Who’s in it: Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, David Strathairn, Ben Wishaw
The Basics: Director Julie Taymor (Across the Universe and Titus) ups the estrogen in her retelling of Shakespeare's popular theatrical work. This means the traditionally male Prospero becomes Prospera (played by Helen Mirren and her glorious rack), and overall the whole film becomes less openly rapey than the play. Prospera is a magician who got screwed out of her position of Duchess by her jerk brother Antonio (Chris Cooper). She cooks up a wicked storm to crash his boat, forcing everyone on it to wander on land and try to kill each other in an attempt to become king. Simultaneously, Prospera's daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) and the King's son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney) fall in love and 2 drunk servants (Alfred Molina and Russell Brand) trick a monster (Djimon Hounsou) into thinking they are gods. Oh yeah…there's also an effeminate spirit (Ben Wishaw) stirring up trouble on behalf of Prospera, just like my cousin Patina at our family reunions every summer.
What's the Deal: I always felt like this play was what Gilligan's Island would have been if the Professor had been in charge of writing the script—really complicated and without the sex appeal of Ginger. But it starts with a boat crash so that's exciting, right? Right? Anyway, Taymor excels at creating visuals that are so beautiful you want to hang every frame on your wall, but content-wise this film falls really flat. The cast is spectacular but I felt like I could see them working really hard to make this good. I found the whole thing exhausting and a little disorienting, perhaps because Alan Cumming wasn't wearing something shiny.
Why I Had To Attend a Shopaholics Anonymous Meeting: The costume department did a spectacular job creating Prospera's "Hell Hath No Fury Like a Duchess Scorned" robe. The robe encased Helen Mirren like a glittering volcano. Although predominantly black, it shimmered as though it were alive. It definitely deserved its own credit in the film. And the rest of the costumes were the perfect balance of visionary and appropriate with a surprising amount of zipper use. As a result, my new year wardrobe will officially consist of head-to-toe zipper robes. Just wait, it'll be on the cover of Vogue soon.
And The Sore Thumb Award Goes To: Russell Brand! Every second he is onscreen, it feels like he is in a completely different movie. It's as if he showed up in one of his skinny-pants-and-ankle-boots outfits that Katy Perry styled for him and then did all of his lines alone on a green screen. I really like him as a performer and I want to see him succeed, but I don’t recommend him for the inevitable remake of Timon of Athens as set in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.