Fifty Shades Freed

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+Fifty Shades Freed

Directored by: James Foley

Screenplay by: Niall Leonard

Based on the book by: E L James

Produced by: Michael de Luca, E L James, Dana Brunetti, Marcus Viscidi

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden.

If you have read any of the books in the Fifty Shades trilogy or seen either of the previous two film adaptations, chances are you will probably want to see the concluding film just out of curiosity or in order to feel complete.

Originally inspired by the Twilight saga, Fifty Shades Freed continues the Mills’n’Boon-style story of the ludicrously wealthy yet brooding and mysterious mega-squillionaire Christian Grey and his icky obsession with the dewy-eyed yet incredibly sexy Anastasia Steele.

Fifty Shades Freed was filmed around the same time as Fifty Shades Darker, helmed by the same director, James Foley, and with many of the same production crew, which lends this film a consistent look and feel, although it isn’t as dark cinematographically as its predecessor. The highlight this time is the use of lots of pounding or atmospheric songs, particularly a re-working of the classic INXS “Never tear us apart” warbled moodily by Bishop Briggs. There is also some occasionally humorous dialogue that helps lighten the mood and makes the main characters seem almost three-dimensional.

The main advantage of the film adaptations is being spared the dire writing style of E L James, with her grating descriptions of Ana’s “inner goddess” and coy references to her genitals. The plot and situations remain incredibly predictable and unoriginal, the dialogue is often trite and cringe-inducing, and actors such as Marcia Gay Harden and Jennifer Ehle are wasted in blink and you’ll miss them roles.

The main theme of the third film is revenge, with disgraced ex-publishing boss Jack Hyde (Jekyll and Hyde, get it?) hovering menacingly in the background plotting moustache-twirling vengeance against Christian Grey for being a successful businessman with much nicer suits, to say nothing of having snared the bootilicious Ana, whose penchant for wearing gossamer-thin yet uncomfortable looking underwear makes me long for a return to Bridget Jones’ more sensible grannie undies.

Newlyweds Christian and Ana delight in lots of would-be kinky (but actually rather boring) sexual escapades in exotic locations, with the threat from villainous Jack kept a secret by Christian, who is a bit slow appreciating that Ana is a modern woman who can actually look after herself. The biggest issue this photogenic couple faces aside from Jack’s threatening behaviour is Ana becoming pregnant, and Christian’s horror because he believes he is incapable of being a good father based on his own horrendous upbringing by his “crack whore mother”.

There is a reasonable amount of tension due to Jack’s escalating threats and extortion that force Ana to be secretively heroic and take matters into her own hands. The ironically annoying aspect of this film (given the series is known for its soft porn sex scenes) is the constant interruptions so that the overly horny couple can have lots of sex – in a car, the shower, a bath, on a table, etcetera, etcetera, always ending in such unrealistically excessive orgasmic ecstasy, which tends to dissipate whatever tension has been building in other scenes.

Christian’s continued bossiness and domineering ways have worn really thin by now, and I almost cheered when Ana told him off during a key scene to grow up. Her spurt of assertiveness endowed their confrontation with the closest thing to true, adult drama this series has ever depicted.

Definitely a film for Fifty Shades fans only.

Phantom Thread

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MPhantom Thread

Writer/Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Produced by: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison, Daniel Lupi

Music by: Jonny Greenwood

Editing by: Dylan Tichenor

Costume Design by: Mark Bridges

Production Design by: Mark Tildesley

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, and Vicky Krieps.

A romance for those who don’t like romance.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such an absorbing and beautifully crafted gothic love story.

There is such a subtle and careful intimacy of a man measuring a woman’s waist and arms and bust – a vulnerable exposure allowing a man to know so much.  Then to be made perfect; wearing his creation is to want to always stay in the light of his eyes because in his eyes you are beautiful.

It’s an old-world love story of a gentleman who has the temperament of a wilful child, his annoyance shown by the jutting of his teeth, and a woman who blushes under his attentive stare but refuses to be changed by him.

Phantom Thread is set in 1950s post-war London, circling around Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel-Day Lewis) and his obsession of thread and lace and pearl; where a dress is more than a piece of clothing – it’s where secrets are kept, sewn into the seams, where locks of hair are held to be always closely kept.

This is the man of, The House of Woodcock.

Living with his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), Reynolds confesses his incurable bacholar-hood, calling to his sister to ask whomever the current fancy to leave when he no longer sees them; when they cease to exist in his mind and become like ghosts.

It’s an oddly close relationship, but brother and sister partnerships opening haute couture Houses common at the time.  And Reynolds needs his no-nonsense sister to protect him as he creates; the only one to understand him since his mother died.  His mother the love of his life and her loss one he’ll never recover: her apperition still haunting the corners of his mind, absorbing any threat for his attention.

His mother’s ghost remains while the objects of his fading desire, die.

Finding himself restless, Reynolds escapes to the country where he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), an embarrassed waitress who quickly becomes far more than a passing fancy, or muse.

She’s a woman with her own tastes.

This is the second collaboration between Daniel-Day Lewis and writer and director, Thomas Anderson, the first, There Will Be Blood (2007).  And another success with his performance making me both want to slap and kiss the man but most importantly to always have his attention because that’s the only time to feel alive: that’s how believable Daniel-Day Lewis is in his role as Reynolds.

Anderson has also brought frequent collaborator Mark Bridges (Inherent Vice, The Master, There Will Be Blood), to create intricate costumes, made from scratch, creating 50 unique garments for the movie, including nine original pieces showcased in a Spring fashion show sequence.

Add music by Radiohead’s, Jonny Greenwood alongside the charm of drawing rooms and tea served in bone china, you have a moving story made aesthetic.

Not that the love story here is all romance – there is far more of the darkness of human nature here.

It’s what love and obsession can do to a soul that’s fascinating to watch: the dance of jealousy and annoyance; the settled and open, to the demanding and cold.

The archetype of a man still in love and grieving for his mother, who only wants to be obeyed; and a spiteful woman, jealous of all other women and demanding of attention.

This is what love can do to us.

And love stories like these will always be relevant – to be ‘protected from ghosts and dust and time’.

I’m not usually one for romances, but Phantom Thread is a thoroughly absorbing enchantment.

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Fifty Shades Darker

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+Fifty Shades Darker

Director: James Foley

Producers: Michael De Luca, E L James, Dana Brunetti

Based on the novel by: E L James

Screenplay by: Niall Leonard

Soundtrack score: Danny Elfman

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden, Eric Johnson, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora

The second film in the Fifty Shades series, based on the novel Fifty Shades Darker by E L James, is lame, tame and generally depressing, especially when compared with Fifty Shades of Grey, which had some lighter moments associated with the excitement of first love.

The second film was like watching a Mills & Boon telemovie with a wanna-be feisty heroine, brooding hero, and situations where the characters are forced to admit How Much They Mean to Each Other, set amidst a backdrop of obscene wealth (why are the heroes never accountants?).

Originally an e-novel loosely inspired by the Twilight saga, Fifty Shades of Grey ended with heroine Anastasia Steele (perky breasted Dakota Johnson) breaking up with gloomy yet ripped businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) because she couldn’t be the “submissive” he needed.

In Fifty Shades Darker she now claims “things are different”, deliberately teasing Christian and trying to seduce him in the Red Room, totally negating the strong stand she took earlier.

The Fifty Shades books and films have been criticised for glamorising domestic violence and abusive relationships. The books certainly depicted Christian as being oppressive, sexually deviant and overbearingly bossy, whereas the films portray him more as a once-victimised and still vulnerable person who has to be in control, and who probably just needs a good woman’s love to redeem him.

