Thursday, February 26, 2015

Goodbye to February's Fabulous Sundays

As we're about to say good bye to February, it occured to me that this month had four exciting Sundays in a row. Now, when March first rolls around, there will still be things that will interest certain people, like the return of Once Upon A Time or new episodes of The Walking Dead.

Make no mistake, though, the past four Sundays had events that most people wanted to see. They were all curious about what would happen, and they also featured red carpet events. Yes, that included the Super Bowl. In fact, the Super Bowl and the Oscars almost had the same amount of pre-show coverage.

Super Bowl XLIX--Even though most people thought a slightly off Left Shark was the most memorable character from the game, people will forever recall Tm Brady leading the New England Patriots back from a ten-point defecit to beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. They'll also forever wonder why Seattle coach Pete Carroll didn't give the ball to Marshawn Lynch from the 1 yard line.

Grammys 2015--While this show had its moments, the structure was rather odd. Why would you have a long talk about copyright law after Record of the Year was announced,thus making people decide to tune out before Beyonce took the stage. At least we had Sam Smith dominate the show, along with a surprising performance by Kristen Wiig dancing to Sia's Chandelier. There was also great performances by Madonna, Common, John Legend and Annie Lennox, while Kanye West almost tried to grab Beck's Album of the Year and give it to Beyonce (who already won in the pre-show)

Saturday Night Live Turns 40--This was a supersized version of the show, filled with jokes that worked and those that didn't. There was plenty of nostalgia, like the remake of the Super Bass-O-Matic, the ultimate Weekend Update, and the excellent return of Wayne's World. Some didn't quite work, like The Californians (despite Bradley Cooper and Betty White locking lips, and Total Bastard Airways telling the cast, "buh-bye", and actually making it the perfect ending), and Eddie Murphy just showing up.  True, he didn't want to do a skecth where he'd mock Bill Cosby, but he could have done something else.  People were glad to see Paul McCarney and Paul Simon there, and some seemed to be surprised Miley Cyrus did a cool job with "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover". That would be topped a week later. Kanye and Sia came back for this, and they did fine.

The best part of the night, according to Jimmy Fallon, may have been the after-party...

At least we have this on YouTube:

Maybe Taylor can recreate that if and when she's back on the show.

Academy Awards--People were hoping that Neil Patrick Harris would conquer the daunting task of hosting the show, but, just like SNL, some of his jokes worked and some didn't. I still suspect Bad Horse wrote the script. It would have been better if Neil didn't include that magic trick.
People tuned in to see if Boyhood or Birdman would win best picture because that was the only suspense left in awards season, There were great acceptance speeches from Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons, Eddie Redmayne, and Graham Moore. There was also the director of Ida outlasting the "play-out music".
Two music performances wound up being the highlight:  John Legend and Common's performance of "Glory", and Lady Gaga's stunning performance of songs from The Sound of Music, followed by getting Julie Andrews' endorsement. Gaga may be built for Broadway, but first she's got an American Horror Story to tell this fall.
Then there's Sean Penn's ill-advised joke before he declared Birdman as best picture. Even though the director laughed it off, many movie fans wouldn't. It was the same story when Giuliana Rancic criticized Zendaya's hairstyle in an unfortunate way. That led to two apologies, but Zendaya let it go.

It was a fabulous February, but don't think it will be a "meh March". While Sundays may not be as exciting as they have been, there's still a lot to anticipate:  the return of Agents of SHIELD, spring training, NCAA March Madness, Cinderella starring Cate Blanchett (can you name who is playing Cinderella? You could do that in the TV versions), Chappie, Insurgent,..
and some of these events can be enjoyed on a Sunday.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

An Almost Perfect End of Award Season

Well, it was almost perfect
In 2007, I was upset Pan's Labyrinth lost Foreign Language Film, until I saw The Lives of Others. I am sure once I finally see The Theory of Everything, I'll see why Eddie Redmayne beat Michael Keaton...and the after-effects of Jupiter Ascending.

