Friday, October 2, 2015

Rifftrax Live: Fists of Fury, the Musical

Instead of a really bad movie about zombies, vampires or some creepy guy with a mask, Rifftrax Live's Halloween show takes on the ultimate horror combination...the 80s and cheesy martial arts movies!

The crew of Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy was in top form in Nashville Thursday night when they took on Miami Connection, an indie movie made by taekwondo expert YK Kim. He's not exactly Bruce Lee, but he has this move:

He helped produce a movie about a pop band called "Dragon Sounds", who sing about friendship and being against Ninjas. They have problems with the band that they replaced, and a group of ninjas who also traffic cocaine.
Two of the band members have concerns, too. Jane, the female singer, has a brother named Jeff who doesn't like her choice in boyfriends..

He's also involved with the drug-pushing ninja, though, So his opinion isn't too valuable.
Another member, Jim, is looking for his father who deserted his family. However, he does find Dad...just in time to be stabbed by the ninjas.

So, before we talk more about the movie some more, let's get to the riffs:

The leader of the ninjas has a meeting:
"Where's money"?
Kevin:  Cuba Gooding Jr. really wants to know.

Mark (YK Kim) notes that "we are all orhpans"
Mike:  My favorive orhpan is Olivor Twast

In another fight, one of the DS guys is challenged by a dorky version of Axl Rose
Bill:  He studied under Grandmaster Elaine Benes

The movie has a section where the DS guys show of their taekwondo skills. Mike is not impressed when he describes it as "take some acid and fight the invisible gorillas". Also, during the Dragon Sounds concert, the crew leads the audience in clapping along with the song but not to the beat.

There's also riffs on Power Rangers, The Goonies, John Oates, Lilith Fair, Crystal Pepsi, Human Centipede and Maria Sharapova. Oh, and they came up with a new slogan for Golden Corral, too. 

Back to the movie, it actually got a comeback thanks to a re-release thanks to Alamo Drafthouse Films and Turner Classic Movies. This lead to a reunion:

Not only that, Kim didn't really mind that Rifftrax was mocking the movie, Here's the story from the Orlando Sentinel, and the Rifftrax crew acknowledged him watching the show from Orlando. They just asked him not to rip their throats out.

Now there was some horror, though. It was a 1970 Coronet short on measuring things. They had a kid learn about inches, pints and such from a milkman who was, in reality, Measuring Man! We couldn't find a picture of him, but imagine a really geeky Ty Burrell with glasses, wearing a Superman costume and a utility belt with measuring cups, a sparking telescope (?) and a ruler. He'd be more disturbing than Mr. B Natural.
UPDATE:  Periscope has a clip from the short. Seeing Measuring Man is a sight to behold.  

Finally, they had a preview of the next movie, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny II. It's just like the original, only this time the story in the middle is Jack and the Beanstalk. The production values are barely above "Fun In Balloonland" but at least the girl who played Thumbelina is back full-size. That'll be coming on December 3rd.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Miss America, The Spy

Agents of SHIELD will be back at the end of the month. That means we’ll see Skye, I mean Daisy Johnson in her new role, Bobbie Morse and Melinda May making decisions, and a scientist who’s changed after an alien rock grabbed her.

Over the weekend, I saw an old episode of The Man from UNCLE, whose ideas about female agents are much different than SHIELD. That’s too bad, considering there was a much better philosophy elsewhere on TV.

The episode was “The Moonglow Affair”, which was a backdoor pilot that introduced agents April Dancer and Mark Slade:

That’s right. They’re not Stephanie Powers and Noel Harrison in this picture.
They cast former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley as April and Norman Fell (yep, Mr. Roper) as Slade. It was his first mission to train the newly minted agent because his predecessor turned 40.
Well, 40 was ancient about 50 years ago, not like now (right, Miss May?).
Anyway, choosing Mobley as April wasn’t too far fetched. She was an IMF agent posing as a trapeze artist in “Odd Man Out” during the first season of Mission Impossible. Maybe that led to her role here.

In this episode, Solo is poisoned by radiation while Kuryakin was trapped by THRUSH agents, assisted by an evil cosmetics mogul named Carasse played by Kevin McCarthy.

