Robot and FrankDirector: Jake Shreier, Sony Pictures, Rated PG, 89 mins
In what is really his first feature film, director Jake Shreier has chosen a futuristic fantasy to tell the story of a former burglar who has long retired and is becoming a burden on his two adult children who believe he is incapable of living alone.
The grumpy old man is Frank (perfectly played by Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon) who is coerced by his son Hunter (James Marsden - Enchanted) to accept a walking/talking humanoid robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard - Green Lantern) despite the initial objections of his daughter Madison (Liv Tyler - The Incredible Hulk).
Based on a screenplay by Christopher Ford, Shreier’s story is set in the future where robots are commonplace acting as companions, providing health care advice as well as carrying out daily house-keeping duties.
At first Frank has a downright disdain for the robot even having it accompany him to the library where he maintains a flirtatious relationship with Jennifer (Susan Sarandon - Arbitrage) the head librarian who is facing a technological transformation of her library services which is being enforced by her superiors, especially Jake (Jeremy Strong - The Romantics) who takes a particular dislike to Frank.
But as the story progresses, he warms to the android teaching it his thieving tricks, ultimately using the robot to initially steal a priceless book from the library and then the precious jewels from Jake’s wife whose house is next door.
The manner in which this lovable thief escapes arrest is particularly amusing besides being both heart-warming as well as sad and is the major highlight of this charming movie not to mention the surprise conclusion.
Frankly speaking, despite the simplicity of the storyline and the importance of companionship, Langella’s portrayal of an ageing character that is becoming senile is nothing short of masterful.
VIC'S VERDICT: 3½ Rubber Stamps
Arthur ChristmasDirector: Sarah Smith and Barry Cook, Universal Sony Pictures, Rated PG, 97 mins
Arthur Christmas is an animated production with a Christmas theme just in time for the yuletide season.
It’s a DVD filled with many hilarious scenes about the son and successor to a modern day Santa who rides a spaceship (instead of a sled) and is helped by an army of thousands of combat-ready elves.
Santa is also supported by a high tech nerve centre in the heart of the North Pole under the control of Steve (Hugh Laurie), Arthur’s confident brother and rival for Santa’s position when he retires.
Despite the carefully planned operation Santa has missed delivering the gifts of one small one child.
To Arthur (voiced by James McEvoy), the young son of Santa (Jim Broadbent) this oversight threatens to spoil the magic of Christmas and with the help of his retired Grand Santa (Bill Nighy), an elf, an old sleigh and some retired reindeers, Arthur embarks on his hair-raising journey to salvage the spirit of Christmas and deliver the last present before Christmas morning.
‘Arthur Christmas’ is a fun-filled, funny and heartwarming Santa story that has a number of amusing characters especially Nighy’s portrayal of Grand Santa but in the main it is an enjoyable Christmas movie that will appeal to children and adults who are young at heart.
VIC'S VERDICT: 3 ½ Rubber Stamps
Snow White and the HuntsmanDirector: Rupert Sanders, Universal Sony Pictures, Rated M, 127 mins
First time director Rupert Sanders’ fascinating recreation of the famous fairytale (more like the Brothers Grimm adaptation than Disney’s animated classic) features Twilight’s Kristen Stewart as an assertive Snow White, Charlize Theron as the fearsome Queen Ravenna and Thor’s Chris Hemsworth as the hunky huntsman, given the task of killing Snow White after she escapes into the dark woods but ends up acting as her mentor and protector against the Queen’s sinister brother Finn (Sam Spruel) and his henchmen.
To help Snow White get rid of the Queen there are the delightful (digitally reduced) dwarfs, portrayed by a lineup of British stars such as Bob Hoskins (Muir), Toby Jones (Coll), Ian McShane (Beith), Eddie Marsan (Duir), and Ray Winstone (Gort) not to mention her childhood friend, Prince William (Sam Clafin).
Sanders has assembled a great cast to portray an array of mythical characters which is supplemented by the brilliant performance of Theron as the Queen who together with Stewart providing a refreshing portrayal of Snow White appear in many of the magical scenes (especially Theron’s magic mirror sequences) that Sanders has cleverly crafted through his infusion of some well-placed computer generated graphics.
Despite Sanders’ darker version of the fairytale Snow White and the Huntsman is a visually impressive and lavish production that includes epic battle scenes and stunning special effects coupled with a stimulating storyline that most adults and older teenagers will thoroughly enjoy, especially the fascinating features in the DVD and Blu-ray editions.
VIC'S VERDICT: 4 ½ Rubber Stamps
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