Dick Tracy 2: 18 Possible Plots

Dick Tracy: The Kid

The Villain: Stooge Viller, a renowned pickpocket, ex-prisoner and schemer who enjoys hijacking vehicles.

The Possible Plot: Now a grown man, Dick Tracy Jr (formerly The Kid) still helps his adopted father out during some of the tougher cases.

Then he gets an anonymous call telling him to get down to a nearby silver mine – there, Jr’s biological father Hank Steele is murdered by Stooge Viller. Tracy Jr sets out on a quest to bring Viller down, while also learning about his own roots.

Actor Hidden Under Prosthetics: Paul Giamatti

Win Win (2011)

If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s sport. And if there’s one thing Americans love more than sport, it’s sport movies. Rocky, Jerry Maguire, and Gene Hackman’s genre-defining Hoosiers all kept cinemas as crammed as basketball stadiums over the years. Which brings us to new high school wrestling drama Win Win, a film that sticks close to the tropes of tried and true big-hitters (i.e. battered hero ‘finds’ himself again thanks to association with extracurricular activity) but never quite makes it into the premiere league of sporting classics.

Of course, Win Win is more than just a sports movie – it’s also a Paul Giamatti movie. With the Sideways actor having effectively cornered the market in down-on-their-luck depressed middle-agers, Win Win finds Giamatti playing New Jersey attorney Mike Flaherty. Struggling to support his wife and two kids, Mike’s on a one way road to Nowhereville. Until teen runaway Kyle (Alex Shaffer) tumbles into his life. Having fled his alcoholic mother, Kyle ends up bunking at the Flaherty’s, and when he enrols in the local high school where Mike’s a wrestling coach, Mike discovers that Kyle’s abilities on the wrestling mat far outshine those of his own team.

Directed by Thomas McCarthy, who also helmed exceptional middle-age drama The Visitor, Win Win is both cosy and charming. Amy Ryan in particular delivers a fantastic, no-bullshit turn as Giamatti’s long-suffering wife, while McCarthy keeps the domestic drama nicely in balance with the quirky comedy. But while the pacing rarely lags, Win Win’s feather light approach to drama feels more like a friendly local kick-about than a powerhouse Man U vs Liverpool clash. Which is no doubt McCarthy’s intention, his film having more in common with low-key indies than certain grandstanding boxing epics. In short: a winning drama that never punches above its weight. 4/5

Via Out In The City

Ironclad (2011)

It’s the curse of every post-Gladiator swords-and-scrapper that it has to crawl out from under that film’s hulking shadow. Such is the plight of Ironclad, which should come with its own medieval movie check list. Giant swords? Yep. A gruff, beleaguered hero? Of course. Colossal, bloody skirmishes? Right on. The writers have even chosen a suitably obscure but nevertheless fascinating period of history to recreate, GCSE Bitesize-style (with added body parts) as we follow the fall-out from the Magna Carta’s inception.

The year is 1215. Unruly King John (Paul Giamatti) has been forced to sign the Magna Carta, which guarantees each man freedom unto himself. But Johnny isn’t happy. Bile-filled and raving, he calls on a Viking army to help him regain power – and will spill all the blood he needs to that end. Luckily, Baron Albany (Brian Cox) is having none of it, assembling a band of not-so-merry men to face down the King. Among them are a morally tortured Templar Knight (James Purefoy) and Jason Flemying’s battle-hardened Beckett.

With much of the action taking place at Rochester castle, the last bastion of liberty against King John’s tyranny, it’s all a bit like a period version of Panic Room. After an initial introductory chapter, Ironclad sets up shop at Rochester, where King John and his Vikings spend the entire movie attempting to raze the fortress to the ground and quash the Baron’s forces.

Which is fine, because despite the flat characters and ropey dialogue, Ironclad comes up trumps with its grisly set pieces. Blades in guts. Boiling oil baths. At one point a character even has both feet and hands cut off. Ironclad is probably the bloodiest film you’ll see in cinemas this year. That, and a typically radiant Giamatti, are the only reasons to buy a ticket. Otherwise, Gladiator’s crown rests easy. 3/5

Via Out In The City

Cold Souls (2009)

Google the word ‘soul’ and you’re flooded with 40 million links, all relating to jazz or religion. Cold Souls is interested in neither of these. With a trippy premise literally dreamed up by director Sophie Barthes, it is pensive and ponderous, offering a nod and wink to the likes of Philip K Dick and Charlie Kaufman. But it’s also peculiarly remote.

Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti (wink), suffering through his own interpretation of Russian stage play Uncle Vanya. Rehearsals are not going well: “It’s like somebody put my heart in a vice,” the actor wheezes after playing out a particularly overwrought scene. “You take things too seriously,” his director reasons, and this is true of both the character and the actor. Pitched as a lonely, irritable spirit, Giamatti shifts gravitas in spades, heaving his leaden soul around like a yoke. He barely cracks a smile for the entire hour and a half.

Then he happens upon Soul Storage; a company that does exactly what it says on the tin. It offers to cleave a person’s immortal soul from them and store it away where it can bother them no more. No attempts at scientific clarification here – Cold Souls is embedded resolutely in its own off-kilter reality that smartly sidesteps explanation. So when we learn that something called ‘soul trafficking’ is rife, and the narrative splits to encompass Russian soul-ferrying ‘mule’ Nina (Dina Korzun), it makes a perfect kind of non-sense.

Which all sounds very profound. And it sort of is. Barthes channels her native French cinema to produce something beautiful and overtly dreamy, with flickers of humour that buoy proceedings. Take these gems: Giamatti is disheartened when he discovers that his extracted soul resembles nothing more than a chickpea; while his outrage at his soul being ‘rented’ is second only to his horror that a Russian wannabe-actress is using it to thesp up a soap opera (“She’ll destroy it!”).

But quips aside, and despite all its chatter about the human spirit, Cold Souls remains disappointingly disaffecting. The tragic, seemingly doomed Nina – whose exorbitant trafficking has left her with so much ‘soul residue’ that she can probably never take back her own soul – strains for sympathy, but never quite attains it. And not even a location jump to Russia enlivens the film’s lethargic final act, with a Bond villain character quickly offloaded and any tension evaporating in the face of a silly kidnap plot. “Hollow, light, empty,” Giamatti murmurs as he describes his feelings of post-extraction soullessness. Funny how those adjectives apply to his film, too.

Anticipation: Cool premise, and Giamatti is pretty dependable. 4

Enjoyment: Slow burning and strangely distant. Still, there are some interesting ideas. 3

In Retrospect: Thought provoking but elusive, Cold Souls’ theories blanket any feeling, making this all sadly soulless. 3

Via Little White Lies