Thursday, May 21, 2015

Life After Letterman: What Do We Do Now?



First it was Don Draper who left us, but at least he sort of left us the "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" Coke ad.
Now, Dave Letterman has left TV, and he has left us three successors who might not pick up where he left off, but they get close. That doesn't include Stephen Colbert because he hasn't started yet.

What will CBS do now that Letterman has gone? It has the "perfect solution":  reruns of The Mentalist at 11:35, followed by The Late Late Show With James Cordon.
With a combo like that, James will get less viewers than what Conan said he'd have last night at 11:35. I mean, why not "Best of Dave"? Bringing back the notorious Madonna or Joaquin Phoenix interviews, or Drew Barrymore's dance, could outdraw Fallon. That's a better idea than trying to revive "Crimetime After Primetime", which never worked anyway.

So, is Conan O'Brien the new Elder of Late Night? Well, because of seniority, yes. He learned a lot from Letterman since he took the Late Night gig, but he admits it was his decision to appear on Conan that really made the difference:



It's led to some really odd ideas like Puppy Conan, mascots who can't slam dunk but somehow do, Minty, The Flaming C and jeggings. It also led to a fine website, that trip to Cuba, and an upcoming trip to Comic-Con that he thinks will break his show. Conan's style will keep the Letterman tradition going, at least for now. After all, Conan's been at this for more than 20 years. He might be good for another decade or so.

As far as copying the Letterman structure, Jimmy Kimmel is closest to that. He's got a good relationship with his bandleader. He also has a family of co-conspirators, including his real family, that keep the laughs going. Aside from that, he's come up with great bits like Liewitness News, This Week In Unecessary Censorship, and really goofy man-on-the-street bits. He also had that great show honoring his Uncle Frank, the first breakout star of the show, and the time he taped his show with his laptop because of a power outage. This, however, will make Jimmy my choice:





Never forget!

Jimmy Fallon will be the front-runner because he inherited Jay Leno's chair. His bits aren't as edgy as his time at 12:35 (anyone miss Wheel of Carpet Samples?), but his skills as a comic, musician and mimic are impressive. He's actually more talented than Leno and Johnny Carson put together, and those two guys never had a bit that wound up as a cable TV show and another one that became a best seller. Also, he can play off his announcer and his band for laughs, just like Johnny and Conan. I'm watching last night's show, and it looks like he knew how many people would tune in against Letterman's last show. He did have a tribute during the May 18th show:



Stephen Colbert, your move.
It'll be tough switching from a Bill O'Reilly wanna-be to being the new host of The Late Show. Fox news is already predicting his failure, but it doesn't like his act. In any case, he'll have all summer to get his plan underway. I'd suggest interrupting Mentalist reruns, saying, "Network reruns at 11:30 is so '90s. This fall, I'm the next big thing."
If James Corden is really lucky, he'll still have his show, especially if he interrupts Fallon or Kimmel, saying, "Hey, I didn't leave CBS. My show's still on at 12:35. Please tune in to my show. Really, I need the viewers!"






Thursday, May 7, 2015

Rifftrax Starts The Crappening With The Best Live Show Ever



This is going to be a great year in responding to lousy films...and, despite what some people say, that should not include Avengers: Age of Ultron.

It means this year's Rifftrax Live season, which started Thursday night at Nashville with the classically bad romantic-ish sort-of drama, The Room.



The movie had a special showing a few weeks ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, and saying that it was a highlight of the festival is putting it mildly. It was a smash hit, and it makes you hope one day they can do this at Cannes.

The story, of course, is about Johnny (writer and director Tommy Wiseau) , a "banker" with a mysterious accent (like, is it Croatian, Frenchistan or what?) in love with Lisa (Juliette Danielle). They plan to marry, but she admits she's falling for Mark (Greg Sestero), Johnny's best friend. She's told by her mom she should stick to Johnny, but Lisa doesn't care, not even the fact mom has breast cancer (I think). There's also Denny (Philip Haldiman), a creepy kid who Johnny adopted or something, He hangs around the place a bit too much, and also gets involved in drugs.
The story is just strange. At one point you see Johnny, Denny, Mark and some guy named Mike play football in tuxedos. There's also a bit too much of an effort in reminding us this takes place in San Francisco, even in the middle of a couple of scenes.
It almost makes you feel that you owe Ed Wood, Hal Warren and Coleman Francis an apology. At least their movies had a plot that could be recognized (and that could include Skydivers).

