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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended ....
(Just watched this on Netflix, where it came out on 2/2/10. Why is it not yet available on Amazon? I think it says something when you give a DVD a Netflix-level commitment, then you immediately want to add it to your collection because it warrants repeated viewing.)

An actor named Paul Giamatti struggles with his performance as Uncle Vanya in a production of...
Published on February 4, 2010 by J. Callahan

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
This movie has an outlandish premise in the vein of Being John Malkovich or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: your soul is a physical thing that is extractable, easily removed and returned. In addition, it is sometimes preferable to be without a soul for a while, or to borrow someone else's. It's not the premise that bothered me but the fact that the film did nothing...
Published on March 21, 2010 by starspangledgirl


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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, March 21, 2010
This review is from: Cold Souls (DVD)
This movie has an outlandish premise in the vein of Being John Malkovich or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: your soul is a physical thing that is extractable, easily removed and returned. In addition, it is sometimes preferable to be without a soul for a while, or to borrow someone else's. It's not the premise that bothered me but the fact that the film did nothing with this concept: neither dark comedy nor insight into whether the soul is the essence of humanity. Some visually beautiful scenes, very good actors, and yet it all seemed flat and...soul-less. This film did make me want to see Uncle Vanya on stage, as I was reminded what a great play it is.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended ...., February 4, 2010
By 
J. Callahan (Baton Rouge, LA, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cold Souls (DVD)
(Just watched this on Netflix, where it came out on 2/2/10. Why is it not yet available on Amazon? I think it says something when you give a DVD a Netflix-level commitment, then you immediately want to add it to your collection because it warrants repeated viewing.)

An actor named Paul Giamatti struggles with his performance as Uncle Vanya in a production of Checkov's play. As a possible cure to his internal struggles, his character ends up at a company specializing in the extraction and storage of a person's soul.

I won't say any more about the plot; there is a certain joy of discovery in "Cold Souls." Elements borrow from "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Being John Malkovich;" the film had a very Charlie Kaufman feel to it, but slightly more serious in tone and subtle in its humor. Also, as a fan of Mr. Giamatti's work, it was interesting to see allusions to his other films (the white room sequence recalled something similar in "Amercian Splendor").

In terms of the DVD, there are few extra features. Deleted scenes, a 5-minute short on the fabrication of the Soul Extractor, and trailers for other films. The absence of a commentary is a disappointment. I'm hoping that a Blu-Ray version includes more, and possibly I was watching an inferior "Netflix-only" version of the DVD.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Flat, Unfunny, Not Being John Malkovich, April 1, 2010
This review is from: Cold Souls (DVD)
I rented this movie "soul-y" because I love Paul Giamatti. And because the picture on the cover reminded me of his character in one of my favorite movies - Sideways. But that's where the similarities between these two movies end.

I was disappointed with this movie for many reasons. First, the DVD cover has raves from some movie reviewers claiming how side-splittingly funny this flick is. Huh? I can't remember laughing once, let alone snickering. Ironically, I found the funniest moment in one of the deleted scenes (the one where Giamatti is rehearsing a scene and is told to act it like the wind). This is not a comedy. Not even a black comedy - which I would have welcomed.

Second, though Giamatti's character looks like it was pulled directly from Sideways (complete with the bad brown corduroy blazer), that's where the similarities end. He appeared uncomfortable and self-conscious in his scenes and didn't seem to believe in the premise of the movie or the dialog.

Third, well, the movie is just flat. You immediately are reminded by the premise of Being John Malkovich. But Malkovich somehow made you accept its incredible premise; Cold Souls did not. And if you don't buy into the gimmicky basis of the plot, then you are going to have a tough time taking the rest of the movie seriously.

The movie left me feeling so gypped that I scoured the bonus features for something to enjoy. The deleted scenes were ok but the documentary on the design of the soul removal machine was ridiculous. The guys who designed it went on and on about their artistic influences for its look. Like they just created the Pieta. Wha? The thing looked like the love child of an MRI machine and the Michelin man. There was nothing impressive about its appearance. The designers should start looking for work in a different field.

