Thursday, June 22, 2017

At Last....A New ICWXP DVD, Four Years In The Making


It's been more than four years since Rick Wolf and his robot friends TopsyBot, Johnny Cylon and Flux  Namtari battled a zombie apocalypse and a bigger threat...bad movies.

It was expected that "Bad Guys Wear #000000" would be done a whole lot sooner, but it was explained in an insert in the DVD that technical problems and lost footage caused a LOT of delays.
Finally, though, the DVD was sent out to fans this month. Aside from the main plot where Rikk and the boys are now dealing with computer problems and a new zombie religion, it also faces two shorts (including one familiar to Rifftrax fans).

The host segments, which run for more than hour, may seem to be tedious to those who come for the riffed shorts. However, ICWXP tries to be different with a major arc about Rikk and the boys hoping to get out of the Cine-A-Sorrow Theater, where they've been trapped to protect themselves from the zombie hordes. Sure, there seems to be "news" there are safe sections including downtown Kansas City, but they won't know until they get out.

However, they have to deal with the Order of Mortuus, led by some guy who thinks the zombies are the future and should be worshiped. They also have ninjas that teleport  but that's about it. Rick is told via their mysterious Ludovico informant they have to get to the basement of the theater to escape, but first they have to get around a force field installed by the Order.
There's also those two henchmen from Ludovico, Berkin and Spencer, following the gang. They're not in good shape, since one of them thinks he sees the Crimson Executioner from Bloody Pit of Horror and has to grease him up. Ewwwww.

It would have been a good idea to trim about ten or 15 minutes from the host segments, but the story is still pretty interesting. At least they have more to worry about than lousy short films. Much of the delay is due to the extensive special effects, especially how the scene changes to a 16-bit video game to show how Rick escapes. The new MST3K only wishes it was this fancy, and might be once a new season is approved.

Speaking of which, the influence of MST is strong with the show. When Rick snoozes, it's to the sound of Joel Hodtriani playing "Tublar Booblar Joy" from his album, Idiot Control. Also, one of the zombies is a former CORPS solider named Corbett, and someone says "let me be Frank about Frank".



So, what about the riffs? The first short is "Safety: In Danger Out of Doors", featuring Safety Woman, This is already available on Rifftrax, and it shows the world's only Super Traffic Guard saving two dumb kids from a boating accident and a girl from being hit by a van. The style of the riffs is a bit sharper than Rifftrax. For example:

We get the origin story about how a free-lance architect gets super powers
She was bitten by a radioactive stop sign

From her house, she hears the kids calling for help
By the power of Numbskull

The second short is interesting. It's called "Linda's Film on Menstruation", which features two teenagers discussing what happens when a girl gets her first period. The boy is a dope about it, of course, There's also strange animation that attempts to explain menstruation, not to mention interviews with women who talk about it, too. The weirdest parts include a doctor who talks about menstruation....in a bowling alley, and a girl who dreams of a game show that talks about why getting periods freaks out men.
The gang also deal with those old pre-movie and intermission ads for popcorn and drinks...and even a cold pickle that'll never replace M&M's. There's even a couple of car ads from the '60s.

Not enough? How about this:  the boy in the short is played by Johnathan Banks of Breaking Bad. He actually talked about this with Conan O'Brien a couple of years ago.

The DVD also has nice extras including a riffed short from Josh Way's Fun With Shorts, Flux meeting fans at Planet Comicon in Kansas City, a special video from Patreon, and even a special motion comic from Sugar Ray Dodge.

It's great to see the ICWXP crew back in action. However, creator Rikk Wolf says they're taking a break. Hopefully, they will get to the second season finale eventually. Massive sales should help, so here's a link to the show.

They're taking a break for now, but let's hope Rikk will get one more episode done. ICWXP is one of the best successors to MST3K out there, and it should be supported.
Who knows, maybe Rikk can get a new job:  head of security at Moon 13 and possible future boy toy for Kinga Forrester. That'll thrill Max to no end (if Max is still around, that is)




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Surf's...uh Shorts Up As Rifftrax Live Does Summer


It wasn't exactly a Catalina Caper, but Rifftrax Live had some fun under the sun (or at least indoors) by riffing on a new set of shorts this past week in Nashville, TN,

It wasn't quite as star-studded as last June's reunion, but at least the original Mads (Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff) came. Also Paul F. Tompkins showed up as the ultimate Boatnik and the Real Housewives of Rifftrax, Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl (with really short hair), also made it.
As far as the subject matter, the shorts attempt to educate, but in weird ways. "Sentinels for Security", for example, starts with the Armed Forces, a cop and a fireman outside a house, hoping to protect the homeowner from himself. That's followed by people hurting themselves and blowing up their homes.

