Saturday, July 4, 2015

Rifftrax's New Dynamic Duo

Rifftrax is more than just three guys who used to mock bad movies on cable TV.
It's also two women who also appeared on that bad movie show.

Mary Jo Pehl, best known as Pearl on MST3K,  recently returned from her time on Cinematic Titanic to riff cheesy short films for Rifftrax with her new partner Bridget Jones, aka Nuveena and Lisa Leob on the show and also Mrs. Rifftrax (namely Mike Nelson's wife). They have worked before as Minnesota Amazons in "Hercules", and Pearl squaring off with a Roman empress in "Horror of Party Beach."

They've tackled two short subjects that look at America's obsession with the suburbs and consumerism. "Life In the Suburbs" was a 19 minute commercial for Redbook, which appealed to "young adults" starting a family and buying stuff. It looks really weird, with kids wandering through a dinner party, and making the suburbs look like a colorful paradise, or, as Bridget says, "where it's prom every day". It also includes articles to help young adults, like teaching kids how to lose (Mary Jo suspects the Vikings wrote that). Here's a clip:

They seem to be confused yet amused at what the film is trying to explain, but it's a nice time capsule of what family life used to be.

The other short, "A Word To The Wives", is much better. Its message is clear: con your husband into getting a new home, or at least a new kitchen, with the help of a glamorous yet devious neighbor. It's made by the Women's Home Companion, which Mary Jo hopes is George Clooney (that's a callback to one of the movie specials MST3K used to do for SyFy).

As you can see, the hubby and the terrible kitchen cabinets are making the devious neighbor's case, along with his habit of slowly bringing his garbage bag to the curb before the bag collapses. It's not long before Mary Jo and Bridget get annoyed by the overly glamorous housewife and her dream kitchen, The short was also riffed by Josh Way, and his style is a bit more dark with snide comments about Cameron Diaz and Rob Schneider.

Yes, the hubby is Darrin McGavin (not the "Wife Stalker", as Bridget claims), and he has a temper tantrum that would be recreated in A Christmas Story more than 30 years later. Miss Sneaky Housewife is played by Marsha Hunt, who was among many actors who were blacklisted in the '50s due to Communist paranoia. The short is directed by Norman Lloyd, familiar to fans of St. Elsewhere and Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur...among many other things. In fact, if you're planning to see Trainwreck this month, you may spot him near Amy Schumer.

So far, Mary Jo and Bridget are meshing pretty well in their riffing of shorts looking the corporate version of 1950's America. If they have a flaw, it's that they keep riffing well after the film ends, That can be fixed, of course. maybe they can tackle a full-length feature eventually, like a really cheesy rom-com. Imagine them tackling one of those all-star romances Garry Marshall makes every year or so, or anything on the Hallmark Channel.

Anyway, you can get "A Word To The Wives" and "Life in the Suburbs" at rifftrax,com/

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Review: Pixar Shows A Typical Girl Inside Out

It's been three years since Pixar scored a big hit with Brave, then allowed Walt Disney Animation take the lead with Wreck-it Ralph and Frozen.

Now, the innovative studio has returned in a big way with a journey into the most complicated destination of eleven year old girl.

While it may be a bit much for Variety to say the movie is Pixar's best idea yet, it's a unique look at how a girl named Riley deals with a big move from Minnesota to San Francisco, from trying to find new friends at school to hoping to join a junior hockey league.
Her journey is seen through five specific emotions:  Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Fear (Bill Hader). Joy is the positive and pushy one, thinking that it's important to keep Riley happy all the time. She is upset when Sadness touches some of the memories, making them  unhappy. Anger, of course, has a temper that makes Riley act out when she learns her old friend in Minnesota don't exactly miss her.

When an accident sends Joy and Sadness into the inner mind, that means trouble, when Anger, Disgust and Fear are unable to help Riley deal with the big move. It leads to a decision that may cause even bigger problems.

