Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Time For Rifftrax's Annual Pledge Drive, With Cheesy Sci-Fi

Being a fan of vindictive movie commentary is getting expensive...and worth every penny.

It's bad enough the new MST3K on Netflix is pulling a lot of fans' hard earned money thanks to an upcoming DVD set, t-shirts, pins, oven mitts and aprons. Now Rifftrax is asking the fans to give again for this year's live shows.

The drive started on February 20th and will continue through just before Easter. Its goal is 250 thousand dollars, same as last year. It earned 430 thousand bucks, and might hit it again if it offers the right stretch goals. Last Jedi and It's A Wonderful Life riffs, anyone?

Two movies are confirmed, as shown in the above photo. Space Mutiny, a fan fave from season eight, will be shown on Flag Day. This movie was best known for giving leading man Reb Brown alternate names to his character David Ryder. The complete list is here, but for $500 anyone can come up with something stranger like maybe Ty Tanium or  Lun Dolphgren.
It's also remembered for a missed opportunity. Aside from Cameron Mitchell appearing as a commander who stole Santa's beard, and a woman who dies in one scene yet is alive again 30 seconds later, there's lots of unused footage from the original Battlestar Galactica. Mike and the bots didn't notice that, but he, Kevin and Bill won't make that mistake again.

The other movie, set for August 23rd, is Krull from 1983. It's a space swashbuckler where some prince gets some lowlife pirates to help save a queen from some beast or other. It also has cool frisbee blades that are tossed around. Checking the wiki for this movie, Liam Neeson had one of his earliest roles here.  The cast includes Robbie Coltrane, Francesca Annis just before Dune, and the body of Lysette Anthony (she was dubbed because her voice wasn't mature enough).

The movie was not popular, although it has some fans. It should be interesting how many Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings jokes they can fit into the movie. People who pledge 25 bucks or more can get the mp3 of the Krull riff around Thanksgiving AND a ten dollar credit to cover the cost of getting the movie via Amazon Prime or DVD. That should get a lot of people to pledge at least that much cash.

As of 6 PM Pacific time, or about five hours after the Kickstarter began, it's earned 124 thousand dollars. That's much faster than last year, when the campaign hit the first goal in two weeks. Maybe it'll hit the all-time record of 630 thousand two years ago. It all depends on what else the Rifftrax gang will offer between now and March 24th.

UPDATE:  Mission accomplished after less than five days, a new record.
Last Jedi next?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Oscars 2018: The Fish Guy, Billboards, Lady Bird and Getting Out

Even before the nominations for the Academy Awards came out Tuesday morning, the acting races were already settled thanks to the SAGs and Golden Globes. Aside from that, there should be some interesting competitions when they're given out after the Olympics.

Here's the nomination announcement with Tiffany Haddish and Andy Serkis, who should get nominated someday (especially Andy, who's going to force the academy to invent Best Virtual Character someday):

Some thoughts:

Some might call the result "sexist" because Wonder Woman got nothing, but then see the real wonder woman was Greta Gerwig, getting bids for direction and writing for Lady Bird. It got five nominations, and it's a great day for Thrift Town and Sacramento.
Besides, it guarantees Gal Gadot will be there as a presenter. Some websites thought Wonder Woman would get Adapted Screenplay, and I thought maybe Costume Design would be another possibility. Hopefully, Diana of Themiscyra will get her due during the ceremony.

Meanwhile, the #MeToo campaign made James Franco the real Disaster Artist, robbing him of a Best Picture and Best Actor bid. That may be the reason why Denzel Washington made the final cut even though Roman Israel Esq. wasn't well received.

Phantom Thread, a romance set in the world of design, got in the Best Picture race because of beautiful clothes and Daniel Day Lewis. Darkest Hour is also up for Best Picture due to Gary Oldman (who will win for Best Actor just for being Churchill, and the makeup job, too).

The big battle will be between The Shape of Water, a Cold War romance that would also be a fairy tale for adults, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO, which starts as a woman's bid for justice but becomes something much different. Shape will get Best Director because Guillermo Del Toro is in but Martin McDonagh is not. Both are in Original Screenplay, and either may win. McDonagh may have an edge because of the unpredictability of the story. If there's a chance for an upset, Jordan Peele may do it for Get Out. However, Del Toro being in Best Director race may be enough to get Best Picture.