Otherwise, look, up in the sky.....

I'm currently seeing the E! rerun of the post-Oscars show, with Photoshop mocking Lady Gaga's Red Carpet dress. I said she was the most glamorous cleaning lady ever
Then, this happened:

NO ONE saw this coming. We know better. She is officially more than just that meat dress. Ask Julie Andrews.
Hey, Cabaret, you need a new Sally Bowles?

I'm surprised by how well Grand Budapest Hotel. It's another cute and quirky Wes Anderson movie, but I still say Moonrise Kingdom was better. I also still say getting green skin and Drax's tattoos is much more difficult than keeping Ralph Fiennes dashing.

So, how did Dr. Horrible do?
While it can't be proven Bad Horse wrote the jokes, Neil Patrick Harris may have bitten off a bit more than he could chew, as other rookie hosts. Still, they should ask him to do it again, now that he knows what it's like. This job is much more frantic and stressful than the Tonys or Emmys. If he took out his Penn Jillete imitation, it would have been better. The opening was better than Billy Crystal doing his "insert me in the movies" opening. That's due to tech being better, and adding Jack Black and Anna Kendrick is always a good idea.

This was also pretty wild:

First, eat your heart out, Walter White
Second, that was racier than the Birdman spoof that started the Spirit Awards, although their opening song with Kristen Bell and Fred Armisen is just as good as how the Oscars started.

Also, remember when we saw Little Groot dancing at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, and most of us thought "future Christmas present"?

Same thing here:

The Academy should work on letting Legos make LegOscar kits. They'd make enough to build a hundred museums. Otherwise, the internet will have someone come up with instructions. CNET has something on this.

The show was too long, again, but this time, it was all right. Neil will get it right if they give him a second chance in two years or so.
Next year, how about making the hosting job a relay team? It's happened before back in the '70s, where you had four people host at different times. Anne Hathaway finally gets her second chance, then add Anna, Bradley Cooper and Tom Hanks. That'll work.
Oh, and next year, they should rename the Red Carpet the Joan Rivers Memorial Red Carpet. She may not have made enough movies to be in the In Memoriam section, but she deserves that.

So, no more awards until the fall with the Emmys. Now what do we do?
Spring training, and March Madness? That's important.
Oh, and SHIELD's back on duty.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Greatest In the Worst Movies: The Disembaudios

At MST3K's Facebook page, it had a trivia question that's appropriate since the Oscars are coming up Sunday:  what's the only movie shown on MST3K that won an Oscar? The answer is Space Travelers, which was a re-edited version of Marooned. It won for special effects, but it wasn't safe from the riffing.

A blog called Peanut Butter and Awesome written by someone called Jeremy listed three movies the writer will watch instead of the Oscars:  Psycho II, Night of the Lepus and McBain. Those three movies, readily available on VOD at Rifftrax all have actors who were up for Academy Awards. Psycho II had Anthony Perkins, Meg Tilly and Robert Loggia, Night of the Lepus has Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh. McBain starred Christopher Walken, who won for The Deer Hunter

That leads to looking at the Rifftrax and MST3K libraries to see which movies had real actors in really bad movies.I'm not counting the mp3 riffs because they take on real movies. This is mainly from the VOD library.

Hawk the Slayer features a hero who must end the tyranny imposed by his brother Voltan, played by Jack Palance, who won for City Slickers, Despite a fine career in TV and film, he's done some cheesy roles like an evil warlord. He is also seen in Angel's Revenge as a drug pusher and Outlaw of Gor as a high priest helping some sexy evil woman to take over a kingdom. That's also the movie were the word "Cabot" is said eleventy hundred times. 

This was back in the days where people thought today's video games are tomorrow's movie blockbusters. While Resident Evil was a good example of that idea. this wasn't. Bob Hoskins, who plays Mario, has long said he shouldn't have taken this job. His role in Mona Lisa earned him an Oscar nomination in 1986. The big bad in this movie, King Koopa, is played by Dennis Hopper, who was nominated for writing and acting in his career. So, this is a selection that has the best pedigree.

