The Watcher - Hot papi

Bardem sizzles in Between Your Legs

Years before Javier Bardem registered on the radar of American movie-goers, thanks to his Academy Award nomination for Before Night Falls, he was a household name in Spain as a sex symbol. More mature recent roles have helped him move past mere beefcake status, but Bardem's slow-burning sex appeal shines through in __Between Your Legs (Entre Las Piernas), recently released Stateside on DVD.

Director Manuel Gòmez Pereira mounts the fast-paced sexual thriller with an obvious erection for Hitchcock, and the opening credits and calculated camerawork both give obvious nods to Vertigo. Bardem plays Javier, a semi-famous screenwriter in Madrid who gets hooked on phone sex with a capricious seductress he meets at an airport. After his wife shacks up with his business partner, Javier joins a sexual addiction support group and immediately starts knocking boots with Miranda (Victoria Abril). The two attempt an impromptu tryst in an abandoned car, which turns out to have a corpse in the trunk.

Between Your Legs sometimes takes the Hitchcock thing too far, with a procession of bizarre back stories and enough minor characters to populate a season of "The Sopranos." But Bardem's sharply understated acting — paired with Abril's ever-present screen sparkle — keeps the suspense mostly on track. And there's less blatant bedroom antics than you might expect.

Co-writers Yolanda García Serrano and Juan Luis Iborra, the pair behind Km. 0 who are best known for their screwball comedies, pack the script with an increasingly improbable progression of coincidences, but keep us guessing at the true nature of every character — until a creatively twisted surprise ending.

Despite its flaws, Between Your Legs gives a welcome primer on Bardem's career before night fell.

Nobody warned me about __Finding Nemo. There I was, expecting a light-as-bubbles little fish story, but the opening sequence of Pixar's latest work practically punched me in the gut. (Spoiler: Nemo's mom — and 399 siblings — get unceremoniously eaten.) The animated film's emotional impact stays afloat for most of the visually thrilling ride, with the cast of aquatic characters showing more range than we've seen to date from any of Pixar's previous offerings.

The new two-disc DVD of Finding Nemo should probably be packaged as the "baby sitter's edition," it comes so crammed with diversions designed to keep the kiddies busy. Even I got caught up watching the seven strangely hypnotic "virtual aquarium" features, which turn your TV into a fish tank. (OK, maybe that says more about the vacuousness of my life than the perks of the DVD.)

There's also a pretty good behind-the-scenes documentary and a delightful little design gallery, both sure to make the animation geeks swoon. Even more interesting, though, is the inclusion of "Knick Knack." The Pixar short from 1989 finds a disgruntled snowman trapped in a souvenir snow globe ("Nome Sweet Nome") on a shelf full of tchotchkes from more sunny locales. Though the animation seems positively primitive by today's standards, the short offers a fascinating comparison point for CGI's evolution.

The other DVD extras, like a fish-themed charades game and read-along option, aim for the elementary school crowd. Heck, they'll need something to take their minds off that grisly opening.


The Watcher is a weekly column on television, DVDs and other small-screen delights.