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New on DVD: “Win Win” and “Trollhunter” — August 23, 2011

Wrestling as metaphor and a conspiracy of trolls: in Win Win, Paul Giamatti plays a part-time wrestling coach who mentors a lost teen, while the government’s Trollhunter does his best to hush up a long-kept secret; these and other films ranging from the great (Secret Sunshine, Road to Nowhere, Poetry) to the good (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold) to the eh (Henry’s Crime, The Beaver) are coming this week to Blu-ray and DVD.

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Paul Giamatti plays another disgruntled underachiever in this warm-hearted little comedy from Tom McCarthy (The Visitor). This time out, he’s a suburban lawyer moonlighting as a high school wrestling coach balancing altruism (giving a home and advice to a wayward kid) with some secrets that could well destroy his family. We called it “a believable blue-collar soap opera” with possibly the year’s best ensemble cast (Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale).

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Some college kids with a digital camera discover that the Norwegian government’s been keeping secrets from the world: namely, that the giant mythical trolls of Nordic legend are real. This innovative, low-budget, Blair Witch-style first-person monster movie follows the hapless kids and the grizzled title character’s fight for survival in a story that we liked for its mix of “jolly giant ogre mayhem” and “sly social commentary.”

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Lee Chang-dong‘s latest is a carefully calibrated drama about a
60-year-old South Korean grandmother undergoing multiple crises
simultaneously. She’s trying to reinvigorate her staid life by taking a
poetry class but has to take care of a lousy and ungrateful grandson
(who might also be a violent criminal) at the same time that she is beginning to slide into dementia. We thought this was the director’s
“most potently lyrical and aesthetically limpid film to date,” with a
resplendent lead performance and a haunting conclusion.

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Hitting domestic theaters just a few months before Poetry, Lee
Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine is another oversize and complex character
study with far-reaching ramifications. Here, a recently widowed mother is
trying to build a life for herself in a new town when a kidnapper takes
her son and demands a ransom. Our critic called the film “a wrenching,
darkly comic and immersive work” that unfolds “with Dickensian character
detail and a wonderful sense of place.”

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So what exactly is this film? The first work in more than two decades from legendary
underground auteur Monte Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop), it’s a riddle
inside a self-aware enigma, mixing up Hollywood satire with dark-hearted
mystery and a convoluted plot about perception and reality and murder
(maybe). We called it “a dream of Hollywood, with its litany of ‘based
on a true story’ tripe, infected and perverted by a rogue, exiled agent,
and redeployed as a paranoid nightmare of moviemaking in the digital
age.”

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Documentarian Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) figured that if big-name
filmmakers get millions in product-placement money for showing off
products in their work, he may as well do the same. His lightly
comic and occasionally meaningful film follows him as he desperately
tries to sell out to the highest bidder — a hard thing to do for
small-market documentaries. While our writer thought Spurlock didn’t
give his message as much bite as he could have, the film remains “an
entertaining, worthwhile consideration of our branded world.”

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Jodie Foster directs Mel Gibson in this curious story about a man
(Gibson) who deals with trauma by refusing to speak except through a
beaver hand puppet. We thought that one’s appreciation of the film
depended entirely on “whether or not you can accept the film’s gonzo
conceit, that a man can pin his last hopes to a puppet.”

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Keanu Reeves is an unimpressive criminal in this quirky noir about a
recently released convict who decides to plan another heist — and take
part in an amateur Chekhov production at the same time. James Caan, Vera
Farmiga, and Anton Yelchin costar in a film we termed “characters in
search of an author who will impose a modicum of sense.”

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