Safety Not Guaranteed

2012-overlookedmovies

The movies listed here aren’t necessarily the year’s best, but they’re still great movies that never found an audience during their theatrical run for one reason or another. At least one of those reasons is you, but instead of berating you for failing to support the films while they were in theaters and needed your help, we’re hoping to point you in their direction now. (Which reminds me… go see Jack Reacher!) But first, a few qualifications. I’ve excluded movies that played in fewer than 100 theaters since that’s the distributor’s fault. I’m not featuring films that made over $30m, and I’m not including subtitled foreign releases which the masses avoid by default. These are only films that had a real chance of making a lot more money, so while I wish more people saw the LCD Soundsystem concert doc Shut Up and Play the Hits, I’m not surprised that it only made $510k. So here are 12 great movies that failed at the box office but deserved much better (and should be sought out immediately on Blu-ray/DVD, streaming, whatever)… and 6 terrible flicks that you were right to avoid.

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Culture Warrior

It’s nothing new to say that the term “independent filmmaking” has come to no longer reference the actual practice of making films outside the studio system, and alerts more directly to an aesthetic of hipness. That the cute-and-quirky consecutive multi-Oscar nominees Little Miss Sunshine and Juno were similarly marketed by Fox Searchlight as “independent films” despite the fact that the former was actually produced independently and the latter was funded by studio dollars, effectively put the nail in the coffin for actual independent filmmaking to have any meaningful visibility. Meanwhile, first-time directors who make their name at Sundance like Marc Webb, Doug Liman, and Seth Gordon quickly reveal themselves to be aspiring directors-for-hire rather than anti-Hollywood renegades. Tom DiCillo, Hal Hartley, and Jim Jarmusch seem ever more like naïve, idealist relics each passing year. It’s clear what the blurring of the lines between independence and studio filmmaking has meant for the mainstream: as my friend and colleague Josh Coonrod pointed out last week, it renders “platform release” synonymous with “independent,” it means that movies featuring Bradley Cooper and Bruce Willis are the top competitors at the “Independent” Spirit Awards (see the John Cassavetes Award for actual independents), and it means that Quentin Tarantino is, for some reason, still considered an independent filmmaker. American independent filmmaking has lost its ideological reason for being. But when it comes to films that are actually independently financed – films for whom the moniker is less an appeal toward cultural capital and more an accurate […]

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And, with that, awards seasons is off with a major bang. On the heels of last night’s Gotham Awards announcements, the Film Independent has now announced their nominations for the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards (best known to most as just “the Independent Spirits”). Per usual, the nominations are rounded out with a number of strong showers from the festival circuit, along with a peppering of studio fare that still manages to meet their independent guidelines. But, rest assured, there are still a number of fresh picks among the noms, and a hearty helping of up-and-comers to watch closely. The big winners (uh, big nominees?) include Beasts of the Southern Wild, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, and Safety Not Guaranteed. Some other (somewhat surprising, in a number of cases) nominations worth mentioning include a Best Feature nod for Keep the Lights On, a Best Director nomination for Julia Loktev for her The Loneliest Planet, a Best Screenplay nomination for Zoe Kazan for her Ruby Sparks, the Best Female Lead nod to Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts, the Best Supporting Female recognition for Compliance‘s Ann Dowd, and no less than two acting nods for Matthew McConaughey (one for Magic Mike and one for Killer Joe), and the already-announced winner of the Robert Altman Award (given to one film’s director, casting director and its ensemble cast) for Starlet. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg – there are a lot more eye-poppers within these noms (we’ll just say two words – […]

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Update: Apparently in response to our find, Trevorrow tweeted the following this evening: “To clarify, there is another film we all love that I’m currently trying not to mess up. Odds I will direct Episode VII: 3720 to 1.” Also, when asked if he’s officially stating that he’s out of the running to direct Star Wars, he tweeted, “That is what I am saying.“ While we wait for an official decision on who will be directing Star Wars Episode VII, the rumors continue flowing in as to who might be up for the gig. Earlier this month, Safety Not Guaranteed helmer Colin Trevorrow was named as someone who has actually had meetings at Lucasfilm and is definitely on the list of contenders. Well, now something else has come to our attention that could be an actual confirmation that the Hollywood newcomer is following his debut with a trip to the Star Wars galaxy. Reader Lenny Crist sent us a video from way back in June of Trevorrow talking to Spencer Fornaciari of The MacGuffin podcast in which he claims his next project will involve him tackling a mythology with a substantial fanbase, part of which will likely be angry with him for landing the gig. Check out the potentially revealing interview (specifically from 21:45 to 22:24) and a transcript of what he says after the break.

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Safety Not Guaranteed A trio of magazine writers (Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni) head to a small coastal town in Washington to investigate an intriguing classified ad. Once there they discover as much about themselves as they do the oddball (Mark Duplass) behind the time travel-themed ad. If the synopsis sounds hokey just know that the resulting film is a sweet and simple delight from beginning to end. Plaza balances her usual cynicism and sarcasm with a true emotionally satisfying performance while Johnson and Duplass bring heart and laughs as well. It’s rare to see such a small film manage such an uplifting finale, but writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow manage something special here that deserves an audience. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurettes]

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“In a perfect world, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ would be a lock for a Best Original Screenplay nomination.” – Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit It must be frustrating to write for an awards blog (aka an Oscar blog, since the Academy Awards are always the main focus of these sites), and know that the best films of the year are not necessarily the ones that will be nominated. Magidson’s comment above, from his April review of The Cabin in the Woods, sort of sums that up. But at the same time I don’t know if the movie truly deserves the statement. Something to consider, semantically speaking, is that the Academy’s award is not for “Most Original Screenplay” but “Best Original Screenplay.” This isn’t to say that the script, by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, isn’t well-written, and you’re welcome to argue its case for a nomination. Is it the best-written original screenplay of the year, though? All my time as a movie lover and watcher of the Oscars, including the past few years of hate-watching, the original screenplay category is one I’ve constantly been excited about. It’s the place where you could find some of the more clever and creative efforts, including a number of films that might not get other nominations. You could find a good number of interesting foreign films outside of the foreign-language award ghetto (such as Bunuel‘s two nominations for writing), as well as an interesting showing of mainstream and blockbuster fare, especially in the […]

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Depending on who you ask 2012 is either on target to be a great year for movies or an underwhelming one. It’s worth noting though that anyone who answers with the latter is a complete and utter tool. There have already been several fantastic movies in theaters over the past six and a half months including The Grey, The Avengers, The Raid: Redemption, 21 Jump Street, The Cabin In the Woods, Moonrise Kingdom and more. In addition to being fantastic entertainment though, most of those movies also had studio support to increase awareness and help make them big hits. As for The Raid and Cabin, well, you can’t say the internet didn’t do its damnedest to get the word out on just how awesome they are. Not our fault if American moviegoers didn’t listen… But a third group of great movies exists this year too. Ones that had little to no push from studios or distributors, a minimal presence on movie blogs and a near negligible presence at the box-office. The year’s only half over, but we wanted to share our choices for the best movies you’ve most likely missed this year…so far.

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If the lo-fi charms of Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly‘s Safety Not Guaranteed are set to herald in a new boom of sweet, smart, funny, and original sci-fi romances, than we’re all lucky. And if Trevorrow and Connolly are going to continue in that wheelhouse forat leastone more feature, we’re doubly lucky. Deadline Uranus reports that the filmmaking team (who met all the way back when they were NYU students) have set up another project with Big Beach, the producers from Safety. For the currently-titled The Ambassador, the boys will pen the script together (for Safety, Connolly is the lone screenwriter credited) for Trevorrow to direct. The film sounds like a very lovely cousin to their previous indie smash, as it again brings together, as the duo explain, “a pair of emotionally dysfunctional people forced into a situation beyond their control.” Smacks of Safety, no? But Trevorrow and Connolly aren’t content to remain earthbound with The Ambassador – this time, they’re going to space.

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Culture Warrior

For filmgoers frustrated with a visionary filmmaker whose films’ quality provided diminishing returns as he became ever more prolific, Prometheus was anticipated as a welcome return to form. For those hungry for R-rated, thinking person’s science fiction, Prometheus provided a welcome respite from a summer promising mostly routine franchise continuations. For those who see the 1970s and 1980s as the height of modern Hollywood filmmaking, Prometheus promised a homecoming for a type of blockbuster that was long thought to be dead. Prometheus even beat out The Dark Knight Rises as the most anticipated summer film of 2012 on this very site. But then the reviews came in. And thus began the qualifying, criticizing, parsing out, hyperbolizing, dissecting, backlashing, and disappointed exhaling. There were many responses to Prometheus, but very few of them were the songs of praise that a film this hotly anticipated – and highly desired – by all means should have satisfyingly warranted.

