Valdosta Daily Times

August 16, 2013

‘Elysium’ is a nice place to visit but ...

Adann-Kennn Alexxandar
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — “Elysium” (Science-Fiction/Action: 1 hour, 49 minutes)

Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Diego Luna, Sharlto Copley and Wagner Moura

Director: Neill Blomkamp

Rated: PG-13 (Violence, strong language, gore and sexual innuendo)

Movie Review: Director Neill Blomkamp directed 2009’s “District 9" - neat science fiction with plenty of intellect attached. “Elysium” is also semi-intellectual, but it borders on being an action flick as much as it is an idealistic, philosophical piece. It combines the two to be entertaining enough to make it enjoyable.   

The year is 2154. Earth is overpopulated, polluted and has robots acting as law enforcement. The poor live on Earth’s shabby surface, but the wealthy are on Elysium, an orbital space station where medical technology is superior and life is good.

Max DaCosta (Damon) is dying. An accident at work exposes him to a lethal dose of radiation. He needs to make it to Elysium to eradicate the radiation and heal his body. Enter Spider (Wagner Moura), a techno-savvy syndicate leader in Los Angeles. Spider offers DaCosta a means to make it to Elysium. The catch is DaCosta has cybernetic parts added to his body, so he may connect to Elysium’s computer. DaCosta’s mission is a dangerous one, considering Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Foster) has sent agents led by Kruger (Sharlto) to terminate DaCosta and his allies.

This film adds much about the classism, the prejudices along the rich–poor divide, which exists in the world today. Because of this, “Elysium” attempts to be a thought-provoking, nice tale regarding the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The movie could have scored more points here. It does not.

The film only shows a few reasons for why life is better on Elysium. The film shows politicians and government officials living the good life on a plush space station are just as shady as government officials elsewhere. The government is catering to the rich. The problem is that how the rich are living barely registers other than a medical bed that heals the body in minutes. This wealthy world appears merely as a side note. Regarding this, “Elysium” appears as pretentious as its futuristic space station.

Otherwise, the plot focuses on the horrible life of people on Earth, but it does not give you a chance to relate because action sequences quickly become the norm. This is a shame because this film has plenty to offer mentally. Instead, it turns into an action film. It is more of a prevailing blockbuster pleasure than the intellectual screenplay it could be.

However, this does not hurt the film. “Elysium” delivers plenty worth observing. Damon, Foster, Luna and Moura are enjoyable players. Damon especially carries the film as its luckless protagonist.

While the screenplay diminishes the underlying themes of deferential treatment based on social class, the cast, the story and the visual effects of this possible future create a gratifying photoplay.        

Grade: B- (A nice place to visit, despite its watered-down nature.)


“Planes” (Animation/Adventure: 1 hour, 31 minutes)

Starring: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach and Brad Garrett

Director: Klay Hall

Rated: PG (Some mild action and rude humor)

Movie Review: “Planes” resides in the shadow of 2006’s “Cars,” a hit comedy about talking cars. “Planes,” a movie about talking aircraft, is a spinoff. It attempts to capitalize by offering a similar theme.

The film follows the journey of Dusty Crophopper (Cook), a crop-dusting plane. He dreams of one day competing in a global aerial race. Dusty finds his dream is reality when offered a spot to race other aircraft around the world. The task will not be easy for Dusty. He has a fear of extreme heights, and his design makes him less than fitting for an around-the-world race.      

Again, this family animated film attempts to benefit from the fame of “Cars.” “Planes" is much more dramatic than “Cars,” which was comical. Plenty of fun exists for families watching this entertaining piece, but viewers should be aware it is not as memorable or as funny as “Cars.” Yet it is more adventurous.

Grade: C+ (Cleared for takeoff for short flights.)


“We’re the Millers” (Comedy: 1 hour, 50 minutes)

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts and Will Poulter

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Rated: R (Violence, profanity, sexual innuendo, nudity and drug material)

Movie Review: David Clark (Sudeikis) is a veteran pot dealer. In order to pay off a debt to a crime lord, he creates a fake family as a means of smuggling a huge shipment of weed into the U.S. from Mexico. Clark hires stripper Rose O’Reilly (Aniston), his young and naïve neighbor Kenny Rossmore (Poulter) and Casey Mathis (Roberts), a homeless runaway teen, to be his family. Their task will not be easy. The four individuals work together about as well as terrorists and the law enforcement. They are all very different people who clash.

“Millers” is a comedy that delivers laughs. The problem is those laughs are juxtaposed potty-mouthed humor bordering on juvenile mishaps. A good example is the movie's attempts to be dramatic when its characters keep giving viewers a reason to dislike them.

Sudeikis’ character, David Clark, is a jerk. He tries to reach moments of depth that are supposed to inspire emotion, but Sudeikis plays the character in such a mean, arrogant spirit that David Clark aggravates.

Aniston is a charming woman here but appears more mother-like than stripper, even when she is on the stage as an exotic dancer. Her character is just not believable. Younger cast members Poulter and Roberts fit their roles, however.  

As a group, they provide some laughs. The problem is that the script perverted material that constantly makes the good moments adolescent bits.

Grade: C (They are a passable family when decent.)


“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” (Adventure/Family: 1 hour, 50 minutes)

Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson and Douglas Smith

Director: Thor Freudenthal

Rated: PG (Violence, some scary images and mild language)

Movie Review: This adventure is a sequel to 2010’s “Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief” (Director Chris Columbus). “Sea of Monsters” is not nearly as original as its prequel. The plot is similar to “Wrath of the Titans” (2012).

Percy Jackson (Lerman), the demigod son of Poseidon, leads a team to find the mythical Golden Fleece to cure a tree that forms a barrier that protects their home and training ground, Camp Half-Blood. That is just one objective for Percy Jackson. The young man must also find a way to relate to another of Poseidon’s half-blood sons, Tyson (Smith), a Cyclops. On their quest to find the Golden Fleece, the young team must also fight against a team of rogue Camp Half-Blood members who want the fleece for a more sinister reason.

Based on Rick Riordan’s book, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters,” this tale is just interesting enough to make sitting through it enjoyable. The script throws too many subplots together. In that sense, it appears to lose focus at times. It is more like two movies in one, where neither is very powerful because the other intervenes.  

The characters are intriguing, but the plot focuses more on story when the characters are more intriguing. This is the great fault of “Sea of Monsters.” It does explore the story's most apparent — the main players — relationships with each other.  

While watching this film, you get the sense that something from the book is missing.

Instead, audiences’ treats are neat characters, good visual effects and energetic adventures. No matter the genius of these concepts, they cannot cover up the ills of the story. And this is sad considering the characters are entertaining and likable.    

Grade: C+ (Percy Jackson is in an adventurous but so-so story.)