Tag Archives: Dakota Johnson

The Lost Daughter (2021) Review

The Lost Daughter_HERO

The Lost Daughter

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Olivia Colman as Leda Caruso
Jessie Buckley as Young Leda Caruso
Dakota Johnson as Nina
Peter Sarsgaard as Professor Hardy
Ed Harris as Lyle
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal

A college professor (Olivia Colman) confronts her unsettling past after meeting a woman (Dakota Johnson) and her young daughter while on vacation in Italy. Her obsession with the woman and her daughter prompts memories of her early motherhood.

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The Lost Daughter is the third of the three movie tickets I secured as part of the NZIFF, and it’s one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. This would be Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut and would consist of a great cast including Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, and Ed Harris. I went in only really knowing the main premise, seeing a trailer, and hearing that some people had split reactions to it. I’m glad to say that I’m one of the people who really liked The Lost Daughter.

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The Lost Daughter is a bit of an unconventional movie, at least with its narrative. Essentially it follows Olivia Colman on a holiday in Greece, she meets a woman with a difficult child (played by Dakota Johnson) and that brings up her own motherhood with her two young girls portrayed in flashbacks (with the younger Colman played by Jessie Buckley). The film then jumps between past and present, revealing the regrets and reflections that Colman has. The plot definitely unravels in an unusual way but very much moves to its own rhythm and pace. It could’ve been a mess of a structure, but Maggie Gyllenhaal pulls it off, I was invested enough in the story and character to want to see and learn more. The Lost Daughter is essentially an unflinching character study following a woman thinking back on her life, and it’s also a look at motherhood which touches on the struggles of parenthood and the toll it takes on the parent. Additionally, it delves into themes like femininity and motherhood, and the feelings and regrets that come from being a mother. It’s not an easy movie to watch, I know that many viewers will struggle to stay following this protagonist with some of the things she does, and it’s a hard topic to cover (and one that a lot of people don’t like to think about). However Gyllenhaal pulls it off by remaining empathetic, not judging its characters, and handles its challenging views on motherhood with a lot of nuance. Its very honest, meditative and human as certain truths are revealed about different characters. In terms of issues with the film, the constant flashbacks can take away from the depth of character work in the present sections, and they are jarring in the first act. Also at the end, some things weren’t as tied up as greatly as I would’ve like, there was particularly one conclusion towards the end which felt a little bit of a let down.

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The acting is phenomenal and one of the best parts of the film. First of all is the lead character Leda, who is a complex character that is full of contradictions. She is selfish and unlikable at times, a very difficult character to play. However both actresses do a superb job at portraying her. The present day Leda is played by Olivia Colman, she is a quiet presence. D plays her with a lot of nuance and in a way that makes you understand her. One of her best performances, and that’s saying a lot considering a lot of her recent work. Jessie Buckley plays the younger Leda, and she was a perfect casting choice as a younger Colman. She’s more showy than Colman’s comparatively subtle performance, but she effectively portrayed her desire for an escape out of her motherly life and really plays up her humanity. Another fantastic performance from Buckley. Both Colman and Buckley are believable as the same person, while avoiding feeling like they’re trying to imitate each other. The two performances are full of empathy and fleshed out versions of the same character. Dakota Johnson is used sparingly in this film but this is very likely one of the best performances I’ve seen from her. She’s able to tell a lot without saying much, even just with her facial expressions, body language and subtle glances. Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Mescal and Oliver Jackson-Cohen are comparatively short on screentime but all do well to make their presences felt and are good in their parts.

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As I said earlier, this is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s first film as a director and she’s done a great job here. It does feel like a debut movie with some aspects with the camerawork and editing, but it’s a strong debut nonetheless. The eerie atmosphere helped the movie to dive deeper into Leda’s headspace throughout. The cinematography is also great, with making use of the locations in Greece in the present day, but are particularly effective with the close ups of the characters.

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The Lost Daughter is not an easy movie to watch and isn’t for everyone. However I thought it was great. A slowly paced yet engaging and compelling character drama, we’ll directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and with phenomenal performances, especially from Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson. The movie will be on Netflix in December, and I think it’s worth checking out at the very least.

