Movie Reviews: 50 Shades Freed, The 15:17 to Paris, The Cloverfield Paradox

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Check out this rundown of the newest movies from this weekend!

‘The Cloverfield Paradox’

There is an interesting conversation to be had about “The Cloverfield Paradox” that ironically has nothing to do with the movie itself. In the first quarter of last Sunday’s Superbowl, Netflix dropped an add signaling that it would release the much-rumored third film in the “Cloverfield” franchise after the game (Sorry, “This Is Us”). What happened was a somewhat unprecedented move that could signal a new age for how movies are delivered to us. Consumers had already come accustomed to seeing albums from major music artists drop completely out of thin air but this was the first time that strategy had been done with a major motion picture. All of this seemed suitable for a franchise that’s built itself on unusual marketing tactics for mid-budget sci-fi horror.

Sadly, the movie itself is a total dud. The picture, originally titled “God Particle”, was developed over at Paramount, where it was repurposed in order to tie into the first “Cloverfield” movie. Later on, the project was scrapped as part of an in-house cleaning of pictures deemed unsuccessful for theatrical release. Paramount eventually sold the movie to Netflix; who turned its release into an eye-catching stunt. However, watching the film, you begin to realize why Paramount was so eager to be rid of it.

For the most part, “The Cloverfield Paradox” plays out as a dull form of space horror that evokes better, or at least more interesting, movies such as “Alien” or “Event Horizon”. Toss in a rather cheap looking subplot, that was likely a reshoot, tieing it into “Cloverfield” and “10 Cloverfield Lane” and you have the making of a movie that looks like it was made for TV on the Sci-Fi Network. Technically, I could go on and on about how bored the cast looks, how lazily stitched the plot is, or how all over the place this film is in terms of tone. But what would be the point? “The Cloverfield Paradox” landed in our laps as the movie equivalent of the Nunes memo; immense hype followed by a fart in the wind.

Rating: ★ 1/2

’50 Shades Freed’

Oy vey! Is it any surprise that the new “Fifty Shades” movie is bad? Scratch that, it’s terrible; mind-numbingly, jaw-droppingly terrible. But that should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this series. In fact, those lining up this weekend to see the final chapter are likely just die-hard fans. What’s baffling about these movies is that they don’t seem to work as romance, eroticism, or even schlock.

Never once do you buy that the chiseled Christian Grey or feisty Anastasia Steele would be remotely attracted to the other, at least not enough to passionately tie the knot, as happens in this installment. The sex feels dull and repetitive as you’re able to count the beats until the next time it forcefully has to be shoehorned into the plot. There’s nothing wild or provocative about it. You feel as if you’re watching two manikins be rearranged in positions.  Even the sillier soap elements can’t be enjoyed as unintentional comedy since they appear tossed in as nothing more than an attempt to kill screen time.

At the center of these movies is a nugget of a good idea; one about the shifting relationship power dynamic between a wealthy man with demanding rules and his headstrong lover with a will of her own. There’s already a better version of that story now in theaters; one that is actually quite funny and willing to go to some unusual places. That movie is called “Phantom Thread” and you should see it instead.


‘The 15:17 to Paris’

Many are likely to walk out of Clint Eastwood’s latest true-story drama and blame the movie’s stars as the source of its problems. Eastwood’s film tells the story of a terrorist attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris that was stopped by three young Americans, who happened to be on board. It’s the kind of patriotic story about heroism that the 87-year-old filmmaker loves to explore. However, what makes “The 17:15 to Paris” different is Eastwood’s decision to cast the real heroes of the event as themselves. Yet, the movie does a real disservice to them through a cringe-worthy script that requires them to speak dialogue that no normal human being would utter and doesn’t bother to add any narrative conflict until the last 20-minutes.

While the actual attack sequence itself is harrowing and intense, there’s a lot of uninteresting backstories we have to sit through just to get there. Scenes depicting the men’s childhood friendship and experience in the military is expected but a large middle chunk this movie sees them simply traveling Europe, doing normal tourist things. It feels more like someone’s Snap-Story of a vacation than an insightful look at these men’s friendship. By the end, you feel as though you’ve sat through a movie that’s about 90% filler and 10% of a substantial story.

Yet, the thing I thought about the most was how Eastwood’s alleged shooting style likely hindered these men’s performances. Eastwood has become known for a “run and gun” style of filmmaking, taking only a couple of takes of a scene before moving on. This method doesn’t show as much when you have an experienced actor such as Bradley Cooper or Tom Hanks at your helm. However, inexperienced actors require more time and patience in order to bring out a great performance. “The 15:17 to Paris” wants to be a well-intentioned tribute to American Heroes but I would have gotten more hearing it from their mouths in a documentary than this lazy dramatization of events.

Rating: ★ 1/2