Very disappointed. But I'll forgive Giamatti this one time...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lukewarm but well-shot, May 10, 2010
This review is from: Cold Souls (DVD)
This movie was marketed at a comedy of sorts, but it is actually quite plodding and dour. Paul Giamatti plays a beleaguered NYC theater actor (named Paul Giamatti) who is having a hard time dealing with the psychological anxiety of playing the lead in Checkhov's seminal Uncle Vanya, so he enlists the help of a team of Soul-storers led by the excellent (yet dry) David Stratham. They remove his soul under the guise of making his life better, and for a while, it seems to work. Gradually, he realizes tht soullessness is no fun, as a soul makes you human. (there is also a vague subplot concerning the Russian mob and similarly murky dream sequences involving old greying corpse-like men and small children that play like watered-down David Lynch) The film progresses like a slower version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, without the love-story angle or exciting visuals...and really, come to think about it, without the interesting characters involved in the whole scheme of muddling with intangibility (Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst equalled out Jim Carrey's sadness in that film, here there is no comic relief...just more mopey, flat characters like the Russian girl) There is a pretty drab blue, smoky color palate at work here, and a lot of talented character actors doing their cold, straight-man routines. There are a lot of scenes of Giamatti just staring off at things in a faux-existential stupor. This tactic, while it reinforces his soulless ennui, is painfully slow. Occasional humor permeates the cloud of despondence, as when Paul admits to his wife that he has been turned into a empty, staggering vessel, or when (soulless) his Uncle Vanya takes on a brash, kooky aspect. Otherwise the film is morose, yet admirably well-lit. Intriguing internal conflict aside, there is a serious lack of momentum as well as memorable scenes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing., April 28, 2010
This review is from: Cold Souls (DVD)
I'm a huge fan of Paul Giamatti, so I couldn't resist when I saw a DVD promising a roll-on-the-floor comedic performance. Sadly, this movie didn't live up to its billing. Admittedly there were a few parts of the story (mostly toward the beginning) that had us laughing out loud, but they were too few and far between to justify the claims on the label. The longer the story went on, the less funny it became, and most of the second half barely got a chuckle out of us.

While the premise of the story was novel and certainly held out some promise for a solid comedy, most of the movie was just plain dark, depressing and surreal. Much of it is set in Russia, which is depressing enough by itself. The themes are dark. The suicide of a marginal character is dark. The use of lighting is, well, dark. Yes, there are some places where it works and evokes some laughs, but the rest of the movie just doesn't work -- unless you have an extremely dry, somewhat twisted sense of humor. To his credit, Giamatti's usual stellar performance was the one bright spot. Not recommended for most viewers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They didn't know how to end it, August 8, 2010
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This review is from: Cold Souls (DVD)
Paul Giamatti plays himself in this film. It is an incredibly inventive story line.

In preparing to perform a character, Paul decides he needs to unburden himself from his soul. He finds a clinic that specializes in just that. Unfortunately, this clinic also does underground soul "adoptions" with an unregulated Russian company. The Russian mule winds up stealing Paul's locked away soul and implanting it in a Russian soap-opera actress. By this time, Paul has realized that he cannot be himself without his soul and the search ensues.

There are plenty of laughs. There are a few dark moments, and I was disappointed that the soul of "Olga" is never detailed more thoroughly. It was an entertaining film. I was looking forward to how all of the characters were going to finally tie in together, but I just don't think they knew how to end it. It pretty much leaves you to your own imagination. Some people don't like movies that end that way, but I didn't mind.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cold Souls, March 21, 2010
This review is from: Cold Souls (DVD)
Civilization and its discontents. Paul, an actor preparing for "Uncle Vanya" on Broadway, is mired in ennui. His agent tells him about an office where he can put his soul in storage. He does so then discovers that being soulless helps neither his acting nor his marriage; he returns to the office and rents, for two weeks, the soul of a Russian poet. His acting improves, but his wife finds him different, he sees bits of the borrowed soul's life, and he's now deep in sorrow. He wants his own soul back, but there are complications: it's in St. Petersburg. With the help of Nina, a Russian who transports souls to the U.S., he determines to get it back. Despite the heavy subject matter, an abundance of absurdity and wit make "Cold Souls" amusing as well as thought-provoking. Though the tone is dark, it is not suffocatingly so Barthes pokes fun at existential torment while seriously grappling with it at the same time. Giamatti is great as the "actor much like himself" and Strathairn and Korzun provide excellent support. The writing is solid, though the pacing is a little uneven, I felt the movie begins and wraps up a little too quickly. Overall "Cold Souls" is definitely worth watching.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, Paul, not your best..., June 26, 2012
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This review is from: Cold Souls (DVD)
I LOVE Paul Giamatti, and I had high hopes for this movie, but, sorry...didn't make more than 30 minutes before I shut it off. This is one of those movies with an AWESOME premise that totally fails in delivery/execution, in my opinion.

