Monday, August 17, 2015

What MST3K Movies Deserve a Second Riffing?

Last week, Rifftrax released its latest feature, The Magic Sword. It was unusual for several reasons, such as it's one of the few Burt I. Gordon movies that isn't too absurd to exist. It also has Basil Rathbone and Estelle Winwood, real actors in a cheesy fantasy movie.

The biggest one, of course, is that it's the first former MST3K title to be tackled by Rifftrax that's not a holiday movie, a short about springs or one that knew your father, it did, or Manos. Some people gave it a try, while some fans in the comments section were rather upset Rifftrax would mock a movie that was once heckled by the Holy Trinity that is Joel, Servo and Crow.

However, it also started a discussion on which former MST3K titles should be re-riffed. One fan suggested riffing the rest of the episodes of The Master, starring Lee Van Cleef and Timothy Van Patten as some dorky guy who'll never be a ninja...but would have better luck as a director of TV shows.
For some reason, Sho Kosugi, who plays the guy who tries to kill Van Cleef's character, gets top billing in this VHS cover. I don't think his character ever had any lines. If he did, he'd tell Van Cleef he's unfit to be a ninja because he couldn't beat Clint Eastwood.

Wikipedia says they had planned to take on episodes five and six, but they decided on "Samson vs, the Vampire Women", which marked TV Frank's exit from the show. If they kept going, they would have had episodes that featured Doug McClure, Janine Turner, George Maharis and Stuart Whitman. The movie titles would also have been ridiculous, like "Ninja--The Shadows Kill" and "The Ninja Man".

Another suggestion was "The Slime People", which was done in season one. One fan said Mike wants to get another chance at this movie, where a sportscaster helps a professor and his two daughters battle creatures from under the earth. Sure enough, page 12 of my heavily autographed Episode Guide proves it

Also suggested was "Mitchell", which was Joel's last movie. If they are going to do that, they should restore the deleted scenes that prove John Saxon was in the movie. However, they should also remove the "sex" scenes Joe Don Baker had with Linda Evans.

What other movies should be re-riffed?

How about "Swamp Diamonds" (aka "Swamp Women")? Some of the riffs are a bit dated, but they can add a bunch of riffs related to Orange Is The New Black and mock the Oscars for thinking Roger Corman deserved one for his "body of 'work'".

"Robot Holocaust" would be another idea, since it gave birth to the first riff callbacks "It was after the apocalypse" and "You and your daughter are doomed". Since Rifftrax has released movies that has nudity, people who dreamed to see Valeria in the Pleasure Booth without her costume or ridiculous accent will finally get the chance.

For a real dare, why not re-riff "Monster A Go-Go"? Well, there are lots of reasons why, but taking another look at the story of a missing astronaut, a killer alien on the loose, and an ending even stupider than Exorcist II would be quite a challenge.

Let's also add a KTMA movie, like "SST Death Flight". This was a TV movie in 1977 about the first supersonic plane's first flight. Naturally, everything goes wrong: some guy sabotages the plane, and no one will let it land because it has a killer disease on board. The director of this movie went on to direct Airport '79, which was also about a supersonic plane that's targeted by fighter jets thanks to a guy who's trying to hide his illegal arms sales. Clearly, the TV movie was slightly more plausible even if its cast wasn't as famous (except for Billy Crystal, Lorne Greene, Robert Reed...and Peter Graves).

Another idea is "The Green Slime", the movie Joel Hodgson used in his proto-pilot of the show. It's sort of like Armageddon, where astronauts destroy an asteroid that is threatening the Earth. However, they bring back alien slime that mutates the crew...sort of like Alien. It was also a movie made in Japan, but featured actors are from the USA (Richard Jaeckel) and Italy (Luciana Paluzzi).
This poster also reveals it was rated "X", which I suspect was due to the gruesome deaths.

