Review Roundup: ‘Blue Jasmine,’ ‘Elysium,’ ‘Lovelace,’ ‘Planes’

bluejasmine

Blue Jasmine

Studio-Provided Plot Synopsis: After everything in her life falls to pieces, including her marriage to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), elegant New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) moves into her sister Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins) modest apartment in San Francisco to try to pull herself back together again.

My Thoughts: Coming out of this film, I cannot imagine for the life of me a situation where Cate Blanchett does not at least land an Oscar nomination for her work here. If anything, she may very well be the first lock of 2013. In Blanchett’s more than capable hands, Jasmine is somehow sympathetic in spite of being a horribly unsympathetic character. The easiest comparison, and one that I’ve seen made elsewhere, is to Vivian Leigh’s turn as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Outside of Blanchett’s performance, this is one of director Woody Allen’s better films. It astonishes me that Allen continues making films at the pace he does, and his box office success is actually going up in recent years. His high point at the box office from his more recent work is Midnight in Paris, which Blue Jasmine handily trumps. Personally, I think this is his best work since at least Match Point. The first few weeks of limited box office runs suggest this film could be a huge success for Allen; if so, it’s well-deserved.

elysium

Elysium

Studio-Provided Plot Synopsis: 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.

My Thoughts: Elysium is one of those films I went into with solid expectations, enjoyed while watching, then started changing my mind on the film the more I thought about it. What still works, in my mind, is the first act of the film. The film does an excellent job establishing Max’s world, making it abundantly clear why Max wants to escape to Elysium. After the first act, though, the politics begin to create some problems. On the surface, I enjoy the very political tone the film strikes, and I think that it’s entirely possible to be clear with a political message in this type of film. Hell, writer/director Neil Blomkamp did as much in his Oscar-nominated District 9. As I think about it, though, I don’t know if the film’s execution works all that well. The issues presented are too narrow for a world that should allow for far more issues. Finally, there’s the matter of Jodie Foster. Her above-title billing is just because she’s Jodie Foster – the character barely registers, and the most notable thing I can say about Delacourt is that her accent is all over the place. I can see this being a Razzie-nominated performance for the actress.

lovelace

Lovelace

Studio-Provided Plot Synopsis: 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 impressivecapacity 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.

My Thoughts: Thank goodness Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard – their performances elevate a film that I have to question being made in the first place. On the one hand, the story of Linda Lovelace is interesting insofar as its demonstration of perception vs. reality. On the other hand, Lovelace (a.k.a. Linda Boreman) was such an avid anti-pornography activist later in life, I can’t help but wonder if she’d approve of this film, particularly the first half which makes Linda’s life seem like it’s filled with love, fun and sex. There’s little depth here, and depth would make this film much more interesting and valuable.

planes

Planes

Studio-Provided Plot Synopsis: From above the world of Cars comes Disney’s Planes, an action-packed 3D animated comedy adventure featuring Dusty (voice of Dane Cook), a plane with dreams of competing as a high-flying air racer. But Dusty’s not exactly built for racing—and he happens to be afraid of heights. So he turns to a seasoned naval aviator who helps Dusty qualify to take on the defending champ of the race circuit. Dusty’s courage is put to the ultimate test as he aims to reach heights he never dreamed possible, giving a spellbound world the inspiration to soar.

My Thoughts: If you thought Cars was bad, Planes will show you how much better Pixar made it. The fact that Planes was originally planned as a direct-to-DVD release is evident. This feels like a slight step up from something made by one of those indie companies that makes horrible knockoff films that you can find on Netflix. When it’s not a retread of CarsPlanes is remarkably similar to DreamWorks’ recent Turbo, which actually told this story with some creativity. But worst of all: no matter how poorly this does, a sequel is already in the works for next year.

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