Tag Archives: Gary Oldman

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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Monkey Business

‘Apes’ sequel further muddles the line between monkey and man

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Starring Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell & Jason Clark

Directed by Matt Reeves

Rated PG-13

Whose side are you on when battle lines are drawn between people and other primates? The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think, especially in this terrific second installment of the latest Planet of the Apes series, which muddies the moral ground—as well as other things—between monkey and man.

As Dawn begins, we’re reminded that some ten years ago (in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes), scientific experimentation—and exploitation—resulted in a proliferation of genetically modified apes and began a widespread viral wipeout of the world’s human population.

Now, in a decimated, post-ape-ocalyptic world, a tribe of hunting, gathering apes—who have learned to communicate through sign language, rudimentary writing and grunted speech—rule the densely forested hills outside the city that once was the metropolis of San Francisco.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APESWhen a small group of humans are discovered deep inside ape territory, it begins an uneasy truce—until dissenting factions on both sides stoke tensions to something much more aggressive.

Director Matt Reeves, whose resume includes the monster movie Cloverfield, the moody vampire saga Let Me In and several episodes of TV’s 1998-2002 series Felicity, draws from all those projects for his talent pool and technique. Felicity star Keri Russell is the movie’s female lead, Kodi Smit-McPhee played the bullied young teen in Let Me In, and several of Reeve’s bravura sequences—like the one of apes on horseback, firing machine guns—are as tense and scari-fying as almost anything you’ll see in any monster movie.

But Reeves and his team of FX wizards also create something above and beyond any of those movies—and most other movies, period—when it comes to blending live-action with digital effects. The apes, created through a process of “motion capture” photography where live actors are first filmed then digitally “overlaid” with their personalized primate characteristics, are nothing short of spectacular. You won’t be to separate pulse from pixels, no matter how closely you look.

Hunting partyAnd even though the “human” cast also includes Gary Oldman and Jason Clark (from Zero Dark Thirty), top billing goes to someone you’ll never see, at least out of his digital ape-draping: Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar, the chief of the apes, is the true star of this show. Serkis, who’s also portrayed Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and the biggest ape of them all in King Kong, is a marvel, humanizing Caesar as a diplomat, a father, a husband and a leader who knows that leading can sometimes mean making difficult, unpopular, dangerous and even life-or-death decisions.

With a story that connects to contemporary (as well as ancient) issues and themes—trust, family, betrayal, racism, war, survival—this smart, muscular, action-packed blockbuster is easily one of the summer’s most rousing sci-fi crowd-pleasers. It’s some seriously strong, exceptionally well-made monkey business.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Of Man & Machines

He’s a little bit human, a lot of ’bot—and all cop

Robocop_2014Robocop

Bluray $39.99, DVD $29.98 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

A rockin’, sockin’ remake of the ’80s sci-fi cult classic about a Detroit policeman transformed into a crime-fighting cyborg, this updated tale of men, machines, capitalism and corruption in high places stars Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Haley and Samuel L. Jackson, and comes packaged with nearly an hour of bonus content, including featurettes on the movie’s arsenal of heavy weaponry and the special effects behind the high-tech Robocop suit.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Of Men and Machines

Rebooted robot tale is more recycled than refreshed

1174829 - ROBOCOP

RoboCop

Starring Joel Kinnaman, Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman & Samuel L. Jackson

Directed by José Padilha

PG-13, 117 min.

He’s a little bit human, a lot of machine—and a total throwback to 1987, when the original RoboCop first clicked, whirred and blasted onto the big screen as an R-rated whammy of speculative, satirical sci-fi about crime and justice, corruption, corporate greed, the media, and what might happen if we ever let computers do the thinking for us.

This tamer, toned-down PG-13 remake follows the basic plot of the original, with a few tweaks. Here it’s 2028, and Joel Kinnaman (from TV’s The Killing) plays Detroit police officer Alex Murphy, whose remaining body parts are implanted into a rock-’em, sock-’em exoskeleton after a dangerous undercover mission goes awry.

Joel Kinnaman;Gary Oldman;Aimee Garcia

The newly reconstituted “robocop” (Joel Kinnaman) with the doc who put him back together (Gary Oldman)

But Murphy’s high-tech reconstruction is underwritten by a mega-corporation with motives that aren’t exactly medical—and a billion-dollar stake in “privatizing” crime control.

Michael Keaton is the corporation’s smarmy CEO. The always-dependable Gary Oldman brings subtle shadings of conflicted genius to his role as the researcher/physician/surgeon who integrates man with machine. Jack Earle Haley makes a dandy, devious foil as a robot trainer. Samuel L. Jackson pops in and out as a one-man Greek chorus, a TV talk-show host stumping for bots to do all the dirty work for police officers and soldiers.

Back in 1987, that concept seemed a lot more far-off futuristic than it does today, when robots and robotic processes have already taken over all sorts of jobs once done by humans, and drone airplanes are doing widespread military surveillance—and more lethal tasks—as well as operations for police, firefighters and reporters.

Joel Kinnaman;Jackie Earle Haley

Jack Earle Haley (right) is a devious robot trainer.

This RoboCop isn’t a total clunker. It looks cool and sleek, and Brazilian director José Padilha, making his first English-language film, keeps things moving at a lively action-movie clip. But after 25-plus years, too much of this rebooted robot tale just feels recycled instead of refreshed, especially compared to the visceral, original kick of its groundbreaking ’80s predecessor.

I do have to give some props to the rockin’ soundtrack, however. Any movie that works in Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” orchestrates a shootout to the loony ’70s hit “Hocus Pocus” by the Dutch group Focus, and rolls end credits to the Clash’s cover of “I Fought the Law” gets at least one pop-cultural attaboy from me.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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