I don’t find the criticisms about emotional/physical abuse valid because Ana returns here of her own free will, makes conditions and often instigates the sexual interludes with Christian, who says that although he desires the kinky stuff, he needs her more. She seems compelled to test his resolve by deliberately encouraging him in sexual activities that are like awkwardly shot soft porn but curiously lack any arousing power, and which interrupt the actual story, such as it is.

Christian’s work life barely gets screen time (how does he make all that money?), while we’re supposed to believe Ana is a gifted business woman because she pitches one idea breathily at a board meeting to publish “new” writers instead of just established ones, which is received as though no-one had ever thought of it before.

Fifty Shades Darker has quality production values, beautiful cinematography (by John Schwartzman) of mountains and rain-slicked city streets, and a bopping soundtrack. There are established actors in minor roles, including Christian’s adoptive mother (a dignified Marcia Gay Harden), and his former Dominant, Elena (a well preserved but wasted Kim Basinger), but other characters from the first film barely register.

A former Submissive (Bella Heathcote) stalks Ana and appears to pose a threat that is resolved too quickly. The villain here is Ana’s former boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), who in one hilarious scene produces a printed photo of one he took earlier on his phone, just so he can evilly burn a hole through Christian’s face as a sign of future revenge in the third film.

Subtlety, credibility and entertainment are not hallmarks of this film, although there are some unintentional laughs. For sexual titillation watch the Sylvia Kristel version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1981), while for brooding romance you can’t beat Jane Eyre (Orson Welles version, 1943).

A Bigger Splash

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA 15+A Bigger Splash

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Screenplay: Dave Kajganich

Story: Alain Page

Starring: Tida Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Corrado Guzzanti, Lily McMenamy, Aurore Clément; Elena Bucci.

An English language Italian-French erotic thriller.

After having throat surgery, Marianne Lane (Tida Swinton) goes on a retreat from her rock star career with her lover, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts).

The film opens to an idyllic life of sun, mud, the blue of the ocean and the relaxation of naked lovers lounging by the pool.  Until Harry (Ralph Fiennes) arrives.  Bringing his long lost daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson) with him.

I’d never thought of Tida Swinton as sexy until seeing her playing Marianne.  Think, We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011), Constantine (2005) and I’ll never forget her in Orlando (1992).  But there’s a genuine love and warmth in this silent yet expressive character.  And the chemistry between Marianne and Paul is totally believable.  As is the subtleties of the narcissism of youth in Penelope and the unbalanced, lost, selfish but, gotta love him for his dancing moves, Harry.  The guy dances like a demented chicken.

And I admit I became a bit jealous of the love between Marianne and Paul, so intimately portrayed to the audience.

What a great mix of characters.  All so well cast and well played.  At one point Harry states, ‘Honesty is the greatest fidelity.’  Where Paul responds, ‘The world isn’t ready for your honesty.’

Set on an island somewhere between Sicily and Tunisia, the elements are used to build the tension: the desert winds, the porcelain faces of pots; ruined boats flaking red and blue and the lost immigrants appearing from behind crumbling buildings set on baron clifftops.  And the ever present snakes.

Director, Luca Guadagnino shows the story using the landscape and montages, almost glitches in the flow to set a slight unease in the audience.  There’s a tension that brews in this film and I loved the classic soundtrack used to set the flavour of the film giving a clarity to the mystery, almost like cleansing the palate.

There’s a fair bit of nudity here, but the film has such a mature feel, it’s just another part of the character’s personality.  How comfortable they are naked in front of others.

The only negative is there was a loss of momentum where the peak of the film was reached too early.  But the story continued giving a greater depth of character.  That looking back with regret, or the feeling you never have to do that stupid thing again.  Or, hell, maybe I will.  But now things are different.  Life is different.  And the consequences of previous choices are now being felt.  And either forgotten, held for ransom, cut away, forgiven or gotten away with.  Life; people.  You just don’t always know what you’re going to get.

