On a busy August movie weekend, the future looks bleak and beautiful.
"Elysium" is a smart political allegory disguised as a well-constructed science-fiction thriller. Matt Damon stars as a factory worker in a future Los Angeles where most people live amid the poverty, pollution and disease – but the richest of the rich have relocated to the luxurious orbiting space station, Elysium. Damon is desperate to get up to Elysium, to find the medical treatment that will save his life after a lethal dose of radiation, so he takes a criminal job to heist some computer data that Elysium's ruthless defense secretary, Madame Delacourt (Jodie Foster, with clenched teeth and wavering accent), will protect at all costs. Writer-director Neill Blomkamp, who mixed sci-fi with social commentary in his debut "District 9," paints an alternately sleek and gritty view of the future, and ratchets up the tension with some strong action sequences.
For the kiddies, Disney offers "Planes," a sequel-of-sorts to the "Cars" franchise that wasn't made by Disney's Pixar division. It shows. The cliched "follow your dreams" storyline, this time involving a plucky cropduster (voiced by Dane Cook) who wants to be a racing plane, is predictable and tonally all over the map. There's also an egregious bit of product placement (for American Airlines) that illustrates how Disney thought of this as a moneymaker and not as a movie.
The best at the Salt Lake art-houses this weekend is "Crystal Fairy," a trippy road story about two Americans – uptight Jamie (Michael Cera) and flower child Crystal (Gaby Hoffmann) – who meet on a journey in Chile, where Jamie is trying to score some hallucinogenic cactus. The characters and their interaction are authentic and fascinating.
Lastly, there's "Lovelace," a surprisingly dry biography of Linda Lovelace (played by Amanda Seyfried), star of the infamous and quasi-mainstream porn film "Deep Throat." Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman ("Howl") tell the story as a rags-to-riches tale, and then go inside to show the abuse Linda suffered at the hands of her husband Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). But the telling leaves a lot of unanswered questions about who Lovelace really was.
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