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TOUCHSTONE

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Julie Taymor
Cast:
Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Alan Cumming , Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounsou, Felicity Jones
Writing Credits:
Julie Taymor, William Shakespeare (play)

Synopsis:
This modern retelling of William Shakespeare's final masterpiece is an exciting, mystical and magical fantasy with Academy Award(R)-winner Helen Mirren leading a star-studded cast including Russell Brand and Alfred Molina. Exiled to a magical island, the sorceress Prospera (Mirren) conjures up a storm that shipwrecks her enemies, and then unleashes her powers for revenge. Directed by the visionary Julie Taymor - and complete with exclusive bonus features and an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design (Sandy Powell, 2010) - The Tempest, with its innovative twist, is a supernatural dramedy filled with Shakespearian villains, lovers and fools that will leave you spellbound.

Box Office:
Budget
$20 million.
Opening Weekend
$42.436 thousand on 5 screens.
Domestic Gross
$261.916 thousand.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Portuguese
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Portuguese
Spanish

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 9/13/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Julie Taymor
• Audio Commentary with Shakespeare Experts Virginia Vaughn and Jonathan Bate
• “Raising The Tempest” Documentary
• “Russell Brand Rehearsal Riff”
• “Julie and Cast: Inside the LA Rehearsals” Featurette
• Music Video
• Sneak Peeks


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Tempest [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 23, 2011)

Best known as a stage director, Julie Taymor leapt to the big screen with 1999’s Titus. I liked that flick, so I felt curious to see what Taymor would do with another adaptation of a Shakespeare play: The Tempest.

Prospera (Helen Mirren) once enjoyed a life of power and prestige. However, her brother Antonio (Chris Cooper) betrayed her, and she ended up exiled on a remote island with her daughter Miranda. We find Prospera and Miranda (Felicity Jones) 12 years later as they eke out an isolated existence.

Prospera possesses strong skills as a sorceress, and with the help of a spirit named Ariel (Ben Whishaw), she uses those powers to create storms in the sea. One of these causes a shipwreck that lands her enemies – including Antonio and Alonso (David Straithairn), the king of Naples – to her island. She plans to exact her revenge and return to her proper place and position.

After hundreds of years, it becomes hard for someone to do something different with Shakespeare. I admire Taymor’s attempts to spice up old Will’s work, and as I mentioned earlier, I thought she succeeded with Titus.

Lightning doesn’t strike twice with Tempest, though, as Taymor seems much too taken with visual techniques and not interested enough in telling the actual story. This tends to be a very busy film, as it just never lets up. Taymor batters us with constant – and aggressive – music as well as various visual gimmicks and effects.

I guess Taymor feels these efforts add creativity and a visceral quality to the film, but they don’t. Instead, these elements simply come across as – forgive me – much ado about nothing. The techniques serve to distract from the story and add little in return.

Perhaps Taymor felt the need to do so because she couldn’t figure out a compelling way to tell the tale. Put bluntly, the film’s a narrative mess. It jumps from character to character without much coherence, and it just never feels like it goes anywhere. The flick plods along and occasionally hints at drama – the story possesses great potential intrigue – but it never delivers anything to satisfy.

Somehow I doubt the original play was ever quite so sluggish. I’m not sure how a movie with revenge plots and magic and romance and comedy can seem quite so inert, but Taymor manages to neuter it. We spend 111 minutes with the characters but never get much to engage us in this dull, uninspiring take on The Tempest.


The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

The Tempest appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though not amazing, the transfer was usually quite good.

Sharpness seemed nice most of the time. A few shots came across as a little soft, though those tended to be influenced by visual effects; the only noticeable softness emerged in effects-heavy scenes. Otherwise, the film boasted good clarity and definition. I saw no signs of edge haloes, and the image lacked shimmering or jaggies. Print flaws also failed to mar the presentation.

