Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rifftrax Celebrates the Holidays

Let's be honest. The holidays do not start on the week of Thanksgiving. They start next Friday with Halloween. I've believed this ever since I saw the Grove Shopping Center in L-A finish building Santa's House the day before Halloween. Imagine trick or treaters trying to visit that house.

Now there's a new reason:  Rifftrax will be very busy with some new events, including revisiting another holiday movie.
It also starts next Thursday with its presentation of Anaconda with Jon Voight, Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube and Owen Wilson. That event was made possible by its Kickstarter campaign a few months ago after getting funding for riffing the Jurassic Park-Sleepless in Seattle mashup that was the 1998 version of Godzilla. The riff for that, by the way, should be coming next month.
Anyway, the attack, I mean showing, of Anaconda will be presented in several theaters nationwide thanks to Fathom Events. Since the movie is 90 minutes, the show will include a preview of the return of Total Riff-Off, where the gang take on a typical show from the National Geographic channel. It was very popular when it was done on April Fool's Day, and it'll be interesting to see what they'll do when they have two more specials in December. Expect the host of Man vs. Monster being a likely target.

Then in November, it'll observe Thanksgiving with its take on Fun in Balloonland. As I said elsewhere online, it makes "A Visit to Santa" look like The Empire Strikes Back. It starts with a mom reading a bedtime story, which puts her to sleep. Then the kid dreams he's in a world filled with balloon people. Here's a look:

It's basically the worst movie about the Macy's parade, or any other holiday parade.  A guy called the Cinema Snob has his take on this, If Mike can top that review, he is truly the God of Riffing

The big news from its Facebook Q and A event is that the Christmas show on December 4th will feature the 1959 Mexican holiday classic, Santa Claus. That's right, little Lupita, Pitch, and the kid who's left alone on Christmas Eve while his parents go out and drink will all be there. Of course, MST3K fans know the movie when it first aired in 1993. It was later part of the Volume XVI DVD set. What's different is that the gang will likely riff on the whole movie, as they did with Manos, Hands of Fate. When Santa Claus was first riffed, they cut some scenes out, including this one where Lupita dreams about having a doll. Since Pitch set off the dream, it includes evil dancing that wasn't part of the MST version. See if you can riff on this:

Actually, if you use the Canadian Thanksgiving rule, you'd be justified to start seeing holiday specials after November first, including what Rifftrax has to offer.

You can learn more about next week's showing of Anaconda, Total Riff-Off, Santa Claus and more at Rifftrax's updated website. Enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Texas Robocop Knockoff Massacre: Rifftrax vs. R.O.T.O.R (Plus Holiday Offerings)

It's the usual thing:  someone makes a successful movie, and a hundred guys try to make their own version. Sadly, this includes some guy named Cullen Blaine.

Shortly after Robocop reached theaters, Blaine made his own Texas BBQ-ed version called ROTOR. It's like Robocop made with a budget of 24 bucks. Rifftrax recently had its take on the movie, and described it as The Room meets Cybercop 2. It's about a computer expert named Coldyron (which is Texas for Rowsdower) who invented a cop of the future called Robotic Officer of the Tactical Operations Research...or Reserve.
Naturally, the robot goes nuts and kills people. He also clobbers guys who are completely delusional about how macho they are.
The movie also includes a janitor named Shoeboogie who claims he's Native American but looks more like Bruno Mars, and a sarcastic robot who's more interesting than most of the human cast. Here's a short trailer, thanks to Rifftrax:

What's really strange is how the story is told. A couple heads for a weekend trip to the lake, and see an explosion, followed by a dead woman on the road (Kevin Murphy:  "My poor brave wife. She died trying to save our meth lab."). Then we see Coldyron about to be arrested, then "officially unofficially" interrogated by a couple of cops. (Bill Corbett:  "His acting coach was Al Gore"). Then we get a long flashback that begins with him sharing a massive cup of coffee with his horse. As soon as he gets to the Dallas PD, seeing Shoboogie dancing with Willard the Robot, he gets a call from the police chief telling him to get ROTOR ready or else in 60 days. Coldyron decides to quit, because he thinks it'll take years to get ROTOR on duty. The project is given to some guy named Houndling, who thinks he can get ROTOR going. As he tells Willard, "what do you think this is, some low-budget sci-fi flick?" Of course, that's too much of a trick question to get a response.