What's great about the "inner mind" of Riley is that parts of her self are shown as islands, devoted to her love for family, hockey, and being goofy. Once she gives up those parts of her self, they collapse and fall into "memory dump", where they are forgotten.
Joy and Sadness also gets some help from Riley's former imaginary friend named Bing Bong, who tries to get them on the "Train of Thought" back to headquarters. One of the more unusual scenes is where they enter a section devoted to abstract thought. Seeing Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong turn into Picasso figures is really strange. There's also a bit involving two guards that guard the subconscious, and have a tough time figuring whose hat is whose.

The movie is also smart enough to see what's inside the heads of mom and dad, voiced respectively by Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan. The figures that represent their emotions look quite familiar.

Poehler has the toughest job in the movie because she has to portray Joy as always positive, but also add some doubt when Joy realizes it's not possible to keep Riley happy all the time.

The movie should do well, although it may not earn as much as Jurassic World in its second week. At least one article is predicting Inside Out will win next year's Best Animated Film at the Academy Awards. That could come to pass because it's so unique, but let's hear from the Minions from Despicable Me, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang, and a Good Dinosaur before we make a final decision.

By the way, I also saw Mad Max:  Fury Road because I was in no mood to see the one dinosaur that shouldn't be in Jurassic World: Claire the cold corporate girl who learns maternal feelings and throws away her heels thanks to Star Lord. If Bryce Dallas  Howard was in any other role in that movie, like maybe someone interested in sending raptors to war and soon figuring out it wouldn't work, it would have been a lot better.
As far as I'm concerned, there's one person tougher than the Indominus Rex..and that's her:

Also, for those upset that Furiosa was talking back at Max, just remember he hasn't recovered from his last two movies. It takes him a while to show Furiosa where the "green place" she seeks really exists.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Rifftrax Unleashes A Rock and Roll Nightmare

Remember Jon-Mikl Thor, the guy who starred in Zombie Nightmare as the zombie who was a nightmare for the rotten teens who killed him in a hit and run? It was one of MST3K's most popular episodes, especially since it included Adam West as a cop with a secret.

Well, the rocker/award-winning bodybuilder/actor made a movie before that called Rock and Roll Nightmare, which Rifftrax described as what would happen if "Motley Crue guest hosted The Muppet Show" except you'd get fake versions of both in a cheesy battle between good and evil.
The movie's original title is "The Edge of Hell", which is clearly where the script the written.

The movie starts with a demon killing a mom and dad getting ready for breakfast. A young boy is upset by this, because who's going to get his cereal?

Many years later, a band called the Tritonz, led by a Vince Neil knock-off named Jon (Mr. Thor as producer, writer and star), goes to the same house where the deaths took place. They bring along their girlfriends, although one guy just got married.

They hope to get ready for their tour and make ten minutes of new material. Safe to say the new music they do make isn't going to concern Metallica anytime soon.
For example, this is what the Rifftrax gang think about "Energy":

Kevin looking at the girlfriends "dance":  Dueling Jersey Wife Hair
Mike:  Any resemblence to "Rock Me Like A Hurricane" is purely coincidental
Bill:  Good job, guys. Even Winger wants to kick your ass now. 

The demons are still around, and they plan to knock off the band, probably because they don't like the music but mainly because they're evil. They start with the manager, Paul, when one of them impersonates Lou Anne, the girlfriend of Stig:

Paul takes the bait, and maybe he shouldn't have...

Dee Dee, the keyboardist, and her goofy boyfriend Max spot a little boy who looked like the one in the start of the movie. When he turns into what some call a "were-sharpei"..

Dee Dee and Max are kind of upset...

There's also little demons who look like either male genitalia or those Despicable Me Minions without skin..

Eventually, Jon's girlfriend, Randy, confronts him as if she's some major demon..saying the band is dead, and he can't escape.
Jon isn't worried, because in reality...he's the INTERCESSOR, an Archangel ready to kick demonic butt!

Really, Jon looks like Heather Locklear with too much HGH.
And the band was never really there, which means the sex scenes in this movie, especially the one in the shower, are more disturbing than you think.
Come to think of it, wouldn't it have been better if Jon was the kid whose parents were killed by the demon? Maybe that idea led to Zombie Nightmare.
Believe it or not, Rock and Roll Nightmare had a sequel ten years ago. According to this site, it is as horrible as it sounds. Maybe Rifftrax wants to take this on, too?

