Sunday, March 8, 2015

Rifftrax's New and Improved Sketchfest Video

A couple of years ago, Rifftrax presented a video of its live show from the San Francisco Sketchfest, where they mock several terrible education videos. It looked a little underlit, and you couldn't hear the audience laughing. It still had some great guests including Kristen Schaal (now with Last Man on Earth but is also one of Jake's kids from Adventure Time), Adam Savage from Mythbusters and Kevin MacDonald from Kids in the Hall. 

Now, it's released "Night of the Shorts 5:  A Good Day To Riff Hard", which took place last month at Sketchfest. That means some of the riffs are piping hot. They take a look at six shorts, already available at the Rifftrax site. It just has the added kick of live reactions from the audience. The production is also fancier. There's real opening credits, and they'd added scenes of the riffers doing their thing along with audience reactions. The lighting is better, too.

It starts with "One Turkey, Two Turkey", where kids learn to count to ten by seeing lots of turkeys while hearing a song that Schoolhouse Rock would never use, That's followed by the first half of "Setting Up a Room", with Sketchfest founders, and Rifftrax riffers, Cole Stratton and Janet Varney. This film shows two teachers taking a looooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnggggggggg time preparing a room for a kindergarden class. It's more tedious than Lost Continent and Hercules Against the Moon Men combined. Kevin Murphy does point out that it's better than "setting up The Room".

The third short is "Writing Better Social Letters", harking back to a time where people had to send thank-you letters to friends and family, and actually use prehistoric things like a pencil and an envelope. It's also a Coronet film, so that explains a lot. Todd Barry helps out here. That's followed by the short of the night, "Live and Learn", where kids from the 1950's do incredibly stupid things that send them to the hospital. It also has lame special effects, where they try to recreate the scene of a kid falling off a cliff. How it's handled makes Bill Corbett complain about how a "perfectly good mannequin" is ruined.

Comic John Hodgman joins the crew (after barely avoiding injury) to riff on "Making Sense With Sentences", another Coronet film that tries to teach kids grammar through a fictitious island and a guy who's a cross of Ed Wynn and John C. Reilly. Sadly, using confusing riddles and plush elephants that move by themselves isn't that effective. It had a monkey who just sits there in the background. If it had a bigger role, it could have been a better short. Then Paul F. Tompkins, dressed like a snappy-looking test pattern, helps out with "Safety: In Danger, Out of Doors" Safety Woman, aka Guardiana not of the Galaxy, is back to give safety lessons to more kids dumber than the ones in "Live and Learn." She uses powers given to her by chipmunk aliens that help her reverse time, or beams kids away from speeding cars about to hit them.  Still, saving kids from drowning is described as "a less-stupid version of Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow". It also includes a really sharp riff by Mike Nelson that's got to be heard.

Finally, all of the guests return to take on the second half of "Setting Up A Room", which turns out more tedious than rock climbing. It does start with a "previously on" review that may look familiar to fans of a certain podcast. This sets a new record for most people riffing on a lousy education film (not including DVD commentaries), and might prove that combining the Rifftrax and MST3K riffers into a super-group just might work for one night (like maybe against, oh, Twilight?)

The new Sketchfest show is now available for $9.99 ($11.99 for HD) at the website, along with the 2013 Sketchfest show.

Also, the Kickstarter campaign for fund this year's Rifftrax Live shows known as "The Crappening" is still in full swing. They'll take on The Room, Sharknado 2, Miami Connection, and another version of Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.  It's currently at 162 thousand dollars, but it it reaches $200 thousand, people will finally get a riff of the final Harry Potter movie, $225 thousand will add a new Tommy Wiseau-inspired Rifftrax t-shirt, and $250 thousand means people who donate at least 75 bucks will get copies of  three Rifftrax Live shows. It won't include The Room, because you still have to look for that DVD--on purpose--to enjoy the mp3 riff.

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