Then there's "Ricky Raccoon Shows The Day", where a family who just bought a house learns a really big bear-like raccoon is included.


He then gives lessons in traffic safety that even make mom and dad dance. Sometimes he pops in and out in strange places. The Rifftraxers can only say "This new It movie is terrifying".
For the record, I'll choose one riff from each of the shorts.

Anyway, the Mads look at Office Etiquette, where a young girl has her first office job. A lot of their comments were at how the job could be a drudge, but were stunned to see a female worker snacking while working: "What is this job doing to you? That's an eraser."

Then came the short of the night: "Rhythmic Ball Skills". It features kids dropping and catching balls sitting, standing, spinning and even under the leg. It's the exercise version of Setting Up A Room.


Or, as Bill put it, "After this, Michelle Obama came out in favor of childhood obesity." At least "Perc! Pop! Sprinkle!" was about something and had better music.

Mary Jo and Bridget took on "The Griper", one of those Centron shorts that Josh Way usually mocks. It's about a conscience who complains about a teen who really complains. Of course, he learned it from his family. It's rather odd this grumpy teen literally affects everything in his high school, or a literal Girl Next Door tries to set him straight. The girls have some bright and snarky comments about the teen, especially when he ruins English class by preventing everyone from acting out scenes from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (according to them).

That was followed by "A Touch of Magic" that features the return of Nuveena and the Weird Masked Guy from "Design for Dreaming." Of course, it's a General Motors short plugging their new cars for 1961. The cars move forward on a carpet of white balloons, or as Paul puts it, "Time to take out our shown enemy, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.". The couple also have a housewarming party with invisible guests, and load the Frigidaire dishwasher by throwing dishes at it. Weird,

The final short, "The Baggs," was the strangest of all.


It's what would happen if Santa Claus turned into a junk collector, and he picks up two burlap bags that come to life, run around, and finally rows away into the sunset. Best riff: "The two dancers inside the bag are nude, and one of them is Lena Dunham." If you listen real close, they seem to diss a show that ran for nine seasons but later found its way to Netflix. Sound familiar?

There was also a clip reel of the best moments from all 300+ shorts. Naturally shorts like "Shake Hands With Danger" and "Mr. B Natural" were included, along with Norman Krasner's Living Hell. Too bad they left out "Live and Learn", "Drugs Are Like That" and "Measuring Man", but they should be seen to be believed.

It was a fine evening of weird shorts, and a nice set-up to the big summer event, "The Five Doctors", coming in August. So far, we know from Nerdist the old Cybermen costumes were Jiffy Pop with legs. That might be considered "mercy".



Sunday, June 4, 2017

Wonder Woman is the Super-Heroine Movie Marvel Should Have Made Years Ago


When the best thing about Batman v Superman was a powerful woman who comes two hours into the movie and puzzles the two main heroes, it's a sign that finally a good movie about Wonder Woman can be made.

The only question is...can it? Is Gal Gadot, former Miss Israel who appeared in a few Fast and Furious movies, the heir apparent to Lynda Carter? Can a woman direct this project, even if she directed Charlize Theron to an Oscar? Can Chris Pine be a less cheesy Steve Trevor? Most importantly, can it be a good DC movie after the scars left from Suicide Squad?

By Hera, they did.

The best idea was to make a solid origin story, framed by a picture that was part of BvS. It has Diana Prince (of Themyscira), Steve, and two other people somewhere in the First World War in the fall of 1918. Bruce Wayne discovered it, and wondered how Diana could be there. He finds the original glass negative and sends it to her in Paris. He includes a note hoping she'd tell him someday.



Well, he could see this movie and find out. It tells about her early days, her training, her first meeting with Steve when he crashes off the island in a plane followed by a bunch of surprised Germans, and her decision to find Ares  in order to end the war.
It's more than just an origin story. It's how a "sheltered" princess grows up when she learns the world is much bigger than her home, and what she knows may not be the whole truth.
Oh, and she's a brilliant fighter who can face down a German battalion, toss a tank (!), and use a rope as a very deadly weapon.



