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Showing posts with label 2018. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2018. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Movie Review Red Sparrow (2018)

Movie Review - Red Sparrow            Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Red Sparrow
Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow
Jennifer Lawrence is Dominika, a former ballerina forced to join Sparrow School, a secret government program that transforms her into an agent who can manipulate, seduce and kill.


In the spirit of the novel, “Red Sparrow” the movie adaptation would probably be Borscht with Seasoned Ham: Combine a Tom Clancy thriller with an early James Bond picture, season liberally with last year’s “Atomic Blonde,” add a cup of the old Mad Magazine panel "Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy" and a pinch of both the 1942 film “Casablanca” and 1946’s “Notorious,” a puree in a blender, and serve chilled with vodka and vermouth on the side shaken, not stirred.

In “Red Sparrow,” prima ballerina Dominika Egorova suffers a grotesque injury during a performance and must say adios to the Bolshoi. As an alternative to losing her modest government-provided apartment and the health insurance she needs to care for her ailing mother, Dominika accepts a proposal from her creepy Uncle Ivan that she enroll in “Sparrow School,” a training program operated by Russian Intelligence.
Jason Matthews' original novel “Red Sparrow” employs an unusual literary device: Each chapter of the book includes a reference to a specific gourmet food and ends with a recipe for its preparation.
Derisively referred to by Dominika as “whore school,” the Sparrow program instructs female recruits in seduction techniques, for use on foreign operatives as a means of gaining secret information. “Red Sparrow” essentially details Dominika’s enrollment and vigorous training in the program, and her first secret assignment.

Directed by Francis Lawrence, who also guided the last three installments of the “Hunger Games” film series, “Red Sparrow” boasts first-class production values, including beautiful photography, music, and a supporting cast of professional actors riding on a sort of merry-go-round of international accents and inflections Brits and Americans using Russian inflections, an Australian affecting American cadences, and Mary-Louise Parker reciting her lines in her signature distracted southwestern drawl.

Unfortunately, “Red Sparrow” is plump and ponderous at 140 minutes, and filled with unnecessary characters, details, and plot twists and turns which will either keep viewers on their toes or hopelessly confuse them. There’s not a single subplot or peripheral character this picture couldn’t jettison as ballast to reduce “Red Sparrow” to a less-punishing running time of under two hours.

Among the players, Jeremy Irons with each new performance grows to resemble legendary horror star Boris Karloff so closely that aficionados of classic films of have taken to examining the actor’s neck for Frankenstein’s electrode bolts. Irons delivers a characteristically exacting and riveting performance as a highly-placed Russian spy with motives that will keep viewers surprised until the very end.

Charlotte Rampling as the matron of the Sparrow School is essentially playing a reheated version of the Lotte Lenya character from 1962’s “From Russia with Love” the scary, bad-tempered, uniform-clad spymaster. Rampling’s performance is also strongly reminiscent of her breakout performance in 1974’s “The Night Porter” which is to say that her character has more than a few kinks in her cable.

The Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts appears as creepy Uncle Ivan, Dominika’s sponsor in Sparrow School. Schoenaerts’ resemblance to Vladimir Putin is so eerily pronounced that it’s impossible to not imagine his character is based on the Russian president, if not actually played by him. And Mary-Louise Parker contributes a cameo performance as a US government employee who might have secrets for sale. Parker’s appearance is a breath of fresh air in a sometimes-repressive movie, but her hasty departure will leave viewers gasping.

The primary assets of “Red Sparrow” are the wonderfully seductive Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika, and Joel Edgerton as the CIA operative she’s sent to seduce. Essentially, Edgerton distracts the girls in the audience while Lawrence steals the picture. As anyone knows who’s seen Lawrence’s appearances as the villain Mystique in the “X-Men” film series, even covered in blue paint and without dialogue the Academy Award-winning actress finds a means of endearing herself to audiences of all ages and genders.

