Guest Review: The Space Between Us (2017)

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Directed By: Peter Chelsom
Written By: Allan Loeb (screenplay), Stewart Schill (story by)
Runtime: 2 hrs

The Space Between Us is a fun, sweet coming of age comedy that spoils its own success by trying to be a drama. The story follows Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), a boy born and raised on Mars on his first trip to Earth. Worried that he might not be allowed to stay on Earth, Gardner escapes the NASA compound and journeys across the country to find Tulsa (Britt Robertson) – a girl he met on the internet. Hijinks ensue. Teenage love is kindled. A road trip is had. It’s adorable. It’s funny. It’s sweet. It doesn’t work.

The Space Between Us suffers from dramatic shifts in tone from one scene to the next. The teenagers are in coming of age romantic comedy and the adults are in a family drama. The crossover between the two narratives falls flat constantly. Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman), a wealthy Silicon Valley type, spends most of his time yelling unnecessarily and Kendra (Carla Gugino) was incessantly on the verge of tears or worrying in a motherly fashion. Obvious comedic moments were played detrimentally straight, like when the grownups think they’ve caught up with Tulsa and Gardner but it’s actually two completely different teenagers. That should be a funny moment, but girl (credited very accurately as “screaming girl”) is so terrified when Shepherd accosts her, that any humor is lost.

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The script itself was sloppy and full of contradictions with both itself and reality. For instance, we’re told multiple times that Tulsa cannot fly a plane but she can and does. Gardner, whose body is full of metal and magnets, makes it through an MRI unscathed. (I mean, technically this is at least sixteen years in the future, so suspension of disbelief or whatever, but it irked me because science fiction that ignores basic science is bad science fiction. Speaking of which, live-streaming video was viable from Mars to Earth from the moment the first mission touched down, which, yeah right.) There is a completely unnecessary reveal regarding Gardner’s father at the end of the movie. There is an explosion that only exists to use up leftover budget dollars. And so on.

Additionally, The Space Between Us does not deal with race or gender well. The cast leans very heavily in the white and male direction. The shaman character (played by Gil Birmingham) teeters on the edge of a racist stereotype. If the random, stoned white lady who introduces the kids to the shaman is any indication, that scene was probably even more problematic in a previous draft.

As far as gender goes, the movie had an annoying, if average, patriarchal lean. Women are mothers first and foremost. Gardner’s biological mother is only around long enough to give birth and die. Before she dies, though, the audience gets to hear a room of men talk amongst themselves about how “irresponsible” she was and then they decide, without ever looping her in on the conversation, what to do about her pregnancy. Kendra, an astronaut whose primary role is raising Gardner, winds up falling neatly into the stereotype of a woman who regrets putting career first. She and Gardner have a painfully bad conversation about motherhood and marriage.

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The strength of this movie is inarguably in the moments between Robertson and Butterfield. Robertson’s performance as a tenderhearted teenager who has learned to be guarded is emotionally charged, relatable, and funny. Butterfield struggles with a script that cannot quite decide if he has social skills or not. Ultimately he prevails as a charming, if kind of weird, kid. The flaws in his character (for example, a tendency to overreact to minor set-backs and an inconsistent level of social skills) are ultimately flaws with the script, not with Butterfield. Both actors breathe life into a below average script.

The movie is also redeemed in its cinematography. In many ways the movie can be seen as a love letter to the natural beauty of earth and the color with which humans surround themselves. Unfortunately, the editing did not live up to the cinematography, which sometimes minimized the visual impact of the movie.

The Space Between Us could have been great. It is beautifully shot, features lovely performances by Robertson and Butterfield, and is a ultimately a feel-good adventure story. It’s just too bad that not everyone who was signed onto the project got that memo.

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Have you seen ‘The Space Between Us’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: Tomorrowland (2015)

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I hadn’t heard much about this film until I saw the trailer a couple of months ago. Apparently it was based on a section at Disney theme parks, featuring attractions that depict views of the future. The movie opens in the mid 60s with a young boy Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) who made his way to a New York World Fair, feverishly excited to show off his flying jetpack invention that reminds me of something out of Disney’s The Rocketeer. It’s not working properly yet and so a renowned inventor David Nix (Hugh Laurie) rejected it.

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Despite his failure, Frank’s enthusiasm caught the attention of a mysterious young girl named Athena, and that’s how he ended up in this amazing futuristic city that seem to exist in a parallel dimension. I was caught up in that sense of wonder as the buildup promises something that would totally blow me away. The movie seems to have a lot going for it – an intriguing sci-fi mystery concept, a talented director and big name star. It also boasts some spectacular and imaginative visuals, which is to be expected from a budget of nearly $200 mil. Alas, I kept waiting to be completely in awe of the movie right up until the end, but that moment never came.

The only times where the movie REALLY tickle my curiosity is in that first 10 minutes with the young Frank when he first saw the futuristic city. There’s also the first few minutes after a young teen named Casey (Britt Robertson) found the mystifying pin that upon touching it transports her into the spectacular universe filled with futuristic skyscrapers, connected by a sleek-looking monorail. According to this article, ILM spent 2.5 years to produce over a thousand effects shots, employing 200 employees to create that futuristic world. Was the result something that would knock your socks off? Visually, yes. But if only Disney would invest in a script that is equally awe-inspiring.

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Even though the movie has a lot to say about invention and creativity, the script from Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird is largely uninspiring. It’s really a huge letdown as the build-up was so promising and I was really hoping to be wowed by it all. The uneven tone throughout the movie proved to be rather distracting and the movie never quite find its footing. Midway through the movie, when Casey entered an antique shop looking for answers about the pin, the film descend into a slapstick farce. The casting of comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn just seem out of place here, but then so is country artist Tim McGraw. By that point though, I was still keen on figuring out just what the heck is going on, and so I went along for the ride.

But the more the plot is unraveled, the more underwhelming the movie becomes. The finale is formulaic, even borderline absurd, and worst of all, preachy. I appreciate the message of optimism and the attempt to inspire youth’s imagination, but I really could do without the preachy-ness of taking better care of our world, etc. Suddenly I was given an environmental lecture from a rather lame villain who barely has any character development in the movie. I really don’t know what to make of Laurie‘s character but one thing for sure, the talented actor was wasted in this role.

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George Clooney adds star power in the role of the older Frank, though he spends most of the movie being curmudgeon rather than his charming self. I was more impressed by the young actors, especially Robertson who infused the role with her buoyancy and genuine optimism. English actress Raffey Cassidy is absolutely adorable as Athena who’s perhaps the heart of the movie. Together with Robertson, the two young actresses also provide some unexpected comic relief. There are fun moments scattered throughout, like the scene involving the Eiffel Tower, but overall the movie just feels haphazard and irritatingly heavy-handed. It’s disappointing given the talents involved, especially Brad Bird who’s a creative visionary behind The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. I suppose I should’ve been worried when I saw Lindelof’s name attached to the script, given what he did with Prometheus, among other things.

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Similar to another big-budget sci-fi Elysium, this movie feels like a poorly-executed ambitious concept. I wouldn’t say Tomorrowland is a terrible film or that it’s completely without merit. I think kids might still enjoy it and there are plenty of cool, shiny things to wow them. But for me, all the visual gadgetry and bombastic action involving giant robots and weird cyborgs ring hollow. At 130 minutes, there are numerous fillers that feel pointless by the end of it. It’s like an exhilarating ride that was fun for a while, then runs out juice halfway through but yet kept going on for far too long.

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Have you seen Tomorrowland? Well what do YOU think?

