TV Review: ‘Arrow’ S2 EP1 “City of Heroes” – SEASON PREMIERE

Starring:  Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance, David Ramsey as John Diggle, Willa Holland as Thea Queen, Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak, Colton Haynes as Roy Harper, Susanna Thompson as Moira Queen, Paul Blackthorne as Quentin Lance

Series developed by:  Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg

Episode directed by:  John Behring / Written by:  Andrew Kreisberg & Marc Guggenheim (story by Greg Berlanti) / aired in the UK:  21/10/2013

What’s this episode about?

A year after Malcolm Merlin’s ‘undertaking’ devastated the Glades of Starling City, a self-exiled Oliver Queen must return home to prevent his family’s company from falling into the hands of a rival and soon finds himself reluctantly returning to action to stop a group of copycat hooded vigilantes…

Episode review

By the end of its first season, Arrow had truly come into its own and secured widespread approval from comic book fans worldwide.  Like most shows it had its creative rough patches but by that explosive first season finale it had managed to iron out most of those kinks, allowing the series to return with renewed confidence for its sophomore season.

With “City of Heroes” the writers of Arrow wisely decided to pick up a year after the devastating events arising from Malcolm Merlin’s plans for Starling City resulted in heavy casualties – not in the least Oliver’s best friend and Malcolm’s son, Tommy (Colin Donnell).  A tragedy so painful that it has forced Oliver to return to the very island he spent five years trying to escape from.  It’s an interesting notion to have Oliver return to the place where his alter ego was born given that the arc of this episode presents a rebirth of the ‘Vigilante’ (more on that in a moment).

Back in Starling City, Thea Queen now manages her brother’s bar and is once again angry at her mother, imprisoned after revealing her involvement in the undertaking, Roy Harper has took it upon himself to protect the innocent in the absence of the Vigilante/Hood (but he’s not the only one, a mysterious figure familiar to DC Comics fans is also stalking the streets at night) and Laurel is now serving as assistant to the District Attorney providing a switch in her ‘relationship’ with the Hood.

The introduction of business rival Isabel Rochev (geek goddess Summer Glau) and her plans to wrestle Queen Consolidated from the hands of the Queen family brings Oliver back home but it’s the emergence of copycat vigilantes that force him to once again don the emerald hood.  Tommy’s death weighs heavy on Oliver’s soul and brings about change, a vow to no longer take a life and fight only for justice and to protect the innocent.  This a welcome if not unexpected change to Oliver’s ‘mission’, the character’s brutal and lethal actions during the first season attracted some controversy but it seems clear now that this was all part of a plan to provide Queen with valid motivations to become the hero Starling City needs.  Amell has grown comfortably into the role and with this change in moral dynamics, gives viewers someone to root for.

It’s always good to see the writers of a series shake up the status quo and hopefully these changes (and challenges) will allow Amell and the supporting actors of Arrow to grow along with the series itself.

Accompanying the main plot is more of Queen’s back story via flashbacks to the island and the events leading to his eventual escape.  These flashbacks (more often than not) proved an at times inventive complement to the main story but I feel it may not be long before it becomes a laborious and stale element of the series – let’s see how it plays out this season.

One of the highlights of Arrow is that it has taken one of the lesser known (and generally less interesting) DC Comics characters and via some Batman influence (check out the souped-up ‘Arrow Cave’) and with hints toward a new name for the Hood, a hero rises…

The bottom line:  Arrow is back with a new sense of direction and holds promise for what lies ahead – essential viewing.

Did you know?

Later on this season we’ll see the introduction of another key DC Comics character – Barry Allen aka The Flash, whose appearances in Arrow will set the stage for a (currently in development) spin-off Flash TV series.

Arrow season 2 airs in the UK Mondays at 8pm on Sky 1.  US viewers can catch it Wednesday nights on The CW.

What did you think of Arrow’s second season opener?  Share your thoughts below!