Back to the story, after Proto-April packs her purse with cosmetics and a big handgun, she goes to the evil cosmetics HQ as a temp secretary to figure out if THRUSH is planning to ruin an upcoming space shot with one of its own. Good thing Caresse is too busy to notice she’s planted a bug, and is able to get a lot of info. She even finds Kuryakin in the lab below, and quickly fakes being a new assistant to keep from getting caught. That’s how she gets more info..and some flirting. In fact, she winds up as Miss Moonglow, which includes modeling glow-in-the-dark lipstick.  
Apparently, the idea of this show is that April Dancer’s greatest weapon isn’t her gun but her feminine wiles, which is how she keeps Evil Makeup Guy wrapped around her little finger. That’s also why Peggy Carter would rather watch The Avengers, along with many, many others.

What about Slade? He’s a bit old to be out on the field, but he does the dirty work trying to keep THRUSH from threatening the space shot. However, it also leads him getting arrested by a cop who’d never understand espionage and stuff.

April gets caught and is zapped by the radiation weapon. Then, Slade comes in to save the day. We never find out how the cop let him go. Too bad, since it would have been better for her to wind up wounding Caresse and a THRUSH henchman despite being zapped. Then again, NBC would never allow it—but ABC could.

So, when The Girl From UNCLE did have its only season, the pattern was clear: April infiltrates the bad guys, does some flirting, gets the info, and waits until a much younger Mark Slate to save her. That’s the American way, unlike those Brits who have female spies fight just like a guy.

Well, who do we remember more, huh?

Recently, they turned The Man From UNCLE into a movie. What struck me is that Alicia Vikander, who played the daughter of the nuclear scientist Solo and Kuryakin have to find (when they decide not to argue), she had to judo flip Solo at least once to keep him on task. Too bad she couldn't be a new April Dancer.
If there was a new April, she'd have to live up to Melinda May, Sydney Bristow and Bobbi Morse. She could have done that nearly 50 years ago, but NBC decided it didn't need its own version of Emma Peel. Its idea of a female spy is being the straight person to a dopey secret agent. 

That still works in an animated spy spoof, but not when you're playing it straight today. 

I'm just saying I wish The Girl From UNCLE was allowed to be a real secret agent rather than what That Girl would be if she was in espionage.

Monday, August 17, 2015

What MST3K Movies Deserve a Second Riffing?

Last week, Rifftrax released its latest feature, The Magic Sword. It was unusual for several reasons, such as it's one of the few Burt I. Gordon movies that isn't too absurd to exist. It also has Basil Rathbone and Estelle Winwood, real actors in a cheesy fantasy movie.

The biggest one, of course, is that it's the first former MST3K title to be tacked by Rifftrax that's not a holiday movie, a short about springs or one that knew your father, it did, or Manos. Some people gave it a try, while some fans in the comments section were rather upset Rifftrax would mock a movie that was once heckled by the Holy Trinity that is Joel, Servo and Crow.

However, it also started a discussion on which former MST3K titles should be re-riffed. One fan suggested riffing the rest of the episodes of The Master, starring Lee Van Cleef and Timothy Van Patten as some dorky guy who'll never be a ninja...but would have better luck as a director of TV shows.
For some reason, Sho Kosugi, who plays the guy who tries to kill Van Cleef's character, gets top billing in this VHS cover. I don't think his character ever had any lines. If he did, he'd tell Van Cleef he's unfit to be a ninja because he couldn't beat Clint Eastwood.

Wikipedia says they had planned to take on episodes five and six, but they decided on "Samson vs, the Vampire Women", which marked TV Frank's exit from the show. If they kept going, they would have had episodes that featured Doug McClure, Janine Turner, George Maharis and Stuart Whitman. The movie titles would also have been ridiculous, like "Ninja--The Shadows Kill" and "The Ninja Man".

Another suggestion was "The Slime People", which was done in season one. One fan said Mike wants to get another chance at this movie, where a sportscaster helps a professor and his two daughters battle creatures from under the earth. Sure enough, page 12 of my heavily autographed Episode Guide proves it

Also suggested was "Mitchell", which was Joel's last movie. If they are going to do that, they should restore the deleted scenes that prove John Saxon was in the movie. However, they should also remove the "sex" scenes Joe Don Baker had with Linda Evans.

What other movies should be re-riffed?

How about "Swamp Diamonds" (aka "Swamp Women")? Some of the riffs are a bit dated, but they can add a bunch of riffs related to Orange Is The New Black and mock the Oscars for thinking Roger Corman deserved one for his "body of 'work'".

"Robot Holocaust" would be another idea, since it gave birth to the first riff callbacks "It was after the apocalypse" and "You and your daughter are doomed". Since Rifftrax has released movies that has nudity, people who dreamed to see Valeria in the Pleasure Booth without her costume or ridiculous accent will finally get the chance.

