Fifty Shades Darker is the first sequel to That Film. Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele (Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson) reunite and take it public this time, in more ways than one. He sets her up long after they split in a manipulative power play. She says no dice, he asks again and ok, she’s in. Seriously? The awesome thinness of plot and dialogue are astounding but its worst flaw is the film’s total lack of authenticity. Nothing rings true, from the pop psych veneer, to the cut and paste nature of their “characters”. As expected, it’s another two hours of gracious living, restraints, crossing lines and body parts. Vows are made and broken and remade with lightning speed, some of which go against character. The result is that we can’t take what they say as authentic, so who cares? Also, we’re all adults, what’s so fabulous about acres of skin and noisy kissing for two hours nonstop? Four hours if you count both films. The sequel is slightly more interesting for its revelations – Christian’s horrific childhood and resulting pathology, the “psychological” reasons for his sadism. His “Mrs. Robinson” (Kim Basinger) is revealed and she wants him back, especially now that Ana seems to be getting to him. A disturbed young woman is following Ana with a gun. Are Ana’s expressed feelings for Christian real? Will he have any secrets left and fizzle? Will he tire of her? Because the film doesn’t care is she tires of him. They’re greatest connection is the fear of being without the other. Nice party with fireworks at the end and a quick shot to let us know it ain’t over yet.
John Wick Chapter 2 brings back our moody anti-hero, and the mob’s scared. Keanu Reeves must pay a blood oath he made with the son of a gang kingpin and his heart‘s not really in it. He isn’t guided by righteous rage as he was the first time following the murder of his wife and puppy, this time it’s commission work. He must return to the criminal world he had left behind and assassinate an important underworld figure – a woman. Her death and his uncanny ability to escape death makes him target numero uno. Chapter 2 is far more ambitious than the original, it’s colourful and it’s brilliantly put together. Scenes are densely choreographed, action or not and the script is pure fun. The Mafia worlds of New York and Rome are byzantine cultures with rules and regs that keep things “civil” and Wick’s broken them all. This is loud, proud and dangerous with stunts to die for – that’s John Wick 2 and you bet there’s a dog! Wait till you see Reeves and Common, brothers in grip locks!
The multi-award winning / nominated Paterson starring Adam Driver will fill your heart quietly and gently. Driver is at the top of his game as a bus driver/poet going through a few ordinary days, rooted in his considerable compassion and using his powers of observation. He gets a little puppy, he offers to sit with a little girl waiting alone for her mother, and he helps his wife decorate the house. These small acts take on great significance reminding us that there is beauty in the everyday, and that life is full of wonder. But it isn’t Pollyanna; it’s a mature portrait of someone who belongs to the world and it to him. Jim Jarmusch’ meticulously written and directed meditation is profoundly authentic. Not much “happens” except a degree of transformation. You might see colours brighter after this one; it’s good for the heart, a jewel of optimism and love. Having a bad day? Go see Paterson.
Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Zoe Kravitz, Lauren Dern, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård and James Tupper star in the limited HBO series Big Little Lies, which may or may not be adapted from the Australian series The Slap. A neighbourhood is torn apart when a parent hits someone else’ child at a birthday party, unleashing all kinds of hell, previously hidden emotions and latent violence. Lies takes us to the wealthy coastal enclave of Monterey, CA, that is as beautiful as the people who live there. A poor single mom and her 6 year old son arrive in town which is traumatic enough for the entitled locals, but when a little girl accuses the boy of trying to strangle her, the school mothers – and the teacher – are apoplectic. She takes it back but no one’s listening. Witherspoon’s character picks up the newcomers as her “pet project” and will mow down anyone in their path – or hers. The school mothers spring into primal war mode with rival camps destroying one another. Class consciousness plays a big part in the proceedings but so does the collective fronting as the school mothers pretend their lives are beyond rebuke. Ha. Jean-Marc Vallee the talented Quebec director’s keen observational skills and rock and roll sensibility merge with David E. Kelley’s script in a complex melodrama. Vallee’s longtime cinematographer Yves Bélanger makes it all beautiful and the actors are in their happy places. JMV fans note there is a pair of little Brian Jones-esque twins in the mix.
Amazon Prime is offering a post WWII series set in the fashion houses of France. The Collection follows a family couture business, its questionable involvement with the former Nazis occupiers, the mad brother living in an attic who designs the clothes credited to the family alpha male, and the house’ legacy – and fortune. There’s a brassy, foul mouthed blonde client representing the idea of the Ugly American taking advantage of the recovering country and whom the French eye warily, there’s jealousy on the catwalk and plenty of sub rosa philandering and betrayal. All this as a new couture collection hangs in the balance.
The dark comedy Girlfriend’s Day stars Bob Odenkirk and Amber Tamblyn who live in a world where greeting card writers are superstar celebrities. Odenkirk’s character is the Bill Shakespeare of writers, or was till he lost his mojo. The state introduces a new greeting card holiday – Girlfriend’s Day – and a contest to find the greatest romance greeting card of them all. He needs his creativity back and fast! Everyone else is on the same idea path and its war – a big gooey mess of murder and mayhem. Preems Feb 14 on Netflix, Valentine’s Day of course.
The doc Dancer focuses on the rise and fall and rise again of Ukrainian ballet star Sergei Polunin the “new Baryshnikov”. He was groomed to dance from a very young age sponsored by the government, and then he took his talents away to London where he became the British National Ballet’s youngest ever principal at the age of 18. Exceptionally talented, young and handsome, his star rose fast. Four years later, he quit unable to handle the fame and a drug habit. Eventually he showed up in Russia and began again at the bottom of the ladder and he was lucky. He’s on the rise again. Polunin starred in video director David Chappelle’s Hozier video Take Me to Church, he will appear in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express and in Red Sparrow with Jennifer Lawrence.
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI