A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Fifty Shades Freed,” “Permission” with Rebecca Hall and the meta-movie romance “Entanglement.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Nathan Downer have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the continuing and endless erotic (ish) adventure of the “Fifty Shades Freed” gang, the sorta-kinda-rom-com “Permission” with Rebecca Hall, the meta-movie romance “Entanglement” and the mockumentary “Fake Blood.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Jennifer Burke to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the erotic (ish) adventure “Fifty Shades Freed,” the sorta-kinda-rom-com “Permission” with Rebecca Hall, the meta-movie romance “Entanglement” and the mockumentary “Fake Blood.”
Depending on your point of view, Fifty Shades of Grey either made you want to gag or want to wear a gag. A softcore look at hardcore BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism), it spanked the competition in its opening weekend in 2015.
A second film, Fifty Shades Darker, came along two years later. With Fifty Shades Freed entering theatres this weekend, the question is will audiences still care about Christian Grey’s proclivities and Anastasia Steele’s misgivings or will it be time to use our collective safe word?
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return as stars of the literary adaptations of E. L. James’ wildly popular erotic novels. If you haven’t seen the first two, here’s what you need to know before handing over your cash for part three.
There are sex scenes, there is nudity and, yes, Virginia, there are whips and chains but don’t expect the smutty stuff from the books. These big-budget films have whipped the material into mainstream theatre shape, shaving the rough edges off the novel’s explicit kinky sex scenes.
The randy pair spend more time talking about their sexual liaisons than actually getting horizontal … or suspended … or anything else. They blabber and negotiate, yammering on about submission, domination and safe words till even the Marquis de Sade would nod off from boredom. The first two are not exactly comedies, but the dialogue is so bad you could call them domination comedies or dom-coms.
Then there is Grey’s version of sweet talk — “If you were mine you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week.” — and predatory behaviour that, if not for his billions, would land him in jail for stalking or worse. The psychological introspection on display here makes Dr. Phil seem like Friedrich Nietzsche.
Of the two leads, Dakota Johnson seems ripped from the pages of the book. Her gamine innocence and girlish giggle convey the emotional rawness necessary for the character to work. She is naked, emotionally and physically — unlike her co-star who, for all we know, is as anatomically correct as a Ken doll — with a propensity for drunk dialling and a permanently dewy look about her that betrays the confusion and attraction Ana feels toward Grey.
Dornan has the thankless role. His grim-faced Christian Grey is an unemotional cipher, a bubbling cauldron of unexplored trauma and Dornan plays him straight faced which must have been tough while delivering unintentionally hilarious lines like “Roll your eyes at me again and I will take you across my knee.” His delivery is just as sexy as that time your cranky old grandfather said it to you when you were 10. Dornan’s burning passion is conveyed by his intense gaze, which often looks clinical, as if he’s examining her naked body for irregular moles.
Together the pair share so little chemistry they wouldn’t smoulder if you lit their underwear on fire. To be fair, they are cut adrift in a sea of kinky sex, mommy porn, dime store psychology and bad dialogue, most of which only serves to move the films along from one spanking montage to the next. Stymied by plotting that makes most Harlequins look like Dostoyevsky, the actors frequently shed their clothes, most likely in an attempt to distract from the truly awful things that happen when they are clothed.
The “Fifty Shades” franchise once lived at the very center of popular culture as a publishing phenomenon then as a blockbuster movie. Interest in the shenanigans of slap ‘n tickle enthusiasts Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey waned for the second film instalment. Now we’re at the third and final movie, “Fifty Shades Freed,” and it feels like breaking up with someone you know you’ll never see again. You feel relief that it is over mixed with regret that you wasted all that time in the first place.
Things get underway when Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Ana (Dakota Johnson) tie the knot; on an altar this time, not in the bedroom. Their glamorous French honeymoon is disturbed when Ana wants to go topless on the beach while Christian, that blushing flower, wants her covered up, for his eyes only. “Do you want to be ogled by every guy on the beach?” he whines.
That speed bump aside, things are mostly status quo for the newlyweds. I said mostly. This is a “Fifty Shades” movie, so it’s not all happily ever after. Bedroom bondage soon leads to a pregnancy that leaves Christian upset. (The least I think he’s upset. It’s hard to tell with Dornan.) “You’re going to take her from me aren’t you?” he whispers to her pregnant belly. Looks like he’s not ready to turn the Red Room of Pain into a nursery just yet.