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Editor’s note: With Safety Not Guaranteed beginning its limited release roll-out today, we thought to share our SXSW review again. This review was originally posted on March 14, 2012, and it’s much safer to read than anything you might find on Craigs List. The want ad is simple. A partner is needed to travel backward in time. It will be dangerous, it will be an adventure, and their safety will not be guaranteed. A magazine writer convinces his editor that there’s a goofy human interest story in the ad and gathers together two interns for a trip north to Seattle in the hopes of meeting the ad’s owner. What they discover is that not all time travel involves machines, portals or HG Wells chasing Jack the Ripper through modern day San Francisco. Sometimes all it needs are heads and hearts refusing to let go of the past. Director Colin Trevorrow‘s feature debut is just as likely to make you laugh out loud as it is to make you tear up in hopeful anticipation. The concept of time travel is the catalyst for a story that examines the idea of returning to an earlier time in our lives when things were better and our futures were still bright. Or at least, that’s how we remember things.

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Prometheus

One month down in the summer movie season. We got a decent opener, certainly not a grand start. Joss Whedon‘s box-office juggernaut and Wes Anderson‘s lovely Moonrise Kingdom aside, we faced disappointments. The Dictator was hit and miss. Battleship was more bloated than big. Although it was better than its harsher critics suggested, Dark Shadows didn’t exactly win over any of Depp and Burton’s naysayers. Now, with June, we’ve got an even more promising month; 30 days packed with Abraham Lincoln killing vampires, a rock musical, and a talking bear movie. All the required ingredients for a proper moviegoing month. This is such a busy month the honorable mentions are more honorable than usual, even Adam Shankman‘s Rock of Ages, that movie being marketed as a celebrity karaoke party. Even though The Loved Ones is apparently a must-see movie, 99.9% of you will not be able to see it this month, hence why it’s not on the list. But what is?

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column that is always topical, often timely and ever ready to rock your world with all the great articles you’d probably find yourself, if you had the time. Lucky for you, we’ve got plenty of time. We begin this evening with one of fourteen new images from Moonrise Kingdom, the upcoming film from Wes Anderson. You’ll know him as the guy who made films such as Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. This one comes with just as much star-power, including names like Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman and Bob Balaban. The young man above’s name is Jared Gilman. He’s new.

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Nothing says “summer at the movies” quite like a metric ton of big name blockbusters flooding theaters near you – superheroes on top of superheroes, classic television series brought back from the dead, animated gems about finding yourself – oh my! But with the cinema summer growing ever-larger, the stakes being pushed ever-higher, and enough content to keep audience members in their seats ever-longer, a line has to be drawn somewhere. Which is why all the members of the Voting Body of Film School Rejects gathered together in our secret chambers to vote on just which films have won our Most Anticipated nod. Twenty films emerged from our complicated, decades-old voting process (read: a Google doc) to be crowned winners. Why twenty? Well, there are twenty weeks in the cinematic summer season (if you count May, which we do – April will be included next year if Hollywood keeps this up), and that should give you movie-lovers a reasonable goal to meet for the viewing season. We’ve even managed to pinpoint our most anticipated movie-going weekend of the summer – June 22nd, when four films open in theaters, all of which made our list. But beyond the mathematics that went into picking the summer’s best weekend, there were also some genuine surprises on the list – including big tentpole films missing completely (sorry, Battleship and Dark Shadows), some indies that sneaked in with lots of votes, a battle royale that went down between our number one and number two picks, […]

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Here’s a tip, indie producers, cast Zoe Kazan in anything and I’ll buy a ticket. Toss in Jake Johnson and I’m convinced someone cast this film out of my dreams. Deadline Portland reports that Kazan and Johnson will star in Jenee LaMarque‘s Black List script, The Pretty One, which was also a finalist for the Nicholl Fellowship and Zoetrope screenplay contest. LaMarque will also make her directorial debut with the project, which is billed as an “offbeat comedy” that centers on Kazan’s as an “awkward but loveable young woman who is mistaken for her dead ‘perfect’ identical twin, and seizes the chance to masquerade as her sister. But when she falls in love with her twin’s eccentric next door neighbor, she finds herself wanting to live her own imperfect life, and have the truth come out.” Oh, man, sounds wacky! But also lovable…and possibly eccentric. There’s nothing quite like a good mistaken identity romantic comedy, and I’m sure the film will be rife with all sorts of missteps, awkward moments, and near-misses until some big, emotional reveal. Though that all sounds like standard stuff, the heaps of praise that the film’s script has received, along with this rising star cast, hint that perhaps we’re in for a surprise treat. Consider my ticket bought.

