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Knowing

In pre-television years local films and radio were a different cultural beast.  Using performers who spoke ‘proper English’ accents, our antipodean identity was masked.  Reaching into the past for inspiration, movie production in the new century has taken on a more American flavour.  Knowing is another addition with Melbourne’s streets standing in for its Boston setting.  If only the script replicated our unique story skills it may have had more chance at doing our industry proud.
Fifty years after a time capsule is placed at a school, its contents are eagerly awaited.  Among them is a strange letter given to student Caleb (Chandler Canterbury).  His father, John (Nicholas Cage), has his curiosity awakened by its listed series of numbers.  Discovering their connection with a series of tragic disasters, he becomes alarmed when a further numerical strand has yet to be realised.  Determined to protect his son and those around him, his quest is observed by a mysterious coven that may hold the key to the final result.
Knowing offers an abject lesson in how not to present a screenplay.  Although audiences are willing to accept the most bizarre notions, one always has to believe in what they are seeing.  Alex Proyas’ latest directorial effort offers none of that, with an intriguing concept thrown away by a completely ludicrous conclusion.  It’s disappointing that the director of The Crow and Dark City has played the Hollywood game of treating viewers like mugs with a script full of glaring holes and ridiculous coincidences.  In some ways Knowing is a nit-picker’s dream with its inconsistencies providing more entertainment than its plot.
In spite of some elements exploring how random occurrences can thrive by one’s actions, this is quickly forgotten once the pedestrian action kicks in.  Other problems include the awful special effects and murky cinematography more than matching Cage’s permanently dour faced character.  It’s perhaps unfair to target the actors, indeed they’re quite passable, as they can only be as good as the material they have.  The only aspect that excels is Marco Beltrami’s fantastic orchestral arrangements providing a booming score which has the added advantage of drowning out some of the more risible dialogue on display.
Messy, unfocused and a waste of good local talent, Knowing is a blight on our technical expertise.  Poorly constructed without any form of logical thought, one wishes viewer’s had their own sixth sense which may have saved two hours of their lives that Knowing has deceptively taken. 
Rating out of 10:  2

Bottle Shock

Wine, like most things in life, is about feeling.  Like any substance providing a sensorial experience, its popularity has created an industry devoted to sharing the moment of its first taste. Inspired by true events, Bottle Shock’s group of beverage merchants have a shared passion in creating their own liquid dynasty.  That their efforts created history shows the power of this very delectable drink.
Parisian wine seller Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) is in a quandary.  Keen to ramp up his ailing business an idea forms to hold a blind taste-test with French wine competing against California’s new imports.  Dubbed the ‘Judgement of Paris’ the 1976 contest would have a marked affect on California’s Napa Valley wineries.  One of its vineyard operators, Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), would feel the most rewards forging a new bond with his wayward son, Bo (Chris Pine), that wine’s great fluidity would only strengthen.
Slightly faltering in its marriage between fact and fiction, Bottle Shock unearths some interesting subtexts.  More than any other alcoholic drink, wine appears to uplift an event’s atmosphere.  Where champagne is often associated with grand occasions, wines are noted for creating more intimate moods.  This rounds the package its makers sell in complementing social gatherings with vintage ranges making instant experts of its drinkers.  Played against America’s Bi-Centennial backdrop, the protagonists pride in their craft makes for engaging viewing, with the industry’s latent parochial snobbery eventually giving way to begrudging respect.
Using a contest of wills between father and son as its main thrust, much interest is gained from their tug of war between old and new ideals.  It’s especially pleasing seeing Rickman and Pullman make welcome cinematic returns with only the pacing letting the movie down.  This is keenly felt in several sequences adding nothing to the overall outcome.  The shoe-horning of these scenes in order to make events appear more exciting tends to drag the film down. Coupled with a rather lacklustre performance from Pine as Bo, Bottle Shock dangerously veers on the edge of becoming as stale as corked plonk.  Thankfully it comes alive towards the end with the sweeping aerial shots of the expansive Californian vineyards perfectly enhancing the somewhat arch script.
Basically a traditional ‘David vs. Goliath’ tale, Bottle Shock’s many quirky moments enables some degree of individualism.  Nicely shot and enlivened by Rickman’s snide presence, it proves there is always a story to tell behind each lovingly prepared Chardonnay.
Rating out of 10:  6