Double Feature

January 2006 - Toast the New Year with two flicks about the relationship between men and women.

Grab a bottle and settle in for Sideways, the 2004 Oscar-winning film starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh.

Giamatti and Church play Miles and Jack, two buddies from their college days. They set off for the wine region of California, two bachelors hitting the road for one last fling before Jack marries into a wealthy family. Miles sees a trip filled with fine wine, brotherhood and golf. Jack wants to get laid and figures he might as well get Miles laid while he's at it.

Their first stop is a restaurant which Miles has visited many times. Their waitress is Maya (Madsen). The next day, they stop at a little winery and meet Stephanie, played by Sandra Oh. Stephanie knows Maya, so they all go out on a double date then go back to Stephanie's house. While Jack and Stephanie have sex, Miles and Maya, in the best scene in the movie, talk intimately about wine. Miles and Maya eventually hook up, but it doesn't last long. Can Miles win back the girl? The movie lets you decide.

Overall review: Loved it! It's funny, it's sad, it's tender and it's brutal. It's a great film, but it's not "big" – no big stars, no big issues, no big special effects. It's just a neat, little, intimate film about being human.

Sideways is rated R. You should be able to find it on video or DVD.

Thomas Haden Church has a much smaller role in 1997's One Night Stand, written and directed by Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas). Figgis also composed the film score.

The main character here is Max, a TV commercial director played by Wesley Snipes. He's married to Mimi, played by Ming-Na Wen. The movie opens with Max in New York City to see Charlie (Robert Downey Jr.), who's recently found out he's HIV-positive. Later, Max flirts with Karen, a pretty blonde played by Natassja Kinski. Through a series of events, they end up spending the night together. Then they go back to their separate lives.

Max's problem now is that, after this one night, he realizes he doesn't much like his life anymore. His wife is superficial, he's been reduced to doing commercials for pickle companies, and Charlie eventually loses his fight against AIDS. Max realizes just how miserable he is when Karen comes back into the picture.

Overall review: Liked it. The best part may be the music by Figgis. The cast is also good. In addition to Snipes and Kinski, it includes Kyle MacLachlan and Robert Downey Jr. Amanda Donohoe, John Ratzenberger, Thomas Haden Church and Julian Sands have smaller roles. Look for Figgis as the hotel clerk.

One Night Stand is rated R. It should be available on video or DVD.