Fifty Shades Of Grey
Rated R for profanity, violence, sexuality and graphic nudity
Fetish Flick Fails to Match Intensity Of Erotic Best-Seller
Fifty Shades Of Grey marked the remarkable writing debut of TV executive-turned-romance novelist Erika Mitchell. Publishing under the pen name E.L. James, the British author has enjoyed unparalleled success, selling over 100 million copies worldwide in just a few years.
Her erotic thriller chronicles the kinky relationship of a college coed and a handsome, young billionaire with a sordid sexual appetite for sadomasochism. Unfortunately, this relatively-tame screen version, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy), teases more than it titillates, as it devotes plenty of time build up prior to petering out in terms of delivery.
At the point of departure, we meet vestal virgin Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) as she’s about to drive from Vancouver to Seattle to the corporate headquarters of Grey Enterprises to interview CEO Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for her college newspaper. The English major’s only been allotted 10 minutes with the busy captain of industry slated to deliver the keynote commencement address at her school’s upcoming graduation.
Upon being introduced, obviously intimidated Ana awkwardly asks, “To what do you owe your success?” and, “Are you gay?” before her subject confesses to being a control freak. Turning the tables, Christian proceeds to pose probing personal questions to the nervous journalist, as a palpable sexual tension between the two starts to simmer just beneath the surface.
He reveals his fondness for a particular fetish, however nothing is consummated for a long stretch. Instead, the first half of the film is devoted to a frustrating Kabuki dance where foreplay invariably leads to coitus interruptus.
In lieu of the whips, chains and other staples of bondage debauchery, we’re treated to cautious exchanges during which a whimpering, wide-eyed Ana repeatedly says how scared she is of Christian while he insists she sign a non-disclosure agreement allowing him to torture her. Yes, they eventually do get around to entering his dungeon but, by then, their bland, anticlimactic sessions prove to be a classic case of too little-too late.
A monochromatic misfire featuring only one shade: blushing pink.
Fair (1.5 stars)
Running time: 125 minutes
Rated PG-13 for mature themes
Chivalrous Christian Courts Tenant In Faith-Based Love Story
If you’re looking for a wholesome romantic romp as a viable alternative to Fifty Shades Of Grey, then look no further than this relatively-chaste faith-based drama revolving around a chivalrous Christian’s courting of his restless new tenant. Old Fashioned opens with a quote from the late Zora Neal Hurston, “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.” That wise adage proves pertinent in this modern morality play chronicling the slow transformation of a wounded woman into one willing to trust again.
At the point of departure, we are introduced to Clay Walsh (Rik Swartzwelder), an unassuming gentleman who retreated to a quiet Midwestern town to run an antique store for his aging but sage Aunt Zella (Dorothy Silver). You’d never guess that this pious proprietor had been a womanizing party animal back in college. But that was ages ago, and the reformed frat boy has been celibate for almost a decade since being Born Again.
Christ-like Clay is mercilessly teased for that by his misogynistic pal, Brad (Tyler Hollinger), a raunchy, radio talk show host who advocates taking advantage of dumb females. In fact, the disgusting shock jock is planning to relocate to Los Angeles because of the number of gullible girls there.
The plot thickens soon after Clay rents the vacant apartment above his shop to Amber Hewson (Elizabeth Ann Roberts), an attractive free-spirit who’s never lived anywhere long enough to put down roots. Sparks soon fly between landlord and tenant based on looks alone, despite their being polar opposites in terms of values and temperament.
