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Robot & Frank Review


Very Good

A warm drama that drifts into light, goofy comedy, this film is too slight to be a classic, but its subtly sharp-edged script holds our interest and gives the cast something to work with. Frequently very funny, this is much more than just a story of an old man with a robotic sidekick, as it explores jagged family relationships and even features a lively caper subplot.

At the centre is Frank (Langella), who doesn't want to leave the rural home where he raised his now-adult children (Marsden and Tyler). Even as they have their own lives far away, they worry about him living alone, so his son buys him a robot assistant (voiced by Sarsgaard) whose only mission is to look after Frank's mental and physical health. Frank dismissively names it "Robot" and tries to ignore it until he realises that its prime directive allows it to help him secretly relaunch his cat-burgling career. His first target is to rescue the town library run by his old friend Jennifer (Sarandon), which is about to be turned into a high-tech social centre by a young businessman (Strong).

Director Shreier keeps the film's pace gentle, underplaying both the comedy and suspense while letting Langella indulge in an enjoyably grumpy scene-stealing performance. Frank may be losing his memory, but he is still sharp as a tack when it comes to planning a heist, especially with the help of Robot. And watching him build up the confidence to pursue Jennifer is enjoyable as well. Meanwhile, Sarsgaard nods to 2001's Hal in the way he invests Robot with deadpan humour and emotion. By comparison, none of the side characters has much to do since they haven't a clue about what Frank is up to.

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The Romantics Trailer


Lila and Laura were best friends through college, they were always close and their extended set of friends were almost as close as they were. Named 'The Romantics' by other college mates for their almost incestuous dating history the group of seven reunite for the marriage of Lila and Tom. Lila and Laura have both got their history with the groomsman and seeing Laura again appears to have flustered the groom and begins to question his feelings for both women.

Continue: The Romantics Trailer

Bart Got A Room Review


Excellent
High school coming-of-age films have recently been overflowing movie screens like stuffed toilets. They can be hard-edged and true like Adventureland. Or raunchy yet soft and fuzzy like Superbad. Or they can be totally wacky, as is the case with Brian Hecker's Bart Got a Room.

Hecker's rite-of-passage romp, about a high school senior and resident twerp who strings out getting a prom date until the last second, takes place in an over-baked retirement community in Florida where the youngsters look like sprites among the old-folks majority. Hecker's take on the plastic, ready-to-go community is a nutty cartoonish style, taking its influence from Frank Tashlin -- a place of consumer detritus baking, along with the residents, in the bright light of the leisure world.

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Watching The Detectives Review


Weak
Watching the Detectives proves that even if you adopt a cool-sounding Elvis Costello song title for your movie, that won't necessarily make it good.

Despite the presence of indie darling Cillian Murphy and teen lust subject Lucy Liu in the leading roles, Detectives is pretty much dead from frame one. Even mega-fans of either of the headliners will have trouble muddling through it.

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Grace Is Gone Review


Very Good
There are bad choices made by characters in films that infuriate the audience, as nobody can understand why the people on screen would have any reason to do what they are doing. There are also bad choices made by characters which can be instantly understood, as they're the kind of unintelligent behavior which pretty much all those watching can understand doing themselves, given the situation. And since the lamentable choice made by Stanley Phillips (John Cusack) early on in Grace is Gone comes not long after he has discovered that his wife has been killed while serving in Iraq, it would be the rare viewer who wouldn't understand at least some part of why he did it.

Stanley's problem is that the news of Grace's death -- delivered solemnly on a beautiful day by a pair of soldiers who seem carved from headstone granite -- leaves him not only without a wife, but also as the sole provider for a pair of daughters: 12-year-old Heidi and 8-year-old Dawn (played with radiant smarts by, respectively, Shelan O'Keefe and Grace Bednarczyk). So, faced with the horrible news and unsure of when and how to break it to the girls, Stanley hides. A stolid manager at a Home Depot-style store in their quiet Midwestern town, Stanley is the embodiment of dull routine, making it all the more exciting for the girls when he tells them that they're taking off and heading for Enchanted Gardens, a Disneyworld-type theme park where Dawn has always wanted to go. Maybe that will be the right place to tell them, he figures. It's a horrendously bad plan, but given the quiet normalcy of the day and the massive tragedy which Stanley is suddenly tasked with landing on his daughters, it's not shocking at all that he would disappear into a fantasy of sorts, where maybe Grace hasn't died. So off they drive in the SUV with the yellow ribbon magnet on the back, girls curious but thrilled at the sudden adventure, father gripping the wheel tightly while anguish eats him alive from the inside.