Although the teaming of Lawrence and Edgerton fails to generate the sparks necessary to ignite “Red Sparrow” into the grand romantic entertainment plainly intended by the filmmakers, both actors deliver persuasive and ingratiating performances. Lawrence’s role requires such physical punishment that viewers might wonder if the actress is performing penance for her appearance in the execrable “Mother!” a few months ago, a film so fatally pretentious that even the traditionally easygoing audiences polled by CinemaScore assigned it a grade of F.
“Red Sparrow” is receiving decidedly mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike, although as usual Lawrence’s performance is being praised across the board. The picture has received an MPAA rating of R for nudity and violence, surprisingly little of which is gun-related.
This movie marks the reunion of director Francis Lawrence and actress Jennifer Lawrence, who made 3 of the 4 Hunger Games movies before. Here they go a very different direction, namely an ol' fashioned spy thriller drama, as if we're back in the Cold War (and maybe we actually are). The movie is very plot-driven and, I must admit, quite convoluted, so pay attention! even then, there's a good chance you'll get lost during some parts along the way. 
Lawrence truly takes the movie on her shoulders, appearing in virtually all scenes, and no-one is going to out-tough Jennifer Lawrence! Speaking of Jennifer which there are several extended torture scenes that are just brutal (I had to look away more than once). Besides Jennifer Lawrence, the movie also benefits from the performance of Belgium's Matthias Schoenaerts, in the role of the sinister no-good uncle. 
Charlotte Rampling equally delights in her small role as the sparrows teacher/trainer. The movie's production set is first class all the way, with Hungary standing in for Russia, and extended scenes in London and Vienna as well. Last but certainly not least, there is a warm orchestral score that plays prominently in the movie, courtesy of veteran composer James Newton Howard.

"Red Sparrow" opened wide this weekend, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at here in Cincinnati was pretty much sold out, which is of course normal for a movie of this stature just opening. Whether it will have staying power, only time will tell. If you are a fan of a good spy story (even it it's a bit convoluted), or a fan of Jennifer Lawrence, you'll want to check this out, be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.
Author Jason Matthews is contracted by his publisher to write a sequel. If Jennifer Lawrence is going to appear in the film version, we should get in line now.
"Red Sparrow" (2018 release; 139 min.) brings the story of Dominika. As the movie opens, Dominika cares for her ailing mother, and then, while dancing ballet at the Bolshoi suffers a brutal leg injury (accident? or not?). We then go the "3 Months Later", when Dominika is forced by her uncle, the Vice Deputy of Security, to go to training school for sparrows (in return for which her ailing mom receives medical care). 
Sparrows are used by Russia to compromise enemies of the state in any way possible. "Every person is a human puzzle of need", they are taught. Dominika is tasked with finding a mole high up in the Russian government. To tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
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Red Sparrow (2018)

Movie Review
Red Sparrow (2018)

Movie Review Goodbye Christopher Robin

Movie Review Goodbye Christopher Robin    Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Christopher Robin
Goodbye Christopher Robin

Goodbye Christopher Robin
Get a rare glimpse into the relationship between author A.A. Milne, creator of the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and his son, in this moving story about success and family.

Returning from The Great War, Blue (AA Milne) finds it hard to readjust to ‘proper’ society and moves his family to the country where he plans to write a protest book against war. When his wife flees back to the social lifestyle of the city and their nanny abandons him, a bonding with his son Billie (Christopher Robin) changes not only his objectives but his perspective.


A very thoughtful film, well written, acted, and filmed. Felt like you were actually watching the Milne family. The actor playing Christopher Milne was phenomenal. This made me cry, both time's I watched it. This is NOT a Disneyesque film, much closer to a Merchant Ivory film and not for the folks looking for an easy "feel good" family film. 

