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Robot Stories

Robot Stories

Not rated, 85 min. Directed by Greg Pak. Starring Tamlyn Tomita, Wai Ching Ho, Glenn Kubota, James Saito, Cindy Cheung, Greg Pak.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 7, 2004

Although Greg Pak’s self-distributed film is billed as "science fiction from the heart," the emphasis should be the heart part of that phrase rather than the science fiction. His collection of four short films is moving and evocative, with an emphasis on strong performances and deft storytelling. Pak has a way with a short film: He has a good feel for the parameters of what can and cannot be accomplished within that format. Only the last segment, "Clay," seems a bit sketchy, as though it might benefit from a longer running time. In terms of the subject matter – interactions between robots and humans – Pak has few ideas that haven’t already been covered by everyone from Isaac Asimov to George Lucas. If you go to this film expecting cutting-edge science fiction, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you approach Robot Stories as an opportunity to witness some great acting (particularly that of Tamlyn Tomita and Wai Ching Ho in the first and second segments, respectively) and narrative finesse achieved on a small budget, then this multi-award-winning festival-circuit movie will not disappoint. It’s no small thing, either, to see an American movie that showcases mostly Asian actors. In the first segment, "My Robot Baby," a power couple receives a robot baby (something like a Tomagotchi) to care for before they can adopt a real child, and before their trial is over learn that all children can seem like monsters sometimes. "The Robot Fixer," the second segment, observes a mother who busies herself fixing her comatose son’s robot collection. The story has nothing to do with science fiction really, but is instead the most realistic and poignant of all the segments. The third, "Machine Love," stars the director as a worker robot who begins to develop human emotions. If you ever wondered how robots make love, this is the segment for you. Ironically, "Clay," the final segment, has the most science fiction content but is nevertheless the most unsatisfactory, as its ideas about human consciousness living on after death are never fully realized. However, as a complete work, Robot Stories is a solid collection. (See interview with Greg Pak at austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2004-05-07/screens_feature4.html .)
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