Posts Tagged ‘Aubrey Plaza’

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50 Movies in 100 Days: Safety Not Guaranteed

February 18, 2013

Safety Not Guaranteed

This indie comedy is an enjoyable ride through some character development and fun situations.  It isn’t what you expect when you start it out which is nice and enjoyable, unfortunately about half way through it is easy to figure out what else is going to happen in the film and it ends up being pretty predictable at the end.  It works well though and is an entertaining film that is put together with a bunch of heart.

The story revolves around a newspaper add stating that someone is looking for someone to travel back in time with them, safety isn’t guaranteed and you have to bring your open weapons.  A Seattle based magazine decides to write a story about it, mainly so the writer can try and find an old girlfriend of his who still lives in their home town.  He takes along two interns and they track down the old girlfriend and the time traveler.  Things aren’t quite as they seem, the girlfriend isn’t the same and the time traveler isn’t all that right in the head, but he really believes what he is doing.  The journalist can’t get in with the time traveler (eventually does with the old girlfriend) but Darius, the intern can.  They continue collecting on the story and Darius becomes the fellow traveler, but the story falls apart when the journalist is rejected by his old girlfriend after they sleep together and it turns out that the time traveler is going back to save someone that didn’t die, but was an old crush of his that never had the same feelings about him.  But he was rightfully paranoid throughout the whole thing as the government did suspect him as a terrorist and were trying to find him.  He turns on the time machine and we’ll leave my retelling of the story there.

The acting in the film is good.  Aubrey Plaza, Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Parks & Rec, does a very good job as Darius, it isn’t a step outside of her comfort zone, she is still quiet and awkward and sarcastic, but she does a really good job of it.  Mark Duplass is good as the crazy time traveler, from the League, he comes across as paranoid, slightly insane and damaged but not as a dangerous crazy person, but someone who is off, probably suffering from some social mental disorder, but brilliant otherwise.  Jake Johnson is solid as the reporter who is fairly all over the place, he has a high image of himself but isn’t an outright bad person.  That is one thing interesting about this film, none of the characters are outright bad people, there is no pure villain, even the government officials aren’t bad, they have reason to be worried about the time traveler after he stole from government buildings, and they aren’t jerks.  Everyone is just normal in many ways, well very abnormal people, but normal in that there aren’t clear cut good and bad, everyone has their good things about them and everyone has their bad things about them.

Direction wise, this is a well put together film.  It has polish to it and doesn’t get caught up in trying to be stylized.  It is simply shot and shown and is a great character piece because of it, the characters only develop a little throughout the film in terms of progression, but there is a deep and rich back story which sheds light onto the characters as you go along.  There isn’t anything about this film that is overdone, even the time machine was a impressive looking machine is clearly cobbled together by the time traveler and isn’t this slick device.  It is bulky and the time traveler believes it will work, but no one else is completely sure about it and is very skeptical throughout the whole film.

The more I think about it, the better I like it.  The depth and flavor of character is really well done, even the side characters have their own back story which we get to hear part of.  It is predictable in the end, but that doesn’t detract a ton from the film.  Safety Not Guaranteed is a well crafted story that is very character driven in a very unique situation, and it doesn’t get bogged down in trying to be clever and people don’t act like they wouldn’t in those situations, so while the premise is very far fetched, the acting and everything seems very realistic in tone and makes for an enjoyable watch that I would highly recommend as a film that most everyone can enjoy.

 

Critical Grade: B

Entertainment Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+

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Mystery Team

December 10, 2010

Mystery Team

What caused me to stop and notice this film a few weeks ago while shopping was the fact that Donald Glover, who plays Troy on Community on NBC, was in this film, and he is one of the funnier characters on Community.  So I decided I would check out this film, this film is what the book series Encyclopedia Brown would be like if he grew up.  It take a child like innocence from the main characters and completely destroys it as the case becomes real instead of the normal who stuck their hand into the pie.

Jason, Duncan and Charlie are best friends and have been for years.  When they were younger they started their own detective agency taking on the small cases of the town, such as lost pets and eat pies, and while the people of the town had thought it was cute when they were young, it wasn’t so much now as they were seniors in high school and far from being normal.  Jason is a master of disguise, Duncan is the boy genius, and Charlie is the muscle, but none of them really live up to their billing.  They case load changes when a girl comes to them with a murder to solve.  The police are already looking into it, but they have no leads, so the Mystery Team decides to take on the case.  They end up in way over their head, but Jason forces them to keep going because he has fallen for their clients older sister, played by Aubrey Plaza (also in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World).  Things fall apart and their friendship is on the ropes as both Duncan and Charlie plan to go to college after graduation whereas Jason thought they were going to be detectives forever.

The type of humor in this film is generally fairly awkward and risque humor.  There is a fairly odd interaction at a strip club that wouldn’t be all that funny normally, but is fairly funny because of the innocence of the characters and their lack of knowledge when it comes to women.  Much of the humor is like this, but less risque, based off of the characters innocence and lack of common sense.

