Tag Archives: Britt Robertson

Lost in ‘Space’

‘The Space Between Us’ is a cheesy constellation of movie junk food

THE SPACE BETWEEN US

Britt Robertson and Asa Butterfield star in ‘The Space Between Us.’

The Space Between Us
Starring Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman & Carla Gugino
Directed by Peter Chelsom
PG-13

Men are from Mars, as the saying goes, women are from…Colorado?

Well, that’s the case in this futuristic, young-adult sci-fi romance, in which a teenage boy born and raised on the red planet strikes up a (really, really) long-distance relationship with a high-school girl in the Rocky Mountains.

Gardner Elliott was just a little ultrasound blip—unbeknownst to NASA—when his mom, the team leader of a group of astronaut pioneers, blasted off to join a space colony on Mars. But Gardner’s mother died during his childbirth, and it’s decided to keep the reason for her death—and thereby Gardner’s entire existence—a secret by the eccentric space-privateer mastermind of the project, Dr. Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman).

THE SPACE BETWEEN US

Dr. Sheppard (Gary Oldman) introduces his astronaut pioneers.

So Gardner (Asa Butterfield) grows up 249 million miles away, in the “bubble” of the space settlement with a surrogate mom (Carla Gugino), older scientist buddies and a babbling robot companion. To let off steam, he goes outside and cuts angry, red-dust donuts in the Mars rover.

And like most teenagers, he spends a lot of time online. He’s transfixed by photos and video of his mom and a man he presumes is his father. And somehow, he connects with a girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson) in Colorado.

(The movie doesn’t show us what happens when Gugino gets the monthly bill for the wireless data package—but you can only imagine.)

Anyway, Gardner convinces Tulsa that he’s really iChatting with her from a penthouse on Park Avenue in New York City, and that he’s suffering from a rare illness.

The “illness” part is partly true. Since he “gestated,” was born and grew up in the low gravity of Mars, his body and its organs are different from any Earthling. His bones are more brittle, his blood is thinner, his heart is larger and weaker. On Earth, now, he would have a hard time.

So, yes, you know what’s going to happen.

Gardner sets off on a shuttle for the far, far faraway place he’s only seen in movies and on his computer screen. Let the adventure begin!

There are some moments of sweetness, loveliness and humor. Gardner is overwhelmed with Earth—its vibrant colors, food, people, people everywhere and endless varieties of everything. He’s so much heavier in Earth’s stronger gravity; he has trouble walking. He thinks that Tulsa, when he meets her, is the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.

Soon he and Tulsa are on the lam, on a cross-country road trip, to find Gardner’s father. And of course, Gardner is falling in love.

But trouble looms: Gardner’s weakened heart is a ticking time bomb, and Dr. Shepherd is racing to find the young man from Mars and send him back.

And there’s a twist, one you may see coming like a gigantic meteor long before it hits you.

THE SPACE BETWEEN USIf you’re a young teenager, you may be transfixed by this YA space goop, a cheesy constellation that feels like something Nicholas Sparks might have strung together on a sugar rush after eating too much freeze-dried astronaut ice cream and washing it down with gulps of lukewarm Tang.

The plot is a jumbled rush of events, a pileup of preposterousness and a clichéd cascade of Hollywood happenstance.

Gardner comes all the way from Mars, doesn’t know Tulsa’s last name or much anything else, but he walks right into her school, and right into her. (School security must not be of much concern in the future.) Things seem carelessly, jarringly, out of time. In the movie, we can live on another planet, nap in driverless cars and zip around in private space shuttles. But when Tulsa and Gardner need to make a getaway, they hop into a 1920s-era biplane (!), which she knows how to fly, and she’s equally at home on her vintage 1950s motorcycle.

More “refined” viewers might embrace moments when the movie seems to aspire to something deeper and richer, like its repeated references to the 1987 German romantic fantasy film Wings of Desire, about invisible, immortal guardian angels, Gardner’s inspiration; or how Oldman’s character’s last name shrewdly echoes that of NASA’s first Mercury astronaut, Alan Shepard.

At 19, Butterfield, a child star in the wonderful Hugo (2011), and more recently Jake in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, channels cinematic bits of Rain Man, Jeff Bridges’ Starman (1984) and even some of Peter Sellers’ Being There (1979), in which Seller’s character was also called Gardner.

But Britt Robertson may have finally aged out of playing a teenager. The star of Tomorrowland and The Longest Ride (both 2015), now 26, has pluck and poise, but surely there were other young(er) actresses who at least looked a bit more like they’d belong next to a row of high school lockers?

Director Peter Chelsom, whose resume includes Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009) and Funny Bones (1995), an obscure Jerry Lewis comedy that only played in a handful of theaters before closing, simply doesn’t seem to know how to put all the pieces of this Space puzzle together. Screenwriter Allan Loeb isn’t much help—there must not have been much to draw from in his experience as the writer of Adam Sandler’s raunchy Just Go With It, the dud movie musical Rock of Ages and the box-office flops The Switch, The Dilemma and Here Comes the Boom.

