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Paul Giamatti, left, and Alex Shaffer in “Win Win”

Film reviews

‘Everything Must Go’

In “Everything Must Go,” first-time writer/director Dan Rush takes the premise of a short story by the late Raymond Carver and expands on it, providing Will Ferrell with his latest attempt to widen his horizon and appeal to the growing indie film audience (see “Stranger Than Fiction”).

Nick (Ferrell), an Arizona-based regional salesman with a serious drinking problem, has been let go from his job on the same day that his wife Catherine, a recovering alcoholic, has thrown him out of the house. In fact, she’s scattered all his possessions on the front lawn. Given these lemons, Nick at first makes hard lemonade, drowning his sorrowful situation in beer.

But an unlikely trio inspires him to take action. The first is Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace), a bored and lonely kid whose mother works as a caregiver for one of Nick’s neighbors. He arrives on his bicycle and strikes up a friendship with Nick that will change both of their lives. Next is new neighbor Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a pregnant photographer and teacher who moves into her new home ahead of her husband to begin the settling-in process. And third is police detective Frank (Michael Peña), who also is Nick’s AA sponsor.

Each in his or her own way, this trinity aids Nick in ways that none of them ever anticipated.

Although it goes on a little too long (remember, Carver was a master of brevity, communicating a broad range of emotions and ideas in just a few pages), “Everything Must Go” is an admirable little movie. Ferrell and Wallace play well off each other and their burgeoning relationship is believable. Hall, so memorable in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “Please Give” and “The Town,” continues to be one of the most watchable actresses to come along in some time.

‘Win Win’

“Win Win” is the right name for this new film from actor and writer/director Thomas McCarthy (“The Station Agent”), because it is a winning proposition for the audience.

Downtrodden New Jersey lawyer Mike (Paul Giamatti) finds his legal career on the skids. But it’s not all bad. He’s happily married to Jackie (Amy Ryan) and he has two young daughters. Mike and his office mate Vig (Jeffrey Tambor) coach a losing high-school wrestling team.

When an opportunity to increase his income presents itself, Mike goes for it without considering the ramifications. But not everything goes as planned. Mike ends up offering a client’s 16-year-old grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), a place to stay while his mother goes to rehab.

When Kyle attends wrestling practice with Mike, he discovers that Kyle was a championship wrestler at his former school in Ohio. With Kyle enrolled at the school, Mike makes room for him on the team and Kyle quickly reverses the team’s fortunes.

Just as everything appears to be going better, Kyle’s mother surfaces and throws a considerable wrench into the works. Mike’s plans begin to unravel, and he is faced with a bigger crisis than he had ever imagined.

At turns brilliantly funny and heartbreaking, “Win Win” is an early contender for one of the best films of 2011.

‘Pom Wonderful presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’

Depending on where you see this funny and informative Morgan Spurlock doc, you could potentially find yourself bombarded by ads for Scion, Acura, HD Net, Stella Artois, Saab and Allstate, not to mention a half dozen or so movie previews. Isn’t irony ironic?

Based on the premise that everywhere you look these days it appears that someone is trying to sell you something, Spurlock (of “Supersize Me” fame) set out to find sponsorship for a doc about sponsorship and branding. And he succeeded (see the title). Brand integration (or product placement) is a billion-dollar industry.

All in all, Spurlock’s style of doc filmmaking is used to great effect here. And although most people are probably aware of the branding overload, it’s presented in such an enjoyable way that it’s not unpleasant.

 

Morgan Spurlock takes on corporate branding in “Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”

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