Category Archives: Film

Fifty Shades of Grey: A Review.

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Fifty Shades of Grey is the infamous novel that took the world by storm in 2012. What started out as fan fiction for the vampire series Twilight, blossomed into a story about a girl with a crush, and how her first sexual experience changes her.

I have only read the first two pages of the novel. I can’t bring myself to continue. The writing, in my opinion, comes off as a first draft of a fantasy by a ninth grade girl. She just had her first kiss from the Quarterback and decided to turn it into a story. Of course, we know the story was written by a woman in her mid forties, and one has to wonder, what was the inspiration behind this story? Yes, we know it was Twilight. But, every story has some basis of non-fiction in it. Did EL James merely have an attraction to Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner? Did she take her love for Twilight and use it to dramatize a story from her own life? The world may never know.

What we do know, is that this erotic piece of fiction has blown every other romance novel out of the water. It very well may remain a mystery as to why. We have a phenomenon, and all we can do is accept, that for some reason, the world has become taken by Christian Grey.

When a book becomes so popular that its title is on everyone’s lips, Hollywood takes interest. So, three years after the novel’s birth, we now have the film adaptation. The film is seen as a guilty pleasure, an alien, an addiction– a secret. Don’t tell anyone you’ve seen it. Don’t go to a showing during daylight. No. Instead, don a wide hat, trench coat and sun glasses. Or, use the internet to see the film in the pleasure of your own home, at 1 in the morning.

The film is better than what you’ve heard. It is crippled by its source material, yes, but if you watch this film knowing it’s going to be strange and uncomfortable, you’ll be fine. The actors here do a fine job. The casting of Christian Grey was highly publicized. Would the role by played by Matt Bomer? No. (Producers didn’t want an openly gay actor.) Ian Somerhalder? Nope. (He wasn’t interested.) The role had been given to Charlie Hunnam, but dropped out after internet backlash.

The role went to Jamie Dorian, whom, was unknown to me. He’s been in a BBC series, The Fall, as well as Once Upon a Time. There are other things on his resume, but those are the most widely known. The actor is extremely charismatic and his body is the type that women will smile when his shirt comes off.

Anna Steele, the college student who finds herself entranced by Christian, is played by Dakota Johnson. The actress is suitable for the role, but there are some inconsistencies with her performance. These could be a result of directing or editing, however. She also bites her lip a lot. However, one might remember Kristen Stewart was known for doing that in the Twilight films…

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The role of Anna almost went to Lucy Hale. But, producers thought she looked too young. While watching the film, I wondered how Lucy would have handled the material and half wished she had been in the role instead.

Fans were outraged when they heard the film only has twenty minutes of sex. Well. I’m here to tell you, these twenty minutes are PLENTY and while they may appear “rushed” in places, they are not skimpy or cheap. You see Anna’s breasts. And you will see the top of Christian’s shaft, even if it’s just for a second. There’s slamming down on the bed. Intense kissing. Etc.  This is the type of sex that’s in the film and I have no idea why fans were disappointed. The novel might be ten times more graphic, I suppose. Trust me, though. You don’t ever want to see this film with your parents or a friend.

While most people will tell you this is a story of abuse and strictly BDSM, I’m here to tell you, that is not what this is.

Yes, BDSM is a factor. But this is not the focus of the film. Instead, I saw the film as a story about a virgin becoming captivated by getting attention from a man for the first time. (And, more importantly, her first sexual experience.)

Anna tells Christian she “wouldn’t know about sex” and that she’s “never gotten attention when she wanted it.” And so, this is the core of Fifty Shades of Grey: Anna is taken by Christian’s affection and then longs for a “real” relationship. Of course, Christian only wants a sexual relationship. That’s the story the film is telling. I can’t speak of the novel.

The technical aspects of this film are top notch (MOSTLY.). The music by Danny Elfman is especially gripping, a nice change from the wacky themes we typically hear in a Tim Burton film. The Production Design is exquisite. Christian’s apartment gives the impression of belonging to someone extremely wealthy and the lighting design casts mystery as Christian plays the piano.

Where the film goes south, is its direction and editing. Anna goes from extremely timid to taking charge to back again. While the character does get excited of experiencing something new, she takes charge in a few situations where her established traits says she wouldn’t. I mainly am talking about a scene in which Anna and Christian have a “business meeting” in his office.

First, Christian slides his hand towards Anna’s behind as they walk. She slides it away, saying this is formal meeting. It’s meant to make you chuckle, but its inconstant with Anna’s overall character. She instead would have been uncomfortable but accepted the touching.

During the meeting, Anna makes quips left and right, putting Christian in his place, as they discuss a private matter. Again, it just does not fit with her overly timid nature. As to why the scene is like this could be a directing decision or an editing one.

The films ending is also very abrupt. There are two sequels to the original novel, so one might assume this ending serves as a “cliffhanger.” But, it just seems jarring. And you’ll go, “That’s it?”

Fifty Shades of Grey is not a bad film. It’s an unusual one. It is an entity. An enigma. And, there will be two more.

Should you see it?

If you’re curious as to what all the fuss is about, yes.

Laters, Baby.

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The Summer Tradition.

In the year 2000, I rented the film Psycho. No, not the original, but the 1998 remake. I knew of the 1960 version, but for whatever reason, I rented the remake. Having not seen the original, I enjoied what I saw, because there was no precursor. When the film ended, I had this overwhelming drive to imitate the shower scene. (That is the scenarist form of flattery, you know.)

The Poster for the 1998 remake of ‘Psycho.’

My father was a filmmaker and he had a video camera. My father said he was up for filming a little something, but I’d need a script before anything could happen. So, I quickly typed up a script in a day or so. Of course, the story was different. “Marion” was now “James” and “Norman” was now “Norma.” My step mother was up for anything. So she’d play the part of the crazy killer.

So, the next day, we spent probably four or so hours filming. When we had finished, I hooked up my dad’s camera to his Sony Vaio and opened Movieshaker, a movie editing software.

I spent another long amount of time placing the footage together and adding music. The finished product was placed on DVD and we watched it in the evening with soda and popcorn. It wasn’t very good, but it was a family activity and gave us a good laugh.

My Aunt, Janet, saw the film a week later, with me in attendance. When it had finished, she tuned to me and said, “Gosh, that looked like fun! I want to be in a movie!” I’m not sure if she was completely serious. But, I was impressionable and I had been biten by the filmmaking bug.

That summer, nearly the entire family became involved in the process. I had written a 30 page script called “Daisy the Crazy Lady”, about a woman escaping a mental institution and causing trouble for a boy and his aunt. Again, the idea might have been campy— but everyone had fun making it. A few weeks later, we had a premiere, with popcorn and soda. It was from this moment that a summer tradition had been born.

We made a film every summer for ten years. The majority were purely original ideas, while three were based on fairy tales. They weren’t Oscar material by any means, but they became a love for the family. The grand finale was a version of “The Wizard of Oz”, a story I absolutely love. By this time, everyone knew what they were doing. I am very proud of that film and the work that went into it. That was in 2010. By this time, almost all of the ‘actors’ were warn out and had said “Oz” was there last.

I missed the tradition instantly. I wanted to keep going, but you can’t make a movie without actors.  So, I thought up a great idea. I’d write a script to do with friends! That, however, is another story entirely.

Six of the ten films are online for you to view. Here’s the first part of “The Wizard of Oz”

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Maleficent Film Review

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Maleficent as she appears in “Sleeping Beauty.”

In 1959, the world was re-introduced to the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty. I say “reintroduced” because the story had been featured in a famous ballet. The Disney film was a huge success. It is now considered a genuine and important part of animation history. In the film, baby Aurora is cursed by the evil fairy Maleficent. On her sixteenth birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Maleficent is considered one of the greatest Disney Villains, having been animated brilliantly by Marc Davis and voiced by Eleanor Audley.

55 years later, the story is being told again. We’re seeing “what really happened” from Maleficent’s point of view. Why is she so evil? Why does she curse an incontinent child? These questions and more are addressed in the new live-action film, starring Angelina Jolie as the titular character.

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Angelina Jolie as Maleficent.

Telling a famous story from the villains point of view is somewhat of a new thing. Years ago, there was a book detailing “The Three Little Pigs” from the Wolf’s perspective. There is the musical “Into the Woods” in which all the fairy tales are intertwined. However, as far as I recall, this is only the second time we’ve truly seen this sort of thing.

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Was the Wolf really the bad guy?

The musical WICKED tells the story of The Wicked Witch and Glinda before Dorothy arrived. That musical has really been a whirlwind and has a lot of people mad at Dorothy. And so, now we get to see how Maleficent became how we know her.

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Are people born wicked?

The film does a fantastic job at giving Maleficent a back story. Without giving you details, it’s safe to say she was good, originally. If you know the animated film well, you will be treated to really neat character introductions of people you know and love. What was King Stefan like? Just exactly how were the three fairy’s during the 16 years caring for Aurora? How did Maleficent meet her pet raven? These little things are most interesting to see. I strongly recommend watching the animated classic before going to see this.

The acting in this film is phenomenal. Jolie can portray the evilness and the goodness extremely well. She balances the two like nothing and her character truly is well-rounded. While her character is different than the animated counterpart, Jolie does a fantastic job at mirroring Audley’s performance in the pivotal scene where Maleficent interrupts Aurora’s christening. That moment will make fans of the animated classic smile.

Elle Fanning is a beautiful Aurora, truly exhibiting the grace and beauty the part requires. The animated counterpart does not say a whole lot. But in this film, Aurora is given more screen time. Fanning can act too and is quite believable.

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Aurora, as she appears in “Sleeping Beauty.”

 

The rest of the cast is great too, but I’d have to spoil the story to talk about them.

Cosmetically, the film is breath-taking. You get wonderful scenic views. For the most part, the CGI is top notch. Maleficent’s magic flows from her hands flawlessly, trees grow into real-looking thorny forests and Three Fairy’s fly with elegance. The only animation that looks poor is some of the magical creatures you see in the prologue. The music, composed by James Newton Howard is simply magical. However, one would wonder why even a tiny bit of the music from the animated classic isn’t used at all. This film is made by Disney, after all. They certainly could have done it if they had wanted.

If this film has a negative aspect, there might truly only be one. The film takes great care to emulate the animated scene in which Aurora is cursed by Maleficent. The movements of characters, the camera angles, the green glow– everything in this scene is almost identical to the Animated Counterpart. But, while the lines spoken in this scene are almost word-for word… there’s one line that gets changed. And I’ll just tell you what it is. In the animated classic, Maleficent says, “Listen well, all of you! The princess shall indeed grow in grace and beauty, beloved by all who know her. But, before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she shall prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die.

However, in the live-action version, she says, “… She shall prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a deep, death like sleep.” The change is jarring, because up to that point, the scene is almost exactly the same as the animated version. You can figure it’s changed to give Maleficent humility. But it just does not make sense to meticulously recreate a scene and suddenly change probably the most important line.

Despite this one little deviation, I’d say the film is worth checking out. To get the full experience, however, be sure to watch Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” first.

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