Tag Archives: Safety Not Guaranteed


Jurassic World

by Hope Madden

Three years ago, director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly teamed up to breathe new life into a tired SciFi concept with the almost miraculous bit of time travel fun, Safety Not Guaranteed. They re-team this year, with a host of other writers, to see what they can do with dinosaurs.

The often clever script for Jurassic World laments their position as the creators of the 4th installment of a franchise that jumped the temnodontosaurus back in ’97. The park – a successful, viable island resort some 22 years after the initial disaster – needs to constantly evolve to maintain public interest. Having learned nothing, they’re cooking up more dinosaur DNA stew and they’ve concocted something a little scary.

What follows is a mish mash of fine, viable genre tropes: militarization meets mad science and greed with lessons to be learned all around. What is at the heart of every creature feature worth its screen time? The arrogance of believing that we are in control.

Uptight control freak Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), whose nephews are unaccompanied in the park because she decided to work, needs to take charge when the new Frankensteinosaur breaks free and rampages the island.

She’ll need the help of beefcake Navy Seal/velociraptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) to save her nephews, the park, and the world. He will first need to remove that stick from her ass.

Pratt’s easy going charm brings a little Indiana Jones swagger to the role, but the chemistry between him and Howard is nonexistent. Perhaps that’s because of their wildly stereotyped odd couple role – something so outdated by this point it is itself a dinosaur.

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson offer fine turns as the youngsters in peril while Jake Johnson delivers enjoyable meta-commentary as the requisite computer nerd back in the control room.

Like it’s the acting you’re looking for.

The dinosaurs still look very cool, and Trevorrow shows real skill in balancing concrete with computer generated effects. He wastes little time getting us into the action and ensuing carnage and finds fresh ways to embrace and ridicule theme parks, blockbuster franchises and creature features simultaneously.

For a filmmaker who made his name by utterly retooling genre tropes from the ground up, it’s interesting the way his next feature celebrates them. From the original Jurassic Park to Aliens to Godzilla and every major action/SciFi/creature feature in between, Jurassic World benefits. It doesn’t bring anything new, but sometimes summer calls for some mindless monster munching.


Countdown: Best No-Frills SciFi

Scarlett Johansson shoulders the heft of a new and impressive low key SciFi flick opening next weekend, Under the Skin. It got us to thinking about those understated genre gems that rethink science fiction cliches and wow us for it. You don’t need laser blasters, black holes or rankors to create a memorable fantasy film. Here  are a handful of our favorite low-intensity yet high-impact SciFi flicks.


6. Another Earth (2011)

The first of two Brit Marling films to get the nod, Another Earth spins a science-sketchy but emotionally brave tale of a young woman, a car accident, and a duplicate Earth. Go in expecting a deliberately paced, moving and clever character study and you won’t be disappointed by errors in scientific data concerning gravitational pulls. Co-writer/star Marling delivers with understated authority.

5. The Sound of My Voice (2011)

Co-writing, starring and impressing a second time in the same year, Marling became a kind of low key SciFi goddess in 2011. Or a prophet – at least for this eerie, daring film. Two fledgeling documentarians go under cover to secretly film a cult whose leader (Marling) claims to be from the future. Surprising, evocative and captivating without so much as one second’s FX, the film hits its marks and keeps you guessing.

4. Timecrimes (2007)

This one is nutty, and absolutely required viewing for anyone with an interest in space/time continuum conundrums. So much can go wrong when you travel just one hour back in time. An always clever experiment in science fiction and irony, Timecrimes is a spare, unique and wild ride.

3. Primer (2004)

Made for $7000, this film is, in itself, an act of science fiction. Writer/director Shane Carruth, taking his first of two spots on the countdown, drums up all new ways to consider the havoc a time machine could wreak. It would be the most streamlined, absorbing and ingenious film of its kind if there were other films of its kind.

2. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

An outstanding premise, generous performances, and a director who knows when to go in for the comedic kill and  when to lean on compassion add up to one of the most clever, most fun time-travel-and-slackers movies ever.

1. Upstream Color (2013)

He waited 9 years between films, but in 2013, writer/director Shane Carruth delivered an awe inspiring take on identity crisis. The film defies summarization and expectations, but its dreamlike tale of lovers rebuilding their shattered lives with more in common than they realize is a poignant, beautiful, lyrical wonder.