The Longest Ride interview with cast member Scott Eastwood & Britt Robertson

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Last Thursday I had the chance to be part of a roundtable interview with the two cast members of The Longest Ride, the upcoming Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation. Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson visited Minneapolis as part of their press tour around the country. Unfortunately I was unable to see the screening of the film, but here’s the synopsis:

THE LONGEST RIDE centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke (Eastwood), a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia (Robertson), a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected and fateful connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, THE LONGEST RIDE explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love.

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Thanks ALLIED for co-ordinating the interview roundup in a downtown Minneapolis Hotel. I arrived 10 minutes early and there was still another interview going on in the room. As I was leaning against the wall in the hallway, Scott Eastwood walked by in front of me. I was immediately struck by how much he looked like his dad Clint, but most definitely he’s not 5’11’ as is listed on IMDb. You’ll figure it out from the photo I posted below. Just FYI I’m 5’3″ and I didn’t wear heels at the time.

In any case, both are warm and affable. Britt is especially cordial and sweet, I haven’t seen her in anything yet but I’m a fan now. Both seem to be in good spirits and answered our questions cheerfully. There are about a dozen interviewers in the roundtable. Now, lesson learned – whenever you participate in a roundtable interview, make sure to ask the question you REALLY want the answers to. My second question to Britt was going to be about Tomorrowland and Scott about Suicide Squad, two big-budget movies in a totally different genre than this one.

In any case, my question is marked with an asterisk (*) in front of it.

 Spoiler alert! Be warned that some of the conversation might touch some plot points.

Q: In the movie, there are a lot of scenes with bull riding. I read that you did all the stunts yourself, so I’m curious what encouraged you to do that and what are your thoughts on that experience?

Scott: Well I’ve been a big fan of rodeo actually, since I was a kid. Rodeo is different than PBR [Professional Bull Riders – ed] but I’m a big fan since I’m a kid. Sorry I can’t remember what age I was but I went to the Salinas rodeo and I remember seeing these guys and thinking that they’re bigger than life. So I became a fan of the PBR and one of my best friends has this Buck A Bull and he kept calling and calling and he said, ‘If you don’t buck a bull while you’re doing this, you’ll never hear the end of it from me” [laughs] So…

Britt: Is it just for him?

Scott: No, it wasn’t just for him. I mean y’know, these guys, going to play a bull rider and hanging out with these guys for four months, and having the respect that I had for them that I had, y’know it’s only right that I do it one time if I were going to portray someone who does that stuff.

TheLongestRide_BullridingQ: So how do you feel about it afterwards?

Scott: Well I thought I won’t do it again [laughter fills the whole room] No, I thought it was awesome, it was an adrenaline rush. The video will actually premier in Jimmy Fallon in about a week from now [April 8 – ed]

Q: So when you guys filmed this, what time of year, because it looked kind of hot some of the time? I’m sure it could get quite grueling, especially the material you wore when you’re riding. So do you have any stories as to how hot it was, as I know that North Carolina gets pretty…

Britt: Very, very warm. I mean, I’m used to it as I’m from North Carolina so I’m used to being in the humid, humid heat. But this was in the middle of Summer, y’know, I don’t even know if there are really stories. I can’t complain about it because then I’ll lose my cred…

Scott: The North Carolina cred?

Britt: Yes exactly. So how about you? Did you have any trouble with the weather?

Scott: I like it, I like the heat. I’m a warm weather guy so I liked it.

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Q: As far as the novel? Has either of you read this book before you did this film? Have you read Nicholas Sparks before?

Britt: I did not read the book before I auditioned. But I read it after I got the part and I have read his previous novels so I’m obviously familiar with his work, and also the movies that are based on his books. I waited until I got the part before indulging.

Scott: I hadn’t read the book but I was a fan of The Notebook so that’s the extent of my knowledge of Nicholas Sparks beyond the fact that he had a lot of successful movies, but each I was a fan of The Notebook.

Q*: Just to tie that to the question… Was there an audition process for you both?

