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Annie Hall Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 43 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted January 26 2012 - 09:24 AM

Woody Allen’s free association, semi-autobiographical comedy classic Annie Hall is a wise and wonderful film. Winner of the Best Picture Oscar in 1977 (the first comedy in many years to achieve that honor), Annie Hall retains its sense of neurotic hilarity all of these years after its initial release. As the only Allen film to ever have won Best Picture (as well as Best Director and Best Screenplay prizes for Woody Allen, the latter co-written with Marshall Brickman) Annie Hall is unique, but its true genius lies in its canny mixture of witty dialogue, heartfelt performances, and its unconventional structure.


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Annie Hall (Blu-ray)
Directed by Woody Allen

Studio: MGM/UA
Year: 1977
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 93 minutes
Rating: PG
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono English; Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Spanish, French, many others
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, Italian, many others


Region: A
MSRP: $ 24.99



Release Date: January 24, 2012

Review Date: January 26, 2012




The Film

5/5


The film’s story jumps around from present to past and back again without warning (Allen’s fictional stand-in Alvy Singer mentions early on that his “mind jumps around” and so does the film about him and his love life), and it’s a breath of fresh air as we bounce around the hilarious “troubles” of the film’s talented comedy writer/comedian. We go from the precocious Alvy kissing a little girl in his second grade classroom to his dealing with a similar lack of success with a succession of flaky girls as he makes a life for himself in Manhattan. Allen has his characters sometimes interact with themselves in earlier incarnations, they often break the fourth wall, and they sometimes say one thing while thinking something else entirely different. For Alvy, life is a kaleidoscope of human comedy and often self-induced misery.


Some of Allen’s more interesting cinematic tricks involve the use of split screens and animation. One masterful moment shows Alvy’s Jewish family and Annie’s gentile family eating typical family dinners, a sharply pointed parody of everyone’s dinner manners and their variable topics of conversation with select members surrealistically conversing with one another across the split panels. The film’s invention seems inexhaustible as we see flashbacks to Alvy's childhood living under the roller coaster at Coney Island or listening to his schoolmates tell us whatever became of them.


The plot really serves up a string of writer-director Allen’s own pent up frustrations and pet peeves: fear of crawly things (lobsters and spiders, both of which make for hilarious vignettes), his disgust with know-it-alls that one meets in the most inauspicious places like a movie line, and a continuing fascination with anti-Semitism. Some of these are obvious reworkings of jokes from his stand-up act and from club and TV appearances (one wonders if that clip where he shares the stage with then-talk show host Dick Cavett was an excerpt from an actual guest appearance), but they’re so funny and so effective that the sources of this inspired work really don’t matter.


The rocky road of love with aspiring singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), their courtship, break-up, reconciliation, and subsequent separation and romantic conclusion, forms the gist of the romantic comedy elements of the movie, and it provides the actress with the perfect role for her talents (she even gets to show off her Broadway musical roots in a couple of delicious song numbers “It Had to Be You” and “Seems Like Old Times”). Her charming, funny, quirky personality comes through constantly in this tailor-made role and won her the Best Actress Oscar in a year where Keaton also triumphed dramatically in the searing Looking for Mr. Goodbar.


Tony Roberts, another stalwart member of Woody Allen’s stable of supporting stars, has less to do here than in Play It Again, Sam, but his dry wit and more grounded personality provides a marked contrast to Woody’s own zany actions and constant quip-filled chatter. Among other famous faces who pop in and out of the film to excellent effect are Paul Simon as L.A. musician Tony Lacey who proves a tantalizing lure for Annie in the film’s later reels, Colleen Dewhurst as Annie’s grounded mother, and Carol Kane and Shelley Duvall as two of Alvy’s more unusual, idiosyncratic hook-ups.



Video Quality

4/5


The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is presented faithfully in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Unquestionably the best the film has ever looked on home video (the DVD was a problematic nonanamorphic disappointment), colors are solid and flesh tones usually very natural looking with only an occasional too-pink appearance. While sharpness is excellent, detail nicely presented, and the entire image the cleanest it’s ever been, contrast is a little more variable, sometimes spot-on but occasionally a bit milkier than in other scenes. Black levels are just all right. The talking/thinking sequence uses yellow subtitles which are a bit early and sometimes rushed in their placement but are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 49 chapters.