The toughest part is how to bring Wonder Woman to life. Gadot portrays Diana as someone who may be on Earth but is certainly from another world. She believes in strength and power, being a warrior who can fight when she must. When she leaves her home, she is puzzled by clothes that are too tight to let her fight. She's also horrified by the sights of war and how they affect people. She thinks it's the work of Ares, the God of War, corrupting the Germans who want an eternal war. She'll learn, though, that's it's a bit more complex than that.
She is still someone who has a mission and will see it through. When she and Steve are surrounded by German spies, she stops a bullet aimed at him. He's stunned but he'll go with it. He already knows how good she is as a fighter.  It also means her disguise with glasses is blown, but it doesn't work with her anyway.
The best part is when she crosses No Man's Land, and plows through the Germans with some help from Steve. She also makes quick work of other soldiers at a small town. That section has inspired a lot of fans, and may be a turning point in the DC Verse. We'll know for sure in five months.
Then there's the look on her face when the town she saved gets gassed, and that Steve doesn't believe in Ares. She wonders if anyone is aware what's happening, but she can get confused, too. Gadot is flat out the best super-hero debut since Chris Evans as Captain America and (yes) Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool.


Chris Pine also does a great job playing Steve Trevor as a spy with scruples. He's wise not to take advantage of Diana, but he's also helping in guiding her through an alien world that's basically our world. They also have great chemistry together, even talking about things like how Diana was born without a father (even though she knows how it's usually done), why people need watches, and whether Ares is real, He's also pretty good at espionage, especially when he does some small talk with Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya), who's come up with the most poisonous gas ever. She's as deadly as she looks, with a face mask that hides the sacrifices she made for bio-warfare.

The big bad seems to be a German general called Ludendorff (Danny Huston), who wants Maru (aka Dr. Poison) to come up with a weapon that will turn the tide for his country. She's already come up with something he sniffs that's more powerful than a warehouse of  Red Bull.



In the end, Diana is right. Ares is to blame...but whose face the god uses actually makes a lot of sense. It leads to an intense battle that's also typical in these movies, While Ares says mankind isn't worth protecting, someone's sacrifice convinces Diana that it is.
While the Ares reveal is a bit surprising, it would have been better if the real face of Ares was different than the one he used.

Another good thing about this movie is that it can stand on its own. It's not the "first chapter of Justice League" that BvS was, or a jumbled mess with the wrong big bad that Suicide Squad was. This was one hero's story all by itself. Maybe that's why Warner Brothers decided not to add a post-credit scene to tease people about Justice League in the fall.  It would have taken a bit away from her.

Oh, and let's talk about Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, who is Steve's secretary. She's clearly the typical post-Victorian woman but really likes Diana and how she carries herself. Let's hope Etta had great-grandkids, and one of them meets Diana in Justice League or Wonder Woman 2.

The latest word is that Wonder Woman could hit 100 million bucks in its first weekend, despite possible competition from another super-hero, Captain Underpants. It'll get more stiff when The Mummy (who is a woman and even scarier this time around) opens on Friday, followed by Cars 3 on the 16th.
If Wonder Woman can hold her own this month, she can make history. Marvel may have to decide how to match this quick instead of waiting for Captain Marvel in 2019. Maybe season three of Agent Carter at least, along with lots more Jessica Jones after Defenders?
UPDATE:  For obvious reasons, Wonder Woman 2 will happn, according to Comic Book Resources. Gadot and director Patty Jenkins will be back, just as soon as WB gives permission (before or after a massive march of Dianas?). Still want to see Etta's descendant in a cool job.

P.S. Some fans are surprised Diana was brought to life by Zeus, which was done as part of "the New 52", than the original version. Wanna bet if Diana was born thanks to two goddesses a certain news network will be upset, along with the fact she's not American enough?


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rifftrax Goes Rogue With Latest Star Wars Riff


Over the years, Rifftrax has taken on the most popular...and reviled...movie franchises around.
It may respect (sort of) Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but also has some darts for Twilight and Transformers...and Wings Hauser.

The Star Wars saga gets some respect, but not so much the prequels. It would be inevitable that Rogue One would be next on Rifftrax's list. Even fans wondered if the franchise could have a movie that doesn't have a Jedi or even R2-D2 at the center of things, but you could still throw in Darth Vader. Some also thought it was annoying another girl gets to be the hero.
The movie did do well with the story of Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor and K-2S0 hoping to stop the creation of the Death Star. Having Tarkin and the young Princess Leia recreated by CGI didn't hurt,either (even though one was better than the other).