Britt: I had met with one of the producers Marty Bowen two or three months before the shooting n he had given me the script n he thought that I might be right for the part. So I went and audition for the part with director George Tillman Jr. After the audition they told me I had the part but I was still pretty skeptical at that point. Then they brought me in to read with Scott and a few other guys and I got the part.

Q*: Scott, So you auditioned with her then?

Britt: Britt: did you already got the part when you auditioned with me?

Scott: You know, all these auditions blurred together. I honestly don’t remember.

Britt: hmmm, I didn’t realize that I didn’t know that.

LongestRideNovelQ: So you both read the books. I was there [at the screening] last night and I think Scott you might’ve answered this last night. Y’know it’s hard when you read the book, the you read the script and there’s changes. Was there anything in the book that you thought, oh I wish that had been in the movie?

Scott: that’s a great question, we had not been asked that question before. Actually you know what, I ‘m really proud how this movie turned out, extremely proud. And that doesn’t happen all the time. You do movies and sometimes they turned out well, so-so, so you go ‘well we gave that a shot.’ And that happens with great scripts, sometimes they turned to so-so movies, you get that with mediocre script and they turned into great movies. I think I really enjoyed in the book, that when Luke first met Sophia, Nicholas Sparks described it as ‘ a comfortable silence’ that you have with people and I think that happens with people you fall for. There’s something really nice about how she comfortable she felt with his silence, there doesn’t need to be words. And I strongly pushed my opinion about that scene when they first met, but I think some of them end up in the cutting room floor and that’s what happened. We did film a lot more of that opening scene.

Britt: Yeah… funny enough, before seeing the film there were a few things that I was curious to explore. Y’know, there are this stuff about Sophia’s life prior to her family, just where she comes from. I mean, it’s hard to relate to someone without knowing anything about their history. Actually that’s a big point that some people brought up… But now, seeing the movie, I don’t imagine it done any other way. A lot of the ideas that I miss or thought that might be interesting just don’t even work for the movie, I really am happy with the way it came out.

Scott: Some things just don’t work. I mean, I thought that the boyfriend thing…

Britt: Ugh…

Scott: … Now, I think it just doesn’t work at all. I mean, it’s very cliché, in words, what’s in a medium in words can be very different in picture, so we didn’t need that.

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Q: The movie is a lot about sacrifice in love. I’m curious what you guys think personally about sacrificing your dreams for a relationship. Especially when you’re super young, what you might advise your characters?

Britt: Well, my personal thought about sacrificing for relationship in relation to the film… is that, there’s really nothing that you’re sacrificing in life if you’re choosing to made a decision that you want. I said this a few times, but it’s something that resonates in my life. I think it’s important for young people when they’re watching the film, Sophia made the choice to give up her internship and not be a part of New York like so she can be with Luke. So that’s the decision she wants to make. And that’s her choice. I think people have to look at their life in terms of the big picture and long term, and what matters most. It’s really about priorities, really. You kind of just have to prioritize and see what means the most, and what gonna make you happy. And that’s the choices that you make, based on those priorities.

Scott: I don’t think I can answer that [laughs]

Q: What made you guys choose this project over some other ones you could have been working on at the same time?

Scott: You mean, sorry, previous Nicholas Sparks’ films?

Q: No, just in general. Why you chose this one What made you guys choose this one over some other ones you could have been filming and working on at the same time?

Britt: Well, they chose me and I chose them for… I mean, they chose me, I auditioned for it and I got the part. But more than that, to answer your actual question, is that I’ve always had this nostalgic connection with Nicholas Sparks because it was almost something I was raised on. I mean, my mom loves his books, loves his films, so I’ve always… it’s almost like a bonding experience in the house almost, watching his movies. I think for me, that was a really cool element, for being a part of his movies and being a part of this film. Other than that, I really like the character Sophia. She’s a really strong woman and it’s an interesting story. And I also really love the director, George Tillman Jr. So tons of stuff.

