The Tempest — Shakespeare’s turbulent Prospero, a wizard in exile, gets a sex change and makes the story a vehicle for the formidable Helen Mirren (as Prospera). Julie Taymor’s imaginative adaptation of the one of the bard's most magical plays is full of sound and fury, but when Mirren isn't on-screen, it's mostly plodding. Mirren's scenes with androgynous Ben Whishaw (as the sprite Ariel) are, well, sprightly, but Russell Brand, Djimon Hounsou, and the rest of the cast seem lost at sea.
The Tourist — Both Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp look gorgeous, but neither can compete with the beauty of Venice's Grand Canal. The superstars surprisingly fail to spark much heat in this romantic escapade, an unsatisfying English-language remake of a 2005 French film. What seems like an homage to Hitchcock's still-spellbinding North by Northwest is undone by the deadly pacing.
ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits (Special Edition), ABBA — Mamma mia, here we go again. But my, my, how can you resist this new deluxe package celebrating Sweden’s biggest pop sensation? All newly remastered, the 19 classics of the ABBA Gold CD are now married to a DVD of the accompanying videos, which were mostly directed by Lasse Hallström of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Chocolat fame. Bonus features include a rare cartoon version of “Money, Money, Money.”
“A Little Respect,” Erasure — In response to gay bullying and related suicides, the British synth-pop icons have released an inspiring new version of their top 5 1988 hit — and gay anthem — “A Little Respect,” recorded with youth chorus students from the Harvey Milk School. Proceeds from the single benefit Hetrick-Martin Institute and True Colors Fund. A new video (below) for the song features out lead singer Andy Bell, plus cameos by Michael Musto and Bebe Zahara Benet.
Michael, Michael Jackson — Are they really his vocals? Is the release of unfinished material disrespectful to his memory? Will you still buy this first posthumous album of new songs? Highlights include first single “Hold My Hand,” a duet with Akon about friendship and unity written with Whitney Houston in mind, and two tracks penned during the Thriller era. Overlook 50 Cent’s cameo and groove to Lenny Kravitz on “(I Can’t Make It) Another Day.”
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work — As is evident from the opening close-up of the 77-year-old comic's face without makeup, directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg were given unlimited access to the groundbreaking comedian. Their documentary offers fans a warts-and-all peek into her life, revealing an unexpectedly poignant figure.
Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement — Last year's acclaimed documentary follows a feisty lesbian couple from their early years together in the '60s until they were finally allowed to marry in Toronto in 2007. Thea's death from MS, which left Edie with a massive debt in estate taxes, has made headlines and makes the heartfelt documentary resonate even more.
A Christmas Story: The Musical! — You’ll shoot your eye out if you’re near Seattle and miss this sweet stage adaptation of the beloved 1940s-set holiday classic — based on the stories of radio humorist Jean Shepherd — at the 5th Avenue Theatre, a pre-Broadway stop for hit shows like Hairspray and Shrek. Clarke Hallum couldn’t be cuter as Ralphie Parker, a bullied misfit who wants a BB gun from Santa. And Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie in the 1983 movie, is a producer!
The Graduate — Here’s to you again, Mrs. Robinson! Yes, L.A. Theatre Works is trying to seduce you with this one-weekend presentation at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Terry Johnson’s stage adaptation of the coming-of-age novel and film stars Brothers & Sisters cutie Matthew Rhys and Serial Mom’s Kathleen Turner, who reprise the iconic roles — innocent Benjamin Braddock and lecherous Mrs. Robinson — that they created in London’s West End in 2000.
Sunset Boulevard — An exciting new environmental staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony-winning showbiz musical noir, based on Billy Wilder’s 1950 film classic, is ready for its close-up at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va. Director Eric Schaeffer has transformed the entire space to look like a Paramount Studios backlot, and the divine Florence Lacey, best known as the last Eva Peron in Broadway’s Evita, takes on tragically faded actress Norma Desmond. Lindsay who?