Bottle Shock - Directed by Randall Miller.
Based on a true story. Jim (Bill Pullman), who owns and maintains a winery in Napa Valley, California, sets out to compete in a wine-tasting contest in 1976 France. A Parisian wine shop owner, Steven (Alan Rickman), presses him on to compete even though heís initially reluctant be the underdog. Meanwhile, Jim must deal and take care of his slacker son, Bo (Chris Pine). In a rather distracting, corny and poorly-developed subplot, Bo has a romance with Sam (Rachel Taylor) an intern in the winery. Despite a few genuinely charming moments and plenty of breathtaking scenery, the plot too often drags with contrived scenes, awkward pacing and acting that seems wooden at best. Alan Rickman gives the only solid performance in the entire cast and he helps to keep you somewhat immersed in the story. Writer/director Randall Miller fails to bring any of the characters to life and to include enough comic relief like in Sideways. It would have been slightly more compelling had he focused more on one character and followed his experiences throughout the film rather than jumping back and forth between what happens to Jim, Steven and Bo. As such, the plot feels convoluted. There arenít any moments that feel refreshing or that stand out in any interesting way, except for the scenery. Moreover, the film overstays its welcome at an excessive running time of 110 minutes. If Bottle Shock were a wine, it would have an initially flavorful taste with a rich body, but the flavor would gradually wane, leaving a mostly bland taste that fails to back a real punch. Number of times I checked my watch: 5. Released by Freestyle Releasing.
Patti Smith: Dream of Life - Directed by Steven Sebring.
This mildly fascinating, scattershot documentary follows the life of Patti Smith, a rock singer, poet and artist whose fame flourished during the 1970ís. During the many interviews with her throughout the film, she seems very passionate about her work and life, which makes her quite interesting to listen to. She clearly has lots of talent as a singer and isnít afraid to voice her anti-Bush, anti-war sentiments. She was very good friends with artist Robert Mapplethorpe and is still friends with playwright/actor Sam Shepard. Unfortunately, director Steven Sebring does a mediocre job of compiling all the background information about Patti Smith and the footage in a compelling enough way. There are some fleeting moments, though, where you get to know how she truly thinks and feels. He asks personal questions and she does openly reveal moments from her past, but the questions simply arenít provocative and pointed enough to connect her life to her work as an artist. With better editing and more synthesis/organization of all the footage, Patti Smith: Dream of Life could have been much more powerful, insightful and memorable. Number of times I checked my watch: 4. Released by Palm Pictures. Opens at the Film Forum.
Pineapple Express - Directed by David Gordon Green.
When Dale (Seth Rogen) witnesses a cop (Rosie Perez) murder someone, he and his drug-dealing, Saul (James Franco), go on the run from the police. Danny McBride plays a buddy who they turn to for help. Too much of the humor feels repetitive and recycled from other films, i.e. any Cheech & Chong movie. The screenplay by co-writers Seth Green and Evan Goldberg includes a poorly developed subplot involving Dale romancing a high school girl. What she sees in him and why she sticks around throughout his adventures doesnít quite make sense, but neither does much of anything that happens in the film. Unfortunately, only James Franco shines with just the right comic timing to inspire a few laughs; everyone else doesnít have enough material to shine. Admittedly, stoner comedies usually have a built-in audience, so if youíre not in the mood for lots of dark, outrageous and silly humor, youíll be painfully bored while watching Pineapple Express. Number of times I checked my watch: 5. Released by Columbia Pictures.