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Dedication Review


OK
Justin Theroux, the director of Dedication, wants to have it both ways, and in this case there's no shame in that. The film aims to mix romantic comedy with indie darkness; the ideal result would be a film with the charm and sweetness of a vintage rom-com with the honesty, wit, and/or realism of a screenplay free of Hollywood fingerprints. Dedication, though, feels like it has its signals crossed -- it zigs when it should zag, and settles for laziness at the most inopportune moments.

Henry (Billy Crudup) is withdrawn, anxious, and openly hostile, and almost certainly suffers from some sort of low-grade mental illness. Despite his unfriendly exterior, he is also an author of children's books who has found success with his only friend and illustrator, Rudy (Tom Wilkinson). When Rudy is unable to complete a sequel to their wildly popular book about a mischievous beaver, their publisher (Bob Balaban) dispatches Lucy (Mandy Moore) to help Henry finish the book. At first, they're at odds, but, well, you know the rest.

Continue reading: Dedication Review

Lonesome Jim Review


Very Good
If you were to saddle Garden State with a far less likeable lead and set it in Indiana, you might end up with this small gem, the latest from actor-cum-director Steve Buscemi. The Lonesome Jim in question (Casey Affleck) returns home ostensibly to find himself, but really he's just there to mooch off his folks until he can plan his next move. The fact that he finds himself in spite of himself saves this film from being a mere installment of "Profiles in Schmuck-itude," even if it ups the cheese factor as a result.

The movie begins with Jim's surprise arrival at his parents' house. His brother, Tim (Kevin Corrigan), still lives there but is less than pleased to see him. His mother, Sally (Mary Kay Place), is overjoyed but clueless as to Jim's unhappiness, even as he breaks down within minutes of walking through the door. And his father, Don (Seymour Cassel), in response to Jim's claim that his breakdown is due to "dehydration," simply suggests a cup of water.

Continue reading: Lonesome Jim Review

Prozac Nation Review


Weak
Some films lead a long and storied journey to the big screen; Prozac Nation led a long and vague journey to any screen at all. It was filmed back in the year 2000, scheduled for release in 2001, only to be bumped into early 2002, then to fall 2002, then into summer 2003... and on and on, setting and missing a yearly planner's worth of release dates, until it finally premiered, clearinghouse style, on the premium movie channel Starz! in March 2005 (meanwhile, the movie dotted the rest of the globe in 2003 and 2004, with isolated premieres in Japan, Norway, Denmark, and Israel). Waiting for Prozac Nation to come out turns out to be rather like the experience of actually watching Prozac Nation; despite low expectations, you press on, hoping for something interesting to happen.

Adapted from Elizabeth Wurtzel's memoir (unread by me, and despite its bestseller status it seems to be almost universally disliked) of depression and dysfunction at Harvard, Nation casts the always-watchable Christina Ricci as the self-absorbed author. The film doesn't exactly have a story; it's more about Elizabeth using college to gauge the depths of her mental instability. She writes in binges for the school paper, introduces countless substances into her system, and embarks on destructive relationships and non-relationships. Ricci, it must be said, displays skill and gusto in the areas of binging, abuse, and destruction; she throws herself into the part, though what she gets in return is questionable.

Continue reading: Prozac Nation Review

Hurricane Streets Review


Good
Alternately pithy and brilliant, this meditation on New York City street kids lacks the power of Kids but makes up for it with heart.

Lonesome Jim Review


Very Good
If you were to saddle Garden State with a far less likeable lead and set it in Indiana, you might end up with this small gem, the latest from actor-cum-director Steve Buscemi. The Lonesome Jim in question (Casey Affleck) returns home ostensibly to find himself, but really he's just there to mooch off his folks until he can plan his next move. The fact that he finds himself in spite of himself saves this film from being a mere installment of "Profiles in Schmuck-itude," even if it ups the cheese factor as a result.

The movie begins with Jim's surprise arrival at his parents' house. His brother, Tim (Kevin Corrigan), still lives there but is less than pleased to see him. His mother, Sally (Mary Kay Place), is overjoyed but clueless as to Jim's unhappiness, even as he breaks down within minutes of walking through the door. And his father, Don (Seymour Cassel), in response to Jim's claim that his breakdown is due to "dehydration," simply suggests a cup of water.

Continue reading: Lonesome Jim Review

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Galt Niederhoffer Movies

Robot & Frank Movie Review

Robot & Frank Movie Review

A warm drama that drifts into light, goofy comedy, this film is too slight to...

The Romantics Trailer

The Romantics Trailer

Lila and Laura were best friends through college, they were always close and their extended...

Watching the Detectives Movie Review

Watching the Detectives Movie Review

Watching the Detectives proves that even if you adopt a cool-sounding Elvis Costello song title...

Dedication Movie Review

Dedication Movie Review

Justin Theroux, the director of Dedication, wants to have it both ways, and in this...

The Baxter Movie Review

The Baxter Movie Review

We've all seen the romantic comedy where the fair blonde heroine is in the church,...

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