It captures the consequences of a terrible war, and the difficulties of social strata in England, the corruption of childhood, among many other things. It does not diminish my love for Winnie-the-Pooh, and I am encouraged to go see Tiger, Pooh, Piglet, Kanga and Roo at the New York City Library. It only has increased my empathy for this whole family, and their struggles, and my love for the hundred acre wood Again, this is a serious, imaginative and special film. I am seriously considering purchasing as gifts for my adult children.
My family and I have always been huge fans of Winnie the Pooh. This movie was so good. I can't believe this movie wasn't nominated for anything. Glad I purchased instead of just renting, I know we will be watching it again. My 13 yr old daughter and 22 yr old son both loved it as well. It is sad, quite sad at times but so worth watching.
This is an extravagent independent film of the depiction of children's' beloved Winnie The Pooh creator A.A. Milne. Tears fell from my eyes as I felt empathy for Christopher's plea for love in a world that exploited, neglected, and abused him. No child should have experience this at the expense of fame for a children's book. I really felt this movie. I wanted to jump through the screen and give Christopher Robin a bear hug and say that it would be okay. Wow! What a movie experience. I have not felt this in a while. This film is very family friendly but can be dark and cynical at times. I recommend this movie for adults and older children. Younger children may need parental guidance to talk about these mature themes. 
To Winnie the Pooh fans the script was not centered on the creation of Winnie the Pooh as it was centered on A.A. Milne's relationship to his son and Milne's post dramatic stress. The movie's ultimate theme is the effects of fame on Christopher Robin. Fans that want a detail account of the creation of Winnie The Pooh should look elsewhere. It's not that the creation of the Winnie the Pooh is not included in the film; It is just shown briefly. The chemistry between the characters was ecstatic.
I will be the odd reviewer here because I have not read the Winnie the Pooh books or seen any of the animated films that have been made from the books. Good-bye Christopher Robin is a beautifully filmed and acted movie. I have come across comments elsewhere about the chilly relationship between A.A. Milne and his wife and son Christopher. Even though the First World War is only 100 years past, the devastating effects of the war does not seem to register with viewers. Many villages in England had all of their young men wiped out entirely because they were encouraged to join a single regiment. The sense of extreme loss was very palpable. 
The Milne marriage was devastated from the shell shock that Alan suffered and made him withdraw. The fact that the story of the writing of Winnie the Pooh had no happy endings is the way life goes. The tragedy of Christopher is that the writing of the book blighted his life because it made him famous, and he was unable to cope with the demands that fans of the book placed on him.
I loved this film and have loaned it to my daughter for her to view. I also texted my sister to recommend that she watch it. It was well done, and the child actor who played Christopher Robin was adorable. The beginning was confusing slightly, but I soon sorted out what was going on. A very pleasant viewing experience although I was almost in tears in parts.
For me the story had was wonderful because Alan Milne and his son did draw closer over the writing of Winnie the Pooh and created books that offered some light during the difficult times following the war. If Daphne Milne enjoyed the glamor of London, her husband and son found peace in the English countryside. Ultimately, this is a beautiful film with a good resolution as Christopher goes to war, like his father and comes home. He reconciles with his fame from the Winnie the Pooh books but wanted none of the royalties. I plan to see this film again for the sensitive direction by Simon Curtis and the superb performances by Margot Robbie, Domhnall Gleeson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Will Tilston.
I strongly recommend this film. Please support Independent Films.
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Goodbye Christopher Robin

  • Genres: Kids & Family
  • Starring: Vicki Pepperdine, Margot Robbie, Domhnall Gleeson
  • Supporting actors: Domhnall Gleeson, Will Tilston, Alex Lawther, Stephen Campbell Moore, Richard McCabe, Geraldine Somerville, Mossie Smith, Stanley Hamlin, Kelly Macdonald, Dexter Hyman, Sonny Hyman, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sam Barnes, Allegra Marland, Mark Tandy, Richard Dixon, Shaun Dingwall, Ann Thwaite
  • Director: Simon Curtis
  • Format:  Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: January 23, 2018
  • Run Time: 107 minutes

Movie Review
Goodbye Christopher Robin

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

TV-Series Review NCIS Seasons 15

TV-Series Review - NCIS 15 Seasons

NCIS Season 15 Episodes - CBS.com
NCIS Season 15 Episodes

The 15th season of NCIS returns two months after Special Agents Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and McGee (Sean Murray) were last seen fighting a group of rebels in Paraguay. Last season's dangerous mission will forever change each member of the team and bring this family of agents closer than ever. 
1. House Divided
2. Twofer
3. Exit Strategy
4. Skeleton Crew
5. Fake It 'Til You Make It
6. Trapped
7. Burden of Proof
8. Voices
9. Ready or Not
10. Double Down
11. High Tide
12. Dark Secrets
13. Family Ties
14. Keep Your Friends Close
15. New Team Friendships and Rivalries

I've been a fan of mark harmon for a long time. When NCIS came online and I saw the cast I had to watch it. i've watched all the seasons plus shopped at the gift shop on line. NCIS is everywhere at my house. I see people come and go the imprint that each person leaves is and imprint on the person watching this show. I'm 61 for me it brings a little life back in me. The show means a lot to a lot of people. Mark (Gibbs) lives by a code in the show. and i think everyone needs a little bit of code to live by. i will be sorry to see the show come to and end .The cast has been at this a long time. But you do touch people.
NCIS had a rocky season last year--no wonder, with the departure of Michael Weatherley after 13 years and the sudden death of long-time show runner Gary Glasberg. Story threads got lost, writing was uneven, and, sadly, the "team" just never jelled. There was a lot of adolescent silliness in the office. But from the first show of Season 15 on, the show is totally back on track and better than ever: good stories well written and acted, newer characters fitting in well now, and the team members have suddenly all grown up again. (Gibbs never needed too, but he has also changed in interesting new ways). There is still enjoyable good humor among them, but a lot less silliness. New addition Agent Jack Sloane is a strong plus.
NCIS has been characterized by strong characters, good plots, and good directing. This IMHO is not the real source of its popularity. NCIS has been so popular because its characters are patriotic and care about honor and integrity. They are front line soldiers working for something greater than themselves. Last season was not a great one, due to a weak character, who has now left the show. There's only been one episode of the new season, but it was excellent. If the writers are going to expand McGee and Bishop's roles, that will be great. The writers definitely haven't lost their touch. If you liked it before, you'll still like it. Unless the rest of the episodes just collapse (unlikely) I anticipate a very enjoyable season. 
NCIS is still the best of all the NCIS’s.
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NCIS Seasons 15

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TV-Series Review
NCIS Seasons 15

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Movie Review Get Out

Movie Review - Get Out

Get Out - youtube.com
Get Out

A young African-American man, visits his white girlfriend's (Allison Williams) family estate, he becomes ensnared in the more sinister, real reason for the invitation. At first, Chris reads the family's overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter's interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined. This speculative thriller from Blumhouse (producers of The Visit, Insidious series and The Gift) and the mind of Jordan Peele (Key & Peele) is equal parts gripping thriller and provocative commentary.


This movie effortlessly addresses several forms of racism and discrimination of people of color through the horror genre. But, what makes this movie special, is that it stays pretty close to reality. Yes, some situations are exaggerated for the effect, but the conversations and body language are, to me, close to what happens between benevolent racists and people of color. If you look at this movie with more than just a scare in mind, you will probably walk away with a better understanding of what people of color live through each day (as I did), your eyes will be opened to the extent of the effects of racism, or you will applaud Peele for pushing the boundaries in Hollywood to bring the racism conversation more to center stage (as it damn well needs to be). Overall, 10/10, would watch and love and learn from again.
This is a kind of weird take on the horror movie theme, where racism is the monster/bad guy. It has kind of a Stepford Wives, pod-people feel to it. I will not go into the plot in much detail to avoid spoiling it, but the basics are that a black guy and his white girlfriend are going to her parent's house for the weekend. A situation he is uneasy about to begin with, but he discovers that her parents and the people in the town are more than what they seem to be. It is written and directed by Jordan Peele, of Key and Peele fame, and stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in the main roles with a strong supporting cast including Bradley Whitford, Stephen Root, Catherine Keener, and Lil Rel Howery.

