Film review: It’s a Disaster (2012)


“It’s a Disaster” with Rachel BostonDavid CrossAmerica Ferrera, Jeff Grace, Erinn Hayes, Kevin M. Brennan, Blaise Miller, Julia Stiles, and Todd Berger

Directed by Todd Berger, Written by Todd Berger 

its_a_disaster“It’s a Disaster” is an art-house, black comedy starring Rachel Boston, David Cross, America Ferrera, Jeff Grace, Erinn Hayes, Kevin M. Brennan, Blaise Miller, Julia Stiles, and Todd Berger; it is also directed and written by Todd Berger who is most notable for his work on the film “The Scenesters” and the acclaimed television show “Parks and Recreation.”  Not only is “It’s a Disaster” an understated comedy that manages to create laughter with death, divorce, infidelity, and Nerve Gas, it does so under the horrible pretense of Armageddon!

“It’s a Disaster” explores the inner workings of couples and relationships all under the premise of destruction and death.  It is clever and witty when it needs to be, but also raw and heartfelt.  This adds to its charm by creating an emotional dichotomy between the characters, which not only escalates throughout the film but results in a fabulous twist that really cinches everything together in an epic finale.

The plot is fairly mundane in the fact that it primarily deals with couples, their relationship with one another at different stages of their pairing, as well as the couples’ interaction with one another in a public setting.  In this instance, the public setting is the popular and much joked upon, ‘couple’s brunch.’

However, like aforementioned, this mundane situation is all under the umbrella of the Apocalypse.  Essentially, the ensemble cast gets trapped in the host’s home during their regular brunch due to a series of dirty bombs that get released in their hometown.  Jim Emerson’s synopsis on RogerEbert.com describes it succinctly:

Seven friends and one newcomer gather for a Sunday “couples brunch.” Because most of them have known one another for years, and because they are fairly petty and duplicitous, they embed covert barbs and hidden agendas in almost everything they say and do. Conversations appear familiar and convivial on the surface but carry a disconcerting undertone of cattiness that’s almost a private language.

its_a_disaster-1Emerson, quickly hits upon the attenuation of the film.  A lot of the conversations seem casual on the surface, but on a close (or second) watching the alternate meanings become more-and-more prevalent.  The acting needed to be nuanced to pull off the script and for the cast pulls it off; each couple stands out uniquely against the next and thus brings something different to the proverbial table than the couple next to it.  This is then bolstered by the quality writing; the jokes are frequent but subtle, which add to the overall tone of the film.

The only faltering aspect of the movie was the ending.  I felt that such a carefully crafted film would have a more poignant conclusion, but the last seconds of the movie leave the audience feeling left empty.  This doesn’t ruin the entire film, but it is a shame to leave such a great story left unfilled.  On the whole though, I would still recommend “It’s a Disaster”; the journey alone is worth the viewing.

I would suggest “It’s a Disaster” to anyone interested in a charming, unique comedy that has a tendency to strike the dark side a little more frequently than most.  “It’s a Disaster” garnishes four-out-of-five stars.

“Looper”


Looper” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels, and Garret Dillahunt

Directed and Written by Rian Johnson

I love action films; the cheesier the better. Obviously much depth cannot be gleaned on the whole from those sorts of movies, but I enjoy them because they are cheap, nonsensical thrills. The bulk of my childhood was in the 90‘s, and Stallone and Schwarzenegger were in their prime; action movies were in abundance. Action movies, nowadays, have evolved slightly, but the same nonsensical eye candy is still prevalent…it’s just flashier.
Personally I expected “Looper” to fit this bill–a flashy, new age action flick with little depth, but a great ride regardless of the stigma. However, I was pleasantly surprised by its depth, wit, and stunning cinematography–it was better for it, and by the end of the film I was better for it.
Essentially, the film follows Joe. He is a Looper in the year 2044. He explains to the audience that thirty-years from his present, time travel will be made possible with the invention of a time machine. The device will be instantly outlawed by the government, but organized crime syndicates will get a hold of it and use it as means to kill off anyone they want. In the 2070s everyone is easily tracked, and it is impossible to ‘whack’ someone and get away with it. However, with the use of a time machine the mob can send back their enemies and have them executed and disposed of in 2044 without anyone the wiser in their own time.

This is where the Loopers come in.

