Who better to portray someone with a soul the size of a chickpea than Paul Giamatti? A man whose obsession with anger, spite and conformity to his own reality has steered some of his finest performances. Cold Souls feels like a continuation of the narcissism of Miles from Sideways. He wasn’t as soulless, but certainly just as driven and running on empty. There are parts of American Splendor chipping away at the isolation and glum colour tones used throughout this Sophie Barthes piece. What an undersung piece it is too, with its commentary on Anton Chekov bleeding through into a piece that looks to rip into Giamatti’s neurosis and talent as he adapts his best character of all, himself.
Some are born to bear the brunt of the biopic. Director Tom Hooper made a name for himself with the application of camera to history, and he did it well. The King’s Speech was solid work, and his turn to musicals with Les Misérables still offered the period piece iconography that had turned his work into something mesmerising and, crucially, entertaining. John Adams falls to the former, its mesmerising achievement here is capturing the story of the eponymous founding father. His rise to the presidency and inability to rise even higher. Detractions and deductions pave the road of Adams’ life, and with Paul Giamatti in the titular role, the core of this miniseries is complete. It is the perfect rendition of a life spent in government.
Should Jack Whitehall ever board a boat through the jungles of some distant, mysterious land, the rest of the crew should worry. It is the old wife’s tale that Pirates of the Caribbean lit up. Annoying comedians are bad luck for boats. It was something like that, anyway. Jungle Cruise is annoying with or without Whitehall moaning and groaning his way through this two-hour feature based on a Disney ride. Scandalous stuff. Where it worked well for the high seas, it does not for the low streams. Dwayne Johnson and company have their work cut out for them, with a film that feels all too similar to the jungle-clad costumes and designs of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Despite a light touch from director Peter Weir, it is hard to forget how monumental a film The Truman Show is, not just for Jim Carrey, but for the narrative expectancy of comedians adapting themselves to other genres. Now, it is a commonplace event. To see some funny guy or gal from the stage manoeuvre them to pastures new, usually in the chase for awards glory or fulfilment of a larger role. That is The Truman Show for Carrey, and while Batman Forever surely helped, it is not the critical and beloved darling that can have such a monumental impact. The Truman Show has an inherent comedy underlining it, but a deep and quite horrifying message within.
After studying him so thoroughly and with awe during his time as the eponymous second president, John Adams, it is surprising, somewhat, to see Paul Giamatti crop up here in Ratchet & Clank. How bold he must feel believing in this project. We cannot blame him alone though, for he is the best part of this Kevin Munroe and Jericca Cleland-directed piece. He is the best part of many projects, but it is a shame that he is so prevalent here, for Ratchet & Clank is a dire scenario that pits its protagonists against enemies and evils that feel fundamentally broken, fitting into the humour, which is put before the narrative.
Abandonment and resentment offer up much in the way of desire and dedication for action stars. Gunpowder Milkshake throws a lack of mother and a ruthless upbringing toward Sam (Karen Gillan) and hopes that, with these components, they have an emotionally fragile, ruthless hothead that an audience can adapt with. It takes two to tango as the old saying goes, and to tango with the characters present in this Navot Papushado-directed piece takes a suspension of what we hope for and love about the action genre. Aspirations of John Wick are not just inevitable but expected. Comparisons to that Keanu Reeves modern action classic are not helpful, but they are convenient, especially for Gunpowder Milkshake, which plays like a watered-down piece of Chad Stahelski project.
We are sometimes told we are all heroes. Everyone has what it takes to perform some Superman-like task. Not just in film, where protagonists redeem their dark and murky past with a senseless, emotional act of goodwill, but in the real world too. American Splendor and the directing duo behind it, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, do not believe that to be true. Nobody is a hero. The underground comic writer Harvey Pekar is brought to life with the sensibilities and cult following he was nurtured by throughout his career. His best-known work, a comic book autobiography by the title American Splendor, is adapted to the screen with an interesting spin on the biopic formula. How does a down and out comic book fan who brushed shoulders with Robert Crumb prepare himself for the underground, big league success and the mythology around it?
With an economic recession on the mind, and the violent impacts of that lingering throughout Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg, once again, tries his hand at adapting a unique text. Don DeLillo has a unique style to his prose. That’s the nicest way of saying it certainly isn’t for me. A few pages into the book, and it is clear to see Cronenberg has done quite the job of hacking his way through the text and making sure the transfer to screen is as seamless as possible. Capturing the core assets and meanings DeLillo had to offer, Cronenberg paves the way to effective character destruction. Too bad, then, that the destruction of his character is something we are actively cheering for, rather than making notes about.
As he fires through a third rendition of Good Vibrations’ melody, there is a mixture of anguish, relief and fear on the face of Brian Wilson. It is this versatility that makes Paul Dano and, to a greater extent, Love & Mercy, work. While Pet Sounds does not do all that much for me, I have such a deeply held respect for Wilson. He put his sanity, family and marketability on the line to create something he believed in. What director Bill Pohlad wishes to do here is showcase the shockwaves this caused, both the immediate tensions and the decades-long mental deterioration of a man who, at his peak, was considered a genius of music.
Will I turn into someone as pretentious, annoying and self-loathing as Paul Giamatti’s character in Sideways? I like to think I’m already there, and can go beyond how gratingly upset and miserable Miles is for the duration of this Alexander Payne directed piece. Considered to be one of the modern American classics, Sideways pairs up two somewhat likeable, yet wholly flawed characters, on a week of wine country exploration. Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is obsessed with having one last week of freedom before tying the knot, whilst Miles is still reeling from a divorce, a pending book deal and the general horrors of depression and anxiety that plague his life.