In “The Space Between Us” Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) is a regular kid with the usual litany of teen problems. Slightly nerdy and a tad socially awkward, he passes the time texting with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a pretty girl he’s never actually met. You see, Gardner is a normal teen in all respects except one—he lives on Mars.
Raised by scientists on the Red Planet after his astronaut mother died in childbirth Gardner lives in a settlement called East Texas founded by scientist Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman). As the only human ever born on Mars he’s alone, save for an R2-D2 clone called Centaur, astronaut/guardian Kendra (Carla Gugino) and a team of scientists. He longs for information about his mother so when the chance to return to Earth comes up on his sixteenth birthday he jumps at it, eager to track down Tulsa and find his biological father.
On Earth he marvels at the colour of the sky, the feel of the ocean but worries that he’ll be sent back to Mars before he has the chance to really live. He escapes, on a quest to find Tulsa and daddy, a man he never met. The boy who fell to Earth finds Tulsa and together they go off in search of papa with Shepherd and Kendra hot on their tails.
Is “The Space Between Us” a sci-fi film? Ish! Is it a teen adventure? Almost! Is it a doomed teen movie? Sorta! A romance? Not really! A fish out of water flick? Kinda! Is it a road trip? Maybe! It’s all those things and more wrapped up in an underwhelming Young Adult story.
At the centre of it all is Butterfield whose wide eyes give him a slightly otherworldly look, perfectly suited to play Tulsa’s favourite Martian. Robertson is spunky and even if everything that happens doesn’t really make sense, the two leads are appealing.
They stand in stark contrast to Oldman chews the scenery with unusual gusto. He over does it all the way, emoting as if acting was going to be declared illegal the next day and he’d never have a chance to do it again.
“The Space Between Us” a.k.a. “The Loneliest Boy On Mars” has some good moments but in its attempt to be all things—see paragraph four of this review—clutters up a story that would have been better served by streamlining the story and tone.
Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s big releases, the comedy of “Keanu,” the maudlin humour of “Mother’s Day,” the kid’s sci fi of “Ratchet & Clank,” the punk rock fury of “Green Room” and the b-movie action of “Precious Cargo.”
Richard and “Canada AM” host Beverly Thomson kick around the weekend’s big releases. They find out if “Keanu,” the kitten caper movie from Key & Peele is worth a look, if “Mother’s Day” is more than a Hallmark card come to the screen and if “Ratchet & Clank’s” good messages for kids make it a good movie.
Julia Roberts is one of the biggest female movie stars of all time. With a career box office north of $2 billion she, and her megawatt smile, were the stuff of blockbusters throughout the 90s and early 2000s. She was everywhere, and then, somewhere around the time Jennifer Lawrence was celebrating her thirteenth birthday Roberts stepped away. Not completely, but she jumped off the Hollywood treadmill, doing what movie stars who have nothing left to prove do.
That is, whatever she wanted. She stayed out of view, voicing a couple of animated movies and popping up in the occasional film, some high profile—like the ensemble of Ocean’s Twelve—some not—like Fireflies in the Garden—but the days of solo Pretty Woman-esque success were, by her own choosing, behind her. By and large her choices became a bit more eclectic as she relied less on the famous smile and more on flexing her acting muscles. Since 2004’s Closer her filmography has been splintered between crowd pleasers like Eat Pray Love, dramas like August: Osage County and misfires like Secret in Their Eyes.
This weekend she’s back working with the director who helped make her famous starring in Mother’s Day, her fourth collaboration with filmmaker Garry Marshall. The pair make a movie roughly every ten years, from 1990’s Pretty Woman to Runaway Bride in 1999 to 2010’s Valentine’s Day to this year’s entry, and their combo usually delivers big box office.
In between her the commercial films she makes with Marshall, Roberts makes a movie a year and while they haven’t always connected with audiences many are worth a look.
