Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Rifftrax and MST3K Unite For A Classic Night of Riffing



When Mystery Science Theater 3000 co-creator Joel Hodgson was interviewed by Vulture six years ago, he was asked if there was a possibility he might do something with his former riffing colleagues at Rifftrax. He said that "I think anything’s possible, but I thought it might get confusing to try to merge them together or do crossover projects. I would never rule it out because it’s all kind of the same universe," but he admitted Rifftrax was a different thing.
This past Tuesday at the State Theater in Minneapolis, though, Joel did get together with Rifftrax, along with the former Mads and the new MST3K host to create a very successful night of movie riffing.



It was a good mix of very funny shorts, and the riffing by the casts went smoothly just like it did in the Sketchfest in San Francisco. Joel was joined by Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, Mary Jo Pehl, Bridget Nelson and Kevin Murphy from Rifftrax, Trace Beaulieu and TV's Frank Conniff (who now have their own movie riffing routine), and new MST3K host Jonah Ray.
The Rifftrax crew took one of its early shorts, Shake Hands With Danger, and The Talking Car, about a kid who is being judged on traffic safety by three cars..in a dream. While the crew at Incognito Cinema Warriors XP did a much better job with that short in the DVD, "Bloody Pit of Horror", the Rifftraxers were very funny, too. When the kid sees he's in a dream, Kevin says "Welcome to Antartica's first car show". There's also jokes on '70s cop shows, The Godfather and a certain complaint about the new Ghostbusters movie.
Then Mary Jo and Bridget did their take on "Word To The Wives", a short on how a housewife cons her husband into buying a newer home. The print for the show was actually pretty faded compared to the Rifftrax version, but most of the jokes were still there. I had reviewed this before in my blog on the emergence of the two gals as Rifftrax's Dymanic Duo.
Trace and Frank took on "More Dates For Kay", and they just KILLED here. They commented on how Kay, who looks really plain, got a lot of dates through good grooming and being really helpful. They were mostly puzzled how she got so popular.
Then, the past and the future got their chance, Jonah and Joel riffed on a short that praised barbers and beauticians. They especially noticed how one of the barbers looked like Frankenstein while a pedicurist might have been Annette Funicello. Jonah was very good in his riffs and worked well with Joel. Jonah will do just fine when he's shot into space. Just ask Frank,



Soon, everyone united to riff on a short called "Stamp Day For Superman." It was part Superman episode, part propaganda to get people to buy US Saving Stamps and Savings Bonds. It's really quaint seeing Lois Lane tied to a chair after getting tricked by a robber, but at least she came up with a way to get Superman to help her, The crew got in very funny riffs, especially on Rondo Hatton and someone who hates Spider-Man.

However, that wasn't the end. They did an encore with "At Your Fingertips: Grasses". The crew kept the original riffs but they still paid off even though they were being read by other people. The original version is part of the live Reefer Madness event.
It was a perfect way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Rifftrax, and launch the new era of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I was hoping Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt would crash the place and let everyone know they were the new sheriffs in town. They might get their chance when Joel is expected to reveal more info on the new MST at Comic-Con in three weeks.

There were the usual jokes in the pre-show slides, including one that claims Minions are shaved Pikachus (but the Minion language isn't quite Japanese). It did include several MST3K songs including two version of the opening theme, A Patrick Swayze Christmas and the Let Me Be Frank About Frank (which was also dedicated to Frank Zappa). That was a nice touch.

The MST3K reunion show will likely be available to the general public sometime this fall. Rifftrax also revealed its next show will be Mothra on August 18th. It's a widescreen print of the story about how some tiny fairies from a mysterious island get kidnapped, and a really big moth gets angry and shoves some cars around in Tokyo.
One more thing: WUCW, which used to be KTMA (the original home for MST3K), was there for a press conference of the cast the day before the show. Here it is:



The reunion show will be repeated on July 12th. More info is available at rifftrax.com/live.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rifftrax's Dynamic Duo Defies "Gravity"




Last week, Rifftrax released its take on the Oscar-winning sci-fi classic Gravity, with Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson doing the riffing honors.
I had expected Mary Jo to be stunned that Clooney, as Matt Kowalski, isn't the hero but Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone is. Actually, they got in a few digs on Clooney, and compared Bullock's dilemmas while trying to get back to Earth to typical life in Minnesota. It was more proof that these two gals just might wind up taking over Rifftrax.

I had hoped to enjoy the riff through the updated Rifftrax Android app, but it still didn't add the riff for that movie or the first episode of Game of Thrones. For now, the best way to enjoy the riff is through the website. I still plan to see both of those features once the riffs are added to my app.

What surprised me is that they sometimes broke into song, and their choices seemed really odd. When Kowalski decides to detach himself from Stone so that she could survive, the girls started singing "My Heart Will Go On". There might be a similarity between that scene and Jack saving Rose in Titanic, but it was unusual. Also, when Stone tried to use the escape pod at the International Space Station but got caught by the debris, Bridget and Mary Jo broke into the theme song for Mary Tyler Moore. To be fair, they were hoping that Stone was "gonna make it after all". They had one more song, and we'll just say it's easy to identify. It also shows they're ready for the Reunion show in a couple of weeks.

More riffs:

Clooney as Kowalski floats into the screen
Looks like they Photoshopped his face into a terrarium

"Half of North America just lost their Facebook"
I hope my mother did

Kowalski tries to help Stone as they're both floating in space
OK, Mary Jo, he looks great but he sorta sounds like Buzz Lightyear

Stone floats around the International Space Station
And she bumps into the cast of Interstellar

She has problems getting away on part of the space station
I wish she had her own Chewbacca

There's also riffs on Uber, Trader Joe's, Carrot Top, Bullock's love life, Hamburger Helper, OK Go and another recent sci-fi movie.

Bridget and Mary Jo's experiences growing up in the Midwest gave the riff on Gravity a unique flavor, It was quite different than how Mary Jo commented on women in space when she took on Doomsday Machine for Cinematic Titanic. The girls also took in a classic example of sexist sci-fi, Catwomen of the Moon, The riff for Gravity, and lots of other movies, are available on the Rifftrax website.




Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Game of Riffs: You Heckle or You Die (and a look at the updated Rifftrax app)




Seeing the first episode of Game of Thrones with Rifftrax's, uh, opinons serves two purposes. First, you'd be stunned on how much the show and its characters have changed over the years, Second, it's more proof that no one is safe from Rifftrax. They're planning riffs on the first episodes of The Walking Dead and Daredevil later this year

The mp3 riff was released this week for Kickstarter backers and the general public, and was reviewed by several websites who were apparently surprised Rifftrax would go this far. Personally, I have never seen the first episode, "Winter is Coming", but it looked like a completely different show compared to what it is now. For one thing, it had to stick to the book more or less. Still, it's surprising to see people who are now dead or have worse hair (especially House Stark). It's also strange to see a meek Daenerys Targaryen preparing to be Khal Drogo's bride so her pervy brother Viserys can get an army to seize the Iron Throne, Based on the episode alone, no one would guess she'd wind up being Mother of Dragons and Downright Sexy Fireproof Conqueror.

So, let's get to the riffs:

One of the Night's Watch sees a dead Wilding girl
Critics show Pixar how much they didn't like Brave

"I saw the White Walkers"
You mean the old ladies who hang around the pharmacy section at Target?

They find the body of a large direwolf who just gave birth to pups
Looks like Little Red Riding Hood finally had enough

King Robert Baratheon arrives at Winterfell but where's the entrance music?
Where's Ye All Ready For This and Who Let the Direwolves Out?

"A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair"
Oh, like a NASCAR race.

Drogo is about to make Daenerys a woman the only way he knows how
Cinemax is so sleazy
This is HBO
What artistic bravery.

There are also riffs on Game of Thrones in general, Ricky Gervais, another new slogan for Golden Corral, the Beach Boys, the Metrodome, Michael Cera and something Jason Momoa will be doing soon.

To make this review different from others, I'll throw in a quick review of the updated Rifftrax app. Right now, the Android version has been changed to allow people to synch up with their libraries, and buy new mp3 riffs from their phones, However, it also means losing the six Star Wars mp3 riffs people were enjoying for free.The iOS version has not been approved yet, so people can still enjoy those riffs for free through their iPhones and iPads.
However, the one big drawback that the riffs don't start until the dialogue does is still there. That means anyone who sees any of the Star Wars movies will lose several riffs, and hearing the mp3 through the website is the only way to get the complete experience.

Come to think of it, to get the complete experience of having Game of Thrones get the Rifftrax experience, let's add Kevin and Bill singing the "love there" from the show (also known as strange lyrics to the opening theme)



The riff for Game of Thrones can be found at the Rifftrax website. It also has riffs on the first two episodes of Grey's Anatomy with Mike and Bridget Nelson, and Lost and Heroes with Mike.

Meanwhile, tickets for the MST3K Reunion at hundreds of theaters nationwide on June 28th are still available, Just check out the Fathom Events website.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Rifftrax Meets Catwomen of the Moon Without Julie Newmar or Michelle Pfeiffer



Science Fiction movies presented movie fans with incredible predictions of what life will be like in the 21st Century with moon bases, flying cars and TV's that fit in your pocket. (Guess which one wound up coming true).
However, they also provide guys with way too much reassurance that they'll always be superior to women. Movies like Queen of Outer Space, Devil Girl From Mars or the Rocky Jones movies feature brave and macho astronauts who land on a planet ruled by women who seem superior. Of course, to preserve the Movie Status Quo, the macho astronauts either defeat the alien women or take them back to Earth to turn them into the Housewives of Tomorrow.

Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 know this genre all too well, and now it's Rifftrax's turn with Catwomen of the Moon. Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson are the lucky (?) riffers who are taking on this movie, possibly to prepare them to riff on Gravity, the absolute opposite of this film. It's also one of the shortest features at 63 minutes. Thanks to a holiday discount, and an extra two-dollar discount, I decided to check it out.



