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By Scott Mendelson
HollywoodNews.com:This is the third of several year-end wrap essays detailing the year in film. This time, it’s about highlighting the good or great films that slipped under the radar somehow. Some got rave reviews and wide releases but stiffed at the box office while some never made it out of limited release. All are worth tracking down and all are, with one exception I will point out, now available on DVD/Blu Ray/download/etc. And nearly all of them are not hardcore independent films, but seemingly mainstream dramas and comedies that would have likely merited a wide release even a few years ago. Once again, these will be in alphabetical order.
- Scott Mendelson
Directed by John G. Avildsen.
Amateur, local underdog boxer Rocky Balboa is awarded a title shot against the World Champion, Apollo Creed. But it’s really a lot, lot more than that.
“You’ve never seen Rocky!?”
No. Have you seen L’Atalante?
L’Atalante. It’s a French film from the early 1930s. It bridges surrealist cinema to poetic realism.
“Nah, I haven’t seen Lattalong. But you should definitely watch Rocky. It’s a great film. You did Film »
Win Win, 2011.
Directed by Thomas McCarthy.
Mike Flaherty’s loss-prone high school wrestling team picks up a new star athlete. The means by which Flaherty acquires him, however, are morally dubious.
Win Win opens on Mike Flaherty’s (Paul Giamatti) morning jog. “Where’s daddy?” his daughter asks, as the film cuts back to his wife waking up in bed at home. “He’s running”. “From what?” she innocently replies.
It’s easy to sympathise with someone being short on money during these strained times. It’s even easier when Giamatti plays that someone. He’s the ultimate down-on-his-luck everyman. He’s even better than William H. Macy, because Giamatti has a backbone. A slightly curved and hunched backbone, maybe, but a backbone nonetheless.
You know how you have leading men? Well, Giamatti is a leading man, »
As the end credits rolled, the first thought that occurred to me was that Win Win felt real. These were basically good people trying to do what is right but imperfections spoil any hope for total bliss. Heroes prove to have feet of clay and monsters don’t seem so monstrous once you get to know them.
The film, out on DVD from 20th Century Home Entertainment, is another terrific showcase of the wonderful Paul Giamatti. He’s become the everyman of his generation, infusing his characters with traits and flaws’ that make them feel real enough you’d expect to find them living down the block. Here, he’s private lawyer Mike Flaherty, suffering from a decline in business thanks to the economy and he is presented with a short-cut so grabs it. He has a court appoint him as guardian to Leo (Burt Young) so he could collect »
- Robert Greenberger
Chicago – The best film of the first quarter of 2011 was a sublime little gem from the great Thomas McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “The Visitor”) called “Win Win.” The clever, character-driven dramedy with Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan was recently-released on Blu-ray and DVD, and it deserves to find (and very likely will with word-of-mouth) a loyal audience on the home market. This is a great movie.
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0
Mike (Giamatti) is an everyman for the days of the economic crisis. He struggles to keep his business together in the face of rising bills, pending expenses, fewer clients, and even an about-to-explode hot water heater. He worries every day about losing the financial backbone of his family (which includes two daughters and his wife Jackie, played in another lovely performance from the always-great Ryan). Mike sees an opportunity in Leo (Burt Young), an older client on the edge of dementia. He »
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
Don't get your panties in a bunch, Kenny Rogers fans! Director Martin Scorsese and writer William Monahan are remaking The Gambler. But rest assured, it's the 1974 drama from director Karel Reisz that starred James Caan as an English professor with a gambling problem. Not a reimagining of the great bearded one's time spent in the old west.
Leonardo DiCaprio is wanted for the lead role in this new version of The Gambler, though no deal is in place yet. Irwin Winkler, producer of the original, will be back to produce this new version as well.
William Monahan will base his screenplay on the short novel of the same name from Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The story finds this New York teacher so desperate to bet his meager wages that he ends up extorting money from his own mom and eventually has one of his students rig a basketball game.
Martin Scorsese is »
Win Win, 2011.
Directed by Thomas McCarthy.
A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) decides to ‘innocently’ relocate an elderly client with dementia, Leo Poplar (Burt ‘Paulie’ Young), into a nursing home to receive his guardian benefit. This duplicitous act comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) of the client he's double-crossed comes into his life.
Let me start with a bold statement - Win Win is charting in my Top 10 Best Films of the Year. This is a well-written and rich story that is filled with phenomenally believable characters, performed spectacularly.
Writer/Director Thomas McCarthy immerses us into modern suburban New Jersey in a dreary financial climate, that contextualises protagonist Mike Flaherty and gives him an ethical choice to make – do I do the ‘right’ thing »
Struggling attorney Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), who volunteers as a high-school wrestling coach, takes on the guardianship of an elderly client in a desperate attempt to keep his practice afloat. When the client's teenage grandson runs away from home and shows up on his grandfather's doorstep, Mike's life is turned upside down as this Win Win proposition turns into something much more complicated than he ever bargained for.
