Thursday, September 29, 2016

There Used To Be A Movie Theater Here


While the city of Sparks, Nevada has the only IMAX screen north of Las Vegas and east of Sacramento, it just lost a big chunk of screens in the same area where a casino also closed.

Yet, if you didn't know the Century Sparks 14 was about to close, you'd think it would be getting ready for screenings of Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, Deepwater Horizon and Masterminds. 
In fact, the poster for Peregrine is still there, along with Trolls coming in November...



 Then you see this....



...and in the lobby, a poster for Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story which will likely be at the Galaxy Theaters at the Legends Shopping Center off Highway 80.

To be honest, I went there today for one last look. While the Century Riverside 12 in downtown Reno is my go-to theater, I went to the Sparks theater twice to see Wild with Reese Witherspoon and Creed only because it wasn't in Reno anymore. I was also hoping they'd have some movie posters they didn't need any more, but the usher told me they got rid of them already.
Local news sources say the city is aware the agreement with Syufy Enterprises couldn't be renewed, and they're hopeful another theater chain could move in. Besides, there's still plenty of activities at Victorian Square. Still, the closure of the Bourbon Street Casino and the construction of new apartments that have cut off a lot of traffic probably didn't help. Add the fact that people may  prefer the Galaxy because of the IMAX screen, better concessions including wine and beer, and better seats that are worth the extra buck or two.

I had heard the Century/Cinemark group was thinking about adding a new complex at Meadowview Mall, the major shopping hub in town. Maybe those 14 screens will go there, but it's still bad news for Sparks movie fans, who may have to rely on a Redbox to see the movies they want.

Let's hope that movie multiplex doesn't go to waste.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pain Don't Hurt, But This Movie Does: A Look at Rifftrax's Two Road House Riffs



Earlier this month, Rifftrax re-riffed the first movie in its long history, Road House with Patrick Swayze and Ben Gazarra as a bad guy with the most boring evil name ever.

The riff not only had three guys instead of just Mike Nelson, but also it was a complete overhaul compared to the original riff in 2006. This is why I had to see the movie twice to compare both riffs.

The movie is rather ridiculous. A famous bouncer named Dalton goes from town to town straightening out rowdy bars, but then goes to a bar in Jasper, MO where he has to deal with Terry Funk. Then he deals with the local evil rich guy who wants Dalton to leave or else he'll blow up the houses of his friends and kill his doctor girlfriend who apparently has a dress that doubles as a tablecloth. It's a combination of Shane, Animal House, maybe Fists of Fury and No Defeat No Surrender. When you get right down to it, it's a movie where people can see a guy without his shirt and pass it off as character development....and this is years before Matthew McConaughey.

The style of the two riffs is the biggest difference of all. When you hear Mike, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett riff, it's the basic snarkiness that's been part of Rifftrax for years. However, when you hear the original version, it's just Mike delivering his jokes as if he was watching the movie because the Twins game rained out. There's also more use of the famous Disembaudio, who cautions Mike against seeing bare breasts and Swayze's naked butt. There was also a really long "where are they now" monologue during the closing credits, which they don't do anymore.

So, let's get to a few scenes and compare riffs:

First off, Dalton's first appearance

2006:  Feathered hair with a mullet. His hair came out to play
2016:  Behold Sawyze, also called Black Dog, Dancer Dirtiest, ex-President Bodie and
the Horny Ghost.

"You know who that is? Dalton"

2006:  John Dalton, the 19th Century developer of the Atomic Theory?
2016:  Dalton Trumbo?

Gazarra shows up...as Brad Wesley?

2006: You have to irritate an old guy once a day
2016:  When you have a chopper and a Panama hat, you've got every reason to be smug.

The famous "Pain don't hurt" phrase Dalton says to Dr. Clay, played by Kelly Lynch

2006:  Actually by its very definition, it does (what she would say)
2016:  Also, it's French for bread. Wanna make out? (what he would say)

Dalton's tai chi scene

2006:  Clearly he has studies with the great master, Pat Morita
2016:  Relax and be one with the Batusi.

Dalton deals with Wesley's goons who try to cut off the bar's liquor supply

2006:  He's wearing his silk liquor unloading shirt
2016:  He's wearing his fucia fighting blouse.

The original riff had a lot of "Beef, it's what's for dinner" jokes since Sam Elliot was there. The new riff also had riffs on Frozen, Geico, Blossom, Kurt Russell, and Shake Hands With Danger.

You can get both versions of the Road House riff at rifftrax.com. The year should still be pretty actuve, with riffs on The Walking Dead, Daredevil (the Netflix version) and Jurassic World coming soon. There's also the next live show, taking on Carnival of Souls on October 27th.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Downtown Sacramento, Have You Changed!

