Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Rains of Castamere: What's So Funny, Rifftrax?


Mark Twain once said that "humor is tragedy plus time."
Could that also apply to one of the bloodiest and most pivotal episodes in the history of Game of Thrones?

Rifftrax took a brave move by riffing the famous "Rains of Castamere" episode from season three. This was where much of the Stark family was killed in an ambush after a wedding feast hosted by Walder Frey. Apparently since Robb Stark decided not to marry one of Frey's daughters after he promised he would, Frey decided to wipe out a family he doesn't like after he promised he wouldn't. Hey, fair's fair in his mind.

Who would smile or joke during a massacre like that, except the Lannisters?
Really, the only reason to smile at the end of this is the knowledge that one of the few living Starks will make sure he won't get away with it.

Aside from that, the crew of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett do a very good job mocking the subplots of the episode as well as the Red Wedding.
They especially wonder if Mike even watches the show. He insists he can hold his own, but meekly asks if Robb Stark is actually Percy Jackson. He also mistakes Samwell as Mike Meyers in a fat suit.
This is silly, of course. Mike Meyers in a fat suit is the host of The Gong Show.

The episode also looks at Arya hoping to reach the Twins and get to the event, Bran, the future Three-Eyed Crow, hanging out with some kids and Hodor, Daenerys figuring out how to take over Yunkai, and Jon Snow trying to prove himself to his fellow Wildings while spying for the Night's Watch.

Once the Rifftrax gang get to the Red Wedding, the riffs are rather grim, but doing this is still a brave move. If there's a riff that will make fans wince, it's the very last one where Bill sings a song..and it's the worst choice available.

If nothing else, it's a sign that the Rifftrax gang will have quite the time mocking "The Five Doctors" later this month, and not just because of what the Cybermen look like.

OK, riff time...

The Hound comments at Arya's refusal to kill an old man just to take his horse and cart
"You're kind. Someday that will get you killed."
Just like Mother Teresa

Bran wargs into a wolf's body
Little Orphan Annie powers, activate

Walder escorts Roslin Frey to her groom, Edmure (who's glad she's cute)
She's a living anime character

Ser Jonah exaggerates how "easy" it was to take the city
"They threw down their swords and surrendered."
And the nation of France was born

Now the Red Wedding, where Catelyn is hit by an arrow...
That's how my mother felt when I told her I was going into theater

...and Roose Bolton stabs Robb Stark
"The Lannisters send their regards."
I was hoping for an Edible Arrangement

There's also riffs on Bruno Mars, Blue Apron, American Apparel, Les Miserables, NASCAR and Bjork. Sadly, no traditional Golden Corral riff...although it would have fit perfectly in the deadly meal.

I watched this episode twice, once on the app and once with the mp3 online. As usual, the riffs don't start on the app until the dialogue does. That's why you miss a very funny argument in the opening credits over whether the gang is watching TV or HBO. That's also odd since HBO hasn't used that slogan since 2009.

Rifftrax's riff on "Rains of Castamere" is available on the Rifftrax website.




Monday, July 31, 2017

Buffy's Forgotten Anniversary


This year's San Diego Comic-Con paid tribute to Buffy the Vampire Slayer's 20th anniversary on TV with a big bash at a local night club that included a  former adversary (Clare Kramer), lots of pictures from the show, and "The Harvest" playing in the background.
There were also panels on how the show was designed, and a new book that will get inside how the show was made. That will be released in the fall.

However, nothing was mentioned about Buffy's other anniversary, her 25th year as the original movie. It may be due to the fact that it's not as good as the TV show, but attention should be paid. When it was released at the end of July 1992, it seemed it could appeal to some fans. Sure, the idea of a high school cheerleader being chosen to clobber vampires and assorted hellspawn may be different, and possibly weird after years of Freddy and Jason picking off teenage girls. Joss Whedon, a guy who wrote for Roseanne,  thought it would be cool if the typical victim in horror movies would become scarier than the monsters she faces. Turns out he was right.

However, it didn't turn out that way as the movie made $16 million after a seven million dollar budget, and was mainly forgotten. At least it led to something better.

I only care about this because several years ago I managed to get a baseball cap from the movie at a thrift store. After that, I got the press book, and eventually met Kristy Swanson herself at a small con in Sacramento. She was a great interview, actually.