The 'Emerald Archer' returns with a new mission...

The ‘Emerald Archer’ returns with a new mission…

Also on Geek Blogger UKHave you read… ‘Green Arrow:  Year One’

 

Comic Book Review: ‘Star Trek: Khan’ #1

Written by:  Mike Johnson / pencilled by:  David Messina & Claudia Balboni

What’s this issue about?

Standing trial for his acts against Starfleet, the genetically enhanced Khan Noonien Singh reveals the truth about his origins…

In review

With Star Trek: Khan #1, IDW Publishing has launched another tie in to director/producer J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness.  I’ve felt that IDW’s Into Darkness related titles have been a bit of a mixed bag, I was a little disappointed with the Countdown to Darkness mini-series (whereas the previous Star Trek: Countdown is essential reading that adds considerably to the enjoyment of the 2009 film) and similarly underwhelmed by the three issue After Darkness” arc from the ongoing Star Trek title.  The lead in issues of that monthly series did however produce some interesting character pieces, particularly the rather excellent flashback to McCoy’s earlier years told in issue 17 and the current post-Into Darkness storyline certainly has potential.

With so little of Khan’s back story dealt with in Star Trek Into Darkness I’ve eagerly awaited this series which should hopefully enrich and enhance the film by fleshing those details out.

Much like the Star Trek: Nero mini-series added layers and complexity to the villain of Star Trek, the premiere issue of Khan provides a platform to do the same with the antagonist of Into Darkness and so far, it succeeds.  IDW’s veteran Star Trek writer, Mike Johnson (with guidance from Trek screenwriter Roberto Orci) serves up another strong tale with some great dialogue (including Khan’s sharp and icy rejection of the court’s authority) that is faithful to the voices of the characters we’ve seen on screen and I was pleased to see the inclusion of Lead Prosecutor Cogley (who defended William Shatner’s Kirk in the classic original Star Trek episode “Court Martial”).

In terms of visual quality, David Messina’s pencils and inks in the opening trial scenes have never looked better with strong character likenesses and each panel feeling like it could be a scene framed and shot for film.  Claudia Balboni provides the art for the majority of the book as we flashback to Earth in the 1970s and the story of Khan’s past unfolds as the science of eugenics is born.  I’ve said before that I’ve been a fan of Blaboni’s previous work on IDW’s monthly Star Trek title and her style complements Messina’s perfectly, not so different that it’s jarring yet subtle enough to ease the reader into another time and place within the story.

It’s interesting to see a departure from Greg Cox’s Eugenics Wars novels in that the young Khan is a cripple and a guinea pig ‘enhanced’ through genetic manipulation (oh and for those troubled about the stark contrast in appearance between Ricardo Montalban and Benedict Cumberbatch, the seeds are cleverly sown for an explanation).  Like all good Star Trek stories this provides the ‘viewer’ with a cautionary and topical tale of man seeking to interfere with nature and the unforeseen repercussions that arise from those efforts.  As Spock put it in “Space Seed”“superior ability breeds superior ambition”.

The bottom line:  It’s hard to judge Khan completely at this point until all six issues have been published and the full story has been told, but it’s all off to a good start of what could prove to be an essential companion piece to Star Trek Into Darkness.

Star Trek:  Khan #1 is out now in print and digital formats from IDW Publishing.

Yet another top cover to a n IDW 'Star Trek' title, this time from Paul Shipper.

Another top cover to an IDW ‘Star Trek’ title, this time from Paul Shipper.

Film Review: ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’

Year:  2013 / 98 minutes

Starring:  Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch

Directed by:  John Moore / Written by:  Skip Woods

What’s it about?

John McClane sets off for Russia when his estranged son is arrested whilst working undercover for the CIA.  It isn’t long until father and son are fighting for their lives as they become embroiled in a nuclear heist plot…

In review

I originally intended to see A Good Day to Die Hard on its theatrical release earlier this year but with funds low and the flurry of negative opinion surrounding the film I resisted, opting to wait for the rental instead.  It took a bit of time but I’ve finally gotten around to seeing it…and needn’t have bothered.