As I said, the acting races are done. Frances McDormand has Best Actress, Oldman Best Actor, Sam Rockwell for Supporting Actor and Alison Janney for Supporting Actress. Willem Dafoe was considered a favorite for The Florida Project, and he'd have a better chance if the movie was at smaller markets (still not in Reno, for example). It'll be more available on streaming services by early February, though

When I saw The Post this week, I knew Meryl Streep would get in for Best Actress, Seeing her as Washington Post publisher Kay Graham is amazing. She starts out unsure, relying on other men for advice. She only got the paper because her husband killed himself. Slowly, as the paper plans to expose the Pentagon Papers, she realizes she is the boss, and if this is important, she has to do the right thing. If not for McDormand, a fourth award would not have been out of the question.
The movie didn't get much after that, which upset some people. There are two reasons: it's a pretty competitive season, and Spotlight was made in 2015. Even the academy would think two really good journalism movies in five years is too much. This is called a "lame but true" excuse.

It's too bad I, Tonya didn't make the final cut for Best Picture. Otherwise, Margot Robbie would have been the first woman nominated for Best Actress and Best Picture as a producer for the same movie. You know, what happened to Nicole Kidman for Big Little Lies and Tina Fey for 30 Rock at the Emmys recently. Pick up the pace, movies.

Despite Wonder Woman being shut out. it's a good year for comic book movies. Logan, the swan song for Professor Xavier and Wolverine, got in for Adapted Screenplay (which should have happened to Steve Rogers, Wonder Woman, Deadpool, the Avengers and Batman). This is a big moment for comic book movies, and it should happen again. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume II got in for Visual Effects, which was expected. It'll have quite the battle against Last Jedi and War For The Planet of the Apes.

Between now and March 4th, there will be a few awards that may give hints on how will carry out the Oscar. Aside from the BAFTAs on February 18th, one to watch is the Writers' Guild awards held on the eleventh. It should give a hint on whether Peele could make history, or an X-Man could.

For now, let's all get caught up on our Oscar homework.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

It's The Rifftrax League Vs. Batman and Superman

It wasn't too long ago that the Rifftrax trio of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett would riff for hours against bad movies. They did their best against James Cameron extra-long blockbusters like Titanic and Avatar.

However, they're not the marathon riffers they used to be. That's why they recruited a lot of help when they decided to take on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The crew included Mike's wife Bridget, former adversaries Mary Jo Pehl, Trace Beaulieu and Frank Coniff, Sketchfest bigwigs Janey Varney and Cole Stratton, Brit riffers Ian Potter and Matthew J. Elliott, and writers Conor Lawstoka and Sean Thomason.
Or it could be the movie has too much bad for three guys to handle.

Doesn't matter, because this was one of the best riffs in years. It's also a change of pace from battling the latest Star Wars movies.
The plot, of course, is Batman and Superman having some disagreement on how to deal with the bad guys, while Earth seems to be scared of having a Man of Steel around. Add Lex Luthor as the Joker exploiting the situation, and a woman who saves the movie while the guys wonder what just happened, and you have this movie.

Each "team" takes a chunk of the movie and riffs away. Each has its own style, but Conor and Sean are just hilarious in their first movie. Unleashing them on Justice League or any B movie would be a good idea.
Also, Trace and Frank's chunk is almost like their podcast show, only with video. They're the "lucky" guys who see Batman ask Superman why he said he has to save Martha (which turns out to be the dumbest turning point in any comic book movie ever). Frank even wonders why Rifftrax hates him and Trace. Uh, you guys exposed Mike to Coleman Francis, for starters.

Anyway, let's look at the best riffs from each of the teams:
First, the Rifftrax trio's first turn

Young Bruce Wayne runs from a funeral
This must be where he's bitten by a radioactive bat

A woman says Superman caused a major disaster..."So many dead"
Santa Claus. We never should have let him down the chimney

Then Sean and Conor:

Bruce visits his parents' crypt
This is where they keep all the footage from that Nicholas Cage Superman movie

Cole and Janet:

Lex, Clark and Bruce attempt to banter
It's like if the Marx Brothers were awful

Bruce and Diana meet and talk about what he placed at Luthor's party
What's the opposite of chemistry because that's what these two have.

