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Monday, April 22, 2013

New Release Roundup for the Weekend of 19/04/2013

There were only three films released this weekend, all of which were science fiction films and two of which I have somehow already reviewed. This will be a short one, in other words.

To recap, Oblivion is a flawed but engrossing mix of "smart" and "dumb" sci-fi with a standout performance from Andrea Riseborough and beautiful visuals. Escape From Planet Earth, on the other hand, is just bland, bland, bland and is only worth bothering with if you're under ten years of age. And even then, I wouldn't really bother when you have The Croods out at cinemas at the same time.

This leaves Robot and Frank, which is, in effect, a quiet indie drama but with an advanced but crucially inhuman robot in one of the lead roles. It has some very fine performances from the four actors on the left there, as well as Peter Saarsgard as the voice of the robot, but this is really Frank Langella's party.

Langella plays an old cat burglar whose failing memory causes his long-suffering son to employ the use of said robot to look after him, but the robot lands up being handy in ways that none of them could have expected. While there is some solid relationship stuff between Frank and his two very different children, as well as with a local librarian with whom he becomes infatuated, the heart of the film is a character study of a complex, if often unlikable, man coming to terms with loneliness, fractured relationships with those closest to him and a past that was often less than admirable. The robot is mostly a device used to drive both the plot and the film's themes along but its "relationship" with Frank is both fitting unsentimental and crucial to getting a better understanding of Frank himself.

It is perhaps too slight for its own good and some may find it slow, but if you're interested in a science fiction film more concerned with the human heart than in exploring the possibilities of future science, never mind big, stupid action set pieces, then Robot and Frank is well worth checking out. (7/10)    

As for DVDs this week, only Argo is worth bothering with but, really, is there anything left to say about Argo? Instead, let me recommend the fantastic In Bruges. It came out a couple of years back but with the release of Seven Psychopaths, it's well worth a look. Martin McDonagh's first film is a still overlooked classic that not only features Colin Farrell in career-best form (along with a typically excellent turn from Bendan Gleeson) but this very original crime drama about a couple of hitmen hiding out in Bruges, Belgium is unabashedly strange, bleak, hopeful, immensely moving and seriously hilarious. Consider it a must see.

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