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.
Chopping Mall (aka Killbots): it’s the near-future, where mall cops have been replaced by security robots, and “absolutely nothing can go wrong,” but a couple of lightning strikes later… yuuup, things are going wrong for a bunch of “teenagers” stuck in the mall overnight. If one thing defines this film, it’s the knuckle-chewing levels of cheese present in every scene. All characters are hyper-generic (nerd, wallflower, hunk, party boy) and the dialogue / delivery is terrible across the board – even the cool and quotable lines like “Let’s go send those fuckers a Rambo gram!!” The film plods through as a by-the-numbers pedigree b-movie, that’s not quite bad enough to be so-bad-it’s-good – but everyone seems to know how bad it is, and rolls with it anyway. Shopping centre boffins will note that this looks very similar to the one from Commando!! Chopping Mall just isn’t as shocking, gory or violent as the ‘slasher’ title would suggest; it just ends up feeling like a 1950s sci-fi film with a 1980s face-lift.
It’s like Krieger’s robot and Cheryl/Carol from Archer!
“Where the shopping can cost you an arm and a leg”
Prometheus: a team of crack scientists travel to a distant planet to discover humanity’s beginnings, however, what they find could finish us all off! The opening aerial shots of breathetaking, sweeping landscapes are geography porn, it’s so beautiful that it’s worth the entrance fee alone. The rest of the film looks just as great, with sumptuous visuals, well-designed costumes & sets, and totally seamless impressive CGI. To match this, the acting roster’s impressive, although it’s absolutely owned by Fassbender‘s portrayal of David the android; he’s efficient, calculating, and believably robotic – surprisingly, he’s also by far the most interesting character, and the film’s biggest driving force. Charlize Theron’s role disappointingly amounts to nothing more than “hottie in a cat suit”. Frustraitingly, the film spends most of the runtime raising, contemplating and flirting with massive questions & themes – religion, evolution, why are we here, meeting our makers… – It’s just a shame that it spends next to no time resolving or answering any. As for being an Alien prequel, it feels intentionally distanced, with not much more than a fleeting post-script that is clunkily added-on. All in, I think Ridley’s hoping that the big loud grand spectacle will serve as a distraction from the fact that the story is neither strong, nor particularly original – which is epitomised best in Fassbender’s time in the fancy, flashy galaxy simulator thingmy-bob.