Artist Profile: James Avati (1912 — 2005)

Painter James Avati has been called both the “Father of the Paperback Book Covers” and the “Rembrandt of Paperback Book Covers.”  Born in New Jersey, Avati studied architecture at Princeton University and, after serving in World War II, became a prolific commercial illustrator and cover artist.  At first he used professional models but the majority of his paintings used friends, family, and people he spotted on the streets of Red Bank, New Jersey.  Ten years before his death at the age 92, Avati was inducted into the Society of Illustrators’ Hall Of Fame.

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A Superfast Review of Superfast!

A typical scene from Superfast!

A typical scene from Superfast!

Superfast! tells the story of an incredibly stupid undercover cop named Lucas White (Alex Ashbaugh).  Despite the fact that he’s so white that he regularly freezes mayonnaise so that he can then lick it like a popsicle (or so he tells us), White is assigned to infiltrate a group of multi-ethnic Los Angeles street racers.  Led by the bald and imposing Vin Serento (Dale Pavinski), these street racers spend their time doing vaguely defined illegal stuff.  Lucas soon wins Vin’s trust and finds himself torn between his job and his new friends.

When it looks like Vin and his crew are going to have to flee the country, they plot to rip-off crime lord Juan Carlos de la Sol (Omar Chaparro).  In order to do this, Vin recruits a crew that includes characters with names like Rapper Cameo, Cool Asian Guy, and Model Turned Actress.  Pursuing Vin and his crew is the ultra intense Detective Rock Johnson (Dio Johnson).

If all this sounds familiar, that’s because Superfast! is a spoof of the Fast and the Furious franchise.  As far as spoof movies go, Superfast! is not bad.  The actors do a good job of imitating the hypermasculine style of the Fast and Furious franchise and I actually found myself laughing at a few of the jokes.  Considering that this film was directed by the infamous duo of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, a few laughs were still more laughs than I was expecting.  Superfast! deserves some credit for being consistently amusing, even if the overall film was pretty uneven.

Of course, the main problem with Superfast! is that the Fast and the Furious films already do a pretty good job of spoofing themselves.  One of the main reasons why that franchise has not only survived but prospered is because the films themselves are full of a winking self-awareness.  The franchise itself has consistently, and with good humor, acknowledged just how over-the-top things can get.  (Indeed, the franchise is populated by actors — like Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel — who have made a career out of poking gentle fun at their images.)  There’s really not a single joke to be found in Superfast! that hasn’t already been made in a previous Fast and the Furious film.

But, with all that in mind, Superfast! is an amusing enough way to waste 90 minutes.  Dale Pavisnki especially deserves some credit for the commitment that he brings to the role of Vin Diesel Serento.

Superfast! was released on the same day as Furious Seven.  Needless to say, Furious Seven did just a little bit better with audiences and critics.  Superfast! can currently be viewed on Netflix.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #126: Trigger Point (dir by Philippe Gagnon)

Yesterday, I watched the Canadian film Trigger Point on the Lifetime Movie Network.

Trigger Point

Why Was I Watching It?

Oh, why not?  It was Sunday, I was still recovering from a very active Independence Day, and it was on the Lifetime Movie Network.  You know me.  I can’t resist Lifetime.

What Was It About?

College student Callie Banner (Jordan Hinson) blames a Big Evil Corporation for her father losing his job and becoming an alcoholic.  So, she gets involved in a campus protest group.  Soon, she is ignoring all of her old, apolitical friends and spending all of her time chanting slogans and raising her fist in solidarity.  She breaks up with her old boyfriend and is soon dating the charismatic Jared Church (Yanni Gellman).

However, something strange is happening.  Former members of the protest group are dying and their wealthy parents are being blown up.  The cops call it murder/suicide but could it just be murder/murder?  That’s what Callie has to find out, while still also finding time to paint signs, hang banners, and come up with catchy slogans.

What Worked?

Trigger Point confirmed all of my long-held suspicions about political activists.  Good work, Trigger Point.

What Did Not Work?

I was about to complain about the fact that Callie came across as being a humorless scold but then again, that aspect of her character worked as far as the film’s plot was concerned.  If Callie wasn’t a humorless scold, she never would have gotten involved with the protesters in the first place.  And while it can be argued that the film suffered because Callie is such an unlikable character, I would suggest that Callie being so unlikable actually worked to the film’s advantage.  If she had been likable, you would have actually been worried about her well-being and the film would not have been as much fun.  But since she wasn’t likable, you never really cared how many terrible things happened to her.

So, though it may not have been due to the intentions of the filmmakers, the entire film works.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I imagine if I was the type to get involved in a political protest, I’d probably act a lot like Callie.  I would totally throw myself into it, I’d flirt with the leaders, I would be judgmental towards anyone who didn’t want to protest, and, in the end, I would discover that everyone around me was a murderer.  That’s one reason why I never got involved with the Occupy movement, no matter how many times I was invited.

Lessons Learned

Don’t get involved in any student protests.  Seriously, they always seem to lead to murder.