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Damon, Foster Battle in ‘Elysium’; Triple-X Horror: Film

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Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Imagine this: A society divided between haves and have-nots. The former lounge by aquamarine pools on verdant estates accessorized with shiny medical machines that cure anything and everything. The latter are jammed into roasting slums where health care barely exists.

“Elysium” is a cushy space station where the privileged live in the year 2154. You can spy its moonlike glow from the rocky, torrid, desiccated earth below.

The movie aims to fill a space left by the Occupy movement, but, like its underfunded freedom fighters, it relies on crude weapons. Audiences may feel more manipulated than incensed at the sight of a dark-eyed little girl with advanced leukemia whose survival depends on getting to one of those machines on that gated space station.

Matt Damon plays the reluctant revolutionary once told (by a nun, yet) that he was destined for something great. Jodie Foster, as Elysium’s icy defense secretary, has little to do except stalk around barking mean orders in a clipped British accent.

The picture is as arms-happy, chase-heavy and deafening as any of its summer-blockbuster ilk. To the film’s credit, the writer-director, Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”), keeps the action coherent and fills the plot with clever twists that make up for some of the insulting obviousness of the political allegory.

“Elysium,” from TriStar Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *** (Seligman)

Linda Lovelace

Who was Deep Throat?

The thoughtful, uneven “Lovelace” reveals porn’s first superstar as a battered, broken rebuke to the sex industry she epitomized.

A poignant Amanda Seyfried plays Linda Lovelace, nee Boreman, whose performance in 1972’s jokey triple-X film “Deep Throat” made her and the phrase cultural sensations.

A surefire laugh-getter for Johnny Carson, Lovelace captured the free-spirited, anything-goes ’70s.

“Lovelace” presents the porn star as less punchline than punching bag, victimized by her pimpish husband Chuck Trayner (Peter Sarsgaard).

Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (“Howl”) expose the ugly story behind the raunchy one.

“Lovelace” begins in 1970, with a 21-year-old Linda living with her loving, milquetoast dad (Robert Patrick) and cruel, belittling mother (Sharon Stone) in working-class Florida.

Discovered at a roller rink by smooth-talking nudie-bar owner Chuck, Linda go-go dances her way out of the family home and into his seedy life.

The quick ride to porn celebrity plays out like a lark -- not glamorous, but as spirited as the lighter moments of “Boogie Nights.”

Midway through “Lovelace,” though, Epstein and Friedman essentially rewind the story, filling the gaps with the beatings, threats and a vicious gang rape that reveal Lovelace’s career as nothing more than sex slavery.

Written by Andy Bellin and based on Lovelace’s 1980 memoir “Ordeal,” “Lovelace” is heavy going, even as it builds to the star’s self-empowerment and activism. (She died in a car accident in 2002).

A final segment that recreates, through digital technology, her book-promoting appearance on “Donahue” isn’t nearly powerful enough to serve as much of a catharsis.

Seyfried, though, is faultless, and Stone, unrecognizable, is a small revelation as the heartless mother.

Adam Brody plays “Deep Throat” co-star Harry Reems as the hapless doofus he was, and Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale and Hank Azaria as mob-connected porn kingpins seem right.

Sarsgaard, though, is the most memorable, his nastiness nearly as unnerving as Eric Roberts’s similar, indelible turn in the 1983 “Star 80.”

Roberts shows up here in a cameo, a nice touch that’s far more successful than the howl-inducing miscasting of James Franco as a predatory Hugh Hefner.

“Lovelace,” from Radius-TWC, is playing in select theaters and is available on demand at iTunes and other digital platforms. Rating: **1/2 (Evans)


What the Stars Mean:

***** Fantastic
**** Excellent
*** Good
** So-So
* Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater and New York Weekend.

To contact the writers on the story: Greg Evans at gregeaevans@yahoo.com and Craig Seligman at cseligman@mindspring.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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