Sunday, 19 February 2017

5 Things Wrong with 'Fifty Shades Darker' (Aside from the Subject Matter)

Hello again readers, and welcome back! If you've been reading this blog for a while now, you may recall way back in 2015 I wrote a post not dissimilar to this one, where I managed to narrow it down to only five things wrong with the movie adaptation of E.L. James' 'Fifty Shades of Grey' after I was forced to watch it at a sleepover (much to my dismay). Now, a year and a half later, I am back to write pretty much an identical post about the second installment, 'Fifty Shades Darker'. You may be wondering, why would I subject myself to watching the sequel if I hated the first film so much? And why would I actually give money to a franchise like this? Honestly, I went to see the second one for a laugh, because while I absolutely hated the first movie, I can't deny that I did thoroughly enjoy ripping it to shreds. And as for giving the franchise money? Let's just say that 'Resident Evil' has an extra $16 of revenue. Having thoroughly attempted to justify myself and my choices in this long-winded introduction, let's jump straight in . . .

1. The Title

I don't know about you, but to me, a movie sequel about BDSM entitled 'Fifty Shades Darker' implies that it's more intense and risque than the first one. Well, if you and I are in the same boat, then I'm sorry to disillusion you, but this is most certainly not the case. Avert your eyes if you desperately want to avoid spoilers, but I kid you not, the movie revolves around the beginning of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele's boring, vanilla relationship, with exciting moments such as Christian asking Ana to move in with him, the two shopping for groceries together, and finally ending with an underwhelming declaration of love and inevitable engagement. I'm low key tempted to start a petition to rename the movie to 'Fifty Shades of Domestic', but then I'd have to live with the fact that I was invested enough in this film series to headline a petition about it, and in all good conscience I don't think I can do that. Yes, as I covered in my post from 2015, the first film is unbelievably flawed, but to its credit, it at least had some sort of taboo factor that clearly drew people to it, but this excuse for a follow up didn't even deliver in that respect. I mean, who wants to sit in a cinema and watch an uninteresting couple do domestic chores and occasionally do the do? Literally no one.

2. The Story Arc

Okay, don't get me wrong, I didn't walk in to 'Fifty Shades Darker' expecting a cinematic masterpiece with an exquisite story arc, but for its plot to be even more implausible and structurally problematic than the first one is quite an achievement. Even with all of its seemingly never-ending flaws, I cannot deny that 'Fifty Shades of Grey' had an orientation, a climax (no pun intended) and a cliff-hangery ending, all of which of course were horrible and totally unrealistic, but hey, at least they were there. In the follow up however, literally none of these basic structural elements were present, and not in a 'ooh I'm so artsy I'm going to deliberately break all the rules' kind of way, but more in a 'I've never made a film before in my life and have no idea how to create a simple story arc' one. Again, if you don't want any spoiler alerts, look away now, because oh boy do I have a lot to say.

As I covered in my last point, the film was literally about a dull relationship between two young people which had no build up whatsoever, therefore breaking the cardinal rule of romance movie formula. At the beginning, we saw a stalkery girl hanging around who turned out to be one of Christian Grey's ex subdominant slaves, and were always expecting something catastrophic to happen as the film progressed. Well, long story short, it totally didn't. She came in to Anastasia's apartment holding a gun, and within a matter of seconds Christian had defused the situation, sent her off to a mental institution, and totally killed the storyline, so there goes that idea. Then, towards the end of the film, Christian was on a business trip and randomly got into a helicopter crash. I got excited, because I thought that perhaps the film could redeem itself by killing him off, but sadly that wasn't the case. Tension didn't even get a chance to rear its ugly head, because a few hours after the plane crash (and about a minute after we saw it happen on screen), Christian waltzed in to his apartment safe and sound with absolutely no explanation as to how he survived, before the matter was dropped completely and not mentioned again. The couple's relationship then went back to normal, rendering the entire film irrelevant, before, to top it all off, Anastasia's low key rapey boss is set up to be the third film's villain. If you're confused reading this, that makes two of us. Nevertheless, to summarise, the plot arc consists of no beginning, some defused rising action, a random new major plot point thrown into the mix at the last minute that was randomly discarded, no official ending, and a pitiful excuse for a hint as to what the next movie will deal with. I'm not professing to be a professional writer of film scripts, but that's just pathetic. And I'm sorry, but there is nowhere near enough sexual content to compensate for this many plot holes.

