Damon – Foster Battle in ‘Elysium’; Seyfried Goes Deep for ‘Lovelace’

elysiumMOVIE REVIEW – ‘ELYSIUM’

Movie Info

In the year 2154, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth.
The people of Earth are desperate to escape the planet’s crime and poverty, and they critically need the state-of-the-art medical care available on Elysium – but some in Elysium will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve their citizens’ luxurious lifestyle. The only man with the chance bring equality to these worlds is Max (Matt Damon), an ordinary guy in desperate need to get to Elysium. With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission – one that pits him against Elysium’s Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces – but if he succeeds, he could save not only his own life, but millions of people on Earth as well.

R, 1 hr. 37 min.

Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Current Cinema

Beyond Control“Elysium”

by Anthony Lane
WWW.NEWYORKER.COM

At last, a good big film. The legacy of the summer, thus far, has been jetsam: moribund movies that lie there, bloated and beached, gasping to break even. But here is something angry
and alive: “Elysium,” written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, and set in the year 2154. The title refers to a space station, in the shape of a wheel, orbiting just beyond the confines
of Earth—less than twenty minutes away, by shuttle. Look up, and you see it hanging in the sky, shiny and unreachable, like a second moon or a vast Mercedes-Benz badge: a fitting
likeness, because Elysium is solely for the rich. They dwell in the wheel’s enormous rim, breathing an unfouled atmosphere and sipping drinks beside their private pools.

Down below, for the rest of mankind, the news is glum. Our planet is on the dust heap. Everything is parched and frenzied, not least in Los Angeles, where Max (Matt Damon), having done
time for numerous crimes, is going straight; he has a factory job, helping to build the clanking, hostile robots that serve as the city’s cops. After an accident at work, he finds
himself with radiation sickness and five days to live. At this point, most of us would quit, but not Max. The casting is spot-on here, because something in Damon—in the unsoothable
anxiety of his gaze, and in the squat, wrestler’s physique that seems less buffed than primed to explode—suggests an internal drive of high intensity. Projecting not the will to power
but a tireless lust to live, he remains likable, and oddly bashful—a regular guy who happens to belong in extremis. Cagney would approve, I reckon, though he never forgot how comic
such hardihood can be, and, watching “Elysium,” he would warn Damon not to lose the smile.

All of which means that we root for Max when he takes on a mission impossible. It’s a breeze: shoot down a shuttle, as it bears a wicked billionaire (William Fichtner) from Earth to
Elysium; stick a plug into his skull, whether he likes it or not; and download the corporate information, crucial to the governing of both places, that his brain contains. The master
of the plan is a jabbering ne’er-do-well named Spider (Wagner Moura), who has promised Max a trip to Elysium for his pains. Spider and his fellow-renegades want to strike a blow
against the vested, and sharp-suited, interests that reign in paradise. Max wants to go there because of the medical pod that, like a toaster, comes with every home. Lie inside it for
a few seconds, and all your sufferings—including radiation poisoning and leukemia—just melt away.

One thing the pod will not cure, however, is boredom, which must be the most common affliction among Elysians. Disease-free immortality is theirs, but who wants to spend eternity
strolling a weedless lawn and picking out sashimi for lunch? From where I was sitting, heaven looked like hell, or, at best, like a long weekend in Bel Air, and the strangest aspect of
Blomkamp’s film is his almost complete indifference to the place that bears its title. How come we never meet an Elysian family? Why not introduce an unwashed teen-ager who wants to
lurk in his room and listen to old Anthrax LPs, or a wife so refulgent with good fortune, like Catherine Deneuve in “Belle de Jour,” that she can’t wait to nip back to the planet and
get nasty with that guy from the tattoo parlor? The truth is that, as with Blomkamp’s previous movie, “District 9,” what stokes the drama is not satirical nicety but political wrath.
The mighty should be pulled down from their seats, and that’s that. The only one of them who is allowed to be a major character is Delacourt (Jodie Foster), the Secretary of Defense,
with a helmet of white-blond hair and the voice of a strangulated Brit. Foster is not the first actress you would choose to play a bringer of darkness, stripped of all moral
intelligence, and you keep waiting for her to see the light, but it never comes to pass.

Has Blomkamp maintained the promise, and the threat, of “District 9”? Not quite. He remains more gripped by setup than by resolution, and the third act of “Elysium” proceeds by
bludgeon and blunder, leaving a wounded logic in its wake. Also, the earlier movie, a fable of violent friction between humans and aliens, had the boon of specificity. Set in the
director’s native Johannesburg, it didn’t declare itself an allegory of apartheid, yet it needled away unmistakably at racial injustice. The look of the new film is no less urgent, but
the didactic intent feels more basic, and, as for the revenge of the downtrodden, which is meant to be as jubilant as the storming of the Bastille, it leaves you seriously worried
about what might ensue: think of Robespierre with a ray gun. On the other hand, “Elysium” does have Sharlto Copley, a friend of Blomkamp’s who took the leading role in “District 9,”
and who shows up here as an undercover agent, answering to Delacourt. His devotion to duty—or to sadism—is such that even a grenade blast in his face counts as no more than a hiccup.
At moments like that, the movie can be hard to watch, though it also finds an unexpected beauty in scenes of entropy and destruction. When Max blows apart an aggressive robot,
everything slips into slow motion, calm and hushed, and, with a flicker of pity in our amazement, we see the machine bloom into a thousand fragments, like the bursting TV set at the
end of Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point.” I have had my fill of bloodshed, many times over, in recent months; could metalshed point a way ahead?

In short, this movie has muscle. So does its hero, who bulks up yet further by donning an exo-suit, a skeletal casing that is drilled onto his spine and limbs to lend them additional
crunch. We saw something comparable in “District 9,” and the harsh fusion of mortal and mechanical seems to crystallize Blomkamp’s approach. Such is the force and the impatience of his
telling—on the earthly level, at any rate—that we don’t have time to lean back and ruminate on the wizardish feats of C.G.I., or even to treat the story as science fiction. Rather, it
hits you as fact; the director’s fiercest gift is not to invent the future, as a plausible dream, but to report on it as if it already existed. We are right there, rocked by the
incessant babel of languages, or watching Max line up to plead with his parole officer, who turns out to be a badly painted animatronic doll, like the grinning cabbie who ferried
Schwarzenegger around in “Total Recall.” An exasperated Max is offered a pill for his rising heartbeat, and asked, “Would you like to talk to a human?” Sweatier still is his dash down
a crowded L.A. street, with an enemy craft cruising overhead like the angel of death. As he seeks refuge beneath a truckload of pigs, you realize what “Elysium” has that films like
“Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Man of Steel” refuse to countenance. It doesn’t just look and sound right. It smells.

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lovelaceMOVIE REVIEW – ‘LOVELACE’

Movie Info

In 1972-before the internet, before the porn explosion-Deep Throat was a phenomenon: the first scripted pornographic theatrical feature film, featuring a story, some jokes, and an unknown and unlikely star, Linda Lovelace. Escaping a strict religious family, Linda discovered freedom and the highlife when she fell for and married charismatic hustler Chuck Traynor. As Linda Lovelace she became an international sensation-less centerfold fantasy than a charming girl-next-door with an impressive capacity for fellatio. Fully inhabiting her new identity, Linda became an enthusiastic spokesperson for sexual freedom and uninhibited hedonism. Six years later she presented another, utterly contradictory, narrative to the world-and herself as the survivor of a far darker story.

 

R, 1 hr. 32 min.

Drama

‘Lovelace’

by Todd McCarthy
www.hollywoodreporter.com

The Bottom Line
Smartly done account of the trials and tribulations of the first porn star.

Cast
Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Wes Bentley, Adam Brody, Bobby Cannavale, James Franco, Debi Mazar, Chris Noth, Robert Patrick, Eric Roberts, Chloe Sevigny, Sharon
Stone, Juno Temple

Directors
Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

The lurid celebrity and sordid aftermath of the brief career of the world’s first porn star is vividly, if not explicitly, etched in Lovelace. Given all the ways a project like this
could have gone wrong, the result is surprisingly good on several fronts, beginning with a shrewd structure that fosters an intelligent dual perspective on the public and private
aspects of the Deep Throat phenomenon. Leaving behind the overly academic approach they brought to an earlier cultural and censorship landmark in Howl three years ago, directors Rob
Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have made a real movie here that Radius-Weinstein, which picked it up from Millennium right after its Sundance world premiere, should be able to muscle to
potent returns in fairly wide specialized release.

