Fifty Shades Freed Movie Review

A franchise can’t run out of steam if it never gathered any to begin with. That is the legacy of the Fifty Shades films and it climaxes limply with Fifty Shades Freed. The third and final (!) entry in the romantic saga of Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele-Grey (Dakota Johnson), we open with the lovebirds tying the knot. And by tying the knot, I mean they’re getting married and not just tying some knot as part of their wild sex escapades. We’ve seen that before and it’s a major reason why the pictures (based on the E.L. James bestsellers) have their legions of fans.

Their wedded bliss is relatively short-lived, though describing anything as short-lived is generous in this sluggishly paced series. For one thing, Ana’s stalker Jack (Eric Johnson) is causing mischief once again. There’s also feelings of jealousy happening with Christian’s former flame (Kim Basinger). That subplot actually gets less screen time than the relationship woes of Ana’s best bud (Eloise Mumford) and Christian’s brother (Luke Grimes). What do these storylines have in common? None of them are interesting. For a trilogy wanting to burst with lustful excitement, Freed and its predecessors have been so very listless.

I was never familiar with the source material from which these movies were spawned. Upon viewing Fifty Shades of Grey for the first time, I was more than willing to keep an open mind and try to understand how the novels become phenomenons. Three tales later, I just don’t get it and that certainly applies to its cinematic renderings. The performances of Johnson and Dornan still come across as flat. My previous descriptions of the “hot scenes” being no more gripping than late night Cinemax still stands (the writing is no better either).

Thankfully I can now officially close that once open mind when it comes to Christian and Anastasia. I am freed.

* (out of four)

Fifty Shades Freed Box Office Prediction

For the third Valentine’s Day frame in the past four years, the romantic adventures of Anastasia and Christian will be on display for moviegoers when Fifty Shades Freed opens next weekend. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return with James Foley (who made previous entry Fifty Shades Darker) directing. Costars include Kim Basinger, Eric Johnson, Marcia Gay Harden, and Rita Ora.

This is the third and final chapter of the franchise based on E.L. James’s sultry bestsellers. The trailer reminds us to not miss the climax (get it?). The series has been a popular one for Universal Pictures, but there was a significant dip between 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey and 2017 sequel Darker. Three years ago, Grey premiered to $85 million with an eventual $166 million domestic haul. Darker managed $46 million for its start with $114 million overall.

Freed appears likely to follow that downward trend, but its drop shouldn’t be nearly as pronounced as the last one. Current estimates have this hovering around the $40 million mark and that seems about right. I’ll say it falls just under that as fans bid farewell to Mr. and Mrs. Grey.

Fifty Shades Freed opening weekend prediction: $38.4 million

For my Peter Rabbit prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/31/peter-rabbit-box-office-prediction/

For my The 15:17 to Paris prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/31/the-1517-to-paris-box-office-prediction/

Fifty Shades Darker Movie Review

There’s a scene towards the end of Fifty Shades Darker where we find ourselves in Christian Grey’s childhood bedroom. He is engaged in deep conversation with Anastasia Steele. Instead of giving anywhere near a damn about what they were discussing, I found myself distracted by the movie poster in his room: The Chronicles of Riddick starring Vin Diesel.

For the next couple of minutes, my mind wandered to the following questions: What made the set designers pick that 2004 sci-fi flick? What made them deduce that their lead character with a penchant for dominance and sadism would choose that film over any other? I thought about what age Christian would have been when it was released. 17 maybe? Here’s a guy, even as a youngster, that could have bought any movie poster, yet he chose The Chronicles of Riddick. Then I realized the fact that I was preoccupied with this minor piece of set decoration said a lot. I didn’t really care about anything else in that bedroom and or anyone in it.

Fifty Shades Darker is the sequel to 2015’s smash hit Fifty Shades of Grey and continues the saga of that man with the Riddick poster (Jamie Dornan) and book editor Anastasia (Dakota Johnson). Their romance was originated in a series of wildly popular E.L. James novels. As I opined in my one star review of Grey, I tried my best to understand its mass appeal to viewers and readers, but just couldn’t get there. Yet here we are again. When we last left the lovers, they had broken up because Anastasia just couldn’t quite get there with Christian’s kinky preferences. It takes about ten minutes of screen time for her to inexplicably change her mind and they’re back at it.

Part two does bring some new dynamics and characters into the fold. Anastasia’s new boss (Eric Johnson) wants more than her editing services. Christian’s sexual mentor (Kim Basinger) keeps popping up, as does a former lover (Bella Heathcote) who’s still subservient to her former master. These subplots lead to jealousy on both ends. There’s also a bit of exploration of Christian’s troubled childhood. All of these items seem like wind up to whatever the inevitable third picture will bring. There’s no pay off.

Instead we get a whole lot of conversations between our two leads and two underwhelming actors playing them. More than anything, the Fifty Shades series rises and falls with the chemistry of Dornan and Johnson. Once again, its mostly non-existent. The franchise’s selling point is the sex scenes and even they’re nothing more than what you’d see on cable after dark.

That said, I’m awarding Fifty Shades Darker a whole half star more than Grey. Why? Good question. Johnson’s acting is probably a half star better. There is perhaps a half star’s worthy more plot developments than in the first. Or maybe the Riddick poster distraction put me in a better mood. Who knows? The more likely reasoning is I’ve become more numb to the pain this unfortunate series has inflicted on me.

*1/2 (out of four)

Fifty Shades Darker Box Office Prediction

Two years ago, the film version of the E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey made a killing in theaters. This prompted the back to back shooting of second and third sequels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Next weekend, Darker hits screens and hopes to keep the momentum going.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are back in the roles of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey as their, shall we say, unique love life is further explored. Costars include Marcia Gay Harden, Kim Basinger, Luke Grimes, and Rita Ora. James Foley takes over directorial duties from Sam Taylor-Johnson (Foley will also helm the third installment out in February 2018).

The initial pairing of these kinky leads led to a box office bonanza in February 2015 when Grey took in an astonishing $85 million in its first weekend with an eventual domestic haul of $166 million.

Early tracking suggests Darker is highly unlikely to compete with that opening frame gross. In fact, it’s been speculated that this follow-up may only earn about half that number. This sounds about right. While Grey easily took the #1 spot out of the gate, this opens against The Lego Batman Movie and probably won’t whip that serious competition. I’ll say Darker gets to the mid 40s for its start, which is still pretty solid considering its reported $55M budget.

Fifty Shades Darker opening weekend prediction: $44.8 million

For my The Lego Batman Movie prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/02/the-lego-batman-movie-box-office-prediction/

For my John Wick: Chapter 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/02/john-wick-chapter-2-box-office-prediction/