Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mr. B Natural Gets a Kickstarter From Rifftrax

The first rewards for those who donated cash for Rifftrax Live's riffing of Starship Troopers are starting to arrive. Some will get a t-shirt, an autographed poster, or $3.99 towards a movie riff or anything else. Others will get an extra five bucks later.

The big news that the shorts package includes the new version of the classic "Mr. B Natural" short. It looks like this came from a Something Weird DVD, since there's a "SWV" watermark just as Mr. B is on the edge of convincing Buzz to learn how to play the trumpet so he can be a happy king or whatever.
Rifftrax has re-riffed Manos for a live show that will eventually be available to everyone soon, and also Bloody Pit of Horror, which Incognito Cinema Warriors XP took on a few years ago. What can the Riffers Three--Mike Nelson, Bill Borbett and Kevin Murphy--do with this?

UPDATE: You can find out now, because it's finally available on Rifftrax. Here's the link.

Just like Manos, it's a more complete version than the MST version. There are new scenes where a music teacher inspects Buzz's teeth and posture to decide what instrument he should have, and Mr. B leaps out of Buzz's room through the window ("Oh my God, she's pizza").

Some riffs are used in both versions, although not exactly on purpose, such as the "COOONNNNNN" joke, a case of "bad touch", one of the workers as a Bowery Boy, and a "shell game" bit.

Now let's compare:

Opening credits with the band forming the word, "Conn" (which sponsored the short)

MST3K;  (singing) C'mon and buy some crap from us, you know that you want to...
Rifftrax (Bill, sounding like Patton):  When you put your hand in a pile of goo that just a minute ago was in the tuba player's stomach, you know what to do

Mr. B shows up: "Boy, am I glad to see you":

MST3K (Crow): Well, it's not mutual
Rifftrax (Mike):  God, is that you?

Mr. B stretches out on the music stand

MST3K (Joel):  Is this Liberace's mom? (Note: No. Debbie Reynolds is Liberace's that HBO movie Hollywood studios unwisely threw away)
Rifftrax (Mike):  Wow, Mr. B Natural is one hippy son of a gun, ain't he?

Mr. B inside Buzz's room, playing a trumpet like a happy king

MST3K (Joel): Mr. B, shame on you. Have you no sense of decency?
Rifftrax (Kevin):  Yep, that's a tyrannical king dance if I ever saw one

Mr. B tells Buzz to "check your horn, boy"...

MST3K (Crow): ...and wash it every day
Rifftrax (Bill):  Make sure it's never set to "ska".

There's also riffs on Fred Durst, the NSA, Judy Blume, Taco Bell, Bronies and George Michael, and a prediction of how Buzz's life goes down the drain after rock and roll makes him uncool. The MST3K version was a little more dated since it has jokes on Prince, Jodie Foster, and Martin Sheen. Rifftrax's version is a bit darker, especially on how Mr. B is kind of creepy. On the other hand, Joel liked Mr. B a bit too much. That was also upsetting.

Again, it's available now at

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hangover of the Body Snatchers: Reviewing The World's End

After a noisy summer of big battling robots, overblown western legends, monsters attending college and lame science fiction being bested by small-budget scares, it's nice to know the summer movie season ends with an old-fashioned alien invasion

That is, an alien invasion dreamed up by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. They wrap up the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) with a sci-fi comedy called The World's End. Pegg plays Gary King, a guy who's facing 40 but wants to grab a bit of the glory he used to enjoy as a teen in the town of Newton Haven in 1990. Back then, he tried to complete"The Golden Mile", drinking beer in the 12 pubs. Now, he wants to finish what he started.
He rounds up his posse of Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Constantine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Peter (Eddie Marsan). After 20 years, though, Gary has tried to maintain his free spirit while his friends have tossed away theirs in favor of suits and steady jobs. Andy points out that he hasn't had a drink in 16 years after a big accident. Still, they travel to their home town in the same car Gary had, called "the Beast". They also meet up with Oliver's sister, Sam (Rosamund Pike), who Gary and Steven had a thing for.

Once they get to Newton Haven, it looks like nothing much has changed, except things are a bit too quiet and perfect. Gary soon finds out why: the town's been taken over by fake people as part of an alien invasion, although they prefer the term "redeveloping the town and everyone in it...for their own good." They can even clone some of the locals,  and use them as "bait" to unsuspecting people about to be assimiliated. Consider it like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, except the aliens use a great sales pitch rather than pods.

