Friday, December 2, 2016

Choose Your Rifftrax Holiday Double Feature



Rifftrax is wrapping up an very eventful year with its first holiday double feature with Santa Claus Conquers The Martians 3.0 and the 2009 Shorts-Stravaganza from San Diego. However, true fans of MST, Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax can make their own double-headers. Others may mix Rifftrax holiday shows with other holiday DVDs for a truly different experience,

In this case, let's stick to riffed holiday movies.

MST3K:  Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and Santa Claus

This is an obvious choice but for some reason one movie is tougher to get than another, Santa Claus, a holiday movie made in Mexico, is part of Volume XVI (the one with the free Tom Servo). However, Shout Factory has not re-issued SCCTM, which was only in the two DVD set MST3K:  The Essentials (the other episode being Manos). It can be found via Amazon or eBay, but it would make sense this classic episode be available again. At the very least, it should be on streaming video.

Both shows do feature new holiday standards, "A Patrick Swayze Christmas" and "Merry Christmas, If That's OK". Actually, they're quite different. The first one was a typical MST episode compete with holiday Invention Exchanges. The other one, though, is basically a spoof of "The Gift of the Magi" but it ends with a big showdown between Santa and Pitch, the demon who tries to ruin Santa's holiday. At least the crew exchange presents, including Gypsy's famous "Joike" sweater.

Cinematic Titanic:  Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and Rifftrax:  I Believe in Santa Claus

Before Rifftrax riffed SCCTM in a live show two years ago, Joel Hodgson and his Cinematic Titanic crew was the only group that had a post-MST3K riffed version of the movie. It was released in November 2008, and is available at eBay and Amazon. I reviewed the DVD, and noticed they updated the riffs a little. The best part, though, was before the movie, when Trace tried to run away and the mysterious staff who's trapped the crew had to drag him back.

The second feature was issued last year, and is probably one of the strangest holiday movies. A kid in France may spend Christmas alone because his parents have been kidnapped by an African warlord. He writes to Santa, hoping he'd get the parents back. Through a ridiculous series of events, the kid gets to meet Santa and a fairy queen who's a whimsical version of Safety Woman. It's pretty bizarre.

The  other suggestions are all Rifftrax videos.

Nestor The Long-Eared Donkey, Bridget and Mary Jo's Christmas and Magic Christmas Tree

This is a triple-header only because they're all much shorter than usual movies. The first is a Rankin-Bass feature that's a little darker than its most famous creations including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Nestor is clearly a knockoff on Rudolph, since he's mocked because of his really long ears. They do come in handy when he helps Mary and Joseph get to Jerusalem for the birth of Jesus. Instead of Burl Ives narrating, they had Roger Miller as the descendant of Nestor. It's a cute story, if you forget that at one point he and his mom are forced out into the snow, and she sacrifices herself to save her son. At least in Frosty the Snowman, he melts in a greenhouse but a cold wind brings him back.

The second feature was made last year by the Real Housewives of Rifftrax, Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl. This duo is coming close to out-shining the main Rifftrax crew thanks to several shorts, Catwomen of the Moon, and Gravity. The 30-minute special has a heavily edited version of A Christmas Carol (which doesn't include "Bah, Humbug"), a car ad Mary Jo really likes, footage of Dean Martin, and a short about a sheep that keeps Jesus warm on the night of the Nativity.

The third feature looks like a sitcom. A little boy saves the cat of a spooky old lady, and he gets a magic ring and a special seed that produces a Magic Christmas Tree that talks. It also gives him three wishes, including the power to kidnap Santa. Somehow it leads to him being kidnapped by a big giant. They're at the Rifftrax website.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (both versions)

It's possible to see both versions in less than two hours. The riffing of Santa Claus being stuck in Florida because his reindeer ran away or something is the same in both versions. Those who prefer the more recent version last year may go that way, but others may look at the original with Thumbelina then see the live show with Jack and the Beanstalk (which has much better songs).

Santa's House of Madness and Santa Claus (2014)

The first feature is actually three shorts with the exact same opening credits that have weird-looking animals and Santa Claus. There's outtakes from Santa Claus, plus footage from two Santa's Villages in California and Indiana. The third short is mainly Santa "threatened" by an ogre, and it ends with a song that would have killed it.

