Movie reviews:  'The Space Between Us,' 'The Comedian' and 'I Am Not Your Negro' open this weekend, Feb 3
STX, 2017.

An intergalactic love story, a stark character study and a powerful, timely documentary headline the films opening this weekend, Feb. 3. Another major release, the horror film sequel "Rings," was not screened for critics but opens today as well.

Here are reviews of the movies opening this weekend, Feb. 3, 2017:


"The Space Between Us"

Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson are not quite "A-List" actors, but they're both recognizable enough. Butterfield is perhaps best known as playing the title character in Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," but hasn't quite been able to carry a film as of yet (see "Ender's Game"). Britt Robertson is a beautiful young actress who so far, has deserved to be in better films. Her filmography, which includes "A Dog's Purpose," "Mother's Day" and "Tomorrowland" don’t do her any justice. Unfortunately in the sci-fi romance "The Space Between Us," both young actors aren't given much of a chance to further their level of fame. Set in the near-future, Butterfield stars as the first child born in space-flight and delivered on Mars. He is part of an experimental NASA colony, overseen by the wily scientist, Nathaniel Shepherd (over-played by a scene-chewing Gary Oldman). Risking his life and the unknown, he returns to Earth, only to connect with Robertson's character, whom he had been chatting to online. Talk about your long-distance relationship. Having been cooped up his entire life, the two try to escape and start a new life together. There have been many films that echo this story, of aliens trying to assimilate on Earth, and "The Space Between Us" does nothing new. Butterfield and Robertson both deserve better, despite giving it their all. Still, this movie is just infused with too much cheese, to much over-the-top acting, and a final act that goes from unbelievable to ludicrous. There are elements to like and it's not all bad, but "The Space Between Us" just kept getting in its own way. Grade: C+

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance. Run Time: 2 hours. Rated PG-13. Starring: Asa Butterfield, Gary Oldman, Britt Robertson, Carla Cugino, Janet Montgomery. Directed by Peter Chelsom ("Hector and the Search for Happiness," ""Hannah Montana: The Movie," "Shall We Dance," "Serendipity," "Town & Country").

"The Comedian"

Don't be fooled by its title. "The Comedian" is no laughing matter. Robert De Niro stars as an aging insult comic in a film that wants desperately to be both a drama and a comedy, yet fails miserably at both. This is one of the worst films of the year thus far. Mainly, this is an example of a poor script. We all know that De Niro is one of the best actors of his generation, and that he has also been able to successfully tackle dramatic and comedic roles...and that he is capable of horrible misfires too (see "Bad Grandpa," or then again, don't). Here he plays Jackie Burke, who we are told is funny yet are given no evidence of by the lame, unfunny and stale dialogue De Niro is forced to spit out throughout the film. He is given a love interest (played by Leslie Mann), and absolutely nothing about their relationship is believable. You get the sense that this "character study" dramedy could have been much better, but this is a painful watch. The film also stars Edie Falco, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Keitel and Danny DeVito, but none of them will want this one mentioned when they go to accept their lifetime achievement awards. The film is also populated by a slew of cameos from several comedians playing themselves, from Jimmy Walker to Brett Butler to Gilbert Gottfried to Hannibal Buress. Even Billy Crystal and Charles Grodin appear...both of whom appeared with De Niro in far superior films ("Analyze This" and "Midnight Run," respectively). But there's nothing worse than watching an unfunny movie that thinks its funny, or watching an uneventful drama that thinks it's compelling. Maybe "The Comedian" should be applauded for managing to do both. Grade: F

Genre: Comedy, Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes. Rated R. Starring: Robert De Niro, Leslie Mann, Harvey Keitel, Edie Falco, Danny DeVito. Directed by Taylor Hackford ("Parker," "Love Ranch," "Ray," "Proof of Life," "The Devil's Advocate").

"I Am Not Your Negro"

It is with good reason that "I Am Not Your Negro" was just nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards: That's because it is easily one of the best documentaries of the year and without a doubt the most timely, which is ironic since it's subject, the famous writer James Baldwin, died back in 1987. If ever a narrator were to be nominated for an award, it could have been Samuel L. Jackson, who narrates throughout. Jackson uses only the actual words of James Baldwin, taken from an unfinished novel the author had titled "Remember This House." Baldwin was a powerful and influential leader of the civil rights movement, and brushed shoulders with other - perhaps better-known - leaders of the era, like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. If King's legacy in this movement was for peace and Malcolm's was for action, then it can be said that Baldwin's approach was to break-down the injustices intellectually. The doc mixes a wide variety of news footage and clips, with interviews of Baldwin and it gives his unique perspective on race in America. To emphasize the times (especially for those who did not experience the 50s and 60s first-hand), the doc also includes several scenes from movies and TV depicting the horrifying stereotypes that existed in American culture even as these heroes fought for equal liberties and rights. Perhaps the knock-out punch comes when the filmmaker, Raoul Peck, also seamlessly works in modern-day footage of police brutality and images from Ferguson, Missouri, showing that Baldwin's potent message is still relevant today. If you were a fan of James Baldwin, this documentary will stand as a testament to his message...if you were not aware of him before this movie, he just might change your life. This movie deserves all of the accolades it's been getting, and more. Grade: A

Genre: Documentary. Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Rated PG-13. Directed by Raoul Peck.

Also Opening this weekend: "Rings" is the sequel to the 2002 horror hit, "The Ring," and stars Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Johnny Galecki and Vincent D'Onofrio. This movie was not screened for critics.

All of these movies open locally on Friday, Feb 3, 2017 (check for showtimes).

Next week reviews include: "Lego Batman," "Paterson" and "Julieta"

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