It takes a really stupid accident involving Shoeboogie's headphones to awaken ROTOR, who wastes no time following his prime directive, "to judge and execute." It's also considered the state motto of Texas. It wastes no time pulling over a bickering couple who broke the speed limit. It shoots the driver while his girlfriend...who may look familiar to those who paid attention...tries to get away. She has two things against her:  the Dallas police doesn't care, and ROTOR can see 30 seconds into the past to find the girl. He's also described by Kevin as "John Hodgman with a leather fetish". Its only weakness is a loud car horn, but that only slows him down a little.

Coldyron decides to ask for help from a fellow computer scientist in Houston...who's he never met...and looks like Luna Vachon but slightly more attractive. Her hair color is less to be desired, though. They talk about how they made a robot that was made for the lawless future, not 1987, and that they have to stop him.

What's really absurd about this movie is how it tries to set up a sequel. To say that it's done very clumsily would be an understatement. Not only that, the credits reveal that Coldyron's voice was dubbed, and that one of the songs from the soundtrack was done by "Larry's Dad". It's no wonder why this has become a Rifftrax essential in lousy film making.
Prepare for riffs on Alan Jackson, Madonna, Dinosaurus, Texas in general, the iPhone 7, Larry the Cable Guy, Coronet films, Denny Terrio, and Small Wonder.

You can click here to get ROTOR, and here to see a "summary" of the movie on YouTube provided by a Rifftrax fan.

Also, Rifftrax decided to riff on part of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Here's what they did:

There's a tweet on the Rifftrax page that suggests they may do more Peanuts specials, but we'll see about that. It would be something if they did the early ones, like A Charlie Borwn Christmas or He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown.

Finally, Rifftrax announced it will do a Thanksgiving film that makes "A Visit To Santa" look like "The Empire Strikes Back". It's called Fun in Balloonland, and it's the worst Macy's Parade film ever.

It's so awful it would make a great feature for the Rifftrax Christmas show. However, it will be available on the website in a few weeks.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Movies A Sure Thing In Reno Casino

I've been in Nevada for four months, and the first thing that stunned me about the state was seeing several slot machines at a Safeway. This was before I found more slots at another supermarket and assorted gas stations.

This is more unusual: a movie theater at a casino. This is at the Grand Sierra Resort Casino in Reno, which is the most impressive facility around. Aside from a flashy new night club and a big theater, it also has a very big bowling alley.

However, I came this past weekend for the movie theater just to see how it compares to other multiplexes. It's basic in its offerings of popcorn, soda and candy, The seats also recline, more than the usual multiplex. At four dollars for second-run movies, you can't go wrong. It has fewer showings and a smaller staff, but it's still a good bargain, It'll also help you forget dropping 50 bucks on a penny slot machine.

I waited until now to try it out because it finally had a movie I wanted to see: Lucy with Scarlett Johannsen. It's about a girl who's forced to deliver a strange drug in her body. Something goes wrong, and the drug expands her mind in a lot of ways. It was all right, but I liked her other sci-fi movie Under the Skin a lot more (and no, it's not because it showed a lot of her skin). Luc Besson is good at directing action movies, but his version of a sci-fi movie was a bit too strange at the end. I'll just say it would be a good idea to see Lucy followed by Her.

The posters inside the theaters plugged movies that the casino hopes to show three months after everyone else, including The Interview, Annie and Mockingjay. I expect while they're shown, the theater will show The Maze Runner, The November Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy two weeks before its DVD is released. It reminded me of a UA Theater at Sunrise Mall near Sacramento that showed second-run features for three bucks. I never went there, but I should have.

For the most part, I'll stick with the regular theaters, mainly the Galaxy Theaters in Sparks. I might go back to the GSR again if there's another movie I never got around to seeing.

Friday, September 26, 2014

SNL Vintage: What Bottles Should NBC Open?

This week, Saturday Night Live will be 40 years old. Not too many shows reach middle age. In TV years, the show is 4000 years old, and Sunday shows like Meet the Press are practically skeletons.

NBC will be showing one-hour versions of old episodes of Saturday Night Live in honor of this major milestone. The opening episode was Richard Pryor hosting from 1975. People prayed the classic "Word Association" sketch will be shown uncut, "N" word included--and it did. It also had the Samurai Hotel bit with John Belushi, a spoof of The Exorcist that was better than the real sequel, and Gil Scott Heron singing "Johannesburg". It's actually sharper than what you get outside of HBO these days.

Next week, the show turns to 2000, with the "More Cowbell" sketch with Will Farrell and Christopher Walken. There's also some fine early Christina Aguilera, too.

After that, what's next? Taking a look at the SNL Archives website, I wrote down several episodes they should air, or will likely air. It's almost certain the show will salute 2001 with the season opener, which aired a few days after 9/11. It featured Paul Simon and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It also had Reese Witherspoon in a classic spoof of "The Little Mermaid" that sort of had a sequel ten years later,

So, here are some suggestions. Please remember this is from a typical SNL fan, namely someone who stopped watching at least twice in the 40 year run. Diehard fans may have a more informed list:

1976:  Candace Bergen's second Christmas episode, featuring the first sketch that completely collapsed when she forgot Gilda Radner's character's name--and Radner was supposed to be the dumb one.

1977:  The "Anyone Can Host" contest winner that included Elvis Costello deciding not to play "Less Than Zero", and singing "Radio, Radio" instead. He wasn't welcome back until 1989, and that decision was spoofed in the 25th anniversary show. (Alternate choice: Ray Charles)

1978:  Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's first appearance as The Blues Brothers. Also, Steve Martin as a medieval barber.

1979: Kate Jackson hosting and seeming to sabotage SNL for then ABC chief (and former NBC chief) Fred Silverman

1980:  Final episode of original cast with Buck Henry

1981:  Bill Murray helping out in this most lost of seasons

1982:  Eddie Murphy hosting when Nick Nolte couldn't make it

1983:  John Candy or Jerry Lewis

1984:  Robin Williams' first time as host. (Alternate choice: Billy Crystal hosting before he joined the cast)

1985:  Mr. T and Hulk Hogan hosting to generate publicity for Wrestlemania. They never had a chance against Crystal as Fernando. 

1986:  Jay Leno in the season when Robert Downey Jr and Joan Cusack were in the cast, but a better choice would be Sam Kinison, NBC will likely choose Leno or even Sigourney Weaver

1987:  Not sure, but Dennis Hopper with Roy Orbison is a good choice,

1988:  Tom Hanks, thanks to the Girl Watchers sketch with Jon Lovitz and Mr. Short-Term Memory

1989:  John Goodman with Toonces and Wayne's World almost showing Madonna's "Erotica" video (compare that to what Nikki Minaj does now)

1990:  Alec Baldwin in an early turn as host, or Andrew Dice Clay

1991:  Michael Jordan with Public Enemy, or Roseanne spoofing "Misery"

1992:  Roseanne again with Tom Arnold, and the famous "Coffee Talk" sketch that includes Madonna talking about Barbra Streisand...and guess who shows up in the final 30 seconds

1993:  Christina Applegate doing a killer impression of Cher, but it's also the episode that introduced us to Matt Foley. Watch it in a van down by the river.

1994:  Dana Carvey, including an appearance by George Bush 41. It includes a sketch on the OJ Simpson Trial

1995:  Again not sure, but George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino are good choices

1996:  Jim Carrey will host October 25th, so why have his first time hosting so we can see "Jimmy Tango's Fat Busters"

1997:  Chris Farley or Jon Lovitz hosting are good choices, but seeing Claire Danes as a bitter Tinkerbell would be a wise choice

1998:  Cameron Diaz spoofing the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky controversy is an easy choice. It's a staple on VH-1 Classic

1999:  Another staple:  Gwyneth Paltrow pretending to be English until Ben Affleck calls her out on it. Yeah, he used to date her, too.

2002:  John McCain would be a good choice. He was quite funny until he decided to be a go-to guest on the Sunday shows

2003:  Justin Timberlake's first time as host, proving to be the best cast member SNL never had

2004:  Lindsay Lohan's first hosting gig, and debut of Debbie Downer. Or, Jude Law in the notorious Ashlee Simpson lip-synch controversy. He also does a great impression of Tony Blair.

2005:  Diaz again, with the Barry Gibb Talk Show including Timberlake. Or, Tom Brady in an unusual sexual harassment film

2006:  Alec Baldwin with Chrstina Aguilera, and Tony Bennett in a sketch with Baldwin spoofing him. Throw in a duet with him and Aguilera, and you have a classic

2007:  Peyton Manning showing he can host better than his brother

2008:  Tina Fey hosts for first time just after end of writer's strike

2009:  Tracy Morgan would be a good choice, but so would Neil Patrick Harris or Taylor Swift

2010:  Betty White, period. They should also show Jon Hamm's first hosting gig, too

2011: Obvious choice is Timberlake and Lady Gaga, but Jesse Eisenberg is my choice because he had better sketches--and Minaj as the Bride of Frankenstein.

2012: Actually, really tough: Mick Jagger would be a great choice, but Emma Stone and Zooey Deschanel also had strong showings. I'd choose Jagger because he did surprising well, It's also the farewell for Kristen Wiig

2013:  Melissa McCarthy in another classic rookie performance.

Yahoo Screen is the online source for old SNL sketches, but Hulu is missing seasons six to 29. What is surprising that no cable channel wants to be the home for all SNL episodes. Comedy Central used to serve that role, and so did E! despite terrible promotion. VH-1 Classic has episodes from 1999 on, but it should consider a marathon of many more episodes.
Also, remember when NBC used to air old episodes at 2 AM, even the less-censored Andrew Dice Clay episode? I got very good old episodes before I got the DVDs from the first five years. Wouldn't anyone like to have TV Land or Comedy Central show the complete history of SNL?

Well, at least NBC will show us a part of the show's history. It would be better if we saw more of it. If nothing else, we'd be surprised when we're reminded that Sid Caesar and Milton Berle actually hosted.

SNL Vintage airs at 10 PM Saturdays starting this Saturday on NBC. Season 40 of SNL airs at 11:30 with Chris Pratt and Ariana Grande.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Jerk-rassic Park: Review of Rifftrax vs. Dinosaurus

It's been a while since I bought a Rifftrax movie, but thanks to a Labor Day discount, and seeing a caveman in a dress in the above trailer, I just couldn't resist.

Dinosaurus, made in 1960, is about a construction crew on an island discovering two frozen dinosaurs in the bottom of the ocean. Since they're blocking the crew's efforts to deepen the harbor, they're taken to shore. Naturally, this turns out to be a wise decision for three seconds. Rain and lightning wake them up, along with a caveman for some reason. The cast also includes a strong-jawed guy named Bart, a typical love interest named Betty, an annoying kid who's described as someone who came from a Gamera movie, and an "island manager" named Hacker who looks like Torgo after he got cleaned up, acquired a French-ish accent, and turned into a douchebag. There's also comedy relief named Dumpy, and an Irish guy who's too much of a stereotype.

Steve McQueen was supposed to be Bart in this movie, but he was never asked. Good thing, or he'd never be in The Magnificent Seven.

The movie also relies on the kid's knowledge of dinosaurs based on cereal box tops, and the island manager's greed. Viewers may suspect the movie's ripping off Eegah, after the caveman carries off Betty and takes her to a mine. However, Eegah was made two years after this movie, and the guy who played the caveman was a slightly better comedian. Just note his difficulties with the 20th Century, and that he gets to be fast friends with the annoying kid.

The writers decide on a final showdown between Bart and the T-Rex by knocking off the villain, a dinosaur and the caveman in less than a minute. While Bart doesn't try to kill the dinosaur with a forklift, what he does use is even more lame. What's more, the movie suggests a sequel. As if. (However, if Dinosaurus 2 reveals the caveman was OK...)

The trailer has the best lines, but here's a few more:

One of the natives mentions how the construction workers will deepen the harbor and lead to "much happiness"

Kevin Murphy:  It's like a live action Speedy Gonzales cartoon, without Speedy.

Julio, the annoying kid, mentions how of the dinosaurs found is cold

Mike Nelson:  and some frozen dork named Captain America is stuck to him (is this because Chris Evans was also the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies, Mike?)

Julio threatens to run away after Hacker yells at him

Bill Corbett:  I'm moving in with Zindy the Swamp Boy

The caveman tries to interrupt O'Leary's drinking by breaking down his door

Mike: Take this copy of Watchtower, or I'll kill you.

The final showdown between man and dinosaurus

Mike:  It's Barney

There's also riffs the Brady Bunch, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marx Brothers, Tim Allen, Shelley Duvall, Paul Simon, Pirates World and Mike Mulligan. They even thrown in a couple of obscure references to Encino Man,  Hackers and an animated dinosaur movie that included Jay Leno.

This also marks the first time the movie includes Rifftrax's new animated opening that was introduced during the Godzilla showing less than three weeks ago. It'll be added to all future selections.

Learn more at Rifftrax's website, and get the movie here.