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Woody Allen
Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Gemma Jones, Pauline Collins, Freida Pinto, Antonio Banderas
Writing Credits:
Woody Allen

When justice is blind, it knows no fear.

Two couples find their lives turned upside down by their unfulfilled longings in this ensemble comedy from director Woody Allen. Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones) have been married for years. They have a grown-up daughter named Sally (Naomi Watts), who is married to a successful novelist named Roy (Josh Brolin), but finds the future of her marriage in jeopardy after falling for Greg (Antonio Banderas), the dapper owner of a prominent art gallery. Meanwhile, as Roy develops a fixation on Dia (Freida Pinto), an exotic beauty he encounters on the street, Alfie ditches Helena for Charmaine (Lucy Punch), an impressionable young call girl. Now it seems that the harder everyone tries runs away from their problems, the faster their lives seem to fall apart.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$160.103 thousand on 6 screens.
Domestic Gross
$3.247 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA Stereo
French DTS-HD MA Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $38.96
Release Date: 2/15/2011

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You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 14, 2011)

Starting with 2005ís Match Point, Woody Allen ran off a brief string of movies set in England. He then went to Spain for Vicky Cristina Barcelona and a return to his familiar NYC for Whatever Works before 2010ís You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, another comedy that takes place in the UK.

Since the London-based Match Point was easily Allenís best movie in years, I hoped a return to Britain might mean a return to form after the disappointments of Vicky and Works. Stranger focuses on a pair of married couples. Elderly Alfie Shebritch (Anthony Hopkins) goes through an advanced life crisis and dumps Helena (Gemma Jones), his wife of 40 years. He goes fitness nuts and tries to recapture younger days via an affair with a failed actress turned call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch).

In the meantime, Alfie and Helenaís daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) hits a rough spot with her husband Roy (Josh Brolin). Heís a struggling writer, and she feels frustrated that theyíve not procreated. Both find themselves caught up in their own prospective extramarital relationships. Roy develops a fixation on a beautiful girl who lives across the way (Freida Pinto), while Sally starts to fall for her handsome boss (Antonio Banderas). We follow their various attempts to enliven their lives.

What inspires the movieís quirky title? A running theme that follows Helenaís visits to a fortune teller. That concept adds a twist to Stranger that makes it a little different than the standard relationship flick, though itís not a particularly winning one. Yes, it lends an unusual tone to the film, but it also makes Helena seem like something of a flake. I understand that her pursuit of superstition stems from the collapse of her long-time relationship, so we get that sheís not really firing on all cylinders. Nonetheless, the movie paints her as both a dope and a less than sympathetic party.

Perhaps that shouldnít surprise me given Allenís tendencies. He loves to create stories that present older men who appeal to younger women, and he rarely shows any affection for aging women. Helena perfectly fits into his worldview; she comes across as such a twit and a nag that we totally understand why Alfie ditches her.

Itís tough to make a delusional elderly man who abruptly abandons his wife of 40 years come across as the likable, sympathetic one, but thatís what occurs here. Usually a role like Alfie would come across as either a delusional moron or a complete jerk. Instead, Alfie seems like the most three-dimensional personality of the bunch. Even when he misbehaves, we comprehend his decisions and feel for him. He remains haunted by the loss of his son and his own mortality.

Which contrasts with the silly, delusional Helena Ė and creates an idiotic irony at the movieís end when sheís the only one who winds up happy. Is that a spoiler? Technically yes, but the movie telegraphs its conclusion pretty obviously because a traditional story wonít - canít - reward characters as flawed as Alfie, Roy and Sally.

In a weird way, Stranger adopts the Forrest Gump worldview. Helena is the Gump of this film: she wanders through the film with blind innocence and ends up fine and dandy. The others fill in the Lt. Dan/Jenny parts: burdened with real human doubts and foibles, they choose poor paths and finish off unhappy.

Never would I have expected someone like Allen to embrace such an anti-intellectual posture. No, Helena isnít as simple as Gump; heís totally unaware of the world around him, while sheís in denial, as she embraces easy answers from a cheap psychic. The result remains the same, and itís disheartening. For the whole film, Allen makes Helena look like a moron Ė and a vaguely suicidal one at that Ė but she still comes out of the story happier than at its start.

That feels like a cheat, especially since Allen so often treats Helena as stupid and/or unsympathetic. He doesnít do much to make us care for Roy or Sally either, as theyíre actively unlikable. Like many Allen characters, theyíre terribly self-involved, and they seem more like caricatures than fleshed out personalities. In truth, they feel tacked on, as though Allen wanted to make the whole movie about Alfie and Helena but didnít have the guts to ignore younger characters for 99 minutes.

Or maybe he just didnít have enough material to flesh out any of the roles. All of them seem sketchy, and some go missing for extended periods. That makes the film disjointed and erratic; it doesnít do much to give us a rich view of its participants and their lives.

At his best, Allen can deliver insightful character pieces, but Stranger finds him far from his peak. Itís definitely not one of his worst efforts, as at least it usually lacks the obnoxious arrogance of condescension of junk like Whatever Works. (Allen canít resist the urge to make Charmaine a low-class idiot, though.) Nonetheless, Stranger finds itself burdened with uninteresting roles and a lack of purpose.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C/ Bonus D-

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a decent but unexceptional presentation.

Sharpness was the most erratic element. Exterior shots looked pretty concise and crisp, but interiors came across as somewhat soft and fuzzy. Those didnít seem terrible, and some of them looked fine, but the up and down interiors meant the movie lacked consistent clarity. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws were also absent in this clean image.

Colors tended to be subdued. Stranger favored a rather golden tone, and within that design choice, the hues were good. The movie offered occasional instances of warmer colors Ė a nightclub scene provided strong purples - and made them seem positive enough. Blacks were dark and tight, while low-light shots demonstrated nice clarity. This was a watchable transfer but not a great one.

Until the last few years, all Woody Allen movies stuck with monaural soundtracks. Heís gone a little more modern recently, but I wouldnít expect a lot from the DTS-HD MA Stereo mix of Stranger. Music offered pleasant stereo imaging, and gentle environmental material emerged. These used the front three channels to add a little ambience to the track, but nothing especially impressive emerged; a storm was the most engaging sequence.

Audio quality was fine. Speech appeared natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns. Music was low-key and gentle; the score showed nice clarity and warmth. Effects were even less impactful, but they seemed accurate and lacked distortion or flaws. This was a decidedly ordinary mix.

In addition to the filmís trailer, we get a preview for Barneyís Version. And thatís it for the extras! Given Woody Allenís disdain for bonus materials, their absence comes as no surprise.

Unlike high-quality character explorations such as Crimes and Misdemeanors, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger has little to say. It paints a simplistic picture that doesnít go much of anywhere, so it fails to develop in a satisfying way. The Blu-ray provides decent picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements. While Iíve seen worse Woody Allen movies, Stranger remains a misfire.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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