Sideways Alexander Payne

After delivering a handful of very good films, including the incredible Election, Alexander Payne received an enormous amount of attention for Sideways and for good reason. This is Payne's greatest achievement in directing and even though this story of a down-and-out hero follows the same path as Election and About Schmidt, it's Paul Giamatti's performance as Miles Raymond that makes you plead for a ray of light to shine upon his utterly depressing life. Miles is a good man who has turned down a dark path. Sure, he steals money from his own mother's sock drawer savings, but ever since his divorce two years ago something has taken over his life he can't drive out. With his best friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) about to walk down the aisle, the two embark upon a week-long vacation to the California vineyards, but Miles's relaxing plans are altered when Jack wants to spend his getaway getting laid. Enter the beautiful Virginia Madison and Sandra Oh, playing Maya and Stephanie, respectively, as the love interests. While Jack and Stephanie hit it off, the process of love between Miles and Maya sways back and forth from a beautiful display of chemistry to teeth-grinding moments of unbearable courtship. Sideways uses the love of wine as the bond that brings Miles and Maya together, and their descriptions of vintages are romantic and poetic, making Sideways the first true love story for Payne. Along with the deadpan comedy and depressing underdog tones, this asset is a strong sign that Payne is well on his way to cinematic greatness. The DVD doesn't live up to film's excellence, giving few extras, including a handful of unexciting deleted scenes. The "behind the scenes" featurette is nothing more than sound bites from cast members run between film clips. The saving grace is the commentary with Giamatti and Church that, as corny as sounds, actually shows that the two actors shared a chemistry on the set that's visible through their audio observations, including how Church's bare ass looks like "garbage bags full of Ricotta cheese." Sure listening to the pair gush over Virginia Madison may grow tiresome, but be thankful there's not a single "understanding wine-tasting" tidbit. (Fox)