3. The Irrelevant Filler Scenes

You know in school when you write a first draft of an essay which is basically a few pages of word vomit that aren't actually relevant to your main argument? That was pretty much this film's entire script. I found myself often uttering aloud "what does this have to do with anything?" when I was bombarded with montages of Anastasia and Christian's seemingly never-ending 'romantic' boat trip, a post credits scene of them boarding his private jet and relaxing at the beach which was just as boring as it sounds, and a super irrelevant scene in which Ana spends a solid 5 minutes watching Christian exercise in his home gym. Why were these scenes included? My best guess is to try and infuse the story with some romance as a means of compensating for the chemistry that was lacking between Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, however it 100% did not work. In fact, these purposeless time fillers just made me acutely aware of exactly how much of my life I was wasting by seeing this film.

4. The Horrendous Side Characters

Having to sit through the plights of the two lead characters in this film is bad enough, but trust me when I say that that's nothing compared to the plethora of irrelevant, excruciatingly annoying side characters with overly intricate backstories that randomly appear throughout the movie's 118 minute duration. Some of these horrendous presences include Kim Bassinger playing an overly controlling cougar and former BDSM tutor of Christian who thinks Anastasia is Satan, his irritating, syrupy mother who thinks Anastasia is Jesus incarnate, and his completely irrelevant, sassy sister played by Rita Ora who has no opinion of Anastasia either way. The fact that Kim Bassinger and Rita Ora are in this movie is baffling enough, but what is even more confusing is the amount of screen time these side characters actually get. Once again adding to the already extensive list of irrelevant filler scenes I mentioned above, whenever these characters speak or do anything, I question why they made the cut. Not to mention, absolutely none of them are likeable and just further fuel my hatred of the franchise.

5. Everything

I said it about the first film and I'll say it again, there is literally nothing good about this movie franchise, and I still have no idea why it exists.

Well folks, that's about all I have for you! Please keep in mind that all of the archaic gender stereotypes and terrible dialogue and implausibility that I talked about in my blog post from 2015 were not absent from this sequel, so if you do end up going to see it, you have all of those flaws and more to look forward to this time around. Saying that, while this movie is truly terrible (even more so than the first one) and anti-feminist and all kinds of offensive, I'm actually not recommending that you don't watch it. In fact, I suggest the complete opposite. If you're up for a laugh, sneak in to the movies or find an illegal copy and you are guaranteed to have the afternoon of your life, just whatever you do, do not add to this pathetic excuse for a franchise's revenue. Til' next time . . .

Annabel xx

Saturday, 11 February 2017

2017 Oscars Predictions

Greetings blogosphere, and welcome back! As you know, I am quite the movie buff, so February is a pretty exciting month for me. Why you may ask? Because it is completely and utterly dedicated to the countdown to Hollywood's Annual night-of-nights, the Academy Awards. Yes, I am aware that my awards show obsession is rather unhealthy, and above all else, a bit lame, but I'm a total lost cause so may as well give in unapologetically. In keeping with that, I have decided today to try my hand at being a member of the Academy and guess the outcome of this year's Oscars. So without further ado, here are my predictions (from most boring category to least) . . .

Best Original Score - Justin Hurwitz, 'La La Land'

Admittedly original movie musicals do low key have a leg up in this category, but regardless of that there is pretty much no doubt that Justin Hurwitz will win for Best Original Score. The soundtrack is actually so good, so much so that its songs have been lovingly parodied by a bunch of big names such as Jimmy Fallon and Miranda Sings - and if that legacy doesn't scream 'Oscar' I don't know what does.

