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PCR #440 (Vol. 9, No. 35) This edition is for the week of August 25--31, 2008.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Vicki Cristina Barcelona"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall
Directed by: Woody Allen
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 1 hour 36 mins

There is always something to be said about change. Ever since Woody Allen left his beloved New York City and chose Europe as his new landscape has the director’s films returned to the quality he gave us decades ago. After a couple adventures in London Allen takes us to Spain in his latest romantic comedy, “Vicki Cristina Barcelona.”

As the title implies, friends Vicki (Hall) and Cristina (Johansson) have decided to spend some summer vacation time in the romantic city of Barcelona. Vicki, the studious one, is about to be married while Cristina, the free spirit, is available. One night as they are out to dinner they are approached by a handsome stranger (Bardem), who invites them both to accompany him to a secluded part of the country where they will surely share an adventure. Despite reservations, the ladies accept his offer and begin on a journey that will change both of their lives.

Allen has always been a strong women’s director and “Vicki Cristina Barcelona is no exception. Actresses from Diane Keaton to Mia Farrow to Diane Weist have delivered their best work under his guidance and the actresses here are no exception, most notably Johansson, appearing in her third Allen film. Hall, who appeared with Johansson in 2006’s “The Prestige,” has the more dramatic role here and does an excellent job of conveying her constantly changing feelings. Also earning high marks is Penelope Cruz, who confounds things as Bardem’s on again/off again wife. As the subject of everyone’s affections, Bardem is a natural. An Oscar winner this past year for his scary turn in “No Country For Old Men,” Bardem here plays up his good looks and smooth charm while at the same time giving his tortured painter, Juan Antonio, a soul. And, as with all good Allen films, solid supporting work, delivered here by Kevin Dunn and Patricia Clarkson, help keep the story moving.

With the help of Spanish cinematographer Xavier Aguirresarobe, Allen manages to capture the beauty of the title city as well as the surrounding country side. The script is full of classic Allen observations with sharp touches of both humor and drama. The film is so quintessentially Allen that the narration, by actor Christopher Evan Welch, is almost off putting. You expect to hear the Woodman’s voice telling the story and when you don’t you miss it.

A solid romantic comedy and good start to the fall movie season, on a scale of zero to four stars I give “Vicki Cristina Barcelona”

This week's movie review of "Vicki Cristina Barcelona" is ©2008 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2008, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.