Labor Day Weekend Viewing Roundup

Well, it’s been a nice, mellow Labor Day weekend for us. No barbeque or picnic this time, we didn’t even go to the state fair, we’re just not too fond of those, so once every five years is plenty 🙂 I did spent some time shopping for some Hunger Games stuff for my three nieces, apparently they’re kinda obsessed with the book/movie right now. Better than Twilight I guess, ahah.

We did watch quite a bit of movies though, four movies in 3 days is pretty good for us, usually we saw that many in a week. We skipped the mainstream releases this time and went to see the documentary 2016 Obama’s America and Robot and Frank.

My hubby and I got to talking about The Crow over dinner and so we ended up renting Brandon Lee’s last film, as well as the biopic drama on his father, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. I will do a review of those two together later this month, but let’s just say we’re both were quite taken by the tragic story that happened to both father and son. Cursed or not, the mystery surrounding their deaths is very eerie.

2016: Obama’s America

Politics just isn’t my cup of tea, so I had never even heard of this film until a friend at work mentioned it to me and sent me the trailer. Not being a US citizen, I’m not able to vote, but once in a while I’d read about political stuff just so I know what the issues are being talked about. I always think that there are always pros and cons for every party, even if my social views are more conservative leaning. With Obama, I’m naturally more curious about him because of the Indonesia connection. He even went to the same umbrella school, St. Francis of Assisi where my hubby and I went, when he lived in Jakarta for a couple of years. Yet, aside from that, I hardly know anything about him and so this documentary tagline: ‘LOVE HIM. HATE HIM. YOU DON’T KNOW HIM.’ intrigues me.

It’s hard to review a film like this, but contrary to what you might’ve read, this documentary by conservative scholar and author Dinesh D’Souza is NOT Obama bashing, nor is it endorsed by a political party. It examines the question, “If Barack Obama wins a second term, where will we be in 2016?” and it actually starts with a biopic of sort, of D’Souza himself, an immigrant from India who studied at Dartmouth College. The film even noted that there’s a lot of similarities between D’Souza and Obama, as they’re exactly the same age and both went to an Ivy League university around the same time.

D’Souza and George Obama

Directed by John Sullivan, the film is co-produced by Gerald Molen who won an Oscar for Schindler’s List. The film is largely based on D’Souza’s book The Roots of Obama’s Rage and also includes a substantial amount of quotes from Obama’s audio book Dreams From My Father. D’Souza traveled to Hawaii, Indonesia and Kenya to try to understand what influences might have shaped our President. In Kenya he interviewed people who knew the late Obama Sr. well, most notably Barack’s half brother George, a soft-spoken man who lived in practically a hut barely enough to fit even one person. When asked about Obama not delivering on his promise of being ‘a brother’s keeper,’ George replied diplomatically, “He’s got other issues to deal with… He’s taking care of me. I’m part of the world.”

D’Souza’s research leads him to conclude that Obama holds an anti-colonial worldview from his father as well as anti-western, socialist-leaning mentors, and that the US president actually “wants to reduce America’s footprint on the world.” Now, whether or not you agree with the film’s argument, I think the filmmakers made a compelling case for it. The production values is pretty good considering the tiny budget ($2.5 mil), though some of the re-enactment by actors feels rather clunky at times. Naturally a documentary like this is likely to be one-sided, just like Michael Moore’s anti-Bush doc and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, but at the same time I don’t feel that this film was an outright attack against Obama. One thing for sure, this film is thought-provoking and justifiable asks people to do their research with an open mind before they cast their vote.

Robot and Frank

The minute I saw the trailer for this, I was quite charmed by it. It’s an unlikely heist movie and a sci-fi-themed drama that’s as far away from being science-fiction-y. Instead, it’s a character-driven comedy-drama that centers on Frank, an aging former cat burglar who’s given a robot caretaker by his son Hunter, as he refused to be put in a mental institute. Frank is suffering from an early stages of dementia and has become disillusioned with his sedate life. To everyone’s surprise, his life perks up as soon as Robot comes into his life, and despite his initial hostility towards his health-nut machine, soon Frank and Robot becomes unlikely friends and um, partner in crime.

The movie is set in a vague ‘near future’ where a library of physical books are going to be replaced with a ‘virtual experience’ as it were. The movie starts out quite slow, but grounded by Frank Langella‘s effective performance, but with the arrival of Robot, the pace picks up quite a bit. It’s a touching film that subtly delves with themes of aging and how human connection might be affected when robots exist amongst us in our daily lives. The film doesn’t go into too much depth into this matter however, such as when Frank actually prefers the robot’s company over his own daughter, which should be more disturbing than the film lets on.

Though Frank does a lot of illegal stuff and not exactly a good father figure for his kids, one can’t help but sympathize with him. Langella’s perhaps not the most charismatic actor, but I think his more deadpan style suits his character very well here. I do like the fact that a senior actor gets a leading role and the age-defying beauty Susan Sarandon also has a pretty substantial role as the librarian that Frank constantly flirts with. This is James Marsden‘s third film with Langella, so they have a natural rapport with each other, but he and Liv Tyler aren’t given much to do here than act frustrated by Frank’s shenanigans.

In that sense, the movie lives up to the title as the stars truly are Frank and his robot butler, voiced by Peter Sarsgaard. It’s quite amusing to see the palpable um, chemistry between these two. They argue constantly like old married couple, and there are also some poignant moments that actually makes you feel for the robot.

Robot & Frank is quite an enjoyable little movie on account of the talents involved, there’s also a bit of a twist at the end that’s quite poignant. However, I feel that it could’ve been a far more memorable film had it dealt with the robot vs. human connection theme with a little more conviction.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels

I welcome your thoughts on these films. So what movie(s) did you see this weekend?