Other than The Great Gatsby, my most anticipated film of the summer has been Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium. Such status is almost solely based on the writer/director’s first film District 9, one of the few films I’ve seen that depicts oppressed entities as truly sympathetic without feeling like a Hallmark Channel movie. (The special effects are also stunning, especially for a $30 million production.)
Four years later, Blomkamp is back, imagining the world in 2154 where Earth is a poverty-rittled wasteland and the wealthy live on the titular orbiting space station. The action gets rolling when ex-con Max (Matt Damon) suffers accidental radiation poisoning. Given five days to live, his only chance for survival is to break into Elysium for the cure, and in order to get past their intense security, his body is outfitted with a metal exoskeleton to override the system. There, he must do battle with the forces of this paradise, run by ruthless Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her brutal century-old henchman Kruger (District 9‘s Sharlto Copley). High-concept sci-fi adventures ensue. Excited as I am to see it, however, I can’t help but wonder that if Blomkamp had made District 19 or District 26 that Elysium may have hit theaters a few weeks before August 9. Numerical conspiracy or not, will his latest creation be worth the wait?
In the vein of Quartet and, to some extent, the unfairly ignored The Sapphires comes Unfinished Song, the latest feel-good musical dramedy. Paul Andrew Williams’ film stars Terence Stamp as Arthur Harris, a grumpy retiree whose only true joy in life is the love of his wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave). When her health worsens, Arthur is forced to interact with her beloved quirky choir and its young volunteer leader Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), exchanges that may or may not encourage a melting of his thick candy shell. Kind of like a fictional version of the documentary Young@Heart, the film is almost assured to find a wide local audience, and though fairly conventional, it warrants this level of attention. I’ll most likely have a review up on Friday.
With the exception of Les Misérables, the lovely Amanda Seyfried has been on one ugly cold streak. Beginning at least with Mamma Mia! and rolling through such misfires as Chloe and The Big Wedding, her name has become synonymous with poor quality films. Will playing a famous porn actress change her luck? We’ll find out in Lovelace, the new biopic on Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s film played to mixed reviews at Sundance, even with one of the year’s most impressive casts, including Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Chris Noth, Adam Brody, Hank Azaria, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts, Chlöe Sevigny, Bobby Cannavale, and James Franco (as Hugh Hefner). The viewer with the most impressive porn ‘stache wins…respect.
From the director of Dodgeball comes We’re the Millers, about drug dealer David (Jason Sudeikis) whose boss (Ed Helms) asks him to transport a “small amount” of weed from Mexico to the U.S. In order to avoid suspicion when crossing the border, David recruits a stripper (Jennifer Aniston), a juvenile delinquent (Emma Roberts), and a nerd from his building (Son of Rambo‘s Will Poulter) to pose as his family. Discovering the mammoth shipment that awaits, the Winnebagoing clan must contend with a rival drug lord (Tomer Sisley) and road-tripping swingers (Parks & Recreation‘s Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn) to make it back home alive. The comedy could go either way, but I will note that the clip of Poulter gloriously going to town on TLC’s “Waterfalls” in the trailer has me perhaps overly hopeful. I’ll find out if the rest of the film is that good on Wednesday.
Readers of all ages love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, yet the books’ first foray into cinema was less than spectacular. Chris Columbus’ The Lightning Thief sported a decent cast (Uma Thurman, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean), but was plagued by bland execution and cheesy special effects. Still, it made enough money worldwide for the series to roll on this Wednesday with Sea of Monsters. Logan Lehrman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) returns as Poseidon’s teenage son Percy, along with demigod pal Annabeth (Texas Chainsaw‘s Alexandra Daddario) and satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson). Together, they seek the mythical Golden Fleece amid the Sea of Monsters while attempting to stifle the rise of ancient baddies the Titans. Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) takes over for Columbus while Nathan Fillion makes his series debut as Hermes.
The aviation cousin to Cars, Disney’s Planes was originally intended as a direct-to-DVD title before being promoted to theatrical status. Very much of that anthropomorphic vehicle world, the film follows acrophobic crop dusting plane Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook, trying to keep pace with Ryan Reynolds) as he pursues his dream of competing in revered race in the skies. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, and Val Kilmer are among the supporting voices in what will make three animated films currently in theaters. Should it have stayed the course of its initial destiny? We’ll see on Friday.
Fleeing the Scene
After nearly three strong months, Mud skedaddles on Wednesday, the same week it debuts on DVD.
Additionally, I’m sad to report that Fruitvale Station is exiting after a mere two weeks. While I understand that the subject matter may have deterred many viewers, the film’s message and lasting emotional impact are well worth the effort. Get thee to the Carolina today as it will be gone after tonight.
Joining Mud is my current pick for the year’s best film, The Place Beyond the Pines; the little-seen but exceptional adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road; and, I’ll say it one more time, the unfairly ignored The Sapphires. (Seriously, do yourself a favor and see that movie.)
Other options include Chairman of the Asi Asi Society is Oblivion, the classics-cribbing sci-fi tale with Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, and Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder, which never played locally and, like all of the director’s films, seems a crime to be viewed on anything but the big screen. But, you take what you can get…
On Netflix Instant
Season Five, Part One of Breaking Bad is the big draw in another impressive “First of the Month” deluge. Among the offerings are three distinct themes:
3) A plea to not forget the James Bonds prior to Daniel Craig, featuring every example with the exception of of 1967’s Casino Royale and (for whatever reason) 2002’s Die Another Day: Diamonds are Forever; Dr. No; For Your Eyes Only; From Russia with Love; GoldenEye; Goldfinger; License to Kill; Live and Let Die; The Living Daylights; The Man with the Golden Gun; Moonraker; Never Say Never Again; Octopussy; On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; The Spy Who Loved Me; Thunderball; Tomorrow Never Dies; A View to a Kill; The World Is Not Enough; and You Only Live Twice
Other notable additions are:
Fruitvale Station’s short play here is disappointing. Though as you said, the subject matter surely gave people pause, when they get some laughs or watch stuff blow up instead. I just hope this doesn’t prevent such movies from playing in Asheville in the future.
In addition to the subject matter, I agree with Ken Hanke that the poor turnout for Fruitvale Station had to do with 1) the Weinsteins suddenly taking the film wide without first screening it for smaller market critics to review and 2) its opening in three Asheville theaters…during Bele Chere…and up against the bona fide crowd-pleaser of The Way, Way Back. That’s pretty much the perfect storm for a flop.
Looking forward to Elysium! It’s the one I’ve been waiting for this summer.