’50 Shades Darker’ Review

It’s not a popular opinion to have, but I’ll say it: I “liked” ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Not as in a genuine enjoyment or giving it a place in any cinematic “best of” list, but as a guilty pleasure with more emphasis on the “pleasure.” Two Valentine’s ago, intrigued enough by the marketing and the whole controversial phenomenon, I decided to give Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of E.L. James’ infamous “contribution to literature” a fair shot and found more to admire than to write off (and this is coming from someone who gave up on the book after almost seventy pages because of the infuriating blank slate, aside from literary stereotypes, series protagonist Anastasia Steele comes off as). Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel deserve actual credit for taking the ludicrous brunt of James’ writing out, keeping the story to a bare minimum and transforming what is probably the most unneeded and unnecessary book series in modern history and transformed it into a very handsomely designed and decently acted film that never felt bogged down by genuine seriousness.

But it’s been two years since ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and the second film – ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ – has arrived to leave its own mark on the romance genre, the kinky erotica sub-genre and many a couple’s Valentine’s Day tonight. And it is a time where the “woman’s touch” was sorely needed as “Darker”, now under the direction of James Foley (“Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Perfect Strangers”) and screenwriter Niall Leonard (whose connection to E.L. James, I’m sure, was of no consequence whatsoever in getting the job) slowly turned into everything I was worried ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ would turn into, something the original was never in real danger of “hitting”.

It’s less than a month after Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and her perverse Mr. Rochester (Jamie Dornan) end their peculiar affair and a reunion comes almost instantaneously, with Christian “cornering” her at an art gallery (those who love to accuse Mr. Grey of being a stalker and the poster child for gas lighting and emotional abuse will certainly get their fill from just their first scene together) that, unbeknownst to her, is practically a love letter to her (because these stories always indicate anyone male will harbor some form of attraction for the female hero) and, also almost immediately, Ana and Christian decide to resume their relationship, but still on her terms, a notion that’s positively alien to Christian. But, as the old saying goes, he’s willing to give vanilla the old college try because that’s the kind of effect she has on him. And as the tropes of any romantic story proves, there’s an outside force that threatens to put the rekindled relationship exactly where it was before. This outside force comes in three distinct flavors: Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Ana’s boss who makes his desires for his secretary evident early on, as does his insistence that he not be ignored, Leila (Bella Heathcote), one of Christian’s former submissives (the emotionally fractured variety of submissive) who spends the entire movie perfecting her “stalker ex” routine past Lifetime standards and, of course, Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger), the infamous “Mrs. Robinson” who introduced Christian to his “singular tastes” and views anything – or especially anyone – that upends her former lover’s lust and emotional instability as a threat to be extinguished quickly.

To start off, let’s discuss Niall Leonard, screenwriter and, as previously mentioned, original novelist E.L. James’ husband. His screenplay comes off as more earnest in its depiction of his wife’s idea of forbidden relationships and the struggle of a plain Jane taming the soul of her emotionally wounded lover, unlike Kelly Marcel’s adaptation of the first book, which walked a line where being earnest was slight and being self-aware was godlike. And because of the earnest feeling, it’s easier to recognize the absolute ludicrousness of Ms. James’ base ideas. The sincerity is funny. Side-splitting, even, in ways legitimate comedies should take notes on. And James Foley as director tried his damndest, but, as backed up by his earlier film ‘Perfect Stranger’, the tawdry thriller is not a genre that suits his directorial flourishes.

The ‘Fifty Shades’ series will ultimately prove to be a testament to Dakota Johnson’s abilities as a comedienne and actress. Anastasia Steele is a character who shouldn’t work under any circumstance, but Johnson has managed in both films to ferret out several personality traits and nuances that make her transition from virginal student to wanton sex goddess (not the infamous “inner goddess” that was rightfully removed from the previous film) to emotionally fulfilled and controlled adult feel “real” and “relatable.” Jamie Dornan, on the other hand, still seems to hold a slippery grasp of Mr. Grey. The work in this film seemed more authentic than what he had to work with last time (which is crucial when remembering this is the story where we really go into what makes him tick) and he never fails to thrill his intended audience when down to just his birthday suit, but there’s still an uncertainty in his chemistry with Ms. Johnson that sells the legitimacy of Ana and Christian’s romance short. But they still have one more film ahead.

