Matthew Lickona noon, July 29
Robot & Frank
In the not-too-distant future, a retired jewel thief in the early stages of dementia is given a robotic servant by his children. The gift is intended to place the kids' minds at ease while at the same time assisting the old curmudgeon through his golden years. Initially resentful, Dad warms up to the idea once he discovers how to program the mechanical man to act as his second-story android. At any minute, this could have gone horribly wrong and veered in the direction of live-action Disney; happily, it stays the course. It's a healthy distance behind other "robot companion" pictures, but credit first-time writer/director Jake Schreier for reining in the sentiment and assembling a first-rate cast to add credence to an oft-told (2001, Silent Running, Moon) and rather outlandish story. The film has something for everyone: seniors will enjoy the romantic chemistry between Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon, while fanboys and fangirls might actually find it refreshing to watch Liv "Arwen" Tyler and X-Man James Marsden perform in modern-day garb. It's not often the Landmark La Jolla Village shows a non-subtitled film that it's okay to cart the kids to. It's unlikely we'll find a better family film this year than Robot & Frank. Seize the opportunity! With Peter Sarsgaard as "Robot (Voice)." 2012.