At one point, Gardner grabs an Earth snack, a Mars candy bar. It’s meant as a fleeting in-joke, but it’s a pretty good shorthand for The Space Between Us as a whole—movie junk food, empty calories, a satisfying yummy for a certain non-discriminating viewer with a sweet tooth for something soft, sugary, forgettable and disposable.

In one scene, Tulsa and Gardner stop off in Las Vegas, where she wants to give him a crash course in world geography. “Paris, Venice, Cairo—it’s like a big toy box!” she chirps. So many places, all their landmarks reproduced as casino cathedrals. But Gardner doesn’t have the reaction she hopes. It’s too much for him, a bombardment of sensory overload.

“It’s hurting my head,” he says.

Yes, too much candy can do that.

 

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Oh Mama

All-star cast sinks in overly sweetened, sentimental sap

Mother’s Day

Starring Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson & Shay Mitchell

Directed by Garry Marshall

PG-13

 

Mother’s Day the holiday is all about moms, and so is Mother’s Day the movie, which has them of every shape, style, size, temperament and hue.

And life sure looks beautiful, bountiful, wacky and whimsical when it’s played out against a picture-perfect backdrop of suburban affluence by Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Sudeikis, Shay Mitchell (from TV’s Pretty Little Liars), Britt Robertson, Jennifer Garner, Jon Lovitz and comedian Loni Love.

This is the third holiday-themed ensemble comedy from Garry Marshall, the veteran TV writer/producer (Happy Days, The Odd Couple, Mork and Mindy) and movie director (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride) who also previously brought us Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. In both of those films, as in this one, an all-star cast of unrelated characters manages to somehow intersect with each other, as improbable as it might seem.

MOTHER'S DAY, l-r: Sarah Chalke, Jon Lovitz, Kate Hudson, Margo Martindale, Aasif Mandvi, 2016.Marshall is a maestro of this kind of comedic mixology, plied and played over the decades. But it seems to have run out of a lot of its steam, at least for contemporary times. Most of his movie gags feel like they’re waiting for a sitcom’s laugh track to back them up, and his bawdy, brusque, broad brushstrokes of humor aren’t what anyone would exactly call enlightened.

“I don’t get that joke, but I think it sounds racist,” says one character when another makes a crack about her ethnicity.

Young boys shock their mom (Aniston) by talking about their genitals; a teenage girl embarrasses her widower dad (Sudeikis) by asking him to buy tampons; a lesbian couple (Sarah Chalke and Cameron Esposito) makes a pink “womb” float for a Mother’s Day event—which another character refers to as a “parade of vaginas.”

Are you laughing yet?

Then maybe you’ll titter when a good-ol’-boy grandpa (Robert Pine) addresses his Indian son-in-law (Aasif Mandvi) as a “towelhead,” or when grandma (Margo Martindale) sizes up a situation by asking herself, “I put on a bra for this?”

MD-01174.CR2The large, talented cast is largely wasted with little do but go with the flow of the overly sweetened, sentimental twists and turns, the not-so-surprising surprises and the eventual resolutions and wrap-ups. But the sap eventually sucks all of them under.

Coincidence is one thing, but here, worlds collide like particles in some kind of bizarre cinematic quantum theory, where strands not only cross and overlap, they magically weave into a crazy Mother’s Day movie smock of American flags, a careening RV, a Tao-dispensing clown, soccer, Skype, llamas, teenagers, toddlers, babies, a cute guy in a comedy club, Aniston with her arm stuck in a vending machine and Sudeikis singing “The Humpty Dance.”

And Hector Elizondo, an actor you should recognize if only because he’s been in every movie Garry Marshall has ever made, all the way back to 1982.

I’d love to see what Garry and Hector—and who knows who else—could do with Election Day. Now that could really be fun.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Disney Dreams

George Clooney goes back to the future

 

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..Casey (Britt Robertson) ..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2015

Britt Robertson stars as an idealistic teenager who gets a ticket to ‘Tomorrowland.’

 

Tomorrowland

Starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson & Hugh Laurie

Directed by Brad Bird

PG

Walt Disney always wanted his parks to be “magical.” Here’s a movie that takes that idea and really runs with it. Actually, Tomorrowland takes that idea and flies with it—with rocket packs, no less—into the teeming, gleaming futurama of Uncle Walt’s dreams more than half a century ago when he opened the gates to Disneyland.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..Young Frank (Thomas Robinson)..Ph: Kimberley French..©Disney 2015

Young Frank (Thomas Robinson) tests his rocket pack prototype.

 

In Tomorrowland, George Clooney plays the modern-day, grownup version of a bright young lad, Frank, who lugs along his homemade jetpack to an invention competition at the 1964 World’s Fair—where Disney unveiled four major attractions. Frank and his contraption are rejected, alas, but he gets a special invitation to hop aboard Disney’s new ride It’s a Small World, which turns out to be much more than just a poky boat cruise through an international chorus of singing animatronic children: It’s a secret portal to the future!

Frank has a glorious time in the splendid world-yet-to-come, a fabulous sky-tropolis called Tomorrowland. But he can’t stay there forever. We eventually find out why he must leave, and why, decades later, he’s compelled to return.

