Sunday, February 12, 2017

Theatrical Review: 50 Shades Darker

Image result for 50 shades darker
Date: Saturday February 11 2017
Time: 1:30pm
Party: 2 (my mom and I)
Director: James Foley (I looked it up and he is the same James Foley who almost directed purple rain- he turned it down and suggested Al Magnoli who went on to do an amazing job with it)
Writers: EL James (novel), Niall Leonard (screenplay) (fun fact: they're married! mind=blown)
Composer: Danny Elfman
Anastasia Steele- Dakota Johnson
Christian Grey- Jamie Dornan
Jack Hyde- Eric Johnson
Elena Lincoln (aka Mrs. Robinson)- Kim Basinger
Leila- Bella Heathcote (Victora in Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows")
Elliot Grey- Luke Grimes
Mia Grey- Rita Ora
Taylor- Mark Martini
Jose- Victor Rasuk
Kate Kavanaugh- Eloise Mumford
Dr. Grace Gray- Marcia Gay Harden
Duration: 118 minutes (+3 trailers)

my review of the original movie for those who are interested... then maybe you'll get an idea of what kind of review is about to follow
Opening comments 
I still can't believe how excited I was about this movie and waited 2 years practically counting the days for it. It seriously has to be the guiltiest guilty pleasure ever for me. I should not like it as much as I do.
Of the books it was my favorite in the trilogy just because Christian wasn't as daunting and abusive although he still had his typical control freak moments.
The theater has way more people than the first one did. (A good metaphor for the crowd size: think of it like the mathelete championship in "Mean Girls"). At least 3 couples in their mid to late 20s maybe older. I said last time there was only 2 other people in the theater and they wouldn't have been there if they had anything better to do cuz they weren't terribly into it. [I think both days were particularly rainy ones].
The more I watched the movie and it was maybe 3-4 times since (still need to get the DVD back from my aunt- don't know if she even saw it yet- I'd seen it once or twice on HBO for the heck of it) I disliked Christian more. But I still liked it for some odd reason. And of course it gave me 2 great songs. "Love me like you do" especially. I'm using it in my latest figure skating montage. Not because I have those strong romantic feelings for the skater in question but because his skating fits the timing of the music so well- I couldn't not do it. (Hopefully will post it to YouTube soon).
It's kinda lame when they show the same trailers for movies a couple trips in a row. Saw "Julieta" (I tried to look it up online and couldn't find it... but I found out I was googling the wrong name... the lesbian relationship is the daughter and her friend and she's estranged with her mother because she's afraid her sexuality led to her father's death- like God was punishing her)..
Then "love and friendship"(which is based on a Jane Austen novel and looks like a fun thing to get on DVD for a rainy day- when/if it hits DVD it just said coming soon).
Then there was "Amityville Awakening"- why the hell do they have to keep making these movies? And why is this in 50 shades? Is this movie so genre-less and random that they don't know what to lump in with it?

Ok moving on...
The Main Event 
(I see a patten developing- I might keep doing that heading for my movie reviews).
So the movie picks up exactly where the book said it would- we have a Christian Grey flashback and we catch up with Anastasia Steele 5 days or so after she ran out of the red room. She's got her life together with a brand new job in the publishing industry. Things are good but she does seem kinda miserable at times- for only one conceivable (although not necessarily believable) reason. 
Christian shows up at her friend Jose's photography show and asks to "renegotiate terms." And much of the movie is about that. Anastasia and Christian figuring out their relationship and what they're willing to give the other.
Add in a few chance encounters with Mrs. Robinson, Anastasia's boss Jack Hyde and Christian's ex submissive Leila stalking her and just about anything can happen.

Book to Movie Adaptation I'll add this in briefly (I actually wrote most of this post on my iPhone because I didn't want to be stuck behind a computer screen yesterday).
Again, another really good book-to-movie adaptation. But anything that erases Anastasia's "inner goddess" monologue is a huge plus in my book (I think this was the book that combined gymnastics and figure skating terms in one metaphor... just no!).
The storyline follows just about the same way. But obviously there's a scene or two that Anastasia isn't physically in that helps bring more to the story. One of which I was very skeptical about in the book and seeing the visual made me believe it actually happened.

Then after posting this, I forgot a couple things I wanted to address.

First, there's a certain sex toy that comes into play in the movie. One that Anastasia was a fan of... but the discrepancy is that in the movie, she was seeing them for the first time. Whereas in the books, they were first introduced to her in the first book and they make a comeback going to the masquerade ball and she's eager to use them again. [A couple silver balls connected by a chain that- to quote the movie- "don't go up your butt"].

And at the final scene where there's another huge party (this time for Christian's birthday), Kate somehow finds the original contract about Christian's "master & servant" arrangement and Anastasia talks her out of confronting him about it.