It’s a crushing disappointment.  I’ve loved the first Die Hard for more years than I care to remember – easily one of my all-time favourites (and best Christmas film EVER?), Die Hard 2 was a decent follow up, third entry Die Hard With a Vengeance I’ve never really taken to (but it certainly had its moments and saw the directorial return of John McTiernan) and Die Hard 4.0 (released overseas as Live Free or Die Hard) I found to be enjoyable and good fun.

So here we have the fifth Die Hard film – A Good Day to Die Hard.  It really is a sad state of affairs, I honestly wondered when it was announced if there was still life left in the franchise and felt that Die Hard 4.0 (2007) was a suitable place to wrap things up.  There’s just nothing I can say about this film that redeems it, the story is weak and largely forgettable (something to do with the retrieval of a file to implicate a corrupt Russian official, with events leading to a nuclear heist at Chernobyl) in fact I just didn’t really care about it in any way.  The dysfunctional relationship between John McClane (Willis) and daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who cameos in this film) was a believable and likeable element of DH4.0 and gave it an emotional core amongst all the incredible (and at times ludicrous) action set-pieces but AGTDH lacks any semblance of this.  The increasingly dour Bruce Willis seems bored here, merely present to collect an easy (and no doubt hefty) paycheque with none of the chemistry present between Willis and Winstead felt between John and son Jack (Courtney).  To be fair Courtney does try and there are clear attempts to make the audience care – mostly through some poorly delivered and cringe inducing humour, but ultimately there’s just no heart in it.  Perhaps it’s Willis’s apparent lack of interest or failings on the part of director John Moore (who previously helmed video game adaptation Max Payne and the remake of The Omen), or a combination of both, but AGTDH just plods along without offering any real incentive to coax any lasting interest from the viewer.

Sebastian Koch makes what he can of the material as Komarov, a government whistle-blower who is the key to obtaining evidence to convict corrupt Russian official, Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov).  In terms of villainy, it’s all standard fare with Yulia Snigir as the sexy femme fatale, Irina and Rasha Bukvic as Alik – the clichéd Russian heavy.  Unfortunately there’s no-one anywhere near as memorable as Alan Rickman to stand out.

This really could be any cheap by-the-numbers action film (you could literally slap any title on it), the action scenes (amongst them car chases, gun fights and helicopter attacks) are loud, quick and to be honest…nauseous.  I’m partial to a good mindless action film and one of the hallmarks of the Die Hard series is its exciting and elaborate action but the said sequences are all over the show here, the camera constantly shaking and shifting focus to the point where you might feel you’re watching The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield (which is obviously fine for those types of films) and not really know what’s going on or even make decent use of the Russian backdrop.

So, after 98 minutes I found myself yearning to return to the original, infinitely superior, Die Hard and can only recommend that you do the same.

The bottom line:  It’s a shame but A Good Day to Die Hard is simply terrible and a far cry from the classic original.

A Good Day to Die Hard is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Like father, like son? There's not much to hold your interest in 'A Good Day to Die Hard'...

Like father, like son? There’s not much to hold your interest in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’…

Have You Seen… ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ ?

The films you may not have seen that are definitely worth a look…

Year:  1969

Starring:  George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Tell Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti

Directed by:  Peter Hunt / Written by:  Richard Maibaum (with additional dialogue by Simon Raven)

What’s it about?

Whilst on the trail of SPECTRE head Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond finds himself falling for the alluring and beautiful, yet troubled, Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo.  But first Bond must obtain information from the Contessa’s father, Draco, leading to an undercover assignment in Switzerland – his mission: to prevent Blofeld from unleashing germ warfare on an unsuspecting world…

In review

I was originally planning to feature On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as part of the GBUK Film Classics reviews but thought that perhaps the more casual viewers of Bond films (or new Bond fans introduced via last year’s mega hit, Skyfall) may not be all that familiar with some of the earlier screen adventures of the iconic super spy.

