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LIKES Evolved stylingStandard automatic emergency brakingAvailable all-wheel driveSmart Sport suspension tuningSupple, supportive seatsDISLIKES Small third rowToo far from Escalade in looks?Lacks SuperCruise, at least for nowBUYING TIP The 2020 Cadillac XT6 makes more sense in Premium Luxury trim, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t prefer the XT6 Sport’s handling.





Fifty Shades Freed Review

Fifty Shades Freed Review

Bad Romance

Seeing characters tied up on screen is one thing, but when the experience of watching a film starts to actually feel like a sadomasochistic exercise in endurance between director and viewer, you know something has gone a little wrong. And that's exactly the effect that James Foley's "Fifty Shades Freed" has. Based on the best-selling book by E. L. James, the movie mercifully marks the end of the embarrassingly bad Fifty Shades trilogy, finally unlocking the cuffs on audience members across the country.

Following their engagement in the last flick, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson, "How to Be Single") and Christian (Jamie Dornan, The Fall) tie the knot, hop on a private jet, and head off to a lavish honeymoon vacation. But while enjoying the consummation of their marriage (over and over again), a dangerous man from their past, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson, The Knick), remerges to cause trouble for the newlyweds. As Hyde schemes against the couple, the two attempt to thwart his plans, overcome their growing relationship woes, and have lots of sex -- usually all at the same time.    

The first two Fifty Shades flicks are not very good. Actually, they're absolutely horrendous. The second, in particular, is almost inexplicably absurd in its disregard for plot progression and notable drama. Sadly, those hoping for some kind of improvement here will be sorely disappointed. This thing is every bit as bad as the previous installments. Hell, it might even be worse.

After three films together, one might expect the two main characters to, you know, actually know a thing or two about each other. Especially since they're now married. Instead, however, Ana seems to be continually discovering really important facts about her husband for the very first time. Facts like, he doesn't want to have children. Seems like a conversation you might want to have before saying "I do," doesn't it?

Likewise, she almost seems surprised when her overbearing control-freak of a spouse continues to act like, well, an overbearing control freak. Did she not see the first two films? I guess I can't blame her. On the plus side, Dakota Johnson is at least able to inject some off-beat personality into the paper thin role. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about poor Jamie Dornan. Don't get me wrong, I don't actually blame the actor here as he has next to nothing to work with, but Christian comes across as little more than a domineering sex robot in relaxed fit jeans. Dark and brooding is all good and well if there's something of substance beneath the mystery. But when there's nothing, it's just kind of creepy.

And then there's the "plot." The film's silly excuse for a narrative is essentially a clunky assemblage of disjointed sequences that repeatedly see the couple enjoy their lavish lifestyle, briefly fight about something, and then have sex. Whenever an actual potential conflict is introduced, like jealousy over a hunky writer or a sexy architect, it's almost always immediately resolved or forgotten about by the next scene.  The same is true for the script's ridiculous detours into suspense, as Jack Hyde proves to be one of the most hilariously easy to overcome villains ever.

Of course, the Fifty Shades series is not exactly known for its complex characterizations or intricate storytelling. It's known for its sweet, sweet lovemaking... while in chains. And on that front, fans of the franchise will get plenty of slowly drifting close-ups focused on chiseled pecs, bare breasts, and tight buns as we hear the two leads moan and groan. BDSM elements once again come into play, but the scenes mostly all come across as simple retreads of similar sequences from the previous movies.

To be fair, I'm probably pretty far from the intended target audience for this movie, and I'm sure those who enjoyed the first two films will find plenty to like here. For everyone else, though, this is a laughably bad attempt at filmmaking. The key word there, however, is laughably, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't get some level of amusement from the flick here and there. I just don't think it was the kind that the director intended.

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