Firstly, “The Lego Batman Movie” is great fun and solid entertainment for kids and adults alike. Just go see it.
Secondly, “John Wick: Chapter 2” is good if you’re into that kind of thing: it’s the hyper-violent “Commando” of its time. If you don’t take it seriously, you’ll have yourself a wild ride.
Thirdly, skip “Fifty Shades Darker” this weekend. Although an improvement in some areas, it has a slew of new problems.
Thankfully the chemistry between our leads is better, and their numerous sex scenes sizzle more than those in the first film. Flashes of humor lighten the otherwise dour proceedings, and Christian (Jamie Dornan) attempts to address a key issue so many in the BDSM community have with his character.
But its various conflicts are resolved so quickly and easily that it resorts to overt soap opera shtick for the finale. It too is a film that can’t be taken seriously, but you wouldn’t know that from its heavy title, or its opening sequence showing the abuse of a young boy who would grow up to be Christian Grey. It’s meant to provide some much-needed backstory and hopefully elicit a bit of sympathy for our dominating lead, since he’s basically an abusive jerk.
Next we’re reacquainted with our pseudo-submissive heroine, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). Her life is a far cry from the lap of luxury she enjoyed while with Christian, but luckily he still stalks her. So she agrees to a dinner with him “just to talk” wherein they renegotiate their relationship, agreeing to “take it slow”; of course they’re sucking face inside of five minutes and having sex the next day.
Bad boy Christian is immediately back to his old ways, ordering Anastasia around and controlling her every move — except in the bedroom where they agree to only do what’s comfortable with her, a situation he describes as “vanilla.” Apparently, consent is boring.
But Anastasia finally objects to his surveillance and he seems to improve, showing that women can really change a man if they’re just patient and naked most of the time. But with the main issue missing from the script, the filmmakers resort to eye-rolling attempts at drama such as Anastasia’s cartoonishly misogynistic boss (Eric Johnson), a scheming cougar (Kim Basinger), and a suicidal scorned ex-submissive (Bella Heathcote), not to mention an action sequence so hilariously out of place it’s thankfully mostly off-camera, its consequences brushed aside as easily as anything else in this film.
Choppy editing and uninspired dialogue doesn’t help, and the song selections and Danny Elfman’s score are so obviously on-point it becomes a soft-core parody. The final scene wherein Anastasia finally succumbs to Christian’s more twisted ways results in a scene that — although sensual — hardly realizes the darkness promised in the title. A mid-credits preview of the next installment solidifies that “Fifty Shades Darker” isn’t about female empowerment or an exploration of the BDSM scene – it’s just melodramatic shlock.
Director: James Foley
Writers: Niall Leonard (screenplay), E.L. James (based on the novel by)
TRT: 1h 58min
Rated R for strong erotic sexual content, some graphic nudity, and language
–written by: Richard Bonaduce