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Here’s how it is (and how I suspect it’s going to be) – we love Colin Treverrow‘s Safety Not Guaranteed ’round these parts, and we think you might love it, too. The film debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and while I was not as effusive in my praise for it as Rob Hunter was when it played at SXSW last month, I have not been able to stop thinking about it, and do agree with Rob’s assessment that it’s warm, witty, and wonderful. Hell, we even threw this time travel love story into our Best Movies of SXSW 2012 list, and Hunter and I gabbed about it on Reject Radio. See? Love. Based on a true story (read: based on a want ad placed in a paper), the film follows Jake Johnson‘s cocky journalist who drags two interns (Aubrey Plaza and Karan Soni) into the search for a man who has placed an ad looking for someone to travel through time with him. Again. Because he’s done it before – though he can’t guarantee, you know, safety. What they find is Mark Duplass, a man who already more than a little off, with his time travel beliefs not doing him too many favors. But more than just the discovery of Duplass’s Kenneth, the group discovers, wait for it, much more about themselves. No, really. At the heart of that is an unexpected and consistently charming romance between Plaza and Duplass that should melt even the darkest of hearts. […]

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This year’s SXSW may be over, but it’s certainly not forgotten. Another week of barbeque, buddies, beer, and – oh yeah – movies down, and we’re still recovering, both in terms of remembering everything we saw and attempting to pry ourselves out of our stretchiest of pants. As with any film festival, the stunning depth of films available to watch has resulted in a solid handful of serious favorites. This time around, our twelve favorite films of the festival include big studio comedy, intimate documentary, the best action film in years, true independent features, and even a picture made entirely on cell phones. Take a look at our twelve favorites from this year’s SXSW after the break.

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If you’ve been rocking back and forth with anticipation for The Raid: Redemption, your wait is almost over. It hits theaters this weekend (alongside another certain highly-anticipated movie), and to whet your appetite, we talk with writer/director Gareth Evans who dissects an action scene for us. Plus, Kate Erbland and Rob Hunter join us for the Movie News Pop Quiz and to share their favorites from SXSW that will be coming to your neck of the woods. Download Episode #126

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Spend enough time on the festival circuit and certain films just keep coming back around – but fortunately, they’re usually good ones we’re happy to see again. As the first big film festival of the year, Sundance often features some of the best independent films that people like us Rejects will be jawing about for months to come. SXSW offers the chance for cinephiles to catch a bevy of films that other people have been carrying on about for weeks and weeks, thanks to both their regular programming and their ever-clever Festival Favorites section, which is packed with (you can probably guess) films that have played recently at other festivals that the SXSW crowd will eat right up. After the break, get reacquainted with ten films we saw, reviewed, and (in some cases) loved back in January in snowy Park City, Utah. All ten are playing at this month’s (let’s be real, this week’s) SXSW Film Festival in Austin, our very own hometown film fest. Luckily enough, some of our favorite Sundance films pop on this list, including one I enjoyed so much that I am going to see it again in Austin.

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There’s a solid chance that you haven’t heard of most of these movies. Yet they exist – out there somewhere as a thorn in the side of movie fans trying to see as much as possible. Nuggets of potential waiting to be picked up from the movie orphanage by a distributor and given a warm home with cup holders in every seat. The European Film Market is fascinating for that reason and for the way people attend it. Tickets this year were around $600, but that’s a reasonable price for companies sending representatives trying to find the next moneymaker for their company or the hot movie to bring to their festival. That means screenings come complete with people on cell phones and unimpressed buyers walking out after ten minutes to hustle next door to see if the other movie playing has any promise to it. It’s a bizarre way to watch movies, but it makes a kind of sense given the massive size of the movie list compared to the tiny amount of time to see everything. There were upwards of 675 movies in the EFM this year, all of them with their own selling points. Here are the 87 most interesting-sounding with descriptions found in the official catalog. For the most part, I haven’t seen these movies (and didn’t even know about many of them until the Berlin Film Festival), but they all have something going for them that should earn them a spot on your radar.

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Brace yourself, SXSW attendees and fans, we’re about to hit you with a metric ton of new information. Leading off with the big stuff! SXSW has just added a number of new films to be screened, including a fistful of Sundance hits, including Safety Not Guaranteed, Sleepwalk With Me, Shut Up and Play the Hits, Searching for Sugar Man, and Chasing Ice. That news alone should excite you, but it comes bundled up with still more, including the complete conference line-up, along with the news that all screening and panel dates and times are finally live. Meaning? If you’re a psychotic planner like me, you can get cracking on crafting your schedule for maximum fun and consumption. I’m frankly afraid to look at the schedule just yet, because it will send me spiraling into a fit of planning that I might not emerge from for many hours. But you? You can start planning now. After the break, check out the full line-up for all conference panels, along with descriptions on all of today’s just-announced film titles.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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