Suspiria (2018) Review

Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror & nudity
Cast:
Dakota Johnson as Susie Bannion
Tilda Swinton as Madame Blanc/Mother Helena Markos/Dr. Josef Klemperer
Mia Goth as Sara Simms
Angela Winkler as Miss Tanner
Ingrid Caven as Miss Vendegast
Elena Fokina as Olga Ivanova
Sylvie Testud as Miss Griffith
Renée Soutendijk as Miss Huller
Christine LeBoutte as Miss Balfour
Fabrizia Sacchi as Pavla
Małgosia Bela as Mrs. Bannion/Death
Jessica Harper as Anke Meier
Chloë Grace Moretz as Patricia Hingle
Director: Luca Guadagnino

Young American dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives in 1970s Berlin to audition for the world-renowned Helena Markos Dance Co. When she vaults to the role of lead dancer, the woman she replaces (Chloe Grace-Mortez) breaks down and accuses the company’s female directors of witchcraft. Meanwhile, an inquisitive psychotherapist (Lutz Ebersdorf) and a member of the troupe (Mia Goth) uncover dark and sinister secrets as they probe the depths of the studio’s hidden underground chambers.

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I was not really sure what to feel about the remake of Suspiria in the lead up to its release. I liked the cast involved and while I admit I’m not the biggest fan of Call Me By Your Name (I liked it though), the direction by Luca Guadagnino was fantastic and he would no doubt bring something great to this movie. However I just wasn’t especially looking forward to it. I watched the original (and reviewed it) and I liked it, a classic horror flick with stunning visuals, still I wasn’t really hyped for the remake. It was only when I was hearing the polarising reactions that got me excited for it, and from then on until I saw it at an early screening on Halloween my hype for it had been building and building. I had a great feeling about the latest Suspiria, and somehow the movie surpassed my expectations completely. Suspiria goes far beyond being a remake of the original, a beautiful and horrific nightmare of a movie that’s in a league of its own.

I think I should address some of the differences from the original movie, just briefly. As a remake, the only thing that’s similar to the original movie is the characters names, the setting and the initial setup. There may be similar plot points but overall it goes in a completely different direction from the original. The original film is a straightforward horror slasher/mystery movie, with strange things happening around a dance academy and the protagonist tries to figure out what’s going on. In the new movie, you learn pretty early on the main thing about what is going on behind the scenes and it’s not much like a familiar horror movie (though definitely has a lot of horror elements). Another interesting aspect is that it really goes out of its way to reference the time and location, with radio reports in the background about a hostage situation, little things like are interesting to see introduced here. 2018’s Suspiria is really all about something different to the original, so you don’t necessarily have to watch the 70s movie to get the full experience, but for those who have, its interesting seeing to see how differently it does things. Overall though, it’s more of a reinvention than just a remake.

Suspiria is broken up into 6 acts (I know this because title cards literally announce it for the audience) and it is about 2 hours and 30 minutes long, and the length and pacing will turn a lot of people off. It’s not quite like a normal horror movie, there aren’t many scares, and it takes it’s time. So it’s more than just a really disturbing horror movie. Personally I liked the pacing but I will say the early part of the movie does move at a slower pace, a little too slow for my liking but that didn’t bother me too much. You really need to give the movie your complete focus and attention, otherwise you could miss some details that could make following certain plotlines very difficult. There are multiple story plots going on and you have to really keep up with everything, it’s really a movie that requires more than one viewing because there is so much to process. Also I feel like a big part of whether you’re going to love this movie is whether you are completely invested in it. As I said the movie was slower to begin with but by the time it got to a certain painful dance scene, I was completely drawn into the movie’s world and atmosphere. From then on as the mystery continued and we get to see and learn more about what is happening, all the way to the 6th act which goes absolutely nuts. By the end I just felt exhausted and overwhelmed, it’s a lot to take in but I think it was all around a really rewardable experience. I tried my best to keep the plot details vague, it’s best going in not knowing too much about where this movie is going, I know this from personal experience.

The cast in here is all fantastic. Dakota Johnson as the lead character Susie is good but isn’t immediately impressive, it’s not like you instantly find her great or find her standing out from the rest. However, over time as the movie progresses you really get why Dakota Johnson is cast (just wait to see for yourself) and overall she was great. I feel like her performance will actually be better upon rewatches. Susie in the original movie (played by Jessica Harper) was much more of an innocent newcomer to the dance school sort of noticing weird and dangerous things and sort of investigating it. Dakota Johnson’s version is… different. Tilda Swinton is always fantastic in the movies that she’s in and her performance(s) here are no exception. Since it’s pretty known already now I won’t refrain from mentioning it (don’t worry it’s not a spoiler and doesn’t tie into the plot at all), she does play 3 roles, not just the role of Madame Blanc as advertised. She’s great as Blanc, the academy director. Her other role is as a psychotherapist named Josef Klemperer (Tilda originally playing the role under the name of Lutz Ebersdorf), a character not in the original movie and she’s very convincing. This character notices things aren’t quite right at the academy and a plotline is focussed on him looking into what’s happening. She also plays a third role that is probably best seeing for yourself. Also great is Mia Goth, I liked her in A Cure for Wellness and I loved her here as well. Here she’s one of the dancers and outside of Josef is really the one investigating what’s happening in the dance academy. She also gives the most human performance of all of the cast, I can’t wait to see more of her work. Chloe Grace Moretz is also good, although isn’t in the movie a ton. The rest of the cast are also really good.