Matt and Ian:

Mrs.Kent to Superman:  People hate what they don't understand
Like the new Twin Peaks

They comment on how Bruce is training with tires
You can get tires delivered through Amazon Prime
I thought Wonder Woman was Amazon Prime

Bridget and Mary Jo:

Clark talks to the ghost of his dad, especially how saving his family farm seriously destroyed another nearby
Clark to Dad: Did the nightmares ever stop?
Robin Hood haunted me for years.

Lex pushes Lois Lane off a tall building. Superman saves her
I was expecting Christopher Reeve

Diana looks through the download she got from Bruce
She's googling Lynda Carter

Trace and Frank:

Batman tries to shoot Superman
Where does he get all those meaningless toys?

Then the Martha scene, where Batman yells "Why did you say that name?"
It begins with bad screen writing

Finally, the RT guys finish it off:

Superman's death scene:
I'm dying but at least I'll never have to meet Aquaman.

There's also riffs on lots of  subjects including Charlie Rose, Golden Corral (again), Steve Mnuchin, Bob's Big Boy, Casablanca, Joss Whedon, Trivago and Steve Bannon.

Actually, having a riffing "relay race" gives all the riffers a chance to shine. Maybe they can do this again when Last Jedi is likely to be released on home video next spring.
The mp3 riff of Batman v Superman is now available at the website

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Last Jedi Isn't For Every Star Wars Fan, But It's Still Very Good

The weekend has passed, and Star Wars:  The Last Jedi has been a massive hit. It's earned 241 million in the states, and half  a billion worldwide.Maybe it'll hit a billion in a month. While many have enjoyed the movie, some hard core fans were surprised or dismayed over certain things like changing what someone with the Force can do.

Well, they're wrong. They have to remember this is a new generation of Rebels, and the ones we knew before are also different because they're getting older.
On top of that, Last Jedi is different because it doesn't need the past as a guide. If we get some surprising twists which later make sense, that's a good thing.
Besides, don't be fooled by the title.

The movie itself is mainly two plots:  the Resistance try to stay literally one step ahead of the Empire, and Rey seeks out Luke Skywalker to be trained in the ways of the Jedi. Finn does wake up, but in a clumsy manner, while Poe Dameron and BB8 take wild risks for the cause. Right off the bat, he goes after one of the dreadnoughts, while a girl is just able to release a lot of bombs before dying. Oscar Isaac is truly the heir apparent to Han Solo

Rey's (Daisy Ridley) storyline was more interesting because of her relationship with Luke, which starts when she returns his lightsaber and his response is unexpected,. It's clear he's not interested in training new Jedi, especially after what happened with Kylo Ren. A return to the Millennium Falcon and a vision from the past, changes his mind. He also sees Rey's  potential inside her, and that worries him because someone else had that strength.
She's also searching for info on who her parents really are, taking her to a cave that gives her a certain point of view.

The biggest surprise is that she actually talks to Ren, even light years away. This is explained, but seeing opposite sides of the Force trying to understand each other is quite a trip although it worried a lot of fans. Also, Ren doesn't have as many "tantrums" but he is trying to establish his power as the heir to Vader. Rey still thinks maybe he can be redeemed, but that is not possible. You need a bad guy for this section of the Star Wars Saga, and it's him. She still wants to try, especially when she learns what really happened the night Ren left Luke. Driver is very good as Ren, whether ruthless or quiet and calm in his efforts to win over Ren.

The efforts by the Resistance to stay alive are still interesting, though. When the Empire's fleet damages one of the ships  and puts Leia out of business for a while, she's replaced by Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). Aside from the fact she looks like she came from The Hunger Games, Holdo seems to be a commander who's not making the right decisions (at least according to Poe). The revelation that she really knew what she was doing was a bit sudden, although telling Poe would have made it easier (another complaint, but she was trying to establish herself). Fisher does a great job in what is her swan song in the franchise. She's all business, even when she's talking to Poe. There is a scene what will shock people, but they'll be even more shocked about what she does about it.