It's best to wait a while before Rifftrax will take a second look to an old MST3K episode. After all, it's due for a Miami Connection in about six weeks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Samuel L. Jackson And Spy Kids

Recently I saw two movies with Samuel L. Jackson dealing with teenagers who get involved in some serious situations. One featured him running a school for future assassins not unlike the Red Room program that created Black Widow and Not Dottie from Agent Carter, while the other one had him as the President relying on a 13 year old Finnish kid to escape assassins in the wilderness.

Let's start with Barely Lethal, which has been in the VOD circuit through Amazon, iTunes and DirecTV and should be in Redbox soon. Hailee Steinfeld, who's come a long way from the True Grit remake, plays Agent 83, a girl who's had enough of knocking off bad guys, She's able to fake her own death, and head to a nice normal town and a nice normal high school. She calls herself Megan, and approaches it like another one of her missions. She also  bases her intel on several teen movies like Bring It On and Mean Girls. Naturally, she's attracted by the cool musician dude Cash (Toby Sebastian) while the AV guy Roger (Thomas Mann) looks on. It really becomes a typical movie about high school.
Maybe a bit too typical. There's also a slightly clueless mom played by Rachel Harris (prefer her nastier side in The Hangover) and Liz (Dove Cameron, Descendants, namely Malificent's daughter), the daughter who is upset over her parents' divorce and is very suspicious of Megan.

However, a prank that winds up on YouTube exposes Megan/83, and Jackson thinks she's working for someone else. Well, maybe being a normal teen means she's her own boss, but his attitude took me out of the film a bit. He's also not too good at disguising himself as a bus driver, either.  Later, she's plagued by Agent 84 (Sophie Turner)  who decides to horn in on Megan's life. She calls herself Heather and claims she knows Chris and/or Liam Hemsworth.

There's also Knox (Jessica Alba), an arms dealer that is captured by Jackson's crew, but later escapes. The problem with Alba's performance is that she's too Tori Spelling to be considered dangerous, even when we find out her true background. You want fashionable and dangerous? Rose Byrne in Spy is what Alba doesn't reach. Still, Alba has one good line about Jackson training second-graders to kill.

The movie is geared to teens, so it's not exactly like Spy Kids or any spy thriller. Still, it's interesting seeing a teen assassin be just as awkward as any other teen. It's also cool seeing Sophie Turner trying to clobber her rival agent at the prom. It's what everyone wishes Sansa Stark would do to Ramsey Bolton on Game of Thrones. Still, Jackson is there just as someone Megan doesn't want to be...not completely anyway.

However, Jackson is much better in Big Game, made in Finland by Jalmari Helander, who also directed Rare Exports (the Santa is not-so-jolly movie). Jackson plays the President who's on his way to a conference. He's also failing in the polls, and that does sound familiar. Terrorists attack Air Force One thanks to a mole inside the plane, but the President escapes. He's found by Oskari (Omni Tommila, who was also in Rare Exports) , a 13 year old who's trying to hunt a deer to fulfill the local manhood ceremony. However, the men in the town, including his dad, aren't sure he can do it. He can't even use a bow and arrow, Still, putting their skills together, Oskari and the President try to keep the terrorists, and the mole, from making the President their latest trophy...literally.

It turns out Oskari has better sense than his dad suspects, and it serves him well. Also, the movie is wise not to make Jackson as a bad-ass president. He actually has a tough time trying to fight the head bad guy. The movie also throws in a conspiracy connected with the attack, but it should have been less complex.

Another problem with the movie is that it's too short. Even with the credits, it's less than 90 minutes. If we had more backstory on the President and why he's not getting respect, and Oskari also not getting any respect (maybe five minutes of how he seems to be a terrible hunter), it would have been better.
Despite that, the story was compact and complete, even with one last twist at the end. It also appeals to adults and kids.

Barely Lethal is now available on DVD, including some deleted scenes, Big Game, meanwhile, will be released on DVD at the end of the month.