From watching Call Me By Your Name, I knew that Luca Guadagnino would craft this movie well (even though they are completely different movies) and he absolutely did. One of the biggest changes from the original movie (and that’s saying a lot) is that the striking technicolour lighting and bright colour pallet is gone. Once again, Guadagnino goes for his own kind of movie, it is less colourful, less fantasy like and really giving off a feeling that’s much more cold and dark, and that was perfect for the film that Luca is going for (besides, no one could recreate the original’s visual style). The cinematography is really fantastic, the movements and everything were done so incredibly well, especially during the dance sequences. Despite it being set at a dance school, the original movie didn’t place too much emphasis on the dancing aspect but it does play a big part in the newer movie. So much of the dancing is animalistic and nightmarish, and were among some of the highlights of the movie. No, the movie wasn’t very scary, but I don’t think it was trying to be, not in a conventional horror sense at least. It is however very quite disturbing, if you are easily squeamish, this won’t do it for you. There are some very grotesque and gory sequences throughout the movie and particulary at the end. There’s particularly an infamous and much talked about scene in the 2nd or 3rd act (you know the one), by that point if you can’t handle that scene, the rest of the movie isn’t going to do it for you. I will admit that I don’t get uncomfortable in movies a lot, but here they really do make it hard to watch, really uncomfortable and chilling, so credit to Guadagnino for making them effectively horrifying.

Most of the visual effects are also pretty great, bar one that was used many times and it just looked out of place and goofy, like it should’ve been in the 1977 original instead of the 2018 version (you’ll know it when you see it). The editing is so effective, it makes the tense moments even more suspenseful and the hard to watch scenes much more biting and impactful. Sometimes there are some random shots spliced together in a nightmarish sort of way that gives a really unnerving feeling. The music by Thom Yorke is very unsettling and haunting, perfect for the movie. On another note, try to watch this in a cinema, I was very lucky to catch this in an early screening and I can’t imagine watching this on a smaller screen, it just wouldn’t have the same impact.

Suspiria was a completely overwhelming experience that blew me away on all fronts. The direction by Luca Guadagnino was fantastic, the cast were great and it still has stuck with me every since I saw it. It’s also not for everyone, even if you know what kind of movie you’re getting into beforehand there’s no guarantee that you’ll love or even like this movie. If you are able to stomach some brutal scenes and have patience for a slow moving 150 minute long movie, then at least give it a try, and try to watch it in the cinema. For me, this is one of the best horror films in recent years, one of the best films of the year, and currently (I know I’ve been saying this a lot recently) my personal favourite of 2018.

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) Review

Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Jeff Bridges as Daniel Flynn
Cynthia Erivo as Darlene Sweet
Dakota Johnson as Emily Summerspring
Jon Hamm as Seymour ‘Laramie’ Sullivan
Cailee Spaeny as Rose Summerspring
Lewis Pullman as Miles Miller
Chris Hemsworth as Billy Lee
Nick Offerman as Felix O’Kelly
Director: Drew Goddard

The El Royale is run-down hotel that sits on the border between California and Nevada. It soon becomes a seedy battleground when seven strangers — a cleric (Jeff Bridges), a soul singer (Cynthia Erivo), a traveling salesman (Jon Hamm), two sisters (Dakota Johnson, Cailee Spaeny), the manager and the mysterious Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) — converge on a fateful night for one last shot at redemption before everything goes wrong.

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I had been hearing about Bad Times at the El Royale for a while. I heard of the cast, with Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth among others. However, what really got my interested was when I heard that Drew Goddard was writing and directing this. Goddard on top of writing Cloverfield and The Martian, also directed and co-wrote The Cabin in the Woods. I was interested to see how this movie would be with this cast and director. I actually ended up liking Bad Times at the El Royale a lot more than I thought I would. With its killer cast, twisty story and writing, I really dug it and I was on board with it from start to finish.

