Cinepub


Review: Fifty Shades Of Grey by Jamie

I entered the booking number into the automated ticket dispensary, fingers trembling with apprehension and a sense of growing dread despite the alcohol coursing through my system, the result of a couple of hastily downed pints at the bowling alley opposite in order to try and steady my nerves. The kind of nerves that anyone would experience when willingly putting themselves through a masochistic experience such as this. My mind was a blur as I waited in line for refreshments, a large coke on my mind, something large enough to try and help me endure the two hour torture session I was about to submit myself to. Finally it was my turn. I ordered, fingers fumbling with my money as I handed it over. Could the person behind the counter sense my fear? Did they know what it was that I was here to do?

“I LOST A BET!” I yelled, slightly drunkenly, at the man who was taking tickets. “Ok…” He replied, a confused look upon his face until he saw the name of the movie on the ticket that I handed him and he chuckled knowingly, tearing it and informing me that I would be in screen one, seat M17. Of all the lies I had thought up to try and save face in front of the ticket collector, I lost a bet was the one that had suddenly come to me in my moment of panic. He bought it, I thought to myself, smiling and safe in the knowledge that this perfect stranger who I would almost certainly never have another social interaction with knew that I was not here of my own choice. I entered the screening room, the doorway decorated with a number of black, grey, lighter grey and white balloons. Apparently the party industry never anticipated a day when they would actually need balloons in a massive variety of shades of grey.

The screening room was packed, a few couple sprinkled through here and there and frankly a lot more men than I’d anticipated but the majority of the crowd were older women, the kind that apparently didn’t realise that porn was widely and freely available on the internet.Perhaps it was my imagination but I could almost swear that the scent of ancient vaginas lubricating themselves for the first time in years out of anticipation for what was to come permeated the room. Pity the poor bastard who had to clean this place afterwards. I tried to keep my head down and was distraught to find that my seat, seat M17 which I had chosen thanks to it’s position next to the aisle, was currently occupied by a creature that I could best describe as Jabba the Hutt in a sundress. Best not to disturb this beast, I thought, and took the seat opposite, still on the aisle, and hoped that no one would claim it for themselves. Eventually four teenage girls came and sat in the four empty seats next to me and it looked like I was safe from having to move or attempt to meet the sundress wearing Hutt in hand to hand combat. And so I settled in to watch Fifty Shades of Grey…

What can really be said about E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey that hasn’t already been said? We’ve heard all the criticism, that it’s domestic abuse tarted up as kinky sex, that it has as much to do with realistic BDSM as The Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation (Not the first Care Bears movie, the BDSM scenes of which were extensively researched and portrayed in as realistic a way as possible) and that it’s poorly written with characters being little more than cardboard cut-outs with the internal monologue of pasta. Some of us, myself included, know these criticisms to be just because we’ve actually read the damnable thing. I read it because I’m a glutton for the worst entertainment has to offer and wondered if reading a bad book could be as enjoyable as watching a bad movie. Spoiler alert, it isn’t. It’s a lot longer and good luck trying to get a bunch of friends round for a drunken reading of Fifty Shades of Grey. Anyway, with the way that this book has been slammed by critics, laypeople and kink enthusiasts (And I mean slammed as in criticised not as in, you know, a good way) alike, the world was left wondering if a movie adaptation could be any better. Well it is.

Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey: The Motion Picture is better than Kinky Twilight Fanfic Fifty Shades of Grey: The Novel but please, don’t get your hopes up that this is the great BDSM work of fiction that the world has been clamouring for. Saying this movie is better than the source material it is based on isn’t much different that saying a rhinoceros with two legs has a better chance of survival than a rhinoceros with no legs. I mean, it’s technically probably true but the difference is negligible at best. The story is still largely the same story which means that it’s weak though it does have the advantage of not being narrated by it’s main character Anastasia Steele and her fucking “inner goddess” so we’re at least saved from that indignity.

The film tells the story of the aforementioned Miss Steele who ends up interviewing handsome young billionaire Christian Grey in place of her room mate who has fallen ill. There is an immediate attraction between the two (apparently) and he is soon stalking her, tracking her phone using GPS and picking her up while she’s drunk and bringing her back to strange hotel rooms and changing her clothes while she is passed out. You know, love. It is as the plot, well, progresses I guess that Anna learns that Christian has special tastes when it comes to the bedroom. He sleeps hanging upside down and often leaves the bed in the middle of the night. Could it be that Christian Grey is in fact the mysterious Batman who stalks Gotham’s criminals at night? I kid of course. Christian is actually in to kinky sex which could only really be shocking to post-menopausal grandmothers and people who’ve never heard of the internet in this day and age. A few bland sex scenes later and we’re left with Anna wondering if she can really go down this sexy path and also knowing that if she doesn’t she might just lose Christian forever! Whatever will she do? Will you care? No. No you won’t.

