The Boy Next Door (Rob Cohen, 2014): Proudly embracing its trashiness, this is the sort of B-grade Fatal Attraction knock-off audiences might have found gracing video store shelves in the early 1990s. Jennifer Lopez plays a recently separated single mother who falls for her hunky new neighbour, a teenager who specializes in smoldering stares and procuring first-edition copies of Homer’s Iliad (!) for his lover. Their sexual tryst is high camp (“no rules, no judgements, just us!”) and the subsequent stalker scenario strewn with moments of delectable awfulness. It won’t win any Oscars, but it does feature J.Lo extracting a gentleman’s eyeballs with her bare hands.
Jupiter Ascending (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 2014): Whatever the result, it’s impossible to fault the Wachowskis on their ambition. By turns spectacular and enervating, their latest epic features Mila Kunis as a lowly Earth cleaning girl whisked away by an angelic dog-man (Channing Tatum) and into an intergalactic real estate squabble between a camp despot (Eddie Redamayne) and his odious siblings. The directors’ beloved “chosen one” narrative is compellingly simple (and refreshingly female), yet they convolute matters with awkward storytelling that kills the journey’s clarity. Still, rarely has a ‘70s-esque fantasy sci-fi world been realized this vividly on screen, and Redamayne’s deliciously vile performance is one for the ages.
Burying the Ex (Joe Dante, 2014): Neither age nor lower budgets shall weary Joe Dante. The first film in five long years from the Gremlins director may be slight of premise—high maintenance girlfriend dies and gets resurrected as high maintenance zombie—but it’s alive with his trademark movie exuberance, recalling his early anything-goes Roger Corman days. It’s also an affectionate, if goofy tribute to horror movie cinephilia, with Anton Yelchin and Alexandra Daddario bonding over a love of classic spookfests (a Val Lewton double feature!) and zombie Ashley Greene providing the Romero yuks. Decidedly one joke, sure, but Dante’s energy remains infectious. Somebody give this man a $100 million budget again.
Originally appeared in Empire magazine