For once, I'm not talking about movies, especially Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Last week, I took a cheap bus ride from Reno to Sacramento. It's been two years since I lived in Sacramento, since I was forced to move because my landlord evicted me to get higher rents, and that no one would hire me for anything, aside from radio, because I was too old. I did find something else. though.

To be honest, I wish I was still living in Sacramento because I could be part of the opening of the Golden 1 Center, the new home of the Sacramento Kings and eventual site of everything for the next two years. It's still not done, although it will be when Paul McCartney is in town early next month. This is the closest I could get to the new arena.



When I moved out, that was the site of a half-filled shopping center that lost a lot of stores to a new mall in Roseville. It's going to be much more popular now.

I was really interested in seeing this corner...


This was once the site of a Hard Rock Cafe. It looks like a deserted clothing store. It will soon be a new restaurant, but construction is interefering with the 24 Hour Fitness place next door.

In fact, there's still a lot of construction in the former shopping center, which still has some pieces of its past, like this....


..and the saddest thing for movie fans, an empty marquee...


Half the mall has been knocked down, including this, Starbucks and the downtown post office (which was moved a couple of blocks away but you had to tell the security guard on duty you're there to mail something). However, the Cinemark site is reassuring people the multiplex will be new and improved when it reopens. It's supposed to be ready by the fall, but December looks more likely.

In the meantime, the Crest is picking up the slack for movie fans, while also being a live music venue,,,



Despite the activity, Macy's is still open, but it has an interesting entrance..


There's literally a tunnel from here to the store to keep people away from the renovations. It's safe to say the situation is causing a dent on the business at Old Town, since people walked through the mall to get there. After October, and more likely by December, things should be back to normal.

The new construction is also affecting K Street, which had been the site of abandoned buildings. Now with the new arena, there's plans to build new hotels and condos. I just hope this will be preserved somehow. It's at 8th and K, the site of a former shoe store...


What was a local brewpub, meanwhile, will take on a new identity...


I was tempted to head to the apartment complex where I used to live, but I didn't. I did find out the bakery a few blocks away was closed by the city. I'd rather not say why.

I'll probably return to Sacramento after the New Year, depending on the weather. I would really like to come up and touch what some will say is the most advanced arena ever...until the next Olympics or so. What I really wish, though, is that I can somehow afford to live in Sacramento again.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

TV's Frank: The Man and His Movies In New Book



For five years and 109 episodes, TV's Frank Conniff was the loyal lackey on Mystery Science Theater 3000 to insane scientist Clayton Forrester:  the punching bag, the guinea pig, the eternal victim to Forrester's delusional plans to take over the world so his mother will finally love him (which was equally delusional)
Yet, when Frank was taken away by Torgo the White (or maybe Magic Jack Perkins in disguise), Dr. F was totally lost without him. The movie version is proof of that.

That's how important Frank was. He went on to write for a teenage witch and riff more movies through Cinematic Titanic. He's now got a podcast with fellow Mad Trace Beaulieu, and also was in the MST3K Reunion show that will be Rifftrax's biggest seller when it's available in two weeks.

So, what could be left...except write a book?

Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life In No Way Whatsoever is a very long title for a short book, but he goes into detail about his life on MST3K, gets in some comments about politics like he does on Twitter, and tries to remember movies he may or may not have seen as a kid.
And sometimes he talks about the movies he had to see before they were accepted as experiments for the show. Of course, he recalls how Sidehackers forced the staff to see all of the movie rather than first first half hour. However, he also wonders if Catalina Caper would have been a better beach movie if there was more Little Richard. He compares Gilligan's Island to Vietnam while trying to discuss The Beatniks, and thinks Attack of the the Eye Creatures should be on trial (and not just because of those pervy Army guys).

He also makes a good argument about how we should praise Ed Wood for his movies, not to bury him, only because he tried to make movies (and unlike that Eye Creatures movie, he really did care).
However, he also apologizes (again) for exposing the world to Manos, the Hands of Fate, and suspects that maybe George W. Bush was the closest thing we had to President Torgo.

After each chapter, there's a special note from the Federal Bureau of Incoherence which explains some of the references to those too young or old to remember them. That even includes explaining a long-forgotten Disney musical about a family who has their own band, and their last name is NOT Partridge. Clearly, we need such an organization to explain other references to people who may not understand...especially with the current presidential election.

It's interesting that the list of movies Frank chose are almost all episodes during the Joel Hodgson era. The exceptions are The Brain That Wouldn't Die and Red Zone Cuba. Naturally, Frank doesn't talk too much about the movies, but he wonders why The Beast With Two Heads didn't get riffed by MST3K..or why the Oscars didn't even nominate it for anything,  It's too bad he didn't get deeper in his final season, especially his last episode, Samson vs. the Vampire Women.

