The Valentine’s Day weekend warriors of February 13, 2015 includes Fifty Shades of Grey and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars, Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious.
Last weekend, The SpongeBob Movie obliterated American Sniper’s chances at a four-peat victory. But Mr. Grey and the British secret service are vying for the chance at your Valentine’s Day weekend dollars. Will love or action reign supreme? Now whip it. Into shape. Shape it up. Get straight. Go forward. Move ahead. Try to detect it. It’s not too late. To whip it. Whip it good. This is the Box Office Battlefield:
Fifty Shades of Grey (Sam Taylor-Johnson) Rated R [125 min] – Literature student Anastasia Steele’s life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey. Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, and Eloise Mumford (Watch the trailer)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 28% • Audience – 56%
What I’m saying:
I believe Sam Taylor-Johnson has done a swell job in turning a turd into gold with her directorial choices. Adaptations can be tricky, but I can see where restraint has been made to develop a more focused story because E L James’ literary work is not the most mainstream friendly content. However, this feels like half a movie. It’s how splitting Mockingjay into two parts feels unfulfilled. There is no resolution and it’s very unsatisfying.
Fifty Shades also comes across as uneven. At times it takes itself very seriously and then there are these jarring moments because of their comedic tone. But I will give the music supervisor credit because every song sets the mood perfectly, almost too well. It can come across manipulative because the sex scenes are quite underwhelming and not as risque as you’d expect based on the hype. It plays it safe.
The two leads – Johnson and Dornan – have lukewarm chemistry. Past the attraction factor, there is little to believe why one is in love with the other. There’s just not enough there to get behind this relationship aside from the initial intrigue and honeymoon stage. They don’t feel like they are making realistic decisions as human beings. Which makes sense because the influence of Twilight – where this erotic fan fiction derived from – shines through in their personalities.
This is a very manageable movie for its silly premise. It’s a world not seen or even understood by many – whether it gets it right is a completely different conversation – and for what it’s worth, it could have been represented drastically worse. RENT IT!
Kingsman: The Secret Service (Matthew Vaughn) Rated R [129 min] – A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, and Michael Caine (Watch the trailer)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 68% • Audience – 89%
What I’m saying:
Beyond James Bond and Jason Bourne – both referenced in the film – there have not been many spy franchises that have stuck with audiences. Kingsman is a world that I wouldn’t mind revisiting because it has a good amount of fun elements that makes it fresher than other straightforward spy thrillers. It’s has this Men in Black vibe whereas we follow this newbie into this much bigger world to discover.
As a fairly new actor, Taron Egerton has much potential, but could use a little more charisma. The film tries to balance a lot of characters making it difficult to allow the audience to spend time with Eggsy (Egerton), but he puts his best foot forward for us to believe in his abilities.
My biggest complaint is in Sam L. Jackson. His villain’s motivation and scheme is farfetched and not thought out at all. Jackson does bring a vibrancy to the film, but his decision to make his character cartoonish and over the top is too much to bear.
Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass; X-Men: First Class; Stardust) is definitely the right director for this world. And I hope he stays, because we all know how Kick-Ass 2 turned out without Vaughn leading the charge. He has a particular style and sense of humor that most directors could not replicate, and he definitely leaves his mark on this franchise. MATINEE IT!
The Last Five Years (Richard LaGravenese) [Limited] Rated PG-13 [94 min] – Based on the musical, a struggling actress and her novelist lover each illustrate the struggle and deconstruction of their love affair. Starring Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan, Meg Hudson, and Natalie Knepp
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 59% • Audience – 69%
What they’re saying:
“The film is the least enjoyable among [Kendrick’s musical] efforts, its considerable ambitions undermined by charmless songs and a frustratingly cursory love story.” – Inkoo Kang (The Wrap)
“What’s most exciting about The Last Five Years is how, unless you are attuned to small, modern musical theatre, this will be an entirely fresh production, but not an amateur one.” – Jordan Hoffman (The Guardian)
What I’m saying:
I love me some Anna Kendrick. She has a colorful energy (Pitch Perfect), can nail overly emotional, dramatic moments (Up in the Air), and fairs well in the independent realm (Drinking Buddies). But even with Kendrick, there isn’t much past The Last Five Years’ musical roots that intrigue me. Anna has some fantastic pipes on her, but musicals grounded in real life without the big song and dance production are really hard to endure. The story comes across as bland and the music here sounds like sing-talking, which makes it ever more difficult to enjoy i.e. Les Miserábles. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!
What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi) [Limited] Unrated [86 min] – Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav are vampires who are finding that modern life has them struggling with the mundane – like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts. Starring Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, and Cori Gonzalez-Macuer
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 93% • Audience – 87%
What they’re saying:
“Waititi and Clement bring to the material the same deadpan, straight-faced sensibility that paid such rich dividends in Flight Of The Conchords.” – Nathan Rabin (The Dissolve)
“At heart a dotty look at oldsters struggling to adapt to an unwelcoming modernity, “Shadows” has the bones of an anarchic sitcom.” – Jeannette Catsoulis (New York Times)
What I’m saying:
Horror comedies, when done well, can make for very entertaining experiences. The Cabin in the Woods, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, and You’re Next completely utilize this niche genre with gusto and finesse. What We Do in the Shadows looks pretty funny, but I’m not completely sold on the premise. But I can’t really argue with the admiration the film has received and has definitely kept it high on the radar for me. MATINEE IT!
The two big releases this weekend are both rated R. So both have an equal playing ground in that regards. There is definitely a broader appeal to see Fifty Shades as it is Valentine’s Day weekend, but don’t count out those unromantics who want to avoid all that mushy stuff. However, The SpongeBob movie had a strong debut last weekend and may give these new contenders a run for their money. But parents may be too busy getting it on or wanting some adult time this weekend and may not be seeking to entertain the kids. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:
Winner: Fifty Shades of Grey
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Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes