Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Beyonce Knowles, Jerry O’Connell, Christine Lahti, Bruce McGill, Scout Taylor-Compton
Directed by Steve Shill
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
This movie should have been called Single White She-Devil.
Obsessed is the ultimate revenge fantasy thriller for every African-American woman sick of seeing white women taking their finest Nubian men. A crazy white woman is trying to seduce and ruin the marriage of a successful, happily married black family man, and only his sassy, no-nonsense ebony goddess of a wife can put a stop to this home-wrecking honkette. I originally saw Obsessed when it opened in theaters, and when it was over there was a smattering of applause, and you better believe everyone clapping looked like Oprah. Can’t say this movie doesn’t know whom it’s catering to.
Or how about calling it Tyler Perry’s Fatal Attraction since there’s so much talk about the importance of a stable black family and every white person is in some way a detriment to the black man.
Speaking of which, never hire Scout Taylor-Compton as your babysitter; not only is she terrible at her job, the girl is a psycho magnet.
Obsessed makes for a very bad urban thriller, the script playing like it started out as a made-for-DVD sequel to that Lara Flynn Boyle psycho secretary movie The Temp that got rewritten to include less murderousness (one dead body in the whole film and you better believe it belongs to a skinny white blonde) and more questionable racial dynamics. Honestly, reverse the races and ask yourself if this movie would ever get made today.
But as an unintentional comedy it can be quite amusing if you’re in the mood for such. Just hearing Idris Elba yell “Breathe, bitch!” while performing CPR on Ali Larter after she intentionally overdoses in his bed makes it worth watching. Only the bloated 108-minute running time and the PG-13 rating truly prevent it from fully achieving its destiny as trash cinema gold. Too much Lifetime Network melodrama, catfighting women with barely any profanities hurled, a lack of dead bodies (Jerry O’Connell does not get killed – boo!), a chandelier impaling that lacks an impaling, and no nudity even during scenes that practically beg for it. Ali Larter drugs and appears to rape Idris Elba, but she doesn’t get naked and the next morning he wakes up fully clothed as well, so what exactly did she do to him? It’s next to impossible to recommend this movie, but I can’t be a total hater because portions of it entertained me for all the wrong reasons.
Derek Charles (“The Wire”‘s Idris Elba, the only one escaping this nonsense with any dignity still intact) is an executive vice president at a Fortune 500 company in Los Angeles with the most successful modern black family life since the Huxtables. He, his wife Sharon, and his baby have just moved into a fancy new two-story home, as seen during the opening credits when they’re shown strolling through their new house celebrating their life together.
In one of the most obvious moments of foreshadowing I have ever seen, they walk into the attic and discover a soft spot one could fall through and then back out of the room. Believe me, you don’t want to fall through that spot because if you do it’s a surprisingly long straight shot to the very large glass table they’ve conveniently placed right underneath that area, and the only thing that might save you is grabbing hold of the giant chandelier assuming it’s strong enough to support the weight of a shapely blonde clad only in a throwback jersey. The inexplicably vast spatial dimensions of the interior of this two-story house leads me to conclude Dr. Who was their architect.
Now we know Derek is a happily married man because he’s constantly telling us he’s happily married. Co-worker Jerry O’Connell has tickets to the Lakers game and tells Derek to lie to his wife about having to work late so they can go: “No. My wife would kill me. I love my wife. Don’t want to ruin my marriage.” Later O’Connell suggests they go get some lap dances: “I’m married now. I love my wife. I’d never do anything to hurt her.” He tries to avoid drinking alcohol, is constantly slipping off to call his wife, still sends her roses every Monday, and constantly reminds us that he’s happily married, loves his wife and child, and would never do anything to hurt them. You could ask this guy what time it is or if he has change for a dollar, and he’d probably reject your request with a line about how much he loves his wife and baby and would never do anything to hurt them. You can make a drinking game out of it.
All is well in the pussywhipped life of Derek Charles until the day the white she-devil arrives, Lisa Sheridan (“Heroes”‘ Ali Larter, vamping it up like a Susan Lucci wannabe), an office temp who puts the temp in temptress and is highly efficient at her job – extreme efficiency is a surefire sign of evil in movies such as this. Derek’s the first person that she meets, and Lisa immediately sets her sights on him. O’Connell even tells him early on about how a lot of gals like her “view the office as hunting grounds for single successful men and I think she just put you in the crosshairs”, cocking his finger at Derek like a gun, which the director shoots in the most ominous manner possible with threatening music and everything.
Derek may flirt with her a little, but he has no intention of getting involved with Lisa because, after all, he loves his wife and baby and would never do anything to hurt them. Then Lisa attempts to jump his bones in the men’s room stall at the office’s “No Spouses Allowed” Christmas party, followed by a half-naked seduction in his car. Lisa quits her temp gig to devote herself full-time to stalking Derek. There is no explanation behind her sudden psychosis other than the age old adage “once you go black you never go back to being sane”.
Yet, crazy horny Lisa still seems a better option than the banshee of a wife he claims to love so much. Lisa may be insane, but at least she’s not the raging bitch wife Sharon is. Kind of hard to feel completely sorry for Derek because he keeps making the wrong move every step of the way, but it’s impossible not to feel for the guy because this wife that he loves so much and would never do anything to hurt won’t even give him a chance to explain his side of the story when she finally finds out what’s been going on, instantly believing he’s been having an affair and kicking him out of the house. “Get out of my house!” she yells at him even though she’s a stay-at-home mom and he pays all the bills. The poor bastard barely gets a word in edge-wise and is forced to come crawling back begging for forgiveness even though he never did anything to hurt his wife and baby whom he loves so much. Worst for him, he damn near gets kicked out of the movie.
Obsessed is the Beyonce Knowles show from here on out. Imagine Fatal Attraction if two thirds of the way in Michael Douglas got tossed to the sidelines so that Anne Archer could completely dominate the movie. Sharon doesn’t need her husband or the cops to help her when it comes time for her to take off her earrings and behave like a pissed-off Jerry Springer guest charging after the woman that’s been trying to steal her man. The final shot of the film is a freeze of Sharon and Derek embracing but framed like a bad photograph; Elba’s head is cut off from the chin up just to ensure Beyonce’s face fills the screen and reminds everyone who the true star of this film was.
Beyonce Knowles really wants to be a major movie star, an Oscar winner even more so. Remember Dreamgirls? That was supposed to be her Oscar, not Jennifer Hudson’s. Obsessed will not win her any Oscars, but her Sasha Fierce-ly bad performance might win her a Razzie. Just try not laughing at her when she undergoes her metamorphosis during the finale into a street-talkin’ hood rat living out the ultimate black woman’s fantasy of beating the crap out of a skinny blonde white chick: dragging Ali Larter by her hair while yelling “I’m gonna drag your skinny white ass all over my floor!” or punching the white she-devil in her face and declaring “This is for my husband!” before punching her again and screeching “This is for touching my child!”
But then what would you expect from an urban thriller whose original working title was Oh No She Didn’t.
The DVD and the Blu-ray share the same scant featurettes — three of them in total clocking in around ten minutes each. They are all pretty vapid, kind of like the movie only in controlled bursts. I don’t think I need to mention that the picture and sound quality on the BD is superior to that of the DVD. You should all expect that by now. I doubt you’ll be watching anyway.
2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It
Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido
Directed by David Moscow
It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.
Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.
Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.
While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.
Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.
Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review – Sonny Chiba As A Werewolf Cop In ’70s Japan
Starring Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami, Kyosuke Machida
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Distributed by Arrow Video
As virtually every American adaptation has proven, translating manga to the big screen is a job best left to Japanese filmmakers. There is an inherent weirdness – for lack of a better term – to their cultural media that should be kept “in house” if there is to be any hope for success. Ironically, the stories are often so fantastical and wildly creative that a big American studio budget would be necessary to fully realize such a live-action vision. But I digress. Back in 1975, Toei Studios (home of Gamera) adapted the 1970 manga series Wolf Guy into a feature of the same name. Starring the legendary Shin’ichi Chiba (a.k.a. Sonny Chiba), who at that time was in his prime, the film combines elements of crime and psychedelic cinema, delivering less of a werewolf film (despite the title suggesting otherwise) and more of a boilerplate crime caper with a cop who has a few tricks up his hairy sleeve. I should stress it is the story that plays fairly straightforward, while the film itself is a wild kaleidoscope of strange characters and confounding situations… mostly.
An unseen killer, known only as “The Tiger”, prowls the streets at night slashing victims to death and leaving behind no trace. Beat cop Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba) is on the case, and he has an advantage over his fellow brothers in blue: being a werewolf. As the opening credits flashback shows, Akira is the sole survivor of the Inugami clan of werewolves after a slaughter wiped out the rest of his kind. Now, as the last of his brethren, he uses his acute lycanthropic skills, under the auspices of the moon, to track down underworld thugs and solve cases uniquely tailored to his abilities. As the lunar cycle of the moon sees it growing fuller Akira’s powers, too, increase to superhuman levels.
Searching for this mysterious “Tiger”, Akira is led into a subterranean world of clandestine government organizations, nightclub antics, and corrupt politicians. One night, Akira is attacked and taken prisoner by a government research lab that wants to use his blood to create werewolves they can control. Only problem is – which they don’t realize – Akira’s blood cannot be mixed with that of a human; the only end result is death. Miki (Etsuko Nami), a drug user with syphilis, comes to Akira’s aid and proves to be quite useful. She holds a secret that has the potential to vastly change Akira’s world but, first, a showdown with the criminal underbelly looms on the horizon… as does the fifteenth day of the Lunar Cycle, when Akira will be made nearly invincible.
First, some bad news: Sonny Chiba never attains full werewolf status. This is not that movie. Sure, he growls and snarls and sneers and possesses many of the traits of a werewolf but in terms of physical characteristics he more or less remains “human” the entire time. Yes, even during “Lunar Cycle Day 15”, a.k.a. the moment every viewer is waiting for, to see him turn into a wolf. Instead, he just winds up kicking a lot of ass and taking very little damage. To be fair, a grizzled Sonny Chiba is still enough of a formidable presence, but, man, to see him decked out as a full-on kung-fu fighting werewolf would’ve been badass. The film could have done better at tempering expectations because it builds up “Day 15” like viewers are going to see an explosion of fur and flesh, instead it’s just plenty of the latter. Aw, well.
Lack of werewolf-ing aside, the film plays out a bit uneven. The opening offers up a strong start, with The Tiger attack, wily underworld characters being introduced, and a tripped-out acid garage rock soundtrack (which I’d kill for a copy of). But Second Act Lag is a real thing here and many of the elements that may have piqued viewer curiosity in the first act are scuttled, and although the third act and climax bring forth fresh action and a solution to the mystery it also feels a bit restrained. Then again, this is Toei, often seen as a cheaper Toho. Wolf Guy serves as a good introduction to Akira Inugami and his way of life, which makes it a greater shame no sequels were produced.
Presented with a 2.35:1 1080p image, Wolf Guy hits Blu-ray with a master supplied by Toei, meaning Arrow did no restorative work of their own on the picture – and it shows. Japanese film elements, especially those of older films, are often notorious for being poorly housed and feebly restored. This transfer is emblematic of those issues, with hazy black levels, average-to-poor definition, minimal shadow detail, and film grain that gets awfully noisy at times. The best compliment I can give is daylight close-up scenes exhibit a pleasing level of fine detail, though nothing too eye-popping. This is a decidedly mediocre transfer across the board.
The score fares a bit better, not because the Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono mix is a beast but because the soundtrack is so wildly kinetic, exploding with wild garage rock and fuzzy riffs right from the get-go. Dialogue has a slight hiss on the letter “s” but is otherwise nicely balanced within the mix. Subtitles are available in English.
“Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts” is a September 2016 sit-down with the film’s director, who reflects on his career and working with an icon like Sonny Chiba.
“Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master” is an interview with Yoshida, a former producer at Toei who oversaw this film and many others.
“Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1” covers the man’s career up to a point, with the remainder finished on Arrow’s other 2017 Chiba release, Doberman Cop.
A theatrical trailer is also included, as is a DVD copy of the feature.
- Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts
- Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master
- Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1
- Theatrical trailer
While the film might be a bit of a letdown given what is suggested, fans of bizarre Japanese ’70s cinema – and certainly fans of Chiba’s work – should, at the least, have fun with this title.
Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?
Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring
Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas
While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.
A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.
When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.
Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.
Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.
While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.
Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).
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