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Fifty Shades Darker



Guess whose back? Yes after the huge hit that was Fifty Shades of Grey we now have the sequel with a third movie coming out next year. But can Fifty Shades Darker set pulses racing?

The plot (if you can call it that) sees Ana (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) reunite as Christian says he wants to try a ‘normal’ relationship. But obstacles involving a previous submissive (Bella Heathcote) and Christian’s former dominant Elena (Kim Basinger) who is also his mum’s best friend (you know your usual relationship problems).

It’s a shame Sam Taylor-Johnson left the series as she managed to turn Fifty Shades of Grey into something watchable. Considering the film is meant to be about passion and excitement it’s unfortunate the end result can be boring for long periods. There is no real plot. Anna and Christian argue, have sex, add a few antagonists and repeat.The film is just too long for such a flimsy plot.

There is also the same issue which plagued the first movie in that Jamie Dornan is sexy, Christian Grey is not. Stalking is not sexy! It’s like the only way they could think of making Christian look like the bad guy is by making her boss even worse. Just when you think he can’t get any creepy you then realize that Christian has relationships with submissive that look exactly like his mother. Please someone get him some therapy!

Once again Dakota Johnson shines above the material she’s given, bringing strength and a backbone to the otherwise docile Anna. Her chemistry with Dornan still works which helps keep a bit of investment in the relationship and see why Anna is drawn to Christian. She’s the saving grace of this franchise but it’s not enough to make this film sizzle as it should.

Rating 2/5 – a disappointing sequel but Johnson still stands out above the dross

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How to be Single

How to be Single Poster

Based on the best-selling book by Liz Tuccillo (the co-author of the self-help book turn movie) He’s Just Not That Into You) How To Be Single feature a post Fifty Shades Dakota Johnson and post Pitch Perfect Revel Wilson. But can they bring the box office success if their previous films to this rom-com?

College graduate Alice (Johnson) is taking a break from her boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) to move to New York City. There she meets Robin (Wilson) who teaches her the ways of being single. Meanwhile Alice’s sister Meg (Leslie Mann) contemplates having a baby and dating a younger man Ken (Jake Lacy). Then there’s also determined singleton Lucy (Alison Brie) who’s scouring various internet dating sites for Mr. Right.

It’s not going to break the mold of rom com’s or even box office records but How To Be Single does have enough charm and humor to find an audience. Johnson makes a likeable enough lead although she doesn’t sparkle as much as she did in edgier fare such as A Bigger Slash. My interest in her romantic storylines did sag in the middle. More successful is Alice’s interactions with best buds Robin. Wilson’s Robin is essentially an even rudder Fat Amy. But even though it’s basically the same role as the one that made her famous Wilson still nails it.

I probably found Meg’s storyline the most satisfying as it had the right amount screen time to develop her character with her quest to become a mother and her cute fledging romance with Ken. I felt Brie was underused as Lucy, who was not a greatly developed character. But Brie still manages to make her scenes amusing especially with hot barman Tom (Anders Holms) on the scene. At times it even seems Tom is more of a main character than Lucy.

Sometimes the film can’t decide if it wants to subvert the rom com clichés or embrace them leaving a mixed end result all round. But it’s still a fun, girlie movie and a perfect antidote to all the macho movies of late.
Rating 3.5/5 – an amusing movie with a likeable cast


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A Bigger Splash


I’ve been complaining recently in some of my posts that I’m sick of movies featuring winter and snow. So thank the lord for A Bigger Splash which is set in summertime Italy. But will the warmer setting be the only bright spot?

Rock star Marianne (Tilda Swinton) and her lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) are enjoying a holiday in Italy as Marianne recovers from surgery on her throat. However their quiet holiday is thrown into chaos when an old friend (and ex lover of Marianne) Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) arrive unexpectedly.

I was worried that this movie would be a pretentious story about rich people on holiday moaning, however this feeling was largely subsided as the film started. I found the dynamics of the four characters really interesting as the various relationship develops while resentment and conflicts deepens.

Throughout the movie your eyes are completely drawn to Finnes, no matter what else is going on in the scenes. His Harry is a whirwind of energy and is a mixture of the best holiday companion and the worst. Finnes physicality is great, the scenes of Harry dancing about to music is one of the best scenes of the film-even though it’s simple, it just sets up his character so much. His love for music and how he’s a whirlwind of desire and passion. Swinton is also mesmarising, able to convey her emotions even though her character can barely speak above a whispher. Johnson is also impressive as the sensual Penelope. I found her to be the most intreaging character as I was never quite sure what she was thinking or what her motives were. Schoenaerts’ Paul is the weakest of the four and the least interetsing. But the four work well together in their different dynamics.

