Jennifer Lopez

“The Boy Next Door” explores the twisted and unconvincing relationship between school teacher Claire (Jennifer Lopez) and teenage psychopath Noah (Ryan Guzman).

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“The Boy Next Door” bills itself as a thriller. But it isn’t — it’s a bad counterfeit of one. The characters are bland stereotypes of common thriller tropes that lack anything resembling depth. Every twist and turn is predictable. Any of the common flaws present in bad thriller films, such as senseless characters, are exaggerated.The senseless characters and other common flaws in bad thriller films, are not just present, but exaggerated.The film wants to be taken seriously, but that’s a hard feat when the film is inherently humorous because of its poor production.

English teacher Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) is recovering from the bombshell of her husband Garrett’s (John Corbett) affair. Slowly, she attempts to regain a sense of normalcy in her life for the benefit of her troubled teenage son Kevin (Ian Nelson). Everything changes, however, as the young, attractive new neighbor Noah (Ryan Guzman) arrives. Noah instantly entices Claire, despite their drastic age difference. Although the two share a passionate one-night stand, Claire’s sense of guilt causes her to regret her own affair, but the sociopathic teenager is not so willing to let go.

Director Rob Cohen and screenwriter Barbara Curry fail to give the characters in “Boy” any survival instincts. Sure, it’s easy to forgive the vulnerable Claire for sleeping with a hunky teenager, but, when she never once considers calling the police about Noah’s psychotic antics, any feeling of authenticity in the film evaporates. When Noah starts to influence Kevin by manipulating his view of his father during an emotional divorce, Kevin illogically forsakes his family in favor of his new neighbor, whom he has only known for a week. Nelson’s uninteresting character makes this unrealistic plot point all the more alienating to the viewer.

The actors aren’t convincing enough to pull off these already weak characters. Lopez hardly expresses any sense of terror when her stalker’s attacks grow more violent and outlandish, and she never even thinks to inform the police. Guzman is not the least bit intimidating, and his attempts to be unnerving are unintentionally funny. Nelson’s and Corbett’s characters don’t bring anything positive to the story. Kristin Chenoweth’s poor performance as the high school’s vice principal and Claire’s friend is annoying, and her attempts at comic relief fall flat because of Curry’s uninspired script.

There’s little suspense in this thriller — I never felt afraid for any of the characters — and the film does little to show the ramifications of stalking. Instead, any scary moments are relegated to a couple of cheap jump scares. Cohen and Curry aren’t interested in providing terror or fear, but they sure love sex scenes. If their goal was to convince audiences that Lopez and Guzman look spectacular without clothes, then mission accomplished. Many of the sex scenes are more gratuitous than a thriller film truly warrants, and they seem concocted for shock value and a more-adult feel in a film about a teenager stalker.

The dialogue is cringe-worthy. From the opening minutes, it’s clear that Curry dived eagerly and deeply into the book of thriller clichés — such as when Claire has to save her family from the stalker’s grasps and when Claire has to sneak into her stalker’s house. The worst offense occurs when Claire and her stalker, Noah, are actually intimate. It’s as though they took it upon themselves to improvise ridiculous romantic lines.On the surface, “Boy” serves as a bad movie that’s fun to laugh at. Lopez fans will get their fill, and anyone interested in seeing skin will leave satisfied.Those wanting a compelling thriller with interesting characters and an intelligent plot will be sorely disappointed. 

Watch the trailer for "Boy Next Door" now:

Fiona Apple
“Every Single Night”
The Idler Wheel...
Genre: Alternative

After an eight-year absence of original material, Fiona Apple returns with a gentle xylophone lullaby on “Every Single Night,” the first single off of her upcoming The Idler Wheel... (don’t make us type out the entire title, it’s a doozy). It’s almost impossible to reconcile the immature angst that Apple once showed off in ’90s hit “Criminal” with the wise musings and wordplay here. Her lyrics are truly poetry (“Every single night’s alright, every single night’s a fight/And every single fight’s all right with my brain”) of a struggle with oneself. A quiet melody supports her lyrics, the only break in the rumblings of tribal drums. Even as her voice wavers with unbridled emotion, she seems fully in control, like a writer at the helm of a novel fully plotted out. It’s hard to remember that music can be pure art when jamming out to “Call Me Maybe” or the next latest throwaway trend in indie music. However, Apple proves it with a whisper of a song.

Maroon 5 ft. Wiz Khalifa
“Payphone”
Overexposed
Genre: Pop

Off of their upcoming album, Overexposed, “Payphone” cools down the thumping beats that have been featured on many of Maroon 5’s latest singles for the instrumental stylings of “Sunday Morning” or “This Love.” With that said, “Payphone” is still pure pop. Produced by dance maestros Shellback and Benny Blanco, the song glides along smooth drumming and guitar playing, all zipped in a synthesized sheen. The melody moves jauntily during the verses before soaring on the chorus. Lead singer Adam Levine sings in his usual high falsetto, singing with a tinge of resentment of a relationship gone sour. Save for some cursing in the chorus and in the featured rap from Wiz Khalifa, the breezy “Payphone” is destined for a rom-com near you.

Jennifer Lopez ft. Pitbull
“Dance Again”
Promo Single
Genre: Pop

Hey, you’ve got to give Jennifer Lopez this: She’ll give you what you want—the thundering canned synths from producer RedOne, the gliding chorus that gets stuck in your head even without an obvious hook. Lopez’s thin vocalizing about dancing the night away, Pitbull’s lowest common denominator raps: she’s transferred them all from last year’s “On the Floor” and repackaged them for her latest single, “Dance Again.” Lopez has lost any presumption of being Jenny from the block and instead, cashes into J.Lo Inc., churning out a guaranteed formula. Though, to her credit, she has a song with a stronger melody and smoother stylings, so that instead of saying, “this again?” when hearing it, we just, well, dance again.

Usher
“Scream”
Looking for Myself
Genre: Pop

It seems to be one step forward and two steps back with Usher. After releasing the icy, spacey, dub-tinged “Climax” that showed Usher moving into a weightier R&B direction, he falls right into the Euro thumps of producers Max Martin and Shellback on “Scream,” the second single off his yet-to-be-released album Looking For Myself. The song is the same junk that he’s been releasing ever since that damn “OMG” took off three years ago. And there’s no more stupid fun left in Usher’s dance songs that he showed off on “Yeah!” Instead, he runs on perfunctory mode, moving from verse to chorus and back again waiting for the synths to take off every 30 seconds and for people to groove to his self-declared summer song. Maybe it’s the old man in me, but did pop radio ever sound as reductive as it does now? ‘N Sync at least took it upon themselves to take the song out of the club or baby-making act now and again. Songs like “Scream” and the whole barrel of songs just like it make you want to cry at the sad state of pop music.