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Living Here in Allentown

Woody goes limp with confused and unamusing Tall Dark Stranger

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You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
  • You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

MEGAMIND. A hip animated comedy directed by modern animation pro Tom McGrath, whose credits include the Madagascar flicks, Cool World (as animator) and The Ren and Stimpy Show (as storyboard artist and director). Will Ferrell voices title character Megamind, a super-smart alien who battles another alien, Metro Man (Brad Pitt), for control of Metro City. Tina Fey supplies the voice of a Lois Lane-esque newswoman; Jonah Hill and David Cross voice other superheroes. 96m. Rated PG for action and some language. Opening in 3D at the Broadway and the Fortuna, in 2D at Mill Creek.

DUE DATE. Road trip comedy directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, Road Trip) stars Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man, etc.) and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, also the guy who sparked a joint on Real Time with Bill Maher the other night). Downey is Peter, a soon-to-be dad trying to get home before his child is born. He catches a cross-country ride with clueless would-be actor Ethan (Galifianakis). Hijinks ensue. 95m. Rated R for language, drug use and sexual content. Opening at the Broadway, the Fortuna and the Minor.

First Thursday Film Night at Morris Graves Museum has Deep Down**: **a story from the heart of coal country, a preview of a documentary that will be seen on the Independent Lens series on PBS later this month. Sally Rubin directs the story about a contentious battle over a proposed mountaintop removal coal mine in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky.

The same Thursday is the monthly Ocean Conservancy/Surfriders/Baykeeper Ocean Night Screening at the Arcata Theatre Lounge. This time it's The End of the Line, an indie doc from Brit director Rupert Murray about the results of overfishing on fish stocks, paired with the surf flick One Track Mind, with famous surfers surfing and talking about why they surf.

Saturday the ATL has Fight Club, director David Fincher's adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's dark novel starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt as leaders (or leader) of a pugilistic self-help group. On Sunday it's Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future Part II, featuring the further time-traveling adventures of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and inventor Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Next Wednesday's Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza night has a pair of Italian sword-and-sandal tales from the ’60s: The Giants of Thessaly, with Jason and his Argonauts, and Devil of the Desert Against the Son of Hercules, with the singing son of Herc rescuing a princess.

Also on Wednesday, Nov. 10: The General, Buster Keaton's 1926 silent comedy about a Civil War hero's efforts to recapture a Confederate locomotive. As you may recall, local musician Gregg Moore wrote an original score for the film and has been touring with a six-piece band presenting screenings in Humboldt's hinterlands. Moore and company bring it to the Arcata Playhouse Wednesday.

-- Bob Doran

 

Review

 

YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER. I have been a confirmed Woody Allen fan for as long as I can remember -- certainly since 1977's Annie Hall, still one of his best films. Maybe it's because he's about my age, but more likely it's his East Coast sense of humor: self-deprecating, but often with a hidden barb. I associate him most specifically with Manhattan, where many of his early films are set, although more recently he has taken to London, as is the case with his latest film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

Allen's work has always been a bit uneven, and many critics and viewers believe he simply repeats himself from film to film. But even if that's the case, it doesn't bother the committed fan. More recently he directed three fine films in what I think of as his Scarlett Johansson series: Match Point and Scoop, both set in London, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Allen's films usually contain large dollops of cynicism, terminal pessimism and dead-end relationships that begin with some promise but invariably are doomed to failure because one or both of the romantic pair can't see beyond their own petty concerns. In other words, my sort of universe. (No, this isn't meant as a comment on my personal life, just my twisted imaginary one.)

Tall Dark Stranger, set once again in London, fits comfortably into Allen's film universe, probably too much so. The story follows several individuals whose relationships are breaking up. Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones) divorce early on. Alfie is obsessed with remaining fit and is convinced he has long-life genes. After unsuccessfully trying the singles scene, he hires prostitute Charmaine (Lucy Punch), who is all body and no apparent brains. Shortly thereafter, he marries her.

Helena, meanwhile, takes refuge with fortuneteller Cristal (Pauline Collins), an obvious fake to anyone but the self-absorbed Helena. Their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is in a very unsatisfactory relationship with Roy (Josh Brolin), an over-the-hill novelist. Roy mostly peers out the window at his hot new neighbor, Dia (Freida Pinto), who favors red outfits and is engaged, while Sally flirts at an affair with her married boss Greg (Antonio Banderas).

In other words, we are in the middle of a quintessential set of Allen relationship messes featuring people who follow bad choices with even worse ones. But somehow, it all fails to coalesce. I didn't care for any of the characters virtually from the moment they were introduced. The film lacks the sort of wan humor that allows the viewer to find some sympathy for the people who inhabit this universe; mostly, they are just pathetic without any saving graces. Usually I get a lot of chuckles from Allen's films, but there are precious few here.

The film's title highlights the fortuneteller aspect of the narrative. The New York Times quotes Allen saying he "was interested in the concept of faith in something." Well, I guess that fits belief in fortunetellers, but it leaves me with a different sort of faith: that Allen has not become a tired filmmaker and will return to form soon. I need the chuckles. Rated R for some language. 98m. At the Broadway.

-- Charlie Myers

 

Continuing

 

HEREAFTER. Three people dealing with death become involved in each other's lives. Rated PG-13. 129m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

JACKASS 3D. Ouch, my balls. Rated R. 95m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

LIFE AS WE KNOW IT. An unlikely couple have to put aside their differences to care for their shared goddaughter. Adorable. Rated PG-13. 115m. At the Broadway.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2. Does a larger budget mean scarier? You decide. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.

RED. Being privy to CIA secrets is all well and good when you're a part of the agency. But when you try and leave, watch yourself. Rated PG-13. 111m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

SAW 3D. Or Saw 7, if you're counting at home. Rated R. 91m. At Fortuna (3D), the Broadway and Mill Creek (2D).

SECRETARIAT. This is a different movie than Seabiscuit. Barely. Rated PG. 123m. At the Broadway.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK. You'll want to click "Like." Rated PG-13. 121m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.

WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. Greed is good. This movie? Not so much. Rated R. 121m. At Garberville.

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