Director Brad Bird, who’s shown his skill in both animation and live action with The Iron Giant (1999), The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007) and Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol (2011), mixes brisk, old-school adventure and a spirit of boundless idealism onto a palette of gorgeous, eye-popping visuals. The script, which he co-wrote with Damen Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus, World War Z, Cowboys and Aliens) and Jeff Jensen, crackles and pops mystery and suspense, wit and whimsy, and deeper, more passionate themes about science, technology and ecology.

Britt Robertson—recently seen saddling up in The Longest Ride—plays Casey, the spunky teenage daughter of a NASA scientist (country singer Tim McGraw) “chosen” for her own trip to Tomorrowland. British actress Raffey Cassedy is Athena, a mysterious young girl who connects both Frank and Cassidy across time. Hugh Laurie plays Tomorrowland’s top dog, who turns out to have quite a bite. Keegan-Michael Key from Key and Peel and Kathryn Hahn, who stars in Showtime’s Happyish, have a Men in Black-ish scene as a couple of space-oddity souvenir-shop owners.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..Frank Walker (George Clooney)..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney 2015

George Clooney visits a famous international landmark…which is much more than just a famous international landmark.

The movie doesn’t note it, but Disney fans will certainly be aware that Tomorrowland was one of the five original “lands” of Disneyland, opening in 1955 to give visitors an imaginative taste of the future and outer space. Its silent “background” presence in the film deepens the movie’s make-believe mystery about just how forward thinking the House of Mouse might have really been.

There’s quite a lot happening, sometimes almost too much, and the cartoonish violence—aliens blasting people away, humanoid robots being bashed and decapitated—may unsettle some little ones. Plot points become muddled in the rush to keep moving, and the movie’s message gets a bit preachy.

But, like Frank says at one point, “Can’t you just be amazed?” Any movie that can get young people thinking about the future—the future of the planet, their future, our future—and about not giving up, even in the face of doom and gloom, is pretty amazing in itself. Maybe it really is a small, small world, after all. And now I’m super-curious about the secret purpose of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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A Lotta Bull

Latest Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation really piles it on

THE LONGEST RIDE

The Longest Ride

Starring Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin & Alan Alda

Directed by George Tillman Jr.

PG-13

Maybe The Notebook didn’t make you sigh, sob or swoon enough. Perhaps you really liked Channing Tatum in Dear John, but wondered…hmmm, how would he look on top of a big, bucking bovine? Or maybe, even with fireworks, a huge explosion and a character that turned out to be a ghost (!), there still wasn’t quite enough going on for you in Safe Haven.

If, somehow, none of the other nine movies made from romance novelist Nicholas Sparks’ popular, heart-tugging tearjerkers had enough whatever-it-is that you go to Nicholas Sparks movies for, well, the tenth might just be the charm.

THE LONGEST RIDEFirst of all, The Longest Ride doesn’t just give you one love story, but two—a pair of parallel passion tales stretching across more than two hours of screen time and four-fifths of a century. And it’s positively loaded—with sorority girls, hunky cowboys, country music, horses, bulls, modern art, love letters, World War II battlefield heroics, playful beach frolics and a sex scene so hot and steamy it seems to smoke up the whole Smoky Mountains.

It also has massive amounts of hoke, contrivance and manipulation. The plot, driven by a series of outrageously ramped-up coincidences, sets up a tale so implausibly fluffy, you wonder if the characters would be able to set foot on anything solid if they happened to come across it. A slow-mo shot of snortin’ bull snot is about as close as things gets to a sense of gritty reality.

Britt Robinson (who played Angie McAlister on TV’s Under the Dome) is Sophia, a Wake Forest University student who falls for professional bull rider Luke (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint), which threatens to put a wrinkle in her plans for a post-graduate internship at a prestigious New York artTHE LONGEST RIDE institute. One dark, rainy night after their first date, they come across a wrecked car and its badly injured driver, Ira (Alan Alda), whose own story then begins to unspool in flashbacks as the rapt Sophia visits him in the hospital, reading aloud to him from the box of letters he’s saved over the years from the love of his life, his late wife, Ruth.

THE LONGEST RIDE

Oona Chaplin & Jack Huston

Like the big bowl of mac and cheese Luke says is his favorite dish, it’s all mostly a bunch of squishy, deep-dish goo—but hey, it does look pretty good. The on-location photography, in and around Wilmington, N.C., is picture-perfect, which adds to the feel of dreamy romantic fantasy. Scott Eastwood—who bears an uncanny resemblance to his famous father in his early acting days—is a bona fide hunk, and time seems to slow down every time the camera pans across his sculpted, shirtless torso (which is often). Pay attention to the actors who play the younger versions of Ira and Ruth, Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin, not only because they make Ira and Ruth’s story so much more interesting and compelling than Luke and Sophia’s, but because you’re watching the progeny of Hollywood royalty: He’s the grandson of legendary actor-director John Huston, and her granddaddy was silent-movie icon Charlie Chaplin.

The Longest Ride likely won’t convert any newcomers to the Nicholas Sparks fold. But if you’re already a fan, hey, saddle up: This bull’s for you.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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