It’s a Disaster

 

It’s a Disaster

Written and Directed by Todd Berger

Photography: Nancy Schreiber, ASC

Production Design: Peter K.Benson

Editing: Franklin Peterson

Music Supervisor: Chris Martins

Produced by Gordon Buelonic & Datari Turner, Kevin M. Brennan & Jeff Grace

Los Angeles Film Festival, June 2012

U.S. Theatrical release, April 2013

 

Featuring:

Rachel Boston

Kevin Brennan

David Cross

America Ferrera

Jeff Grace

Erinn Hayes

Blaise Miller

Julia Stiles

 

Production Studio:

Theatrical: Vacationeer Productions

Video: Oscilloscope Laboratories

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution:1080p

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Disc Size: BD-50

Feature Size: 27.27 GB

Bit Rate: Mod~High (22~35 Mbps)

Runtime: 90 minutes

Region: All

 

Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

English LPCM 2.0

 

Subtitles:

Optional English

 

Bonus Features:

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Todd Berger and members of the cast

• Behind the Scenes – in HD (10:00)

• ComicCon 2012 San Diego – in SD (23:25)

• Julia Stiles Styles “All-Green Clothing” – in SD (3:05)

Excuse Me – in SD (2:50)

• Original Theatrical Trailer 

 

Presentation:

Custom Gatefold Case: BRD x1

Street Date: June 4, 2013



Overview [Oscilloscope]

Eight friends meet for their monthly “couples brunch." But what starts as an impromptu therapy session / airing of domestic grievances takes a sudden, catastrophic turn when the city falls victim to a mysterious attack. Trapped in the house and unsure of their fates, these seemingly normal people become increasingly unhinged to hilarious, surprising, and revealing results. It’s a Disaster is a fast-paced ensemble comedy about the worst brunch ever: the eggs are cold, the tensions are high, and the end is near.


     

  

Critical Press

Chicago Sun-Times

I read somewhere. . . that Berger’s comedy was rooted in the characters’ inappropriate reactions to their situations. But I don’t think that’s quite accurate. What’s funny is that, apart from acknowledging the whole impending death thing, they do exactly what most people do all the time: They lapse into denial and retreat into the familiar patterns of behavior they’ve become accustomed to, as if stubbornly determined to act just like themselves even under the most extreme of circumstances. It’s easier to get outraged over some newly discovered relationship betrayal than it is to wrap your head around a possible alien invasion or nerve gas attack, which you can’t really do a whole lot about with a single roll of duct tape, anyway. . . The movie’s funniest touches are quiet flashes of character, expertly timed and nimbly played by a deft ensemble. “It’s a Disaster” is consistently funny, but you wince more often than you laugh out loud. It’s like a Christopher Guest improvisational farce with the volume turned down to 5. – Jim Emerson


     

 

New York Daily News

Todd Berger’s broadly drawn dark comedy is not catastrophic, but you wouldn’t want to spend a day with his navel-gazing characters — even if they were the last people on Earth. Berger’s got some clever ideas, but he does not push far in exploring them. And aside from Cross, there is virtually no one to like among these self-involved suburbanites. After an hour alone with them, we can’t help wishing The End would just arrive. – Elizabeth Weitzman

LensView: 6

It’s a Disaster is the imperfect antidote to Melancholia, Lars Von Trier’s meditation on the end-of-the-world.  The idea of a double bill together with Von Trier’s serious, heady, and at times spiritual look at how we humans might react if we knew the end was coming tickles my funny bone just to think of it.


     

 

For some years now, Emma and Pete (Erinn Hayes & Blaise Miller) host a Sunday brunch for their close friends, those that are still coupled. Today, Tracy (Julia Stiles from Dexter) shows up with her new boyfriend, Glenn (David Cross from Arrested Development), and hopes run high for this match to work out since Tracy has had such bad luck in the past. Two other couples have already arrived – Lexi and Buck (Rachel Boston & Kevin Brennan), high on coke, and Hedy and Shane (America Ferrera & Jeff Grace), perpetually “engaged” for years. Coupled and individually, it is soon revealed, everyone has what are commonly referred to these days as “issues,” and the way those play out form one of the comedic threads for the film. The other is simply their reaction to the news that “two dirty bombs” have just exploded in the city 14 miles away. The end could be near for everyone.


