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Cannes Review: “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.”

Cannes Review: “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Woody Allen has preempted criticism of his latest breezy exercise in romantic neurosis by opening and closing his film by evoking Shakespeare’s famous line: “It is a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” While that claim may be facetious — Allen returns here to familiar territory that is potentially meaty, concerning fate, sex, love, death and consequences — “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is a light, forgettable entertainment, signifying more of the same old stuff from the 74-year-old auteur.

Set in London, the story revolves around four interconnected characters: Helena (Gemma Jones), a matriarch who takes her advice from a fortune teller; her husband Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), who has left Helena to recapture his youth; their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts), who wants a baby and her own career; and Sally’s husband Roy (Josh Brolin), a struggling novelist.

The film opens on Helena’s first visit to her neighborhood clairvoyant: for glimpses into the future, confidence-building in the wake of her husband’s abandonment, and a glass of “drinky” (that is, scotch). Helena’s faith in her friend, the aptly named Cristal, forms one of the comic through-lines of the film.

While never as magical or mysterious as Allen’s previous flirtations with the occult, as in Mia Farrow’s visits to Chinatown in “Alice” or Scarlett Johansson’s encounter with a magician in “Scoop,” the soothsaying nevertheless provides for some moderately successful humor, and shows off the acting talents of Jones, a British veteran most known for playing the mother in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” The actress plays Helena without condescension. Her undying commitment to her fortune-telling transforms the character from being a joke to the movie’s best asset — as well as the script’s most prevalent theme: “Illusions,” notes a third-person narrator, “work better than medicine.”

05142010_YouWillMeetATallDarkStranger4.jpgThe other characters are familiar Allen archetypes. Brolin’s writer falls for a beautiful British-Indian woman (Freida Pinto) some ten years his junior who he first spies playing the guitar — in a red slip, no less — through an apartment window in a neighboring building.

Meanwhile, Alfie becomes smitten by the hard body of a young prostitute (Lucy Punch, delivering some campy humor) and marries her. These sorts of borderline chauvinist plotlines have gotten tired in Allen films by now. At least Antonio Banderas shows up as the sexual object of Watts’s Sally; though unlike the men in Allen’s latest, she never gets to bed him.

In one plot strand, Allen recycles some themes from “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (not to mention “Morvern Callar”) with Brolin’s character committing an act of crass immorality, though in a further twist, he may actually get caught. It’s mildly clever, and the movie suffers less from the stifling nature of some of Allen’s late-career offerings, but “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” never amounts to anything more than a slight diversion loaded with well-worn Allen tropes.

“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” will be released by Sony Pictures Classics later this fall.

[Photos: “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2010]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.