The Loopers are hired hitmen. They wait at a predetermined location at a specific time everyday, and when their mark pops into existence (from the future) they immediately kill them and dispose of the body. The body is always laden with silver, which the Looper can then trade for cash and other goods. For the most part it is a a fairly easy gig, except it has one immense drawback: If the Looper is still alive thirty-years in the future the mob will eventually round them up there, send them back, and have their past selves “Close their loop.” Essentially, they assassinate themselves. They get a huge paycheck, they celebrate, get released from their contract, and they have a guaranteed thirty-years of life, but they are the device of their own demise.

This is where the main conflict arises for Joe. His future self is not on the same page as him, and this results in some…let us say, ‘issues.’ The film unfolds from this complication in a flurry of mob secrets, time loops, telekinetic powers, and bloodshed–all resulting in a unique science fiction film that is more than what it seems. I found the plot to be ingenious. The time paradox is explained relatively simply through the cinematography, rather than complex exposition. It cuts away at the precise moment and explains the timelines succinctly and without ambiguity. Besides using the cinematography to explain the multiple timelines and loops, Director Rian Johnson also creates some truly beautiful scenes. Whether the shots are action sequences or drug trips the scenes represent a type of creative cohesiveness not seen in film terribly often.

The acting is top notch as well. Even with a facial prosthesis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt manages to capture many of the mannerisms in speech and gestures that Bruce Willis is know for. This creates a sub-realm of believability that adds credence to the plot. Two actors playing the same character could easily go awry, but in this instance it worked superbly. However, I think that it is a rare occurrence and could only be achieved with a certain caliber of actor. Paul Dano plays a fellow Looper and has unfortunately fallen into the whiney, screw-up character that he always seems to play. For granted he is good at it, but I would love it if he played a character outside his abilities. I am hoping that it is a typecast issue and not of his own doing, but after his role in “Cowboys vs. Aliens” and now this film I am a bit worn out. Jeff Daniel’s role of the mob boss sent from the future (Abe) completely threw me off guard. I haven’t seen him in ages, but he manages to fill the role perfectly. I honestly forgot how much I missed him! And, finally a special mention to Garret Dillahunt. He is a personal favorite of mine. I love him from the television show, “Raising Hope,” and I am excited to him in a large-scale, feature film. I am crossing my fingers that this indicates a blossoming career on the big screen.

Besides the stellar lineup of actors I also noticed a fairly deep and blatant allusion to the story of Judas. Small facets of the allusion include that the Loopers are paid in silver and that a near mystical individual singlehandedly unites all the crime syndicates in the future. Once you get to the ending the story comes full circle–fully realizing the Biblical parallels.

Overall, I found “Looper” to be a layered and powerful film. It touches on numerous topics including child murder, addiction, and time travel while staying grounded under the guise of science fiction and the traditional action movie archetype. “Looper” is a truly splendid film that should be enjoyed and watched repeatedly. At the end of the day, it may not be the happiest of films, but it is a profound one.

“The Third Gate” by Lincoln Child


The Third GateThe Third Gate by Lincoln Child

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lincoln Child is a favorite writer of mine, and I have spent nearly a decade of reading well-constructed and thought out novels by this talented artist. When I first read his collaborative novels, “Riptide” and “Cabinet of Curiosities,” it was a truly magical experience that I can still recount vividly.

Over the years, Lincoln Child and his writing partner, Douglas Preston, have written a series of joint novels dubbed the ‘Pendergast Novels,’ as well each crafting several solo novels on their own accord. Generally speaking, Douglas Preston’s plots focus more heavily upon history and archaeology, while Child’s endeavors can be best described as ‘Technological Thrillers.’ Together they seamlessly blend these two wonderful genres to create a unique and riveting experience that indubitably leaves the reader imploring for more.

“The Third Gate” is Lincoln Child’s fifth solo novel, and is essentially a self-contained tale with no immediate sequels or prequels. So, if you want to dive into something that is a not precursor to a long-running series then this would be a perfect novel to read on cool summer’s eve.

