Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snow Screen: 50 Shades of Grey, Kingsman & American Sniper

Lotta movies out there right now, lotta movies. This past weekend saw an interesting one-two punch of literary adaptions hit theaters: erotic Twilight fan-fiction turned best seller 50 Shades of Grey and graphic novel adaptation Kingsman: The Secret Service. Grey made waves with it's bondage and blind fold motif while Kingsman was a throwback to big spectacle spy flicks from the 60's. Both performed admirably at the box office and surprisingly, both were rated R.

Grey is the story of meek English Literature major Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and her relationship with guarded young billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Basically Grey is a messed up youth with a junkie mother that was abused as a child and the only way he can find sexual gratification is through being a dominant to a submissive using assorted handcuffs, blindfolds, whips and the like. Steele is intrigued and swept off her feet by Grey but has to pump the brakes when the seemingly weird and unfamiliar fetishes start coming out. There's plenty of romance and sex as I found the flick surprisingly watchable and telling a familiar story. It's literally a romantic comedy about a girl meeting a guy and the two meeting in the middle to make it work. Instead of zany, accident filled set pieces to show how much the duo cares for each other, you get sex scenes with hands being tied in ties, or bound with ropes. Sam Taylor-Johnson crafts a classy and sleek looking picture from Kelly Marcel's adaptation of E.L. James' hit novel. Steele is your typical awkward duckling waiting for her prince who just happens to be a dammaged goods billionaire. As I thought the film would simply depict her becoming Grey's sex slave in return for a jet set lifestyle, the flick does a good job of having Steele stand her ground as a consenting adult open to experimentation but not exploitation. Dornan's Grey is like a less serious version of Michael Fassbender in Shame, addicted and disturbed but it's not as feel bad/awesome as all that jazz. Pacific Rim's Herc Hansen Max Martini shows up as Grey's driver but doesn't do or say much. Would have been interesting to see Martini reunited with original Christian Grey and Pac Rim co-star Charlie Hunam in such a different film.

Kingsman is the latest from Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class director Matt Vaughn. This time around we get Colin Firth as secret agent Harry Hart, a member of a secret society that fights global threats. He takes young Eggsy (Taron Egerton) under his wing after the lad's dad is killed on a mission. Like James Bond, Jr., Eggsy trains to become a Kingsman who are fighting the Richard Branson/Russell Simmons with a lisp tech mogul baddie Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Utilizing cell phone waves, Valentine plans to brainwash the world into killing itself through violent urges. The flick runs a bit long but is more or less a ridiculous good time, bordering on irresponsible with loads of gratuitous violence and hanky panky talk. A fantastic supporting cast includes Mark Strong, Mark Hamill and Michael Caine. Colin Firth is the latest older leading man to go Liam Neesons in Tooken to kick some ass and looks pretty good doing it. Like Dolph Lundgren said, these days it just takes a few stuntmen, a good cameraman, editing and a solid choreographer to make anybody a decent action hero.

I've been wanting to see American Sniper for a while now and was not deterred by any talk of attacks on subject Chris Kyle's character or the fake baby. A pretty simple story about a guy wanting to serve his country and how that affects his life, wife and family for good and bad. Bradley Cooper is solid as the Navy's deadliest sniper and Navy Seal as he serves four tours in Iraq facing terrorists, human butchers and snipers. The film goes back and forth between the battlefield, his home life between tours and his relationship with wife Taya (Sienna Miller). As a film, I found it to be a well done, rousing, scary and a bit sad look at the deeds and sacrifices the men and women of the armed forces make to protect the freedom of the rest of us. Whether or not Kyle had emotional or mental issues or if a guy should really be celebrated for being a skilled killer I can't comment on. I didn't find the film to be jingoistic or war mongering in any way and it didn't attempt to portray Kyle as a squeaky clean superhero. Clint Eastwood delivers the goods on a reported $60 million dollar budget with shootouts, explosions, lots of time in Iraq and sand storms, etc. The Magnificent Seven and Now & Again star Eric Close shows up for a quick scene but I was surprised that most of the remaining cast was filled with unfamiliar faces. Randomly, Kyle's Marine buddy Marc Lee is played by Luke Grimes who was also in Grey as the billionaire's goofy brother.

With the Oscars this weekend and not much interest in trying to see all the Best Picture nominees, I figure if I can check out The Theory of Everything this week I'll be all caught up. Well besides Hot Tub Time Machine 2 because that looks hilarious. Here's hoping for a Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese cameo to go along with all the time jumping and references from the first flick.

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