This movie, about a cyborg from behind the Iron Curtain who wants to defect, features Christopher Plummer as a business magnate who wants to set up a new world order, as magnates do. It also features a short appearance by Martin Landau, three years before Ed Wood. 

This is a classic example of "what the heck is he doing here?" John Huston won two Oscars for directing, and can claim to be someone who directed his father and daughter to Oscars, too. So how come he was part of this movie about a squabbling family whose boat is lost in an area where ships disappear without a trace? It might have been to fund the movie, Wise Blood. He's done other unlikely roles in his career, too.

Other Rifftrax selections that included Oscar winners or nominees include Nightmare at Noon (George Kennedy), The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (John Travolta) and Little Shop of Horrors (Jack Nicholson in a very early role). 

On the MST3K side, there are some Oscar winners and nominees. Remember Robot Monster? The score was written by Elmer Bernstein, who went on to work on classics like The Magnificent Seven, Airplane and Ghostbusters. He won an Oscar for Thoroughly Modern Millie, a goofy musical back in 1967.  Gunslinger may have had Beverly Garland, but it also had John Ireland, who was nominated for All The King's Men. City Limits, all about a teen apocalypse, had James Earl Jones, who was nominated for The Great White Hope. Kitten With a Whip featured Ann Margaret as a crazy teenager exploiting a really dumb senatorial candidate played by John Forsythe. She would be nominated for Tommy and Carnal Knowledge. Revenge of the Creature, which started the show's tenure on Syfy, included Clint Eastwood, who also won twice for directing. Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders had Ernest Borgnine, who won for Marty.  Hamlet, the German TV version, had Maximillian Schell in the title role. He won for Judgement in Nuremberg. 

This only proves in the case of out favorite actors, writers and directors, they had to start somewhere, or continue their careers as best they could. The best can exist in less-than-ideal conditions. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Can You Support The Crappening? Rifftrax Hopes You Can

Rifftrax has announced its 2015 series, As you can see, it includes two familiar titles, a long-lost martial arts movie, and something that doesn't surprise Sharknado fans at all.

The series will be funded by a Kickstarter campaign. Mike Nelson wants his fans to help raise $75,000 in the next month to pay for the theatrical rights plus production costs to make this happen. The goal was reached after seven hours, but he and his crew hope to raise more to produce a high-quality show. Besides, they're movies that are asking for it
It's also offering some cool rewards. For ten bucks, you can get two new shorts plus a spot on the "thank-you page". For 20, you can get the VOD copy of the Christmas show, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, in February of next year. For 45 bucks, you get Santa plus the October showing of Miami Connection. You can also get special T-shirts, a chance to write a riff for the show, and more.

So, what will make up "The Crappening"? Here's Mike with a video preview:

First off is the notorious Tommy Wiseau movie, The Room on May 6th. It's about a banker who loses his girlfriend to another man. How that story is sort of told is why people have been attracted to this movie. It's already a popular riff at the website, and it's the first time it's being shown live with, er, appropriate commentary.

On July 9th, it's round two for Rifftrax vs. Sharknado. As those who bought the new Rifftrax live show on Sharknado know, it includes a scene from Sharknado 2:  The Second One where sharks attack people at a Mets the snow. Also, the fans use baseball bats to strike back. Sharknado 2 is just like the first only it's in New York, and also has Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath, Kari Wuhrer from Anaconda and MTV, Judd Hirsch, snd John Cena as a fireman. There will be a third one, where the sharks apparently decide on a two-pronged attack.

