May 4th, 2009

VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (2008) **

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) go to Barcelona where they meet a studly painter named Juan Antonio (Javier Bardim) who charms the pants off them.  First he bangs the severely uptight Vicky and then sets his sights on Cristina.  Soon enough, Juan Antonio starts getting “feelings” for Cristina and they eventually move in to together.  When his crazy ex-wife, Marie Elena (Penelope Cruz) tries to kill herself, Juan Antonio brings her home because “she has no place else to go”.  This naturally complicates their relationship; especially when all three of them start sleeping together.

 

I’ve never claimed to be the world’s biggest Woody Allen fan but I thought I’d give this one a shot.  Too bad nobody told me that this is one of the Wood Man’s dramas.  Seriously, what’s the point of watching a Woody Allen movie if it’s not going to be funny?  That’s like watching a Wes Craven movie about inner city kids playing violins.

 

The thing that bugged me about this movie (besides the whiny ass superfluous narrator) was its structure.  The first hour or so is about Vicky and Cristina vying for the affections of Juan Antonio; so far so good.  Once Cruz’s character is introduced about halfway through, things go off the rails and the movie never recovers.  It’s almost as if Woody wanted to make two different movies (one about Vicky, Cristina, and Juan Antonio and the other about Cristina, Juan Antonio and Marie Elena) but couldn’t make up his mind as to which one he wanted to make so he just slapped them both together. 

 

Another aspect of the film that I didn’t like was that Allen introduces a ménage a trois into the plot but never actually shows Bardim, Cruz, and Johansson getting it on.  What’s up with that?  I thought Woody was a freak like that.  Guess not.  I mean we’re talking about the guy who married his own adopted daughter here.  You’d think he’d be up for some three-way fuck scenes.  Oh well. 

 

The only thing that would’ve made this flick worthwhile is if Bardim was still in character as Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men and flipped a coin to see which girl he was going to bang first.  That would’ve been awesome.

MARTYRS (2009) ***

A young girl is kidnapped and chained to a chair where she is relentlessly tortured on a daily basis.  She escapes and is placed in an orphanage where she begins having visions of a crazy woman who “cuts” her.  Once she is all grown up, she and her girlfriend track down the people who abused her and blow them away with a shotgun.  Little do they realize that the people responsible for the abuse were working for a secret society who torture women so that… well… let’s just say that these people are positively religious when it comes to torture and leave it at that.   

 

The “explanation” as to why the cultists torture innocent girls is ludicrous and threatens to ruin the suspense that director Pascal Laugier has sublimely been building up for the first hour or so.  That’s okay because Laugier’s visuals in the last part of the flick compensate for the decided lack of sense in the final act.  At first I was tempted to give Martyrs ** ½, but then I realized that this was the first horror film I’d seen that was released this year that wasn’t a remake or a sequel, so I gave it an extra ½ * on the basis of originality.  (And let me tell you the ending is well… original.)

 

As ultraviolent French psychological horror movies go, I’d say it’s much better than High Tension although not nearly as good as Inside.  It also features the best skinned alive scene since Hellbound:  Hellraiser 2.  (Which is fitting because I just read that Laugier has signed up to direct the Hellraiser remake.  So much for originality, Pascal.)