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Fifty Shades Freed

The 15:17 To Paris

February 15, 2018

Fifty Shades Freed (**)
PG-13

The Fifty Shades finale has finally arrived and I would say that the title, Fifty Shades Freed, is an apt one for sure. With this one viewers have finally been ‘freed’ of having to sit through another installment of a series that promised much but delivered little more than what could already be found in those fondly remembered skin flicks that turned up on pay cable in the wee hours of the morning during the heady years of the late 80s/early 90s.

Really the best thing about this series was that it made for a good score-keeping exercise in that the viewer could keep their minds engaged by keeping count of all the psychological flaws inherent in these characters. And to say there were more than a few is an understatement. Being that the plot in this trilogy of films was so thin and predictable there really wasn’t much else to do while waiting for the generic sex scenes that pop up on a regular basis. Of course everyone knows that the sexual titillation factor is really the only reason that people go to see these films in the first place.

Johnson & Dornan in Fifty Shades Freed

A problem with these Fifty movies that was universally agreed upon by critics and the majority of audience members alike was that the two lead actors strangely had very little chemistry. That’s a real problem in a film that rises or falls on that sort of thing­—no pun intended. Chemistry can make or break a film and it’s a problem when there is little to none inherent in the lead performances. Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele seemed to be going through their paces and not much else. They hit the marks when necessary and that was about the extent of it. A balloon repeatedly rubbed against your head had more of a charge.

The chemistry between the two leads is somewhat improved here. It’s the best yet in this series but that’s not saying much. The film begins exactly where the last installment left off with Christian and Anastasia exchanging vows as Anastasia’s former boss, Jack Hyde, seeks revenge after she spurned his advances in the last film. The plot complications also involve Ana’s desire for a child and Christian’s insistence that he’s not ready to be a father. I always thought those types of things were typically discussed before the wedding but never mind.

FSF has just enough plot to keep the viewer engaged and of the three films it’s certainly the best one. Still, when the bar has been set so low that’s faint praise. Well at least viewers have been FREED. For that we can be thankful.

The 15:17 to Paris (**)
PG-13 

You have to admire Clint Eastwood, who will turn 88 years old this year, for his sheer physical prowess when it comes to directing. I mean everyone knows that movie directing is not for the weak and requires almost limitless amounts of stamina. And the veteran director proves, with one thrilling sequence during the home stretch of his latest (hopefully, not his last) film, that he’s still got what it takes in terms of staging specific stand-alone set pieces quite effectively. Yes, The 15:17 to Paris has that much in its corner, if nothing else. If only the rest of the film were as thrilling as that one sequence we’d have lots to discuss here. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in a film that’s failed by too many dull stretches for too much of its ninety-odd minute running time. This is the longest ninety-minute movie I can recall seeing in quite some time.

By now I’m sure that most of you reading this are well aware that The 15:17 to Paris is another one of those films whose source material is ripped from the headlines. In this case it was a train bound for Paris that became a hijacking target on the night of August 21, 2015. The story made headlines around the world owing to the fact that the attempted hijacking was not successful, having been thwarted by three lifelong friends. Unfortunately, the depiction of the terrorist attack takes up only about ten minutes of screen time. That leaves a lot of time for the film’s story to meander, which it certainly does to the nth degree.

Spencer Stone, left, in 15:17 to Paris

Eastwood made the controversial choice to cast the real life heroes as themselves in the movie. Much negative press has been generated due to multiple claims in the press of their inability to act.  I found the acting abilities of the trio (Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, Alex Skarlatos) to be the least of this film’s problems.

The film fails mostly due to its lackluster screenplay, courtesy of Dorothy Blyskal, a former Eastwood assistant and a newcomer to the screenwriting game. Her inexperience or possible lack of talent is very evident from the word go. The film doesn’t really have a story and it’s mostly a series of vignettes tracing the trio of friends’ lives leading up to that fateful day on the train. If the vignettes were at least interesting we could maybe go with that but instead it’s contrived and worse, dripping with jingoism, two things that do no favors for this film.

I can understand Eastwood’s enthusiasm to tell the story. I only hope he chooses a better screenwriter should he attempt this sort of thing again.

Both movies are playing in Hickory.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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