Fifty Shades Freed (Cinema Review)

18 – 105mins – 2018


Now married to the love of his luxurious-if-troubled life, can billionaire spank-lover Christian Grey (Jamie Shadows in the Sun Dornan) and his innocent and grounded new wife, Anastacia (Dakota How to be SingleJohnson), live happily ever after, or will shady figures from Christian’s murky upbringing come back to haunt Mr and Mrs Grey’s honeymoon period?

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Fifty Shades Darker (Cinema Review)

Image result for fifty shades darker

18 – 118mins – 2017



It slaps (ahem) of irony that the author of the world’s biggest-selling trilogy of BDSM-flavoured ‘mummy porn’ was so dominant in protecting her property that both the writer and the director of 2015’s record-breaking first big screen adaptation tore up their contracts and walked away from the filthy franchise, calling for new submissives to be brought into the notorious Red Room ahead of this middle instalment.

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Black Mass (DVD Review)

15 – 118mins – 2015



Based upon the 2001 non-fiction chronicle by former newspaper reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, a stellar ensemble cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson and Kevin Bacon all play second fiddle to a balding Johnny Depp in this often grim dramatization of the 1975-1995 criminal career of South Boston’s Irish mob leader, James “Whitey” Bulger.

Not since Public Enemies in 2009 has Depp had the opportunity to shift from wacky wally to wryly wretched, but Black Mass is just that solemn showcase. Portraying the feared and felonious Whitey, head of the Winter Hill Gang – and brother to Massachusetts State Senate President, Billy Bulger (Cumberbatch) – makes for a stark (and welcome) change of direction for the Hollywood heartthrob, who has made quite the name for himself playing camp and colourful extroverts.

Entering into a problematic devil’s deal with childhood pal and FBI agent John Connelly (Joel Edgerton) to act as a “criminal informer”, Whitey believes that by getting the Feds to fight his battles for him and bring down the Italian mob, he will receive free reign to do whatever he likes. But the tragic deaths of his young son (Luke Ryan) and elderly mother (Mary Klug) pushes the infamous crime lord – and his ‘business associates’ – further down a dark path from which there is no immunity.

“It’s not what you do, it’s when and where you do it.”

Ostensibly comparable to last year’s Tom Hardy double-hander Krays biopic Legend (in theme if not in period detail), director Scott Crazy Heart Cooper instead avoids any whiff of grisly black humour here, playing this violent thriller deadly straight. There are attempts to endue Bulger’s wrongdoing with a maudlin rationale, but the steely-eyed and stony-faced gangster is too depraved to evoke compassion.

On the run for eleven years and only arrested in 2011, Black Mass’s persistently sombre and severe tone achieves the desired effect of painting the life of a “strictly criminal” felon as a despairingly lonely one.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars

How To Be Single (Cinema Review)

15 – 110mins – 2016


Adapted from the 2008 debut novel by Sex and the City screenwriter Liz Tuccillo, this femme-focused guidebook on how to survive the harsh and often loveless perils of the modern dating game is in a similar vein to star-heavy relationship comedy She’s Just Not That Into You (2009).

Although sunny in nature and released in time for Valentine’s Day, this isn’t a cutesy rom-com for the hearts ‘n’ flowers brigade, or for the uber-sensitive recently heartbroken. No, How To Be Single subverts romantic traditions in a way that will best appeal to battle-hardened independent twenty-first century woman who aren’t offended watching beautiful rich New Yorkers “struggle” to find a partner.

Fifty Shades breakthrough star Dakota Johnson plays recently-graduated Alice, who spontaneously demands a break from her loving boyfriend of four years (Nicholas Braun), simply for the “experience” of single life. Community cutie Alison Brie is uptight love-hunter Lucy, desperate to find “the one” via strategic online dating. Rebel Pitch Perfect Wilson’s Robin just wants fun, fun, fun rather than any form of commitment, while Leslie Mann plays Alice’s big sister, the career-driven Meg who has no time for a partner or family in her busy life – or does she…?

The “modern” attitudes of many of the characters – including secondary players such as Damon Wayans Jr’s single dad David – infuriated me for their bafflingly selfish decisions and continued self-destructiveness, while the ensemble nature of the plot does occasionally lead to a patchy story. For instance, Lucy’s only connection to Alice’s meatier lead story is that she uses the wi-fi in the same bar, therefore great stretches pass where Lucy isn’t present. She is then crowbarred into Alice’s climatic birthday party (not quite sure how she wangled an invite considering they are effectively strangers) simply to give bachelor barman Tom (Anders Holm) a convenient stage on which to make a bold proposal.

The passage of time is also surprisingly swift, to cover Meg’s IVF pregnancy in full, but this does give the film a flighty tone, with time marked by the celebrating of public holidays, just to make it crystal clear (Christmas! St Patrick’s Day!). The decision to skip ahead three months in the middle of the film was a bizarre move, however, only really explained away in the almost out-of-character subsequent scene which came like a bolt out of the blue.

For all of my grievances, however, the film is buoyed by a terrifically fresh and enthusiastic cast who do perfectly encapsulate their roles, and there are giggles to be had, even if Alice isn’t technically learning how to be single for much of the runtime. But then How to Party, Bed-Hop and Make Random, Stupid Decisions does not a piffy title make. The climax is reached on a surprisingly pro-independent note, however, and I was pleased that not every character lived happily ever after. Told you it was subversive!

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars