours. (C).
“Olympus Has Fallen” – Idiotic action flick about a North Korean terrorist plot to destroy America, beginning with the–gulp!–White House. A classy A-List cast (Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Aaron Eckhart, Ashley Judd, Radha Mitchell, et al) is wasted on a jingoistic D-grade script that Chuck Norris would have rejected back in his ’80s glory days. (D).
“What Maisie Knew” – A little girl is used as a pawn by her divorced parents (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan) in Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s superbly written,sensitively directed and flawlessly acted adaptation of a Henry James novella set in present-day Manhattan. One of the year’s best films. (A).