Sparks fly as she tries to assert herself.
Meanwhile Ana’s former-boss-turned-stalker Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) ups his game as Christian discovers a dark secret from his past.
There’s more, but nobody really goes to the “Fifty Shades” movies for the plot so let’s move on.
The sexiest thing about “Fifty Shades Freed” is the way Ana handles the Audi in a high-ish speed chase through the streets of Seattle. Sure clothes are doffed and handcuffed snapped shut but there is so little fusion between these two allegedly steamy lovers it’s as though they have never met in real life and are acting to green screen versions of each other.
The hour-and-forty-five-minute running time is padded out with music montages—including one interlude where Christian plays piano and sings “Maybe I’m Amazed” to less than amazing effect—and time wasters like a flirty architect subplot. It’s part erotic adventure, part revenge story and part “Lifestyles of the Rich and Kinky.” It’s all of those things and yet, somehow, less than the sum of its well toned parts.
The occasional moment of camp fun—“We don’t have any restraints,” says a security guard while manhandling a suspect. “We do,” offers Anna.—are buffered by elegantly shot but empty moments that fill the time between sex scenes.
“Fifty Shades Freed” comes at an interesting time. The story of a rich, powerful man who tries to control every situation with only minor pushback from the woman in his life seems like yesterday’s tale in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. The movies, I think, are meant to be sexy romps, a bit of fun, but at the end of the series have proven themselves to be ten pounds of sex toys in a five pound bag.
CHIPs: It’s a remake, a comedy and an action film and yet it doesn’t quite measure up to any of those descriptors. It’s a remake in the sense that writer-director-star Dax Shepard has lifted the title, character names and general situation from the classic TV show but they are simply pegs to hang his crude jokes on.
The Circle: While it is a pleasure to see Bill Paxton in his last big screen performance, “The Circle” often feels like an Exposition-A-Thon, a message in search of a story.
The Fate of the Furious: Preposterous is not a word most filmmakers would like to have applied to their work but in the case of the “Fast and Furious” franchise I think it is what they are going for. Somewhere along the way the down-‘n’-dirty car chase flicks veered from sublimely silly to simply silly. “The Fate of the Furious” is fast, furious but it’s not much fun. It’s an unholy mash-up of James Bond and the Marvel Universe, a movie bogged down by outrageous stunts and too many characters. Someone really should tell Vin Diesel and Company that more is not always more.
Fifty Shades Darker: Depending on your point of view “Fifty Shades of Grey” either made you want to gag or want to wear a gag. It’s a softcore look at hardcore BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) that spanked the competition on its opening weekend in 2015. Question is, will audiences still care about Grey’s proclivities and Ana’s misgivings or is it time to use our collective safeword? “Fifty Shades Darker” is a cold shower of a movie. “It’s all wrong,” Ana says at one point. “All of this is wrong.” Truer words have never been spoken.
The Mountain Between Us: Mountain survival movies usually end up with someone eating someone else to stay alive. “The Mountain Between Us” features the usual mountain survival tropes—there’s a plane crash, a showdown with a cougar and broken bones—but luckily for fans of stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet cannibalism is not on the menu. Days pass and then weeks pass and soon they begin their trek to safety. “Where are we going?” she asks. “We’re alive,” he says. “That’s where were going.” There will be no spoilers here but I will say the crash and story of survival changes them in ways that couldn’t imagine… but ways the audience will see coming 100 miles away. It’s all a bit silly—three weeks in and unwashed they still are a fetching couple—but at least there’s no cannibalism and no, they don’t eat the dog.
The Mummy: As a horror film it’s a meh action film. As an action film it’s little more than a formulaic excuse to trot out some brand names in the kind of film Hollywood mistakenly thinks is a crowd pleaser.
The Shack: Bad things in life may be God’s will but I lay the blame for this bad movie directly on the shoulders of director Stuart Hazeldine who infuses this story with all the depth and insight of a “Davey and Goliath” cartoon.