Some of the riffs:

Jon-Mikl Thor is in the credits
Kevin:  I'm more of a John-Mikl Captain America Fan

Phil kisses a demom, thinking it's Lou Anne
Bill: Pazuzu's daughter is hot

Then there's this photo of Jon:

If that ain't irony, what is?

There's also riffs on Ken Burns, Mad Men, Elaine Stritch, Judith Light, hip dicks and Poison.

By the way, Turner Classic Movies showed Miami Connection, which will be Rifftrax's featured target, er, movie in October. If nothing else, it has the classic line, "No one escapes from the Miami Ninja", which sounds like the name of an Arena Football team.

The movie is about a band called Dragon Sound, whose songs are almost good enough to be in the soundtrack of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Apparently the head of the the band that DS replaced wants to get his job back, and uses some mangy bikers to do that.
Also, the girlfriend of one of the band members has a brother who says she should get a new boyfriend. He's also connected with the ninjas running the drug trade in town. So what does he know?

Y.K. Kim, a taekwondo expert who also made the movie, looks good when he clobbers the evil ninjas and overbearing brother. The script and direction aren't so hot, but it should be interesting what the Rifftrax crew will do to this movie. Here's the trailer to the movie:

For now, people will be waiting for the next Rifftrax event, Sharknado 2, next month. Tickets are still available.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Melissa McCarthy Gets Smarter In "Spy"

First, Scarlett Johannson gets criticized for making eyes at the Hulk during Avengers: Age of Ultron, although she kicks a fair amount of Ultron butt
Then, Charlize Theron offends fans of Mad Max by yelling orders at him, as if SHE is the star of Mad Max: Fury Road. Actually, she is, although it's a comeback for him, too.
So, will Melissa McCarthy get angry comments because she makes Jason Statham look like a fool in Spy?
Maybe, but they'll also laugh a lot at this great movie that literally introduces a different kind of action hero. We can thank Paul Feig for this. The man behind Bridesmaids wrote and directed this movie.
McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA agent that helps out super-spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) in glamorous missions..but only back in the office, warning him what's behind the next corner. She also has a drone or two to cause a distraction to help him out of tight spots. She also has a bit of s crush on him.
The mission is to find a nuclear weapon some bad guy wants to sell. They soon target Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), who plans to sell the bomb after her father gets killed.

However, Bradley gets killed by Rayna, who also reveals she knows every spy the CIA has. So, Susan suggests she go out on the field to finish the mission. One of the agents, Rick Ford (Jason Statham), is offended by this. He thinks he should go, mainly because he makes wild claims that make James Bond look like Nancy Drew. Fortunately, Susan happens to have some good fighting skills, but hasn't had a chance to use them.
She goes undercover, looking like housewives who look way too Midwestern, which isn't lost on her. She's only told to "track and report", but it isn't long before she crosses paths with Rayna, and even infiltrates her circle thanks to some fast thinking. She still has to deal with Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz), an Italian operative who's also handsy, and Rick, who's gone rogue only because he's determined to prove he's as tough as he claims. Whether he is, you'll have to see for yourself.

What's great about this is that McCarthy shows she can be a credible action heroine. Her skills may not be as fluid as Johannson in Avengers, but as long as the bad guy gets decked, it works. There's also a great scene as she fights off another woman in a kitchen, and how that ends is a big surprise.

Bryne is also a hoot in this movie. She may look like a classic villain, but she swears more than McCarthy. There's also great performances by Miranda Hart as a fellow CIA agent who gets mixed up with 50 Cent, and Allison Janney as the deputy director who sends Susan in the field. Firefly fans may be surprised to see Morena Baccarin in a couple of scenes as the female version of Bradley. It should have had more of her, but she has a key role in the story. The movie itself starts with a credit sequence that could have come from a 007 movie.
Of course, her husband Ben Falcone makes a cameo as a guy who wonders if Europe has a certain chicken franchise.

If this movie scores big, even in the face of big dinosaurs next week, maybe Susan Cooper can be the next movie spy icon. It may also be an excellent argument for the upcoming all-female Ghostbusters movie, too.

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!"