Review: Bottle Shock
Plot: In 1976, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), an English wine expert living in France- traveled to Napa Valley to learn about Californian wine. Amazed at the quality of these American wines, Spurrier organized a blind taste test- pitting the new American blends against the more prestigious French blends. The result revolutionized the wine industry. Based on a true story.
Review: It happens every summer. Like clockwork- once the middle of August hits, the summer movie season suddenly dries up. TROPIC THUNDER is pretty much the last hurrah for the summer of 2008- and over the next few weeks, the cinematic offerings are going to be pretty weak (cough!-THE CLONE WARS- cough!). Now is the perfect time to check out your local art house theater. Overall- this summer has been great for blockbusters, but the indie film slate has been as weak as can be. AMERICAN TEEN reeked of phoniness, THE FOOT FIST WAY disappeared in about a week, and even the much hyped THE WACKNESS, failed to find an audience. I walked into BOTTLE SHOCK with zero expectations, but I must admit- this film charmed the pants off me.
First- a confession. I love a good glass of red wine. While I'm hardly a connoisseur, nothing puts the cap on a long day like a nice Pinot Noir. I wasn't really familiar with the story of the 1976 blind wine tasting- but was surprised to discover that prior to this event- American wine was considered vastly inferior to French wine. The 1976 tasting (which not incidentally took place the year of the American bicentennial) really helped legitimize the wine industry in Napa Valley, and the region now ranks on par with the finest regions in France & Italy.
With that in mind, even if you're not a big wine person- there's still a lot to like about BOTTLE SHOCK. Like most indies these days, the film has a great ensemble cast- led by Alan Rickman- who's first rate as always. I was particularly impressed with his French diction, as he has to handle quite a bit of French dialogue. Also putting in a good performance is Bill Pullman, as the owner of a fledgling Napa winery. I always thought Pullman was a tad on the bland side- but he's very good here, and believable as a man who chucks a successful career as a corporate lawyer in order to give his dream of becoming a wine maker a shot.
One reason I was curious to see the film, is that Chris Pine plays Pullman's ne'er-do-well hippie son. For those who've been living under a rock the past year, Pine is going to be playing Captain Kirk in J.J Abrams' upcoming STAR TREK reboot. Other than a tiny role in SMOKING ACES, I haven't seen Pine in much- so I was curious to see what kind of an actor he is. I'm happy to say that Pine is quite good, and very likable in the film (although he doesn't really pull off the long hippie hairdo he's forced to wear).
Another reason I wanted to see BOTTLE SHOCK is for Rachel Taylor (pant pant pant). Anyone who saw TRANSFORMERS can understand why I was excited to see her in another film, and she does a nice job as the young winery intern caught in a love triangle between Pine, and his onscreen buddy- Freddy Rodriguez, who also does great work (although the role is a far cry from his badass turn as El Wray in PLANET TERROR- although I suppose this proves his versatility). One of my favorite character actors, Dennis Farina, turns up in a small supporting role. Farina's one of those guys that always delivers- no matter how small the role. While I wish he had a little more screen time, he has a couple of nice scenes (although the seventies clothing he's forced to wear is hideous).
All in all- I had a great time with BOTTLE SHOCK. The film has a nice, laid-back tone, and it was also nice gazing at the beautiful Napa Valley scenery (and Rachel Taylor of course). While it probably doesn't cry out to be seen on the big screen (and will probably play just fine on DVD), it's a nice change of pace from the big bombastic summer movies we've gotten over the last few months. If you're in the mood for something a little different- check it out.
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