That was actually a great touch in the book because it seems like Christian has so much control over Anastasia, isolating her from everyone else in her life. And he was finally going to be held accountable. In the movie, Kate and Elliot spent most of the time away on vacation and communicating via Skype. Almost like Christian had Elliot frisk Kate away on this trip so he could have time alone with Anastasia to get her back... but he left out the part that she broke up with him.
Yeah, that second party was already crazy enough with that all-too brief Mrs. Robinson/Dr. Gray cat fight. [Also kinda funny in an odd way how Kate is so fixated on Anastasia losing her virginity in the first movie yet here she's only concerned that she's happy]

Other commentary

For starters the movie was better than the first one. There's the same amount of sex scenes (counting the ones fully fleshed out- yeah that innuendo was impossible to avoid- if you add the scenes where they're making out and in the next they're in bed covered up with blankets then it's twice the amount of the original). 
I mean I'm still a virgin and nothing has really changed between this movie and the last one from a maturity perspective. But at the same time- the sex scenes were very vanilla for the most part- so they weren't as intimidating as the last movie- but they were actually kinda boring because the first two were in the same position. Going from that perspective alone though just talking sex- the one masquerade ball was the hottest. (It boggles my mind how people can go somewhere during a party, hook up and return to the party. It seems exhausting. I wouldn't have the confidence, let alone the stamina for that).
Sex aside... I spent the first 10 minutes of the movie on edge about Christian coming back into Anastasia's life and if she'd be able to handle him. The first few times they were alone together I'm thinking "don't have sex with him"- because that would be okaying him to have his way with her again and just erasing her free will cuz she can't help herself around him. But I give her credit for not compromising right away and even though she did give him some free passes, she at least made him work for it. She also had some good burns on him. One went like "you can't use sex to solve this" (got a laugh from the audience- cuz that's kinda their relationship) and after he tried to take her the same salon he took all his past submissives to and he tried to explain how she's different than the others she says something "yeah I'm so special you tried to take me to the same salon as your other submissives."
As for the other characters, they certainly made things interesting. Like Mrs. Robinson- she's so cordial with everyone else but when she's alone with Anastasia she's such a bitch- putting the idea in her head that she can't give him everything he needs and she isn't good enough. Easy to say for someone who took advantage of him as a teenager and turned him into the sex freak he became. (Yeah it is kinda impossible to review this movie without taking about sex- even in general terms cuz it is the plot and character development).
I cheered at the end of the movie when Christian's mom bitch slapped her when she overhears a certain conversation.
Taking a moment aside from the new characters it was great seeing more of Marcia Gay Harden in this. Since the release of the first movie, "Code Black" has kinda made her a fixture in our house and it brought a sense of comfort. Especially during a scene late in the movie where there's a family crisis.
Rita Ora also gets a little extra screen time as Mia. But I didn't really feel a connection to her cuz the blonde hair was such a random aesthetic change. She was at the masquerade ball and I thought she was Anastasia's friend Kate. Same exact hairstyle. She's not nearly as fun to be around as Alice (the "Twilight" character she's supposedly based on).
Jack Hyde I liked at first. Seemed like a good guy who was very open to Anastasia's opinions. But when he finds about her and Christian, it gets intense. Anastasia taking care of him was another "hell yeah" moment but a bunch of us just said "oh!!" when she did what she did. (Nothing excessive- just enough to get away- in the book she said her mom's 2nd husband taught her special defense... maybe moves she should have maybe used on Christian but won't).
Then Leila- her storyline was just sad and kinda intense- how it all is developed and resolves. I just found it weird we see her stalking for several moments early in the movie and she disappears until we completely forget about her and there's a dramatic confrontation.
My opinion on Jamie Doran hasn't really changed. I'm less intimidated but I'm still not head over heels. With Christian Grey, it's kinda hard to be. (There's a moment coming up in the last movie that I'm not looking forward to because in the book he was so loathsome I wanted to beat the shit out of him).
Dakota Johnson is still great. If she wasn't, I wouldn't be as engaged in these movies as I am. I go through the events of the plot through her. Although once or twice there was slight disconnect. There was one point in the movie I was actually bored but it lasted all of 10 seconds. (And no- it wasn't a sex scene that fixed that- I think it came either before the confrontation or the crisis).
Music and directing

It was a little grittier at points with the change in directing, but it wasn't distinct enough for me to say much more with this script. (If "Purple Rain" had him directing with Vanity still playing the love interest- it'd be a little more intense. It'd be interesting if both versions of that movie actually existed so I could compare them- but I also hadn't watched the one and only version since Prince died so it's a moot point). 
Danny Elfman did the score but it's kinda hard to pick that out when it's not in a Tim Burton movie.
I'm doing the music subheading because of the Zayn/Taylor Swift duet that's been on the radio for a month. It appears in the scene where Anastasia and Christian are on the sailboat. And also the end credits. I didn't really love the song but it grew me when I found it at home- the movie it was created for. It was because of it that I saw a post credits preview of the next movie- which will be out next year. I heard they were filmed back to back but didn't think it'd be that soon. I had to wait 2 years for this one. And it was definitely worth the wait.

Grade: A-
(I had an A yesterday on my iPhone and changed it to A-. I thought a bit about how one or two moments were unintentionally funny and a movie like this, you can't really rate too high. But dammit, we had fun with it for what it was. I gave the original a B+.)

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