Best Cinematography - Linus Sandgren, 'La La Land'

You may begin to see a pattern emerging, but my (oh so original) pick is that 'La La Land' is going to win big this year. Every single shot in the film is actually incredible, and noticeably so. I'm not really the kind of person who goes to the cinema and walks out being like 'wow, that cinematography was delightful', but in 'La La Land' it seriously is. It managed to make Los Angeles, a city I'm not particularly fond of, look like a literal oil painting. So kudos to Linus Sandgren, because congrats bro, you've already won.

Best Supporting Actor - Mahershala Ali, 'Moonlight'

Mahershala Ali has been getting rave reviews for his depiction of Miami drug dealer and mentor Barry Jenkins in the coming of age drama 'Moonlight', and while I haven't yet seen it, there is no doubt the Academy will love him (especially considering their need to make up for the lack of racial diversity in the 2016 nominations). In addition to the fact that his performance is apparently fabulous, he also recently won the Screen Actor's Guild award, so at this point it's pretty much a no brainer.

Best Supporting Actress - Viola Davis, 'Fences'

Viola Davis is incredible and an actual Queen 100% of the time, and therefore deserves all Oscars. That's all.

Best Actor - Casey Affleck, 'Manchester by the Sea'

I know, you may be thinking 'but La La Land is nominated for 14 Academy Awards, surely Ryan Gosling will win?', but no, I actually don't think that will be the case. Don't get me wrong, I thought he was super great in the film, but the Academy do typically tend to favour dramatic performances, and 'Manchester by the Sea' has been widely regarded as the most depressing movie of the year, so I think Casey Affleck's going to be taking this one home. Yes, his performance is amazing and wonderful and all kinds of great, but the reason I am being a little critical is low key due to the recent sexual harassment charges pressed against him, but hey, innocent until proven guilty right?

Best Actress - Emma Stone

You know that thing I just said about the Academy favouring dramatic performances? Well, occasionally there are exceptions. There is no doubt in my mind that Emma Stone will win Best Actress for 'La La Land' (and no, I'm not even being biased). I honestly don't know who else would win, and frankly no one else should. She was super amazing in 'La La Land', and she's always been one of those actresses you just know is going to win an Oscar eventually, so I say this year's her year.

Best Director - Damien Chazelle, 'La La Land'

Damien Chazelle has literally worked so hard for the Best Director Academy award he's about to receive it's ridiculous. Directing a film is super difficult. Directing a stage musical is also incredibly hard. But directing an original movie musical combining the golden rules of cinematic and theatrical practices? That's next level. Plus, the fact that he has done all of this to such a high standard is unbelievable. So congratulations in advance Damien, you've totally earned it (also please cast me, thanks so much).

Best Picture - 'La La Land'

It's nominated for a record breaking 14 Oscars, I mean how can 'La La Land' not win best picture? And honestly, it should. Yes the other Best Picture nominees are all amazing in different ways, but I think holistically 'La La Land' really delivers and ticks every box. Sometimes you find that really amazing acting or a super cool plot line are what stand out in Oscar winning films, but in this one, it just kind of has everything without being too obnoxious about it. We've already covered that the cinematography, the score, the acting and the direction are all kinds of awesome, but as well as that there's also the writing, the editing, the costuming, and just the overall melding together of the realism of film and heightened suspension of disbelief that comes along with the musical theatre territory. Basically what I'm saying is that 'La La Land' will most likely win this year, and I fully support that. Anyone who disagrees with me, prepare to be on the receiving end of an impassioned, overly verbose rant.

So that's about all I have for you! I know there are so many more categories that I could've included and attempted to predict, but honestly I only chose the ones I was super interested in. Hopefully you see some sense in my picks for the 2017 Academy Award winners, but at the end of the day, who really knows what's going to happen? With my luck, 100% of my predictions will be incorrect. Til' next time . . .

Annabel xx

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Hairspray Live (2016) vs Hairspray Film (2007)

Hello readers, and welcome back post holiday season! It's now that awkward time between the end of school and beginning of university where you don't know what day it is or feel inclined to leave the house, which for some is a literal dream come true, but for others can get a bit repetitive and boring. Personally, I'm a big fan of doing nothing so I'm loving my life, but to pull whoever is bothered to read my blog out of their post holidays depression, I've decided to entertain you today with a little musical comparison between NBC's recent(ish), live televised production of 'Hairspray' that aired on December 7th 2016, and the classic 2007 film version. One half of me is totally against this, because I respect that the two of them are both pretty awesome in their own right, and that it doesn't have to be a competition, but the other, more stubborn half is super overly analytical and heavily into musical theatre, and loves nothing more than deconstructing movies, television and live theatre. You can probably guess which half ended up winning. So, basically to appease the ENFP in me, I've decided to compare the two by looking at each cast member individually, because who doesn't love hyper critical judgement? Morally dubious justification complete, let's get into it . . .


Tracy Turnblad - Nickii Blonsky v Maddie Ballio

This one goes to Nickii Blonsky from the movie, 100%. She was literally the perfect Tracy, so already that's a lot to live up to, but Maddie Ballio's lack lustre performance of 'Good Morning Baltimore' is really what solidified this for me, not to mention she totally forgot the lyrics twice. Even though she got a lot better as she went along, I really found that hard to let go of.

VERDICT: Movie Version

Edna Turnblad - John Travolta v Harvey Fierstein

This one's pretty difficult because I feel like they both gave us two very different, but very fab Edna Turnblads. I know that Harvey Fierstein is like, THE Edna, but honestly, I think I'm giving this one to John Travolta, not only for his lol of a fat suit, but because of his more earnest portrayal and gutsy stab at a Baltimore accent. But Harvey Fierstein, you are still Hollywood goals (also please hire me, I'll literally pay you).

VERDICT: Movie Version

Link Larkin - Zac Efron v Garrett Clayton

I really feel like this is the showdown of Disney Alumni. Troy Bolton against that guy from 'Teen Beach Movie' whose character name escapes me. When I heard that Garrett Clayton was playing Link, to be honest I was really excited. I thought he was good in 'Teen Beach Movie' and the character he played in that film isn't dissimilar to Link, so to be honest I thought he would slay. Unfortunately, this wasn't quite the case. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't bad or anything, he just wasn't particularly memorable or exciting, and to be completely honest, whenever the camera was on him, I was overwhelmingly distracted by the 12 tons of make-up he had on. Zac Efron however pretty much nailed it in the movie version, which I didn't even realise until I saw other people's attempts, so kudos to Troy.

VERDICT: Movie Version

Wilbur Turnblad - Christopher Walken v Martin Short

Once again, I seem to be faced with a very difficult decision between two Hollywood legends, go figure. While I think they both did a pretty fabulous job as Wilbur, I'm giving this one to Martin Short, pretty much because he's clearly the better singer. Also, he actually made me pay attention to 'You're Timeless to Me', which, not gonna lie, I fast forward through every time I've ever watched the film. However, I repeat, they're both hella great.

VERDICT: Live Version

Motormouth Maybelle - Queen Latifah v Jennifer Hudson

Again, it seems I've got myself a pretty mammoth decision. In terms of acting, I'd say these two powerhouses are about even, but when it comes to singing, even though Queen Latifah is amazing and gives me so much life, is it even possible to beat Jennifer Hudson? I know it was quite controversial having her sing 'Big Blonde and Beautiful' despite the fact that she's not even close to being fat, which, you know, is kinda awkward and low key offensive, but in literally every other way Jennifer was perfect for this role, so just this once I think I can overlook it. Plus, her 'I Know Where I've Been' completely brought the house down and was a major highlight of the whole thing.

VERDICT: Live Version

Velma Von Tussell - Michelle Pfeiffer v Kristin Chennoweth

Honestly, this is my favourite role in the whole musical, and has been ever since I was like 8. When I heard that Queen Kristin was playing Velma in the live version, I was beyond excited, and had no doubt that she would slay hard out. Call me clairvoyant, because I was totally correct. She was absolutely flawless and amazing, and while Michelle Pfeiffer was super incredible, there's just no beating the Broadway perfection that is Kristin Chennoweth (well, at least in my books).