Other returning cast members are little more than service and window dressing that serve more as a reminder of the work they’re capable of, including the little moments with Marcia Gay Harden as Grey’s adopted mother. What is said isn’t meant to be a slight against Ms. Harden, but her appearance in these films is the kind of performance that can be done in sleepwalking. The three biggest additions to the cast don’t fare much better, either, which is actually “impressive” when you consider who’s involved. I haven’t read the original novel, but one would presume if you cast an actress of Kim Basinger’s talent and magnitude as such a critical figure in Christian Grey’s past (let’s not forget, pre-‘Batman”/“L.A. Confidential’, the most iconic role of her career was the art gallery owner who discovers the joy and sorrow of an S&M relationship in Adrian Lyne’s “91⁄2 Weeks”), at least have her be interesting and add to the stakes of the relationship. As Elena Lincoln is done in this film, all Ms. Basinger really gets to do is just glower at the object of her disdain and pout at the object of misguided affection in a genuinely unflattering black dress and pearls.

Eric Johnson seems to always be saddled with the “always the bridesmaid” romantic interest role, as Jack Hyde comes off as a more repulsive version of the Whitney Fordham character he originated in the inaugural season of “Smallville”, albeit with a coarser mouth, as one heated moment between employer and employee escalates into unintentional comedy gold. And as the final scenes of ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ guaranteed, Mr. Johnson will be back to “up the ante,” for better or worse. Bella Heathcote feels like the addition that gets to have the most fun and interesting character (I mean, she does pull a gun on our poor heroine at an inopportune moment), but that come too late into the story to be genuinely effective, not to mention what comes before is an almost trite portrayal of psycho-obsessive love straight out of the “Fatal Attraction” guidebook. The actors, both new and old, are ultimately dictated by classic archetypes and little more.

The people behind the style of the original – Seamus McGarvey on camera, David Wasco on production design and Mark Bridges on costumes – didn’t return back to the ‘Fifty Shades’ world, either (Mr. McGarvey went on to lens Tom Ford’s ‘Nocturnal Animals’ with his previous director’s husband, Mr. Wasco is currently a frontrunner for the Production Design Oscar for Damien Chazelle’s ‘La La Land’ and Mr. Bridges is working with Paul Thomas Anderson again on his currently untitled fashion film), and their replacements – John Schwartzman on camera, Nelson Coates on production design and Shay Cunliffe on costume design – amp up the beautiful sterility of Grey’s Seattle penthouse -and sex dungeon- and even bring some color and intrigue to a masquerade ball where personalities are first destined to collide, but the luxurious feeling that came naturally before feels hollow and forced this time round. Even Danny Elfman, the one major person returning for the sequels, and the film’s soundtrack – now consisting of Taylor Swift, John Legend, Nick Jonas and Nicki Minaj, Halsey and Zayn Malik of One Direction, to name a few – lack the spark that made the original film’s musical contributions so effective. The film’s signature ballad, Swift and Malik’s “I Don’t Want to Live Forever”, is a lovely song on it’s own, but don’t expect it to have the life (or awards possibilities) of The Weeknd’s “Earned It” or Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do”.

And, of course, one cannot review a ‘Fifty Shades’ movie without getting into the nitty-gritty of its portrayal of the characters’ unique (for mainstream cinema; for anyone who’s seen recent films like Lars von Trier’s ‘Nymph()maniac’, Alain Guiraudie’s ‘Stranger by the Lake’ or Park Chan-wook’s ‘The Handmaiden’, the depiction of kink sexuality here will seem restrained, even neutered) sexual behavior. Here is a time I will say Foley manages to outshine Taylor-Johnson. Thanks to what Johnson and Dornan (the chemistry works here, so yay?) and Schwartzman’s camera work bring, the introduction of ben-wa balls (you’ll have to research those yourself) and the return to the infamous “red room” provide little moments of intrigue and flashes of genuine eroticism to get your loved one in a mood or
two.

In the end, what can ultimately be said about ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is that, like its predecessor, it’s a technically attractive film, but unlike it’s predecessor, puts more of an emphasis on the “guilty” part of “guilty pleasure” and is best saved for its inevitable journey to a discount theater near you around St. Patrick’s Day, if even that courtesy is willingly entertained. We have one more Valentine with the idiosyncratic relationship of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey coming up and a year to see if Foley and his team can allow “Fifty Shades Freed” to end on a good note or let what started out as a commendable franchise end on a whimper.

The post ’50 Shades Darker’ Review appeared first on Age of The Nerd.

Long Awaited “50 Shades of Grey” Trailer Finally Here!

50ShadesofGrey(PCM) Fans of the best selling erotic romance novel can finally rejoice; Focus Features released the first official trailer for 50 Shades of Grey earlier today and it’s the steamiest trailer I’ve seen all day. 

The trailer, which you can watch below, gives fans their first full look at Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in action.

50 Shades of Grey follows the relationship of no-nonsense business tycoon Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and the quiet and timid literature student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) as the two go from strangers to more…intimate acquaintances. 

Starring in the film are Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette), Dakota Johnson (21 Jump Street), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty), Luke Grimes (Taken 2), Victor Rasuk (Godzilla), Eloise Mumford (In the Blood), Max Martini (Pacific Rim), Rita Ora (Fast & Furious 6), Marcia Gay Harden (Into the Wild), and Callum Keith Rennie (Memento) with Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) rumored to be in the cast.

Visit the official 50 Shades of Grey website here and check out Christian Grey’s Grey Enterprise Holdings Inc. website here.

50 Shades of Grey opens in theaters nationwide on Valentine’s Day, 2015.

The post Long Awaited “50 Shades of Grey” Trailer Finally Here! also appeared on PCM Reviews.

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Beyoncé Releases “50 Shades of Grey” Trailer

(PCM) Beyoncé dropped a teaser trailer for 50 Shades of Grey on her Instagram on Saturday and the internet is freaking out.

The teaser trailer is more of an announcement for the official trailer which will be released this Thursday, 7/24.

In the meantime, you can watch the teaser trailer below, which appears to feature an a cappella version of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love.”

While it’s unclear why Beyoncé, undoubtedly one of the biggest pop/R&B artists of our time but not in the film, debuted the trailer, the move makes sense considering the BeyHive (Beyoncé’s loyal fans) consists primarily of women aged 18-55, which also happens to be the target demographic for 50 Shades of Grey.

Beyoncé is currently co-headlining with her husband and rap legend/mogul Jay-Z on their On the Run Tour, which is already seeing huge success; each show has been speculated to average $5.2 million in gross sales.

50 Shades of Grey, written by E.L. James in 2011, is the first book in the Fifty Shades trilogy, an erotic romance series that explores the relationship between a young college graduate and a young business mogul, and has already seen its more-than-fair share of success.

The series has been translated into over 52 languages and has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, making it the fastest-selling paperback of all time.

The film, which is speculated to be a box office hit, stars Jamie Dornan (Marie Anntoinette) as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson (21 Jump Street) as Anastasia Steele and is directed by Sam Teylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy).

Stay tuned for the official trailer coming out this Thursday and for 50 Shades of Grey, opening in theaters nationwide February 13, 2015.

 

The post Beyoncé Releases “50 Shades of Grey” Trailer also appeared on PCM Reviews.

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Fifty Shades Of Grey Loses Charlie Hunnam And Suffers Script Snafus

Fifty-Shades1(PCM) Things are not looking all too promising for the upcoming film adaptation of “Fifty Shades Of Grey”. First, it was recently announced that actor Charlie Hunnam, who was slated to play lead character Christian Grey in the film, has dropped the project due to his overwhelming TV filming schedule. Secondly, it has now been reported that they have brought on a new writer to fix several problems with the script.

The rumors were swirling after the sudden departure of Charlie Hunnam from the project, with many claiming that he did not like all the sudden fame and media frenzy which the project/role was attracting…in fact, rumor also has it, that actress Dakota Johnson who is set to play Anastasia Steele, is having a few issues of her own dealing with her new found attention due to the film.

The producers of the film are saying that the changes will have no effect on the planned production schedule and they still plan to begin shooting next month. No word yet on a replacement for Charlie Hunnam…however if it means anything our votes are still with either Matt Bomer or Ian Somerhalder.

Fifty Shades Of Grey Loses Charlie Hunnam And Suffers Script Snafus also appeard on Pop Culture Madness Film, Comics, Books and Reviews.

Casting For “50 Shades Of Grey” Film Adaptation Has Been Revealed!

hunnam-johnson(PCM) Finally putting all the rumors to rest, “50 Shades Of Grey” author E.L. James took to her twitter account to reveal which actor and actress will land the coveted roles of lead characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey for the film adaptation of her best-selling book series.

The film, which will be released by Focus Features on August 1, 2014 in North America, is being directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and produced by Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti alongside E L James, the author of the #1 bestselling book on which the film is based.  The screenplay is by Kelly Marcel.

The role of Anastasia will be played by actress Dakota Johnson and Christian will go to actor Charlie Hunnam. Personally, I am thrilled with this casting announcement, however many others are having mixed reaction.

Dakota Johnson is best known for her role on the short-lived sitcom “Ben & Kate” while Charlie Hunnam has had great success with his role as Jax Teller on the hit FX network series “Sons Of Anarchy”.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” follows the relationship of 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey and college student Anastasia Steele.  Subsequent novels in the series, “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed,” explore the couple’s deepening relationship.  For more information please see the official Fifty Shades of Grey Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/fiftyshadesofgreymovie.

Time to weigh in!  Let us know if you agree or disagree with the “50 Shades Of Grey” casting choices!

 

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