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Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008 04:17 am

Nothing but sour grapes

Bottle Shock Running time 1:46 Rated PG-13 Parkway Pointe

Though Bottle Shock (2 stars) is based on a true story, you're liable to be wondering just how much of it is fact. I'd say about 40 percent, as so much of it plays like a labored Hollywood flick from the '30s, replete with stock characters and hoary circumstances. There's Jim Barrett, a lawyer (Bill Pullman) who risks everything to realize his dream of being a winemaker. He just happens to have a slacker son, Bo (Chris Pine), he's constantly disappointed in. They sort out their differences, like any father and son, by donning boxing gloves and stepping into the ring. Then there's Steve Spurrier (Alan Rickman), an English wine shop owner who longs to break into the wine culture of France. At the urging of his oh-so-colorful expatriate American neighbor, he comes up with a blind wine-tasting contest that will pit French vintages against those from America.

Did I happen to mention that this takes place during the Bicentennial, so there is an overt patriotic tone to the affair? Or that a love triangle develops between Bo, his father's intern Sam (Rachael Taylor) and his buddy Gustavo (Freddy Rodriguez), who happens to be developing his own vintage on the side? Then there's Joe (Eliza Dushku) the sort of sexy bartender who only exists in movies and whose sole purpose is to wisecrack and save the day after a catastrophe.

By the time the predictable climax occurs (guess whose wine wins the contest?), I was in need of a good stiff drink myself to wash all the artifice away. While I am sure there is a kernel of truth somewhere in this story, the screenplay by Jody Savin, Randall Miller, and Ross Schwartz relies so heavily on clichéd fabrications that I could have cared less about what was true and what wasn't or the film itself. Do yourself a favor and abstain from Bottle Shock.

The Longshots Running time 1:34 Rated PG ShowPlace East

Another film based on a true story, The Longshots (2 stars) finds Ice Cube as Curtis Plummer, an unemployed layabout who tries to relive his glory days by turning his niece, Jasmine (an unconvincing Keke Palmer) into a quarterback for the local middle school team. Seems that the town where they live needs something to believe in, as much of the industry has closed, leaving a shuttered Main Street and broken dreams in its wake. Reluctant at first, Jasmine practices and practices some more, finding that she can succeed on the gridiron in ways she can't in the classroom. She discovers a strong sense of self along the way.

While this film's tone is more sincere than Cube's broad slapstick efforts (Are We There Yet? etc.) if there isn't a cliché from the football movie book that's not covered here, I don't know what it is. While the director Fred Durst's inspirational intentions are noble, there simply isn't an original idea in the film. Hobbling the movie even further is the fact that despite practicing for six weeks off camera, Palmer is the most unconvincing football player to ever grace the silver screen. In a nutshell, The Longshots can be summed up like this: Jasmine succeeds, the town has hope, her uncle turns his life around and I fall asleep. Game over.

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