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Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/8/2015

All Ratings out of



Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/2/2015

I love discovering a diamond in the rough. I get really excited when I'm going to review a movie which few have heard of. I like the idea of introducing film fans to something which may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Having said that, I don't relish the idea of covering a cultural phenomenon. What am I going to say which hasn't already been said by hundreds of others? And if something is already popular, will it really make a difference if I give a positive or negative review? Still, that doesn't stop me from moving forward with these reviews and offering my two cents, so let's see what I have to say about Fifty Shades of Grey.

Fifty Shades of Grey introduces us to college student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), whose roommate, Kate (Eloise Mumford), is scheduled to interview millionaire businessman, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), but has gotten sick. So, Anastasia travels to Seattle to do the interview. She's surprised to find Grey both curt and intriguing. She's even more surprised when Grey shows up at the hardware store where Anastasia works. He asks her out, but explains that he doesn't date or "do romance". Anastasia and Grey begin to spend more time together, and he eventually explains that he is into some unusual sexual practices and that he wants Anastasia to sign a contract agreeing to be his "submissive". All of this is very new and exotic to Anastasia, and while she's drawn to Grey, she also craves a more traditional relationship.

As you most likely know, Fifty Shades of Grey began as a novel which shows millions of copies and then became a trio of novels. (What you may not know is that the book actually began as Twilight-inspired fan fiction. "Author" EL James then changed the names and sold the book as an original piece.) And now, even though seemingly no one will admit to having actually read or having actually liked the book, we get a feature film. The film was greeted with a lot of internet speculation due to casting changes and questions of how graphic and risque the film would be.

As you can no doubt guess, I have not read the books, so I'm not sure what they are like. Given what I had heard about the film, I'd expected it to be a Showgirls-like trainwreck which would be so bizarre that it would be entertaining. Instead, what I found was a movie which was the exact opposite. Fifty Shades of Grey is an incredibly cold, emotionless, and frankly, boring movie. Let's start with the actors. Both Johnson and Dornan show such flat affect throughout the movie that I was concerned for their safety. For a story which is supposed to be about a torrid romance, we certainly are presented with two people who don't seem the least bit excited to be there. In the movie, Anastasia is supposed to be surprised by Grey's proclivities, but Johnson seems surprised by every scene, as if she hadn't read the script. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson has decided to stay true to the title and delivers a movie which has a very dark and cold palette. There are some red's in Grey's "playroom", but it doesn't liven up the film. As for the sex in the film, it is boring as well. These scenes are far from erotic and aren't very different from what we've seen in other R-rated movies. I feel certain that this movie inspired many couples to have hot sex...because they certainly didn't see any in the film!

Given all of those problems, we are left with the story, which is tone-deaf from the outset. I must raise that question that many before me have offered: If Grey was poor, would Anastasia have been interested in him and his fetishes? I say that the answer is a resounding no. It probably isn't fair to call Anastasia a gold-digger, but if Grey had been an average Joe, the story would have been over much more quickly. The relationship doesn't make a lot of sense. Grey clearly stalks Anastasia, but she doesn't see it that way. He tells her not to drink...and then offers her a drink. He insists that she sign the contract...and then doesn't make her do it. I'm sure that this is all meant to be an intriguing romance, but it simply makes both characters seem stupid and makes us wonder how Grey got rich in the first place.

So, instead of being so bad that it's good, or being an actual good movie, Fifty Shades of Grey simply languishes in the shallow end, doing very little correctly. The relationship doesn't draw us in. The sex is lackluster. The movie isn't pretty to look at. The finale, in which Grey "does his worst", is stupefying. The movie did well at the box office, as the fans of the book and curious showed up. I get the feeling that on home video, people will see this for the silly waste of time which it is. But, perhaps it will get the audience to ask the ultimate question: How does Kate afford a Mercedes convertible?

Fifty Shades of Grey is having a "Red Tag Sale" at the hardware store on Bu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 22 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors, what little that there are, look fine and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture shows a very good amount of depth and the crispness of the image is aided by the high level of detail. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The nightclub scene and the graduation scene provide notable surround effects which offer some individual sounds. The stereo effects show good separation and the film's score sounds fine.

The Fifty Shades of Grey Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras. "The World of Fifty Shades of Grey" is divided into three sections, "Christian Grey", "Ana" and "Friends and Family". These are further divided into sub-sections which explore the characters, actors, and the look of the film through brief segments which include comments from the cast and Taylor-Johnson. "Behind the Shades" (19 minutes) looks at the making of the film, starting with the script and moving through casting and the film's production. "EL James & Fifty Shades" (6 minutes) has the "author" talking about how her novel sprang from Twilight fan fiction. Why would she admit this? "Fifty Shades: The Pleasure of Pain" (9 minutes) is an interview of the film's BDSM wrangler Liam Helmer, who explains the film's terms. "Christian's Apartment: 360 Set Tour" allows the viewer to explore eight rooms. The Disc contains the MUSIC VIDEOS for the songs "I Know You" by Sklyar Grey and "Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)" by The Weeknd, which is followed by "Behind the Scenes of 'Earned It'" (5 minutes). The final extra is a "Tease of Fifty Shades Darker" (29 seconds).

Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long