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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Magic of Cinderella Still Strong Thanks to Branagh And Excellent Cast

Classic cartoon, with a brand new view
With Blanchett and Branagh too
Put them together and what have you got?
130 million, plus 2 (worldwide, that is)

When Kenneth Branagh announced he was going to make Cinderella into a live-action movie, people knew he had a hard act to follow. The animated version from 1950 is considered a classic and (as the latest Princess Rap Battle mentioned) helped Walt Disney's studio finances. For months, the only details we got was Cate Blanchett has a cat on a leash, and the famous glass slipper.

Despite what some critics like Time and Vox say, Branagh has made a great new version of the well-known story who goes from scullery maid to belle of the ball. Sorry, guys, but we can't change the story.
Maybe after Frozen got so popular after the princess winds up saving herself and her sister, it made all the other traditional fairy tales a bunch of stale cliches, especially a woman needing a man to save her.

Well, it may be traditional, but this new version adds some more details to make it more well-rounded. It actually has back-stories. We see Cinderella when her parents were both alive. We get a little more insight about why the Evil Stepmother, Lady Tremaine, is so sour, and thinks marrying off one of her daughters will raise her standard. Some may argue that it proves Stepmom and Cinderella are both stuck in the "getting a man will save me" cliche.
However, it's just not them. Even though the Prince is having the ball to choose a bride, there's some intrigue thanks to the Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgard), since he's already chosen a bride to help the kingdom politically. That's an unusual detail to add to the story, the exceptions being The Slipper and the Rose and Ever After (and arguably A Cinderella Story and the ABC Family follow-up).
Besides, so what if Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is Cinderella's mom, who tells her with her dying breath to be brave and kind? She might be right, Peggy's orders.

Lily James is a vision as Cinderella, who uses her mom's advice through her life, even in the face of how Stepmom and the step-sisters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera, Downton Abbey) treat her. However, she isn't that much of a pushover, especially in the final act.  Blanchett is really mean as Tremaine, but again, this version adds some details to her to make her more real. She gets very jealous not only towards Cinderella but the memory of her mom that she and her dad have. The scene where the stepmom and her daughters rip Cinderella dress, just like in the original, has more meaning here.

So how about the Fairy Godmother? Helena Bonham Carter looks like a tall Kristen Chenoweth, but she is still quite a hoot. Even though she doesn't sing "Bibiddi-Bobiddi-Boo", she certainly uses it. The best part is when she tries to turn a pumpkin into a coach, Oh, and she also plays two other roles in the movie, including one at the start.

Richard Madden is also great as the Prince, who's called Kit here. He uses that alias when he first meets Cinderella in the forest, as he's hunting a stag, This gives the sense that maybe this is destiny. So, when they meet at the ball, it's not exactly love at first sight, but second sight may be convincing. It's also great to see Derek Jacobi as the King, who wants the best for his kingdom and son.

While some may say this year's Cinderella may not be revisionist enough, they will rave about the costumes designed by Sandy Powell, especially her dress.
Also, Branagh knows how to set up scenes. As the Grand Duke is worried about Cinderella ruining his plans, guess who's off to the right listening to everything? He also chooses the right time to show Cinderella break down, losing her faith in what her mom said to her. Then there's the ending, when Cinderella does the worst thing possible to her stepmother. At least, according to the stepmom.

So this new version of Cinderella may seem to be too traditional for our times. Branagh wanted to make a live-action version of the 1950 movie. He succeeded by recreating the old look, and adding details to make it a classic on its own. No wonder some people would like to see him direct another Marvel film. Doctor Strange, anyone?
It also gives the crew who will make the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast something to shoot for in two years. At least having Emma Watson as Belle is a good start. She was almost Cinderella.

Before the movie, we got a taste of what Frozen 2 will be like with Frozen Fever. It's an extended mini-musical with Queen Elsa planning her sister Anna's birthday. Problem is, Elsa has a fever, and there's an interesting side effect that could lead to a boost in sales at Disney stores. You'll see what I mean.
The main sing, "Making Today A Perfect Day" may not sweep the country like "Let It Go", but it's still a nice tune. There's also two connections with the original story, too.

Snakes On A Boat: Rifftrax Presents Its Riff on Anaconda

Last year's Rifftrax Live events were notable because they included real movies, at least more real than Wonder Women or ROTOR. That's thanks to the Kickstarter campaign that raised 265 thousand dollars to make it possible. The crew of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett took on the 1997 version of Godzilla just a few months after last year's version, then Anaconda, where Jennifer Lopez battles a really disgusting snake...and an Anaconda, too.

I reviewed this when it was shown in theaters just before Halloween, but the mp3 was finally released to everyone over the weekend. The movie was notable because it included Lopez, rapper Ice Cube, Owen Wilson, Eric Stoltz and MTV hottie Kari Wuhrer. They're part of a documentary crew looking for a long-lost tribe in the Amazon when they come across a guy named Serone (Jon Voight) whose boat is disabled. He offers to help them find the tribe, but it's really part of a plan to look for really big anacondas. It's bad enough he looks like this for much of the movie:'

The CGI version of the snake is kind of strange, not as fancy as those dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. It seemed to defy gravity, much less logic. But then, so does this movie.
Let's get to some of the riffs:

Ice Cube's character mentions "today's a good day", one of his bigger hits
AK's in the duffle bag

They come across some totems depicting snakes
They've carved a statue of Steven Tyler.

One of the smaller snakes bites the finger of Westridge, the narrator of the movie
This little piggy never made it to market.

Owen Wilson in the anaconda's stomach
Jonah's loser brother

They tie up Sarone
And now, Jon Voight in 50 Shades of Gristle

Lopez and Ice Cube are tied up, and her hair is really wet
J-Lo's new hairdo is called the Cousin Itt

The point when Serone winks at Lopez after the snake vomits him out:
A pick-up artist to the bitter end.

There's also riffs on movies Wilson and Ice Cube made, a movie role Stoltz still wishes he took, the Source Awards, The Room and Nick Nolte (now required in every movie riff), The African Queen and Richard Terry.

Meanwhile, this year's Rifftrax campaign called "The Crappening" has passed the $180 thousand mark, which means all supporters will get a free mp3 of a new riff on The Room. The campaign ends Saturday, which means it needs $20 thousand to get the final Harry Potter movie riffed, $45 thousand to get a second t-shirt made, and $70 thousand for backers who donate at least $75 to get Sharknado 2 for free. It's possible donations could explode towards the end, but if you'd like to give, please
click here.