Movie Review: “Self/less”

Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Natalie Martinez, Michelle Dockery, Derek Luke, Victor Garber
Tarsem Singh

Nobody makes movies like Tarsem Singh. The polarizing visionary always brings his colorful personality to all of his projects, whether it’s a thriller (“The Cell”), a swords-and-sandals action pic (“Immortals”), or his adult fantasy masterpiece, “The Fall.” Tarsem tells stories through images, not only through dialogue. His latest film, “Self/less,” is his most story-heavy picture to date, but once again, he energizes a familiar tale with his bold eye.

The man responsible for some of New York’s most beautiful buildings, Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley), is dying. The billionaire industrialist is filled with regrets; he once thought his checkbook was sufficient enough to take care of his daughter, Claire (Michelle Dockery). Hale wants a second chance at life, and he receives it in the form of “shedding,” a procedure that transfers one’s consciousness to a young, healthy body. The company responsible for the technology is led by Albright (Matthew Goode), and his dream is to give the most important and influential figures – or failing that, the richest – more time on Earth. Hesitantly, Damian accepts Albright’s very pricey offer, and after the procedure, he’s no longer himself, but Edward (Ryan Reynolds), a young, handsome and retired millionaire. Damian is meant to start a new life in New Orleans where he can’t contact anyone from his past, but when he starts seeing Edward’s memories, Damian begins to ask questions about who he is and whose body he’s taken over.

“Self/less” is more of a thriller than a summer action movie; it’s a high-concept detective tale. Screenwriters David and Alex Pastor manage to tell a personal story, and like all good detective stories, they follow a detective haunted by his past. Damian Hale’s journey is as engaging as the film’s ideas. Ryan Reynolds hasn’t always had the best luck with studio films, especially in the summer, but he’s given more to work with this time around. There’s an actual arc for him to communicate.

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Movie Review: “The Boxtrolls”

Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Jared Harris
Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi

Pixar may get all the love, but over the last five years, Laika Studios has really come into its own as a company that you can usually expect great things from. Not only has the Portland-based animation house breathed new life into the underappreciated art of stop-motion with movies like “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” but they’ve done so with an offbeat style unlike any of their competitors. That Burton-esque spirit is alive and well in “The Boxtrolls,” but sadly, that’s about it. The studio’s latest film is an uncharacteristic misfire lacking the charm, wit and heart of its previous efforts, and although it has moments of brilliance, they’re buried beneath an uninspired script that left me feeling cold and indifferent.

The titular Boxtrolls are a race of builders who live in an underground lair eating bugs and tinkering with the junk they forage during their nighttime excursions above ground. Though they’re an otherwise friendly group, the Boxtrolls have been forced into hiding after a villainous schemer named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) used the disappearance of a local baby as a way to convince the townspeople that the Boxtrolls are dangerous monsters who eat children. Desperate to climb the social ladder and join the ranks of the town’s elite White Hats, Snatcher strikes a deal with their leader, Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), to exterminate all of the Boxtrolls in exchange for his very own white hat and access to their exclusive cheese-tasting club.

But what the townspeople don’t realize is that the missing child is actually alive and well, raised by the Boxtrolls as one of their own after his father gave him away. Now a fully-grown boy, Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) – named after the cardboard box he wears on his body – has begun to fear for their survival after watching his friends get captured by Snatcher’s red hat-wearing henchman. With the help of Lord Portley-Rind’s meddlesome daughter, Winnie (Elle Fanning), Eggs ventures into the city to rescue the Boxtrolls and expose Snatcher for the slimy charlatan that he is.

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Movie Review: “Iron Man 3″

Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce
Shane Black

When it was announced that Jon Favreau would not return as director of the third “Iron Man” film, the producers surely fielded offers from every name director in town. So how did Shane Black land this gig, again? The guy hasn’t written or directed a feature film since 2005’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” and yet here he is, doing that Shane Black thing once again, only this time with superheroes, while trying his best to streamline his R-rated ways for a PG-13 audience. As it turns out, “Iron Man 3″ works, but just barely, and it’s more in spite of Black’s influence than because of it. At the beginning of the second act, Black begins to get in his own way, and for anyone familiar with his work, it’s not long before a strong case of deja vu sets in. He even set the movie during the holiday season, just like “Lethal Weapon.” And “The Long Kiss Goodnight.”

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is not handling the events that took place in “The Avengers” well. He can’t sleep, he’s experiencing panic attacks, and he’s neglecting his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). The last thing he needs is a crisis, so of course he receives two, in the form of a think tank genius named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) who’s trying to woo Pepper into funding some groundbreaking genetic research, and a stone-cold terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) who has launched a series of unusual bombings across the country. Tony dares the Mandarin to take him on; the Mandarin responds by destroying his house. Tony Stark, one of the richest and most famous men in the world, is at rock bottom.

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