DVD: Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock stars Alan Rickman, Dennis Farina, Bill Pullman, Six Feet Under’s Freddy Rodríguez, Eliza Dushku (of Buffy and Dollhouse), and several other actors who I hadn’t heard of before. Based on a true story and directed by Randall Miller, Bottle Shock depicts the events leading up to the 1976 blind Paris wine tasting (“Judgement of Paris”) that put California wine on the map.

Rickman portrays snobby British wine connoisseur Steven Spurrier, who is challenged by flamboyant Maurice (Farina) to visit Napa Valley in search of competition for his beloved French wine.

Most of the film focuses on the owner and workers of Chateau Montelena in California, which is struggling to survive. Pullman plays the owner, Jim Barrett, who has a tempestuous relationship with his wayward son Bo. Jim is reluctant to suffer what he views as certain humiliation by entering his wine into the contest, while Bo is eager to take the chance.

I found the story of Mexican foreman Gustavo (Rodríguez) to be more interesting. Gustavo is a farmworker’s son who is fired by Jim when it is discovered he has been secretly making his own wine. I wish the film had shown more of Gustavo as an individual rather than his love triangle with blonde hippie chick Sam and Bo.

Most of the story unfolds at a leisurely pace, but the momentum of the film picks up as something seems to have gone terribly wrong with Jim’s entire stock of wine. Bo races to save the vineyard as well as his father’s career before the final competition in Paris.

While Rickman was not in the movie as much as I would like, he is the scene stealer. I hope his success with Harry Potter continues to allow him the freedom to make these wonderful little indie flicks (see my review of Snow Cake).

Bottle Shock combines the less annoying aspects of Sideways with the less seductive elements of Stealing Beauty. The film isn’t as brilliant as it could’ve been, but it is very enjoyable.

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The Dresden Dolls in Paradise DVD

Finally! I now have my own personal copies of The Dresden Dolls DVD, Paradise, and their new album, Yes, Virginia. I’m still absorbing the new album and tinkering with my review, so this post will just cover the DVD. If you’re completely unfamiliar with The Dresden Dolls and want to know their history and such, check out their page on Wikipedia or the plethora of links provided below.

I don’t usually enjoy music and/or concert DVDs all that much. The only others that I actually own came free with special edition cds, and have been collecting dust since their initial viewings. So despite my somewhat obsessive love of The Dresden Dolls, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Paradise. But enjoy it I did. Very much.

The DVD begins with a mini-documentary titled “A Day in the Life”. It was shot Real World style, with handheld cameras following bandmates Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione literally from the time they get out of bed until they take the stage that evening at the Paradise club in Boston.

The beginning of “A Day in the Life” is a bit lackluster as we follow Amanda and Brian through their morning routines. But as showtime nears, it becomes increasing more interesting as Amanda reveals small glimpses into her personality, warms up her singing voice, Brian discovers his drums are missing, we see a dramatic sock-puppet reenactment of the solution, and we’re introduced to a few members of The Brigade.

Next up on the DVD is the pre-show, which includes some interpretive dance performances by members of The Brigade and an interview of the band by Christopher Lydon. Lydon was the host of The Connection on NPR and the subject of The Dresden Dolls song “Christopher Lydon”. The interview includes some flirtation between Lydon and Amanda, and a q&a session with audience members, during which Amanda reveals that her biggest piano playing inspiration was Thelonious Monk.

Then the concert. Amanda and Brian, clad in their trademark mime makeup and garb, seem to attack their instruments more than actually play them. In a good way. My husband made the comment that he didn’t know two people could make so much noise on their own. The Dresen Dolls at their best can make The White Stripes seem like easy listening, somehow transforming a solitary keyboard and drum set into a full punk orchestra. Especially impressive were their thunderously awesome cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and their charming duet of Carole King’s “Pierre”, which includes sadly rare vocals from Brian.

The setlist was as follows:

Good Day
Missed Me
War Pigs
Perfect Fit
Christopher Lydon
Bad Habit
Half Jack
Girl Anachronism

DD Official Site
DD MySpace
Amanda’s Diary
DD Forum
Automatic Joy (archive of live mp3s)

Buy The Dresden Dolls DVD & CDs