Co-written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, Win Win is an inspirational comedic drama that shouldn't be missed. The film makes its Blu-ray and DVD this week. In honor of this release, we caught up with Thomas McCarthy to chat about Win Win's home video debut.
Here is our conversation.
Can you take me through some of these special features and why you included them on this disc? »
Laugh, cry and win when Win Win comes to Blu-ray and DVD on August 23, 2011 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Win Win is not just another sports movie; the unconventionally uplifting film combines action on the mat with the hilarious highs and heartbreaking lows of a new kind of family. Indie film writer-director Thomas McCarthy (The Visitor) guides a celebrated cast including Academy Award nominees Paul Giamatti (Sideways, John Adams), Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) and high school wrestling star and newcomer Alex Shaffer in this quirky coming-of-age tale.
Academy Award Nominee Paul Giamatti stars as a lovable yet long-suffering lawyer and high-school wrestling coach who takes us on a brilliantly heartfelt journey through the game of life...where you can't lose 'em all. When Mike Flaherty (Giamatti) comes across a teenage runaway who also happens to be a champion wrestler, Mike's luck turns around in spectacular fashion. But his »
Giamatti stars as lawyer and high-school wrestling coach Mike Flaherty, who’s going through troubling financial times until he comes across a teenage runaway (debuting actor Alex Shaffer) who also happens to be a champion wrestler. Taking the teen in and getting him enrolled in school, things start to look up for Mike and his family. But Mike’s win-win situation soon becomes more complicated than he ever imagined when the boy’s family affairs come into play…
Directed by Tom McCarthy (The Visitor) and co-starring Bobby Cannavale (The Other Guys), Jeffrey Tambor (TV’s The Larry Sanders Show), Melanie Lynskey (The Informant!) and Burt Young (Once Upon a Time in America »
DVD Playhouse June 2011
Kiss Me Deadly (Criterion) Robert Aldrich’s 1955 reinvention of the film noir detective story is one of cinema’s great genre mash-ups: part hardboiled noir; part cold war paranoid thriller; and part science- fiction. Ralph Meeker plays Mickey Spillane’s fascist detective Mike Hammer as a narcissistic simian thug, a sadist who would rather smash a suspect’s fingers than make love to the bevvy of beautiful dames that cross his path. In fact, the only time you see a smile cross Meeker’s sneering mug is when he’s doling out pain, with a vengeance. When a terrified young woman (Cloris Leachman, film debut) literally crossed Hammer’s path one night, and later turns up dead, he vows to get to the bottom of her brutal demise. One of the most influential films ever made, and perhaps the most-cited film by the architects »
- The Hollywood Interview.com
The Movie Pool goes 15 rounds with the Limited Edition Blu-ray and book release of Rocky!
This Blu-ray collector's edition of Rocky comes packed in a 24 page hardcover collectible book with photos and essays about the film. The book is the size of a Blu-ray case and the disc is set in a pocket inside the back cover.
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (1080p high definition)
Running Time: 119 minutes
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-hd Master Audio, English Mono, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono
Subtitles: English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Special Features: Original theatrical trailer
A down-on-his-luck boxer (Sylvester Stallone) gets a chance to fight the heavyweight champion of the world.
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Director: John G. Avildsen
The original Rocky is either loved or loathed. The perception of the first film has been skewed over the »
This is the Pure Movies review of Win Win, directed by Thomas McCarthy and starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young, Melanie Lynskey, Alex Shaffer and Margo Martindale. At the start of the Win Win trailer, the young daughter asks: what’s Daddy running away from? It’s this kind of probing question that many of us have asked from time to time, and this is writer/director Thomas McCarthy‘s great talent: observing reality and picking up on daily human reaction and resilience, without resorting to sarcasm or theatrics, as such. »
- Lisa Keddie
Dishonesty becomes a ticking timebomb for a hapless lawyer who just wants a better life for himself and his family… and a wrestling cup
Win Win brings together two of the most interesting figures in American cinema, Paul Giamatti and Tom McCarthy. Both are distinguished character actors in mainstream movies: the versatile Giamatti was in Saving Private Ryan, The Truman Show, Oscar-nominated as the boxing manager in Ron Howard's Cinderella Man, and played Tolstoy's secretary in The Last Station; Tom McCarthy appeared in Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, and George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck and was co-author of the story for Up, the delightful, Oscar-winning, animated film.