Linda Lovelace was the nom de porn bestowed upon Florida girl Linda Boreman when she starred in her one and only hardcore feature, the 1972 film that became the adult film industry’s
first crossover smash, launched “porno chic” and went on to gross anywhere from $100 million to $600 million on an initial expenditure of less than $50,000. Lovelace only ever
collected her salary of $1,250.

Lurking behind the entire enterprise was not only the mob but, more intimately, Lovelace’s husband and manager Chuck Traynor. By her own account, he threatened, beat and controlled
her; kept her money; forced her into prostitution; and essentially kept her prisoner until she finally got away. Lovelace went on to write an account of her experiences entitled Ordeal
and promoted anti-pornography and women’s causes until her 2002 death in a car accident.

Her story is a sad, depressing and degrading one, so grim at times that one wonders if there’s any edification to be had from it. To say that Lovelace provides uplift by the end would
be an exaggeration, but the fact that the one-time victim did not succumb but, rather, stabilized her life and eventually fought back in every way she could provides a sense of
vindication.

The early going is a bit choppy as young Linda (Amanda Seyfried), who lives with her parents (Robert Patrick and an unrecognizable Sharon Stone, both excellent) in working-class Davie,
Fla., is escorted from the innocuous world of roller rink go-go dancing to the heavy-duty drugs-and-porn scene by the barely charming, bottom-feeding hustler Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard). A
19, Linda did bear an out-of-wedlock child who was put up for adoption, but she’s barely educated and far from worldly, putty in the hands of the domineering would-be entrepreneur.

When Chuck takes Linda up to New York to push his discovery on porn director Gerard Damiano (Hank Azaria) and producer Butchie Peraino (Bobby Cannavale), she objects that, “I don’t
have any skills.” Chuck protests that she does have one, a specialty she has perfected that will give the movie its title, lure audience upscale audiences to porn for the first time
and make its star notorious, sought after for a command performance by Hugh Hefner and the butt of jokes from Johnny Carson on late-night TV.

For whatever reason, the film avoids directly stating that Deep Throat was financed by the mob, specifically by Butchie’s father Anthony Peraino, a longtime New York big boss who used
the proceeds from this film to build a huge adult film empire, among other things. (Director Damiano contractually owned one-third of the profits from Deep Throat, but the elder
Peraino soon made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: a $25,000 buyout.) But the mere physical appearance of the vaguely menacing fictional moneyman, Anthony Romano (a smooth Chris Noth),
leaves little doubt that he’s not to be messed with. So annoyed is he with Chuck that he arranges for him to be absent when Linda films her big scenes near the end of the six-day
shoot.

After the Deep Throat frenzy has hit its peak, the film abruptly jumps ahead six years, with Linda taking a polygraph test to authenticate her accusations against her vile Svengali.
And thus do the horrors of the past few years begin to pour out: the beatings, the forced gang rapes, the pressure from Anthony to make three sequels, the virtual slavery enforced by
Chuck, the humiliating news that her father has seen Deep Throat. Through it all, she becomes determined not to make another hardcore film: “I just can’t do it anymore.”

Another six years later, Ordeal has come out, Linda is raising two kids and is appearing on The Phil Donahue Show saying, “Linda Lovelace was a fictitious character.” She’s
transitioned from the ultimate sex puppet and practitioner of male fantasies to a feminist hero of sorts.

Making a huge swing from the sweet, innocent Cosette in Les Miserables to the queen of porn, Seyfried has been decked out in curly black hair and freckles and otherwise deprettified to
an extent to approximate the look of her real-life character. She gives a strong, credible performance that catches Linda’s insecurities and exacts sympathy and regret for all that
happened to her, even as she might not seem to completely inhabit the role at all times.

Similarly, Sarsgaard convincingly expresses all manner of manipulative behavior and venal motives as Chuck, but perhaps the actor is simply too genial to be as scary as, say, James
Woods would have been in this role in his prime or like John Hawkes was in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Supporting roles are very well filled by the likes of Cannavale, Azaria, Wes
Bentley, Eric Roberts and Adam Brody as Linda’s fun-loving co-star Harry Reems.

Period re-creation is pretty decent on a budget, and both Stephen Trask’s score and the selection of evocative vintage songs add greatly to the mood.

Another theatrical feature on the same subject, Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story, is in development. Directed by Matthew Wilder, it stars Malin Akerman as Linda and Matt Dillon as
Chuck.

 

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