Rosemarie DeWitt and Adam Sandler in Men, Women & ChildrenMEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN

The single most definitive shot in director/co-writer Jason Reitman's "Ee-e-eek! The Internet!" melodrama Men, Women & Children is one from the previews, in which Ansel Elgort trudges toward dozens of fellow high-schoolers, all of whom are so fixated on their phones that they can't see anything, or anyone, directly in front of them.

Matt Damon in ElysiumELYSIUM

In Neill Blomkamp's Elysium, the sophomore sci-fi effort from the writer/director of District 9, the Earth of 2154 is a poverty-infested hell-hole that the richest of humans have evacuated for the gleaming, rotating space habitat of the film's title. An orbiting gated community of luxury, privilege, and (from what we can tell) almost universally white people, it's the utopia that our hero, Matt Damon's steelworker Max, longs to escape to, particularly after a fatal dose of radiation limits his time left on Earth to five days. (Medical advances on Elysium have eradicated disease completely; after one cycle through a futuristic CAT-scan machine, even cancer cells are killed.) The unaddressed joke of Blomkamp's film, however, is that Elysium - with its sterile mansions and perfectly mowed lawns and vacuous non-entities sipping champagne from crystal flutes - looks like a dismally dull place to be compared to the lively, recognizably human Earth, even in its decimated state. What's less of a joke is that Elysium itself, once we land on the titular site in its last half hour, is also dismally dull - or at least, dishearteningly formulaic - compared to the Earth-set goings-on of the film's first 70 minutes.

Anyone who has been reading this column regularly over the past few years has perhaps noticed an annual trend: While I generally aim for reviews of two or three new releases per weekend (even more if I'm feeling particularly adventurous), once December rolls around, that number generally slips to two at best, and oftentimes, only one.