Look forward to seeing what Mr. Giamatti does next.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Souls Preserve Us!, February 21, 2010
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This review is from: Cold Souls (DVD)
Like the previous reviewer, I wonder why Amazon has this slated for a March release? I've watched it three times already, having rented it from a video outlet.

In any event, anyone who admires the precision and intensely sharp work of Paul Giamatti should find this a great primer on acting. As the film shows, when "actor Paul Giamatti" suffers from the burdensome weight of rehearsing Chekhov's *Uncle Vanya* he enlists the services of an entrepreneurial operation which puts souls in cold storage. The result of a "soulless actor" is hilarious (though in interviews Giamatti swears he's not channeling William Shatner's much-parodied histrionics).

As always, Giamatti's performance is Academy Award material, casting nuances and fascinating acting choices at every turn. Ably coupled with Emily Watson and a fine supporting cast, this film, in my mind, suffers only in a couple areas--much of the film is visually dark, heavily shadowed on the DVD, and people who approach it thinking (rightfully so) that it's a bang-up comedy might find it slow going.

But I would submit the pacing is just right for this material: Soul extraction is not just played for laughs, though there are many to be enjoyed [The film is a scathing satire of the free market gone horribly wrong; see the novel *Jennifer Government* by Maxx Barry for a more free-wheeling examination of this idea]. This is a poignant Ecce-Homo-meets-Memento-Mori film whose ending begs for discussion.

Knowing it was partially filmed in Russia heightened my enjoyment of the film and added an extra dimension to the drab existential "aloneness" that one of the key players exhibited. And knowing Boris Leskin knows no English added powerful verisimilitude to the production. Though the film (again, quite rightly) is being compared to Charlie Kaufman's work, for me *Cold Souls* offered much more heart and hope than any of CK's work, which usually leaves me entertained but cold-souled.

Despite its rather measured pacing, somewhat dark transfer, and the soul extractor's appearance (to me) as an oversized roll of Cottonelle, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and recommend it to anyone who wants to think a bit while enjoying a few great performances.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You need to consider the tax rate when storing your soul, May 5, 2010
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This review is from: Cold Souls (DVD)
Paul Giamatti has a bit of a problem. Yeah, that Paul Giamatti, you see While working on a play, he's struggling to get by. He can't quite figure out what's not right, but his agent thinks he has the answer - store your soul for awhile. Much like the memory erasing process in Eternal Sunshine, you're not really erasing who you are. Not totally. Just getting rid of some extra baggage. There may be some side effects as every soul is different who knows what those will be?

This is NOT a movie for everyone. It's not really a comedy, not a drama, not an action flick. It just sort of is. The cover of of the DVD does paint it as the kind of comedy that will pretty much have you on the floor rolling. That's not what this is. Luckily I had an idea of what it was before I bought it and knew it was my kind of movie. Instead of what the cover depicts it as, it's actually one of those movies that has you questioning the impossible. Would you store your soul if the option did exist? It has you wondering will Paul get his soul back? At one point you start to wonder, should he even try to get it back? Etc. I don't want to go too far beyond that for fear I'd give away too much.

I'm giving it 5 stars because it's totally my kind of movie. But be warned you'd really have to like movies like Eternal Sunshine, Being John Malkovich, I heart Huckabees, etc to like this one. If you want a movie that will have you laughing non stop or that will wrap things up with a nice little Hollywood bow at the end with no questions left unanswered, this isn't the movie for you.
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Cold Souls
Cold Souls by Sophie Barthes (DVD - 2010)
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