While they could get away, Gary suggests they continue their pub crawl, so that the "blanks" (their name for the fake people) don't get suspicious. It soon becomes a battle between Gary and his crew and the "blanks" who follow them everywhere. The fight scenes in the movie are great, especially when they take the "blanks" apart. Pegg really puts his all as the too-afraid-to-grow-up Gary, who thinks reaching the Golden Mile will make up for the disappointments of his life. However, you also see his friends, especially Andy, fight the very thing they've become--corporate slaves in nice suits--which is also what the aliens want them to be. That's a nice twist in the story.

The soundtrack is also a blast, especially for those who remember the '90s. It includes The Doors, Housemartins, Primal Scream (whose song plays a big part in the final showdown), Blur, Soup Dragons, PM Dawn and the Sundays.

The World's End is a great sci-fi comedy that says a few thinks about leaving your youth behind, but also our need to relive what we think are the best days of our lives. It also shows that sometimes you can't go home again, especially when aliens take over because they want to "improve" the place.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rifftrax Live: Best Big Bug Hunt Ever

I was a huge fan of MST3K. It is an honor - I hope I still feel that way after!
--Casper Van Dien in an interview from Miami New Times.

We were all hoping that nearly 265 thousand dollars to Kickstarter would be enough for Rifftrax to achieve its ultimate triumph: riffing Twilight within an inch of its after-life

Instead, we wound up with Starship Troopers, the cheesiest outer space war film ever. Where else will you see Neil Patrick Harris packing heat, Gary Busey's son as a six-foot golf tee with a big gun, Casper Van Dien as a leader of men, or Denise Richards showing less than one percent more credibility as a fighter pilot than as a nuclear scientist in The World Is Not Enough?

Recounting the plot isn't important, but the fact the Riffers Three--Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy--packed in two hours of snide remarks for fans in Nashville, and thousands more in theaters in North America. Getting a A-level science fiction movie to riff for a live show was a milestone for the series. Although some still wish that sparkly vampires and hunky werewolves were the target rather than jingoism and killing big bugs with way too many bullets, this was still a big success.

They wanted to somehow keep the show at PG-13 despite that infamous shower scene full of male and female flesh. So, Kevin chose that time to bring in Gorilla Grams to keep the cameras off the R-rated screen. He did this again when Van Dien had his love scene with Dina Meyer (yes, from Birds of Prey and the Saw series), but we still got a quick peek at her chest. This was a real buzzkill that reminded some of that pesky flying blimp that covered up the best parts of Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (namely topless babes), as done by Cinematic Titanic.
On the other hand, this may make the mp3 riff of the movie more popular, since it's bound to include play-by-play of the shower scene.

Let's get to some examples:

The logo of the "Federal Network" is shown
PBS finally got too much power

Dizzy (Dina) meets Zander (Patrick Muldoon) at a high school prom, before they fight the bugs
Hi, I'm discount Rob Lowe

Rico makes a big mistake at training that kills a soldier, and is sentenced to ten lashes
Gymnastics got dark in the future

Rico rides a very big tanker bug, and some icky orange stuff oozes out
Partially digested Chester Cheetah

The soldiers retreat after the bugs surround them
David Cronenberg presents A Bug's Life

and this classic line, given by Lt. Pasczak (Michael Ironside), when he appoints Rico Corporal:
"I need a corporal. You're it, until you're dead or I find someone better."

Mike calls this line his wedding vows, and Jay Leno's motto.

They also packed in riffs on Weekend at Bernie's, Beverly Hills 90210, Raid, voting in Chicago, Grown-Ups II, Transformers III, Arena Football, Charlie Sheen, Johnny Depp, Doctor Who, AT&T cell phone service, Kafka, Cougar Town, the TSA, Robert Byrd, Ted Nugent, Ricky Gervais, and political debate shows like "Ugly Guy and Old Broad".
Some may have noticed that Dean Norris was also in this movie. Naturally, they included riffs on his two shows, Breaking Bad and Under the Dome.

At least Meyer isn't mad. From her Twitter (@DinaMeyer):

It's too bad this will never be available for digital download, but watching the DVD while hearing the mp3 Rifftrax will be more than worth it, especially for the shower scene. Some did complain they couldn't see the movie because of work or other reasons, and were hoping to get that digital version. That's why announcing that it'll be shown again September 12th was a good idea. It gives people a second chance, while others will want to see this again.

Afterwards, Rifftrax will riff on the original Night of the Living Dead on October 24th. A DVD of the black and white version is already available, but the preview shows a clip that is colorized. Rifftrax did tweet me back that they'll show a better black and white print, not colorized. Of course, they'll have to deal with a brief shot of a naked female zombie. Hope they still have the phone number for Gorilla Grams.

One more thing: the pre-show slides were funny as usual. They're much better than the "First Look" infomercials that run before the movie.  Who else would have this anagram...REFTA TRAHE...and rearrange it to spell out "Hollywood Nepotism"? You also learn Troop Beverly Hills could be renamed Starship Troopers if you replaced Shelley Long with a bunch of spaceships (or maybe have Craig T. Nelson fill Michael Ironside's role). They also got in a few digs on Man of Steel, Game of Thrones, how Breaking Bad will end, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, and the fact that movies that make more cash overseas than in the US are more important these days. It also proposed combining rock and roll with zombies and create...World War ZZ Top.
And no one thought of this sooner?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Rifftrax: Hidden Shame of Two Oscar Winners

It's been a while since I bought this Rifftrax VOD feature Firehead, and it's about time to give this movie the significance it deserves:  a lousy movie from 1991 which includes two actors who defied the odds and got Academy Awards.

One of them, of course, is not Chris Lemmon, who's known for being in a Fox sitcom and inspiring the "eight of Chris Lemmon" in two MST3K episodes. This movie also shows he's no Bruce Willis, no matter how hard this movie allegedly tries. He apparently is the friend of Ivan, an Estonian cyborg who refuses to kill his own people when they're protesting ("Be like The Internship movie and bomb!"). Lemmon's with the NIH, and works for some evil rich guy (Christopher Plummer) for some reason. A girl named Mila, who's in "Special Ops" is also brought in as the "love interest", weapons expert, and the unlucky soul who sings the theme song during the closing credits...or is it why she's in the movie at all?

There's also some annoying young girl who knows way too much about science and grand theft auto who has to bail Lemmon out of certain situations. That may be appropriate for sitcoms, but not action movies.

Martin Landau is also part of this movie as a retired military man who warns Lemmon that Vaughn is really part of a shadow group described as a "old-boy clique of perverts". Ivan, meanwhile, explains in "Canadian Chekhov" that he's just getting rid of certain weapons to stop Plummer's evil plans, including killing the President. There's also a scene where Vaughn meets with the Attorney General just after he, uh, does his business against a tree (we hope). When Landau is eventually eliminated, his final words are the best in the whole movie, and may describe everyone who approved it.
There's also an annoying song about Chris Lemmon trying to investigate something while wearing his Yankees hat and pleated pants. It's an indictment about the scene and soundtrack more than anything else.

As for the Rifftrax crew, the riffing is pretty good, but not quite as good as in "Bermuda Triangle". The riffs are pretty fresh, calling the film "Die Hard on a budget", while also getting in digs on Duck Dynasty, The Simpsons, Patton Oswald, Arrested Development, the term "Lemon Party" (look it up on Google, but please not at work), Modern Family, the Terminator movies, Secret Squirrel, and Joe Biden.

I still haven't seen The Apple yet, but that will be done before the big Rifftrax Live event next week.

Did Rifftrax Overpromise A Bit In Kickstarter Campaign? Not Really

Like about 4300 people, I was looking forward to having my own digital copy of the Rifftrax gang taking Starship Troopers apart after they have their live show next week.

Then, I got this message:

Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to secure the rights from Sony to provide a digital version of the live show. The rights are completely different for theatrical and digital release, and even though we were able to work out an agreement with the theatrical division, it’s just not possible for a digital version.

Fortunately, they had a plan "B" in case they couldn't get the digital rights. Still, I did notice many people were disappointed they would not get the digital download they had expected. One person said he had lost his trust in Mike and Rifftrax because he didn't get the digital rights. Others said they wanted the download because they wouldn't be able to see it live. For the most part, especially the day after, people understood what happened, and gladly accepted an alternate package.

Did Rifftrax promise a little too much in its Kickstarter campaign?

They did the best they could, trying to pull off something they never tried before.
It just wanted to take what it does to alleged movies (Manos, Birdemic, Jack the Giant Killer, and Reefer Madness, to name a few) to the next level, and found out it's much tougher than expected. This was still a good first try, and we hope Rifftrax can get bigger movies in the future.

