Sunday, August 11, 2013
Cindy Prascik’s Reviews of Elysium / Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Dearest Blog, today it was off to the cinema as usual. On the bill: Elysium and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
First up was Elysium, Neill Blomkamp's followup to the critically acclaimed District 9.
In the not-so-distant future, most folks live on a ruined Earth that's long on people and short on resources. The wealthy, however, spend their days on a luxurious outpost called Elysium, where there's no pollution, sickness, crime, or other unpleasantness. Circumstances force Max (Matt Damon) to try to get to Elysium at any cost, but his efforts could have a lasting impact on both sides of society.
I think District 9 is a masterpiece, plain and simple, so to suggest my expectations for Elysium were ridiculous would be fair enough. Even though the movie doesn't quite meet them, it's still pretty impressive.
There's nothing subtle about Elysium's message--the imbalance between rich and poor--but I never felt like it beat me over the head with it, either, probably because it never pretends otherwise. The plot is reasonably engaging and the runtime is sensible enough that you don't get bored.
It would be misleading to say Elysium is a beautiful movie, because nothing could be further from the truth. Elysium, of course, looks like a pleasant place to live, but isn't any prettier on screen than the average golf course. The futuristic vision of Earth is grungy and depressing, but effective for bringing home the hopelessness of the average person's life. So...while it's not gorgeous, it is perfect.
Matt Damon is sympathetic and believable as a guy buried under the weight of past poor decisions, with little hope of ever getting out. William Fichtner is appropriately slimy as a business owner with regard for only his own skin (and bottom line). It goes without saying that the standout is Sharlto Copley, who's fantastic as a renegade member of Elysium's security force. The rest of the supporting cast is fine, if unremarkable, with the disappointing exception of Jodie Foster. I found her performance wooden and, frankly, a bit grating (and where she was going with that accent, I have no idea).
Elysium runs 109 minutes and is rated R for "strong bloody violence and language throughout."
It's not the masterpiece I'd hoped for, but it's still pretty darn good. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Elysium gets seven.
Next on the agenda was the sequel Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.
To restore protections to their safe haven, Percy Jackson and other half-bloods brave the Sea of Monsters, in hopes of finding the Golden Fleece.
The first Percy Jackson movie was passable teen-fantasy fluff, and the sequel is much the same. The plot feels like a soup that maybe was too thin to start, so the cook just kept tossing in ingredients 'til he ended up with something of a mess for his trouble. The film would have been better served had it focused on the main plot, without the other diversions. The dialogue ranges from flat to plain awful, and most of the attempts at humor are cringe-worthy. While some of the effects are impressive, the terrible CGI moments were too plentiful to really give kudos on that count, either.
Having said all that, the movie does have its pluses. Logan Lerman is perfectly watchable in the lead, and the always entertaining Brandon T. Jackson remains a scene stealer. The rest of the young cast is passable, and the older, familiar faces (including Anthony Head, Stanley Tucci, and Nathan Fillion) are as good as the material permits. One scene of a story being told within the story (think Hermione reading The Tale of the Three Brothers in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) is beautifully shot.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters clocks in at 106 minutes and is rated PG for "fantasy action violence, some scary images, and mild language."
It's a fun but forgettable bit of Summer brain candy that's suitable for the whole family. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters gets six.
And that, dear Blog, is that for this weekend. Next weekend is Gary Oldman's one and only cinema appearance for 2013, so you may expect much giddiness from this corner.
Until next time...
Make more movies, dammit!!