This isn't the first time Frank has tried to write essays on MST3K movies. In the Episode Guide, he looked at several movies including Time of the Apes, which was also examined in this book. In the Episode Guide, he talked about the "time code" incident where the movie seemed to have more endings than the last Lord of the Rings movie. In his book, he talked more about how funny talking animals are on TV and the movies, and how Ronald Reagan may have wound up doing that if he didn't go into politics. Apparently the trauma from the "time code incident"is still too painful. The "TV's Frank Pix" columns are very funny and are worth looking for.

Til the, this book is a great look inside TV's Frank from his career on MST3K to his views on movies, politics and everything else. If only there was a fake autobiography by Clayton Forrester on how he ruled the world after he ruined everyone's self-worth through bad movies. Of course, he would write it the day before the first experiment back in 1988, and none of it happened, but it would be a great read.
Your move, Mr. Beaulieu.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review of Rifftrax's "Ruby": Carrie On, My Exorcist/Psycho/Tennessee Williams Puree





This tweet from Rifftrax says it all about the latest VOD title:

It's been days and we're still not sure
What IS Ruby?

Well, it was Piper Laurie's first movie after getting an Oscar nomination as Carrie's crazy religious mom. Judging by this character, it's hard to say who's more nuts: Margaret White, the mom who was driven insane by the shame of illicit sex that she enjoyed and convinced the product of that sin is her telekinetic daughter, or Ruby, a woman who lives in a former roadhouse in a swamp next to a drive-in that shows a movie that was made seven years after the movie is set. Then again, Ruby also feels guilty that maybe it's partially her fault the father of her mute crazy daughter got gunned down by the mob--who now works at her drive-in.

Rifftrax has several bad horror movies in its library, like The Last Slumber Party, Fever Lake, Sisters of Death, Terror at Tenkiller, Ghosthouse and Troll 2. However, none can compare with Ruby, made by a guy who decided to take chunks of Carrie, The Exorcist, maybe a dash of Sunset Boulevard and every Tennessee Williams play, put it in a movie blender and push "puree".

Ruby Claire was a singer who was in love with a gangster named Nicky and got pregnant by him. In 1935, they were about to have a rendezvous at a Florida swamp when several mobsters decided to shoot him down. She then went into labor, and gave birth to a daughter named Leslie

Sixteen years later, Ruby runs a drive-in next to the swamp, and the mobsters are her employees. No explanation why, of course. She drinks a lot and walks around in slinky clothes. Actually, she looks better than Mrs. White in Carrie. For some reason, the drive-in is showing Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (which should be an MST target someday since the title character is played by Alison Hayes, the evil bar owner in past MST target Gunslinger), which was made seven years after the movie is set. If the movie decided it was set in 1958, it would have looked a little better.

While people watch a movie from the future, the staff gets killed in pretty strange ways, One is found dead in a vending machine, while another is impaled on the drive-in screen. Ruby, meanwhile, is convinced Nicky has come back from the grave for revenge. He even possesses his mute daughter Leslie and literally speaks through her at one point. Thing is, when he does that, he tries to come on to Ruby. Yep, dead  Nicky is in Leslie's body trying to seduce Ruby. He didn't think this one out.
Still, he knows how to make his presence known, driving in his ghost car with bullet wounds on his face, or trying to talk to Ruby through the drive-in speakers.

There's a doctor of parapsychology played by Roger Davis who tries to exorcise Leslie, but only succeeds in seeing how flexible she is. Also, for some reason, the movie poster emphasizes Leslie over the title character...


In the end, Ruby decides to walk into the swamp to be reunited in death with Nicky, and looking damn good in a slinky red dress. Too bad the director decided at the last second to have Nicky's skeleton kill Ruby.
And you thought what happened to Zindy the Swamp Boy made less sense.

It's a miracle Piper Laurie washed this "movie" out of her hair and the rest of her body. She would go on to success in TV and movies (including an Emmy and a third Oscar nomination), but it's safe to say she'd rather not talk about making Ruby, unless she finds her way to a Comic-Con or two.

Enough of this, though. The important thing is that the Rifftrax crew gets in some really good riffs.

The start of the credits
Can we skip to the ending where Jason Voorhees jumps out of that water?

The projectionist notices something is wrong
Did I forget to pay the evil bill last month?

Ruby recalling the old days when she could sing and dance
This is if the Three Stooges made Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Ruby looks at her mute daughter Leslie, and wonders what she's thinking.
Are you thinking you look like Truman Capote in a wig and a nightgown?

There's also riffs on Back to the Future, Kenny Rogers, Zooey Deschanel, Swamp of the Ravens and Game of Thrones.
If you dare, you can find Ruby here, and other titles at rifftrax.com.