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'Birdman': Timeliness, timelessness.

Among the uniquely connected qualities of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's dark show biz comedy "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" are timeliness and timelessness. The film tackles the current state of the American entertainment industry, yet its relevance is assured for years, even decades, to come.

Wryly and unabashedly, "Birdman" analyzes the connectedness of art and fame, giving voices to perspectives that seem to be heard only on latenight talk shows, gossip sites, and in social media.

"Birdman" focuses on Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), best known for playing a comic book superhero but nowdecades after leaving behind the blockbuster franchiseyearning to be recognized for his own talents.

He risks everything for a new Broadway play that seems destined to fail, owing to various misfortunes and conflicts plaguing it before a proper debut.

Merged realities

Penned by Inarritu and three others, "Birdman" presents the merged realities of Rigganin his mind, he can move objects telekinetically, and he occasionally hears the taunting voice of his longabandoned bigscreen alter ego, Birdman.

The inclusion of an acclaimed Broadway actor, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) gives Riggan a set of challenges that keeps him on his toes and makes him a little crazier. He also has to keep an eye on his daughter and assistant Sam (Emma Stone), a recovering addict, while overseeing production of the play.

Another thing that makes "Birdman" intriguing is its parallels with, and close reflection to, Keaton's career; he rarely appeared onscreen after his "Batman" movieshe reportedly spent those years as a single dad, raising his son. The absence in movies was made easier, he revealed in interviews, by "Batman" money.

The role looks tailorknit for Keaton, just as Mike is perfect for Norton, who has a reputation for being difficult to work with. He is, however, incredibly funny as the brilliant but selfabsorbed Mike, who has befuddling quirks that Riggan and Mike's girlfriend/costar (Naomi Watts) can't stand.

Its snappy script pointedly and playfully examines the fickleness of fame and its accoutrementsRiggan's longing for evasive glory and fulfilment is seen differently by his daughter, who has a "realistic" take on what's important. Keaton and Stone share a momentous, exhilarating exchange, their words cutting, hurtfuland, from our end, powerful.

Ultimately, the role gives Keaton plenty of layers to prove himself anew, and so he does in bombastic, affirming fashion. Riggan's desire for the approval and validation of peers and strangers alike is felt many times over.

The unconventional storytelling gets important points across, some jarring shifts in "realities" notwithstanding. The bold, unflinching commentary on art and artistry also underscores the unseen process and drama of creation, especially cocreation, cathartically depicting one aging actor's conscious and notsodeliberate efforts to be seen apart from an industry heavily populated by dilettantes and entitled poseurs.

'Boy Next Door': Steamy but empty

In the stalker thriller "The Boy Next Door," pop staractress Jennifer Lopez plays a heartbroken hot mom who is harassed by an obsessed, studly 19yearold. That's not farfetched, but her character is alsobrace yourselvesa high school English teacher.

That's one of the snickerworthy bits that the film, a predictably formulaic sexstalker drama, offers. Sure, she's not a stereotypically frumpy prof, but it really is hard to separate JLo from Claire Peterson, a somewhat awkward but sexy educator who talks about poets and Greek tragedies almost fulltime.

Claire has a teen son, Kevin (Ian Nelson) with a philandering exhubby, Garrett (John Corbett). The parents share the kid, living separately but amicably, until an elderly neighbor's sweet, charming nephew, Noah (Ryan Guzman), ingratiates himself into their lives.

Often silly

Claire warms up to Noah easily; apart from helping out with house chores, he leaves his curtains open at night and generously gives her things to look at. Claire gives in to the persuasive younger man's sexual advances, resulting in a onenight stand that she later categorizes as a mistake.

It also becomes apparent, soon enough, that Noah is unstable and has rage issues. Shocker.

"The Boy Next Door" comes across as partly a toneddown version of Lopez's schlocky 2002 marital abuserevenge film "Enough," and a contemporary mashup of sexy stalker thrillers. It starts as cute, then gets steamy, then horrid, and finally, we just feel indifferent.

It's often silly, but it has some things going for it, like JLo herselfshe's stunning in her mid40s, looking almost like she did over a decade ago. But forget her acting, at least in this movie. She doesn't pull off the sexy nerd look, either, but she's eye candy.

Guzman, 27, is likewise gorgeousintense when he's glad, sad, mad, with and sans clothingbut the character just becomes inescapably tedious and eventually annoying.

"The Boy Next Door" doesn't really get gripping, except when those two are together, the interest culminating at the toecurling consummation part. After that, the hotness fizzles, and the weary crime cliches proceed like clockwork.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Feb 3, 2015
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