But their most rewarding work (artistically if not financially) has been in the independent sector where Giamatti has played the lead in Alexander Payne's beguiling wineland comedy Sideways and Tom McCarthy has directed The Station Agent and The Visitor. »
- Philip French
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
With his previous works The Station Agent and The Visitor – as well as his script work on Pixar’s wonderful Up – Thomas McCarthy cemented himself as a thoughtful philosopher on American life in some of its lesser-known forms, while still providing enough universality and humanism that they were affecting, relatable, and rather successful. His third film, Win Win, is doubtless his most mainstream to date, dealing with an altogether easier-swallowed family drama story, yet once again, his tendency towards an affecting story, authentic dialogue, and perfectly-cast actors makes this – I almost hate to say it – a win win situation.
While this is another winner from McCarthy despite not quite hitting the same emotional peaks as his two previous films, what really makes Win Win work is the fine work with the script that the actors do. Paul Giamatti is the acting lion here that he has always been, »
- Shaun Munro
Win Win‘s credentials are truly promising: writer-director Tom McCarthy has made two acclaimed indie features (The Station Agent and The Visitor), and the film’s marvellous leads Paul Giammati and Amy Ryan are ably served by a great supporting cast, but in the end the film doesn’t equal the sum of its parts. It’s not a bad film by any means, as all involved are too good for it to be a complete waste of time, but it just doesn’t satisfy in the way that this meeting of talent should.
Mike Flaherty (Giammati) is a typical suburban dad, a lawyer with a struggling practice and financial worries that he hides from his wife Jackie (Ryan). Mike’s clients are the elderly, and an opportunity presents itself for Mike to stay financially afloat: all he has to do is become the guardian of Leo (Burt Young), a client suffering from dementia, »
- Ian Gilchrist
Acclaimed American comedy drama Win Win arrives in the UK at last. And here's Paul's take on it...
Win Win arrives in the UK on the back of a significant amount of praise from Us reviewers, with comparisons to other hugely successful comedies produced by Fox Searchlight such as Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways, Juno, and the recent Cedar Rapids.
There should be some sort of label for this burgeoning sub-genre of sentimental, low-key indie comedy: the best I’ve come across so far is cinepassion.org’s “Sundance-calibrated sitcom”, coined in a sniffy review of Little Miss Sunshine.
That’s a good way of articulating the slightly formulaic, calculated feel that is creeping into these movies: every one features a broadly amusing story conceit with a kooky, flawed hero at the centre. The film will be populated by earthy and unvarnished looking character actors (so people know it’s an »
Directed by Tom McCarthy
Written by Tom McCarthy
Tom McCarthy seems like a really nice guy. He makes really nice films. Films that would make Frank Capra proud. Films that the whole family can gather ’round the ol’ set to enjoy. Yet for all the safeness and syrupy domestication of his pictures, McCarthy elicits strong performances, is an able technician, and a good screenwriter. His films, with a camera that rarely emphasizes and with clear-cut segues separating the three-act structure, are throwbacks to a classic Hollywood model.
As simple as his films look on the surface – taking a cue from Wyler, Wilder, and Capra, where performance took precedence and the lens remained unobtrusive – it’s strange that McCarthy’s films are actually an anomaly amidst a hyper-stylized Hollywood and often-plotless independent film world. McCarthy is a far cry from reaching the same class of directors as the aforementioned, »
- Neal Dhand
Win Win ****
Guest review by Joe Cronin
I usually steer clear of films that involve overcoming adversity due to their sycophantic nature that usually leaves me reaching for the sick bucket. However an exception has to be made for the wonderful Win Win, which combines understated acting and a touch of humour to produce a fantastic film, surprisingly full of realism as well as that “feel-good factor”.
The film begins with the frustrated Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), who instantly pulls you in with his enchanting blend of earnest patience and frank honesty. Mike is a lawyer working in a small firm who also coaches wrestling at his local high school. Like any other business, Mike’s law firm is feeling the pressure of the economic downturn. It is this environment that »
By Arthur Tiersky - April 26, 2011
After the affably quirky "Station Agent" and the quietly heartbreaking "The Visitor," writer-director (and, outside his own movies, actor) Thomas McCarthy takes a mildly disappointing step backward with "Win Win," a conventional family dramedy that can best be described as cuddly.
Paul Giamatti, doing his quite familiar lovable curmudgeon shtick, plays a struggling small-town lawyer and family man (married to the invaluable Amy Ryan) who spots a way to make a few extra bucks from the state by volunteering guardianship for an aging client (Burt Young) and then dumping him in a retirement home. Shortly and conveniently after this, the old man's teenage grandson Kyle (newcomer Alex Shaffer), a soft-spoken Emo type with bleach blonde hair, shows up hoping to stay with Gramps, having run away from his irresponsible mom.
Guilt-ridden and seeing no other alternative, »
- Screen Comment
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