Mike Nelson was upfront about how this big move to get a more mainstream movie for a Rifftrax Live event was a gamble at best. They wanted to riff on Twilight, which inspired fans to raise the 55 thousand dollars needed in record time. They wound up pledging nearly 265 thousand dollars, which could have been enough for Mike, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett to give Bella and Edward the business.
Not quite for Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment, though, which is why Rifftrax had a list of alternate targets, uh, movies. It eventually got the rights to Starship Troopers, a sci-fi bug movie so cheesy it's practically asking for it. More than 70 percent donated 20 dollars or more to get a digital download of a fully-riffed Casper van Dien, Denise Richards, and really big bugs.
In a Kickstarter update just before Memorial Day, and I emphasize certain words in this update, Mike admitted that while he got the theatrical rights, getting digital rights may be a different bug to hunt:

In the interest of full disclosure, we want to let you know that while we are thrilled to be doing Starship Troopers, working with a big studio is more complicated than how we usually do things on our own. For instance, negotiating the rights to riff a movie live in a theater is not the same as negotiating for the digital distribution rights of said live show. They are two different departments and what works for one may not work for another. We know that the digital download of the live show was one of our most popular rewards choices and are going to do everything in our power to be able to deliver the reward. But we have not secured these rights as of yet, and there’s a chance that Sony may not let us do this. Hopefully it won’t be an issue. If for any reason we’re unable to deliver the digital download, we will of course offer up what we hope is a reward that is more than a fair substitute. You will be kept in the loop as this develops, and we may even run ideas by you if we’re forced to choose a new reward.

Since that was the case, Mike and his minions have offered (and about time) the Rifftrax Live version of Manos, Hands of Fate. This is great because it's a version that's more complete than the classic MST3K version (I reviewed it for this blog). They will also provide a riff of ST, plus five bucks from Depending on the donation, others will get an extra mp3 for any movie they want. So, it's a good peace offering.

So, don't be too mad at Mike Nelson and his Rifftrax minions. It's not as easy as making an mp3 riff on The Avengers while no one's looking. Getting something like Starship Troopers for Rifftrax Live  is an accomplishment in itself, and a reward for those who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign.

Let's hope that our dreams of Twilight getting eclipsed by Rifftrax Live will happen eventually. Until then, we'll have to do it the old-fashioned way: getting the DVDs and mp3 riffs, and pretend we're at the local Cinemark Suburban 14.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Bigger Than Lebron: BBC Unveils 12th Doctor In Worldwide Special

ESPN's overblown special on whether Lebron James will play for the Miami Heat had nothing on this.

Literally millions of people around the world tuned into the BBC and several other cable channels Sunday to find out who will be the next Doctor Who after Matt Smith exits the role on Christmas Day.
Speculation ranged from Helen Mirren (probably because of Red 2) to Idris Elba and everyone else in between.

The choice was Peter Capaldi, familiar to sci-fi fans as the reptilian Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth, or the foul-mouthed Malcom Tucker in The Thick of It and In the Loop. Some fans may also say, "Wait, wasn't he in "The Fires of Pompeii" as Lucius Caecilius?
He sure was:

It's the second time an actor played a different role on Doctor Who before becoming a Time Lord. Colin Baker, who was Maxil in "Arc of Infinity," was the other.
Oh, and he's an Oscar winner. He wrote and directed Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life, which won Best Short Film in 1995. He also was in a band with Craig Ferguson, which means Capaldi may find himself on The Late Late Show very soon.

The BBC special had some special guests including two past Time Lords, Baker and Peter Davison (who's also the father-in-law of David Tennant), some companions, and even Professor Stephen Hawkins. It was surprising to see Anneke Wills, who played Polly back in 1966, and witnessed the first regeneration to Patrick Troughton. It was also good to see old friends like Janet Fielding (Tegan), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), and Bonnie Langford (Mel, who's busy with the audio drama versions). Jenna Coleman was interviewed as well, and hopes Clara and Twelve can be good friends. That depends on how much "Malcolm" will be in the new Time Lord.

Already, some people are predicting what the transition will be like:

That will work for the first 15 minutes, but we may have to say so long to the fez and bow tie before too long.
The special was short and entertaining, and the final reveal was what a lot of people expected. Some had hoped to get a female Doctor, but the hopes of seeing Helen Mirren in the TARDIS will have to be set aside again. We can always hope she could be a Time Lady who didn't disappear along with Gallifrey, or maybe an older version of River Song. It's safe to say the special will find its way into the Blu-ray season set, or maybe part of the Christmas Special DVD.

It's not the first time the identity of the next Doctor has been done in a special interview. Sylvester McCoy was introduced in 1986 at several PBS stations. Back then, it included Jon Pertwee, plus a reminder for people to contribute to your local public TV station and keep Doctor Who on the air. It was a different time. Here's both halves of that interview:

One thing is for sure: the NFL draft, Heisman Trophy announcement or even the choice of the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics will never compete with what the BBC did to introduce a new hero, and keep Doctor Who in our minds for the rest of the year.