It’s A Disaster Is Anything But

ITS-A-DISASTER_FESTIVAL-POSTER Every few weeks I head on over to the Netflix site and look through the newly added movies and TV shows. Usually, there’s nothing to write home about, but this week had a pretty interesting crop of films including It’s A Disaster, an end-of-the-world comedy I’d never heard of, but was intrigued by. In addition to the general plot — four couples are hanging out when a bunch of dirty bombs go off, the drama of which uncovers their equally dirty relationship secrets — I was also drawn to the film by David Cross’ involvement. I’ve been a fan of that guy’s since Arrested Development and got to know him even better through his comedy albums thanks to my buddy Rickey Purdin.

To get a bit more into the plot, Cross’ character Glen has just started dating Tracy (Julia Stiles) who has a tradition with her couple friends of getting together for brunch on the weekends. They’re at seemingly happy Emma and Pete’s house and joined by free spirited married couple Lexi and Buck as well as science teacher Hedy (America Ferrera) and nerd Shane. I won’d get too deeply into the details of how these couples start falling apart, but things like infidelity and longstanding personal doubts make the possible impending apocalypse even harder to deal with.

Much like Shaun Of The Dead, the film lets the viewer spend some time with this fast, over-talking group of friends — and Glen — who are going about their normal, brunch-loving lives as a series of dirty bombs are set off across the country. As you might expect, they’re pretty oblivious to all this once the power, internet and phone all go out. From there, they do their best to figure out what’s happening — including a talk with their prepper neighbor and asking an international telemarketer for an update — but the real thrust of the story revolves around mixing and matching these characters and seeing what kind of truths come out from those interactions.

While there are elements of this movie that I wasn’t a huge fan of — the geek is ultra nerdy and, of course, the one who starts thinking that zombies or other monsters might spawn from this attack — but overall I liked how these actors played off of each other. A lot of that is thanks to their obvious talents, but writer and director Todd Berger also did a great job of crafting a solid, compact story that realistically explores the emotions people would go through when everything comes crashing down. There’s even a twist element in the ending that definitely switched things up and drove the film to its abrupt conclusion. I think this is the kind of film that can only benefit from more viewings both to see how the twist is hinted at and to grab on to more of the quick dialog.

Just Finished The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret Series 1

I haven’t done any reviews here on UnitedMonkee, but I think Arrested Development is one of the greatest pieces of anything ever. As such, I try to give everything and anything that the people involved in that show make a shot. Sometimes that’s great like Parenthood and sometimes it’s not so great like Will Arnett’s short-lived Running Wilde. It also introduced me to the genius of David Cross who I had seen here and there before but between AD and my much more stand-up savvy friends, I have developed a huge respect for Cross that has gone back to Mr. Show which I’m slowly making my way through on DVD.

Anyway, I had heard about IFC’s The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret here and there and was excited when it popped up on the NetBox (that’s Netflix Instant on the Xbox, if you’re a newbie). Here’s the deal with the show, David Cross plays Todd Margaret a kind of useless wimp who works for a big company. His boss Will Arnett sends him to England to figure out how to sell Thunder Muscle, an energy drink. He shows up at a huge office that’s empty except for one young man named Dave who likes messing with the slightly pompous Todd. He also happens upon a restaurant run by the lovely Sharon Horgan who he falls for and tries to woo with less success each time. The title of the show, while long and a bit unwieldy, is completely spot on because all the trouble that Cross gets into falls solely on his own shoulders and his inability to tell the truth when backed into a corner.

There’s a really clever device at the beginning of each episode where a beat-up looking Todd sits in an English court with a judge reading off a laundry list of accusations–most of which spawn from the upcoming episode–and a group of lawyers or judges just yelling at him. We then cut back to whatever day we’re dealing with out of 12. It’s a great bit of business because it lets the viewer know that all these wacky events are actually leading up to something relatively big and serious.

If I had to compare Increasingly to any shows, I’d say it’s kind of a mix of the awkwardness of the UK Office or Extras and Louis CK’s Louie with a good dose of fish-out-of-water/arrogant-American-ness mixed in. I don’t compare it to Louie‘s honesty or autobiographic nature, but to the feeling I get that Cross is basically running this show exactly how he wants to.