But thanks to Clay’s refusal even to kiss while dating, the two are forced to get to know each other rather than rush to intimacy. Written and directed by its star Rik Swartzwelder, the aptly titled Old Fashioned is a refreshingly-principled parable proving that a picture championing chastity can be every bit as entertaining and enjoyable as one promoting promiscuity.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 115 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening February 20, 2015
The DUFF (PG-13 for profanity, partying, pervasive sexuality and constant crude humor) Mae Whitman plays the title character in this coming-of-age comedy as a homely teen upset about her reputation around school as her pretty BFFs’ (Skyler Samuels and Bianca Santos) “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” Cast includes Bella Thorne, Allison Janney, Romany Malco, Robbie Amell and Dr. Ken Jeong.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (R for pervasive profanity, incessant sexuality, crude humor, graphic nudity, violence and drug use) Sci-fi sequel, set a decade in the future, finds buddies Jacob (Clark Duke) and Nick (Craig Robinson) getting back into the hot tub to travel back in time to undo pal Nick’s (Rob Corddry) murder at the hands of an unknown assassin. With Chevy Chase, Adam Scott, Gillian Jacobs, Thomas Lennon and Kellee Stewart.
McFarland, USA (PG for violence, mild epithets and mature themes) Kevin Costner stars in this true tale, set in 1987, about a high school track coach who transforms his underachieving cross-country team into championship contenders after recruiting some fleet-footed Latino students. Ensemble cast includes Maria Bello, Hector Duran, Daniel Moncada, Vincent Martella and Carlos Pratts.
Accidental Love (PG-13 for profanity and sexuality) Romantic comedy adapted by David O. Russell from the best-seller Sammy’s Hill by Kristin Gore (Al’s daughter). Principal shooting began in 2008, but Russell abandoned the troubled project a couple years later, and subsequently refused to take a directing credit. The plot revolves around a small-town waitress (Jessica Biel) who turns into a nymphomaniac after being shot in the head by a nail gun. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Tracy Morgan, Bill Hader, Kirstie Alley, James Marsden, Catherine Keener and James Brolin.
Approaching The Elephant (Unrated) Alternative education documentary chronicling year one at the Teddy McArdle Free School located in Little Falls, New Jersey, where classes are optional, challenging authority is encouraged, and conflicts are resolved by majority rule.
Blackbird (Unrated) Bittersweet coming-of-age drama revolving around a black choir boy’s (Julian Walker) struggle with his sexuality while a member of a tight-knit, Southern Baptist community. With Mo’Nique, Isaiah Washington and Kevin Allesee.
The Business Of Disease (Unrated) Holistic medicine exposé warning about how physicians have conspired with the pharmaceutical industry to hypnotize the masses into forgetting the body’s natural ability to heal. Featuring commentary by Sonia Barrett, Brad Bartholomew and Brian David Anderson.
A Convenient Truth (Unrated) Politically-incorrect mockumentary about a camera crew which chronicles a California assemblyman’s (Alan Berman) solution for a host of societal ills, including climate change, unemployment, obesity and illegal immigration. With Kevin Hauver, Elise Rovinsky and Gilli Lesser.
Drunktown’s Finest (Unrated) Navajo drama examining a promiscuous transsexual (Carmen Moore), a college-bound Christian (Morningstar Angeline), and her absentee baby-daddy (Jeremiah Bitsui) as they attempt to escape their harsh lives on the reservation. Cast includes Loren Anthony, Shauna Baker and Pierre Barrera.
Gloria (R for profanity, sexuality, graphic nudity) Musical biopic chronicling the meteoric rise and ultimate disgrace of Gloria Trevi (Sofia Espinosa), the politically and sexually provocative salsa singer popular in the ’90s when she was celebrated as the Mexican Madonna. With Osvaldo Rios, Ricardo Kleinbaum and Marco Perez. (In Spanish with subtitles)
Queen And Country (Unrated) John Boorman wrote and directed this semi-autobiographical drama, a sequel to Hope And Glory (1987) revolving around a patriotic Brit (Callum Turner) who enlists in the army to serve his country in the Korean War. Featuring Caleb Landry Jones, David Thewlis and Pat Shortt.
Wild Tales (R for violence, profanity and brief sexuality) A half-dozen discrete dramedies exploring the very destructive effect of stress, depression, deception, inequality, infidelity and injustice on different individuals. Cast includes Liliana Ackerman, Luis Manuel Altamirano, Damian Benitez and Cristina Blanco. (In Spanish with subtitles)