Audio Quality

4/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is clear and clean with no distracting hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter. Dialogue is always intelligible (very important with this film), and the spare music standards and Diane Keaton’s vocals come through excellently and without any distortion. Soundtracks for Allen films are unsurprisingly low-tech, but this lossless encode presents the film in a very clear-cut manner. There were slight momentary problems with sync with my system, but pausing the disc and then resuming cleared them right up.



Special Features

1/5


The theatrical trailer is presented in an open matte 1.33:1 format and in 1080p running 2 ¼ minutes.



In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)


Annie Hall finally gets a home video release worthy of its greatness. While no one is surprised there are no bonus features to speak of with the Blu-ray of the film, at least the audio and video present this classic in its best possible light. Highly recommended!




Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC



#2 of 43 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted January 26 2012 - 09:27 AM

Thanks for this great review. Love the film...

#3 of 43 OFFLINE   Radioman970

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Posted January 26 2012 - 10:48 AM

SPYYYYYYDAH! Love it too. I have 2 of the Woody DVD sets since Big Lots had them so cheap years back. But not the one with all my favorites in it, Annie Hall, Everything you wanted to know..., Sleeper... But now I can just get the blu rays of those. :)
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#4 of 43 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted January 26 2012 - 05:16 PM

Thanks for the review Matt! I wish they could have timed the subtitles correctly, but at least there's no [THINKING] this time. And it sounds like a great presentation otherwise.
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#5 of 43 OFFLINE   nealg

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Posted January 26 2012 - 07:32 PM

Not thrilled about sync problems I've read about here and elsewhere. I love having to correct problems while viewing the superior format of Blu-ray, especially when screening for guests.

#6 of 43 OFFLINE   Charles Smith

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Posted January 27 2012 - 12:36 AM

Originally Posted by nealg 

Not thrilled about sync problems I've read about here and elsewhere. I love having to correct problems while viewing the superior format of Blu-ray, especially when screening for guests.

Seriously.



#7 of 43 OFFLINE   larryKR

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Posted January 27 2012 - 04:43 AM

I purchased my copy from Amazon Canada, and it too has sync problems. The sync issue varies from scene to scene, sometimes it's nearly perfect and sometimes there is a lag of 1 or 2 seconds.

#8 of 43 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted January 27 2012 - 07:05 AM

Could the sync issue be something that's affecting different players differently?
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#9 of 43 OFFLINE   Scott D S

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Posted January 27 2012 - 08:50 AM

There's a sync problem on my PS3 (not the slim version). it's subtle but it's definitely there. It just arrived from Amazon today - I'll probably return it for a refund and wait till the issue is corrected (when pigs fly but I hope I'm wrong!).

#10 of 43 OFFLINE   Charles Smith

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Posted January 27 2012 - 09:06 AM

Here we go again, with another round of Amazon getting returns, putting the product "under review", releasing it again, etc.  Which of course is exactly what needs to happen.  But we need to be contacting the studio as well.



#11 of 43 OFFLINE   Charles Smith

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Posted January 27 2012 - 09:09 AM

This, just after reading in another thread about the UK Cleopatra release that puts the Entr'Acte at the end of the first disc.

Unbelievable.



#12 of 43 OFFLINE   haineshisway

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Posted January 27 2012 - 09:21 AM

The Blu-ray has no synch problems. You'd read about it in reviews had there been anything wrong, and I have yet to read one review that's mentioned it. Therefore, you can return to your heart's content, but it's a problem with the player and how it's reading the audio on the disc. You cannot blame the disc itself. Certain players have problems with certain films and complaints should be sent to the company who makes the player.

#13 of 43 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted January 27 2012 - 10:09 AM



Originally Posted by Scott D S 

There's a sync problem on my PS3 (not the slim version). it's subtle but it's definitely there.
It just arrived from Amazon today - I'll probably return it for a refund and wait till the issue is corrected (when pigs fly but I hope I'm wrong!).



I used a PS3 (phat model) for review purposes and had the slight sync problem. I didn't try it on my other Blu-ray players, but when I get a moment (am swamped right now with work), I will see what I find.




#14 of 43 OFFLINE   Rob W

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Posted January 27 2012 - 10:31 AM

Wonder how MGM got Allen to agree to a color version of the iconic shot of him and Diane Keaton on the box cover ? It has always been in black-and-white in every incarnation I've ever seen, starting with the high-contrast black and white original one-sheets. Did they really think people would assume it was a black-and-white film if they used the original image ?

