Safety Not Guaranteed: a journalist and two interns head off to investigate a classified ad about a man who’s about to go time-travelling. Inoffensive Indie soundtrack, check. Strong indie cast, check. Mumble-core indie dialogue, check. Welcome to 2012’s feel-good quirky, low-key, shoe-gazing, Sundance-bait movie of the year. The director (Colin Trevorrow) puts a big bet on you fawning over Aubrey Plaza and finding her hilarious & irresistible: she’s in most scenes/shots and feels like the absolute focus – I personally don’t dig her that much, which pulled the film down a little for me. There’s also a fairly substantial side story with college ex-girlfriend, which is obviously filler, and I would have preferred to have spent more time with the funnier characters (like Karan Soni riffing off Napoleon Dynamite). But hey, the director went on to do Jurassic World, and a Star Wars film so he probably knows more than me! The acting’s good, script’s funny, characters are well-drawn, but the film itself feels like it’s trying three or four different half-assed angles (comedy, conspiracy, heartbreak…) and not sticking to one in particular. It would have been good if the ending had been explored further too. Although greatness isn’t guaranteed, this is actually way better than I thought it would be, for an entire film based on a single picture as old as the internet. It’s got highs, lows, and is a bit deeper and more engaging than most indie films – showing that quirky can still be funny and entertaining.
Party Down (Season 2): Henry, Ron, Casey, Kyle, and Roman are still working L.A’s weird and wonderful functions, along with new team member Lydia. The episodes are more of the same, but a lot slicker, more refined, more outrageous scenarios, more product placement snuck in, and more great comedy cameos. The characters all feel more defined and rounded, and the writing in general is a lot better as the episodes aren’t as self-contained. Everything’s generally improved, except for one small aspect… it’s not quite as funny, with only a couple of big laughs per episode. The main reason appears to be that Season 1 was based on observational/awkward comedy moments, whereas this feels far more like a straight-up sit-com with elaborate and more ridiculous functions to cater for. Worse still, the writers criminally dropped Henry’s fantastically awkward catchphrase “Are we having fun yet?!”, which was by far the best source of cringe-inducing laughs in S1. Roman and his associated ‘Hard Sci-Fi’ get a lot more mentions – even a whole episode – which appealed to me. Season two of Party Down is still very good TV; it’s smart and funny, but easy to watch and good for dipping in and out of, the only downside is that it feels a tad over-written, and all of the rough/raw edges have been taken off. Still, can’t deny that it’s a great sit-com.
Scream 4 / Scre4m: 15 years after the Woodsboro Massacre, ghostface returns for another whodunnit. The biggest failing of this fourth outing is the copious number of drawn-out, boring, unrealistic, painfully ‘meta’ dialogue-based scenes – executed by a bunch of smug ‘teens’ with a
hardcore superficial knowledge of the horror genre. The level of self-awareness in Scream 4 is so high that it’s genuinely hard to gauge and continually courts with ‘spoof‘? Despite being promised a ‘New decade, new rules’, what we actually get is a fifteen year old concept with some glaring modern references that stick out big time: social media / hand held footage / torture porn… To further challenge your pain threshold the knife-fodder cast are the epitome of boring, the ending isn’t too hard to figure out from the middle of the film, there’s still no nudity (the most common thread in all horror films!) – also, where’s everyone’s parents when this is all hitting the fan? There are a few standout moments, but they’re few and far between: the speech about victim culture and modern ‘celebrity/fame’ is memorable – and the opening 10 minutes with the Stab franchise was a smart way to start the movie. Unfortunately, this relies too much on the tricks of the original film (namely self-awareness), which seems a tad cheesy after so many ‘Scary Movie’ movies. Unnecessary money-making remake.