The film works best when the story is simple and the scenes are just of the characters conversing with underlying tension. As the movie tries to force the plot and add a dramatic moment the film becomes less engaging in it’s final act.

Rating 3.5/5 – a finely crafted drama-thriller that loses it’s way in the last third of the movie


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50 Shades of Grey

The world has gone crazy for 50 Shades of Grey. Whether you love it or hate it everyone seems to have an opinion on it. Now the craze is at fever pitch following the release of the movie version by director Sam Taylor-Johnson. But was it worth the wait to the big screen or just an anti-climax?

When college graduate Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) interviews the handsome, wealthy, businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) there is an immediate attraction. However Christian is not one for a conventional relationship and prefers to be in a dominant/submissive relationship. Despite both their misgivings Ana and Christian cannot stay away from each other and have passionate sex together, but can they be together if Christian is so intent on not having a normal relationship?

I read the first 50 Shades book when it came out and while it was an easy enough read to pass the time I did not continue reading the trilogy due to the annoying characters and the bad writing of the novels. I was interested in how the book would be made into a film considering it’s just Twilight fan fiction with added sex (and less sparkly vampires). In my opinion Sam Taylor-Johnson has done the best she could with the source material. Yes she has cut down the sex scenes which has annoyed the author E.L James as well as some fans but that doesn’t really come as a surprise. If you’re hiring a serious and accomplished director like Taylor-Johnson she wasn’t going to made a porn movie, and besides the film was long enough as it is without any more sex scenes added to it.

Considering how much I hated both the characters in the book I was surprised at how much they didn’t bother me in the film. This is partly due to the script which wisely cuts out Ana’s inner monologues with any mention of her inner goddess completely vanished, and they’ve reduced the amount of times Christian calls Ana ‘baby’ which was endlessly creepy and unsexy even if it was meant ironically. His stalker tendencies are also played down which is a relief as this annoyed me no end in the book (stalking is not sexy people!). The casting has also been a big help. Dakota Johnson managed the impossible in making whiney, weak Ana into an actual likeable person. She’s the best thing in this movie and they were lucky to find her. Dornan looks good and plays a damaged character well but he was better as a serial killer in the BBC drama The Fall. The two actors have just enough chemistry to keep you watching the movie.

Still this was never going to be the most critically acclaimed movie of the year and 50 Shades has its issues. It isn’t the best plot in the world. It’s a bit boring in places, and the film feels repetitive. And Christian still seems creepy and obsessive even if he is played by the lovely Jamie Dornan. After it was over I couldn’t say I’m in any rush to see the next movie.

Rating 3/5 – it won’t please everyone, but an accomplished director and likeable cast prevents this movie from being a disaster


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Fifty Shades of Who?

Love it or hate it the Fifty Shades of Grey books have captured the public’s interest and now a movie is on the way its only going to get bigger. Now that they’ve cast the lead actors we’re getting ever close to its arrival on the big screen next year. So who has been cast in the lead roles?

Not surprisingly there’s no A-list stars lined up (I’m sure most would consider it to be career suicide). Playing the role of Christian Grey is British actor Charlie Hunnam, perhaps the most well-known of the two due to his work in tv series Queer as Folk and Sons of Anarchy and the film Pacific Rim. The film’s protagonist Anastasia Steele is to be played by Dakota Johnson who had a supporting role in The Social Network and is the daughter of Miami Vice star Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith.  Going for relatively unknown actors is probably a smart move  (although I’m sure it wasn’t intentional) as they come with no previous expectations, even though I expect some fans will be unhappy that  they don’t look how they imagine the characters to be.

However for me the issue was never really about who they cast in the roles (although Matt Bomer or Ian Somerhalder might have persuaded me to see this movie). The main problem the film has is getting the script right. Fifty Shades of Grey can be a shocking read at times-and not for the reason it hopes. There are some pieces of dialogue so bad its funny, and I can’t imagine the actors saying some of these lines with a straight face. If director Sam Taylor-Wood has any hope of this film being a success someone will need to fine tune that script to perfection. No mention of Ana’s bloody inner goddess!

Some change to the characters would also be welcomed. Ana is such an annoyingly weak character she needs to be more well-rounded and not such a pushover. As for Grey-well I’m not sure how they can make stalking seem romantic but then it seemed to work for Twilight so what do I know.

Despite myself I can’t help but be interested to see how this film turns out. Will it be a surprisingly good adaptation or the biggest flop of 2014? I guess we’ll find out this time next year.

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