Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Fifty Shades Darker 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
The Fifty Shades Darker Unrated Edition, will plunge fans even deeper into the mesmerizing, hidden world of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, as the year’s hottest romance comes home. The global film phenomenon sparked by E.L. James’ best-selling book trilogy returns with the second chapter of the darkly alluring tale that captivated the world. The unrated, extended edition features content not seen in theaters and includes a sneak peek of the next film, Fifty Shades Freed. Fans can now stay in and have the ultimate at-home movie night with Fifty Shades Darker Unrated Edition, and this time, there are no rules and no secrets.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
In Fifty Shades of Grey we were introduced to Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Christian is a billionaire playboy who is also a dominant. Ana became is submissive, following his rules while exploring new things. At the end of the first movie, she was bothered by Christian’s desire to inflict pain and asked him to show her how far it could go. Ana didn’t like the way the final session in the red room went and her and Christian have separated. 

As Fifty Shades Darker begins, Christian sends a big bouquet of flowers to congratulate Ana on her new job in publishing. She is the assistant to the fiction editor Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson). Ana does not thank Christian for the flowers and is surprised to reconnect with him at her friend Jose’s photography exhibit. Ana’s portraits are the focus of the exhibit and Christian has swooped into buy them all. It is no surprise that he couldn’t handle the thought of another man owning her. 

After Ana accepts Christian’s dinner invitation, he lets her know that he is ready for a “vanilla relationship.” He claims to no longer need the dominant-submissive relationship and want to try again. Christian proves his dominant side is not gone when he tries to order dinner for Ana and she quickly puts him in his place. Needless to say, Ana is apprehensive about believing that Christian is capable of change.

As the relationship progresses, Ana will see new sides of Christian and he tries to be more open and vulnerable with her. Ana is displeased to meet the woman who first turned Christian on to the BDSM lifestyle, nicknamed Mrs. Robinson (Kim Basinger). Ana’s dislike of Mrs. Robinson is the least of their problems as they are both being stalked by one of his former submissives.

The Fifty Shades movies are certainly intended for fans of the books. If you didn’t like the books, nothing about these films will sway you.  If you didn’t like the first movie, the second certainly won’t change your tune.  If you think too hard about any of it, it ruins the experience.  I read the books and had low expectations for the films.  I have surprisingly found them entertaining and better than I expected.  

The major complaint many had about the whole premise is that it’s okay for Christian to be emotionally or physically abusive since he’s a billionaire.  If he lived in a trailer park, he certainly would be viewed differently but that’s thinking too hard about these issues.  With the first movie I was invested enough to want to see what happens in the next two films.  I find it unlikely that a man like Christian Grey would change his ways but it is interesting to watch him try. If you liked what you saw in the theaters and wanted more, the unrated extended edition includes over 30 minutes of bonus content.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Fifty Shades Darker performs well on Blu-ray and in ultra-high definition. The most noticeable differences are in fine details in the 4K version like strands of hair and clothing textures that vary slightly from the Blu-ray.  Without a back to back comparison you’d never feel like you were missing anything from the Blu-ray release.  4K is better, as expected….but not that much better.  Skin tones in both versions are accurate with a warmer palette overall in UHD.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Fifty Shades Darker features a DTS:X Master Audio soundtrack. Without major special affects you might think the audio quality isn’t that important but I appreciated the layered sound effects.  Ambience from crowds (at the photography exhibit and the masquerade ball), helps to provide an immersive listening experience.  The fireworks near the end of the film and a gunshot in the midst of the film are two opportunities for authentic sound effects.  Music, does a lot to effect the mood of the scenes and it too, comes across with appropriate weight and dimension. This is certainly a dialogue driven film and there are no disappointments there either.  The film sounds great on both Blu-ray and 4K UHD presentations.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
Fifty Shades Darker offers a theatrical and unrated extended edition as well as the following extras on the Blu-ray disc:
  • A Tease to Fifty Shades Freed (:35) – A hint of what to expect next Valentine’s Day when the third film is released.
  • Deleted Scenes (1:53 total runtime) – Available separately or with play all function: Christian and Ana Discuss What Elena Said  and Christian and Ana Discuss Ana's Security and Her Work.
  • Writing Darker (3:16) – Producer/Author EL James talks about the adaptation and necessary condensing of her works. Screenwriter (and ELs’s Husband) Niall Leonard offers his input and talks about how they worked together.
  • A Darker Direction (4:42) – The Director’s attributes are praised and he discusses the psychological aspects that interested him in the project.  EL James’ contributions, knowledge of her material and close working relationships are also touched on.
  • Dark Reunion (7:59) – The ensemble cast is interviewed and Director James Foley speaks to their strengths.
  • New Threats (8:55) – A look at the thriller aspects and the psychological and emotional elements brought by the characters Elena, Jack and Lela.
  • The Masquerade (6:35) – The pivotal scenes surrounding the ball are explored including the contributions of the costumers and production designers, who worked to create the flavor of Venice at the event.
  • Intimate with Darker (7:15) The director explains that each sexual encounter has a story of its own.  Dakota Johnson explains her relationship with actor Jamie Dornan and the trust she placed in him.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Fifty Shades novels didn’t win Pulitzer Prizes and the films aren’t Oscar worthy, or close to it, but I do find the books and the movies entertaining. Fifty Shades Darker isn’t a standalone film. You certainly would want to watch Fifty Shades of Grey to understand where these characters have been.  The films have been called “mommy porn” but even the unrated edition isn’t racier than what you’d find on Cinemax (at night). The films look and sound very good on both Blu-ray and 4K UHD and it would take a scene by scene comparison to feel like you were missing out if you only had the Blu-ray. A lot was condensed in the second film, but it is still easy to follow. My only complaint is the casting choice for Elena (Kim Basinger). In my mind, that character aged much better than Basinger has and would be more physically intimidating.  Other than that, I expect the film to be well received by fans of the series.  

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