A crew led by Laird (Sonny Tufts) heads to the Moon. The ship features office chairs with casters and a desk, and hammocks that are supposed to be beds. A female navigator named Helen (Marie Windsor) starts to act strangely. She even suggests where they should land on the Moon, even though it's on the Dark Side. Once the crew gets there, they discover the Catwomen who apparently want to get to Earth to stay alive...and maybe take it over, too. They also had telepathic powers that influenced Helen even before the launch. Yes, folks, the movie is suggesting whatever's happening is her fault.
Still, another of the Catwomen falls for one of the other guys and actually feels torn about the whole plot. Eventually, the Earthlings win, but how it's done is treated as an afterthought.
There's even an attempt at a romantic subplot between Kip and Helen, and how their "love" is used to snap her out of the spell of the Catwomen. It would have been cooler if Helen wound up being a Catwoman while one of them sides with the men, but that would have involved thought. This movie is a classic example of the They Just Didn't Care School of Film.



As I said before, fans of MST3K are quite familiar with sexist sci-fi. Project Moonbase featured a female pilot who outranked her fellow male astronaut on a mission to orbit the moon. She thinks they should try to land, but she gets shot down because she's a girl. When they do land because of a stowaway who tries to sabotage the mission, she not only has to marry the guy but he's promoted to Brigadier General. The movie, of course, also makes sure she's really incompetent. No wonder Servo is disgusted at the end.
Then there's Fire Maidens of Outer Space. Another group of brave men land on a newly-discovered moon. It turns out the moon is a male fantasy with sexy women who dance but really belong in a Hercules movie. The only two threats occur when one of the girls is chosen for sacrifice, and a furry monster appears for 20 seconds to be killed. It ends with one of the women coming back to Earth, no doubt to become a Housewife of Tomorrow.
Sharp-eyed fans also recognize Helen as Marie Windsor, who played Josie in Swamp Diamonds. She was the one was "doing a nickle at UPS" with Beverly Garland.

This time, though, we have two smart and witty women who rip this piece of futuristic chauvinism a new one. So, riffing time:

Catwomen of the Moon
Single and Loving It

One of the crew wears a hazmat suit to try to resolve a major problem:
This is what it's like when you have to clear your junior high boy's bedroom. (The description is even funnier).

Then he comes out
Try new Man in a Can.

They head to the cave that Helen led them to...somehow. "Exactly as I dreamed, or did I? Maybe this is the dream"
Elaine May in Inception,

Helen wonders why the guys think the aliens are automatically evil. "Why can't we expect love and friendship instead of death?"
We're Americans.

One of the guys stares at one of the Catwomen
Acting or coma?

There's also riffs on Elton John, Grazing In The Grass, Tang, Peyton Place, HDTV, Catholic schools and City Limits (mainly who's in it).

If you'd like to see this "movie" and other Rifftrax selections, visit the website at rifftrax.com. It includes the mp3 riff of Glitter, aka Mariah Carey's version of A Star Is Born.  She and Bridget will be part of the MST3K Reunion from Minneapolis. Tickets to the broadcast on June 28th are available at the Fathom Events website.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

HBO's Godfather Epic: Is It a Better Way to See Godfather 1 and 2?


Last January, HBO showed a restored version of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, but not as two different movies.
It turned both movies into a seven-hour epic, showing the history of the Corleone crime family from 1901 to 1959. This meant parts of Godfather II with Robert De Niro were moved to the front, followed by the remainder of the two movies,. There's also lots of deleted scenes that added depth to the story, and proof that anyone who crosses a Corleone does so at his peril.

I finally got a chance to see the mega-movie last week, and it was amazing. I usually saw both Godfather movies on AMC, and seeing them back to back usually takes ten hours including commericals. Seeing HBO's uncut and commercial-free version was much better. It still took more more than two days because I had to pause to check if the Sharks were heading to the Stanley Cup or the Warriors will blow a chance to defend their NBA title just like 1976.

Seeing The Godfather Epic in one seven-hour chunk, which is a perfect size for veteran Netflix bingers, is quite an experience, especially with the extra scenes. The story flows very well, although the segues from one crisis to another in the final hour are a bit abrupt. That's because the secret to Godfather II's success is how the stories of Young Vito and Michael Corleone mirror each other, the past creating the future. Taking Vito's scenes out of that movie changes it a lot.

What HBO did is not new, though...


NBC also re-edited both movies into a mini-series that lasted for four nights. However, it's not the complete version because foul language and violent scenes had to be left out. With HBO, it has the whole story, blood, profanity and all.

The deleted scenes also add some insight about what happens when you make a Corleone mad. For example, remember when Michael's first wife was killed by a car bomb in Italy? It looked like the guy who did it got away, but he didn't. For Vito, he not only got Don Ciccio, the man who had his parents killed, he killed the guy who told Vito's home town to turn him over to Ciccio when he was nine, Now that is a grudge,

If given a choice, I'd prefer to see Godfather and Godfather II in their original forms, because I am used to that after seeing them several times. However, I still refuse to see Godfather III unless there is new CGI technology that replaces Sofia Coppola with Winona Ryder...or even Shailene Woodley.