For a real dare, why not re-riff "Monster A Go-Go"? Well, there are lots of reasons why, but taking another look at the story of a missing astronaut, a killer alien on the loose, and an ending even stupider than Exorcist II would be quite a challenge.

Let's also add a KTMA movie, like "SST Death Flight". This was a TV movie in 1977 about the first supersonic plane's first flight. Naturally, everything goes wrong: some guy sabotages the plane, and no one will let it land because it has a killer disease on board. The director of this movie went on to direct Airport '79, which was also about a supersonic plane that's targeted by fighter jets thanks to a guy who's trying to hide his illegal arms sales. Clearly, the TV movie was slightly more plausible even if its cast wasn't as famous (except for Billy Crystal, Lorne Greene, Robert Reed...and Peter Graves).

Another idea is "The Green Slime", the movie Joel Hodgson used in his proto-pilot of the show. It's sort of like Armageddon, where astronauts destroy an asteroid that is threatening the Earth. However, they bring back alien slime that mutates the crew...sort of like Alien. It was also a movie made in Japan, but featured actors are from the USA (Richard Jaeckel) and Italy (Luciana Paluzzi).
This poster also reveals it was rated "X", which I suspect was due to the gruesome deaths.

It's best to wait a while before Rifftrax will take a second look to an old MST3K episode. After all, it's due for a Miami Connection in about six weeks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Samuel L. Jackson And Spy Kids

Recently I saw two movies with Samuel L. Jackson dealing with teenagers who get involved in some serious situations. One featured him running a school for future assassins not unlike the Red Room program that created Black Widow and Not Dottie from Agent Carter, while the other one had him as the President relying on a 13 year old Finnish kid to escape assassins in the wilderness.

Let's start with Barely Lethal, which has been in the VOD circuit through Amazon, iTunes and DirecTV and should be in Redbox soon. Hailee Steinfeld, who's come a long way from the True Grit remake, plays Agent 83, a girl who's had enough of knocking off bad guys, She's able to fake her own death, and head to a nice normal town and a nice normal high school. She calls herself Megan, and approaches it like another one of her missions. She also  bases her intel on several teen movies like Bring It On and Mean Girls. Naturally, she's attracted by the cool musician dude Cash (Toby Sebastian) while the AV guy Roger (Thomas Mann) looks on. It really becomes a typical movie about high school.
Maybe a bit too typical. There's also a slightly clueless mom played by Rachel Harris (prefer her nastier side in The Hangover) and Liz (Dove Cameron, Descendants, namely Malificent's daughter), the daughter who is upset over her parents' divorce and is very suspicious of Megan.

However, a prank that winds up on YouTube exposes Megan/83, and Jackson thinks she's working for someone else. Well, maybe being a normal teen means she's her own boss, but his attitude took me out of the film a bit. He's also not too good at disguising himself as a bus driver, either.  Later, she's plagued by Agent 84 (Sophie Turner)  who decides to horn in on Megan's life. She calls herself Heather and claims she knows Chris and/or Liam Hemsworth.

There's also Knox (Jessica Alba), an arms dealer that is captured by Jackson's crew, but later escapes. The problem with Alba's performance is that she's too Tori Spelling to be considered dangerous, even when we find out her true background. You want fashionable and dangerous? Rose Byrne in Spy is what Alba doesn't reach. Still, Alba has one good line about Jackson training second-graders to kill.

The movie is geared to teens, so it's not exactly like Spy Kids or any spy thriller. Still, it's interesting seeing a teen assassin be just as awkward as any other teen. It's also cool seeing Sophie Turner trying to clobber her rival agent at the prom. It's what everyone wishes Sansa Stark would do to Ramsey Bolton on Game of Thrones. Still, Jackson is there just as someone Megan doesn't want to be...not completely anyway.

However, Jackson is much better in Big Game, made in Finland by Jalmari Helander, who also directed Rare Exports (the Santa is not-so-jolly movie). Jackson plays the President who's on his way to a conference. He's also failing in the polls, and that does sound familiar. Terrorists attack Air Force One thanks to a mole inside the plane, but the President escapes. He's found by Oskari (Omni Tommila, who was also in Rare Exports) , a 13 year old who's trying to hunt a deer to fulfill the local manhood ceremony. However, the men in the town, including his dad, aren't sure he can do it. He can't even use a bow and arrow, Still, putting their skills together, Oskari and the President try to keep the terrorists, and the mole, from making the President their latest trophy...literally.

It turns out Oskari has better sense than his dad suspects, and it serves him well. Also, the movie is wise not to make Jackson as a bad-ass president. He actually has a tough time trying to fight the head bad guy. The movie also throws in a conspiracy connected with the attack, but it should have been less complex.

