Fifty Shades Darker – Here We Go Again

Two years have passed since I have written my thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey. How time flies. It is funny that whenever I talk about Fifty Shades in public, people either not that comfortable talking about it or some give me that weird look.

Fifty Shades Darker

Truth be told, as comfortable as Dakota Johnson going naked in the show, I have no problem talking about it in public.

I think First Shades Darker is artistically done. Think on this. This show could have gone wrong in so many different ways. It could have been so awkward to watch. Even if it was as “good” as the previous installation – whereby good or bad is totally subjective of course – it would have been acceptable for me.

Fortunately, this one is better.

  • The character Christian Grey played by Jamie Dornan is more relatable this time around. More human. Less weird. Indeed, Anna Steele played by Dakota Johnson is changing him for the better. Thank goodness.
  • Jamie is more buffed up this time. Wow, his muscle. I am inspired to work out. With the beard and all, he looks like a real man! I always thought that he was kind of vampire-ish in the last movie.
  • I don’t think Dakota is the prettiest actress in Hollywood. But her being so comfortable with her body … there is something very empowering about it. As though she has developed this aura of command.
  • The chemistry between the two has become much better than before, which is understandably so from a storytelling perspective.

In short, I love Fifty Shades Darker, though I still have no clue as in what gets darker in this installment. I am looking forward to Fifty Shades Free.

The Pill – Love the Dialog and Drama

The Pill is a 2011 American romantic comedy film starring Rachel Boston and Noah Bean.

I chanced upon this 2011 movie while exploring movies over Netflix that have Rachel McAdams in it (somehow, Rachel Boston appears as a ‘close match’).  I was intrigued by the synopsis and since I enjoy watching romantic comedy genre, why not give it a go?  The story is incredibly straightforward.  A man (Noah Bean) and a woman (Rachel Boston) has a one-night-stand.  In the following morning, the man is concerned that the woman may become pregnant and insists that she should take a morning after pill.  At the pharmacy counter, the man discovers that one pill has to be taken immediately while another, 12 hours later.  So, he has to find a way to hang out with the woman he barely knows for half a day making sure that she will take the pill.  And she has no clue that there is a second pill to be taken.  Meanwhile, the woman just comes out of a long relationship and the man actually has a live-in girlfriend to go home to.

I like The Pill because the film focuses on the drama and the dialog.  There is plenty of acting involved while the rest like backdrop, effect, and soundtrack is kept to the minimal.  It reminds of films like Before Sunrise whereby the actors keep on talking throughout the movie.  Everything is stripped to basic excepts character development.  Love it.  It is a lighthearted sort of movie and is not as unbelievable as some of the bigger budget Hollywood romance comedy.  It simply presents the possibility of falling in love.

Tapas And The 8th Spanish Film Festival Here In Singapore

Tapas (2005) A Spanish Film

Cynthia and I were invited for the opening of the 8th Spanish Film Festival at The Arts House Singapore.  Before the main movie Tapas (2005), a 18 minutes short animation called Tadeo Jones (2007) was played.  Now that I have watched the animation.  It does sound like a reference to the Western version of Indiana Jones.

The main character Tadeo was at home when from his window, he saw a cute dog being thrown into a garage by a delivery man, together with boxes after boxes of mysterious packages.  Feeling the urge to save the dog, Tadeo ventured into the house and discovered a bizarre cult in the mist of an animal sacrificial ritual set in a quasi-Egyptian backdrop.  Not the sort of top quality animation as you would expect from a Hollywood movie of the same era.  The story is entertaining nonetheless.

Tapas (2005) is a mix of characters with individual plots that intertwined with one another.  In a Barcelona suburb, a wife of a self-centered restaurant owner cannot take his husband’s unrealistic demand anymore and has decided to quit being a chef.  And quit being his wife while she is at it.  Meanwhile, a Chinese chef who knows kung fu is happy to take up the job vacancy (and the abuse).  He is in Spain because he wants to be with his love.  A lady who sells chickpeas – among other cooking ingredients – has been in a separation for two years and now being in a cyber relationship with a man from Argentina.  Two young teenagers work at the same supermarket.  One of them is obsessed with Bruce Lee and girls of different nationalities while the other one has fallen in love with the chickpea lady.  Finally, there is an old couple with the woman selling drugs to the young and the man dying of lung cancer.

This film is raw, as in, there is little attractive about the characters and their living conditions.  Yet, it feels so real.  Ordinary people going about with their ordinary life dealing with real life challenges while learning from them.  Of all the sub-plots, I enjoy the story of the old couple the best.  It is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

The 8th Spanish Film Festival is starting from now till the end of the month.  Every day at 19.30.  Admission is free and the location is at The Arts House.  Check out their website for further information.

8th Spanish Film Festival in Singapore

A Royal Affair – A Danish Film Of A Mad King, A Lonely Queen, And A Visionary Physician

A Danish movie

The title says it all.  Set in the 18th century, Danish King Christian VII was mentally unwell.  Caroline Mathilde from Great Britain was married to Christian at the age of 15 and became queen.  German physician Johann Friedrich Struensee had attended the king’s sickness.  In the mist of it, he had become the king’s trusted friend and later on, an affair with the young and lonely queen.  As the king’s close friend, the physician played an essential part in shaping the country’s policies, which until now, had been mostly ruled by the Council due to the king’s sickness.  As the queen’s lover, the physician risked throwing away the political progress he had gained, which was ultimately the progress of the country.

I love watching European films inspired by historical events.  The plot is less formulaic than, say, a Hollywood movie.  European filmmakers tend to take their time in giving the film a treatment it deserves.  A Royal Affair is a 137 minutes long movie.  The story is engaging so much so that I wish the ending could have been expanded in some ways, rather than a paragraph of words or two on the screen.  The cinematography is beautiful.  Each frame’s composition is an art.  The music score is good too.  It goes well with the plot’s development.

Mads Mikkelsen’s role and the fact that he can act is a surprise to me.  He is often seen in Western movies as a villain (like many foreign artists come to think on it).  In A Royal Affair, he could well be a hero of the country.  He has a set of visionary policies based on his freethinking ideals.  Unfortunately, he was ahead of his time.  His policies were  implemented only by the next generation.  This prompted TK and I to reflect upon our local political atmosphere. We joked that the reason why A Royal Affair is being rated M18 in Singapore  is due to its anti-establishment sentiment.  There is very little blood and gore, equally little sex.  The most I would rate is a NC16.

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander looks really young in this movie.  Having read the history, I can understand why.  It is pretty hard to act mentally unstable.  All credit to Mikkel Følsgaard’s boyish performance.  He is funny to watch but not without inducing a sense of pity from the audience.  At times, I could feel the king’s internal struggle as he threaded between the line that separate sanity from insanity.

Royal affair is a messy business.  But at least, for this historical story, there was something good coming out from it.

The Grandmaster – A Film On The Life Stories Of Yip Man And Gong Er

An art house type of movie

To fully appreciate this Chinese movie, you probably need to understand the language, the culture, as well as the martial arts within.  It is not unusual for the olden day Chinese to speak in metaphors.  My dad still does too.  The English subtitles can be quite misleading at times.  What if you don’t understand Chinese but you are curious about The Grandmaster?  I suppose even if you can only get the essence of it, it may still be worthwhile provided that you enjoy watching art house type of movies or you are a fan of the leading actor and actress.

The backdrop is enticing.  A story told from Yip Man’s perspective (he who was Bruce Lee’s teacher).  From Yip Man’s age of 40 till his old age.  Upon the then-grandmaster’s retirement, while the northern China’s grandmaster title was given to Ma San, it was of the old grandmaster’s wish to pass the southern China title to a southerner.  Hence the introduction of Yip Man.

Tony Leung is quite possible one of the best actors I have seen.  He truly can act with just his eyes.  That heighten alertness in face of a real challenge, confidence with a hint of playfulness during a friendly duet, that moment of being mesmerized by the opposite sex, pain and despair, heartache and resignation, or simply that pair of weary eyes having seen too much in life.  It is a real treat to see him act as Yip Man.  This movie has provided him much opportunity to shine.

Zhang Ziyi plays the role of Gong Er, the daughter of the then-grandmaster.  While the range of emotion given is not as wide as Yip Man’s role, Zhang Ziyi has certainly chilled me with her coldness, pained me with her rare tenderness.  Her acting too is convincing.

The martial art scenes are pretty impressive.  With modern technology and the extreme slow motion close-up playback, the action is exciting to watch.  But here lies the problem.  The director Wong Kar-wai has cast this film in an art house setting (like his last movie My Blueberry Nights).  Take away the breathtaking action and the engaging acting is a series of artistic shots such as water peddles and street scenery, Buddha statues and candles.  The gaps can be extremely slow.  I found myself wanting to see the next action or acting scene and skip the excessive artistic frames.

One good example is the character Yixiantian “The Razor”.  The film has devoted quite a bit of airtime to develop The Rezor.  He has absolutely zero contribution to the main story except that one interaction he has with Gong Er on a train.  Even that does not materialize into anything.  The story goes on telling more about The Razor – humorous I must say – whereby taking all in, I wouldn’t miss a thing if the director has decided to cut this character away.  Maybe I am missing something significant here.  I don’t know.

Also, the resolution between Yip Man and his wife (played by a Korean actress Song Hye-kyo) appears to be fuzzy.  Is it because there is a lack of real life documentation of his marriage?  Or is it the director’s intention to have us thinking?  I thought for a bit.  Then I gave up.

Another of his movie that is low in entertainment but probably high in artistic value.