Tag Archives: Carla Gugino

Lost in ‘Space’

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


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

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).


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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All Shook Up

Earthquake flick makes a major mess of things…again


San Andreas

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino & Paul Giamatti

Directed by Brad Peyton


No need to look at the calendar: If the world is about to end, you can be pretty sure that summer’s almost here. As the temps rise, so do the odds that you’ll see some really big things blow up, be swept away or get pulverized—again. Alas, London. Nice knowin’ ya, New York. Woe is Washington, D.C.

In San Andreas, named for the famous fault line that runs through much of California, a monstrous earthquake turns both Los Angeles and San Francisco into pancake-like piles of rubble, creates a tsunami that takes out the Golden Gate Bridge and—symbolism cue—dramatically reunites one “split-apart” family.

This adrenaline-pumping summer blockbuster really busts some blocks, literally. It starts off with a rockslide, and in just a few minutes, we’re watching the Hoover Dam explode in a heaving, slo-mo convulsion of concrete, rebar and water.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is Ray, an L.A. helicopter-rescue pilot, whose plans for a pleasantSAN ANDREAS weekend drive to take his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) back to college are disrupted by gaping chasms, toppled, flaming skyscrapers and collapsed, crumbled interstates (not to mention what must be countless victims that, curiously, never seem to require his services).

Ray’s wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) has filed for a divorce and is about to move in with a filthy-rich real estate developer (Ioan Gruffudd), who turns out to be every bit the weasel the movie leads you to think he’ll be.

Before the big shake-and-bake, Blake meets a couple of oh-so-charming Brits, a resourceful young engineer (Hugo Johnson-Burt) and his bright little brother (Art Parkinson). In movies like this, meetings like this usually pay off later, and this one certainly does.


Duck! Paul Giamatti takes cover with a TV reporter (Archie Panjabi from TV’s ‘The Good Wife’).

Paul Giamatti is a data-streaming seismologist who predicts the Big One. (“No one listens to us until the ground shakes,” he glumly tells a TV reporter.) Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue has one scene, in a fancy, high-rise restaurant, where she basically gets to chat, scream, run and plummet.

The earth shakes, the oceans rise, buildings topple and fall. But this is clearly The Rock’s show, which is why the screenplay by Carlton (Lost, Bates Motel) Cuse weaves plenty of personal drama into the disaster, and much of movie concerns Ray and Emma’s search for their missing daughter-in-distress. And believe me, if the world is ending, The Rock is the guy I want on my team: A mountain of muscle with a heart of gold, he can rappel out of a hovering helicopter and leap from a zooming airplane, hotwire a pickup truck and pilot a boat through a tsunami, and even bring someone back from the dead. He’s The Rock and The Man.


Art Parkinson, Alexandra Daddario and Hugo Johnson-Burt stay afloat.

Some of the effects are impressive, but really: We’ve seen it before. And we’ll see it again. “So, what now?” ponders Emma as she surveys the CGI rubble and ruin. Ray, looking out over San Francisco Bay at the exact moment a gigantic American flag is unfurled from the wreckage of the Golden Gate Bridge, has the answer.

“We rebuild,” he says. Yes! In time next summer, and the next disaster movie!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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