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Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
4K UHD: 5/9/2017

All Ratings out of

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Review by Lynn Finsberry, Posted on 5/8/2017

As Salt and Pepper sang ďLets talk about sex babyĒ. It is a subject many think should be private, personal, and seldom discussed. Perhaps that is why E.L. James Fifty Shades series is so popular. While I have not read any of these books, I know they are quite graphic sexually, and the first movie of the series, Fifty Shades of Grey was, in my opinion, not that shocking or graphic. It was mundane, silly, and poorly acted. So going into Fifty Shades Darker, I was not expecting much. And, that is what the movie gave me- not much.

Fifty Shades Darker starts off where the first film left off. Anastasia ďAnaĒ (Dakota Jennings) has left her billionaire, troubled boyfriend Christian (Jamie Dornan) and is starting a new position for a publishing company. Her boss, Jack (Eric Johnson), appears to be a dream boss- he sees her as an equal and wants to be her mentor. Things soon change for Ana as she runs into Christian at the art show of a friend in which all photographs displayed of her are bought by him because he cannot take the thought of others looking at her (um, hello- dysfunctional/possessive much?). They soon rekindle their relationship because while Christian initially drives Ana away in the first film with (spoiler alert) his obsession with sexual domination in which his partner is his submissive, he finds he cannot live without her. Cue the multiple different sex scenes and drama as their relationship grows deeper once he begins to allow himself to be truly intimate, not just sexually intimate. Despite huge red flags such as a former lover (Bella Heathcote) of Christian who cannot let him go who begins stalking the couple, as well as Kim Basinger as Elena, the woman who introduced Christian into the word of sexual domination, their love intensifies.

So letís just be brutally honest- this movie is not good. It does have much more explicit sex scenes than one would expect for a Hollywood movie, but they are not sexy. I have to say I applaud Hollywood for using a thin actress who does not have fake breasts, and yet is still considered desirable even though her body is closer to a real womanís body (yes, most women are not as skinny as Johnson, but there are slender women in the real world and in movies they are usually enhanced with fake breasts because you are not sexy unless you canít stand up straight from your disproportionate rack weighing you down). But despite having great bodies, Dornan and Johnson are bland in this movie, and their characters are one dimensional.

And that is one of the movieís biggest flaws. Johnson is especially emotionless and has a flat affect throughout the movie. Perhaps she is aware of how ridiculous the movie is and just cannot muster emotion for such empty, stereotypical characters. Iíve never read a Harlequin romance, but I know the gist of many of these types of books is that the woman falls in love with a man who is misunderstood or fighting inner demons (i.e. Christian and his real mother, an addict and prostitute who commits suicide when Christian is four years old) and becomes transformed by her love. Transformative love, with a billionaire to boot who can buy you anything you want but also respects you want to have a career like Ana does in the movie, with hot sex sprinkled in provides a great fantasy for some. Too bad this type of relationship only masks dysfunction and in this case, a bad movie.

If this type of story is your cup of tea, youíre in luck because this movie sets up continuation of the story for the next movie in the series. Will Christian and Ana actually get married and have a happy life, or will his past and the passions he tries to bury destroy their relationship? I wished I cared, but sadly, I donít. Even though the film tries to add a touch of whimsy by incorporating a scene in which Ana, having made it into her own office once promoted at work, says her real life momís (Melanie Griffith) famous lines from Working Girl (after Tessa gets her first secretary), the viewer is already checked out and just watching scenes happen because there is no interest in the inane story at that point. Fifty Shades Darker ends up being fifty shades dumber.

Fifty Shades Darker feels like someone flipping through the various Lifetime networks on 4K UHD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a 2160p HD transfer. The image is sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source material. True to its title, this is a dark movie, but any bright light source looks great here. However, I did note something odd. In the scenes in which Christian and Ana are talking and the action is cutting back and forth between them, the shot of Christian is noticeably darker. Is this a defect or a thematic thing? The depth looks good and the level of detail is satisfactory, as we can make out the textures on objects. The Disc carries a DTS-X audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dialogue-driven drama, we don't get a ton of dynamic effects here, but there are some notable moments. The ball offers good stereo and surround effects, some of which highlight sounds coming from off-screen. The fireworks and a helicopter scene provide effective bass effects.

All of the extras for Fifty Shades Darker are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. The Disc contains two DELETED SCENES which run about 2 minutes. There are no new characters or subplots here. "Writing Darker" (3 minutes) has an interview with Writer E.L. James, where she once again admits that the books were Twilight fan-fiction, and then looks at how the book was adapted. "A Darker Direction" (5 minutes) offers comments from Director James Foley and we get to see him at work on the set. "Dark Reunion" (8 minutes) examines having the central cast return to work on the sequel and includes comments from the actors. "New Threats" (9 minutes) looks at the new twists and turns which enter Christian and Ana's world, and how their relationship is threatened. "The Masquerade" (7 minutes) takes us on-set to see the ball being planned and shot. "Intimate with Darker" (7 minutes) looks at the sexual and sensual aspects of the story.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long