Colin Firth Dakota Johnson

Some Movies to See This Weekend, February 13, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015 Rob Samuelson

This weekend is light on quantity but big on anticipation. One adaptation of a massively successful book franchise about some fairly risqué subject matter reaches our theaters and a comic book adaptation, from one of the best superhero movie directors, joins it. One is destined to make more money and inspire myriad more think pieces, the other is likely to be better. But hey, cultural currency isn't everything.

Fifty Shades of Grey
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Writer: Kelly Marcel
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle

You know who's really funny? Dakota Johnson. Her work on erstwhile Fox sitcom Ben and Kate was sweet, charming, and often wonderfully manic as a stressed single mom living with her goofball failure of an older brother. She has her mother's (Melanie Griffith, of Something Wild) comedic timing and deserves to become a big star. That's why it's disappointing that her first truly star-making turn comes in a movie that, from all promotional materials, looks like it utilizes precisely none of her greatest asset. She plays Anastasia Steele, an all-timer of a character name right there, a mousy twentysomething tasked with interviewing some handsome businessman (Jamie Dornan) who has secrets. Dirty ones. Ones that involve whips and chains and stuff. Oh, and the occasional airplane. I don't know what else, and the studio should be ashamed of themselves for doubling down on bland super seriousness for its advertising for the movie. If it's as lascivious as people have said, go nuts! Invite everyone with a dirty mind to see hints of what's in store for them beyond some vaguely handsome billionaire basically being S&M Batman.

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Jane Goodman, Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson

Here's the one I want to see. While the trailer for this action spy flick looked a little too cartoonish for me at first glance, it's grown on me as its own entity. That's without acknowledging that it's the latest offering from Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, Layer Cake) who has a track record of good to great genre pictures and the best cinematic depiction of the X-Men to date. He shoots action like a madman with a plan, he's irreverent, avoids comforting the audience, instead choosing to surprise them with character choices (Hit Girl's expletive laden monologue-slaughter in Kick-Ass being one great example) and shocking violence with a Looney Tunes bent. I'm excited to see him take on the super spy genre, lovingly sending up the Bond flicks with typically “serious” Englishman Colin Firth as a distinguished elder statesman in the Secret Service who can still throw down. There seems to be a scheme by Samuel L. Jackson to blow up the world or something, so Firth and his new charge, played by Egerton, must stop him. Some whizzing, banging, and kabooming ensues. This is probably the best counter programming option to an obvious weekend winner in a long time.

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