Geoff Cox’s DVDs: Robot & Frank, Identity Thief, Arbitrage, Cirque Du Soleil

Robot & Frank
Robot & Frank

Futuristic buddy movie ROBOT & FRANK (12: Momentum) is an irresistible charmer and a genuine pleasure to watch.

Frank Langella is terrific as the elderly jewel thief slipping into dementia whose busy son invests in a robot carer to improve his quality of life.

But the still-wily cat burglar convinces the ever-calm droid to become his partner in crime and commit one last heist for old time’s sake.

Springing poignant twists en route to its bitter-sweet ending, this engaging character study places compassion and humour above any major use of special effects. And it shuffles the marginal science-fiction elements neatly into the deeply humanist story.

The low-tech robot is winningly played by Rachael Ma and voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, while director Jake Schreier hits just the right tone between laughter and emotion in his heartfelt feature debut.

> A conwoman acquires a mild-mannered accountant’s credit card numbers and lives a life of luxury at his expense in IDENTITY THIEF (15: Universal), a raucous road movie from Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon.

The outraged victim, Sandy (Jason Bateman), heads to Florida to confront the fraudster, but when he attempts to drag loud-mouthed party girl Diana (Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy) back to face justice, the subsequent trip leads to all manner of farcical high jinks.

What results is a lopsided yarn of broad physical comedy and pithy verbal jousting between the two leads, whose contrasting styles interrupt the pace and flow of the story.

Bateman is, to all intents and purposes, the straight man, while McCarthy’s larger-than-life felon veers towards the annoyingly overbearing.

> Although not strictly about the global financial meltdown, ARBITRAGE (15: Koch Media) says more about the nature of corporate greed than other dramas. Richard Gere plays a hedge fund mogul whose world has begun to fall apart, both professionally and personally.

Not only is he caught up in a financial fraud that could scupper his plans to sell his company, but when he leaves the scene of a car accident that results in the death of his mistress, he finds himself facing a potential prison sentence.

Old silver fox Gere gives one of his best performances in recent years as the suave corporate shark, on the surface the charity-giving, caring face of capitalism, but willing to play every dirty trick in the book to save his fortune and liberty. Tim Roth is equally good as the dogged detective who, for once, doesn’t want the rich to get away with it.

Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling, as Gere’s wife and daughter, increase the value of this very polished thriller.

> The celebrated Canadian circus company takes viewers on a journey through several of their shows, linked by a story of one girl’s love for a trapeze artist, in CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WORLDS AWAY (PG: Paramount).

Mia is entranced by the acrobatic exploits of The Aerialist and when the circus ring magically sucks him into a mysterious underworld, she follows him to the other side.

Cue a series of excerpts from such Cirque “greatest hits” as Kà, Mystère and Zumanity.

Beautifully choreographed, with remarkable performances and set design, but I imagine the film lacks the thrill of seeing the shows live.