Largely dismissed upon its original theatrical release, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has in the decades since gained the recognition it fully deserves as one of the best Bond films (many even consider it to be THE best).  The incredibly popular Sean Connery was always going to be a tough act to follow but George Lazenby proved to be a worthy, albeit brief, successor in a film that brings the character closer to Ian Fleming’s literary creation whilst retaining some of the charm and likeability that Connery had brought to the role.

Based on Ian Fleming’s novel, OHMSS is a very personal film for Bond and the first time we’re given a deeper insight into his character as he falls for the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (aka “Tracy”), played by Diana Rigg.  Rigg, fresh from her popular stint as Emma Peel (alongside Patrick Macnee’s John Steed) in classic and often quirky British TV series The Avengers, is by far the best screen Bond girl.  Far more than the archetypical damsel in distress or just mere eye candy, yes she’s beautiful, but Tracy is a strong and feisty character with dimension and a vulnerable quality that Bond finds endearing, all brought to life by a wonderful and immensely talented actress.  She’s the sort of character we don’t really see again until Vesper (Eva Green) steals Bond’s heart in Casino Royale (2006).

It’d be fair to say that producers “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman will have been nervous about casting a new James Bond but with George Lazenby they needn’t have fretted too much (although they would later, Lazenby wouldn’t return for Diamonds Are Forever).  The Australian model, whose only acting experience at that point was in a Fry’s chocolate commercial, proved he could deliver on the screenplay’s more layered approach to Ian Fleming’s character (Lazenby has his detractors but I feel he’s a good fit for the role in this film).  No doubt in a conscious effort to prove that Lazenby could hold his own against comparisons to Sean Connery, the film’s fight scenes are particularly brutal with the blows of Bond’s fists literally sending his opponents flying into the air and across the screen (just watch the film’s opening scenes and you’ll know what I mean).

Telly Savalas is the villain of the piece – SPECTRE boss Ernst Stavro Blofeld, whose plans this time around involve germ warfare.  Donald Pleasance was an enjoyably maniacal (albeit a tad cheesy) Blofeld in You Only Live Twice but Savalas is a much stronger and more formidable presence in this film.  He is aided by evil henchwoman Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat).

Despite Bond’s courtship of Tracy, Bond’s infiltration of Blofeld’s compound in the Swiss Alps, under the guise of academic Sir Hillary Bray (where Lazenby was dubbed by George Baker), allows for him to – naturally – use his charm on Blofeld’s striking ‘angels of death’ – all for Queen and Country of course (I tried, but sadly failed, to resist a Roger Moore-esque raise of the eyebrow as I typed that out)!  Blofeld’s plot to utilise germ warfare is not as daft as it sounds and plays out rather well.  It’s less outlandish than a lure hidden beneath a crater and a testament to what Saltzman and Broccoli wanted to achieve with OHMSS by bringing Bond back to his roots.

Director Peter Hunt, having served as an editor on prior Bond outings, successfully fuses together all of the disparate elements of a classic Bond film, from the striking locations (this time Portugal and Switzerland) and epic visuals to the special effects and exemplary stunt work (much of which Lazenby strove to perform himself) that bring the exhilarating action sequences (including gripping high altitude ski pursuits and thrilling car chases) to life.

Composer John Barry provides yet another exciting, rousing score (arguably one of his best and noteworthy for there being no title song) that – as with many other Bond films – is the icing on the cake.

Why you should watch it

It’s a Bond film that has all the elements the audience would expect but with a larger focus on characterisation.

Standout moment

Having escaped Blofeld’s clutches, Bond is pursued into a Swiss village where he finds Tracy.  The pair flee in Tracy’s car as Blofeld’s men continue to give chase…

Did you know?