#15 of 43 OFFLINE   Mark-P

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Posted January 27 2012 - 10:59 AM

I seriously doubt he was consulted.

Wonder how MGM got Allen to agree to a color version of the iconic shot of him and Diane Keaton on the box cover ? It has always been in black-and-white in every incarnation I've ever seen, starting with the high-contrast black and white original one-sheets. Did they really think people would assume it was a black-and-white film if they used the original image ?



#16 of 43 OFFLINE   JoHud

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Posted January 27 2012 - 11:16 AM

If it's a player/firmware issue that causes those sync issues, I might just gamble on this title. But only if I find it on a sale price.

#17 of 43 OFFLINE   Charles Smith

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Posted February 03 2012 - 01:47 AM

My copy arrived yesterday and I put it in, only intending to see how it looks, check out the subtitle scene to get the disappointment over with, and save the real watching for another day.  But I did something I just about never do, and that's watch the trailer first.  Oh my.  Pan and scan version, but it looked good and it sucked me right in.  Started the movie, and was so blown away by the clarity and film-like look of the image that I watched straight through to the end.


That first subtitle showing up early is just bad, no way around it, and I'm glad it gets over with, uh, first.  But the timing of those was such a crucial component of the humor, that we undeniably are still stuck with a brilliant sequence made less sublime by subtitles that should be waiting for each spoken line to begin.  I don't mind them being in yellow, but the white always worked perfectly so WHY change it?  And why the reduction in size?  This was more immediately noticeable to me than the color change.


Oddly, I noticed a subtle audio sync problem right off the bat in Woody's opening monologue, but there were only a couple of other moments in the film where I detected it being off slightly, and only for a moment.  This might indeed be a player issue, but what is there about one particular disc that causes different viewers with various players to all note something amiss?


All in all, what a treat, and what a beautiful trip down memory lane.  I love the transfer, with the exception of the subtitle botch, and I had to wonder if the film looked any better than this when I saw it opening week at the Regent or Plaza or whichever Westwood theater it might have been.




#18 of 43 OFFLINE   Tim Gerdes

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Posted February 03 2012 - 04:45 AM

That first subtitle showing up early is just bad, no way around it, and I'm glad it gets over with, uh, first.  But the timing of those was such a crucial component of the humor, that we undeniably are still stuck with a brilliant sequence made less sublime by subtitles that should be waiting for each spoken line to begin.  I don't mind them being in yellow, but the white always worked perfectly so WHY change it?  And why the reduction in size?  This was more immediately noticeable to me than the color change. Oddly, I noticed a subtle audio sync problem right off the bat in Woody's opening monologue, but there were only a couple of other moments in the film where I detected it being off slightly, and only for a moment.  This might indeed be a player issue, but what is there about one particular disc that causes different viewers with various players to all note something amiss?

The timing of the first subtitle is bad, and essentially ruins the joke for yet another iteration of home video. The color and size didn't bother me at all though. In general I didn't observe any syncing issues, though I did notice that during the subtitled scene, the film seemed unnaturally sped-up or jumpy. Not sure exactly what I was seeing but something beyond the early subtitle seemed "off" here, almost as if someone was fast forwarding the video very slightly. Otherwise though, Annie Hall does look amazing. I just wish this release were perfect, rather than merely great.

#19 of 43 OFFLINE   theonemacduff

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Posted February 04 2012 - 11:04 AM

The other day I was watching a minor Allen (Anything Else) with a friend whose English skills require subtitles, and a lot of the punchlines were ruined because the subtitles delivered them too early. In other scenes, the patter was so fast, the subtitles were always a second or so behind, so clearly, watching with the subtitles on is not the best way to watch the Woodster. I gotta say though, I really enjoyed Anything Else, even admitting that it's nowhere near as good as Annie Hall or Manhattan. Both of those, btw, I managed to pick up at a local WalMart for about $15 bucks each. Since I live and shop in Canada, this was an unlooked for bonus – as were the copies of Notorious, Rebecca and Spellbound available at the same price. All these were US versions, too, with no Francais on the packaging.

#20 of 43 OFFLINE   Jesse Skeen

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Posted February 04 2012 - 05:43 PM

It REALLY annoys me when they do stuff like this- if they had just used a print with the original subtitles, there would be no problem. I keep reading how older movies haven't been selling on Blu-Ray, but THIS is one reason why! (Bet this doesn't have the original United Artists opening either.)
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