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'Minions', 'Amy' and a Billy Connolly comedy lead a big slate of new films

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SELF/LESS: Tarsem Singh is a great visual stylist but he seems to have left that talent back at home when he made this one. The style is mundane, while the story seems to demand imagination on all fronts. Also, I can’t help comparing this one to a 1966 film called Seconds which had a similar plot line but a far more involving presentation — and suspense, which this film lacks.

 

Men want to live forever and some have the money to try. Ben Kingsley plays one using an Al Pacino accent. He’s a New York developer soon to die of cancer. Down south a secretive medical clinic offers “the greatest minds more time to fulfill their potential.” It’s called shedding, by which a man’s consciousness is transferred into another brain and body and just continues on. Ben becomes Ryan Reynolds, but that’s where the story falls apart. He can’t resume his old life because he doesn’t look like himself. A dream offers a vision of another place which he finds with the help of Google. It’s Ryan’s former life; his wife and child. He tries to fit in again. The medical clinic sends thugs to bring him back. It should have been good but is never really convincing. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

I AM ELEVEN: Australian filmmaker Genevieve Bailey got to wondering if children today are “still happy and excited about inheriting this crazy world.” So she asked them, in 15 countries around the world. Each one is 11 years old; her favourite age, the turning point between childhood and teen age. What she got from them made up this charming and even enlightening film.

My strongest impression is how articulate these kids are. A boy in France talks about the roots of inequality. A Moroccan girl talks of poverty. An English girl imagines what marriage will be like but one in India says, “We’re too young to think about marriage.” Life in an orphanage and finding a home are more on her mind. A German girl ponders religion and a Muslim in Sweden shows off his rapping prowess. A boy in Thailand rides an elephant into the water. There are more, some funny, all interesting and completely honest, with their observations grouped by subjects (from family to war to security to the environment).  (VanCity Theatre the next four Saturdays, three midday, one late afternoon. Visit http://www.viff.org  for details) 3 ½ out of 5 

BIG GAME: Approach with trepidation, but if you have a taste for the mildly ridiculous you might enjoy this harebrained action film from Finland. There’s a good cast led by Samuel L. Jackson as the president of the United States. He’s on his way to a conference when terrorists fire missiles at his plane and he escapes in an ejector pod. He’s found in the deep woods by a 13-year-old boy with a bow and arrow on a rite-of-passage hunting trek. (We know what’s up because by that time we’ve watched the boy for maybe half an hour as his father and elders prepare him for the ordeal, argue about whether he’s ready and make pompous speeches about him.)

The prez has doubts too but no choice. Back at the Pentagon, Victor Garber, Jim Broadbent and Felicity Huffman are slow to pick up his trail and the terrorists led by a “grade-A psycho” are getting close. Some serious bonding has to happen with the boy and an arcane conspiracy has to be untangled. There are good action sequences (slide down a mountain in a freezer, anyone?) and beautiful cinematography (of the Finnish landscape mostly but I really liked the shot of a body falling out of the sky through the smoke trails left by those missiles). Not enough to recommend the film, though. (VanCity Theatre,  10 p.m. Fri and Sat only, for now).  2 out of 5   

TAKING MY PARENTS TO BURNING MAN: The first time I heard about Burning Man, the annual arts and alternative lifestyle festival in Nevada, was 10 years ago when a colleague from work went into a coma down there and later died. This lively film serves up a bit of an idea of what goes on there, but the family-friendly version.

Bryant H. Boesen, a local actor and DJ and aspiring filmmaker takes his North Vancouver parents there in a converted school bus which itself comes to him as something of a miracle. “I did it. The universe provides,” he says to the camera in grandiose style that we'll see repeatedly. His parents are amazed. What they find in the desert north of Reno is a makeshift city of more than 50,000 people. They’ve come in whimsically-designed vehicles for a community-building, anti-commercial experiment. It’s been happening late summer for almost 30 years, to foster “radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.” We learn nothing about how it’s organized or how much it costs, but we do get a partial tour, meet idealism-spouting campers,  watch the night-time lights and partying (Bryant’s parents dance to his DJ’ing) and see the signature events: the burning of a giant-man effigy and an improvised temple. Sounds like some good old hippie philosophy has survived and gone to party.  (Rio Theatre, Fri, Sat and Sun) 3 out of 5

Also now playing …

THE GALLOWS:  Another in the current line of horror movies that forgo the gore in favour of chills and scares. That’s what I’ve read; I haven’t seen it. A high school play ends with a student actor accidentally hung on stage. Thirty years later, a plan to honour him by re-mounting the play leads to sabotage and more big trouble. Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford’s daughter Cassidy is in the cast. (International Village and suburban theatres)

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