The live riff of Santa Claus is actually the uncut version with Spanish opening titles, and it shows why MST3K decided to cut a lot of it out. When we see a shirtless blacksmith and Merlin taking too much time making sleeping powders and the Flower to Disappear, it's best to move past those scenes. However, the riffs they come up with are incredible, especially one where Santa flies with his wind-up reindeer.

If you can come up with other combinations, feel free, but this will be a start. Just make riffed holiday movies part of your holiday season.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rifftrax: Jurassic World's A Lame World After All



Rifftrax's Kickstarter program for this year wrapped up over the weekend with its take on Jurassic World, the long-awaited sequel to Jurassic Park.
While the movie had enough nostalgic cred to earn a lot of cash and a sequel in two years, the commentary points out it's still loaded with cliches and callbacks to the original movie.
It's also not as respectful towards women as the original. At least in J-Park, you have a female dinosaur expert played by Laura Dern, and a computer-savvy girl who helps reopen the park while raptors and T-Rex's run amuck.

In Jurassic World, you have one major female character, Claire Dearing, who is corporate and cold and barely knows who her relatives are aside from her sister, She's excited over making new dinosaurs to attract visitors the same way Magic Mountain hopes new roller coasters will do the same thing. The movie goes out of its way to make her look bad, until it realizes a female hero could also be as attractive as hybrid dinosaurs. That's when she suddenly does heroic things yet clings to her high heel shoes (which ain't part of the next movie).
Meanwhile, you have competing forces:  a smooth mad scientist who engineered the new dinos because he boss wanted them, and a guy who hopes to make raptors the future of warfare. In the middle is Owen, the guy who trains the raptors and is supposedly the voice of reason (at least compared to Claire), and her nephews who are there as potential dinosaur chow.
On top of that, there's a film of Jimmy Fallon trying to explain science.

The Rifftrax crew of Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy really go to town on the movie's flaws and callbacks to the past, although its comment on Claire's first scene is a bit unfair. Otherwise, it's a pretty funny riff that's a nice compliment to the riff of Jurassic Park.

Now, a sample of the riffs:

Have Yourself..
A Jurassic Little Christmas

Claire’s upset her assistant Lowrey  is wearing a Jurassic Park shirt
Fine, I’ll wear my “The Village” shirt

Hoskins, the military guy, explains to Owen how using raptors for battle is better than using humans.
Drones weren’t controversial at all, so nobody will mind if we give them fangs.

Owen and Claire waste celluloid with a scene that’s supposed to show how she’s frigid and he's soooooo cooool
Bantersaurus is my least favorite dinosaur.

The Indominus Rex causes general damage
That’s for making your fuel  from the remains of my ancestors

Jimmy Fallon appears in a video the kids see in their gyrosphere
Isn’t there a lake we can drown in?

The T-Rex showdown with the Indominus Rex
Now they do the Lady in the Tramp spaghetti noodle thing, only with human intestines.

There's also riffs on Helen Hunt, Harambe, What’s Happening, Google, Jeff Goldblum, two other movies Rifftrax mocked, C and C Music Factory, and the traditional remark about a restaurant chain. The final riffs actually are the best closing remarks since The Dark Knight.

The riff of Jurassic World is available at rifftrax.com. It's now getting ready for its holiday show featuring their take on Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and the first holiday show from 2009 which features Weird Al Yankovic and a different version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It'll be shown in theaters on December first.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Honor and Glory? Rifftrax Says They're Missing Here




Rifftrax is well-known for mocking movies of every genre, including martial arts. It targeted a classic Bruce Lee movie,  a lousy Karate Kid knockoff with Jean-Claude Van Damme, and a movie where karate kids battle slum lords.

But Honor and Glory is so amazingly awful it makes any 3 Ninjas movie like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It features Cynthia Rothrock, a martial arts champ who did great in Hong Kong movies but not so well in the states. She may have a black belt in several martial arts, but she doesn't even have a brown belt in acting. Ronda Rousey's hair does, and that's the problem.



