*NEW* 50 SHADES OF GREY REVIEW *NEW*

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I’d rather look at 50 different shades of grey than endure this again.

Well, that’s what I thought I was going to say. Yeah, I can’t believe I watched it either. What did the Mad Movie Ranter make of the highest earning controversial adult movie of 2015?

In a nutshell, I didn’t mind it.

Literature student Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).

After all the negative press, Twitter bashing and that massive Razzie collection, I kept thinking to myself “Am I missing something here?”. I found this kinky little love story quite watchable. The two leads had great chemistry. The soundtrack was excellent.

Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography was hypnotic and director Sam Taylor Johnson dealt with the subject matter tastefully. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

Scandalous? Outrageous? Not at all. Was that the problem?

I will admit I’ve never read the books. And I don’t intend to. I made the mistake of buying them as a gift for my mother completely unaware that they were essentially “book porn”. A mistake that will forever haunt me. However, 50 Shades bookworms (and Mum) gave me a little context as I prepared myself. And to be honest, it wasn’t what I expected at all.

I thought Dakota Johnson played the naive and impressionable Anastasia perfectly. Her first encounter with the mysterious Mr Grey made for watchable viewing. I wasn’t sure if Jamie Dornan would deliver (after all the rumoured names attached to the role) BUT he handled it with plenty of charm and charisma. I was only familiar with the chap from his killer role in the BBC hit show The Fall. Considering he has a thick Irish accent, he mastered the American twang brilliantly.

At its core, it was a typical cheesy love story. BUT I’m happy to watch a movie like this if the couple are engaging enough. Luckily the pair’s chemistry kept things very watchable. The whole girl falls for wealthy businessman spiel has been done to death BUT of course, there was a slight twist on it all. Because Mr Grey has a secret. Hidden in the many rooms of his lavish penthouse suite.

“I want to show you my playroom”. An odd request from the mysterious millionaire. An innocent response from the naive Anastasia, “Like your X-Box and stuff?” and I was intrigued.

I thought the S&M stuff was handled delicately as Grey shared his seedy secret. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and writer Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr Banks) slowly introduced it into the mix as their romance blossomed. Hardly controversial or sordid. Is that why people hated it because it wasn’t rude and filthy enough? There were some raunchy moments as Anastasia was blind folded and strapped up. And Miss Johnson certainly wasn’t that shy in getting her kit off.

It was an interesting contrast seeing Anastasia’s naivety of the situation. Finding Grey’s obsession a mere game. Not fully understanding that he’s only giving her a taster. The contract meeting to keep their relationship undisclosed was laughable in its own right. BUT the fact Anastasia doesn’t take it that seriously can only spell disaster.

Apart from the odd sex scene, their romance chugged along as Grey shared his rich lifestyle with Anastasia and even introduced her to his foster family. My main quibble was that the supporting cast were wasted. A shame considering the talent; Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) and Callum Keith Rennie (Memento).

Their characters were far too weak and merely there to break up the pair fooling around. I’m aware that they may feature more in the upcoming sequels. BUT they didn’t really make much of an impression for their first outing and Rita Ora looked like she was in the wrong movie.

Apart from that, I wasn’t really bored. The pace didn’t test. The soundtrack was great (Something else somebody bought for their mum). Featuring chart hits from The Weekend and Ellie Goulding. The closing moments certainly spiced things up as Grey’s inability to share and connect, along with his kinky fixation, continued to forge cracks in their fragile relationship.

I know there was a little backlash regarding a scene involving a slap BUT I thought it raised an interesting argument between the pair and attempted to question this S&M taboo. If anything, I was a little bit annoyed because we were starting to unearth a little more into Grey’s past, the pair had a massive fight and then it just ended. Rather abruptly.

Of course, more is to follow. And despite such low ratings, it was one of the highest earning R-rated movies of the year and earned a sequel. One I might actually be tempted to see. I don’t think they could have made the film any cruder because then it would have been a different kind of adult movie altogether. If you know what I mean.

I felt the pair had better chemistry than Kunis and Tatum in Jupiter Ascending and to be honest, in comparison to the other films that were nominated for the Razzies, this was a much better effort. Surprised, to say the least.

3/5

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SPOOKS: THE GREATER GOOD REVIEW

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One of the best British dramas takes to the silver screen? Was it needed? Did it succeed? Or should the BBC have let old dogs lie?

I won’t hide my bias. I am a huge Spooks fan. It came around the same time as 24, managed to stand its own, and became one of my favourite TV shows. But very much like 24, it was never afraid to wipe out main characters, deliver twists and turns every week, tense cliffhangers and nail biting cryptic dialogue between fellow spies and high ranking officials.

It may have lost the battle with 24 but certainly lasted the war. 24 stumbled at series 6 and never really recovered. It improved. While Spooks only really tested me at Series 8 of a 10 series run!

The last two series did feel like old hat. What was hard hitting soon became predictable and a retread of stronger story lines from earlier series. I guess there is only so much you can do with a spy drama. But the final series delivered a heartbreaking and satisfying finale.