     

 

Todd Berger has been writing, directing and acting in movies for a dozen years, mostly short films. It’s a Disaster is his first feature film in which he does all three, although his acting bit is more in the nature of a cameo. While several of the other actors that appear in this film have been in some of Berger’s other projects and might look familiar to audiences, only Julia Stiles and David Cross are ringers. The movie, however, is a bona fide ensemble piece, with no single character getting more attention than another.


     

 

It’s take some while for Berger to settle down with respectable character writing, since he spends so much energy in trying to be funny for the first 10-15 minutes. He seems hell bent on insisting every character misunderstand whoever is speaking to them, a device that wears out its welcome very quickly. To see how it’s done correctly, Berger should have studied that remarkable exchange between Diane Keaton and Woody Allen after their tennis game in Annie Hall:

 

ALVY: Uh ... you wanna lift?

 

ANNIE: Oh, why-uh ... you gotta car?

 

ALVY: No, um ... I was gonna take a cab.

 

ANNIE: Oh, no, I have a car.

 

ALVY: You have a car? So ...I don't understand why ... if you have a car, so then why did you say "Do you have a car?"... like you wanted a lift?

 

ANNIE: I don't ...I don't ... Geez, I don't know, I've ...I wa- This ... yeah, I got this VW out there ... What a jerk, yeah.  Would you like a lift?

 

ALVY: Sure.  Which way you goin'?


     

 

This works so well for a number of reasons, but not least in importance is that Woody moves on from this structure to another: Annie’s reckless driving, and to another, and to another. A different form for each comedic turn, frequently enough to keep our interest, and while he’s at it, his character’s are developed with every line.  What happens with what I call the Saturday Night Live form of comedy is that any idea worth a giggle is worth repeating. But what can work  reasonably well in improv doesn’t necessarily work for a scripted film.  Todd Berger repeats his joke endlessly, first, several times with Tracy and Glenn, then again and again with all the other couples. Fortunately I did not give in to my impulse to chuck it because eventually Berger settles into some decent writing that grows from character and situations rather than just misunderstanding. The last few seconds of the movie are almost worth the price of admission.


     

 

Video: 9

I should start by giving kudo’s to Nancy Schreiber’s artless photography. About 95% of the film is shot inside the house, which, as Berger points out in the Behind-the-Scenes featurette, becomes a character itself – not like in a horror movie, but in the way it imprisons the characters in what may be their final hours. I’m not sure if I’m giving Berger too much credit here, but the house, this house, suburban houses, tend to imprison as well as define us, and we might feel that in the movie. Schreiber’s lighting always looks natural, the actors never get lost, even in the basement or inside a car parked in the garage with the door closed. Every shot has a familiarity about it. We know this place and what it means to us.  Oscilloscope does its usual flawless job at transfer: right-on color, good contrast control, no hiccups or anomalies.

     

Audio & Music: 7/8

Oscilloscope offers lossless surround and stereo tracks. Both work very well, though the 5.1 only comes into its glory when helicopters pass overhead. Dialogue is always clear and source music is correctly sized and placed.

 

Bonus: 8

Once again, Oscilloscope loads up on Bonus items: an entertaining panel audio commentary with Todd Berger, Davis Cross, Kevin Brennan, and Jeff Grace (what, no women!) Next up is what seems to be the entire 2012 San Diego Comic-Con  panel discussion with nearly the entire cast. Oscilloscope rounds out the goodies with a few short comic bits, and though the ideas are clever enough, Berger tries to hard to force funny on us.


     

 

Recommendation: 7

The trick is to place your brain on mute during the first ten minutes or so. After that there is a respectable comedy here, despite Berger’s habit of calculating every funny bit. Worth a rent at least. Also available on DVD for a few dollars less. By the way, don’t be surprised if your cover art is different from the one pictured at Amazon. Mine is and it’s much better, featuring the title card above.


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

June 1, 2013


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