At the end of the day it’s a fun show steeped in awkwardness that had me laughing and cringing at the same time. Those are jokes that can be hilarious or awful, but Cross and company do a good job of tempering them. I also appreciate that, while the show is a comedy first and foremost, there are also a good deal of mysteries that make me want to see the second series and not just the big one of what happens to Todd. What’s the deal with Dave? He’s clearly more than he seems to be. Also, how did Arnett get swindled? What’s the deal with all that? I’m jazzed to see how the series wraps up and hope to see the last six episodes on NetBox.

What We’re Watching: Monday & Tuesday

I find myself with a strange feeling this TV season: a lack of interest. Sure, I’ve got favorite shows I like tuning in to, but it feels like I’ve got a lot less of them to look forward to, possibly because Lost is gone. There wasn’t another show in the history of my television watching career that engrossed me as much as that one and got me so excited about an hour of TV. Maybe it’s because most of the new shows aren’t so good. Here’s the break down for the first section of the week as far as regular viewings go.

For all the years I’ve been in New York, I’ve been looking around for a good syndicated block of reruns between 6 and 8 that would stay consistent and, for the most part, I’ve been unsuccessful. That is until recently. VH1 scored Saturday Night Live reruns from the 90s which have been a lot of fun to watch, even when I’m reminded that that was an era when skits tended to run WAY too long. It’s still fun to see a lot of today’s big stars and musical acts on the show both in the cast and as hosts. It’s even more fun to see long forgotten folks like Finese Mitchel and Sysqo perform. That takes care of the 6 to 7 block and then we bounce over to a local station called My9 which runs How I Met Your Mother. The only problem I foresee is that, with only a few season under its belt, I’ll be rewatching these episodes over and over again.

MONDAY

8:00pm – HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (CBS)
I’ve already gone on record with the potential problems I see with HIMYM, but I still enjoy this show better than most of the others I watch on a weekly basis. I’ve grown to really enjoy these characters, but I still think there needs to start being some resolution to the overhanging “mysteries” or else this one could start feeling a little tedious. Like I said though, great cast and still one of my favorite, most looked-forward-to shows.

8:30pm – RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (CBS)
Rules of Engagement is a show we only started watching because it was on right after HIMYM and nothing else was on, but I’ve actually come to enjoy it. Sure, it’s a jokier type of sitcom with lots of jokes being tossed around that aren’t hilarious, but funny enough to get a laugh. I like seeing Patrick Warburton and David Spade doing their things, plus I find the dumb neighbor/friend guy oddly charming. I’m in it with this series, though if something more interesting came on I think we’d jump ship in favor of that. 

9:00pm – THE EVENT (NBC)
AS regular readers might remember, I wasn’t really all that into The Event when it premiered. I’m even less so now and barely still pay attention while the missus watches. I think she’s getting pretty sick of it too. I spent way too many episodes wanting to slap Jason Ritter for saying “My girlfriend!” so much that I don’t think we can ever be okay again (at least not on this show). I appreciate that they’re trying to move things along at a faster clip, but I just do not care about any of these people or what’s going on. I have the vaguest interest in what’s happening with these supposed aliens (though my money’s on dimensional or time travelers), but I could really just look it up in Wiki at some future date and feel satisfied. Probably moreso because I wouldn’t be wasting my time watching a lackluster Lost wannabe. 

10:00pm – CASTLE (ABC)
I almost feel bad for not liking Castle more. I really like the cast and the dynamics of the characters, but it just feels so hacky lately. From the wacky set-ups for crimes this season (steampunk AND time travel in one episode?!) to the increasingly formulaic plot, I’m getting worn down. How many times can they run across a suspect who lies so well that they completely buy his story and move on only to come back to him or her later in the episode to realize he or she is really the killer? It’s boring and, personally, I expect more from a show with Nathan Fillion on it. Hopefully this one will pick up because the missus still LOVES it, while I just keep thinking about how much better Bones is and wishing Netflix would send the first disc of last season already so we can start the long road to catching up.

TUESDAY

8:00pm – GLEE (Fox)
This one’s completely because the missus likes the show. She’s a big fan of musicals and show tunes and whatnot, so this is right up her alley, which is unfortunate, because I find it to be one of the most wildly inconsistent, sloppy and increasingly gross shows around. Anyone else see the Rocky Horror episode tonight where the teacher actually considered and planned on dressing up in gold shorts and performing a sexually charged number with one of his students? Sure he practiced with the hot red head teacher, but he was actually planning on jumping in and doing that. He’s just one of the many headache-inducing characters on a show filled with them. I’ve heard the argument made that you’re not supposed to expect anything from Glee but high school drama and musical numbers, but I call bullshit on that. The very basis of ongoing fiction of any kind is based in consistent characterization and this show lacks it for the most part. However, I do love Brittany’s throwaway lines. Those are just solid and sound like they’re being written by someone from 30 Rock.