Four years after the hit series came to a close, we have a movie. A close that was long overdue as the show seemed to be heading down the road of mediocrity. A fitting ending that wrapped things up but subtly suggested that a return wasn’t out of the question.

So here we are. Did I sigh? Denounce the movie gods? Nope. I felt excited. My love for Spooks not quite over and after watching this film . . . I can firmly say it’s still not.

The opening sequence set the tone. Tension bubbling on the back burner. Even if I found the dialogue a little flat and cliched. Spies ironically playing the game ‘I Spy’ while the “cocky” CIA operatives chat up the only British totty (Tuppence Middleton) in the surveillance squad.

However, my little niggles were soon pushed to the back of my head (momentarily) by the introduction of one of my TV icons, head of MI5 security services, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth).

As soon as Firth entered the scene, the fan boy excitement was back. Offering a pillow to a systems analyst who had time to rest his feet on his desk.

It wasn’t long before something was afoot and we were thrown straight into the action as a terrorist (Elyes Gabel) escapes custody during a routine handover.

Racy, tense and very much in the style of the Bourne films. But let’s not forget Spooks were there first! They even threw in the infamous TV title sequence.

I will emphasize that the pace really is put on the back burner. It seemed to chug along after a promising opening and Pearce facing termination after making a judgement call.

The bureaucratic sniping and dealing with the “red tape” spiel did feel like the Spooks of old. Unfortunately, that meant it was dreadfully predictable. However, that was all relieved by some cracking performances from some old faces (Oh yes) and a lot of new ones.

Tim McInnerny (Blackadder) was superb as Mace. Just as callous and manipulative as ever. The introduction of David Harewood (Homeland) and Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) was a mixed bag for me. Harewood played the uptight Warrender perfectly. A weaselly two faced mediator desperate to keep both agencies at bay.

The only cast member that annoyed me was Jennifer Ehle. Normally I don’t mind her but what the hell was her accent supposed to be? Her twang (even though she was meant to be English) really grated against me. It was like she was trying to do an impression of the Queen. Terrible.

Disgraced, Pearce must look to the only person who can help him. The agent who he removed from MI5. Cue . . . No, not Matthew Macfadyen! I know. Gutted, too.

It’s only Jon Snow, of course. Kit Harington literally hits the ground running making a memorable entrance into the mix. Smashing through a cafe window to escape some Russians. Never found out why he was running? A passing comment would have been nice after an entry like that.

Harington was very good. The sulky scorned spy role suited him and he worked well with Firth. Their relationship may have been a little cliched (and strikingly similar to Kingsmen) as Pearce knew his father who died in a botched operation.

BUT it was still interesting to see their already fractious bond tested to the max. And yes, Harrington’s character knows nottthhinggg. One for the Game of Thrones fans.

Harington was the much needed catalyst to jump start this spluttering slow burner. Once he begins Borune-ing the place up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, I was hooked.

The airport rendezvous with Pearce was superb. Tense, suspenseful and every thing that won me over with Spooks the first time round. The numerous drop off points, the items of clothing with cryptic cards and the time frames. Brilliant.

At it’s best, it’s tense, dramatic with the odd shocker. But at it’s worst, it’s a little predictable and slow. The problem with Spooks is that you always know there is a bigger play. And the cogs are always turning. You can call things before they happen. That’s the problem after 10 series. It does kill the tension and some of the bigger reveals.

Firth was excellent as HP. Despite being integral to the plot, he does seem to be pushed into the background. A little disappointing. Harington’s Holloway is always at the forefront. Not a problem as he proves to be a worthy addition to the Spooks set.

However, Firth still gets his moment to shine and when he does, it’s great. After all the sorrow and tough decisions the man has to make, you really hope that there can be some solace for him.

I don’t think it’s a must for people who haven’t seen Spooks. There are a lot of new faces. When the old ones appear, you get the picture. I won’t say who, Spooks fans. Don’t worry. But there isn’t as many as I hoped.

And Guppy from Casualty has come a long way. Game of Thrones, A Most Violent Year and now this? He was brilliant as the maniacal Qasim. His American accent was impeccable. Take lessons, Ms Ehle. Tuppence Middleton showed potential. I just wish her character wasn’t so bland. But then again Spooks fans, who will ever top Ros?

The film may have been patchy but the last 20 minutes still had me trying to connect the dots. Even if some twists worked and others didn’t, the closing scenes still got me. And Firth stole the show, allowing HP to show a little vulnerability. Cracking his cold demeanour for a one moment before shaking it off and vanishing like a ghost. A spook. Proving once again why his character will always be one of my favourites.

The ending may have been ambiguous but it confirmed one thing for me. I’m still not quite ready to let Spooks go just yet. The film format certainly didn’t kill the franchise. If anything, it has given me hope. A few tweaks on the plot and pacing and I’m happy for it to continue. Cue freeze frame. Black and white.

3.5/5

Also did anyone else feel the title made you want to do this?