The search for the next James Bond involved testing over 400 actors, amongst them a young Timothy Dalton.  Dalton would of course be issued his Walther PPK in 1987’s The Living Daylights and 1989’s Licence to Kill.

Watch it if you like…

Casino Royale (2006), Goldfinger

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Have you seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?  Share your thoughts below!

Could James Bond be ready to hand in his licence to kill as he falls for the mysterious Tracy? Stars George Lazenby and Diana Rigg have good chemistry in  'On Her Majesty's Secret' Service' - one of the best entries in the long running Bond film series.

Could James Bond be ready to hand in his licence to kill as he falls for the mysterious Tracy? Stars George Lazenby and Diana Rigg have good chemistry in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ – one of the best entries in the long running Bond film series.

Also on Geek Blogger UKGBUK Film Classics:  From Russia With Love

Liebster Award nomination!

Humbled and chuffed to be nominated...

Humbled and chuffed to be nominated…

Well, that was certainly unexpected – an award nomination for little old me?  Really?  Before I thank my Mum, my Dad etc I must extend my hearty thanks and appreciation to fellow blogger V.  V is blogmaster (blogmadam?) of The Verbal Spew Review, a review blog that’s well written, fun and just damn well entertaining.  I strongly advise that you check it out here (if you haven’t already).

Seriously though, I am genuinely humbled to receive this nomination and if you’re reading this then thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll find something to enjoy on this little blog of mine…perhaps even subscribe/follow?  I’d also love to hear from you all so please feel free to add your thoughts by commenting on the various posts.

Anyway, on with the show…

Firstly, for anyone unfamiliar with the Liebster Award there are a few rules to follow should you find yourself attracting a nomination:

  1. Post the Liebster Award graphic on your site.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated your blog.
  3. The nominee is asked to write 11 facts about themselves.
  4. Answer the 11 questions from the post of the person who nominated them.
  5. The nominee will nominate 9 other blogs.
  6. The nominee will then create 11 questions of their own for their nominated bloggers to answer in their Liebster post.

So there you have the rules, I’m not sure if the numbers 11 and 9 have some special significance but without further digression below are my nominations for this prestigious award:

The Verbal Spew Review  in addition to my above hearty thanks and appreciation I would like to return equal appreciation to V and hope whoever is reading this (yep, you AND you) will check out The Verbal Spew Review.

Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys) – Australia’s top film blogging duo.

Tim’s Film Reviews – entertaining film reviews and trailer discussion.

Some Films and Stuff – insightful film reviews.

Vinnieh – well written and thought provoking film opinion.

Hard Ticket to Home Video – a humorous take on the world of film.

Snippet Studios – a healthy mix of opinion on the realms of film, TV, video games and foodstuff.

Lucas Fothergill – aspiring journalist and writer Lucas offers up his thoughts on films and music.

The Cinema Monster – top film reviews, news and top tens.

Moving on, here are 11 facts about myself…

  1. I can’t stand gravy or coffee.
  2. I’m left handed.
  3. I passed my driving test ten years ago but haven’t driven since.
  4. I’m so clumsy and accident prone that I’ve earned the nickname ‘Frank’…as in Frank Spencer from the classic 70s BBC sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em.  I am not currently involved with a lady named Betty.
  5. I recently won a copy of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale in a film quiz (our team coming third).  Shame I already have the Kindle book.
  6. I prefer The Dark Knight Rises to The Dark Knight.
  7. I was a massively fussy eater up to my late teens but will now eat all kinds of exotic and spicy foods (so long as no gravy or coffee is involved).  I even cook and understand my cooking is actually successful.
  8. I’ve met comedian Jimmy Carr three times.
  9. Despite my high level of geekiness, I’ve never been to a convention.  Does that mean my geek credentials shall now be revoked?
  10. I am not a fan of any sport (unless geeking out about stuff should be considered one?).
  11. I recently turned 31 and my hair is greying at the temples a la Mr. Fantastic!

