Sunday, November 11, 2012

Redbox Diaries #1: Safety Not Guaranteed and The Cabin In The Woods


Safety Not Guaranteed, directed by Colin Trevorrow, suggests that a small-town grocery store employee named Kenneth (Mark Duplass) has discovered the secret to time travel. Unlike the characters in Looper, Kenneth isn't interested in making money or changing world history with his gift. His goal is to go back in time and intervene in the life of an old girlfriend. When Kenneth advertises for a traveling partner in the classifieds his ad attracts the attention of magazine reporter Jeff (Jake Johnson), who turns up with interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and the shy Arnau (Karan Soni) in tow. It's Plaza's Darius who breaks through to Kenneth, who soon begins to convince Darius that his project has attracted the attention of the government. Safety Not Guaranteed isn't really about time travel of course, it's a little essay on seizing moments, looking back, and not being afraid of what's to come. Plaza plays a sweeter variation of her Parks and Recreation character, and her performance gets better as Darius begins to connect with her desire to move on to another phase of her life. The film ends in an obviously contrived, open-ended scenario that didn't bother me here (as a similar twist did here for example) because Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly are so engaged with their offbeat world. Had Safety Not Guaranteed gotten a wider release it could have risen to sleeper hit status, but hip video rental will have to do.

Man of the moment Joss Whedon cowrote The Cabin in the Woods, a ironic horror film that combines a standard young people in trouble plot with initially inexplicable scenes of two men who look like rocket scientists (Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins) manipulating the environment around the titular cabin from a remote location. The movie is only fitfully scary since we are clued into most of the shocks, and aside from a few moments it isn't funny enough either. Whedon (writing with director Drew Goddard) doesn't take the story into full-on satire for some reason; he's stuck with fulfilling our expectations of the genre and has to concoct a lot of hoo-ha about ancient gods and the bureaucracy that supports them. I was hoping Whedon was saying something about the corporatizing  of our entertainment but if he is the joke will be lost on most of the audience. 

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