For those who get the blu-ray, the film looks and sounds very good. Especially for a non-special effects laden movie. For extras there is an alternate ending, about 23 minutes worth of deleted scenes, a behind the scenes look at the making of the movie, and a short Q and A with Peele and some of the cast members. There is also a commentary track on the movie with Peele. Good for what is there.

It is definitely not a movie that will appeal to everyone. Yes, there is a message about race relations, but it is not white-people bad, black-people good. It goes beyond that and tries to tell more of a "we are not in a post-racial division America" story. It wraps it in the horror movie/thriller genre where you want to yell at the characters "Get out of the house!" hence the name of the film. That said the main story being told is not overly complex, but is not meant to be. I think it is well written and acted, and can definitely be a topic of conversation.
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Get Out

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Movie Review Star Wars VIII The Last Jedi

Movie Review - Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi - youtube.com
The Last Jedi

From the ashes of the Empire has arisen another threat to the galaxy’s freedom: the ruthless First Order. Fortunately, new heroes have emerged to take up arms and perhaps lay down their lives for the cause. Rey, the orphan strong in the Force Finn, the Ex-Stormtrooper who stands against his former masters and Poe Dameron, the fearless X-wing pilot, have been drawn together to fight side-by-side with General Leia Organa and the Resistance. 
But the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke and his merciless enforcer Kylo Ren are adversaries with superior numbers and devastating firepower at their command. Against this enemy, the champions of light may finally be facing their extinction. Their only hope rests with a lost legend: Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

Where the action of Star Wars: The Force Awakens ended, Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins, as the battle between light and dark climbs to astonishing new heights.


Both directors of the new trilogy are huge Star Wars fans, each with a different mission as filmmakers within the series and each with their own sense of style and vision. Compared to Abrams, whose job it was to create new and likeable characters while thrusting them into a fun and familiar Star Wars setting (a job well done IMO), Johnson's job was to continue the arcs of those characters while somehow subverting expectations. I can't speak for other fans, but I had a strong personal need for the saga to expand on its ongoing narratives, themes and character dimensions in ways that were simultaneously new, familiar, interesting and unpredictable. I didn't want just another Empire the way we kinda got just another New Hope. I knew that to do that Johnson would need to take some risks, and as it turns out he took a lot of them with varying degrees of success. Not everything lands how it should've, but all the A-plot stuff with Kylo, Rey, Luke and Leia worked great for me initially and in retrospect.

Without going into too much detail, VIII suffered mostly from one or two of its subplots, namely that of Finn, Rose and DJ. In spite of their subplot's flaws, perhaps the biggest payoff was one in which DJ helps Finn and Rose to understand that war is far more grey and nuanced than they previously realized, and that the concepts of good and evil are maybe a bit more relative than they'd like to think. This is a concept that is echoed in various ways throughout the movie's various arcs, and its a theme I personally adore, but I wish Finn and Rose had come across it in a more fun and concise way.

One of the most common complaints I've seen of this film has to do with it's attempts at humor. Admittedly, I was caught off guard by it near the beginning, but I quickly and effortlessly found myself enjoying it, and did so for the most part for the rest of the film. I'm not sure I understand why the humor didn't land for so many people, at least not beyond the fact that humor is a very subjective construct. The humor of the prequels suffered greatly because it was so infantile and kid-centric. I think people forget how much humor there was in the original trilogy, but it seems to me that the new trilogy hasn't forgotten, nor has it failed to understand what made that humor more successful. The humor simply needs to appeal to the widest possible audience, young lings and old lings alike. Was some of the humor too “meta” in this film? Who knows. One could easily argue yes or no, but I personally didn't think the humor was specific enough to be truly bad in a meta sense. Overall it seemed fine, and a lot of it got genuine laughs out of me.

