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?

37 thoughts on “Labor Day Weekend Viewing Roundup

  1. PrairieGirl

    I’m glad I went to see 2016. Most of what was presented already exists in one form or another, but I never would have spent the time nor money on a book about Obama, but the time and money spent on the film was well worth it. It’s very well developed and is structured so that you will form your own opinion about him, his background, and ultimately, his agenda (should we get another four years of him) rather than having the film do it for you. Very eye-opening, indeed.

    1. I’m still mulling it over Becky, but yeah I’m glad I saw it. It’s interesting that barely any promotion is done about this film and mainstream media seems to shun it. I’d think that regardless of where people stand, they should at least be curious about the President’s background and how he got to be where he is.

  2. Ted S.

    I think I’ll pass on that Obama documentary, I’m not much into politics myself. Like you said most of them are one sided anyway. Also, I’m not a fan of D’Souza, I disagree on a few things he wrote in his books.

    I’ll probably rent Robot and Frank, looks like a fun little movie.

    I finally saw The Hunger Games over the weekend, my new date she is a big fan of the books and movie. So we watched it last night, I thought it was great. The setup took a bit too long but once the games started, I was on the edge of my seat. Looking forward to the second film.

    1. I haven’t read D’Souza’s books and surely one can’t agree with everything he’s saying but at the same time, he doesn’t just pull things out of thin air. The doc is well-researched and presented in a respectful way, not bashing Obama or spewing hatred about him, now that’s what I don’t really like that about Michael Moore towards Bush. You can disagree with someone, but you don’t have to be so vindictive about it.

      Oh glad you saw Hunger Games and liked it. Yes I think it was well-done. Were you bothered by the hand-held style? I actually didn’t mind it for some reason, but I know some people complained about it.

      1. Ted S.

        No I didn’t mind the shaky cam at all, I thought Ross did a great job of incorporating that style into the film. Since they have to make a PG13 film, they couldn’t show the graphic violence and by incorporating that style, it worked out great. What I can’t stand is when directors using the shaky cam for no reason then trying to make their action scenes look more “exiting”. That’s why I can’t stand Safe House, it’s a good example of how a director doesn’t know how to use the shaky cam style correctly.

        1. I think it’s expanding to more screens, there are at least 4 theaters playing it near me. It’s amazing considering the lack of marketing and hardly any buzz from mainstream media.

  3. Well, I dont know if I could handle a political flick nowadays… even if it is nuetral… I’m so fed up with Washington DC that its the last thing on earth I want to see in the megaplex.

    Robot and Frank looks interesting to me though, can’t wait til that hits the home market! 😀 Thanks for sharing about it Ruth!

    1. I hear ya Fogs, I’m not either generally, but the Indonesia-ties of Obama intrigues me. I’m sure you’re not the only one fed-up with the government these days, the figures on the economic and accumulating debt of this country presented in the film is quite scary.

      Robot & Frank should be available in your indie cinema, Fogs, hope you get to see it.

  4. impsndcnma

    I’ll be going over more of what I watched over at the website, but I wanted to talk about the movies you saw.

    When I saw the title of the Obama documentary, not knowing anything about it, I assumed it was a right-wing bashing of a Democrat. Like if Obama gets re-elected this is what will happen to the world type picture. I’m glad you reviewed it so I could get a sense of what it actually is, but I’m still completely uninterested. That has to be because I’m more liberal and I watched and laughed during the Micheal Moore documentary on Bush.

    I’m also interested in Robot & Frank. I as well thought the trailer was right up my alley and would love to see it play over here. The local independent theater had the trailer running a few weeks ago so I’m sure it will eventually show up over here.

    1. Nope, not bashing, Max, I think the doc was quite respectful about Obama and even D’Souza as a fellow immigrant with ethnic backgrounds seems to identify with the President’s journey. I think even liberals should check this out, it’s good to be open-minded about an important matters about who one puts on the White House, that’s what the film is trying to say. This doc is not hatred-spewing or done in a spiteful way like Moore did with Bush, I think that’s taking it a little far.

      Hope you check out Robot & Frank, I quite like Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon’s performance here.

  5. Rich

    If you wanna know more about Obama and his roots, I STRONGLY recommend you read his book ‘Dreams From My Father.’ And that’s all I’ll say about that.

    1. Does your cousin live near you Julian?

      Just curious why you’re not interested in the documentary, is it because of its political nature or the subject matter?

    1. Fair enough Josh. I have interest in politics either, but I think a public figure’s life journey often makes an intriguing film, this one included.

  6. I love your eclectic taste doll…I’ll probably pass on 2016 but I hadn’t heard of Robot and Frank, that one does sound interesting….anything that’s got Marsden and Sarsgaard in it, can’t be all bad 🙂

    1. Ahah, eclectic to a fault eh? I quite like genre hopping, it’s quite fun. I think you’ll like Robot & Frank, Marsden is very good here (not to mention gorgeous, man that bone structure!) and Sarsgaard’s great VO work makes you root for that robot! 🙂

  7. I am definitely SKIPPING that Obama movie…hehe I dont even care with my own country’s politician let alone from other country.

    Robot an Frank, on the other hand, sounds interesting. Never heard of it before but your review sort of convince me.

    Hehehe just saw RED LIGHTS….my God, HE IS GORGEOUS!!! you know who I am talking about 😉
    The movie is not that good, I will see it again this Friday, maybe my opinion and rating can change after that.

    1. Ahah, too funny Nov, even when Obama has ties w/ Jakarta? It was fun seeing some scenes of D’Souza walking around in the city, even having coffee in a ‘warung’ and riding an ‘ojek’ 😀

      Robot & Frank is worth seeing, definitely. Ha..ha.. no doubt Cilli is gorgeous in Red Lights, I’ve seen the trailer but it creeps me out.

      1. Even if he ties to Jakarta 😉 The only politician I like is Habibie because he is the smartest Indonesian man alive. I always have a thing for man who is brilliant in science .

        Nah…it’s not creepy enough…trust me!! I’ll tell you once I have published my review 😉

        1. Ah I see. My uncle actually knew him in college back in Hamburg in the 60s, but I don’t think they connected again once he became a politician.

          I know you like horror stuff Nov, so I’m sure to me it’s creepy enough 🙂 Btw, Sigourney Weaver is in that one too right? I like her a lot.

          1. Yup!! that’s why I was really eager to see it!! Sigourney and Cillian side by side…what a lovely cast….and she is taller than him 😉
            Seriously, it’s just a psychological thriller…not horror at all.

            1. Ok then, I might give it a shot. Ahah yeah, Sigourney is like 5’11” so she’s taller than a lot of guys in Hollywood! Tall actors are still quite rare strangely enough, but I do have a penchant for them. Most actors I like are at least 6 feet tall like Gerry, Richard Armitage, Timothy Dalton, etc. are all 6’2″ 😀

  8. Can’t say I have any interest in that Obama doc, but Robot and Frank sounds like fun. Not sure if I will be able to catch it in the theater, but I will definitely be renting that at least.

  9. Well I keep walking by the Robot and Frank billboard on my way home from work. May be worth a look-see.

    2016 is not the type of political film that I like. I will stick with the realm of fiction when it comes to my political cinemagoing.

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