9:00pm – RAISING HOPE (Fox)
I can’t remember the last time I watched this much Fox programming on a single night, but I find myself really liking Raising Hope. It’s clear the show was created by the brains behind My Name Is Earl as both showcase small town folks without much money doing what they can to get by. Hope revolves around a guy discovering his one night stand turned out to not only be a serial killer on death row, but also pregnant with his child. Now he’s raising the kid with his parents who had him at a really young age (his dad looks about the same age as him at times) and his mom’s grandma played by Cloris Leachman. Hope can be a little too weird and a little too jokey at times, but I think it’s starting to hit its stride. Plus, the Halloween episode featured homemade Batman and Robin costumes, so bonus points for that.

9:3opm – RUNNING WILDE (Fox)
Running Wilde, on the other hand, is not a show I’m enjoying much and I’m starting to get the feeling I’m not the only one as Fox decided to run two episodes of Raising Hope tonight instead of one of each, like usual. I am a huge Arrested Development fan, so I should like this show with its use of Will Arnett, David Cross and that fact that it was co-created by Mitchell Hurwitz, but Wilde suffers from two afflictions. First off, it’s not very easy to jump into. We missed the first episode and had trouble figuring out what the relationship between Arnett and the still-hot Keri Russell was. That’s not a good thing for a new show and something that AD suffered from (I still have trouble describing it to friends who missed out the first time around). The other problem is that it just feels like a rehash of old material. Arnett’s playing GOB from AD, Russell feels like Felicity though I never watched that show, plus the premise is a more exaggerated version of Dharma & Greg without the love. I’ll be curious to see what Fox replaces this show with if it does get the axe.

10:00pm – PARENTHOOD (NBC)
Parenthood continues to be one of the best written, most solid shows on television. I’d honestly put it up there with Mad Men. There’s a lot more in Mad Men considering it’s a period piece, but like that show, the Parenthood creators do an amazing job of juggling a small army of fast talking characters, giving each their moments to shine and great lines. Great writing mixed with a great cast makes for great TV, but for some reason I don’t find myself looking forward to this show on a regular basis. I’m happy when it’s on, but never excited for it. I wonder if that’s because it’s a drama and not an action show. I’ll have to think about that. I’ll be back on Thursday with more shows I’m watching. What are you viewing on Monday and Tuesday?

Quick Movie Review: Year One (2009)

The impetus for me posting the full transcript of my Harold Ramis interview was the missus and me watching Year One. Unfortunately, I did not like it very much. For the most part I liked the performances by guys like Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Platz, Vinnie Jones, the crazy skinny Horatio Sans and others. Unfortunately, none of those actors are really breaking down any comedic barriers or getting into new territory when it comes to their comedy. Overall, I think the story’s pretty interesting. It’s not a caveman movie like everyone originally thought, but a tour through the book of Genesis. Growing up Catholic, going to Catholic school and taking some ancient lit classes in college have given me a pretty good working knowledge of this story, so it was cool to see it from a different angle. The real problem is that the story seems to drag a lot and there are just too many gross-out jokes. Ramis created some of the greatest comedies of all time and he’s directing a movie where Black eats poop. Come on, you’re better than that. I wonder if all those kinds of scenes were taken out, I would have liked it better, but I can’t say because that’s not the case. By the end of movie I was wondering around our place cleaning and doing whatever I could to walk away from the TV. I was just bored and didn’t care anymore. It was sad. I really wanted to like this movie, especially because I’m sure it was a big part of the reason I got to talk to one of my heroes. Oh well, Ramis did a great job of directing the second half of the birth episode of The Office last week, so I’m happy enough. Here’s hoping if Ghostbusters 3 does happen, it’ll be rad. I don’t believe anything Bill Murray’s been saying about wanting to be a ghost, I think he’s just being Bill Murray. But we shall see. If you’re looking for a funny movie to rent, skip this one and watch something else from Ramis’ illustrious videography.