Fifty Shades Darker: Movie Man Jackson

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She’s just a sucker for pain. When the world last saw Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), she had had enough of billionaire Christian Grey’s (Jamie Dornan) penchant for pain during intercourse. Ana has left Christian behind, and started to focus on herself, acquiring a job as a secretary for one of Seattle’s biggest publishers, SIP.

Christian isn’t ready to leave Ana behind, though, and reappears in her life offering to change. No contracts, or nothing she isn’t comfortable with. As the two attempt to navigate a more “vanilla” relationship, Christian’s complicated past makes this endeavor difficult.

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Call me an idiot or just too nice, but I was one of the people who didn’t believe that Fifty Shades of Gray was the worst thing modern cinema ever created. That’ s not certainly not to say it was a good or even passable movie, but it was watchable enough in stretches to go into the sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, with a relatively open mind. That didn’t last long. Working with a bigger budget, Fifty Shades Darker ends up being a much smaller and flaccid movie package.

One thing the first Fifty Shades of Grey possessed was fairly good cinematography and direction from Sam Taylor-Johnson, and a decent score and solid original music tracks. The actual production wasn’t that bad. But this go-around, “FSD,” directed by James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross), doesn’t stand out much from the average ABC Family or Oxygen film, minus the subject matter. It’s a very lifeless looking production that does nothing to titillate or stimulate, and the music chosen to accompany these “sexy” scenes ranges from corny to cringey. It’s bad the first time, by the 6th time, you’ll feel violated.

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The two lovebirds in Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return, with passable chemistry, but not the white hot chemistry this movie needs to be effective. As in the previous movie, Dakota Johnson is by far and away the braver of the two stars once again, putting her entire body out to bare in embarrassing situations. If only her character was as strong as Dakota claims her to be, Fifty Shades Darker may have something.

Dornan bares a little more this go-around, and is a tad better than before with some more character meat. Unfortunately, his American accent slips pretty noticeably here and there, to the point where that’s all I was looking for. With that said (for better or worse), they are the best things about this sequel. Everyone else looks bored to be there (Bella Heathcote, Kim Basinger), or a little over-the-top (Eric Johhson). His role into the story is seen from a mile away; not sure if it is supposed to be.

One can get on the stars and the cast for lackluster acting, but the realization is, these aren’t talentless thespians. Two films deep now, probably not much of a stretch to say that the source material for the Fifty Shades novels is extremely shoddy. Some stories are better left in the book. The dialogue is almost always agonizing to listen to. I simply don’t believe there’s someone out there to make this sound even average, but couldn’t someone else be allowed to take a stab at the screenplay who wasn’t the author’s husband? One thing to exercise artistic control, another to not want to take any suggestions from other, possibly more experienced, people.

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As yours truly pressed on through Fifty Shades Darker, there was one thought that went through the mind: The emotional and physical pain that Ana experiences from Christian’s unconventional desires are nowhere near the levels of pain I experienced watching it unfold.

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Photo credits go to variety.com, eonline.com, and yahoo.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

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The Nice Guys: Movie Man Jackson

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No, these are not The Other Guys. They are The Nice Guys, though nice may be a bit of a misnomer. Private Investigators Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) do the same job, but in different ways in 1970’s Los Angeles. Holland is a bit neurotic, and Healy a little more no-nonsense.

A possibly interconnected mystery involving a death of a famous porn star and the disappearance of a young lady forces their paths to cross. In between all of the glitz and glamour the City of Angels provides, something shady may be going on, and two heads, instead of one, are going to be needed to unravel this tangled web.

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Neo-noir is not a genre seen a lot in the 21st century, and that may be a good thing, Though it would be great to see it more in the mainstream, the times we do get it often makes for a breath of fresh air. Shane Black’s The Nice Guys takes the genre, some talented lead actors, and a good crime story and turns it into a watch that is immensely fun.

Compared to the blockbusters usually seen around this time of the summer season, The Nice Guys is positioned as counter-programming for the “smart adult” moviegoer. That is sort of true, but only in lack of spectacle. Yours truly would argue that The Nice Guys is as “summer-y” as any blockbuster one is likely to see this year, only missing the CGI and large environments. It’s light, quick, snappy, and bright.

The 70’s-set locale in LA hearkens itself to the disco era, with tons of orange and yellows and neon lighting making up the predominate color palette of the film. Music junkies of that era, rejoice, as licensed songs by Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Temptations, and Brick along with others all make appearances and make it impossible not to bob your head along to what is shown on screen. Additionally, a good score composed by John Ottman and David Buckley punctuates some of the action scenes well. After seeing his contributions to Iron Man 3, I wasn’t expecting the action here to be so satisfying, but it is. Very interested to see how The Predator looks in a few years now.

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It’s no surprise to see that Black, who made his name as a writer, takes that responsibility upon himself in The Nice Guys yet again. He uses a few well-worn cliches that epitomize the buddy-cop genre, and anyone who has never been fond of the subgenre is likely not to find anything here to change that sentiment. For a little while, the screenplay is sort of scattered, and it is hard to see how these leads our duo takes looks at fit together. But they finally do, and a nice twist gives an interesting addition to the final act, which shifts our leads from a focus on doing their jobs to doing the right thing.

The success of buddy cop movies hinge a lot on their stars, and Black decided to cast some big ones in Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Their chemistry is infectious, starting through the hilarious first scene the two share together and on. On their own, they are great as well. Crowe is the straight man of the two, while Gosling is more of the buffoon who still possesses the smarts when needed. There is a know-how that is needed in both roles, perhaps more so Crowe’s, that these two get right. A surprise revelation is the young Angourie Rice playing the daughter of Gosling’s character. Not ready to say she’s a scene stealer in this film, but she is awfully close and infuses the screenplay with an emotional component that may not exist without her.

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Nice guys don’t always have to finish at the bottom, and though its box office returns in coming weeks are likelier to be closer to the bottom of the top 10 than the top, it will be no indication of how much summer (really any season) amusement is to be had with The Nice Guys. The ending leaves open the possibility of more adventures with this oddball duo. I say bring it on, and stuff.

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Photo credits go to collider.com and ubertopic.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson