OPENING THIS WEEK
Fifty Shades Darker Just in case you needed more proof that things do not in fact get better. In a sane universe, Fifty Shades of Grey would have been consigned to history as a profitable laughingstock – one of those movies that grabs a lot of box office on the front end but is so universally reviled that a sequel is out of the question. I mean, the thing only got a C-plus Cinemascore, for God's sake! And that was from people who had actually wanted to see it! But Hollywood just ain't gonna scoop up its winnings and run for the door like any respectable gambler, because a mere two years later, here's an adaptation of the second book in the trilogy that put BDSM right up there with red wine and Grumpy Cat among Americans' greatest obsessions.
In this installment, renowned fanny-smacker Christian Grey tries to have a more normal relationship with his conflicted little Ana; complicating things are the respective jealousies of one of his past submissives and the older woman who introduced him to the rough stuff in the first place. In the latter role is one Kim Basinger, whose prostrations before Mickey Rourke in 9 1/2 Weeks once made her the Ana of her day. That turnabout is clearly somebody's idea of clever post-modernism, although I'm more interested in the detail that the character Basinger is playing is apparently described in the books as being in her late 30s or early 40s. Seriously, Kim: If you're expecting us to fall for that one, you are ... well, you are a rude, thoughtless little pig! Smack! (Oh, and the third 50 Shades picture was shot back-to-back with this one, so don't even think about having a good time on Valentine's Day 2018. Bunch of sadists.) (R)
John Wick: Chapter 2 The phrase "well-received Keanu Reeves movie" is one of the least uttered in the popular lexicon, so of course we're getting another John Wick adventure. And who knows? Maybe lightning will strike twice, and Chapter 2 will once again delight audiences and critics alike with some smooth and smart criminal capering. Which isn't to say there aren't certain challenges to re-milking this cash cow: When your first outing somehow made a viable narrative out of the hoary trope of a hitman being called out of retirement, where is there left to go?
The clever answer here is that Wick is being called out of retirement again – a strategy that must have made screenwriter Derek Kolstad happy he shelled out for that Robert McKee seminar. A battle royale with a team of international assassins ensues, and out in front of the villains is Common, playing the head of security for a female drug lord. Wait – so if he works for her, how isn't she the main villain? Is this one of those things I'm going to have to read Jezebel to figure out? (R)
The Lego Batman Movie Sometimes I get things totally wrong. Like, when Live by Night died a swift death, I assumed it was going to make Ben Affleck quit his dithering about filmable scripts and just agree to be the guy who makes Batman movies forever. Instead, he dropped out of directing The Batman, and at press time, rumors were flying that he might be exiting the lead role as well. By the time you read this, he may have mounted a behind-the-scenes campaign to have the work print of Justice League burned.
In the meantime, we have The Lego Batman Movie, which just might ensconce Will Arnett as the definitive modern-day Dark Knight – as long as you get off on seeing crusty old Bruce microwaving leftover Lobster Thermidor while ignoring the pesky orphan he won in a millionaires' auction. And if you don't, what the hell is wrong with you? All signs here point to a delightful comedy that's still in the spirit of the character. At least I hope so, because I bought one of the T-shirts last week. (Good thing I never got off the fence about that Batfleck Funko Pop.) (PG)