The acting in the film is actually pretty good for it being a small (I believe direct to DVD) film with not all that large name talent in it.  Donald Glover is good, as he is in Community, and he does a good job progressing as a character throughout the film.  Aubrey Plaza is fine in her limited role, she doesn’t get much of a chance to shine in it as most of the jokes are made around her character by the Mystery Team instead of by her, which is to bad in many ways, because she had some of the funnier parts in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.  D.C. Pierson and Dominic Dierkes are both quite funny in their roles as Duncan and Charlie, and Dierkes has many of the funnier parts as he is the most socially clueless of all the characters and most clueless when it comes to the Mystery Team as well.  There are some other decent bit performances as well, nothing that blows you away, but good for a film as small as this one.

Dan Eckman, the director, doesn’t do anything all that impressive with how this film is shot, but he doesn’t make any notable mistakes with it either.  For being his first non-TV film directorial debut, it wasn’t all that poorly constructed.  He does a good job with the pacing of the comedy to, this detail is something that is often lost and tends to make a lot of comedies that should be funny crash and burn horribly.  Eckman does have some notoriety already having directed the short: “Bro Rape: A Newsline Investigative Report” and “National Spelling Bee” which have gotten a fair amount of recognition and play on Youtube, he is a young director that looks like he could have a comedy future ahead of him.

This isn’t a comedy that is extremely funny, but it delivers a number of good laughs.  As Eckman gains more directorial experience, I think he will be able to make much funnier comedies, and I think that Glover will also become a comedy name.  This is worth checking out for being fairly off the wall in what it does and the type of comedy which is uses to get laughs.  There are some parts, though, that are just stupid as well, but some of them get laughs.

Entertainment Grade: B-

Critical Grade: C

Overall Grade: C+

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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

September 30, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

This film wonderfully blends the comic books which it was based from into a visual world of action, adventure, comedy and romance.  It stays very true to the books and creates an indie pop kind of feel to the film without being pretentious about it and then blows you away with wildly entertaining action sequences which blend classic comic book style action into the world of film action nearly seamlessly.

The story is that of one Scott Pilgrim, age 23, who is dating a high schooler, age 17.  Things are going fine, they have a very tame relationship with Knives, the high schooler, is Scott’s rebound, but Scott is to timid to actually rebound, and he plays in a band called Sex Bob-omb (a Mario reference).  Things start to go wrong when a new girl, Ramona Flowers, happens to rollerblade through Scott’s mind while he sleeps.  The next day, while he is on a date with Knives, he sees Ramona in real life and becomes obsessed with her and tries to figure out who she is and track her down.  He does and asks her out, only after they have gone out, he finds out he has to defeat her seven evil ex’s.  This is where the story takes off as Scott has take them on and defeat them one by one.

The acting works really well in this film.  Michael Cera, of Arrested Development (or more likely Superbad) fame, does a great job in this film.  It is a fairly typical and awkward role for him, but that is what the character is supposed to be, and he can play that to a tee.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead takes on the role of Ramona Flowers, and she isn’t as memorable as some of the other characters, but her character is meant to be fairly aloof at times and disinterested and disconnect in some ways from the world, and you get that feel as it doesn’t connect as well with the audience.  Ellen Wong does a very good job as Knives being another fairly memorable character, she is very sweet and plays well into the comic book side of the film.  Alison Pill, Johnny Simmons, and Mark Webber do very good jobs as Scott’s friends and band mates.  Their roles are smaller than some of the others, but still entertaining.  Anna Kendrick is fun as Scott’s extremely nosy sister, and Aubrey Plaza does a good job in playing a similar sort of role as a friend of Scott’s.  The real show stealer, though, is Kieran Culkin who is simply hilarious as Scott’s roommate.  He is funny and droll and an all around busy body who is funny in every scene that he is in.

Visually is what really  makes this film.  Edgar Wright, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fame, does a brilliant job with this film.  It is difficult to describe how closely he sticks to the story and makes this film feel like the comic that it came from.  There are “kapow”s and little snide graphics inserted into this film like they are inserted into the books.  When the evil ex’s are vanquished, they turn into coins and Scott gets points.  Scott levels up and gets an extra life.  The extra life is an old 8 or 16 bit style life, but it fits in perfectly with the film.  And the action scenes are so over the top that they are funny but extremely well done.  Visually this film just pops off the screen and it is nice that they didn’t try and make it 3D, because while it would seemingly lend itself to doing something like that, making just bits and pieces 3D wouldn’t have been all that great.  The music in this film works pretty well, the songs by the bands in the film are great, and at times the other music can be a bit annoying, as it is generally very indie, but it works with the feel of the film.

A film that is worth checking out even for the style that it is shot in.  It won’t appeal to the mass audience, but it does everything really well from the story, the acting, and the technical standpoints of the film.  But because it is really quite geeky, not everyone will appreciate the odd type of humor that it shows off.  If you do understand and appreciate the geek humor, it will be hard not to love this film.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+