It would have been great to have a panel at Comic-Con with both Buffys talking about how the role changed their lives. You would have needed three Hall H's for that.

YouTube actually has some videos connected with the original movie. Here's a photo shoot with the cast to plug the movie. It's a nice look behind the scenes:



or Kristy talking about the movie with Arsenio Hall



and a brief story in Entertainment Tonight.



Still, you have to admit the movie could have better, if not for Fox deciding it shouldn't be that scary if the heroine was a demon-hunting cheerleader. Joss Whedon, who wrote the movie, had a different idea with his original script which eventually was made into a comic book series with Dark Horse in 1999. For one thing, Merrick had a different explanation about why it took so long to find her, the action was much more violent, and her throwaway line about how she "blew up the gym" was explained. Fans today would have bought that.

There was also talk that maybe David Bowie or Mick Jagger would be vampires at the Spring Dance or henchmen to Lothos, but that faded quickly.

It did serve as a place where some familiar faces got their start, including Hillary Swank, Ben Affleck and Ricki Lake. Paul Reubens used it as his comeback after that arrest in an adult theater in Florida. It included that really long death scene that was a smart idea in retrospect. Luke Perry hoped it could lead him towards a film career after 90210.

It's just too bad that, in the end, the Buffy movie was an example of the "they just didn't care enough" school of cinema. There's a boom mike visible in the first few minutes, Benny the Vampire has a reflection on a window, and all the students are clueless until the last ten minutes. That's a far cry from the Buffy we know getting some Slayerettes by the second episode

If you haven't seen the original Buffy movie, it's available at Amazon as a double feature with Jennifer's Body. So is the Origin comic, although a bit pricey. It may be possible to get it cheaper at local comic book stores.

Meanwhile, the Nerdist wrote its own column on the movie on the 20th anniversary of the TV show. It gives a summary of the movie and compares it to the TV show. It also argues that it taught Joss something:  while Buffy may be the hero, she has to have some interesting supporting characters. That's a lesson he applied to his other shows. Imagine if Buffy's friends from the movie weren't so "Clueless" three years before the movie of that name. Maybe in a different universe we'd have "Daughter of Buffy" taking over where she left off...or both of them battling vampires. That would have worked, too.

In any case, happy 25th to the Buffy movie, and all who were part of it.

UPDATE:  A 25th anniversary blu-ray of the movie is coming October 3rd but it's exactly like the old blu-ray. No new features at all. They should have at least tracked down the old cast, and that's not difficult to do.
The TV show, though, will have a new set two weeks earlier with new features and commentaries. That makes sense because  it was the more popular version but the movie deserves more attention.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

MST3K Live Conquers Comic-Con


In the not too distant past, last Saturday A-D...
Mystery Science Theater 3000's live tour stopped off at the annual center of the pop culture universe known as San Diego Comic-Con. It was a big hit as both shows were slightly hotter tickets than Hall H on Marvel Day. That's pretty good, since they were competing with all the parties, screenings of Atomic Blonde, and a major Doctor Who bash.

Jonah Ray, Joel Hodgson and Felicia Day, along with lots of other cast members stopped by the Shout Factory booth to sign assorted things. Here's a look:




Clearly Jonah has a future in retail. since he accidentally sold several copies of Fargo.

As for the Saturday show, they had problems with the pre-recorded clips with Felicia and Patton Oswalt, but we could always pretend the feed from Moon 13 got scrambled a bit due to solar winds.
The live part with Synthia (Rebecca Hanson) and Terry the Bonehead worked much better. Joel even appeared to announce there will be a comic book where the SOL gang will suddenly find themselves in bad comic books. They also lived up to the "Watch Out For Snakes Tour" name by shooting some really big snakes from a bazooka on some guy. At least they should have given him one to take home.

As for Netflix, still no word. That's odd, considering Comic-Con is the time for big news, like announcing certain shows will be back next year. Heck, it said all four Defenders will be back next year with new shows..and that The Punisher will even have his own show. It may be waiting until after the tour ends next month in Atlanta before we finally get the word.
Besides, Jonah didn't really...you know...at the end of season eleven, right? (If you don't know, that's what Netflix is for).

Also, since I had the "bronze" VIP level at a hundred bucks, I was supposed to get a VIP lanyard along with a tote bag and poster. Well, no lanyard, but I did get this...