The movie also marks a first for Rifftrax. After using Gorilla Grams to hide Dina Meyer's breasts in Starship Troopers, the Grams stayed home while we saw Lisa's breasts. However, we were distracted by how really uncomfortable the "sex" scenes were, with soundtrack by (according to Mike) Boys II Repulsive Men.
Johnny was also described as "Weird Al as Rambo in UHF", although "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer's Brother In Law" would be more accurate. He also seemed to have a new body part called the "Hip Dick".
When Lisa has her sex scene with Mark on a staircase, Bill Corbett points out that since the movie was made, "70% of homes with spiral staircases have been demolished:"
Then there's the scene where Johnny says, "You're tearing me apart, Lisa", showing Tommy Wiseau for what he is: the Bulgarian zombie version of James Dean.
The best riff came from Kevin Murphy:  "After appearing in The Room, the Golden Gate Bridge jumped off itself."

Then again, here's a couple more:

Lisa complaining how "that bitch is about to control my life"
Mike:  but enough about Martha Stewart

Mark and Johnny head to a coffee shop, and have a very odd order
Bill:  Hot chocolate and a mint tea? You guys headed to Lilith Fair?

It was also pointed out by Mike Nelson that this year is the 100th anniversary of Orson Wells' birth, There is a scene in the movie where Johnny tears Lisa's room apart, just as Kane rips Susan's room apart after she leaves him in Citizen Kane. (Bill: Tommy's trashing the room, much like the critics.) The only thing they have in common is that it ends in a mess. In the case of The Room, it's a mess from start to finish.

In fact, here's some scenes with the original Rifftrax comments. A new riff from the show is coming soon.



There's also riffs on Full House, President Obama, Ryan Leaf, Herbalife (which used to be a riff staple in the MST3K days), Tom Cruise and Robert Durst.

Before the movie, Rifftrax took on the final "At Your Fingertips" short, showing how kids can make lousy boats using styrofoam or old milk cartons. It wrapped up all the lingering plot lines of the previous films, especially the debate of whether corn is grass (for the record, it is).

The most surprising part of the show is what was shown after the credits:



This is from tommywiseau.com, and you can even get the script from the movie with free underwear as a bonus. This is also connected to his sitcom on Hulu Plus, The Neighbors, where he plays more than one role.
However, it won't be as popular as this item. Some backers from Kickstarter got this t-shirt for supporting Rifftrax's season. I just got mine:


The next new show is July 9th, when the gang will take on Sharknado 2. It's basically what happened in the first movie but it's in New York, and baseball bats are used.

UPDATE:  Rifftrax's website has announced Mike, Bill and Kevin will be featured on @midnight, Chris Hardwick's late night show on June 9th. It's the first time Mike and Kevin has been on Comedy Central since MST3K left the channel in 1996, and Bill's first visit.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Freaks and Geeks In Other Space

After Netflix made a big splash with its Daredevil series last weekend, Yahoo Screen just presented an eight-part sci-fi comedy called Other Space. It's a great sitcom about a crew that's way over its head dealing with traveling in an alternate universe.

Some people may see hints of Quark and Red Dwarf in this, but it's in its own universe built by Paul Feig, who brought us Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids and soon Spy. It also includes two MST3K alumni, Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu, who also worked with Feig.

The story involves a UMP ship in 2105, staffed by people who have even less experience than the red shirts on Star Trek. Stewart Lipinski (Karan Soni) is chosen as captain, but his sister Karen (Bess Rous) is second in command, and not happy about it. He chooses his ex-babysitter Mike Newman (Eugene Cordero) as 3rd in command and his crush Tina (Milana Vaytrub) as navigator. His science officer Kent Woolworth (Neil Casey) seems to play the Spock role, and has a couple of secrets.

Joel plays Zalian Fletcher, a burned out engineer who used to be a legend in the UMP. He's joined by Art, voiced by Beaulieu in the same way he talked like Dr. Forrester on MST3K. The ship's computer is Natasha, played by Conor Leslie. The computer was actually built for blackjack, and dresses like she's still working at a casino. It's a bit of a callback to Holly, the computer on Red Dwarf.

The first episode introduces everyone, and it's confusing after the ship gets sucked into the alternate universe. The second episode is better, when they deal with an invader. It develops into a spoof of The Thing, which the crew wondering who is the alien. Thing is, there is an alien, but that person isn't the threat. How it's resolved is pretty clever. It also includes a video hosted by Rifftrax fave Janet Varney.
I liked Soni as Stewart because he is trying to deal with a tough situation, made even tougher because his sister is there. Casey is also a hoot as Kent, a guy who isn't what he seems, but his story makes you feel for him. It's also great how Joel portrays Zalian as what Joel Robinson would have become if he spent too many years at Gizmonic.
UPDATE:  saw the rest of the season, and it has really good comments on whether rules on harassment still apply in a different universe. It also shows some interesting pairings, including Tina and Mike, and reveals how the ship was originally used.