Child takes the age-old mummy curse paradigm and re-imagines it for contemporary audiences by wrapping up present day technologies, a bit of the paranormal, and a splash of mummy’s curse for flavor. The resulting cocktail follows Jeremy Logan, an Enigmalogist, as he begins his employment for the mysterious, but highly successful explorer, Porter Stone. Along with a group of qualified technicians, scientists, archaeologists, and historians, they travel to an area found in South Sedan ominously titled, the Sudd. The Sudd is not a fictitious place, and (unbeknownst to me at the time) is the largest swamp in the world; it continues to grow in size every year due to its proximity to the White Nile. The core of Child’s plot focuses upon the final resting place of Narmer, the first king of unified Egypt. Stone has managed to locate his tomb by piecing together scraps of information scattered across the globe, but unfortunately it resides in one of the world’s most inhospitable corners, the Sudd. Towards the beginning of the tomb’s excavation a tablet is discovered depicting a particularly nasty mummy’s curse. At first glance, nothing is thought of it, but as mysterious circumstances start presenting themselves Stone is forced to bring someone onboard with an expertise in the odd, hence the inclusion of Jeremy Logan.

The premise grips you the moment you begin the novel, and throws you into the deep end with surprising results. The introductory chapter is phenomenally written; it is one the best beginnings that I have ever encountered in mainstream fiction. It is poignant and emotionally gripping, which immediately invests the reader in the characters and subsequently the plot.

However, the rest of the novel falls short until at glimmer presents itself at the very end. This is terribly disappointing considering the stellar introduction. Most the interesting plot points are divulged to Logan as he is being recruited to work on site for the famed archaeologist, Porter Stone, but once he arrives at their base of operations (deep within the Sudd) the narrative begins to lag. A bulk of the novel is spent following Logan as he aimlessly wanders about asking questions to anyone who will care to listen. Most of his questions go unanswered and it is not till the end of the book that it begins to pick up the pace once again.

Sadly, many of the characters are flat and shallow, and the few that are more rounded are not fleshed out properly leaving more loose ends then necessary. Much of Logan’s back-story is egregiously hinted at but never divulged in detail to the reader. It seems interesting and as if it would pertain to the plot, but by the end all but a few scraps of information are provided. Stone is one of the few characters (besides the protagonist) that has more than a flat edge about him; he plays the classic successful entrepreneur to a ‘T,’ and provides much of the driving force to the overall project, and thus the plot. Many of the other characters have interesting qualities, but they tend to be conflicting or underdeveloped.

The ending adequately wraps up the core narrative, but feels very rushed and sudden. It feels like 50-or-so pages are missing from the novel, and I that I was in fact reading a poorly abridged version. The lingering notions sprinkled in the closing paragraphs that are supposed to leave the reader feeling profoundly affected seem instead to come out of left field, ultimately undercutting the entire rhythm of the novel.

Oddly enough, I also thought I was reading a Douglas Preston book for the first hundred pages before realizing that Lincoln Child was attempting to write historical fiction, instead of his usual techno savvy novels. It is like Lincoln Child tried to copy his writing partner’s style, which resulted in a sloppy, mediocre novel that falls flat compared to his prior work. Child’s solo works include sentient computers, evil amusement parks, and alien weapon deposits, so to suddenly shift gears and write a historical thriller seems counterintuitive to his style.

I rate “The Third Gate” three-and-a-half stars out of five. Lincoln Child is far better than his latest work, and I would highly recommend reading “Utopia” and/or “Terminal Freeze” before cracking into the “The Third Gate.”

(Source: Review: The Third Gate by Lincoln Child)

View all my reviews

Magazine review: CLiNT #2.1


CLiNT magazine is created and edited by Mark Millar, and in a revamp beginning in issue #2.1 the team behind CLiNTaims to provide even more swashbuckling content in the form of a contemporarily designed magazine that gives readers a wonderful glimpse into the world of avant garde comics and films.

The issue’s cover is wonderfully rendered by Leinil Yu with inks by Gerry Alanguilan and colors by Sunny Gho, and showcases the heist-themed caper, Supercrooks.  Mark Millar provides an amusing introduction before the issue segues into a pair of interviews featuring Millar’s thoughts upon the origins of Supercrooks and its film adaptation, as well as “a project close to his heart,” American Jesus.

CLiNT does an amazing job of transitioning between traditional editorials and interviews to comics, creating a seamless package that provides a ton of interesting material for low consumer cost.  After discussing the ins-and-outs of the Supercrooks film several pages are devoted to the comic itself.