The script is even worse. Here's the first five minutes, A Hong Kong cop goes into a break room, and is attacked by Rothrock. He's interrupted by someone telling him he's got a phone call, and she stops. Then they have a friendly chat, and it's revealed her name's Tracy and works with the FBI. This is an odd way for two friends to react.
Then we see her sister Joyce (Donna Jason),whose TV report is interrupted by someone who's referred to as "Bitter Girl." Seems she's mad at the reporter for insulting her senator dad, and also tries to cut the reporter with a knife. Reporter gal stops her with some karate, too, then shrugs off the whole experience in record time. Apparently, senators' daughters can attack people with knives, and getting the police involved is too complicated. It doesn't help both sisters sound like aging valley girls, or Tracy is dressed like Hillary Clinton, down to the hairdo.

It does downhill from there, Rothrock has a problem with her dad while sis wants them to get along. Then there's the main bad guy, Jason Slade (John Miller), a top banker who's also involved in a plan to buy a nuclear detonator. He's arrogant, cruel and the worst of all the actors in this movie. He's also into martial arts, but that includes twirling the world's biggest letter opener.



There's also a bodyguard who pretends to be Eddie Murphy who decides to switch sides when Slade kills someone with his bare hands. That process, by the way, is punching a heavy bag and battling four other guys. That's supposed to be character development. Terrible transitions in the league of Astro-Zombies doesn't help either.

Oh, and this is the "Middle East" guy who's ready to sell Slade the detonator. Ken Patera was a more convincing sheikh.



Rothrock has been in slightly better B-movies where she really does good moves, such as this one:



But a movie that ends with Joyce gives a live TV report thanks to a crew that appears out of nowhere..and forgets to resolve the other storylines?


Rothrock got better after this movie, or at least avoided Honor and Glory II. Rousey, meanwhile, already got better.

Now the riffs:

Slade tells his board of directors he isn't quitting despite concerns about scandal at his bank.
:I am chairman of the board, for life"
Frank Sinatra appears and punches him out.

Joyce meditates on a hammock
I want to achieve enlightenment but I'm not into the whole dignity thing

Tracy meets Silk, a pimp who's involved in Slade's plan, and he tries to get away
From awkward flirty banter to awkward clumsy fighting in no time flat.

Slade grabs Dad, and has him beaten by his goons
Comcast customer service.

There's also riffs on Dateline, In Living Color, Pretty Woman and the Iron Sheik. The movie is available at rifftrax.com




Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Rifftrax Wishes It Can Throw Gold Boots At Astro Zombies

This time, there's no video preview for this movie because it's not on YouTube yet. So. we have the original trailer...



Here's the link to Rifftrax's page on this movie, though. It's still a pretty weird follow up to the MST3K classic, Girl In Gold Boots. As Stefan from SNL would say, this B-movie has everything: a mad scientist, a zombie who looks like a Mexican wrestler, a spy who fails miserably at resembling Casey Kasem, a boss who is not sober at all, a girlfriend who's barely more than bait, a leggy evil spy, a really oily French version of Igor and scenes that go nowhere for hours, especially in labs.

The deal here is that John Carradine plays a mad scientist who wants to make zombie androids, and we see every boring step that goes into that. Tura Satana plays an evil leggy spy who wears cut-out dresses because the producers can't get away with her being nude. That's why we see her legs much more than what most men want to see. She has an oily Mexican henchman who can at least talk and a bossy bald guy who thinks he's in charge.
The good guys include the not-Casey Kasem spy who likes to grab his lab assistant girlfriend because he's a guy, Wendell Corey is his drunk boss.

The main story of both sides battling over the intermittent killing spree of the one Astro-Zombie barely exists. There's lots of scenes of the doc making his monster from scratch, Franchot (the oily guy) looking around and at one point fiddling with an unnamed girl in a bikini tied to a slab, and the spies taking too long to start shooting at each other. There's even a scene of a topless dancer who's covered in paint to make it less sexy. The Astro-Zombie also tries to kill girls by undressing them first.

