DVDs In Brief: August 24, 2011

DVDs In Brief: August 24, 2011

Continuing the streak of well-acted, character-driven indie movies that started with The Station Agent and The Visitor, writer-director Tom McCarthy’s comedy-drama Win Win (Sony) does well to cast Paul Giamatti as a lawyer and part-time high-school wrestling coach who gets in over his head. McCarthy’s sensibility may be a better fit for television than film, but he gets superb performances from a fine ensemble cast and creates conflicts that are closer to the messiness of real life than the high concepts of most movies… 

Too grim and disturbing to be a comedy, too playfully oddball to be a drama, and too full of Mel Gibson for anyone’s comfort, Jodie Foster’s directorial return The Beaver (Summit) features Gibson fighting mental illness by interacting with the world via a goofy-voiced hand puppet. It’s hard to divorce the film from Gibson’s public bottoming-out, but it’s even harder to decide exactly how to take this fascinating, weird mess…

Morgan Spurlock continues to test the moviegoing public’s tolerance for Morgan Spurlock with the Morgan Spurlock-intensive documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Sony), a charmingly obnoxious exposé of product placement and brand integration funded entirely through product placement. It’s goofy fun for the most part, but don’t expect much in the way of insight; The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is all surface...

Henry’s Crime (Fox) attempts the impossible by asking audiences to accept a Keanu Reeves character as a man of deep thought, inner conflict, and hidden talents. Given that he instead comes across as a vapid dope, the intended pathos never surfaces when he’s jailed for a crime he didn't commit, and the intended excitement when he decides to commit the crime after all is transformed into dozy apathy…

Since The Blair Witch Project, the “found footage” (or faux-doc) gimmick has been popular among filmmakers looking to eke scares from a nothing budget, but sometimes the style feels genuinely amateurish, not just fake amateurish. The Norwegian thriller Troll Hunter (Magnolia) has some fantastically chilling sequences once it gets to the trolls, who attack out of the woods or mountain caves, but before they arrive, the film devotes a good hour to murky shots of the Norwegian countryside.  

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