Created by Mark Millar and penciler Leinil Yu Supercrooks is an enjoyable ride through-and-through.  It blends the best parts of the Italian Job with comic books, and any comic that takes to amalgamating a heist film with the awesomeness of comic books is A-ok in my book.  And, besides extrapolating on a stellar premise, the execution is amazing.  Supercrooksbegins like any good bank robbery movie by introducing most of the team members and bringing them ‘back’ together to fight for a joint cause; the twist though: they’re all supervillains.  The art was excellent and the plot grabbed me immediately—I can’t wait for more!

Next up Rex Royd!

Frankie Boyle first recaps Rex’s crazy universe before handing the baton off to Mike Dowling to discuss his work on penciling Rex’s life and world.  In all honestly I’m not sure I quite understood Rex Royd, his Rexcorp, and enemy,Proteoman; however, that being said, I did enjoy the surrealism of the comic, and the artwork was fluid, diverse, and situationally realistic.

CLiNT then pays homage to 20-years of Lenore by providing a brief expose and a Lenore strip.  Described by the Los Angeles Times as “an unholy union between Tim Burton and Dr. Seuss,” Lenore is a jaunt into the bizarre—but of course, laced with humor.

CLiNT #2.1 begins to close out by introducing readers toSecret Service (Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, Matthew Vaughn), a quirky James Bond-esque comic that had me almost in tears due to its hilarious opening.  Mark Hamil being kidnapped in some sort of mass science fiction, pop culture abduction is just the tip of the wonderful plot offered within the pages of Secret Service.

Rounding out the issue is Death Sentence (Monty NeroMike Dowling), which is an interesting take on the anti-hero genre.  Basically, a tortured pop-artist becomes infected with a virus dubbed the G+ Virus.  The virus provides a ‘death sentence’ for the victim, but grants him superpowers as he slowly dies.  Intriguing indeed, and definitely a great way to wrap CLiNT’sstellar reboot!

CLiNT #2.1 is my first foray into the spectacularity of theCLiNT-a-verse, but based upon first impressions I will most definitely be picking up a subscription. $6.99 (£4.25) for a 100-pages of innovative content, that delves into upcoming films, indie comics, and one-on-one chats with some of the movers and shakers of the industry—how could you go wrong?  Arguably the best comic book magazine out there.

You can also help support CLiNT by clicking here to ‘Vote CLiNT’ viral on YouTube (video also attached to the left-hand side this article), or subscribe to any one of their social networking channels via Facebook and/or Twitter.

I would highly recommend subscribing to CLiNT through their website or special offer, which is featured below; it is a tremendous value for the content and they are currently running a special promotion if you sign up today, so hop onboard today—you will not be disappointed.
Special Offer: Subscribe to CLiNT and Save 20%, plus get a FREE signed Dave Gibbons ‘The Secret Service’ Art Card! Act now, only 200 available! To find out more visit – http://titanmagazines.com/t/clint/local-subscribe/
Related articles

“The Race” by Clive Cussler


The RaceThe Race by Clive Cussler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clive Cussler is most known for his action-adventure novels, especially those starring his reoccurring character, Dirk Pitt. However, several years back Cussler released his first Isaac Bell novel titled, “The Chase.” Isaac Bell is the lead private detective in the fictional Van Dorn Detective Agency. He is quick-witted, brave, intuitive, tall, blonde-hair, a crack shot, and everything else Ian Fleming would of thought while constructing James Bond.

The Isaac Bell novels take place in the late 19th/early 20th centuries and are always centered on a particularly cunning villain that Isaac Bell has to tangle with throughout the tale. The narrative usually flips back and forth between the two leads, and even though the antagonist essentially embodies evil Cussler manages to round them out making them quite interesting to read about. And, truth be told, Isaac does not always get the better of the villains, which in the end makes for a great read.

In “The Race” Cussler focus on the birth of the airplane. In a story that pans the continent during the height of a newspaper endorsed monoplane/biplane race Isaac Bell must protect the race’s underdog from her murderous brute of a husband, Harry Frost, while simultaneously trying to figure out who is behind the sabotage of the other participants planes.

The book is a fun romp through early 20th century America, while focusing on the classic ‘whodunit’ recipe. The atmosphere can be described as whimsical and thus creates a quick, enjoyable read. I don’t know of too many fictional pre-WWI novels and because this era interests me so greatly I am pleased that Cussler has filled in the void, some what, and produced a fun novel that will interest just about anyone who likes solid action-adventure novels.

View all my reviews

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: