Movie Review: “A Bigger Splash”

Starring
Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson
Director
Luca Guadagnino

At first, “A Bigger Splash” is a feast for the senses. The gorgeous locations, thrilling tunes, and nothing but good times with Tilda Swinton’s rock star feels like paradise. Midway through director Luca Guadagono’s hypnotic film, however, the dream begins to turn into an equally exciting and unnerving nightmare.

Marianne Lane (Swinton), unlike her former lover Harry (Ralph Fiennes), is speechless. After the rock star undergoes a potentially career-ruining procedure, she seeks some peace and quiet with her boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). They lie about in the sun, make love any chance they get, and, at least on the surface, the two couldn’t look happier. Their brief moments of peace and quiet are interrupted when Harry stops by with his “daughter” Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Harry, Paul and Marianne all share a history together — one that slowly reveals itself over the course of the narrative.

Until the surprising but inevitable third act, that’s about as much plot as there is in “A Bigger Splash,” a film that’s driven far more by atmosphere and character. David Kajganich’s script may feel like a rambling assortment of scenes, but they’re all of a piece, always serving a purpose or revealing something about the characters. When Harry lets loose to some Rolling Stones in a joyful three-minute dance sequence, we see the man Marianne used to love. That man, the one that always tries to live his life to the fullest, comes and goes throughout the film, like all four of the central characters.

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Movie Review: “How to Be Single”

Starring
Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, Anders Holm, Nicholas Braun, Jake Lacy, Damon Wayans Jr., Jason Mantzoukas
Director
Christian Ditter

Don’t let the dirty talk and rampant sex fool you: “How to Be Single” is as safe as kittens. It might be the most harmless raunch-com ever made, a mash-up of several other mediocre relationship films (and one baby film) rolled into one profane package. The four leads sell it as well as they can, but this film was going to be a nonstarter regardless of whom they cast.

Alice (Dakota Johnson) meets cute with Josh (Nicholas Braun) during their freshman year at college. Fast-forward four years, and Alice is moving out of the New York apartment she and Josh share in order to have some ‘me’ time, thinking she will get a feel for being alone, and that will give her a whole new appreciation for being part of a couple. It’s meant to be temporary. It turns into something else.

Alice moves into her sister Meg’s apartment. Meg (Leslie Mann) is a careerist obstetrician who’s never thought of having a baby of her own, until she spends a few minutes alone with one (this after delivering over 3,000 of them); after which, getting pregnant is the only thing that matters to her.

Alice works at a law firm with Robin (Rebel Wilson). Robin is a party girl who has lots of indiscriminate sex. We are supposed to like Robin, even though she will either be dead or in rehab in three years.

Lucy (Alison Brie) doesn’t know Alice, Meg or Robin, but she lives above the bar that Alice and Robin frequent, and spends time in the bar mooching off of their Wi-Fi while she perfects her dating site algorithm to find her man. Bartender Tom (Anders Holm) is a player’s player, but he serves as Lucy’s wingman from time to time as she brings her algorithm contestants to the bar. Lucy, unknowingly, has Tom rethinking his life choices, though not before Tom has had sex with two of the other three leads.

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Movie Review: “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Starring
Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford, Jennifer Ehle, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Marcia Gay Harden
Director
Sam Taylor-Johnson

It’s well established that “Fifty Shades of Grey” began life as fan fiction by a “Twilight” devotee who was frustrated with the lack of sex in the books, and that’s fair; there is but one sex scene in the entire series, after all. However, this married mother of two (!) didn’t just write about Bella and Edward (here named Ana and Christian) having sex: she wrote about them having rough sex, BDSM-type stuff that tries to present itself as a confident woman owning her sexuality, when in fact the sex is completely about him, and he is constantly looking for reasons to “punish” her. Christian Grey is basically the Patrick Bateman (“American Psycho”) of sex, to the point where “American Psycho” author Bret Easton Ellis saw so much of Patrick in Christian that he actually begged “Grey” author E. L. James for the right to write the film’s screenplay. She turned him down. That’s unfortunate; he might have made something watchable out of this.

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is a college senior who does her journalism major roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford) a solid by doing an interview on her behalf when Kate gets the flu. The interviewee is Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a 27-year-old billionaire who is giving her school’s commencement speech. Ana is intimidated by Christian – yet conducts the most passive-aggressive interview in history – but something about Ana intrigues Christian. He visits her at the hardware store where she works, and later tracks her down at a bar after she drunk calls him to tell him off. She wakes up in his hotel room, and after a brief (and hilariously awkward) chat, it is clear that there is chemistry between them, and each wants to consummate the relationship.

However, Christian plays a different sport than Ana does. He doesn’t want a lover: he wants a submissive (honest to God quote from the movie: “I don’t make love. I fuck. Hard.”), and asks Ana to look over a lengthy contract that spells out the terms of their sexual relationship, unaware that Ana is a virgin. Once he discovers this, he softens his approach and gives her the loving first experience that girls wish for, but after that, it’s all business, and business is this: you will do what I want, when I want, or you will be punished. Ana refuses to sign the contract, though the two continue to see each other. They have lots of sex, he spanks and whips her, and despite his insistence that he is not a candy and flowers kind of guy, Ana thinks that this arrangement has the potential to blossom into something greater. Fool.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Taking a Gander at the 2012-2013 Season

Sure, the kick-off of the 2011-2012 TV season is still about four months away, give or take, but it’s never too soon to start getting excited about the new shows that will be gracing the broadcast networks come the fall…or to start placing bets on which ones will be the first to be cancelled. I’m keeping my mouth shut on both topics for the time being, but I have no doubt that most folks who check out these network-provided plot synopses and trailers won’t hesitate for a moment to offer up their opinions, so I look forward to reading what ya’ll have to say about what’s coming up…

ABC

666 Park Avenue (Sun., 10–11PM): At the ominous address of 666 Park Avenue, anything you desire can be yours. Everyone has needs, desires and ambition. For the residents of The Drake, these will all be met, courtesy of the building’s mysterious owner, Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn). But every Faustian contract comes with a price. When Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable), an idealistic young couple from the Midwest, are offered the opportunity to manage the historic building, they not only fall prey to the machinations of Doran and his mysterious wife, Olivia (Vanessa Williams), but unwittingly begin to experience the shadowy, supernatural forces within the building that imprison and endanger the lives of the residents inside. Sexy, seductive and inviting, The Drake maintains a dark hold over all of its residents, tempting them through their ambitions and desires, in this chilling new drama that’s home to an epic struggle of good versus evil.

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