I enjoyed watching this film, the subtleties of each character and the beautiful scenery.

Nice to watch one made for the adults.

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YOUTH

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Youth_movieWritten and Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino

Music Composed by: David Lang

Starring: Michael Caine, Rachel Weisz, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda, Mădălina Diana Ghenea; Paul Dano.

This is a quirky, life affirming movie that goes deeper than expected: a meandering journey of many moments caught of people coming to terms with their lives.

Opening with a band playing, a close up of a girl singing while slowly revolving with the background of characters blurred, sets up the theme of the film – music being the soundtrack that gives cohesion to the life of the main character, Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine), the retired maestro taking a holiday at a Swedish Health Spa.

After being asked to conduct at Prince Phillip’s birthday at the Queen’s request, the film follows Fred after his refusal, revealing his reason of refusal while showing his character through his interactions with his daughter and assistant, Leda (Rachel Weisz), his best friend, Mick (Harvy Keitel) and the famous actor on holiday, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano).

The director and writer of this film, Paolo Sorrentino, has created a sensory experience for the audience: Great loves, music, beauty, art, bubbles, the bells around cows’ necks ringing, wild flowers, snow, levitating, hot baths, blood tests, communicating through touch, smoking and sometimes just talking. The character, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), an aging writer and director in conversation with his best friend, Fred, describing the various nude scenes so well: “There’s the ugly, the beautiful and the inbetween who are just cute.”

There were some beautiful truths spoken here. One of many spoken by Mick, “I have to believe everything in order to make things up,” gives a simplicity to the individual experience.

I liked how the film scratched the surface of the mundane to show the real beauty of the pain of life. The pain of growing and struggling to make something of ourselves. The misunderstandings between people.

Many moments of the characters getting to know themselves and others are pieced together into a not always cohesive storyline. The momentum of the film sometimes lost when caught in the space between these moments. But what was lost in cohesion was made up by the beauty of the scenery, well thought-out camera angles and some light cheeky humour.

Not a perfect film but some thought provoking moments, some great dialogue delivered by some great actors.

 

By the Sea

GoMovieReviews Rating:

By The SeaDirected by: Angelina Jolie Pitt

Written by: Angelina Jolie Pitt

Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Melvil Poupaud, Niels Arestrup, Richard Bohringer

The drinking, the smoking, the difficult relationship and the seaside… If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was about to watch a film based on a Hemingway novel.

There were definite echoes of the novel, The Garden of Eden (published in 1986, posthumously).  But without the amazing dialogue Hemingway is so famous for, By the Sea, was, listless.

Set in a French, beachside resort in the 1970’s, By the Sea, could have been a 1930’s film, bar the public nudity. And there are some soft porn moments here. But this film is definitely about the strained relationship between Vanessa (Angelina) and Roland (Brad).

It’s not an easy feat depicting depression. Watching a relationship disintegrate can be a boring business. I was left wondering how it was possible for people to have so much time to do nothing.

The silence of what is left unsaid between Vanessa and Roland is juxtaposed with the loud and happy love of Lea, (Mélanie Laurent – she was fantastic in Inglourious Basterds (2009), also cast alongside Brad Pitt) and François (Melvil Poupaud) on their honeymoon. Nothing highlights an unhappy couple more than a happy one.

The beauty of the setting, the turquoise water, the rocky landscape of the French seaside gives the audience a break from the sad-faced Vanessa.   The old French café owner, Michel (Niels Aretrup) and hotel owner, Patrice (Richard Bohringer), gives warmth to the story. But the dominance of Vanessa makes it a somewhat boring film because the character is so incredibly lifeless.

There are moments of interesting dialogue, mostly between Roland and the other characters, and more thought into what was spoken, or perhaps framing the silence better would have made a more compelling film.

I didn’t mind being lulled by the silence because I don’t mind the feeling of listlessness. But you’ve got to be in the right mood for this one.