The Snowman: We’ve seen this Nordic Noir before and better. Mix a curious lack of Oslo accents—the real mystery here is why these Norwegians speak as though they just graduated RADA—Val Kilmer in a Razzie worthy performance and you’re left with a movie that left me as cold as the snowman‘s grin.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Movies like the high gloss crime thriller “La Femme Nikita,” the assassin mentor flick “Léon: The Professional” and outré sci fi opera “The Fifth Element” have come to define director Luc Besson’s outrageous style. Kinetic blasts of energy, his films are turbo charged fantasies that make eyeballs dance even if they don’t always engage the brain. His latest, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” not only has one of the longest titles of the year but is also one of the most over-the-top, retina-frying movies of the year. Your eyes will beg for mercy.
Wonder Wheel: At the beginning of the film Mickey (Justin Timberlake) warns us that what we are about to see will be filtered through his playwright’s point of view. Keeping that promise, writer, director Woody Allen uses every amount of artifice at his disposal—including cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s admittedly sumptuous photography—to create a film that is not only unreal but also unpleasant. “Oh God,” Ginny (Kate Winslet) cries out at one point. “Spare me the bad drama.” Amen to that.
Song to Song: I think it’s time Terrence Malick and I called it quits. I used to look forward to his infrequent visits. Sure, sometimes he was a little obtuse and over stayed his welcome, but more often than not he was alluringly enigmatic. Then he started coming around more often and, well, maybe the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt is true. In “Song to Song” there’s a quick shot of a tattoo that sums up my feelings toward my relationship with Malick. Written in flowery script, the words “Empty Promises” fill the screen, reminding us of the promise of the director’s early work and amplifying the disappointment we feel today. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back, the Terrence Malick movie that put me off Terrence Malick movies. I’ll be nice though and say, it’s not him, it’s me.
EXTRA! EXTRRA! MOST COUNFOUNDING
mother!: Your interest in seeing “mother!,” the psychological thriller from “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky, may be judged on your keenness to watch American sweetheart Jenifer Lawrence flush a beating heart down a toilet. Aronofsky’s story of uninvited guests disrupting the serene lives of a poet and his wife refuses to cater to audience expectations. “mother!” is an uncomfortable watch, an off-kilter experience that revels in its own madness. As the weight of the weirdness and religious symbolism begins to feel crushing, you may wonder what the hell is going on. Are these people guilty of being the worst houseguests ever or is there something bigger, something biblical going on?
Aronofsky is generous with the biblical allusions—the house is a paradise, the stranger’s sons are clearly echoes of Cain and Abel, and there is a long sequence that can only be described as the Home-style Revelation—and builds toward a crescendo of wild action that has to be seen to be believed, but his characters are ciphers. Charismatic and appealing to a member, they feel like puppets in the director’s apocalyptic roadshow rather than characters we care about. Visually and thematically he doesn’t push button so much as he pokes the audience daring them to take the trip with him, it’s just too bad we didn’t have better company for the journey.
“mother!” is a deliberately opaque movie. Like looking into a self-reflective mirror you will take away whatever you put into it. The only thing sure about it is that it is most confounding studio movie of the year.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia McMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, including the slap-and-tickle-a-palooza “Fifty Shades Darker,” the Lego-tastic “The Lego Batman Movie,” the gun-jitsu of “John Wick: Chapter 2,” and the wondrous “Paterson.”
The last time we saw Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson) she was done with the whips, chains and all the other trappings of her relationship with slap and tickle devotee Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Her romantic expectations spoiled, it looked like that was the end of the story. But this weekend, just in advance of Valentine’s Day, the two are back together, this time playing (mostly) by her rules.
Depending on your point of view “Fifty Shades of Grey” either made you want to gag or want to wear a gag. It’s a softcore look at hardcore BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) that spanked the competition on its opening weekend in 2015. Question is, will audiences still care about Grey’s proclivities and Ana’s misgivings or is it time to use our collective safeword?
The nighttime soap opera-esque “Fifty Shades Darker” begins shortly after Ana walks out on Christian but this isn’t “Titanic” where class issues and an iceberg keep the lovers apart or “Brokeback Mountain” where out-dated social mores conspired against the characters. This is “Fifty Shades Darker” and there is no story unless Ana and Christian are in the same frame. So boom, they’re back together. They “meet creepy” at a photo exhibit where Ana’s friend has displayed bigger-than-life portraits of her. Christian buys them all and convinces her to have dinner. “I’ll have dinner with you,” she says, “but only because I’m hungry.”