Ugh. Ok, let’s get in to the meat of this thing. Why is Fifty Shades of Grey the movie better than the book even if it is only marginally so? That, as near as I can tell, rest on the shoulders of two people. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and Anastasia Steele actress Dakota Johnson. Taylor-Johnson, it seems, didn’t take the material as seriously as the author did and so she thankfully injects it with a slight camp, tongue-in-cheek tone the story sorely, sorely needed. She knows that she’s making a movie based on trash and so she’s going to have a little fun with it and that is much appreciated by those of us who have forced ourselves to see it.

Dakota Johnson is the real highlight of the movie though. She takes what was a weak-willed, personality-less character in Anastasia Steele and actually gives her some agency and, most importantly, a sense of humour. She’s quick witted and smart and Johnson has a real sense of comedic timing which really works to her advantage. Whereas the Anastasia Steele in the book feels as though she’s being manipulated and cajoled into doing things that she doesn’t really want to do through some stupidly blind love for an abusive partner, this Anastasia Steele actually feels as though she’s in control and is allowing things to proceed as she wants and at her pace. It’s a stark contrast and one that’s really important if you’re going to bring this story to the big screen.

As for the bad, well, there’s Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey himself. Well, perhaps bad isn’t the right word just kind of left without much to do beyond say fuck a few times and fret about Anna. Oh, and I guess he broods a few times too. What I’m saying is that he isn’t really giving much to work with here and that which he is given leaves him feeling much more like a charicature than a character, especially when placed up against the much more wilful Anna that inhabits the screen version of this story. All his assertions that he wants to make her his come of as silly rather than sexy or steamy. And he ends up just seeming like a complete tool, perhaps even moreso than if he had the love-blind, meek, enabling Anna opposite him. Perfect example is a scene where Christian is explaining his sexual inclinations. Anna asks if they can still go on dates, watch movies and such to which he replies “That’s not really my thing.” There is a moment’s silence in which Anna looks a little upset prompting Christian to ask her to keep an open mind. Excuse me? Did your character just say that he’s absolutely not interested in what the other character wants and then accuse the other character of being closed minded because they weren’t interested in what he wanted? Wow.

As for the other characters, ummm, yeah. They don’t really matter. As for plot, well, it’s a slight improvement over the original but it’s still the same basic thing. Nothing actually happens in this movie. Why would it need to? Our main character begins a relationship with a billionaire. Anytime the plot needs to move forward, he throws money at it. Job done. And when the movie wasn’t being tongue in cheek or the romance was trying to be taken seriously, well, let’s just say I spent a lot of time checking the time and figuring out just how much time I had left and as I already mentioned, the sex scenes were just kind of bland and it wasn’t helped by the fact that one of the girls in my row couldn’t stop giggling through each and every one.

So in the long run, this movie was not as bad as it could have been but that by no means makes it good. I’ll say that, since it’s fair to compare this to Twilight due to it’s fanfic roots, it is better than all but one of the Twilight movies (that one being the last one. Thanks Michael Sheen!) and that is largely because Dakota Johnson > Kristen Stewart. Hell, this movie even managed to get a couple of laughs out of me. Still I can’t recommend this to anyone . If you want romance with a hint of sexiness then… well, fine. I guess there isn’t a dearth out there particularly for female audiences. But if you want porn, then the internet is out there and those things can have some pretty deep story lines sometimes I hear. One and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

Foxcatcher

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Review: Pacific Rim by Jamie

So Pacific Rim hit theatres like Godzilla hitting Tokyo. It’s the film I’ve been looking forward to all summer, the film that I’d laid my hopes on when it came to saving what has been a dreary and disappointing blockbuster season. It made sense. I love Kaiju movies. I’m down with giant robots. This should be a no-brainer, right? This should be a film that was made for me. A modern, big-budget Kaiju vs. Mecha movie. This is what I want right?