Like with The Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times at the El Royale is better experienced when you know as little as possible. The movie for a lot of it is split up into different sections, for example a title card saying ‘Room 1’ would come up and then it would focus on that character in that room and their backstory. Because of this structure, this will lead to some find the movie to drag and I can see why some people would feel that way. It’s just what comes from having this kind of structure, personally it didn’t bother me at all, the pacing was fine enough for me. Every character has their own story and the movie finds some way of tying it all together. There are some questions that aren’t entirely answered, some of them are purposely left ambiguous, but I feel like there are some other answers that I would’ve liked to have seen. I will say that it does get better more you think about it, as there are some connections in the movie that I didn’t pick up until the following day. Bad Times at the El Royale is a long movie at 2 hours and 20 minutes long but as I said I never felt bored throughout its running time.

As previously mentioned, this movie has a great cast and all of them bring their A game to their roles. We have Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pulman, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny and even a little bit of Nick Offerman, all great. With almost all of them we get to see things about their characters (although I would’ve liked to have seen a little more of Jon Hamm). Jeff Bridges gives a pretty great performance as a priest who doesn’t seem like much of a priest. Bad Times is Cynthia Erivo’s big screen debut and she’s a Tony Winning actress and singer, she’s really great here. She’s probably the most trustworthy and likable character out of the main cast and she does really well here. I can’t wait to see her in this year’s Widows. Lewis Pullman is also quite good, as someone who pretty much runs everything in the hotel. He doesn’t seem like much at first but he really ends up being a real surprise. You don’t see a massive amount of Chris Hemsworth till like the last act but he steals the show when he’s on screen, its quite a different role for him, with him being a cult leader and he absolutely pulls it off.

Drew Goddard’s direction is very stylish and great, really working for the movie. At the same time it’s not so stylish that it’s self indulgent or distracts from the rest of the movie, its just at the right level. The cinematography, lighting, the set design and the use of music is great, you really feel (for the most part) like you’re with these characters just around this hotel with a late 60s vibe.

I had a lot of fun with Bad Times at the El Royale. It’s an entertaining mystery thriller, with a talented cast delivering great performances and has some really nice surprises throughout. It might not end up being for everyone, it does have a slower pace and I kind of wished it had some more surprises and answers but it really worked well for me.

Fifty Shades Darker (2017) Review

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sex scenes & offensive language.
Cast:
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia ‘Ana’ Steele
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Eric Johnson as Jack Hyde
Eloise Mumford as Katherine “Kate” Kavanagh
Bella Heathcote as Leila Williams
Rita Ora as Mia Grey
Luke Grimes as Elliot Grey
Victor Rasuk as José Rodriguez
Kim Basinger as Elena Lincoln
Marcia Gay Harden as Grace Trevelyan-Grey
Director: James Foley

When a wounded Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) tries to entice a cautious Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) back into his life, she demands a new arrangement before she will give him another chance. As the two begin to build trust and find stability, shadowy figures from Christian’s past start to circle them, determined to destroy their hopes for a future together.

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Full disclosure, I knew this movie was going to be horrendous before going in. 2 years ago I watched and reviewed Fifty Shades of Grey which was one of the worst movies of 2015 (second only to Hot Pursuit). And its sequel is one of the worst movies of 2017, no surprise here. Everything from the first movie is here, bland acting, an uninteresting story, random “erotic” sex scenes, you name it. There might be some hilariously bad moments here but its not really enough to warrant watching the whole movie.

I’ll just get the obvious out of the way: like the first movie, it’s based off erotica which was basically Twilight fan fiction, the plot is uninteresting and non-existent, the romance is terrible, there are random sex scenes that are somehow boring, basically most of what made the first Fifty Shades movie so terrible is here. In the first movie, the first half was kind of funny, whereas the second half was unbearingly boring. Here with Darker, it’s a mix of the two. I will say it’s not quite as boring as Fifty Shades of Grey but it’s not really that interesting or entertaining either. I will say that there is more going on, but it doesn’t count for much when it’s impossible to care about it all. The main thing happening is the romance, which was poorly done, nothing different from the previous movie. There is a bunch of subplots, one involves a former submissive of Christian who is stalking him and Anastasia (that comes and goes and disappears), there’s this subplot about Anastasia’s stalker boss (Eric Johnson) that’s pointless and completely random and there’s a subplot of Christian and Kim Basinger’s character which only is present a few points in the story, there’s a whole lot of parts that don’t matter. There is particularly a scene involving a helicopter which is so hilariously pointless and serves no purpose to the plot and lasts for 5 minutes. In fact it is worth noting that there is also some unintentionally hilarious moments, with the random things that happen. I didn’t hate this movie as much as the previous movie, probably because I knew what to expect. Aside from that, this movie is pretty much the same, that being utterly horrendous on pretty much every level.

