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Sofa Cinema

Mark your calendars! Rebecca Redshaw's "SOFA CINEMA: An Easy Guide to DVDs Volume 1" will be published this fall. Read all her DVD reviews compiled in one book.



The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.



HIDDEN GEMS

The Olympic Peninsula has its own share of tasting rooms where one can savor the fruits of the vine. Buy a bottle of wine and enjoy any or all of the following.



"Sideways," rated R

Alexander Payne has a way with dialogue. His words ring true and that is no small feat in scriptwriting. In "Sideways," the leading men are way past trim waists, smooth pick-up lines and slick cars.

Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) decide to treat themselves to a male bonding fling before Jack's nuptials. But their ideas of bonding are decidedly different.

Hapless Miles, a depressed, divorced, frustrated novelist, envisions a few rounds of golf and more than a few bottles of fine wine. Jack, having all the stereotypical lack of depth of a marginal actor, just wants to get laid.

A chance meeting with Maya (Virginia Madsen), an attractive waitress Miles had known from another trip, and Stephanie (Sandra Oh), a wine pourer the men meet on a wine tasting tour provide more than enough fodder for Payne to weave a good script. (Adapted from the novel by Rex Pickett.)

But as boorish as Jack's mission, it's hard not to like the guy. Envision a big, clumsy St. Bernard who knocks over the figurines with his wagging tail, but you can't get mad because he's so cute doing it. Miles, on the other hand, is just a guy. When happiness is finally within his grasp, he apparently mucks it up like everything else in his life.

"Sideways" is a road trip, but an intelligent road trip. Madsen and Oh definitely hold up their end with strong performances. At 123 minutes, it's almost more time than one needs to spend with Giamatti and Church, but then again, like fine wine, this movie needs to be sipped slowly and savored.



"Bottle Shock," PG-13

At one time the superiority of French winemaking went unchallenged. But thanks to a blind-tasting event in Paris in 1976 featuring a number of California vintages against the local wines, the world market has expanded beyond imagination.

"Bottle Shock" fictionalizes the "Judgment of Paris" with moderate success.

Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) has given up a lucrative legal career to take a go at making wine. His winery, Chateau Montelena, is draining him financially. His son, Bo (Chris Pine) is far more cavalier in life, hustling the locals for dollars with faux wine identifications and flirting with the gorgeous new winery intern (Rachael Taylor).

Across the Atlantic, Stephen Spurrier (Alan Rickman) is desperate to increase his wine business as well as his reputation as a wine expert. He travels to Napa Valley in search of reds and whites to challenge established French vintages.

Randall Miller, with director/editor/screenplay credits, supposedly strays from reality by adding youthful romantic dalliances and stereotypical American brashness (Dennis Farina) ostensibly to give "Bottle Shock" a more universal appeal. Too bad. The contest and its amazing outcome would have been enough if well told.

Alan Rickman has made a career of playing snobbish, unemotional roles. This performance brings very little new to the screen. Chris Pine is oddly irritating as the longhaired hippy Bo and one wonders if this young actor will ever work again. (Thankfully, yes. He is outstanding as the young James T. Kirk in "Star Trek.")

If you're going to buy a bottle of wine to accompany your viewing of "Bottle Shock," polishing off a bottle of Two Buck Chuck is more than appropriate.



"Mondovino," documentary

If you want a tutorial on the business of wine making, "Mondovino" is just the ticket. Jonathan Nossiter directed, shot and edited this 2004 documentary and interviewed dozens of winemakers and winery owners in France, Italy, the United States and Argentina.

If only he had allowed someone else to edit his work.

For more than two hours (21/2 in the French version), the viewer must commit to reading very quick subtitles, watching superfluous footage of pet dogs and listening to myriad independent vineyard owners along with behemoth wine corporations kvetching about their state of affairs.

That's not to imply that there aren't some wonderful sentiments expressed throughout the documentary.

To quote a few old vintners:

"It takes a poet to make a great wine."

"Without art, without culture, it's virtually impossible to make great wine."

"There's a tradition with us. We've always been independent thinkers."

The bitterness of progress (if progress is measured in the size of the business, not the quality) is prevalent among the old-timers and is summarily dismissed with a shrug by the conglomerates.

If you're curious about the future of wines or planning a trip to Burgundy or interested in Marketing/Business 101, than "Mondovino" may be your cup of tea. However, if you long to savor the taste of a good Bordeaux, then put the cost of the rental of this DVD toward a better bottle of wine and enjoy.



Rebecca Redshaw can be reached at r2redshaw@hotmail.com.



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