Duplicity is a romantic comedy about espionage. Imagine if Rock Hudson and Doris Day starred in Mission Impossible. Instead you have Roberts as an experienced CIA officer looking for a change and Clive Owen as a charming MI6 agent. Both left the world of international intrigue for the infinitely more profitable task of corporate security. Together they launch an elaborate plan of corporate dirty tricks to steal a top-secret formula that will revolutionize the cosmetics industry. Roberts and Owen are witty and charming and Duplicity, with its entertaining performances and stylish look, is a bit of fun despite its convoluted story.
August: Osage County, an all-star remounting of Tracey Letts’s hit Broadway play, gives Roberts her juiciest role in years. As Barbara she’s a bit of an enigma. She’s a jumble of mixed, complicated emotions, capable of both great kindness and compassion but able only to express herself through tough love. When she explodes she lets loose a lifetime of rage stemming from her mother’s (played by Meryl Streep) mistreatment. When they go head-to-head it is the clash of the titans and an unforgettable scene.
Finally, there’s Larry Crowne, a boomer comedy aimed at audiences with memories long enough to remember when gas only cost 54 cents a litre, none of your neighbours had foreclosure signs on their front lawns and Tom Hanks and Roberts ruled the box office. It’s an uplifting comedy about middle age, brave enough to tackle modern problems like downsizing and foreclosure, but non-challenging enough to weave all the bad stuff into a pseudo romantic comedy. Hanks and Roberts cut through the material like hot knives through butter and Julia treats audiences to one of her trademarked laughing scenes.
Does Garry Marshall work for Hallmark or does he just love holidays? In the last few years he has turned his lens toward “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve,” movies that bundle stars of dubious box office power in big, glittery packages to celebrate the holidays with all the joy and emotional resonance of a Budweiser Clydesdale commercial.
This weekend he casts his maudlin eye toward “Mother’s Day,” a look at mother’s and daughters featuring a Holiday Parade Womb Float.
Marshall continues with the scattershot story telling of his other holiday movies, presenting the story montage style. It’s as though he’s surfing the net, jumping from site to site, looking for something interesting to rest on. Three stories randomly dovetail together with contemporary motherhood as the glue that binds them.
Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is a divorced mother of two whose kids like her ex’s much younger wife (Shay Mitchell). Sandy’s gym is run by widower Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), a guy with kids of his own who dreads Mother’s Day. Then there’s Kristin (Britt Robertson), a young woman searching for biological mom, Home Shopping Network star Miranda (Julia Roberts). The final flower in the Mother’s Day bouquet is Jesse (Kate Hudson), an overstressed mom who, along with her doctor husband Russell (Aasif Mandvi), is trying to deal with an unexpected visit from her squabbling, judgemental parents (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine).
There’s more—it’s a Gary Marshall All-Star-Holiday-Extravaganza so there’s always more—like Jesse’s gay sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke), Timothy Olyphant as Sandy’s former flame and a Jennifer Garner cameo—which I suppose is appropriate because the holidays are supposed to bring everyone together are they not?
“Mother’s Day” is filled to over flowing with faux heart warming moments, like a Lifetime movie on steroids. It hits all the emotional hot buttons—a dead wife who also happens to be a veteran, abandonment, first love, an awkward dad, kids growing up too fast—and tops off the whole thing with two, count ‘em two, dewy-eyed American sweethearts, Roberts and Aniston. To avoid troubling the audience with actual human emotions Marshall runs the whole thing through The Sitcomizer™ to ensure maximum blandness and erase the possibility that viewers will see something they haven’t already witnessed a hundred times before.
None of that would matter much if the movie was funny but real laughs are scarcer than last minute Mother’s Day brunch reservations. A likeable cast is wasted on a movie that panders to greeting card sentiment and slapstick.
The best part of “Mother’s Day” is that it puts Marshall one closer to running out of holidays to cinematically celebrate. What’s next? Hug Your Cat Day starring Courteney Cox and Luke Perry?
We’re about to reach the tipping point of the summer and it’s not even the end of May. In a summer crowded with sequels like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Pitch Perfect 2, reboots like Terminator Genisys and Jurassic World, remakes like Poltergeist and Entourage, a TV show blown up for the big screen, along comes Tomorrowland, a big budget film based on an original idea.
