Reel Critics: You can't lose with 'Win Win'

Paul Giamatti is a gifted actor who has made a career of being the sweet schlub who always messes up spectacularly before he finds loving redemption. And he does so, wonderfully, in "Win Win."

Here he plays Mike, an attorney with a sinking law practice who becomes the guardian of his elderly client Leo (Burt Young). Mike sees it as a way to make extra cash without having to tell his wife (Amy Ryan) of their money woes. Everybody wins, right?

Wrong. Leo's grandson Kyle (newcomer Alex Shaffer) shows up after running away from home. His mom's in rehab and Leo's in a nursing home so Mike has to take him in — much to his wife's dismay.

Kyle turns out to be a nice kid and an awesome wrestler — and Mike just happens to moonlight as coach for a struggling high school team. Score! Or, perhaps not.

Writer/director Tom McCarthy ("The Station Agent") sets us up for a team sports film and then quietly turns it into something more satisfying. The actors are terrific, including comically offbeat Jeffrey Tambor and Bobby Cannavale as Mike's buddies and wrestling fans.

Now that's what I call "winning."


Visual effects, not reality, count in 'Sucker Punch'

Director Zack Snyder is known for stunning action films with a dark and moody atmosphere. In "Watchmen" and "300" he captured the surreal style contained in the graphic novels of the original stories. He continues his science fiction fantasy tradition in "Sucker Punch"

It's sure to please the target audience of teenage boys who love violent video games. It features protagonists who are gorgeous young women in tiny plaid skirts and thigh high stockings. The chief of this lovely crew is Babydoll, played with verve by Emily Browning. In her imagination, the girls have fantastic adventures in other realms of existence. Top-notch special effects enhance their exploits.

The babes shoot and stab their way through raging battles against thousands of strange creatures. The multi-level plot adds confusion, but no enlightenment.

Is Babydoll a patient in a mental institution? Is she a prisoner of a gangster in a high class bordello? Is she a superhero in another dimension? Who knows?

Reality doesn't count here. It's all about the visual roller coaster ride that clearly pushes the envelope of the PG-13 rating.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa.

JOHN DEPKO the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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