50 Shades of Obsession: The Boy Next Door and Bound

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Okay, I know.  It’s not Valentine’s Day yet.  But it will be soon.  50 Shades of Grey is opening tomorrow and I have a feeling that, come November, there will be hundreds of newborn babies being named Christian and Anastasia.  (And, in a few years, they’ll all have teenage babysitters named Bella…)

However, in case you can’t get into 50 Shades of Grey, here’s two other films that you could possibly watch on Valentine’s Day.  Much like 50 Shades, they both involve a woman having sex with a manipulative sociopath.  The Boy Next Door is still in theaters while Bound has just been released on video.

And they’re both reviewed below!

The Boy Next Door, which was released towards the end of January, was the first film of 2015 that I was really excited about seeing.  That’s not because I thought that the film was going to be any good.  Instead, it was because I literally couldn’t watch any movie on Lifetime without seeing about a dozen commercials for The Boy Next Door.  The commercials promised a lot of cheap thrills and sordid melodrama.

Anyway, my BFF Evelyn and I saw The Boy Next Door on the weekend that it was first released and we had a great time watching it.  Though the film may start slow, it eventually becomes a minor triumph of so-bad-its-good filmmaking.  This is the type of film that you would normally expect to see going straight to cable but, somehow, it managed to get a theatrical release.  Making it all the more fun is the fact that it stars Jennifer Lopez, playing the type of role that you would normally expect to see Jennifer Love Hewitt or Elizabeth Berkley playing in a Lifetime movie.

Jennifer Lopez plays an AP English teacher who has recently separated from her adulterous husband (John Corbett).  When a teenage boy (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door and starts standing naked in front of his bedroom window, can you really be surprised that he and Lopez end up spending one night making torrid love?  Well, unfortunately, Guzman turns out to be a bit obsessive and, when the new school year begins, he suddenly shows up as one of Lopez’s students.  And you can probably guess what happens from there…

As directed by Rob Cohen, there’s really nothing surprising or interesting to be found in The Boy Next Door but we still had a lot of fun watching it, if just because it gave us an excuse to be snarky.  Ryan Guzman was undeniably hot and, wisely, Jennifer Lopez didn’t seem to be taking the film that seriously.  The great Kristin Chenoweth showed up as Lopez’s best friend and the film’s climax was appropriately over the top.

And, three weeks after seeing the film, Evelyn and I are still laughing about the scene where Guzman gives Lopez a gift, a copy of The Illiad.   Looking down at the book, J. Lo says, “Oh!  A first edition!”  Evelyn and I were just like, “Really?  So, that book’s from 760 B.C!?”  Seriously, did the character have a time machine?

Now, that would have made for an interesting movie!


If, for some reason, you can’t find a theater showing 50 Shades of Grey this weekend, I would suggest instead watching the Asylum’s mockbuster version, Bound.  

(Personally, I would have titled the film 50 Shades of Charisma but anyway…)

In Bound, Charisma Carpenter plays Michelle, a real estate broker who has an unsatisfying sex life and who finds herself regularly being bullied by her boss (Daniel Baldwin).  However, Michelle then meets Ryan (Bryce Draper), who is young, handsome, rich, and very much into domination  He even has a red room in his mansion where…

Oh wait, does this sound familiar?

Okay, so Bound pretty much tells the same story as 50 Shades of Grey but there are a few significant differences.  A big one is that, as played by Carpenter, Michelle is a much stronger character than Anastasia Steele.  For one thing, she’s not an innocent and naive girl being introduced to sex for the first time by a charming sociopath.  Instead, she’s significantly older than Ryan, which also brings an interesting dynamic to the film.  Michelle’s not a virgin, she doesn’t say things like “jeez” or “oh my,” and she’s capable of getting aroused without obsessing about what her inner goddess is doing as a result.  And, while her relationship with Ryan does head in a similar direction as Anastasia’s relationship with Christian Grey, Michelle never seems weak as a result.  Instead, she’s experimenting and there’s no way you can’t root for her as you watch the movie.

(Ryan, meanwhile, is ultimately portrayed as being the type of manipulative sociopath that Christian Grey would be in real life.)

Perhaps my favorite part of the film was Michelle’s relationship with her teenage daughter, Dara (Morgan Oberender).  The two actresses play off each other well and, from the minute they first interacted, I believed that they could be mother and daughter.  They’re relationship felt real and, as a result, you cared about both of them and found yourself hoping that things would work out for the best.  And, as a result, it made one of the film’s final plot twists feel very immediate and real.

Bound is the type of film that will be (and has been) dismissed by a lot of mainstream critics but it deserves more consideration than it’s been given.

Shattered Politics #68: The Skulls (dir by Rob Cohen)


What do George W. Bush, John Kerry, and Paul Giamatti all have in common?

They were all members of the Skull and Bones, which may be an organization that secretly controls the world.  Then again, it might also just be an organization for male students at Yale, a place for the sons of the rich and famous to get together, drink, and do whatever else rich kids do when they go to an Ivy League college.

One thing’s for sure — when you’re a member of the Skulls and Bones, you’re a Bonesman for life.  If you have any doubt about that, go ahead and watch the 2000 film The Skulls.  In The Skulls, Martin Lombard (Christopher McDonald) is such a loyal member of the Skulls that, even though he’s currently a provost at Yale, he’s still willing to break a student’s neck in order to keep him from revealing the society’s secrets.

Seriously, do all Ivy League administrators know how to break necks or just ones that were former members of the Skulls?  It just makes me glad that I went to UNT, a good school with absolutely no ivy on the walls.  A degree from UNT might not translate into membership into America’s elite but at least you don’t have to worry about being targeted by any dangerous secret societies.

(Unless, of course, you’re a TAM.  But that’s another story…)

Anyway, the dead student’s best friend is Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson).  We know Luke’s the hero because he doesn’t come from a rich family and he’s attending Yale on a rowing scholarship.  Shortly before Will’s death, Luke is invited to join the Skulls and does so because he thinks it will help him court rich art major Chloe (Leslie Bibb).  However, after Will death, Luke decides that he has to join so that he can find out the identity of the murderer.

Luke wrongly suspects that the murderer was his new friend and fellow Skull, Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker).  What Luke doesn’t know is that the murder was actually ordered by Caleb’s father, Supreme Court candidate Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson).  (As a sidenote, has anyone named Litten Mandrake ever not turned out to be evil?)  However, as Luke gets closer to the truth, the Skulls arrange for him to be arrested and put into a mental asylum.

Oh, and Martin Lombard starts chasing after him with a gun.

Remember, this is the same Martin Lombard who is a provost at Yale.  Now, I’m not saying that it’s out of the question that a Yale provost could chase after a student with a gun.  But, at the very least, it seems like a conspiracy as wealthy and powerful as the Skulls could afford to hire less recognizable henchmen.

In fact, watching The Skulls, you can’t help but suspect that this secret conspiracy is not exactly the smartest conspiracy in the word.  Not only do they do a terrible job of hiding their existence but they are continually outsmarted by a bunch of undergrads.

Anyway, eventually, it all leads to Luke challenging Caleb to a duel.  A mysterious Senator (William Petersen) shows up and says, “Well done, son, well done.”

It’s all kind of stupid.