Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rifftrax Takes On Star Wars VII, Pleases Fans and Unfans Alike




It's been four and a half months since Star Wars returned to theaters. There are those who were thrilled when the Force Awakened after more than a decade, and those who didn't because they thought it was doing the first movie again (so did Creed, and no one complained about that).
It didn't matter, because it was a major hit, and made the new generation of the saga a new thing to anticipate just before Christmas. Kind of like Harry Potter.

Rifftrax's take on TFA is sure to please people who enjoyed and didn't enjoy this movie. There are lots of comments about Kylo Ren's mask, old vets returning and the story itself. This is bound to be Rifftrax's biggest seller because it is that funny. It's a fine kickoff to this year's big events, which will include Time Chasers and the big MST3K reunion.

I'm smart enough to not mention the riffs when certain people make their first appearance, especially Han Solo and C-3PO. There's plenty of riffs anyway, aside from the You Tube clip above.

The first shot of the Stormtroopers
99 bottles of beer on the wall...

Rey boards her transport
Mysterious floating electric razor, how's it going?

Heading to Maz Kenata's place, described as "Hogwarts Technical College". How they describe her is not that much better.

A robot contacts the Resistance
If two Radio Shacks had sex, this robot would be the baby

Kylo Ren meets Rey for the first time: "The girl I've heard so much about"
You are Ariana Grande, right?

There's the final fight, but the Rifftrax crew complain "Peter Griffin's chicken fights are shorter than this"

There's also riffs on Aaron Spelling eharmony, another new slogan for Golden Corral, Pablo Sandoval, Fuller House and (surprisingly) Time Chasers.

The riff is available here at rifftrax.com. This is the start of an ambitious movie riff schedule connected with the successful Kickstarter campaign. Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson, for example, will have their take on Gravity. It'll be interesting what happens when Mary Jo figures out George Clooney is not the hero here. There's also riffs coming on Jurassic World (imagine what they'll do to Claire and Owen's first scene together) and their first Rifftraxed movie, Road House, If the TFA riff ears enough money, maybe they'll afford the rights to riff this movie live in theaters. That would be the best anniversary present Rifftrax and its fans can get.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Review of Rifftrax Kickstarter 2016: The Ultimate Bargain



Rifftrax just finished its most successful Kickstarter campaign, despite only scheduling two of their four shows planned for this year.
It wound up earning nearly 621 thousand dollars thanks to more then eleven thousand backers, more than twice than what it got last year. That was due to two very wise moves.

First, fans found out there would be a big MST3K reunion June 28th.featuring most of the old staff, including the Mads (Trace Beaulieu and Frank Coniff) and Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson (who are doing well by riffing shorts about suburbia). The excitement grew when original host Joel Hodgson and future host Jonah Ray announced they'd appear.

Then, Mike Nelson came up with a brilliant idea: offer free Rifftrax shorts depending on how many individual backers the campaign attracts. This helped keep up interest while he and the staff try to confirm the rights to two more movies. As a result, all backers will get ten free shorts, even those who donated a dollar. If a backer already has a short he bought individually, he'll get a credit for another one.
Later, that offer applied to planned riffs for several movies and even first episodes for popular shows. This meant, for just one dollar, a backer would get

*ten educational shorts
*mp3 riffs for the first episodes of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Daredevil
*mp3 riffs for Star Wars:  The Force Awakens, Gravity (with Mary Jo and Bridget), Jurassic World, and the original Road House (the first major Rifftrax release).

That's what more than 1700 people will be enjoying, then realize they're going to have to buy those DVDs and maybe subscribe to Netflix to see the TV shows to enjoy the riffs. In a way, that boosts America's economy in so many ways.
The second biggest group (more than 1600) was those who donated 100 bucks. They get all of the above, and other stuff including two t-shirts, the MST reunion DVD and a coloring book. Not bad. Some of them will also have to get those DVDs, too.

The Periscope event, mainly Mike, Kevin and Bill talking about stuff, did reveal two interesting things. First, the app should be updated in the next two weeks that will allow people to download all the mp3 riffs they own. Hopefully that will include hearing the riffs during the opening credits to the Star Wars movies, too. Second, Kevin says he'd like the crew to take on The Godfather. That would be the biggest classic ever, easily toppling Jaws and Casablanca,
Some  very wise fan decided to save the Periscope event, and it's located here. 

It's actually interesting the crew will be doing more mp3 riffs this year. It looks like they're getting fans to use the new app by providing more titles. It's certain they'll get a lot more business once the app is improved, and when they offer the Star Wars and Gravity movies to everyone.

Now, all that's left is the waiting for those sweet shorts and mp3's, and the first Rifftrax Live show, Time Chasers, coming on May 5th.
And, we have a trailer...




Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rifftrax at the SF Sketchfest or the Dress Rehearsal to the MST3K Reunion


Suffering for me, fun for you--Rifftrax's new slogan (thanks, Kevin)

In two months, thousands of fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will gather at theaters near them to see history being made: Mike Nelson joining Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray mocking bad movies in the ultimate passing of the torch. Not only that, most of the MST alumni will be there...and maybe two people that represent the future (fingers still crossed).

What will it be like to see up to ten people riffing at once? Actually, those who attended the San Francisco Sketchfest already got a good idea three months ago when Rifftrax had its annual Night of the Shorts. The event was released for streaming this week.

While it's the longest VOD offering Rifftrax has ever offered at just over two hours, the show only features seven shorts. Actually, one short is several depressing scenes from a marriage in Canada, and another is part of a 1949 serial with Batman and Robin. It was a chance to mock a superhero that was expected to make a big splash in the movies two months later. He wound up making something else, but that's another rant.

Actually, the selection of shorts is a very good sample of the kinds of shorts that Rifftrax offers on its website. The Trouble With Women and One Got Fat are from the first two DVD collections, while Dining Together was a Thanksgiving offering from last year that would really fit well (?) with Fun in Balloonland. It's too bad the narrator for Dining Together is more stiff than the voice of IBM's Watson. The drunk narrator from Balloonland would have been better.

The short that got the most attention was David and Hazel, a Canadian feature that shows how important it is to communicate. It's about a husband who stops at nothing to avoid talking to his wife, even when he's worried he'll lose his job in a merger. He gets upset when his wife serves roast beef ("What do you think we are, millionaires?", a line that generated lots of riffs), but can't talk to his son (although it could be that he was born with lockjaw). This was shown in two parts, with Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson riffing on part one (and showing what "great pals" they are) and Janet Varney and Cole Stratton taking on part two. It's safe to say this short was more tedious and depressing than Setting Up A Room in last year's Sketchfest.
They also mentioned Kevin and Bill made their own version of the last scene:



A short on improving pronunciation is "disguised" as a TV show with teens talking about stuff in a groovy way. The host explains how some teens are smudgers and grunters, which doesn't sound as cool as being a Rocker or a Mod. One of the riffers describes it as "Sesame Street if the Muppets were weirder looking". The fact the host uses the teens' mispronounced words against them doesn't help, either.

The real test, though, was bringing all the riffers back to take on chapter three of the Batman and Robin serial, "Robin's Wild Ride". Apparently that took place when their villain, the Wizard, hijacked their car by remote control.

Usually I single out some riffs, and this will be no exception. The live riffs for Trouble With Women and One Got Fat weren't changed that much compared to the original. However, Bill got in a "Gamergate" riff for the first, and an Eminem riff on the other.
Here's a couple from Dining Together, recreating way too many typical holiday dinners:
It's like chewing a piece of grandma
Daddy says you're easy. What does that mean?

On David and Hazel, he explains how he keeps his wife in the dark about his problems:
Just gotta keep her heavily sedated.
Or how he deals with his son having to choose between his paper route and the track team:
"Who do you think is going to help you make up your own mind when you're a man?"
Mommy?
There's also riffs on Glenn Miller, Requiem For A Dream and Cheers.

As for the Batman and Robin short, let's start with them puzzled that there are opening credits in front of them:
Holy Typography!
The DVD gets stalled in the middle, leaving the cast lost on what to do next.
"Somebody kick the DVD. Still faster than David and Hazel". Janet does volunteer to be a jury, but Cole says they're Two Angry Men short.
The best riff was when the Wizard's men hijacked a truck by pretending to have car trouble.
Why is the engine wearing a little gangster hat? Ah, gangsters!
There's also riffs on James Franco, Thomas the Tank Engine and Spencer's Gifts.

Aside from the stalled DVD, the riffing for the last short was pretty smooth. It's a great dress rehearsal for what's coming June 28th. The Sketchfest is available here, and the Rifftrax website has more shorts and movies available.
Also a reminder, the live riffing for Time Chasers is coming May 5th, about the same time some superhero movie gets an early premiere. Well, the heck with costumed guys who can't get along. They'll have to wait while we see if time travel is possible with a Commodore 64. Tickets for Time Chasers are available at the Fathom Events website.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Farce Will Awaken, Thanks to Rifftrax


At this time, thousands of Star Wars fans will be watching The Force Awakens on their DVDs, iPads or even their phones.
In just a few months, though, others will be seeing the movie in another way, through the Rifftrax app.