So there you have my 11 facts, now on to my answers to the 11 intriguing questions (I’ve edited some of them slightly for space):

  1. It’s Friday today, HUZZAH! What are you up to this weekend?  Whoops it’s now Saturday (sorry).  Well it’s actually a quiet weekend this week for me.  So, aside from this piece it’ll be a bit of Mass Effect 3, some TV and a couple of films with a beer.  I’ll also be cooking my speciality chorizo pasta this evening.
  2. Top tear-jerking moment in entertainment?  Easily the death of Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan which always chokes me up (and I’ve seen it about a million times).  Of course he’s back in the next film but it’s such a powerful scene complemented by Kirk’s heartfelt eulogy, who says William Shatner can’t act?
  3. If you could listen to only one album for the rest of your life, which album would you choose?  It would have to be U2’s The Best of 1980-1990.  So many great iconic songs.
  4. Have you a phobia?  I fear Shepherd’s Pie, the mere sight or smell of it makes me feel physically ill.
  5. What upcoming film and/or game are you most looking forward to, and why?  Film – Thor: The Dark World because it’s a Marvel film and looks pretty damn good.  Chris Hemsworth IS Thor and the superb Tom Hiddleston is an awesome Loki (should it stink, at the very least there’ll be Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Jaimie Alexander to enjoy).  Game:  Batman: Arkham Origins, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were triumphant achievements in comic book video game making.  Well written stories, great gameplay, atmospheric and incredible environments – I love games that just draw you in and take you to another place.
  6. What is the best chat-up/pick-up line you’ve ever heard or used?  A friend of mine once recommended “did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”.  Ouch.
  7. What character, be they in film, TV, comic, literature or game, do you most relate to and why?  That’s a toughie, I’m not sure I can narrow it down to one.  At a push I would say Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, because like me he is the nerdy, well meaning underdog that just battles on with the trials and tribulations of everyday life…
  8. What do you sing in the shower?  I tend to hum tracks from film scores, lately it’s the theme from Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service…can’t beat a bit of John Barry!
  9. If you could go back to any place or period in time, where/when would you choose to go and why?  Probably the late 1960s, specifically 1969 to watch the Moon landing live.  Not just a technological and sociological triumph but a moment which, however brief, united people the world over – something that seems far away these days.  Gosh that was deep.
  10. You have a hot date and he/she is coming around to your place for dinner and maybe later some dessert.  What do you cook to suitably impress?  Probably one of my pasta dishes, followed by ice cream?
  11. What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled on someone? Or have had pulled on you?  Years ago, the morning after a party I sat down for a fry up breakfast with some friends.  Nature called and when I returned to the table, there was a cup of tea waiting for me which I proceeded to gulp.  I quickly realised that it didn’t quite taste right and my friends confessed to lacing the brew with a few drops of Vodka, some Tabasco, a squeeze of ketchup and probably all kinds else they still haven’t told me about.

So now it’s time for the questions I’d like my chosen nominees to ponder (if you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me so far, not long to go now – I promise!):

  1. Kirk or Picard and why?
  2. Is the glass half full or half empty and what liquid does it contain?
  3. What is your favourite film/TV quote and what significance does it hold for you?
  4. What’s your favourite film score?
  5. A man walks into a bar…
  6. Jack Daniels or Southern Comfort?
  7. Do you have a film/TV guilty pleasure (or pleasures)?
  8. Who is your idol and why?
  9. PS4 or X-Box One?
  10. What makes you laugh?
  11. What makes you cry?

So, over to my nominees – until next time, that’s all folks!

Film Review: ‘Robot & Frank’

Year:  2012 / 89 minutes

Starring:  Frank Langella, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Peter Sarsgaard (voice), Susan Sarandon

Directed by:  Jake Schreier / Written by:  Christopher D. Ford

What’s it about?

