and Paul Chi
August 19, 2013 12:00 PM

Elysium

Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley | R |

SCI-FI

It’s 2154, and the more things change … well, you know the rest. There’s still suffering on Earth, but the rich have fled to the space station Elysium, a galactic Bel Air with posh houses and med pods that cure all illness. It’s bliss, and they intend to keep it that way, so when illegals try to breach the border, Elysium’s defense secretary Delacourt (Foster) shoots them out of the sky.

That’s what reformed thug Max (Damon) is up against when he gets radiation poisoning at his factory job. He must get to one of those med pods or he’ll die in five days. Damon gives Max a Bourne-like efficiency, particularly once Delacourt sics a psycho mercenary (Copley) on him. The ticking clock provides thrust, and director Neill Blomkamp gives the movie a grimy, visceral feel that amplifies the thrills.

Elysium is also undeniably political, which seems to be Blomkamp’s specialty. His first feature was the ingenious 2009 apartheid allegory District 9, also starring Copley. But don’t let the heavy metaphors put you off. Elysium may have a higher calling, but it’s all gritty sci-fi action at heart.

We’re the Millers

Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter | R |

COMEDY

You can’t pick your family—unless, that is, you’re a pot dealer who needs to hire one to move some Mexican Mary J across the border. Fortunately, David Clark (Sudeikis) chooses well, conscripting his pie-eyed neighbor (Poulter), a teen runaway (Roberts) and a stripper (Aniston) into playing his kin. Sadly, they’re all more engaging than the uninspired script. Sudeikis and Poulter get a few solid laughs, while the always-likable Aniston plays the straight woman, flaunting that smokin’ bod. But the cast is let down by plot setups that don’t go anywhere and jokes that are few and far between. Do stay for the outtakes at the end, though. The film’s funniest bits are the ones that didn’t make the cut.

Planes

Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus | PG |

ANIMATED

Dusty Crophopper (Cook) is a crop duster hoping to win an around-the-world race in this kids’ film, a higher-elevation take on Cars. The jet-set adventures offer pulse-pounding moments and lovely visuals along with solid jokes delivered by a cast of vocal talents, not just famous names. Planes’ real engine, though, is its huge heart.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario | PG |

ADVENTURE

A movie about demigods on quests doesn’t have to be terribly smart, but it should be fun. Sea of Monsters, starring the way-too-good-for-this Lerman as Percy, son of Poseidon, is neither. The second film based on Rick Riordan’s charming book series sends Percy and his half-blood friends after the Golden Fleece of myth, but the cast seems overmatched by the 3D effects, and the story sputters before it starts.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO ALYNDA: alyndasreviews@peoplemag.com

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