Scott: Yeah, yeah. It’s never really one specific reason, I think it’s a lot reasons. In this case, I was a big fan of the director, George Tillman Jr., and also a fan of The Notebook. I also thought this one in particular has a certain machismo, a certain guy element to it…

Britt: Machismo! [laughs] I like that!

Scott: Machismo… yeah, that I like. It’s something that I like which I haven’t seen in movies in a long time.

On set w/ director  George Tillman Jr.
On set w/ director George Tillman Jr.

Q: A lot of teenagers and high school kids are actually skeptical of Nicholas Sparks’ books and movies, because they’re seen as cheesy or cliché. So in your opinion, why would our age group want to go see this movie or what would draw them in?

Britt: The reason we’re proud of the film is just, because it’s good…

Scott: It’s not cliché

Britt: Yeah, I mean because it’s a good movie. It means more than just the typical y’know, kissing in the rain or like, sex on the beach. Or whatever it is that happens in books or movies that make them cliché. I think it’s a story about love, it’s a story about two people finding their way in life. There are some really interesting relationships and like he [Scott] said, there’s the action aspect of it, which is fun for guys. Or even for women, I mean I got really rowdy during those scenes, just fired up for them. I think it’s an interesting movie to watch and not think about it as a Nicholas Sparks genre.

Q: How did you start out as a teen that help you prepare for your career as an actor?

Britt: Hey, how did you start out? I don’t even know this.

Scott: You mean, how did I start acting?

Britt: Yeah, that was the question right? [gesturing to the person asking the question, to which she nodded]

Scott: I’ve been in plays in high school. I’ve also had been in a videography class throughout high schools where we’d do short films for various programming that we see in high school. There’s a programming for an advanced videography class where you do video shown on Monday morning and stuff. And to be honest, y’know, I grew up around movie sets, so it just sort of, I’ll give it a shot after high school.

Britt: Yeah, same with me. I started with plays, I was in theater in South Carolina and I ended up snagging an agent in L.A. and just started auditioning. Y’know, pretty simple story.

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Britt in a scene with Alan Alda

Q: So what’s your favorite scene to film in this movie?

Scott: I like a lot of the bull riding aspect. We were down in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for the bull riding for about a week. So we have a week doing PBR, with all the big trucks, the big lights, and all the bulls, and all the PBR guys. So that was a pretty exciting week. I had fun in that but the whole filming was pretty enjoyable.

Britt: Yeah, I like that the first date scene. That whole location, we shot that first date scene in this one location and also the very last scene of the movie where we took our clothes off and jumped in the lake. Those, I specifically love that location, I thought it was gorgeous, it was so much fun to be there. It was a hot Summer week and jumping in the pond, which was freezing. I don’t know how it could get that cold being so hot, so all that stuff was really fun.

Q: How was your experience working with the rest of the cast?

Britt: Well I didn’t really have a lot of cast to work with other than this guy. There was Melissa [Benoist] who played my sorority sister and Melissa is amazing. I’m actually a huge fan of her work, she was in Whiplash and that’s my favorite movie of this year. Obviously there’s Alan [Alda] was an absolute legend so working with him was a treat. That was an absolute delight.

Q: I know that you [pointing to Scott] said that you enjoyed rodeo when you’re younger, but did you guys have experience riding horses before filming this?

Scott: Yeah, I did. I still ride today. We have a couple of horses just north of L.A. so I go ride whenever I want to go riding. I love riding.

Britt: I didn’t know anything, I mean they gave me lessons but I’m pretty bad on the horses but I had to embrace it.

And that’s a wrap! 😀
The interview was only about 15-min long as there’s a photo-op right after. Towards the end of the interview, both Scott and Britt made a comment about the loud noise from music, construction and dog howling. Thankfully they’re such a good sport about the whole thing.


Thanks Britt & Scott for chatting with us!

Scott_Britt_LongestRideInterviewThe Longest Ride in out in theaters this Friday, April 10


Hope you enjoy the interview! Have you seen The Longest Ride? Well, what did you think?