The third movie, coming on October first, is Miami Connection, which could be considered Fists of Fury: Electric Boogaloo. Y.K. Kim, a taekwondo expert, produced and starred in the story of a guy who heads a rock band. His group also trains in taekwondo. They try to fight some local thugs who are selling cocaine, and help their leader reunite with his dad. Kim was hoping his movie would be a hit, when it was released in 1988, but it wasn't. One reviewer from Slant magazine thought it would be perfect for MST3K. The movie was recently re-distributed by Drafthouse Films, and got a second chance at getting noticed by movie fans. Still, here's some clips:

The final movie is a familiar holiday treat for Rifftrax fans, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. This will be shown December 3rd. Santa is stranded somewhere in Florida, and hopes to get his sleigh off the ground with any help available, even if it's a guy in a gorilla suit. He stops to tell the kids the story of Thumbelina, trying to show you shouldn't give up. He's later rescued by an Ice Cream Bunny with a fire engine and a creepy laugh  This version has been riffed before, but the crew found another version with Jack and the Beanstalk. There's no clips on YouTube, but here's something from IMDB. The fact that there's a second version should draw in a lot of interest. It's like finding a sequel to Manos.

Even if the events are now paid for, the Rifftrax crew will come up with stretch goals to offer more rewards. Again, if you'd like to add more bells and whistles to "Rifftrax 2015: The Crappening", visit the Kickstarter page to donate.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kevin Murphy on Sharknado-Mania and Rifftrax's 2015 Schedule

Rifftrax's first live event of 2014, Sharknado, is now available for video stream or download. It was a big hit in theaters last July, and is likely to be a big hit for those who saw it live, and those who got a second chance this week.

I sent some questions by e-mail to Kevin Murphy about this movie, and what's coming up later this year.

First I asked if he and the rest of the crew were surprised about how popular the Sharknado show has become? He said, "I was surprised and delighted in how many people liked this show, I mean it was nuts."
As for whether they'll take on Sharknado 2, he just said, "We'll see."
Actually, that may be more likely this summer. More details here.

I also asked if he heard from the two stars, Tara Reid and Ian Zierling, he said "I know Ian tweeted about the show, and was a good sport about this." As fans remember, Dina Meyer tweeted about the live riff on Starship Troopers more than a year ago.

Earlier this month, the crew did a live show as part of Sketchfest in San Francisco. "I love doing the Sketchfest shows," he said. "Always a great audience, and we get to work with some of our best show biz friends" (Actually, he may have tried to type "bestest" there). Rifftrax taped the 2013 show, but no word yet on whether this year's show will also be available.

Here's the trailer from the Sharknado show, which is available at the Rifftrax website:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

We Took A Bite of Rifftrax Live's Riff of Sharknado..and It's Delicious

Next Sunday, America will honor the best movies of the year with the Academy Awards.
Before that, Rifftrax fans will get a second chance to honor one of the most bizarre movies ever made.

Last July, the Rifftrax crew (Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett) did a live riff of Sharknado, one of those incredibly-mixed-up movies made by the SyFyChannel. It's best known for such classics as Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Mega Python vs Gateroid (actually a proxy war between '80s singing stars Debbie Gibson and Tiffany), and Frankenfish. Sharknado got a lot of buzz from Twitter users in the summer of 2013, and even was shown in theaters.
Now, fans can buy their own copies of the gang's riff of this movie starting Wednesday, February 18th. We got a sneak preview of this movie, and it is worth every penny. It's one thing when Rifftrax takes on B-movies like ROTOR,  Wonder Women and The Dark Power, but it's another when it's an incredibly cheesy made-for-cable movie featuring two former teen stars.
What's also great is that the show takes place at the State Theater in Minneapolis, where they presented This Island Earth in the first MST3K convention in 1994. There were a lot of Minnesota jokes, especially about meat raffles.

The plot? Barely exists, but it's basically nature gone amok creating a situation that's a cross between Jaws and Twister. Between the bad editing that causes weather that makes no sense, and the really strange special effects, there's a lot to riff about.
It starts at a fishing boat where there's a dispute over paying for some shark, which is described by Mike as "a dark, gritty reboot of Gilligan's Island". Then, a storm brews, and for some reason it helps some sharks get on board and start eating the crew.