Because Holdo wouldn't admit her real intentions, Ren and Rose decide to find a code breaker who could help them buy time and help the fleet escape the Empire ships. They have to go a planet called Canto Bright that's Evil Vegas, where the upper elite (including some weapons dealers who sell to both sides) gamble and party like crazy. They find a guy named DJ (Benecio Del Toro) and he seems helpful but he's no Lando Calrissian (or is he?).

Then there's the scene where Ren brings Rey to Snoke, and it's a battle over who controls the Force more is very tense, especially what one of them decides to do. Yet there is a moment of a possible alliance that sounds good. Then you remember who these people really are. Andy Serkis should get an award for making mo-cap characters so real, aside from his work in the Planet of the Apes series. He makes Snoke truly menacing, if he spends much of the time sitting on his throne.

There's also a major confrontation towards the end that will excite fans, and then blow them away at the end.

Last Jedi was smart not to be The Empire Strikes Back. No massive revelations, but there were several unexpected twists. It was a great sendoff for Fisher, and a big advance for Poe, Rey and Finn as they take their places are the new Heroes of the Resistance. Don't forget BB8, who was more involved in the battle with Poe that R2D2 ever was. Just remember, the round robot makes a lousy piggy bank but is a good mechanic.
Also, don't forget one more return that is sudden, but this character puts it into perspective.

While we'll have to wait two years for the final chapter (and maybe four months for Rifftrax's "response" which will include a lot of jokes about Holdo and Canto Bright), at least there's the upcoming "Solo" movie next May.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Riffing Housewives Wonder What Is Beyond Christmas

After riffing on Christmas movies with Santa Claus, the Real Housewives of Rifftrax (Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson) decide to take on a fantasy movie about three rich guys who help a young couple during Christmas....even after death.

The movie was made by RKO in 1940, and was more or less a "B" movie with people that movie fans may know. It does include Richard Carlson, aka the murderous jazz pianist from "Tormented".

Anyway, the movie is about three rich guys who toss out wallets with $10 in them, and whoever returns them can have a drink with them for Christmas. They also throw in a maid who apparently was an exiled member of Russian royalty or something.
A guy from Texas named Jimmy who can sing, and a teacher named Jean, pick up the wallets,and it's not long before they become a family.

When the old guys die in a plane crash, their ghosts reunite at their house. Jimmy and Jean learn the guys left them some bonds to secure their future.

Problem is, Jimmy meets a girl named Arlene who assists in Jimmy's singing career. He starts to ignore Jean, and it looks like Arlene will get her hooks on him.

As for the old ghosts, they're not able to find a miser to teach him the importance of Christmas or at least Mankind should be his business. They're called to Heaven, and one of them, Michael, tries to stay on Earth to help Jimmy.

Then we get the ending where Jimmy's shot by Arlene's  ex-husband, and apparently dies at the operating table. He's able to talk to Michael, who convinces his to go back to Jean. After some "divine intervention", Jimmy lives and Michael heads up the Stairway to Heaven.

The movie is really sentimental but they should have moved the scene where Jimmy and Jean get the bonds to the end, as a divine reward. Anyway, Rifftrax got this because the movie was originally colorized for Legend Films, the company's old name, more than a decade ago.

As usual, Bridget and Mary Jo have a relaxed approach to bad movies, as if they were two Midwestern moms amused by what they see. We will see if they have the same attitude towards Batman v. Superman this week.

Riff time:

Jimmy enters the old guys' apartment returning the wallet
Run! It's a fancy cannibal trap.

The ghosts of the rich guys reunite
Thanks for not turning the phone to airport mode, Steve

Something is about to happen, and Michael looks worried
When you realize you look like Porky Pig

Jean begs Jimmy to come back to her
Tom Stewart killed me, emotionally

There are also riffs on Clue, Patrick Swayze, how telegrams were old-fashioned texts, Seinfeld and TV's Frank.

Beyond Christmas is currently available on the Rifftrax website, along with other holiday shorts including new ones on an off-brand version of Frosty the Snowman and holiday traditions around the world.