Another problem with the movie is that it's too short. Even with the credits, it's less than 90 minutes. If we had more backstory on the President and why he's not getting respect, and Oskari also not getting any respect (maybe five minutes of how he seems to be a terrible hunter), it would have been better.
Despite that, the story was compact and complete, even with one last twist at the end. It also appeals to adults and kids.

Barely Lethal is now available on DVD, including some deleted scenes, Big Game, meanwhile, will be released on DVD at the end of the month.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In the Not Too Distant Future: How Rifftrax May Take On Sharknado 3

Now that we know we'll have as many Sharknados as Transformer movies, maybe it's time to predict how the Rifftrax crew will take on this year's version of the cheesy SyFy franchise.

It's already taken on part one, as well as part two just a few weeks ago. It's safe to say that if it goes to another Kickstarter campaign to help fund the 2016 season, the fans will hit the goal within a weekend.

Fin (Ian Zierling) and April (Tara Reid) battle two big Sharknados wreaking havoc on Washington DC and Orlando. Then, they threaten to merge into something not even Bruce Willis and an Aerosmith ballad can stop. However, thanks to a spare Space Shuttle, and the power of the Hoff, they blow up the storm from outer space, They also battle sharks in space, and one of them eats April just as she's about to give birth. However, thanks to her chainsaw hand, she escapes, and her baby is OK. Yet it ends with a piece of the shuttle about to hit her, and the movie asks the fans if she should live, The latest word, according to Reid on Adam Carolla's podcast, is that she just might be back. She could be back anyway, Twitter votes be damned.
Nova (Cassie Scerbo) is back, too, apparently trained as a shark killer thanks to watching Michonne a lot on The Walking Dead, and also as a pilot thanks to Fin's son who's busy elsewhere.

Anyway, here's my prediction of what riffs we can expect next year from Mike, Kevin and Bill:

The movie starts with a James Bond style opening, with Fin and his chainsaw

It's 007 in Live and Let Bite, as seen from the mouth of Richard Kiel

Ann Coulter as the VP:  "I feel for the sharks, but they're wrecking our schools, our hospitals, our roads"
If they want to do that, they should run for Congress (yeah, too easy, right?)

Then the sharks arrive. When they're not destroying the Washington Monument more convincingly than Space Invaders or Donkey Kong in Pixels, one of them lands on the Lincoln Memorial.

You guys bite without me. The first sequel was exhausting

Fin gets help from President Mark Cuban, and both are armed to the teeth,

Marc Cuban is the President in Machete Bites!

Fin, his brother, the president and a woman lift an American flag and wind up stabbing one of the sharks, resulting in this

Uh, didn't people complain when same sex marriage supporters did the same thing?

We meet Nova, who's upset by all these Sharknados:  "Kill them all, just kill them all, shoot, bang"

Are you talking about the sharks, or the SyFy execs who keep approving these movies?

Meanwhile, at Universal Studios Orlando, April is there with her mom (Bo Derek).

April decides to help when the sharks get there, but mom isn't hearing it:  "April, Dawn, Wexler, Shepherd"
Is she listing the names of the new Ghostbusters?

Jerry Springer is a tourist standing under what he thinks is a fake shark at the Jaws Pier. He asks someone to take a picture of him. He soon finds out the shark is not fake

Hah! That Arnold Schwarzenegger prank at the wax museum really works.

A shark crashes into an xfinity billboard
This message brought to you by DirecTV

A theater is showing "Shark Wedding", with George RR Martin in the audience. A shark breaks through the screen, killing him

And now his watch has ended. Ours, however, still continues

We see David Hasslehoff at a chicken wings joint with Penn and Teller. They discuss how Finn is doing, while the Hoff says "He's just making it up as he goes along"

Oh, like Republican candidates trying to get on that Fox News debate

Fin's weapon against sharks in space?
It's the new Stihl Lightsaber Saw

A shark finally drops in, literally, the Today show set

Robin Roberts says hello!

Granted, the Rifftrax crew will come up with better snide remarks, because that's what they do. It's interesting what they would say to April giving birth while inside a shark...and escaping thanks to her chainsaw hand. They'd either say, "eat your heart out, Bruce Campbell" or "Shop smart, S-mart". There's also that last scene where April is about to be hit by a piece of the shuttle. Personally, I'd like to see April saved by Georgia Lass (Ellen Muth) from Dead Like Me, and remark "hey, my death was embarrassing enough. It won't happen to you, no matter what social media says"...then leave.

Hey, if you need cameos, get creative.