Later, we meet Fin Shepherd (Ian Zierling), former surfing champ and owner of a restaurant on the Santa Monica pier. He's often mistaken for Luke Perry or Jason Priestley. When the storm brews, some people in the water get eaten while the people on the shore don't notice. Then the waves get bigger, allowing the sharks to burst through the windows, causing what Kevin calls "Road House with sharks."

Tara "if this doesn't work, I'm leaking a sex tape" Reid plays April, Fin's ex-wife. He tells her to get to higher ground, but she refuses. So, he goes to her house, and the sharks get there through the sewers. They literally burst through the manholes, and chomp on her new boyfriend. Anyway, it all culminates with an attempt to stop the twisters by dropping bombs into them. The plan includes Nova, a trigger-happy waitress who hates sharks. The final battle is too bizarre to be described. After you see it, you will think maybe we owe Hal Warren an apology...and if you don't know who Warren is, the Master would not approve.

Now some riffs to expect:

The opening shot is a bunch of sharks trying to out-swim an oncoming tornado

Bill:  You guys want story? Go read Judy Blume or something.

April won't let Fin take their daughter to higher ground

Kevin:  There's a hurricane, you nitwit substitute for apple pie.

They get set to use a helicopter to toss bombs into the twisters

Mike:  If Auntie Em has one of these, the Wizard of Oz would have been a much better movie.

The best riff, though, was this response:

Fin responding to the road rage:  I just can't sit back and watch this
Kevin:  Yeah, I feel the same way.

There's also riffs on The Shining, Johnny Depp, The Little Mermaid, Uwe Boll, Semisonic, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,  FEMA, Russian traffic, Burning Man and Def Leppard.

Before the movie, the gang presented a short called A Case of Spring Fever. It's about a guy who wishes springs never existed, and a demon named Coily grants that wish. It takes about five minutes for the guy to realize what a bad wish he made. It's reversed, and he spends the rest of the short telling his golf buddies how humanity would be doomed without springs. The short was shown before in the next-to-last MST3K episode, Squirm, The Rifftrax version has riffs on Jenny McCarthy, Christopher Walken and gluten-free diets.
That was followed by a preview of Sharknado 2, which features sharks somehow attacking fans at a Mets game. The fans are ready, attacking  the sharks with baseball bats.
That movie, by the way, was also shown in theaters for one night shortly after it aired on SyFy last year. Of course, there will be a third Sharknado, and let's hope Rifftrax riffs the complete trilogy.

Sharknado is available for pre-order at the Rifftrax website for $12.95, or $14.95 for the HD version.
Also, the mp3 riff of Anaconda, which was made possible through last year's Kickstarter campaign, will be available next month.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spider-Man Joins Marvel MovieVerse...What Will That Mean?

It was the only news that would make us forget that Brian Williams may never be seen on TV...or that a certain woman from Asgard will be back on Agents of SHIELD.

Marvel Entertainment announced it will produce a new Spider-Man movie, with Kevin Fiege and former Sony Studios head Amy Pascal as producers. Spidey is likely to make an appearance next year in Captain America:  Civil War. He may be one of the heroes who thinks he should register with the government, although it would be great if he refereed between Captain America and Iron Man. After that, Sony will release the new Spider-Man movie on July 28th, 2017, and have control over that franchise. Despite that, it may be possible other MCU characters may be part of future movies. There's speculation Andrew Garfield may be replaced next year.

You can learn more at:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

SNL Anniversaries, Celebrated on Cable and VHS

Next week, the show will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a three hour special, just like 15 years ago. A lot of people remembered that special because it brought back a lot of the old gang. It even recreated Elvis Costello's decision to change songs without telling anyone back in 1977. That time, it was appreciated.

Not too many people, however, remember the first big anniversary live special in September 1990, just before season 16 started. It was also live, and was only two hours. The VHS copy I had didn't include music performances from Prince and Paul Simon, or some past musical guests, due to rights.

Much of it is a bunch of clips from past shows. They were divided into three sections, 1975-80, 81-85 and 85-90.  Notice in the 81-85 section there's only one clip from season six: the unexpected finale where Tim Kazurinsky created the "I Married A Monkey" sketch. That section did have a lot of Eddie Murphy even if he didn't attend due to David Spade mocking him (supposedly). Murphy is expected to be back next week, and maybe with the same entourage who represented him in 1990.

There were also tributes to Gilda Radner and John Belushi, Charlton Heston reading a letter complaining about the show that he wrote (even though he hosted the show in 1987) and a section to sketches that were rather...naughty. It highlighted the Lord and Lady Douchebag sketch from 1980, and the nude beach sketch from 1988 where "penis" was said a million times. That sketch was written by Conan O'Brien, believe it or not.
The ending was disappointing. They brought out Robin Williams to riff on the show and some in the audience. It seemed they needed to fill time, but they should have had an extra segment just in case.

It's too bad NBC didn't release a DVD version of this anniversary show, as they did with their four history specials. It's not even on Hulu.  If you can't find in in your local thrift store, Amazon does have it and it's not too expensive.

Meanwhile, the VH-1 Classic SNL marathon is heading to the home stretch, showing the first five years. What's great about this is that they are showing the complete episodes, and that means the music, too. If only the channel had cleared the music for all the episodes between 1980 and 1998. That way we would have had 31 Days of SNL. That that, Turner Classic Movies.

It was still a treat seeing episodes that haven't been shown, not even cable, in at least 15 years. This includes stuff from the second Golden Age of Carvey, Hartman, Hooks, Lovitz and Miller.
People may have also been surprised to see George Clooney hosting in a suit that looks more ridiculous than Batman and Robin, and Alec Baldwin hosting with his then-wife Kim Basinger (one of four married couple who did this). Others may wonder, especially if they're under 18, what's Laura Leighton doing there, and may be surprised their parents remember her from another TV show. Some may also be surprised Steve Carrell's wife worked on the show, while he almost did. Others may see Conan O'Brien in the nude, Stephen Colbert as a doctor, or Sarah Silverman in a bit part. If you're lucky, you may spot a young Kirsten Dunst.

It was also a great chance to see past Weekend Update anchors. I've noticed Kevin Nealon tried to be the second coming of Chevy Chase, and actually succeeded. Norm MacDonald was good, but he may have relied a bit too much on OJ Simpson jokes. Current fans may wonder why during season ten (84-85), they let almost anyone host the news before they gave it to Christopher Guest. Bob Uecker can actually claim he anchored for SNL, but so can George Carlin, which was a much better idea.

The Andrew Dice Clay episode was shown, the one Nora Dunn and Sinead O'Connor skipped because they didn't like his jokes. It's amazing the jokes that were bleeped in the original showing were aired intact. One term even wound up being a movie title.
They showed two episodes from season six, mainly because they included some of Eddie Murphy's best early work. Without him, the show was nearly doomed. If the channel had cleared the music, we would have seen an early appearance by Prince...proving he has NOT lost a thing in more than 30 years.
Of course, they showed the famous Coffee Talk episde with Rosanne and Madonna talking about Barbara Streisand, followed by a surprising cameo. That bit is in the Best of Mike Meyers DVD.

Still, there are lots of old shows they skipped over, mainly more recent ones and from the Ebersol era. I would have loved to see "Da War of da Woilds" with the classic line, "what da funk is dat?", as much as Jesse Eisenberg and Nicki Minaj in their version of the "Bride of Frankenstein". Pee Wee Herman even hosted, but that wasn't included in the marathon
Of course, I also missed the music, especially from the shows between 1980 and 1998. Some from that period is available on the SNL 25 Years of Music DVD.

Yahoo Screen has clips from the 80s and 90s. Hulu has more than 300 episodes, including the first five years and the last ten. It would be great if VH-1 Classic aired the episodes those sites don't have, like Comedy Central used to do. Actually, if you go through Amazon, you can find Best of 1991 and Best of 1993 of SNL, but they're VHS. These titles should be available somewhere online or DVD.