Colors tended to be stylized, and they varied a lot throughout the film. All of them satisfied, though, as the Blu-ray exhibited the different hues in a compelling manner. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows seemed clear and well-depicted. Only the mild softness kept this from “A”-level consideration.

I also felt pleased with the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. For the most part, the soundscape remained pretty low-key, as the dialogue-heavy movie didn’t need a lot of auditory shenanigans. However, it came to life on more than a few occasions, such as during the violent titular storm; these used the five channels well and added pizzazz to an otherwise largely atmospheric presentation.

Audio quality was usually fine, though speech could be a minor weak link. While most of the dialogue seemed concise and natural, some lines appeared a little rough. Music was vivid and dynamic, and effects showed good range and punch. This was a satisfying track worth a “B”.

We get a pretty solid roster of extras here. These open with two separate audio commentaries, the first of which comes from director Julie Taymor. She delivers a running, screen-specific discussion of story and adaptation issues, cast and performances, visual design and various effects, music, sets and locations, costumes and a few other topics.

Taymor provides an energetic and involving commentary. She rarely lets up as she covers all appropriate aspects of her film. I especially like her notes about changes from the original text and other ways she made the story her own. This becomes a lively and useful chat.

For the second commentary, we hear from Shakespeare experts Virginia Vaughn and Jonathan Bate. Both recorded separate running, screen-specific pieces that were edited together in a pretty seamless way; it sounds like they’re together but they’re not. They look at the original text and changes made for the movie, the play’s social and historical contexts, ways the productions have evolved over the centuries, story, characters and themes, and interpretation.

Vaughn and Bate deliver a good examination of Shakespeare and his work. This proves to be especially valuable given the clunkiness of the Taymor adaptation; the experts help fill in many dots found in the film. We find a good evaluation of different Shakespearean topics in this tight, informative piece.

Entitled Raising The Tempest, a documentary goes for one hour, six minutes and six seconds. It provides notes from Taymor, production designer Mark Friedberg, producer Lynn Hendee, TalkStory Productions’ Jason K. Lau, executive producer Ron Bozman, composer Elliott Goldenthal, costume designer Sandy Powell, makeup artist Richard Redlefsen, and actors Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, Alfred Molina, Alan Cumming, Tom Conti, Russell Brand, Djimon Hounsou, David Strathairn and Reeve Carney. “Raising” covers aspects of the story and characters and adaptation, Taymor’s experience with Shakespeare and her path to Tempest, shooting in Hawaii, sets and various effects, cast and performances, music, makeup and costumes, and a few other production areas.

After two commentaries, there aren’t a whole lot of stones left to unturn, but “Raising” still brings us an enjoyable documentary. It’s good to get the additional perspectives, and we find quite a lot of useful behind the scenes footage. “Raising” works as a brisk and interesting piece.

Some unused footage shows up underRussell Brand Rehearsal Riff. It runs four minutes, 32 seconds and shows a comedic improv that Brand presents about his character. Brand comes across as a force of nature in this over the top but amusing rant.

Julie and Cast: Inside the LA Rehearsals lasts 13 minutes, 34 seconds. Shot October 17, 2008, it features Taymor with actors Housou, Brand and Molina as they go through a scene. I like this kind of “fly on the wall” footage, so this piece becomes a lot of fun to see.

Finally, we get a Music Video for “O Mistress Mine” by Reeve Carney. The clip fills three minutes, 22 seconds with moody footage of the actor/singer as he lip-syncs the turgid tune. No thanks.

The disc opens with ads for John Carter, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and DisneyNature; African Cats. These also appear under Sneak Peeks along with previews for various ABC TV series. No trailer for Tempest pops up here.

Although Julie Taymor did a nice job with Titus in 1999, her 2010 take on The Tempest is dead on arrival. She imbues the story with lots of effects and loud music but she forgets to deliver an involving narrative in this dull rendition. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture, reasonably solid audio and a strong set of supplements. I feel pleased with the Blu-ray but the movie itself disappoints.

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