The weird thing about it is it was co-written and produced by Ted Mikels and Wayne Rogers. Yeah, THAT Wayne Rogers who starred in M*A*S*H and House Calls before he eventually became a financial expert that appeared on Fox News. They made another movie called Dr. Sex, which is now rightfully forgotten. However, Something Weird Video has it, and man, it's racier than you think.  Mikels also made The Doll Squad, a proto-Charlie's Angels that was riffed by Cinematic Titanic in its final live shows.

OK, now the riffs

The movie begins with a woman driving in a convertible
She's hoping the car is what the director meant when he said "You'll have to go topless"

The credits roll while we see toy robots not doing much at all
It's a more cerebral Transformers movie

Some blonde German tries to shake down the femme fatale for more money for a tape she wants.
You think I just give you my VHS copy of Shaquille O'Neal's Kazzan?

Carradine's first scene
So what is this? Am I on The Man from UNCLE?
No, John, you're doing a movie. Astro-Zombies.
So then we'll shoot Bonanza?

Satana smoking and pacing
Connie Chung after the divorce.

The spy's girlfrend is told to appear in a window so the bad guys know she's there.
The zombies like it when you kiss your own reflection like Alex Rodriguez.

There's also riffs on Michael Dukakis, The Go-Gos, Groupon, Sharon Tate, "Where's Waldo?" and Pepto-Bismol, which is what people needed after seeing this movie.

Rifftrax's version can be found here, but there's a blu-ray version that has the riff and commentary by Mikels himself. You can get it at Amazon and a few other places.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Walking Dead Gets Targeted By The Living Riff




While Rifftrax showed a lot of contempt for Marvel hoping to get success on Netflix, it had a lot more fun taking another look at the first episode of The Walking Dead. While kids strangely decided to skip my apartment complex for Halloween (and I had plenty of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups), I decided to see the gang's take on this episode, which aired on Halloween 2010. By the way, I used the app, and it worked beautifully.

Just like when the gang looked at the first episode of Game of Thrones, it's quite a jolt to see how much things have changed. People are still recovering from the arrival of Negan and what he did to Glenn and Abraham, while trying to figure out King Ezekiel and his tiger. When they see the very first episode, it's weird seeing departed characters like Rick's wife Lori, his ex-partner Shane and a really young Carl. The only familiar face was Lennie James as Morgan, who was the first non-Walker Rick meets after he wakes from his coma. Only hardcore fans recognized his son, Duane, who bonked Rick with a shovel.

The plot, of course, is Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes trying to get a grip on this horrible new world. At one point, he shoots the breeze about women with his partner Shane, who's now The Punisher. Then, they chase down three criminals in a high speed chase, and Rick gets a major gunshot wound. He falls into a coma for months until he wakes and sees things are different.
The Rifftrax group came up with some odd comments about the Apocalypse, and got in some digs about other TV shows and some other unusual choices.

Rick drives to what used to be a service station. Lots of wrecked cars all over the place.
Looks like another monster truck killing spree

Rick and Shane have lunch and shoot the breeze.
Southern Erik Estrada (maybe Shane), I hope you're the first to die.

Rick wakes from his coma. No doctors, no electricity, no people
When your hospital director is a big Silent Hill fan

The zombies try to break though the chained hospital door
Undead Kool-Aid Man can't bust walls like he used to.

Morgan describes what happens when a zombie bites you:  "Bites kill you. The fever burns you out, but then after a while..."
You become head coach of the New England Patriots. 

Morgan boards up the windows at his house
I do the same thing at Girl Scout Cookie time.

Rick sees a picture of his family, unaware they're fine with Shane.
My kid will be such a dorky zombie
My wife will be a hot one, though (which wasn't true).

Rick rides into Atlanta on a horse
You can almost hear Richard Jewell's life being destroyed. 

There's also riffs that go from Carmax, The Brady Bunch and Game of Thrones to John Wilkes Booth, Bauhaus, Bronies and Adam Sandler.

The riff for The Walking Dead is available on the website, along with premiere shows for Game of Thrones, Netflix's Daredevil, Heroes and Grey's Anatomy. It will soon riff on Jurassic World in a few weeks, and feature a special holiday show December first with Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and the Shorts Festival from 2009 including Weird Al Yankovic. They'll also mock holiday photos their fans sent them.