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Cold Souls (PG-13)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Paul Giamatti is one of my favorite actors, and certainly one of the best working today. Not only does he deliver consistently brilliant performances, but the projects he chooses are always insanely unique and repeatedly daring. Case in point: the Charlie Kaufman-eqsue Cold Souls. Here, Giamatti plays himself, an actor struggling with an intense malaise while rehearsing for a stage production of Uncle Vanya. Seeking relief, he comes across a company that will store his soul, a tangible object that varies from person to person; in his case, a chickpea. A wacky mix-up with underground, black-market soul dealers takes Giamatti on a journey to Russia to find his lost soul, making him question if he even really needs one. The result is beautifully moving, with a triumphant streak of such bizarre otherworldliness that the whole thing is impossible not to enjoy. Louis Fowler


Ponyo (G)

Disney Presents Studio Ghibli

Oh dear. What's happened to Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), the master of beautiful, poignant, deeply weird, profoundly philosophical Japanese animation? Has he lost his touch? Is the magic gone? His latest, Ponyo, is very loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid," and tells the tale of Ponyo, a little goldfish (voiced by Noah Lindsey Cyrus) who wants to become human because she's fallen in love with a boy (voiced by Frankie Jonas). The film bears, on the surface, all the hallmarks of a Miyazaki classic. The hand-drawn animation is lovely and expressive in a deliciously off-kilter way. The story combines the special, innocent wisdom of children with an appreciation for the natural world that suggests caring for nature and the planet is an urge we're born with. And yet it never coheres into a whole, as do other true Miyazaki classics. MaryAnn Johanson


Cinematic Titanic Live: The Alien Factor (NR)

I've been desperately craving a new movie-riffing extravaganza, and just as I was about to skulk away disappointed, the latest release from the Cinematic Titanic troupe showed up in my mailbox. Thankfully, it's another "live" show, with the CT gang utterly destroying the Z-grade 1978 backyard UFO-invasion flick The Alien Factor. The crew spits out one heart-attack-inducing quip after another, making the most out of the movie's hilariously designed monsters, the unedited sojourns of our heroes through the woods, the Chevy Chase-like acting style of the mayor, and the stranger who mysteriously arrives to help round up monsters. Once again, the crew is in top form, making this another must-own for fans of snarky bad-movie-based comedy like Mystery Science Theater 3000 or Rifftrax. Find it online at Louis Fowler

Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay (NR)

Synapse Films

A meteor crashes into Tokyo Bay, creating a foggy shield filled with so-called "cosmo-amphetamines" around the city, resurrecting the living dead and creating a free-for-all for the corrupt government and military, as well as for numerous roaming, opportunistic street punks. The city's only hope is the mecha-enhanced Battle Girl (Cutie Suzuki), a young woman charged with the mission of rescuing scared survivors, shooting rampaging zombies and defeating the crooked, maniacal army. This 1992 Japanese flick, directed by Kazuo Gaira Komizu, is very much a "Far East" Troma Entertainment production, from the shoddy VHS-era picture and one-note synth music to the goofy, laughable make-up effects and day-glo green-goo that the zombies spit up on a regular basis. Also, like a Troma film, it's loads of cheap, flesh-rotting fun! Louis Fowler

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