The Boy Next Door

January 23, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Kristin Chenoweth
Directed by: Rob Cohen (“Alex Cross”)
Written by: Barbara Curry (debut)

There’s comes a point in the psychological thriller “The Boy Next Door” where one could almost argue that director Rob Cohen (“Alex Cross,” “Stealth”) and first-time screenwriter Barbara Curry had to have known what a terrible movie they created and were simply milking its awfulness as an ironic way to try and save face. How many awkwardly unfunny double entendres can you cram into a screenplay before it feels like a British spy parody, anyway? That instant quickly comes and goes when you realize everyone involved is taking their contribution on the project much too serious. It wouldn’t be surprising if Cohen and company honestly thought they were making the next “Cape Fear.” Whether that generates even more possibilities for unintended laughter depends solely on how much you enjoy watching actress Jennifer Lopez steer her newest vehicle into a brick wall. It’s not a pretty sight, but don’t feel bad if you giggle.

In “The Boy Next Door,” Lopez stars as Claire Peterson, a high school teacher who gets in over her head when she gives into temptation and has sex with her neighbor’s teenage nephew Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman). Things get complicating when Claire tells Noah their affair was a mistake, which immediately flips Noah’s psychotic switch on its highest level and causes him to start stalking Claire and threatening her with some damning evidence that would surely get her fired. With everyone fooled by Noah’s boy-next-door M.O., including Claire’s vulnerable son Kevin (Ian Nelson) and her cheating husband Garrett (John Corbett), Claire must find a way to distance herself from the creeper before he destroys her career, family and life.

With a depressingly long losing streak that arguably spans back at least 17 years, Lopez is not doing herself any favors by listening to whoever has been helping guide her movie career during this time. The paycheck is always going to be there for her, especially since she is one of the only major Latina celebrities who has been able to cross over to mainstream Hollywood with ease, but it’s a shame that she can’t see past that and find a role with substance. “The Boy Next Door” is offensively unoriginal and written with zero imagination or character depth. We’re not talking “Gigli” levels here, but it’s close.

Alex Cross

October 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns
Directed by: Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”)
Written by: Marc Moss (“Along Came a Spider”) and Kerry Williamson (debut)

Confession: I’ve read every single book featuring the character Alex Cross that has been published so far. Created by prolific author James Patterson, the character Alex Cross is a detective/psychiatrist working homicide for the police department in Washington, D.C. His keen intellect and unparalleled ability to get inside a killer’s head makes Cross the best choice to hunt down the most brutal, creative, and intelligent serial killers that turn up in and around D.C. In doing so, he often risks the safety of his family (his children and his frail-yet-sassy grandmother Nana Mama). Novels like “Along Came a Spider,” “Kiss the Girls,” and “Jack and Jill” were tight thrillers featuring villains with unique nursery rhyme-derived hooks. The character was a hit and the two former books were adapted into motion pictures starring Morgan Freeman. Alas, financial success demanded someone to churn out more Cross-based movies. But after at least 15 more books, the character of Alex Cross is tired and threadbare. He is merely going through the motions. Once a year or so, there is Cross ready to stop another grisly weirdo murdering hookers or businessmen. All the while, Nana Mama seems eternally perched at death’s door. Even today, I still find myself reading every new book despite how predictable and boring the series has become.

More than a decade after Morgan Freeman’s cinematic turn as Cross fizzled out, a reboot was in order. Billed as being an adaptation of the 12th book in the series, “Alex Cross” stars Tyler Perry as a more age-appropriate Cross. Set in the crumbling decay once known as Detroit (and featuring copious product placement from General Motors), the film pits Cross and his partner (Edward Burns) against an assassin known only as Picasso (Matthew Fox), a twitchy psychopath who leaves abstract charcoal drawings behind after he kills. When Picasso makes his crimes personal for the detectives, Cross sets aside his own moral code in an attempt to track down the killer.

As an adaptation of a late-period Alex Cross novel, director Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”) has at least stayed true to the spirit of the book and kept the film very dull. Perry, best known for his terrible movies wherein he dresses as an old woman and teaches vaguely churchy lessons to awful women, tries his best as Cross, but the humdrum script and murky direction do him no favors. Cross begins the film written as a modern day Sherlock Holmes, all spot-on deductions and poor social skills, only to be forgotten in the second half of the film when he becomes a vengeful badass. It’s this transition, however, that proves to be the best few minutes of the film. As Cross saws off the barrel of his shotgun and marches out the door covered in ammo and firearms to hunt down Picasso, the stern Nana Mama confronts him in order to make him reconsider his actions as a family man. Somehow there’s real tension and heart on display. Best of all, Nana Mama is played by Cicely Tyson and not Tyler Perry in drag.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

August 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Jet Li
Directed by: Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”)
Written by: Alfred Gough (“Spider-Man 2”) and Miles Millar (“Spider-Man 2”)

When one of the characters in the third installment of The Mummy saga declares “I’ve seen enough mummies to last a lifetime!” you can’t help but giggle at the fitting statement and wonder why execs at Universal Pictures didn’t get the memo. Mummies are the monsters in yesterday, so making room for another archeological dig is probably just the studio’s way of simply shaking every grain of sand from Brendan Fraser’s lucrative boots.

Fraser is back as tomb raider Rick O’Connell, but neither director nor leading lady returns to round out the trilogy. Instead, Stealth’s Rob Cohen replaces director Stephen Sommers and Maria Bello takes over for Rachel Weisz. In this chapter, the team, which includes Rick’s son, Alex (Luke Ford), travels to China to stop a cursed emperor (Jet Li) and his stone army from unearthining and seeking eternal life.

Like the first two unmemorable albeit money-making adventures, Emperor relies heavily on special effects to divert the audience’s attention from the film’s misplaced and scanty humor, action sequences, and dialogue. An example of all three: a yak vomiting on someone’s face, an Abominable Snowman using a human as a football to kick a field goal, and Bello’s Egyptologist character proclaiming “There’s something incredibly romantic about vanquishing the undead.” If rotting corpses and three-headed dragons don’t make your heart flutter, then file, er, bury this one, a mediocre movie only a – dare I say – mummy could love.