Well, it turns out that it wasn’t or at least not this version of it. Honestly I hated this movie. This movie that had so much potential, this movie that I put so much faith into. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I have become overly critical lately. I look at Twitter and see all the people who love this movie and it makes me sad. I’m happy that they got something out of it that I didn’t and I wish I had gotten that out of it too. Still I’m not going to lie and say that I enjoyed it when I didn’t. Overly critical or not, my opinion is still my opinion and I can’t see it changing anytime soon.

So what was it about this movie that irked me so? Ugh, where to begin? It was just so… ugh. Ok, so the basic plot is giant alien monsters have been invading the Earth through a dimensional rift at the bottom of the ocean and mankind has responding by building giant robots to fight them. Will mankind prevail or be wiped out? That’s a question that I literally ended up not caring about by the end of this film. Why? Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can’t care about the stakes if I don’t care about the characters and if there’s one thing that this movie is lacking, it’s characters. Every one is a cliché or a stereotype. Take our main character Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunman). He’s a Mecha pilot who quits after his brother is killed in action. He drifts from job to job, trying to forget the ghosts of his past. Suddenly his former commanding officer Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), a gruff military man who’s hard exterior masks a softer side, shows up in order to recruit him for one last mission. Becket finally agrees and at the base he meets two wacky scientists. One is tattooed and doesn’t mind leaving his lab in a messy state and the other is an uptight Englishman who likes a tidy working area. They’re the original odd couple! He also meets Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a somewhat meek Japanese girl who, get this, turns out to be really good at martial arts! But wait, I hear you say. Is there a cocky pilot who is great at his job but also an abrasive asshole? You bet your ass there is (Robert Kazinsky)! And let me tell you, he and Raleigh just can’t seem to get along with each other at all. Will they come to respect each other? Who can say? Ok, let’s just say that by the time that the bleached-blonde, sour-faced, statuesque Russian pilots who literally might as well both be Ivan Drago showed up, I was done. Done, done, done.

Look, I get it. This is a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters. Should I really care so much about how fleshed out the characters are? And you know what, I agree. I wouldn’t have minded a few clichés but EVERY SINGLE FUCKING CHARACTER? No. Now I’m afraid you’ve asked too much of me. And then there’s the story. Oh the story. There are threads which are picked up and then resolved far too quickly to make sense. For example, Pentecost originally refuses Mori’s request to become a pilot only to change his mind moments later with no explanation as to why. The movie also bends and breaks it’s own rules, something which should be a fucking cardinal sin in a Sci-Fi movie. For example, it is explained in the beginning of the film that the robots, which I probably should have mentioned by now are called Jaegers, have to be operated by more than one person because a neural connection with one person outs too much strain on that persons brain. This is broken moments later when a guy pilots his Jaeger solo after a battle. There’s also a far more egregious example of rule-breaking at the end of the film but I can’t say it because it’s a spoiler. Damn.

Speaking of spoilers, the ending is literally lifted almost wholesale from another film. I won’t tell you which one because it would be spoileriffic but if you’ve seen any big blockbusters within the past 100 years, you should be able to tell.

Ok, I still get it. It’s a movie about giant robots punching giant monsters. Isn’t the story just a means to an end to bring us those awesome action scenes? One, think about that the next time you criticise a Transformers movie and two, fair enough and that’d be acceptable if the fights were great to watch. Don’t get me wrong, they were some of the best parts of the film but the fights feature too many close-ups, too many quick cuts, too much of what’s going on being obscured by sea spray, rain or just the fact that all the fights take place at night. When you can tell what’s going on, it is indeed very cool but half the time it’s all just too… too meh. Sometimes there’s something to be said for guys in rubber suits.

Can I think of something I enjoyed before I wrap this up? Uh… The Kaiju looked cool, I guess and Ron Perlman was pretty entertaining…

I really wanted to love this movie. I really did. I wanted it to save my summer. I wanted to be able to smile as I walked out of the cinema and say to myself “You know what self? 2013 wasn’t a complete waste of time.” But I didn’t. I just didn’t. I’m honestly not sure what to rate this. So I guess I just won’t. I mean, I seem to be in the pretty big minority on this one and you’re probably going to go and see it anyway. Enjoy it. I hope you get out of it what I could not. I dunno. Maybe this would’ve been better if all the Kaiju were in a tornado of some kind. Laterz…. Oh, and if your robot has a sword that can cut through Kaiju like butter, why are you not always using it?

Sigh




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