Saturday, August 08, 2009

At the Movies: Last Chance Harvey, Bottle Shock, Transsiberian

Mars Candy Company used to have a great jingle to promote two of their candy bars, Mounds and Almond Joy: "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't!" I thought about that jingle recently after watching a few small, independent films. Sometimes I want the blockbusters like Ironman, National Treasure, Transformers - pure mindless fun! On the other hand, there are times where I want a character study, a small, story-driven movie with interesting people. Here are three such movies for your consideration:

For those who love a good glass of wine and a David vs. Goliath story, try Bottle Shock. Based on the true story of Napa Valley's rise to respectability in the wine industry by besting French wines in a taste test by French judges held in France! This event became known as the Judgment of Paris. The movie, while taking a great deal of liberties in its portrayal of the actual people involved, is an entertaining look at Napa Valley when it was inhabited by romantics and hippies (before it became a billion dollar a year industry).

Told through the eyes of Parisian wine shop owner and very British Steve Spurrier and American winery owner and son Jim and Bo Barrett, Bottle Shock serves up family strive, comedic culture clashes, romantic triangles and lots of fun. The cinematography is gorgeous. The wine region is lovingly filmed. It stars the always wonderful Alan Rickman (Prof. Snape to the younger generation), Bill Pullman and Chris Pine (before he was James T. Kirk). Character actor Dennis Farina is a hoot as an American in Paris confidant to Rickman's Steve Spurrier.

Old enough to remember President Reagan's administration and Michael Jackson before he was weird? Then you are old enough to enjoy Last Chance Harvey. This is a grown-up romance starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Although hastily drawn, this character sketch gives us a surprisingly rounded look at Harvey and Kate. There are real cringe-inducing scenes in the film which you will relate to if you have ever felt like the guy wearing brown shoes with a black suit. A chance meeting of the pair results in an unlikely friendship and some self-revelations, including a hesitancy to hope as Kate says, "I'm more comfortable with being disappointed. I'm angry with you for trying to take that away". The movie's plot is predictable, but the accomplished actors make it a very enjoyable journey.

[Bonus: For another grown-up romantic comedy, try Shall We Dance.]

For a more serious movie, there's Transsiberian. This movie will leave you pondering long after the credits role. Remarkable in its positive portrayal of Christians and thought-provoking for the symbolism woven throughout, this movie explores themes which will intrigue the Christian audience. Things to consider: The monologue of the pastor at the beginning of the film, the setting on a mode of transportation, the snow, the lumber falling from a church, the faith of the husband and his rescuing of his bride. The film has a Hitchcock feel to it with great suspense and surprising twists. Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer are wonderful as the main leads.

1 comment:

Elaine Weis said...

Hey Mrs. Alisa! One of the rare moments I have a computer, internet, and the leisure to peruse your blog! DJ, the kids and I are headed further South (although we can't go much further!) to spend 5 days at the beach with his family! We will send you some pictures of cute kids at the beach. I anticipate Ella Rose running wild and Josiah eating sand. I know I haven't actually commented on your blog yet, but DJ and I did enjoy "Last Chance Harvey." It was refreshing to see a mature romance without a ton of lust and objectionable content! We sure do miss y'all and please give each other a hug for us! Love, Elaine