Not every film this year is a sequel, prequel or the like, but Tomorrowland, with a budget topping out at $190 million, is the most expensive original film to come down the pike this year.
Borrowing its name from the futuristic themed land found at Disney theme parks, the movie stars George Clooney and Britt Robertson as a former boy genius and gifted teenager who, according to the press materials, “travel to a place somewhere in time and space only known as Tomorrowland where their actions directly affect the world and themselves.”
Disney is deliberately keeping plot details under wraps, hoping the allure of mysterious trailers will draw people in. It’s the opposite of the usual strategy of showcasing the film’s high lights in a two-minute promo.
I was at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California—imagine the Disney version of Comic Con—in 2013 when Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof unveiled the name of the movie, but little else. In a splashy presentation they claimed a “dusty old box” labelled 1952 found in the Disney Imagineering archives had inspired the story. Containing a mysterious mishmash of items, including a 1928 copy of Amazing Stories magazine, a photograph of Walt Disney and Amelia Earhart allegedly taken after her disappearance, a short animated documentary and an unidentified metal object, they said the idea of the film is to ask “what if these mystery clues were real?”
Teasing the potential audience into buying tickets is an intriguing but risky idea. It’s a risk Bird was willing to take. He turned down the chance to direct Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens to make Tomorrowland, saying, “it’s rare to do a film of this size that’s original, so those opportunities can’t be missed either.”
But will it be an opportunity that moviegoers will embrace? Suggesting that Hollywood only feels comfortable with movies that are presold via brand recognition is an understatement. Whether it is a familiar title with a number added or any movie from the mighty Marvel stable, the big studios aren’t in the habit of taking chances and it’s not their fault. It’s ours.
One of the main complaints I hear from people is that there are no interesting movies in release and yet Furious 7 and Age of Ultron have grossed amounts equal to the GNP of some small nations. By supporting big budget “branded” movies we send the message that original stories don’t interest us, only ones that give us what we expect.
While we have the chance why not take a chance on a movie that takes a risk? That’s the tipping point. Check out Tomorrowland or Ex Machina. If sci fi isn’t your thing, how about Aloha or Inside Out? There is room for all kinds of movies but why not vote with your feet and let the studios know that their steady diet of sequels, prequels and reboots is quickly nearing its best by date.
For a movie set partially in the future “Tomorrowland,” the new action-adventure starring George Clooney, feels kind of old fashioned.
The movie begins in the recent past and the distant future. Precious child inventor Frank (played as a child by Thomas Robinson, Clooney as an adult) has made his way to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, jet pack in hand. There he meets Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a young girl who slips him a mysterious pin that allows him access to Tomorrowland, a future world where all the modern problems have been eradicated.
Years later a similar pin lands in the hands of Casey (Britt Robertson) the daughter of a NASA engineer and all round smarty-pants. Tracing the origin of the pin leads her to Athena, Frank and a mysterious world that has changed somewhat from Frank’s youth. “When I was a kid,” says Frank, “the future was different.”
Director Brad Bird has made a big, handsome movie, ripe with imagination and eye-popping images that attempts to create the same kind of nostalgic awe as vintage Spielberg. He comes close but misses by a hair. Instead he draws out the story for two-hours-and-ten-minutes, taking too long to get to the fairly meagre why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along-and-save-the-world premise. The pacing feels like it is from another era when audiences were more content to sit back and drink in the atmosphere.
The realization of the future world is impressive. From the interconnected swimming pool pods to the special effects—You will believe George Clooney can fly!—to the Jetson’s style architecture it’s an eyeful. “Will you stop being amazed!” Frank says with exasperation, and no, we may not as long as Bird is entertaining the eye. It’s only when he tries to engage the intellect that the movie falters.
Classic sci fiction has never shied away from Saving the Earth and “Tomorrowland” should be congratulated for it’s world-is-going-to-heck point of view, but (MILD SPOILER ALERT) its preachy ‘The world could get better but no one is willing to put in the effort,” stance and ‘The future belongs to the dreamers” attitude it is naive.
“Tomorrowland” is the rare kind of summer movie, one that values its originality and ideas. Too bad it isn’t as forward thinking as the name would suggest.