January 15, 2013

Retroview: Gigantic (2008), Cold Souls (2009), and Bored to Death (2009-present)

A Retroview Review. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Luke here, with a post late for Wednesday, the reason for which explained after the review.

This review is actually double late, the second reason being that I watched Poltergeist for the first time in years last night. This evening I watched Gigantic, Cold Souls, and I finished season 1of Bored to Death, all fine pieces, but under the shadow of Poltergeist, few movies could withstand the pressure. Because I have little that I could add to the conversation concerning Poltergeist's pure and unbridled awesomeness, I'm going to do a short review of the three pieces mentioned above, none of which blew me away, or that I could highly recommend, but each of which I enjoyed at least a little. Here it is:


Gigantic has an adorable cast in what felt like decidedly quirky predicaments. Zooey Deschanel plays Harriet, love interest of main character Brian (Paul Dano), and daughter of Al (John Goodman). Brian, 28, single, works at a mattress store, and aspires to adopt a Chinese child. Harriet does part time work in a TV studio, but mostly just avoids doing anything with her life. They meet, fall for each other, the idea of things working out freaks them out, and things fall apart. Also Zach Galifianakis has a cameo as a bum who beats up Brian every once in a while.

The characters themselves are a little trite, each time they reveal a quirky characteristic it seems like they're just grabbing another sand bag to their back, needlessly weighing them down. The best being each of the main character's fathers (Brian's unnamed father being played by Edward Asner). Paul and Zooey honestly felt a little bored with the characters, but when they are around their respective parents, the chemistry there is simply heartwarming. Al is boisterous and outspoken, but not outright rude. Brian's father is absentminded, though aware of the need for a close family. By the end of the movie, I was not as invested in the relationship between Brian and Harriet as I was with their relationships with their parents. Funny parts here and there, but mostly just a rehash of tropes that have kind of become all too prevalent.

Cold Souls:

A lot of movies have the main moral that "being yourself and loving yourself for who you are" is always the best policy. Few movies have approached this topic in such an abstract way that Cold Souls has. Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind would be a fair comparison, though Cold Souls is more dialogue driven, and with less visual metaphor. If done well enough, I don't notice, or, at least, I don't really mind said moral hovering over the production. While noticeable, I did not find the handling of the moral to be ham-fisted, though I wasn't entirely tricked into not noticing it.

Paul Giamatti, played by Paul Giamatti, has his soul extracted in search of an easier way to get through the day. He hears about Soul Extraction. I think the only unspoiler thing I can say is that he opts for the procedure, the effects of which make up the entire drama of the movie. It is a clever, bizarre concept which I instantly found attractive. The movie twists and turns about every 15 minutes, taking the story to a place previously unimaginable each time, though, thankfully, in seemingly negligible increments. For me, the climax comes about halfway through the movie, where certain events converge in a serendipitous way that had me laughing and falling for the character. But then the rest of the movie kept coming, and the twists and turns, while interesting and smartly minor, started to feel a little tedious. It did get to the point where, like a running joke, it came back around to being funny that the movie kept upping the ante, just a little bit. Cold Souls won't make any new Giamatti fans, but I think it stays true to what old fans may expect.

Bored to Death:

I was initially interested in Bored to Death for the same reasons I imagine anyone else who watches the show is: the cast. A polarizing trio if anything, I can safely say I enjoy each of the actors in just about anything they are in. Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) is a struggling author, Ray (Zach Galifianakis) his comic book creating best friend, and George (Ted Danson), Magazine publisher who hires Jonathan to write on occasion. Jonathan's girlfriend breaks up with him, and in a fit of loneliness, he puts an add on Craislist advertizing his skills an an amateur, unlicensed Private Detective.

As ripe as that plot sounds, and as bizarre as this cast may seem, the show kind of just plugs along. The episodes focus around Jonathan's acquiring of a case and handling his relationships with Ray and George, whom have smaller roles than I think I expected. The funny parts are frequent enough to keep me coming back, but not enjoyable enough that I think I could really, wholeheartedly, recommend it to other people.


So yeah, I wish I had something I felt more passionately about to talk about, but the only option there was Poltergeist, and there's really nothing I can say about that movie that hasn't been said 100 times: It's quite possibly one of the best movies ever made. Heck, here's the trailer:

---Luke Hunter James-Erickson

oh, P.S. This review is mostly late because I've found myself in a rare position. I went to a premier of 4 short movies made by a Colorado based production company. My plan was to review them all and have the review up by yesterday. As I watched, the plan changed to review the best one. After getting home, I grappled with whether or not I should write about the movies at all. Because my voice is not an influential one on any grand scale, my criticisms would seem petty and mean, and I didn't really want to dedicate time to writing about movies I didn't enjoy, especially if that would mean sitting around, snidely coming up with "witty" ways to emphasize this. I just yesterday decided not to write the piece, which is why this one is late. I think, in the end, I'm happy I reviewed these three bigger pieces as opposed to talking about the other movies.

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