Victoria Jelinek

Bottle Shock

bottle_shock_ver3_xlgIn 1976 there was a blind wine taste-testing held in France, where all the judges were French. The result of the contest? The wines of California’s Napa Valley defeated the best wines France had to offer – mon dieu! Bottle Shock is the fictionalized version of this true event, with the added story of the underdog winery deeply in debt, and a problematic relationship between a father and his slacker son who run the winery together.

Even as the outcome of the story is predictable, it is a charming film. The direction is solid, the cinematography picturesque, and the cast is good. Bill Pullman is believable as the tough and angry man who runs Chateau Montelena. Chris Pine is sympathetic as his lazy, long-haired son, Bo. And Alan Rickman as the British wine lover living in Paris who instigates the contest in the first place (thinking the French wines would win!) is quietly and wonderfully comic. “But did you know that it’s the struggling, thirsty vines that make the best wines? They can’t just sit there sipping water.” They must labor to thrive. These lines from the film sum up what makes this movie engaging – it’s about people who love their work and do it well. People who talk about it with passion and with knowledge. And people who are motivated to continue despite seemingly insurmountable odds.



This Means War (Target)

Two friends, who also happen to be top CIA operatives, wage battle against each other after discovering they’re dating the same woman (played by Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line, Election, Legally Blonde).

Sounds like light fare that’s slick Hollywood, and it is, but it also has some entertaining bits. This is largely due to Witherspoon. She manages to walk the line between being fortunate enough to date two handsome men and also appear sympathetic to the audience as she embarks on the lonely and disheartening game of dating, which doesn’t come naturally to her.

That said, this film is not worth the price of a cinema ticket, even as it is worth renting on DVD because it’s easy and pretty. The subplot about a “bad guy” out to get the two CIA operatives as revenge, is gratuitous and concludes abruptly. The romance between the three primary characters is too expedient and easy, as are their feelings of love. The comic relief of the film, Witherspoon’s bawdy confidante, is overdone, though she has her moments. And one can’t help but wonder how these two men became so powerful within their organisation when they are so indiscreet and blatantly misuse their company’s resources. Ultimately, this film has explosions, the smashing up of things, romance, and gorgeous clothes and shoes, suggesting that the filmmakers created a script based on the assumptions about what men and woman want in a movie. They almost got it right in terms of the acting and the concept, but they couldn’t hide the fact that the plot is thin, the circumstances and events too unbelievable (even for those most ‘game’ for it in the audience), and the dialogue is often too embarrassing to listen to, much less funny.