DVDs Nuts! 

Lesser-seen OW approved titles

The Best and the Brightest

Although I’m not a huge fan of so-bad-they’re-good recommendations, I have to point out this achingly desperate, star-studded (for a certain demo) affair with an insulting premise, performances ranging from amusing to gawk-worthy and characters, wrapped in the warm, protective shell of “satire,” who act as stand-ins for one man’s (writer-director Josh Shelov) salt-in-the-wound obsession with the recession. And it’s all kind of awesome in a shit-faced kind of way. Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville (told you the cast is awesome) play a single-child couple willing to do anything to get their daughter into a private New York kindergarten. To skip the waiting list (and avoid the unthinkable – public school), Harris poses as a Very Important Poet, a ruse that involves instant-messaging transcripts. This is all done under the direction of Amy Sedaris as an “admissions coach.” Now, I could watch Sedaris and Harris in literally anything – hence this blurb – but this should only be seen amid the haze of a bona fide, potentially fatal bout of the flu. Under those circumstances, though, it’s pretty remarkable. (available now)

Special Features: Audio commentary, deleted scenes, audition footage

Queen to Play

You know how Kevin Kline can sometimes seem so smug and detached that you wonder if he even enjoys acting anymore? Turns out, there’s a fix for that: Have him speak French, as he does throughout as the lead in this elegantly simple story in which a hotel cleaning lady (Sandrine Bonnaire) discovers the joy of chess with Kline’s help. As her employer, Kline exudes a calm appeal, especially in comparison to Bonnaire’s abusive husband and brat teen daughter. But it’s the French language (and that beautiful Corsica setting) that truly shines here, bestowing a newfound charisma and mystery to Kline that could reinvigorate his career. (available now)

Special Features: Making-of documentary

Win Win

Writer-director Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent) has a well-earned reputation as an actor’s director, but here he’s more of an athlete’s filmmaker. This story involves a high-school wrestling coach (Paul Giamatti) who entangles himself in a low-rent scheme to defraud the elderly. Meanwhile, his mark’s grandson, played

wonderfully inward by non-actor Alex Shaffer, turns out to be a champion wrestler in disguise who might bring the coach’s team to some level of respectability. I know, there are a lot of unlikely moving pieces. But setting the fraud aside (which the film does, to a fault), this is a terrific sports movie, however formulaic. The verisimilitude of the wrestling environment – McCarthy was an admittedly average high-school wrestler – brings the film to life every time the mats are out. One can practically smell the must. Whether or not that’s a good thing for the viewer, it’s a great thing for the film.

(available Aug. 23)

Special Features: Deleted scenes, interviews, featurettes, music video

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June 16, 2021


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