The Rifftrax trio of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett came up with a good mix of riffs poking fun at the franchise and movies in general. Who would have expected them to throw in a riff on John Ford and two on a classic campus comedy? They also made a lot of interesting comments on the new droid, K-2S0.

Here are some other examples:

The movie doesn't start like all the others
Where's the music and the massive wall of text? I TRUSTED YOU!

Galen:  You're confusing peace with terror
Krennic:  You've got to start somewhere
Honest tag line for The Phantom Menace

K-2S0:  Why does she have a blaster and I don't?
Asimov's fourth law of robotics:  Tattle like a bitchy kid brother

Saw:  Did you come to kill me?
That's why I say to scare Girl Scouts off my front porch

Darth Vader talks to Krennic
This better be good. Draining that goo tube ain't cheap.

There's also riffs on Princess Bride (guess why), Avatar, Fraggle Rock, Frankie Avalon, Enya, Garden State, and The Terminator.

The riff is available at the Rifftrax website

Friday, April 28, 2017

MST3K Redux: What Would Women Think Of Angels' Revenge?


When Mike Nelson and his MST3K crew mocked Angels' Revenge, which was Charlie's Angels disguised as The Dirty Dozen, they emphasized the absurdity of these women thinking they can bring down a drug ring through physical means (mainly through their cleavage and fighting in bikinis). They also talked a lot about how familiar faces had to do this movie to keep their flagging careers going, including Alan Hale Jr., Arthur Godfrey, Peter Lawford, and future Oscar winner Jack Palance.

When the Riffing Housewives, Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson, took this on, they just showed what they think such women would be concerned about while battling the drug dealers. Otherwise, it's a brutal pummeling on an example of "jiggle TV" as a movie. As Mary Jo asks at one point, "Are 90% of all Hollywood movies written by eleven year old boys?" She thinks that's how this movie was made. It's no coincidence all the male actors were in the credits before the women with the bigger roles were mentioned.

The story is about Michelle Wilson, a popular singer who learns her brother was beaten up by a drug pusher who got him hooked. She teams up with April, his teacher, who has a plan to destroy a processing plant outside of Los Angeles. The teacher uses the singer's fame to get the crew she needs, filled with expertise and breasts.
Mary Jo doubts the wisdom of this:  "You need a hit song to call the cops?"
Be grateful Ocean's 8 will have better actresses and writing, but then upset most men will see no difference between that and this movie.

What's interesting about this version is that it includes 15 minutes that was cut by MST for time and maybe dignity. There's a montage of the girls "training," but it's shown in three separate boxes, Once the girls pose in their mostly white jump suits, Bridget asks, "So what are they supposed to do after Labor Day?" For those who don't get that, just Google "wearing white clothes after Labor Day".

Another section that wasn't shown on MST is where Elaine, the cop, reported to her boss (Neville Brand) about the girls. The first scene is OK, but the second featured two of the girls giving him the drugs they seized still wearing bikinis. It's not exactly undercover work, but it's supposed to appeal to the men with eleven-year-old brains who wanted this movie.
Also, remember the scene where the girls bathe in their underwear after they blow up the plant? MST also cut away after that, but Rifftrax revealed the girls were held at gunpoint by some goons until April saves them thanks to a nearby helmet.

Now let's compare riffs. In some cases, the guys are meaner. In others, the girls are

Michelle's rear end is shown from above as she's climbing a ladder
MST:  Hey, you're giving away the plot
RT:  Spanx for the view


April and Keiko approach the drug processing camp
MST:  They're attacking a Klingon language camp
RT:  I didn't know they had auto shop in colonial Williamsburg


April:  "Women can make a difference"
RT:  If properly trained
MST:  The director wrote that so he could get laid


April slams her fist on a table
RT:  Meanwhile, Sally Hansen plots revenge
MST:  We will, like, bury you
(Combine them both, and it's a superior riff)


At a foggy beach, the girls meet one of the drug ring's goons and talks to Terry, an African-American stunt woman:  "Do you play basketball?"
MST:  This is offending one-celled animals
RT:  Sexist, racist, height-ist, AND NOT FUNNY


The girls bathe under a waterfall after blowing up the plant
MST:  And now, ladies and gentlemen, the reason this movie was made
RT:  Behold the waterfall of men's tears


The girls did recycle  two riffs from the original version, Those who saw both know which ones. There were also riffs on Rose Kennedy, La-La Land, Chevy Chase and the J. Geils Band.

You can get Angels Revenge at Rifftrax's website, and volume 2 of MST3K DVD set re-issued by Shout Factory.