Monday, December 10, 2012

Deep Part of Safety

  In today's batch of reviews we cover that most high brow of genres, "Concert Tour Bio-Doc", a melodrama from England that seems like a throwback to another time, and a quirky comedy.  Let's just do it...

  Safety Not Guaranteed - This rather enjoyable comedy was at times cute, at times clever, and at times a little touching.  Three aspiring journalists land a filler assignment investigating a man who claims to be planning a trip back in time by answering his Help Wanted ad (which bears the warning: Safety Not Guaranteed).  The film manages to tell a real story about reasonably believable individuals that even manages a dash of actual character and thematic development along the way.  Not bad for a writer/director team like Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, mounting their first feature length narrative film.
     The principle cast is also made up of actors who are hardly seasoned veterans with long and storied filmographies, but they all do respectable jobs.  Of the three leads, only Jake Johnson is best known for his (limited) exposure in films such as 21 Jump Street (he was the high school principal).  Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass are best known previously for their work in television (Parks and Recreation and The League respectively.
     There had been some muttering about a Best Original Screenplay nomination for this film earlier in the season although it seems to have fallen by the the awards wayside as other contenders have emerged.  Still, it is a clever and original, if not flashy and prestigious, little film that is well worth a look.  4 of 5 stars.

  Katy Perry:  Part of Me - Let me start this review with two disclaimers.  First, I would NEVER have seen this film if not for a friend who was picking out movies with me at our local kiosk one evening (unless, of course, "Wide Awake" somehow makes it into this year's Best Original Song nominations).  Second, I actually DO like and respect Katy Perry as an artist more than most young pop singers.  Besides the fact that she is a fairly talented song writer who can sing without an auto-tuner, she has always struck me as original and authentic.
     So my biggest problem with this concert footage video/biographical documentary is that the whole thing seems so staged.  It completely negates the whole "I am my own unique self who doesn't care what others think" image that Ms. Perry has worked so hard to cultivate.  Of course, maybe the artifice will fly right over the heads of the teenage demographic that the film is aimed at.  To my eyes, however, even Katy's ill fated relationship with Russell Brand began to seem like it had been fabricated to add drama to the film.
     Ironically, while I am much more prone to watch a documentary than a concert video, it was the footage of the performances that I found to be the most entrancing part of the picture.  A few clever and dazzly stage numbers, unfortunately, are not enough to save what was billed as a feature film.  1 1/2 of 5 stars.

  The Deep Blue Sea - Awards watchers will no doubt be expecting top honors for this post to go to this film, considering the buzz that is cropping up lately for its lead actress Rachel Weisz, who was actually awarded Best Actress for 2012 by the New York Film Critics circle last week.  Ms. Weisz is excellent as always, and is given a LOT of scenery to chew here.  It's a very Betty Davis kind of role.  Ms. Davis's films worked best, however, when SHE was allowed to go over the top, while the rest of the world and characters around her were presented in a slightly more subdued and realistic manner.  The Deep Blue Sea would have benefited from the application of similar sensibilities, as the whole thing becomes something of a laborious melodrama.  It begins with a failed suicide attempt, and then moves both backwards and forwards from that point in time to tell the somewhat pat story of the doomed romance(s) that led the heroine to such desperate lengths.  Nothing we haven't seen before.
     Besides Ms. Weisz, best in show honors must be presented to relatively unknown actor Simon Russell Beale, who plays her estranged husband.  If the rest of the cast had shown his restraint and ability to convey emotional SUBtext, then the entire production would have been much easier to swallow.
     Some commendation must also be given to the cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister, whose fuzzy lensing and lighting created a sort of a throwback look to the film, like early technicolor film noire.  Unfortunately, the film's visual style was also a bit reminiscent of the covers of many cheap romance novels, which hits a little too close to home.
      Although true movie geeks will probably want to check this film out just to see Ms. Weisz's performance, I can't really give the film as a whole a very rousing recommendation.  2 1/2 of 5 stars.

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