Posts Tagged ‘review’

Belated Movie Review: Robot & Frank

I will have a writing related post soon, but since I watch a lot of movies and like to muse on them, I thought I might start with “Belated Movie Reviews.” I rarely see movies when they open in theaters, so I hope that by reviewing older movies, I might turn you on to something you missed.

Last night I saw Robot & Frank, a sort of sweet little movie (85 mins) starring Frank Langella, James Marsden (aka Cyclops or Corny Collins), Liv Tyler (she still acts, it seems) and Susan Sarandon (yay!).

Langella’s Frank Weld is an older man, living alone, whose memory is starting to fade, or fragment. Not entirely, and not necessarily on important issues, but he’s obviously declining. At first, the viewer doesn’t realize how much, as what he forgets seems relatively harmless, such as that his favorite diner in town has gone out of business.  Frank also used to be a thief, a “cat burglar” as he himself puts it.

Frank fills his time by walking into town, visiting the library and flirting a bit with the librarian (Susan Sarandon). He is disappointed to learn that the library will essentially be going all-digital, a project funded by a neighbor, a young millionaire named Jake.

Frank has two children, Hunter (Marsden) and Madison (Tyler), and I have a feeling people will recognize these different relationships. Hunter drives five hours each way every weekend to check on Frank, who lives alone in a rural area. He sacrifices time with his family because he feels his dad needs him. Madison is off in Turkmenistan, communicating via erratic Skype calls, and not as familiar with Frank’s condition, but only because she is far away, not because she doesn’t care.

Hunter shows up one weekend with the Robot, because he is reaching the end of his rope in dealing with Frank — answering the same questions, having the same arguments, going over the same things. Hunter need something to change, both for himself and for Frank, and so brings in the Robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard). The Robot will care for Frank, cooking meals, cleaning the house, and perhaps most importantly, putting him on a routine in order to help his cognitive functioning.

This is something Frank obviously needs, but Hunter cannot provide (he has his own family) and Frank will not accept from another person, nor will go to the “brain center,” he informs Hunter.

Frank naturally resists at first, telling both Hunter and Madison he does not want the Robot. However, Frank discovers some perks about the Robot, not the least of which is that he can teach the Robot to pick locks. This gives Frank an idea, which benefits him mentally because now he has a goal — something the Robot has said is important for Frank. (There’s a wonderful moment towards the end, when the Robot follows a previous order from Frank but in a different situation than it was issued. Who says Robots can’t have senses of humor?)

Madison suddenly shows up on Frank’s doorstep to save him from the Robot. By now Frank is not just accustomed to his companion, but needs him for a plan. However, Madison is a force to be reckoned with and shuts the Robot down, much to Frank’s dismay.

There are various relationships going around here, and it’s hard to say which one takes precedence, and perhaps no single one does. Frank and the Robot are at the center of it, but Frank’s relationships with Hunter and Madison and how they handle his mental decline are important as well. Madison is not ignoring it, but does not seem to see the entirety of it. Hunter is doing the best he can, but has other obligations. In a moment with the Robot, Frank has to confront the kind of legacy he has left to his children, and it’s a watershed moment for him, played well by Langella.

I liked the movie over all, but it felt lacking in places, mostly with Madison. It’s not clear why she is so upset about the Robot. It’s at least implied that she feels it is cold for a Robot to be caring for her father, and she comes dashing home from Turkmenistan to work on a grant application and care for him, but it’s a bigger job than she realized. But why is it so awful for the Robot to do this, especially if Frank will not accept live-in care, but needs it? Is she coming home because she really wants to, or because she feels guilty? Does she think the Robot is usurping a person’s job? Why didn’t she come before — it’s clear that she and Hunter have discussed their father’s condition, so she doesn’t seem in denial.

Frank’s relationships with both children are also a bit thin. We find out that he’s divorced, and that he’s spent time in jail, but nothing of the impact of that is discussed aside from one line from Hunter. Yet somehow Hunter feels compelled to care for him. Did Frank make up for his mistakes?

The ending is satisfying, I think, or at least pleasing, and it doesn’t feel out of place or forced.

I’d recommend the movie with the reservation that one might feel it is incomplete. But it’s worth a viewing.



Review: I Wish I Might

Here’s my first review. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

I Wish I Might, by Jocelyn ModoYellow Silk Dreams

As war comes to her home planet, her home city, Calixte realizes her father’s plan to ask for aid won’t work. She decides to initiate her own plan, knowing what the consequences might be, but intent on saving her world.

So begins I Wish I Might, by Jocelyn Modo, a science-fiction romance. Calixte’s home planet of Cepheum is under attack by the forces of the Uriga; Cepheum’s only hope for victory lies in winning the aid of Indus, a planet that is not an enemy, but not a friend. The neutral relationship is strained by Cepheum’s refusal to participate in any marriage alliances with Indus, whose population is heavily out of gender balance. Calixte knows this, and knows that Cepheum’s leader–her father–will fail secure their aid will fail and so offers the one thing she knows Indus is most likely to accept.

Ms. Modo places us in the action at the start, as Calixte wakes to the sound of battle and wastes no time developing a plan and putting it into action. Although her heroine faces obstacles, none are unbelievable, and that helps make a new world more real to the reader. Calixte takes a problem common in history—that women are viewed as little more than property—and tries to turn it to her advantage. Her assets are few: herself, her courage, and three friends who risk their lives to help her.

Ms. Modo and Calixte move ahead, knowing time is of the essence. Calixte learns a lot in a short time about herself, her father, and the Indus, who are not as she expected. The pace is quick; you’re never waiting for something to happen.

Something does happen: Calixte meets the leader of the Indus, Sarin, who is not what she’d expected. Not when the Indus have made a reputation for themselves as cutthroat warriors. Sarin proves himself to be more than the public perception of his people, and Calixte is relieved both that he accepts her plan, and her.

I do wish there had been more—I’d like to know more about Calixte, her relationship with her father, and the history between Cepheum and Indus. I’m also curious about how the different cultures of the two races developed. However, for this story we have what we need: a gutsy heroine who will do what she can to save her world, even when she’s not sure what will happen if she does.

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