All eight episodes are available at Yahoo Screen

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter at Rifftrax: Santa Without Any Bunnies




While people were waiting for the Easter Bunny this past weekend, a lot of people decided to have Christmas early with Santa Claus,

Rifftrax released the live version of Santa Claus last Friday, which was surprisingly early since it was just four months after it aired. This could wind up being the definitive riff of this odd holiday classic, which shows Santa battling a devil to just to make sure a poor little girl gets a doll.

I have already reviewed the live version, and it looks like the sound mixing emphasized the movie over the laughter from the audience in Nashville, TN. The quality of the movie print was excellent, though, with the original Spanish credits. This is the complete version, with Merlin taking way too much time helping Santa get ready, and the shirtless Keymaker (a little something for the ladies).

Before that, there was a non-Christmas short called "Sugar and Spice", where kids learn to make things out of sugar..then eat them.

My previous review compared riffs at certain parts of the movie, but this time we'll just add a couple more to look for.

Santa's parade of nations starts with Africa, which of course is a stereotype. For this, we should compare the original with the new riff
MST;  Ted Danson's Comedy School
Rifftrax:  A Governor George Wallace Christmas


Pitch recruits three mean boys....
Bill Corbett:  You want us to smuggle drugs up our where?

We see Lupita enjoying a puppet show
Mike Nelson:  Lupita grew up to be every single member of Menudo

Lupita's dream where she's surrounded by evil Raggedy Anitas:
Kevin Murphy:  This is the dancing equivalent to the last sketch on Saturday Night Live

When Santa's about to take off, Bill thinks he sees something:
Is that a disassembled Bender?

There's also riffs on Reservior Dogs, Krampus, Toy Story, Nyquil, and Amy Winehouse.

If you must think Santa should be part of Easter with a bunny, then get Night of the Lepus, Consider it the worst case scenario of Here Comes Peter Cottontail. I have a review of that as well.

Now that Rifftrax has wrapped up 2014, and presented all the mp3 riffs and VOD events, it's now getting ready for "The Crappening", also knows as the movies it will show in theaters. The first one will be "The Room" on May sixth. Tickets are still available through Fathom Events,


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Rifftrax Shines A Light On A Hideous Sun Demon




When Incognito Cinema Warriors XP released its first DVD thanks to a prehistoric method called MySpace, it included the trailer for its next possible target, er, feature called The Hideous Sun Demon, about a guy mutated by radiation. When he steps out into sunlight, he turns into the Creature From The Black Lagoon's brother-in-law. It's supposed to suggest the radiation made him evolve in reverse, although that was illustrated better by Devo and Idiocracy.

Sadly, ICWXP never got the chance, but Rifftrax did. It's interesting this movie was produced and directed by budding movie mogul Robert Clarke after he saw another B-movie.  He's also the star as Gil, the scientist who was exposed to radiation because the toy train transporting the material broke down. Yes, really.

It's described as a variation of the Wolfman story, but it's mostly about a guy who loves booze, picks up a really sexy piano player with a mobster boyfriend, and goes nuts even if he's not a demon. His scientist friends are of no help, claiming they can help him until they can't.
What's also notable is the sound mixing where we can't tell what the actors are saying, and the fake night scenes that clearly show the sun. The soundtrack was also recycled by Night of the Living Dead.
In fact, the whole movie was recycled when it was redubbed and edited in 1983, with Clarke's co-operation. Here's proof:



It makes you wonder what's better, riffing or redubbing.

Here's some images:


The "before" and "after" photos of Gil



Gil with Trudy (Nan Peterson), the pianist and prototype for Kate Upton 


Trudy realizing who she slept with last night


Gil getting so desperate, he hides in a shack where a little girl has her tea parties with one doll

Now some of the riffs:

Two doctors and a lab assistant discuss how Gil didn't seem to be harmed after being exposed to radioactive material for six minutes
Kevin Murphy:  I'm guessing, any minute now, boom, extra eye.

Dr. Buckell implies Gil was nursing a hangover because he mixed "whiskey and science"
Mike Nelson:  Oh, come on. Winston Churchill won World War II with a hangover.

Gil turns into the demon for the first time
"Oh, no, it can't be"
Mike:  I've turned into Mickey Rourke.

Trudy sings while "playing" the piano
Bill Corbett:  It looks like she's playing but she's actually kneading bread down there.

Gil turns into the demon after he wakes up from his "dry shameful '50s sex" with Trudy
Bill:  He's late for being Bossk in The Empire Strikes Back

When the police arrive, Gil tries to drive away, and runs over a cop, 
Kevin: I was only 523 months from retirement.

For some reason, Gil's pants are wet when he transforms for the last time
Kevin: Sun so bright, trousers so damp.

Aside from the clip, there's also riffs on YouTube, Broadchurch, Top Gear, James Brown, Ren and Stimpy, Tommy Wiseau, The Fifth Dimension and (again) Nick Nolte.

You can order Hideous Sun Demon, and other Rifftrax movies at rifftrax.com