The two leads, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan like in the previous movie were bland and lack any kind of chemistry. I can’t even blame them for their performances, they don’t have good material to work with. There are no notable supporting performances, I do wonder why Kim Basinger was in this movie, she does play I guess a significant part but she’s only in a few scenes.

Fifty Shades Darker this time is directed by James Foley who directed Glengarry Glen Ross, and know his direction doesn’t elevate the movie particularly. It is around the same level as the first movie, fine enough but some aspects are quite bad. The sex scenes are like the first movie’s, for the most part it’s just cliché Hollywood sex scenes that try to be seem kinky and it feels more boring than actually erotic. The music in here honestly makes many of the scenes hilarious, it has countless amount of cheesy pop songs, it almost feels like a parody, especially when its being played during the sex scenes.

Fifty Shades Darker is pretty much the same as the first movie with some slight differences, with it having unintentional hilarious moments and its not quite as boring but it is still as bad. But I can say that on its own, its awful. Fortunately this trilogy ends next year, so we don’t have to wait too long for this to all be over.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) Review

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Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sex Scenes and Offensive Language
Cast:
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia “Ana” Steele
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Eloise Mumford as Katherine “Kate” Kavanagh
Jennifer Ehle as Carla Wilks
Marcia Gay Harden as Grace Trevelyan Grey
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson

When college senior Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) steps in for her sick roommate to interview prominent businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for their campus paper, little does she realize the path her life will take. Christian, as enigmatic as he is rich and powerful, finds himself strangely drawn to Ana, and she to him. Though sexually inexperienced, Ana plunges headlong into an affair — and learns that Christian’s true sexual proclivities push the boundaries of pain and pleasure.

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I want to make it clear that the only reason I watched this movie is because I wanted to catch on the best and (in the case of this movie) worst of 2015. I knew that this movie was going to be terrible and of course I knew the book was based on Twilight fanfiction. However even with that, after watching this movie, I can say that this is one of the only movies that I’ve regretted seeing for a review, even Bloodrayne 2 didn’t get to that level. This ‘movie’ was boring and frustrating with a bad ‘story’, bad ‘romance’, everything pretty much failed in this movie.

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In the first act of the movie, I actually found the film kind of entertaining in how terrible it was. The dialogue is horrendous and the sudden interest between these two characters was unbelievable. At the halfway point though, I started to over time hate this movie. The problem is not that this film is basically a 2 hour porno, the problem is that the whole movie is basically about these two ‘characters’ and whether they would end up together (even though they shouldn’t as they aren’t compatible in the slightest), and that is literally the only thing going on. While bad movie romances have happened in the past, there’s bigger picture stuff happening in the stories, even Twilight did that. And because of that, this movie is tremendously boring, and many scenes felt like alternate versions of the previous scenes on repeat. Ana wants to have a relationship with Christian, he says he doesn’t do love, they have sex, rinse and repeat.

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I can tell that Dakota Johnson is a good actress and can be good if she is actually given good stuff to work with. However her character is one of the weakest characters I’ve ever seen in a movie, and that is saying a lot. These main leads have no chemistry at all, they have worse chemistry than Bella and Edward from Twilight. And there was nothing else going on as I said before, so imagine 2 hours of Twilight minus the plotlines, with the exception of the love story. That’s this movie.

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One of the only good things about this movie is that it looks nice, however lots of horrible movies are well shot; it doesn’t count for much. As I said earlier this movie is a soft core porno, and the sex scenes are there (and vaguely BDSM I should mention) but it’s hard to get into because you can tell that these two characters are completely incompatible with each other, and they are so boring and lifeless so we don’t care about what’s going on. If the filmmakers really wanted us to get into the sex scenes, they would either make the characters likable or interesting, or they would just have the film with sex scenes with no attempt to have developed characters, as that was pretty much the entire book to begin with.

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In the previous bad movies of 2015 that I’ve watched, I haven’t really hated them to this level, not even Taken 3. This movie however made me question watching and reviewing bad movies. The only reason to watch this movie is if you want to see a lot of sex scenes, but even then it’s hard to get into them and it’s somehow boring. Unfortunately this movie did well enough and will probably end up with two more sequels (or maybe even three, since splitting the last book in 2 parts is becoming a thing). Fifty Shades of Grey is truly an atrocious ‘movie’ and I can’t think a single reason to watch it.