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The Tempest, The Change-Up, Another Earth, plus horror in a tunnel and film noir angst

Helen Mirren plays Prospera, the ousted royal into sorcery and revenge in The Tempest.

 

A late-coming Tempest by William Shakespeare, a rude comedy from The Hangover writers and a subtle but uneasy mix of sci fi and grief. They lead this week along with a bit of horror and a lot of film noir.

 

Here’s the list:

The Tempest:  3 stars

The Change-Up:  1 1/2

Another Earth:    3

Film Noirs:  3, 2 ½, 3 ½

The Tunnel:   2 1/2 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes --

 

THE TEMPEST: I think this film has suffered a bad rap. Glitter but little magic, they say. Julie Taymor has nothing new to say about Shakespeare’s last play and relies on a showy gender switch  and a lot of visual imagination, which has the effect of stunting ours. And worse, to the purists, she cuts out the much-loved final speech, the play’s epilogue.

 

I enjoyed the film—most of it--precisely because it’s not a filmed stage play. It’s a movie and it’s faithful to the Bard’s work, even with the visual flights. Ariel can pop into the picture or ooze back into the trees like the magical sprite he is. Even Taymor’s big change, switching the central character from a man, Prospero, to a woman, Prospera, is less radical than it seems. Helen Mirren plays her with just as much resentful and angry strength. Her talks with Miranda are now between mother and daughter and therefore more affecting. Her swearing off magic and sorcery is as powerful as ever.

The cast is mixed. Russell Brand, the English comic who incidentally is here to do stand-up in a couple of Vancouver-area casinos this weekend, plays the buffoon Trinculo. His Cockney accent is grating at first, but wins you over. Chris Cooper and David Strathairn are uninteresting as the brother and the king who conspired to exile Prospera. Djimon Hounsou alternately shouts or mumbles as Caliban, thereby dimming the anti-colonial theme he’s supposed to represent. (There’s a production by Robert Lepage this summer in a Quebec forest that elevates that theme). In this film, the pictures and the noise do sometimes overpower the words, on board ship in the storm for instance. But the essence of the play, the minute changes in attitude of the major characters, has no trouble coming through. (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5

THE CHANGE-UP: Why is this film playing at the Fifth Avenue? It’s one of the crudest comedies of the year and seriously weighed down by endless profanity, another escalation in the alleged humor of fecal matter (infant version, this time) and several cringe-inducing scenes somebody though might be funny. Filming a porn movie for one. Almost having sex with a very pregnant woman, for another. The director of The Wedding Crashers and the writers of both Hangover films aren’t doing their best work in this one.

Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds play best friends, a rising lawyer and a pot smoking hedonist respectively. One night, when they happen to be pissing into a city fountain, lights go off, a mysterious aura arises and they undergo one of those body switches we saw in a few movies back in the 1980s. Ryan (in Jason’s body) has to tend to two babies, a spunky wife  and a complex corporate merger at the office. Jason (inside Ryan) gets the porn, the sexually aggressive pregnant woman and temptation with a hot co-worker (Olivia Wilde) who he has secretly fantasized over. It’s a promising set up for the old grass is greener on the other side theme and the two guys do a good job of playing each other. It’s the script that fails by grasping at easy, obvious and, whenever possible, vulgar jokes. (5th Avenue, International Village, suburban theatres) 1 ½ out of 5 

ANOTHER EARTH: Extended allegories are difficult to pull off in the movies. You probably have to put a visual reality to abstract ideas and with that you’re daring us to believe what we see. In this modest film it’s a second earth that has appeared in the sky and has media voices chattering.

There may be a second version up there of everybody down here. You might get a second chance to shape your life. Is it possible to rewrite your own history?

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