The new Spider-Man movie opens with an apology about being yet another Spider-Man movie, which pretty much sets the tone: This is a flip, oh-so-postmodern take on a franchise that won’t stop rebooting itself. An animated Marvel saga, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse tips its hat to the existing Spider-Man movie thread while introducing the idea that multiple universes hold different Spider-Men.
That convoluted concept must be fun for some people, because Into the Spider-Verse has been winning rave reviews (and a nod for Best Animated Film from the New York Film Critics). I’m not raving, but the film is certainly different.
The final credit on Digging for Fire is a dedication to the late Paul Mazursky, the director of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and An Unmarried Woman and other bittersweet comedies of manners. It can be presumptuous for a young filmmaker—here mumblecore maven Joe Swanberg—to invoke a predecessor. But in this case, fair enough. Digging for Fire has aspects that do indeed recall Mazursky’s movies: a sunburnt L.A. location, an undercurrent of satire directed at its floundering characters, and close attention to actors. Some pretentiousness, too, although in this case everything goes down pretty easily.
While Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt, of Touchy Feely) house-sit in a rambling mansion far above their pay grade (she’s a yoga instructor to a rich person who’s lent them the place for a while), they decide to spend a weekend apart.
Another waft of indie milkweed, Safety Not Guaranteed won’t stay with you much longer than it takes to walk out of the theater. Only audiences hooked on quirky romantic comedy unruffled by grown-up passion or personality will sink happily into the warm bathwater that is Safety. First-time feature director Colin Trevorrow’s fey tale features clueless Hansels and a Gretel abroad in the land of whimsy, deadpan and twee, hoping to stumble onto a way home.
Safety‘s disoriented 20-somethings are Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), Jake Johnson (New Girl) and Karan Soni (Touch) — each recognizable as a one-dimensional type currently swarming TV sitcoms, especially those that feature “girl” in their titles. The film’s certified as authentic oddball indie by the shambling presence of Mark Duplass (Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Your Sister’s Sister). Where skinny little Woody Allen once was king of the nebbishes, Duplass now rules. A soft, cuddly baby-man, his deadpan delivery suggests affectation and arrested development of the sweetest kind.
When he happens upon a personals ad seeking a sidekick for time travel (“Must bring your own weapon. Safety not guaranteed.”), a slick Seattle Magazine reporter jumps on the chance to scoop a juicy backstory — and enjoy a paid vacation. Shanghaiing two hapless interns, he heads for the Oregon Coast burg of Ocean View.