Yesterday, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett revealed during the last week of the Kickstarter campaign that if they raised at least 335 thousand dollars, they would provide an mp3 of their "opinions" about The Force Awakens. Some fans feared they'd go back to their insults about the prequels, but it's more likely they'll point out how similar it is to A New Hope (aka the first one). They'll also talk about C-3PO's red arm, Kylo Ren's unmasked face, and a couple of Alec Guinness moments.

Several hours after they made the announcement, Rifftrax broke through that goal, resulting in this:


Actually, this really makes sense. Rifftrax made sure fans saw riffed versions of every Harry Potter movie, and already knocked on the previous six Star Wars movies. A few already suggested TFA should be mocked, although now more people would like to see Batman v. Superman on Rifftrax's hit list.

By the way, Sphero, who makes mini-versions of the BB-8, announced that you can update the toy so that it can respond to what's happening to the movie while you watch. Now, if it can make Tom Servos and Crows that can do the same thing, or link the BB-8 to the Rifftrax app and hear it riff on the movie, then you have something to brag about.

As of 9 AM Pacific time, April 5th, the campaign has earned nearly 340 thousand dollars, much more than last year, mainly thanks to offering free shorts while they're trying to confirm two more movies for this year. If they hit 350 thousand, they'll take on the first episode of Game of Thrones. This is Daenerys' reaction to that likelihood:


(UPDATE: as of 4/6, they broke 400 thousand dollars. Sorry, Khaleesi)
Once again, no one is safe from Rifftrax. Then again, if anyone remembers the plot to that episode, it's bound to inspire some really interesting riffs (especially the term "Lannistering").
(MORE UPDATING:  More stretch goals have allowed the campaign to break 600 thousand dollars, and backers will also see riffs on the first episodes of The Walking Dead and Netflix's Daredevil, along with GravityJurassic World, and the original Road House. Does this please Khaleesi?)


The MST reunion, by the way, is set for June 28th at hundreds of theaters nationwide.

For more info, go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rifftrax/rifftrax-live-2016-mst3k-reunion-time-chasers-live

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rifftrax Takes On Samurai Cop, or "When Jennifer Met Mumbles Ape"




A while ago, I reviewed Rifftrax's take on Death Promise, which I thought was the worst martial arts movie ever made.
Then I saw Samurai Cop. 
Clearly I was wrong, but I had no idea how really bad Robert Z'Dar is as Yamashita, a big bulky henchman to some Yakusa guys. I will give him credit for coming up with an interesting way to get rid of a witness by hiding in a hamper pushed by a Christina Hendricks impersonator. For the most part, he looks menacing and shoots anyone who doesn't kill the main hero


Definitely not better is Matt Hatton as Joe Marshall, a San Diego police officer allegedly trained in the martial arts in Japan. It's safe to say we don't see a lot of that skill.


We do see him try to battle Japanese gangsters and flirt well enough to be considered a ladies' man--but only by himself. He also has an African-American partner, which means they were hoping to get the Lethal Weapon crowd. Still, Joe can be described like this (thanks to Bill Corbett):  "He's like a Disney's Tarzan who was badly airbrushed on the side of a van  and came to life." Personally, I'd say he's got less personality than all of Johnny Longtorso's individual parts.

The movie, if you could call it that, is mainly chases, shootouts and confrontations that make no sense. The head Yakusa guy's Japanese accent isn't too convincing, either. At least there's a strange Costa Rican guy as comic relief.
The most far-fetched part is Joe wooing away Yakusa Guy's blonde girlfriend Jennifer. It results in a sex scene even more disturbing than Joe Don Baker trying to be sensual in Mitchell.
By the way, there was a lot of racy stuff cut out from this release, including a rape scene. That's a wise idea, especially for MST fans who know about what had to be cut out of Sidehackers.


The movie ends with the big battle between Yamashita and Joe, supposedly trying to kill each other with big swords, but it's mostly fists and weird faces. It's even worse than the Death Promise finale, including the dumb explanation for the final twist.
I got this because the Nerdist included this in a list of "8 WTF-Worthy Films" that includes Death Bed (about a bed that eats people), Gymkata (which is a common riff by MST3K), Greasy Strangler and Death Spa (not about a spa that eats people).

Now, on to the riffs:

Joe shows up with his partner
I show up to work with a Cher wig and a  baseball cap and you say nothing?

Fujiyama (the boss) yells at Yamashita, "If he's a samurai, who the Hell are you?"
A question that Z'Dar got a lot

A typical fight
I think they made these punching sound effects by slapping a leather couch with a wet ham

Peggy, one of the cops, tries to get another cop named Preacher to have sex with her. He declines
Ah, my wedding night (let's say this time Mike doesn't say it).

There's also riffs on Michael Bay, Comcast, Rock and Roll Nightmare, Safety Woman and The Bachelor.

Samurai Cop is available, along with slightly less inept martial arts movies, at rifftrax.com