Over expensive entrees and wine they discuss moving forward. “I want you back,” he says. “I’d like to renegotiate the terms. What happened last time won’t happen again.” That means no collars or flogging. Ana says she wants a “vanilla relationship,” and he agrees but before you can say “ballgag” she’s asking for various kinky acts to be performed upon her naughty bits.
Soon he asks her to move into his ultra-modern bachelor pad. She breathily says yes but unfortunately other women—his sexual mentor Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger) and Leila Williams (Bella Heathcote), a former submissive—cast a shadow over their relationship. “Do you think you’re the first woman who has tried to save him?” asks Elena.
There’s more, but who really cares about these two? Johnson and Dornan share so little chemistry they couldn’t smoulder if you lit their underwear on fire. To be fair they are cut adrift in a sea of kinky sex, mommy porn, dime store psychology and bad dialogue most of which only serves to move the film along from one spanking montage to the next. Stymied by plotting that makes most Harlequins seem like Dostoyevsky, the actors frequently shed their clothes, most likely in an attempt to distract from the truly awful things that happen when they are clothed.
Johnson is still a charming presence and Dornan slightly less wooden than last time out, but Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart couldn’t bring exchanges like this to life: “Why didn’t you tell me that?” she asks after a big revelation. “I did but you were asleep at the time.” “A big part of a relationship is that both parties have to be conscious.”
“Fifty Shades Darker” is a cold shower of a movie. “It’s all wrong,” Ana says at one point. “All of this is wrong.” Truer words have never been spoken.
In Black Mass, Dakota Johnson has a high profile role as the steely-but-sweet girlfriend to notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger but for much of her life she was simply known as a child of Hollywood, the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson.
Despite an acting career that stretches back to 1999, the 25-year-old became a sensation just last year when she landed the lead role in one of the most anticipated films of the decade.
She beat out half of young Hollywood to play Anastasia Steele in the fastest selling R-rated title ever, Fifty Shades of Grey. She bared all, physically and emotionally; and became famous enough to have designers create clothes for her and an avalanche of interesting scripts to tumble her way. She’ll soon be seen in a Fifty Shades sequel and a remake of the legendary Italian horror film Suspiria.
This week she stars opposite her 21 Jump Street co-star Johnny Depp — they appeared in the 2012 film — as Lindsey Cyr, mother of Bulger’s son and the only person in South Boston who would stand up to the infamous killer.
Cyr is still alive but Johnson didn’t think it was a good idea to meet with her.
“It would have been if my goal had been to be extremely accurate but my goal was to bring out a different side of Jimmy. We talked about meeting her but we decided that it would have added a bunch of components. You wouldn’t see them. You wouldn’t see the stories she was telling because it wasn’t part of our story.”
Instead she studied footage of the former diner waitress and lawyer’s assistant.
“I did as much research as was available to me,” she says, “but the majority of the footage I found on her was pretty recent and it was her looking back on her time with Jimmy Bulger.
“Obviously the time that we see them together (in the film) is when she is quite young. A lot of that came from working it out with (director) Scott Cooper and Johnny.”
In her most intense scene she stares down and out-manoeuvres the controlling gangster after personal tragedy strikes the couple.
“There was a very heavy atmosphere on set but because Johnny was really not himself, he was a completely different person and because I’m not a mother and have never experienced anything as profoundly devastating as losing a child, I think we both completely slipped away from ourselves. That allowed us to create the scene the way it was.”
On acting: Edgerton portrays former FBI agent as a ‘bad dude’
Joel Edgerton didn’t meet the inspiration for his character in Black Mass, former FBI agent John Connolly.
“He’s alive and with us, albeit in federal prison and a little hard to reach,” said the Australian actor. The real-life Connolly was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice charges stemming from his relationship with gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.
“His version of events doesn’t line up with our version…. I felt like it was a little unfair to go and visit him in federal prison and say, ‘You stay in here while I’m over here making you look like a bad dude.’ It felt like it wasn’t a very genuine thing to do.”