In the near future, a retired jewel thief reluctantly accepts a gift from his son – a robot butler which has been programmed to look after him.

In review

I came across Robot & Frank purely by accident when browsing for my next rental.  I was intrigued by the cover image of Frank Langella gazing into the face of a robot, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before, and being a fan of Langella it was naturally an easy choice.

The story is set – we’re told – in the ‘near future’, precisely when really doesn’t matter but it’s a recognisable world with subtle advancements in already existing technology (voice activated communications/video screens, mobile phones the thickness of a credit card) blending in as an accepted part of everyday life.  The most significant advancement though is in the use of robots as assistants in the workplace or for personal needs – an advancement that isn’t too far off today.

Frank Langella is…Frank, former cat burglar, divorced for thirty years and an absentee father having spent time in an out of jail for his crimes.  Growing older, Frank is depressed, unsatisfied and becoming increasingly forgetful – although it’s not directly referenced it’s clear that he’s beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s.  His daughter Madison (Tyler) is travelling around the world for charitable causes and his son Hunter’s (Marsden) family life is suffering as a result of his frequent visits to his father.  Hunter’s concerns for his father’s welfare result in the gift of a robot ‘butler’ (voiced by Sarsgaard), programmed to look after him and improve his health.

Reluctant at first, Frank soon forms an unlikely friendship with the robot who soon becomes his partner in crime as Frank plans to utilise his new pal’s talents to plan and execute a return to his old profession.

Robot & Frank is one of those films that you come across every now and then that just grabs you with its charm.  Langella is excellent as always, able to deftly integrate his frustrations and disappointments with subtle drops of humour all into a strong, cohesive performance.  Sarsgaard proves the perfect choice as the voice of the robot companion, with his understated robotic delivery that carries just the barest hint of emotion and care that feels programmed yet has a vague human quality (I felt it slightly evoked Douglas Rain’s performance as HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey).  Mention should also go to robot performer Rachael Ma whose simple nuanced movements and gestures marries neatly with Sarsgaard’s dialogue.

The friendship between man and machine plays out extremely well as Frank’s growing acceptance of the robot helps him find a new zest for life, albeit through criminal activities.  It feels genuine and evolves from bickering odd couple to a more familial father/son relationship made more poignant by Frank’s regrets at being a lousy father.

The film is well cast with strong chemistry between all of the actors.  Robot aside, Marsden gets to reunite with fellow Superman Returns actor Langella but in a much more intimate and significant way as the exasperated son, concerned about his father’s wellbeing.  There’s his other dysfunctional relationship with Tyler and the developing attraction between Langella and Sarandon’s librarian, who’s also assisted by a robot – leading to a hilarious ‘conversation’ between the two machines at a party.

Of course, as Frank’s renewed criminal endeavours threaten to come back on him then events become more dramatic yet even with its dashes of melancholia Robot & Frank never loses its heart and its charm, played out through Ford’s smart (and at times witty, with lines like “I would rather die eating cheeseburgers than live off of steamed cauliflower!”) script and solid, simple direction from Schreier provoking strong performances from the cast, particularly Langella.  There’s no fancy documentary styling or attempts at kinetic blockbuster style camera movements (nor would there need to be), each scene is left to breath and flow naturally (the moment where Frank and the robot ‘hug’ is particularly well staged) on the smallest possible scale, allowing the viewer to simply sit back and be drawn in.

The bottom line:  Robot & Frank is a charming and well-cast film that will draw you in and hold your attention right through to its heartfelt conclusion.

Robot & Frank is out now on Blu-ray and DVD from Entertainment One.

Frank (the superb Frank Langella) strikes an unlikely bond with his robot carer (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) in 'Robot & Frank'.

Frank (the superb Frank Langella) strikes an unlikely bond with his robot carer (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) in ‘Robot & Frank’.