VERDICT: Live Version

Seaweed - Elijah Kelley v Ephraim Sykes

To be honest, because they approached the role in a similar way, it's kinda hard to differentiate between the two Seaweed portrayals, which makes this decision extra difficult to make. Which is why I'm going to be a total cop out and not make it at all. It's official, we have our first tie. I mean, come on, they both killed it, what choice do I have?


Penny Lou Pingleton - Amanda Bynes v Ariana Grande


If you're not familiar with the movie version, you'd think that this would be an obvious choice, but surprisingly, Amanda Bynes doesn't play a bad Penny Lou Pingleton. I mean sure, she really can't sing at all and they use a ton of auto tune, but her acting is pretty damn good. However, I'm going to give this one to Ariana because despite that, she was still a way better all-rounder.

VERDICT: Live Version

Amber Von Tussell - Brittany Snow v Dove Cameron

When I heard that Dove Cameron was playing Amber in 'Hairspray Live', I was once again super excited. I've seen 'Liv and Maddie' and 'Descendants' and low key stalked her relationship with Ryan McCartan (which I'm super sad is over), so I was pretty up on her capabilities, so it's really no surprise that she killed it. I mean, Brittany Snow is fabulous and I love her, but Dove just upped the sass and crushed the vocals and really gave me no choice but to crown her as the ultimate Amber.

VERDICT: Live Version

Corny Collins - James Marsden v Derek Hough

To be honest, until I saw the live version, I didn't really realise how good James Marsden was at playing Corny Collins. I'm not saying Derek Hough was bad, because he certainly wasn't, it's just that Corny literally wasn't even on my radar while watching Hairspray Live, whereas in the movie, his one liners and allegiance with Tracy were some of my favourite parts. I mean Derek Hough danced and acted well enough, and while, try as he might, he's not exactly much of a singer, that wasn't really the reason I didn't pay him much attention. James Marsden just brought a certain charisma that wasn't too outrageously over the top that made Corny Collins awesome, so I really have to go with him on this one.

VERDICT: Movie Version

Prudence Pingleton - Allison Janney v Andrea Martin

To be honest, I was low key disappointed with Mrs Pingleton in Hairspray Live, however this has absolutely nothing to do with Andrea Martin's portrayal. Allison Janney in the film plays her totally hard-line and dictator-y, while Andrea Martin in the live version is super over the top, both interpretations being ones with merit. However, the real problem for me in Hairspray Live was her severe lack of screen time. In the movie, I feel like Penny's mum is always popping up and trying to ruin her life which brings with it absolute hilarity, while in the live version, she was barely even a minor role. Therefore, this one goes to the queen of supporting characters Allison Janney (seriously, she's in everything).

VERDICT: Movie Version

Little Inez - Taylor Parks v Shahadi Wright Joseph

Again, this one is a pretty tough call. I remember back in the day being super blown away by Taylor Parks in the movie, and after rewatching it several times at the ripe old age of 18, I am still incredibly impressed. While watching Hairspray Live, I also thought Shahadi's Little Inez was great, however perhaps didn't have the same vocal and acting maturity as Taylor did in the film, which is understandable considering she's 3 years younger. So taking age in to account, I'm going to once again opt out of this one and just say it's a tie.


And that's basically everyone involved who's worth mentioning! According to my probably inaccurate maths, I'm pretty that's 7 all, which means that both casts tied, however I'm not that annoying, and am going to just come out and say that personally I prefer the movie version over 'Hairspray Live'. It's not everyday that a really good movie musical comes along, so when it does, you have to cherish it. Saying that, I am in no way insinuating that 'Hairspray Live' is bad, because I honestly really enjoyed it, but for some reason it just felt slightly more abridged than the film.  However, interestingly enough, I often find live productions of 'Hairspray' to be a little bit lack luste (probably because I've been spoiled with a super amazing film version), and Hairspray Live certainly didn't fit into that category, so is still definitely worth checking out. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that Hairspray is awesome in every capacity, and that the 2007 film and 2016 live event should both be appreciated in their own right. Til' next time . . .

Annabel xx