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PCR # 249  (Vol. 5, No. 53)  This edition is for the week of December 27, 2004--January 2, 2005.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

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Happy New Year....Tragedy And Disaster
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I'd Like To Thank....Thoughts And Prayers....Andy's Present....Tampa Related....Passing On....Gone But Not Forgotten....Explain, Please....Worst Thing To Happen This Year....Best And Worst Movies....Phillip Smith's Top 5 Movies....Favorite Film Lines....Happy Birthday....Meet The Beatles, Part 49 (final chapter)
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Fox Searchlight Pictures     
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh
Directed by: Alexander Payne
Rated: R
Running Time: 2 hours 3 mins

A few weeks ago I praised the four actors that appear in the film, "Closer." It's rare when you get a film that features award-worthy performances from the entire cast. That it happens in two films in the same year is beyond amazing.

"Sideways" tells the story of two friends. Miles (Giamatti) is a teacher with dreams of being a published author. Jack (Church) is a former soap opera star now doing voice over work while waiting for the next big job. With Jack scheduled to be married in a week, the two pals go on one last bachelor road trip, traveling to the Northern California wine country. A fine connoisseur of wines, Miles can tell if the bottle is worthy of drinking with just a sniff and a sip. On their journey they meet two very different women. Maya (Madsen) is a waitress at a local restaurant. Recently divorced she finds herself drawn to Miles due to his passion for his hobby. Stephanie (Oh) is a "pourer" at one of the many vineyard tasting areas. A single mom, Stephanie is much more outward in her actions and a true free spirit. The four meet up and begin to go out as a group, eating dinner and tasting wines. While Jack and Stephanie hit it off, the recently divorced and still hurting Miles approaches Maya with caution. Will Miles and Maya end up together? Will Jack get married? And will someone please tell me the difference between Merlot and Pinot?

After "Election" and "About Schmidt," it is no surprise that the script for "Sideways" is so good. Written by director Payne and his partner Jim Taylor, the dialogue is not only crisply scripted but it feels "real." As each character experiences a new emotion you almost know what they are going to say before they say it. But even with a great script it takes a great cast to bring the words and characters to life. Church, probably best known as Lowell on the television series "Wings," proves to be an actor of incredible range. Whether he's high on life on the golf course or breaking down in tears over the possible loss of his fiance', Church brings Jack to life before our eyes. Both Madsen and Oh, playing two very different women, manage to draw you in with their work. Be it Oh's lust for love and life (the woman rides a motorcycle) or Madsen's almost painfully shy way of talking to Miles, there is not a false note in either of their performances. But the star here is Paul Giamatti. Unbelievably overlooked for an Oscar nomination last year for his work in "American Splendor," Giamatti IS Miles. It's almost as if the other characters had wandered into a film called "Miles" and just blended in. I predict a two man race for the Best Actor Academy Award between Giamatti and "Ray" star Jamie Foxx. Whichever actor wins, I'm betting the other will be a very close second.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Sideways"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "Sideways" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2004, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.