May not be able to wear it, but it's a good consolation prize.
As for the souvenir stand, the snakes were pricey, but the t-shirts were reasonably priced along with the mugs and even pins. Chances are the choices will be different depending on the city. They also have a very nice photo book of the cast behind the scenes. Considering the tour is in its third week, it's impressive they got it out so quick.

So, what was the not-Eegah movie like?
Since the movie will be shown a few more times, we'll keep it vague. Let's say it involves a lot of Swinging Sixties stuff, constant changing of robes, and a completely stupid "plot". Oh, and it was interrupted a couple of times by a "Watch Out For Snakes" warning...but not long enough. We'll actually name the "movie" once the tour is done in a month. It's safe to say it's bound to appear in season 12.
The live segments were great, including a fashion show that even used Synthia and Terry quite well. Maybe those two will turn on Kinga, or convince her there's a better way to make the experiment her cash cow....just as long as they don't use the word "Rifftrax".
Not only that, the Shout Factory booth showed trailers of upcoming movies the company will be selling soon. Two of them are Hercules movies with Lou Ferrigno. The first one, judging from this trailer, has got to be a guaranteed choice for season 12.

The live tour should be a success, but it should convince Netflix to give the Satellite of Love more episodes. After all, shouldn't Luke Cage, President Underwood or young Queen Elizabeth have a good laugh? MST3K would give them that.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

At Last....A New ICWXP DVD, Four Years In The Making


It's been more than four years since Rick Wolf and his robot friends TopsyBot, Johnny Cylon and Flux  Namtari battled a zombie apocalypse and a bigger threat...bad movies.

It was expected that "Bad Guys Wear #000000" would be done a whole lot sooner, but it was explained in an insert in the DVD that technical problems and lost footage caused a LOT of delays.
Finally, though, the DVD was sent out to fans this month. Aside from the main plot where Rikk and the boys are now dealing with computer problems and a new zombie religion, it also faces two shorts (including one familiar to Rifftrax fans).

The host segments, which run for more than hour, may seem to be tedious to those who come for the riffed shorts. However, ICWXP tries to be different with a major arc about Rikk and the boys hoping to get out of the Cine-A-Sorrow Theater, where they've been trapped to protect themselves from the zombie hordes. Sure, there seems to be "news" there are safe sections including downtown Kansas City, but they won't know until they get out.

However, they have to deal with the Order of Mortuus, led by some guy who thinks the zombies are the future and should be worshiped. They also have ninjas that teleport  but that's about it. Rick is told via their mysterious Ludovico informant they have to get to the basement of the theater to escape, but first they have to get around a force field installed by the Order.
There's also those two henchmen from Ludovico, Berkin and Spencer, following the gang. They're not in good shape, since one of them thinks he sees the Crimson Executioner from Bloody Pit of Horror and has to grease him up. Ewwwww.

It would have been a good idea to trim about ten or 15 minutes from the host segments, but the story is still pretty interesting. At least they have more to worry about than lousy short films. Much of the delay is due to the extensive special effects, especially how the scene changes to a 16-bit video game to show how Rick escapes. The new MST3K only wishes it was this fancy, and might be once a new season is approved.

Speaking of which, the influence of MST is strong with the show. When Rick snoozes, it's to the sound of Joel Hodtriani playing "Tublar Booblar Joy" from his album, Idiot Control. Also, one of the zombies is a former CORPS solider named Corbett, and someone says "let me be Frank about Frank".



So, what about the riffs? The first short is "Safety: In Danger Out of Doors", featuring Safety Woman, This is already available on Rifftrax, and it shows the world's only Super Traffic Guard saving two dumb kids from a boating accident and a girl from being hit by a van. The style of the riffs is a bit sharper than Rifftrax. For example:

We get the origin story about how a free-lance architect gets super powers
She was bitten by a radioactive stop sign

From her house, she hears the kids calling for help
By the power of Numbskull

The second short is interesting. It's called "Linda's Film on Menstruation", which features two teenagers discussing what happens when a girl gets her first period. The boy is a dope about it, of course, There's also strange animation that attempts to explain menstruation, not to mention interviews with women who talk about it, too. The weirdest parts include a doctor who talks about menstruation....in a bowling alley, and a girl who dreams of a game show that talks about why getting periods freaks out men.
The gang also deal with those old pre-movie and intermission ads for popcorn and drinks...and even a cold pickle that'll never replace M&M's. There's even a couple of car ads from the '60s.

