While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth is that it's actually a young adult romance, like The Fault in Our Stars with E.T. overtones. The film may be watchable, but the script simply never bothers to develop anything. The science is wobbly, the romance is paper-thin, the sentimentality is off the charts, and the cheesy dialogue would completely defeat a less experienced cast.
It opens with an extended prologue about the first manned mission to Mars and how, after the team arrives, Elliot (Asa Butterfield) was born to an astronaut who died in childbirth. Earth-based mission director Nathaniel (Gary Oldman) decides to keep his existence a secret, so he's raised by motherly science officer Kendra (Carla Gugino) and his robot best pal (voiced by director Peter Chelsom). When he turns 16, Nathaniel decides it's time for Elliot to visit Earth, not knowing that he has developed an online relationship with the tearaway teen Tulsa (Britt Robertson) in Colorado. So when he lands on Earth, Elliot escapes and teams up with Tulsa to search for his father. But Nathaniel and Kendra know that Elliot can't survive for long in Earth's gravity.
There's nothing about this film that's terribly convincing. Events are inexplicable, plot points are under-explained and the filmmakers oddly make no attempt to create a sense of advanced technology or style in 2034. The clothing and cars are distinctly 2016 vintage, and only the impractical clear-glass computer screens add an improbably futuristic tinge. Of course, the 12-year-olds this film was made for won't care about the details; they'll be caught up in the swoony romantic fantasy. Butterfield is a solid actor who can make even a character this thinly defined believable and likeable. His heavy-gravity physicality is nicely understated. And he sparks some chemistry with the high-energy Robertson. Meanwhile, Oldman and Gugino add a hint of gravitas in their thankless roles.
Continue reading: The Space Between Us Review
Freddie Highmore plays the title character, a little boy in a Dickensian version of the real world: He has grown up in a group home for boys in upstate New York (do they even have those anymore?), where he hears music in the world, from the corn fields to the moonlight. He sets out one day, believing that if he follows the music, it will lead to his parents; where it actually leads is New York City, where the noise of the city turns into the rhythmic beginnings of a Stomp number. There, he hooks up with a band of street urchins/musicians straight out of Oliver Twist, run by the unstable and off-putting Wizard (Robin Williams as a creepy redhead). When August discovers things like guitars and sheet music that allow him to produce the music he hears, he becomes a prodigy, and a sensation.
Continue reading: August Rush Review
As teenagers in 1985 (cue the best-of-the-'80s soundtrack), Michael (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Carmine (Scott Caan), and Bobby (Jerry Ferrara) are veering onto different paths. Bobby is the chubby and lovable lunkhead, so stupid he fears failing the Post Office application test. Carmine is the baby goodfella, a hyper stud who takes note of the money and respect that the local bosses have and can't imagine why he shouldn't join up with their crew. And Michael is the one who wants "to get out of this hellhole." An ambitious orphan, he's stumbling through Columbia on a pre-law track and has the hots for Connecticut preppie ice queen Ellen (Mena Suvari), who finds Michael's Brooklyn background attractively "edgy."
Continue reading: Brooklyn Rules Review
That said, even the wicked fire shots of Backdraft -- which feature rising towers of flame, backwards-flowing fire, and blankets of flame that slowly ripple across the floor -- are barely able to distract you from the ultimately tiresome family drama that makes up the bulk of Ron Howard's firehouse epic.
Continue reading: Backdraft Review
It's a testament then to Williams's fine acting, and debut writer-director David Duchovny, that the motor-mouth's co-starring turn in House of D isn't a turn-off. Far from it. Williams and 15-year-old Anton Yelchin (Hearts in Atlantis) make up the unlikely duo in this coming-of-age drama about the friendship between Pappass, a mentally retarded janitor (Williams), and Tommy, a single-parent teen (Yelchin) in 1973 Greenwich Village. Williams displays, as he does in most of his dramatic films, a welcome appropriateness, a delivery of action and reaction that helps give House of D a good heart and some laugh-out-loud nuggets of wisdom.
Continue reading: House Of D Review
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