Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

8c89f-vickycristina2Although he is not present you can hear and see the undeniable hand of Woody Allen behind this romance set in Barcelona. In a film that at times feels like a precursor to the more interesting Midnight in Paris, Allen takes on romance in another elegant city with two young Americans who have been transplanted there from their everyday lives.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is the practical one of the two with a fiance who is kind but by no means a romantic. Cristina (Scarlett Johannson) is the more adventurous type and she is intrigued by a forward Spanish painter (Javier Bardem) who invites them to spend a holiday with him. All the red lights are going off in Vicky’s head and she will not have it. But Cristina is interested enough to drag her friend along on this whim. They have a matter of fact narrator to guide their little tale of love and personal revelation.  Enter Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) stage right and things gets a bit complicated.

This is a Film about love. A Film about people having their mini midlife crisis and a film about trying to figure things out. In that ways it is relatable and yet I have this uncomfortable feeling that Woody Allen is speaking to me veiled behind the worldviews of his characters. It seems like I can hear his voice obviously peeking out behind many of these characters so they lack interest. There’s nothing new and exciting. For instance, I liked Rebecca Hall, but to be honest her character is bland and she soon comes to realize that herself. It’s not just her either but the social circles she interacts in. The people are dull, middle class, American types. Cristina might have a little bit more mischief in her, but that does not necessarily make her all that interesting.

However, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz play a pair of characters who are perhaps the most interesting. Maybe it is just a result of playing artists but they are often difficult to read and do not make complete sense. They are both romantics but they are prone to violent passion or angry fights. That’s the dynamic Vicky and Cristina get thrown into and I doubt either one expected it.

The story ends like other Allen films as a quirky romance with touches of comedy and strange acts of fate. Vicky and Cristina leave Barcelona perhaps a little wiser but with little more figured out about life.

3.5/5 Stars

No Country for Old Men (2007)

fa50f-no_country_for_old_men_posterStarring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin, with the Coen Brothers directing, the film opens with a voice-over as a sheriff reminisces about an unrepentant killer he put away.  The year is 1980 in Texas and we watch as a ruthless killer (Bardem) is arrested and then breaks free. At the same time a hunter (Brolin) happens upon a bloody scene that has to do with a cache of drugs. After he searches around Llewlyn finds $2 million and tires to get away with it. All too soon he is being tracked by the psychopathic killer to various hotels. They have one bloody confrontation and after fleeing once more into Mexico, Llewelyn decides to drop the money off with his wife. However, pretty soon he is dead and the sheriff must find this killer who is on the loose. The hit man is not quite done and finishes off some business before getting into a car accident that forces him to flee. The film ends as the now retired sheriff talks with his wife, leaving the film’s ending open. This film is very violent and Bardem’s character is so noticeable because he has absolutely no humanity in him. In these bleak events there is not much hope, so if you want a fluffy film you will not find it here.

4.5/5 Stars


Skyfall (2012)

Starring Daniel Craig as James Bond and Judi Dench as M, this was the 50 anniversary installment of the franchise. The film opens as Bond is on assignment to track down a mercenary who stole a vital computer hard drive. However, before he can complete his assignment Bond is wounded and seemingly falls to his death. Meanwhile M is under political pressure and she also receives a threatening message that culminates in a giant explosion. Bond comes back from the dead and must struggle to pass his examinations to be cleared for duty. Finally, he goes out again to track down the mercenary and his investigation leads him to a shady casino. He helps out a women in trouble and accompanies her to a remote island. However,, they are captured and Bond comes face to face with the mastermind behind all the chaos. Bond is able to save himself while capturing Silva to take back to England. But Silva has one last trick up his sleeve allowing himself to escape. Realizing M is in danger, Bond rescues her and heads for his childhood home. There he prepares for the final showdown with Silva and his henchmen. Although he prevails it was not without sacrifice. This film was intriguing because both Bond and M had to set out and prove they were not washed up. Also, Adele’s title song is probably the most memorable Bond theme in quite sometime.

4/5 Stars