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Thomas McCarthy
Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale, Burt Young
Writing Credits:
Thomas McCarthy (and story), Joe Tiboni

In the game of life, you can't lose 'em all.

A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he's double-crossed comes into his life.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$464.420 thousand on 23 screens.
Domestic Gross
$10.179 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 8/23/2011

• Deleted Scenes
• “Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni Discuss Win Win” Featurette
• “David Thompson at Sundance 2011” Featurette
• “In Conversation with Tom McCarthy and Paul Giamatti at Sundance 2011” Featurette
• “Family” Featurette
• Music Video
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Win Win [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 12, 2011)

In the world of Hollywood movies, Paul Giamatti usually gets stuck with supporting “character” parts. The land of indie films lets him come to the fore, however, and 2011’s Win Win gives him another chance to play the lead.

Mike Flaherty (Giamatti) runs a not-too-successful law practice and also serves part-time as a high school wrestling coach. He suffers from panic attacks due to various life stresses. Mike gets a court-appointed case to tend to a mentally incapacitated elderly man named Leo Poplar (Burt Young). When Mike can’t locate any of Mr. Poplar’s family, the state plans to send him to an assisted living facility.

However, Mike steps in and offers to take custody of Mr. Poplar himself. Why? Because Mr. Poplar has money, and the gig comes with a pretty good monthly stipend.

Into this scenario steps Kyle (Alex Shaffer), the grandson Mr. Poplar didn’t know he had. Kyle’s mom goes into rehab and the kid doesn’t like living with her deadbeat boyfriend in Ohio, so he heads to New Jersey to bunk with his grandpa. Given Mr. Poplar’s mental state, that doesn’t work, so Mike’s wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) decides that they should watch him until they can get him back with his mother.

In the meantime, Mike discovers that Kyle was a star wrestler back in Ohio. Though he has no idea how long the kid will be in Jersey, Mike gets him enrolled in high school and puts him on the wrestling team. We follow their relationship and related developments.

Some movies evoke such strong reactions – good or bad or both – that I find it exceedingly easy to write my reviews. Some fall into a vast netherworld in which they’re perfectly enjoyable but they lack much on which I can hang my hat.

Guess into which category Win falls? (Hint: when I have a lot to say about a movie, I don’t whine that I can’t think of much to say.)

Win delivers a perfectly watchable but wholly unexceptional movie. On the positive side, it does boast an excellent cast. Giamatti is usually money in the bank, and he delivers another nice turn here. Mike turns into a surprisingly slippery role; while most of the movie casts him as the kind of likable sad sack Giamatti often plays, he comes with some strong flaws that threaten to turn off the audience. Giamatti doesn’t beg for our affection but he ensures that we see the different sides of the character.

Most of the other actors do fine as well, though Shaffer’s a bit of a weak link. A first-time actor, he seems out of his league among the other castmembers and he doesn’t give Kyle a lot of personality. Some of that works for the part, as Kyle is supposed to be something of an introvert, but Shaffer’s subdued nature seems more like a lack of acting chops than a choice. Apparently he was hired more due to his real-life wrestling abilities than for his screen talent, and that shows.

It probably doesn’t help that Win comes with a lot of characters who seem almost as thin as the wrestling team’s scrawniest members. Mike gets fleshed out reasonably well, but the others stay flat. Not even Kyle or Jackie receive much development, even though they earn a lot of screen time.

Win also suffers from its inability to lock onto a consistent narrative or tone. Is this movie about Mike or Kyle? Is it about a struggling family man or a struggling teen or a struggling high school wrestling team? I don’t know, and I don’t think the filmmakers can figure that out either.

Sometimes I fear that my reviews make it look like I feel all movies should offer predictable A-B-C narratives and never veer away from one – and only one – genre. That’s not true at all; I enjoy and respect films that successfully broaden their horizons.

But “successfully” is the key phrase there, as a lot of flicks attempt to dabble in different domains but don’t do so in a satisfying manner. That would be the category into which Win falls. It jumps from slightly whimsical comedy to sports flick to family drama without the flow to make these elements connect. Instead, they leave us adrift and wonder if anyone knows what story they want to tell.

None of this means that Win Win turns into a bad movie. With some interesting sequences and a generally strong cast, it manages to keep us with it across its 106 minutes. It just doesn’t deliver the punch necessary to turn it into something better than “okay”.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D+

Win Win appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image looked fine most of the time.

Sharpness was usually good. Some shots demonstrated a bit of softness and fuzziness, but they remained reasonably infrequent. While the picture rarely appeared terrifically concise, it normally demonstrated solid clarity. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and the presentation lacked edge haloes. In terms of source defects, I witnessed no specks, marks or other issues; the Blu-ray gave us a clean transfer.

The film went with a subdued palette that looked fine. Colors never exactly popped off the screen, but overall, they were reasonably accurate. Blacks appeared dark and dense, while shadows showed decent clarity. Other than a few slightly soft shots, this was a strong presentation.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it remained pretty low-key. General ambience ruled the day, as little more exciting than that appeared. Wrestling shots offered decent breadth, and music spread well to the side speakers. Nonetheless, nothing especially lively popped up here.

Audio quality seemed acceptable. Speech appeared natural and concise, as the lines always remained intelligible. Music seemed full and rich, while effects showed good accuracy. Nothing here stood out as particularly memorable, but the track was fine for a film of this sort.

We get a small collection of extras here. Two Deleted Scenes run a total of one minute, 46 seconds. We see “Mike Meets with Mrs. Tedesco” (1:13) and “Family and Leo Drive to Courthouse” (0:33). “Tedesco” shows a little more of Mike’s legal work, and “Drive” offers a minor connector for a scene late in the movie. Neither add anything of substance or real interest.

Four featurettes follow. Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni Discuss Win Win lasts six minutes, 28 seconds and offers notes from writer/director McCarthy and writer Tiboni. They discuss the project’s roots and development, story and characters, autobiographical elements, casting, locations, and a few other elements. The piece moves quickly and lacks much depth, but longtime friends McCarthy and Tiboni interact well and deliver enough good information to make this an efficient show.

Next comes the two-minute, 27-second David Thompson at Sundance 2011. In it, the young actor chats about… well, not much. We follow him around the festival and hear some soundbites. It’s breezy but insubstantial.

In Conversation with Tom McCarthy and Paul Giamatti at Sundance 2011 goes for two minutes, 26 seconds and delivers notes from the writer/director and the actor. They discuss basics about the movie and Giamatti’s role/performance. It’s a short, superficial reel.

Finally, Family fills two minutes, 24 seconds. It includes notes from Giamatti, McCarthy, and actors Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Melanie Lynskey and Alex Shaffer. It never becomes anything more than a glorified trailer.

The disc opens with ads for Tree of Life, Another Earth, Skateland and Henry’s Crime. We also find the trailer for Win and a music video for “Think You Can Wait” from The National. It combines lip-synch performance with movie clips. Actually, it’s unusual in that it offers a lot of bloopers and shots from the set. That makes it unconventional for a music video, but it’s still not especially interesting.

Inconsistent but occasionally interesting, Win Win gives us a reasonably enjoyable movie. Though it lacks the narrative consistency to make it a strong film, it comes with a good cast and a moderately interesting tale. The Blu-ray provides very good picture, acceptable audio and a small set of supplements. If you like the actors, this looks like a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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