Not enough? How about this:  the boy in the short is played by Johnathan Banks of Breaking Bad. He actually talked about this with Conan O'Brien a couple of years ago.

The DVD also has nice extras including a riffed short from Josh Way's Fun With Shorts, Flux meeting fans at Planet Comicon in Kansas City, a special video from Patreon, and even a special motion comic from Sugar Ray Dodge.

It's great to see the ICWXP crew back in action. However, creator Rikk Wolf says they're taking a break. Hopefully, they will get to the second season finale eventually. Massive sales should help, so here's a link to the show.

They're taking a break for now, but let's hope Rikk will get one more episode done. ICWXP is one of the best successors to MST3K out there, and it should be supported.
Who knows, maybe Rikk can get a new job:  head of security at Moon 13 and possible future boy toy for Kinga Forrester. That'll thrill Max to no end (if Max is still around, that is)




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Surf's...uh Shorts Up As Rifftrax Live Does Summer


It wasn't exactly a Catalina Caper, but Rifftrax Live had some fun under the sun (or at least indoors) by riffing on a new set of shorts this past week in Nashville, TN,

It wasn't quite as star-studded as last June's reunion, but at least the original Mads (Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff) came. Also Paul F. Tompkins showed up as the ultimate Boatnik and the Real Housewives of Rifftrax, Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl (with really short hair), also made it.
As far as the subject matter, the shorts attempt to educate, but in weird ways. "Sentinels for Security", for example, starts with the Armed Forces, a cop and a fireman outside a house, hoping to protect the homeowner from himself. That's followed by people hurting themselves and blowing up their homes.

Then there's "Ricky Raccoon Shows The Day", where a family who just bought a house learns a really big bear-like raccoon is included.


He then gives lessons in traffic safety that even make mom and dad dance. Sometimes he pops in and out in strange places. The Rifftraxers can only say "This new It movie is terrifying".
For the record, I'll choose one riff from each of the shorts.

Anyway, the Mads look at Office Etiquette, where a young girl has her first office job. A lot of their comments were at how the job could be a drudge, but were stunned to see a female worker snacking while working: "What is this job doing to you? That's an eraser."

Then came the short of the night: "Rhythmic Ball Skills". It features kids dropping and catching balls sitting, standing, spinning and even under the leg. It's the exercise version of Setting Up A Room.


Or, as Bill put it, "After this, Michelle Obama came out in favor of childhood obesity." At least "Perc! Pop! Sprinkle!" was about something and had better music.

Mary Jo and Bridget took on "The Griper", one of those Centron shorts that Josh Way usually mocks. It's about a conscience who complains about a teen who really complains. Of course, he learned it from his family. It's rather odd this grumpy teen literally affects everything in his high school, or a literal Girl Next Door tries to set him straight. The girls have some bright and snarky comments about the teen, especially when he ruins English class by preventing everyone from acting out scenes from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (according to them).

That was followed by "A Touch of Magic" that features the return of Nuveena and the Weird Masked Guy from "Design for Dreaming." Of course, it's a General Motors short plugging their new cars for 1961. The cars move forward on a carpet of white balloons, or as Paul puts it, "Time to take out our shown enemy, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.". The couple also have a housewarming party with invisible guests, and load the Frigidaire dishwasher by throwing dishes at it. Weird,

The final short, "The Baggs," was the strangest of all.


It's what would happen if Santa Claus turned into a junk collector, and he picks up two burlap bags that come to life, run around, and finally rows away into the sunset. Best riff: "The two dancers inside the bag are nude, and one of them is Lena Dunham." If you listen real close, they seem to diss a show that ran for nine seasons but later found its way to Netflix. Sound familiar?

There was also a clip reel of the best moments from all 300+ shorts. Naturally shorts like "Shake Hands With Danger" and "Mr. B Natural" were included, along with Norman Krasner's Living Hell. Too bad they left out "Live and Learn", "Drugs Are Like That" and "Measuring Man", but they should be seen to be believed.

It was a fine evening of weird shorts, and a nice set-up to the big summer event, "The Five Doctors", coming in August. So far, we know from Nerdist the old Cybermen costumes were Jiffy Pop with legs. That might be considered "mercy".