I have enormous difficulty taking seriously the opinions of those who say flat out that Episode VIII “sucks” or even of those who somehow loved it unconditionally, although there seem to be far fewer of those in the latter category. Either way, let's not kid ourselves into thinking there has ever been a perfect SW film (although Empire was objectively maybe the closest we'll ever get to one). Empire took plenty of risks that in hindsight paid off beautifully, and I feel quite comfortable saying the same of VIII. As far as risks go, the difference between the two films is that VIII takes maybe one or two too many. Its possible that a few more months in the writer's room probably could have fixed all or most of the film's biggest missteps, but as a realist I understand time isn't always as abundant as we'd like it to be. In the end, The Last Jedi is what it is, and it would have been folly to ever think it could have pleased everyone.

I could follow suit with so many of the Internet's talking heads by nitpicking this film to death, but doing that seems unnecessary and beside the point of cinema. It might be a cynical view, but I think a lot of people kinda enjoy dissecting all the “bad” parts of movies more than losing themselves in all the “good” parts. I simply can't find it within myself to cut off this film's face to spite it's nose like so many people have. When considering the poignantly grey themes of The Last Jedi, doesn't it make more sense to embrace a more “grey” approach to how we experience films? To reference a specific quote from VIII, if darkness rises, shouldn't the light rise to meet it?

With all it's jaw-dropping spectacles, touching character moments and fresh thought-provoking themes, its the sum of Episode VIII's parts that, for me, make it an enjoyable cinematic experience. I have no quibbles about recommending this episode of Star Wars, but I'd try to ignore the Internet's echo chambers.
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Star Wars VIII : The Last Jedi

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Movie Review Fifty Shades Freed

Movie Review - Fifty Shades Freed

Fifty Shades Freed - The Aisle Seat
Fifty Shades Freed

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades Freed, the climactic chapter based on the worldwide bestselling “Fifty Shades” phenomenon. Bringing to a shocking conclusion events set in motion in 2015 and 2017’s blockbuster films that grossed almost $950 million globally, the film arrives for Valentine’s Day 2018. Believing they have left behind shadowy figures from their past, newlyweds Christian and Ana fully embrace an inextricable connection and shared life of luxury. But just as she steps into her role as Mrs. Grey and he relaxes into an unfamiliar stability, new threats could jeopardize their happy ending before it even begins.


Fifty Shades Freed is the conclusion of the Fifty Shades trilogy that delivers what the fans love and want so much: lots of steamy sex scenes, the story being pretty faithful to the original source and good performances by Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson and the rest of the cast.

The movie shows us the life of Ana and Christian after getting married. Will steamy sex be enough for them to live happily ever after? The couple is put through tests like people from the past determined to ruin their happiness, Ana's adjustment to Christian's fortune, unexpected pregnancies and Ana dealing with being now a Grey. I gotta say the movie is enjoyable, as it includes the key parts of the book on the movie, but some other parts feel rushed and superficial. Some of the important characters are barely on two or three scenes with one or two lines, and it feels like they spend so much minutes on sex rather on creating a more deep and meaningful ending to the series, but let's also consider that this is the shortest Fifty Shades film.

I still believe this is a good conclusion to the series, as it delivers romantic (and of course sexy) moments that are memorable and amazing and that will make you miss Ana and Christian as soon as you leave the movie theater. Even if this is not your "award winning" kind of movie, I will always remember this movie series as your non-so typical love story and good entertainment! Die-hard fans and regular moviegoers will be pleased. Don't listen to professional reviews. If you enjoyed the past movies, you will enjoy FSF too. Worth the pre-order.
 
I loved this last movie. It was done so much better than the other two. I know people are complaining that everything wasn’t in the movie. It’s very difficult to tell a whole book in 2 hours. All of the best moments in the book were there. I loved the end. I’m just sorry that their love story is over. You will love this last movie it has a little bit of everything for everyone.
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Fifty Shades Freed

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