Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Most Depressing Double Feature I Ever Had

OK, the main reason was learning she died.

This happened five minutes after Manchester By The Sea ended at the Century Riverside 12 in Reno. Thanks to some handy discounts I saw this and another movie for less than nine bucks, and basically saw the top contenders for the Oscars in February. I learned about it on my phone, and told a few people who were nearby. I fully expect people to make a return trip to their local theater to see Rogue One just one more time, along with the main Star Wars movies and The Force Awakens. This will be a long week, but this will be the only way such fans, including me, will cope.
To think, I had a chance to go see her when she was at Comic-Con. Then again, I thought she'd last longer than her mom, Debbie Reynolds. At least I have her autograph.

Getting back to Manchester, I wanted to know if Casey Affleck's performance is really a guaranteed award-winner. It''s pretty good, although I also liked Lucas Hedges as the teen who's also a main part of the story.

The movie is about Lee (Affleck), a handyman who maintains several apartments while living in a small basement apartment. He gets news that his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), died from heart failure, and that he has to take care of his nephew Patrick, played by Hedges. Lee is very reluctant to do this, mainly because of a shocking tragedy from his past. During the first half, the movie looks at Lee dealing with his brother's death and the new responsibilities while also adding flashbacks to his past, and that tragedy. It's a shocking moment that drives him away from his family and his wife, played by Michelle Williams. Seeing both Lee and Patrick in their younger days, when they were much closer while fishing in Joe's boat, is touching. However, seeing Lee deal with the tragedy is also heart-breaking.
Hedges is also great as a teen who's stressed out by way too many things, from hockey and losing his dad to trying to reconnect with his uncle and how this will affect his life. There's also a scene where he visits his mom (Gretchen Mol) and his new sort-of creepy fiance (Matthew Broderick). Patrick finds his mom via e-mail but another e-mail will upset him. Hedges just might sneak in for Supporting Actor, but may not win.

The story also took Lee and Patrick's relationship to unexpected roads, especially at the end. It's a good decision by writer and director Kenneth Lonergan to have a story where a family tries to recover from tragedies, but also an ending that is honest.

The other movie I saw was the adaptation of August Wilson's classic play, Fences. We can thank Denzel Washington for this, being director and the star. This is basically the same play that wowed Broadway a few years ago, but on a sound stage. It's about a Pittsburgh garbageman in 1956, still bitter over what could have been. He used to be a ball player, but before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. When we first meet Troy, he's talking to his friend Bono over the fact that all garbage truck drivers are white. Troy breaks that color line, but he's still bitter about other things. He argues with his son over whether he should play football, but has a loving relationship with his wife Rose that crumbles when a big secret is revealed.

Washington is realy good as Troy, while Davis just takes her Tony Award-winning performance to the screen and makes it even better. While she's in the Supporting Actress races, people wonder if she could beat Natalie Portman or Emma Stone in Best Actress. It would have been very possible.

From here, I'll be looking forward to Jackie and Hidden Figures over the next few weeks, and the Oscar nominations in a month.

In the meantime, I'll toast Carrie with the screen test that started it all:

Carrie Fisher by andaluska

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Review of "La La Land": Singing In The Pain

A musical in the spirit of MGM's glory days?
Sure, Disney's done that for years, mainly with snow princesses, beauties and beasts. It's tough to do that with regular actors.

It's been a dream of Damien Chazelle to make such a film, especially after his excellent debut as writer and director of Whiplash. It came true in a big way when La La Land premiered in Venice last summer, then slowly but surely caught the eyes and praise of critics everywhere. It's only been in release for three weeks, and if it hasn't reached the hinterlands, it will very soon.

The story is about two people with dreams:  Mia (Emma Stone), a barista who dreams of being an actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist who prefers traditional jazz and wants to open his own club.
They sort of meet in a traffic jam, but see each other at a restaurant just as Sebastian is canned for not following the set list. They don't hit it off at first, but in musicals like these, they do.

What's interesting is that we get a good look at their struggles. Mia tries to do an emotional scene but she's not even allowed to finish it. There's also a string of auditions that also don't go well. It's hard to figure anything else until Sebastian is forced to play in a band doing the worst '80s covers ever.

The main romance is depicted in excellent dance routines in classic L-A locations, even a routine at the Griffith Observatory that defies gravity. Their duet of the main song, "City of Stars" is also dreamy.
Things start to look up when Mia hopes to premiere a one-woman play while Sebastian joins a jazz band that becomes way too commercial, even if John Legend leads it. However, the love Mia and Sebastian share starts to fray, especially when she wonders if Seb is happy playing music he doesn't really prefer.

Usually in musicals, such a couple will wind up happily ever after, but Chazelle prefers to make one that's more realistic. Does that include "hopeful?"
Well, Mia does one more audition, and how Stone sells this story just may be enough to fend off a tight race for Best Actress at the Oscars next February. It's basic, but it blows you away.

Gosling and Stone make a fine romantic couple, as they did in two other movies. That may have helped here. They are a wonderful couple of dreamers who may reach their goals, but will have to make some sacrifices along with way.

It's going to battle Fences and Manchester By The Sea when award season gets underway in a few weeks, but La La Land shows that original musicals, just like the old days, can still be made.

Rifftrax's Christmas Circus: The Least Show On Earth

Remember when TV's Frank deeply apologized to Joel, Tom Servo and Crow for showing them Manos, the Hands of Fate?

Well, this is Rifftrax's version, after they found a Christmas movie created by a TV clown from Kansas City

It's called Santa's Christmas Circus, featuring Whizzo the Clown. He had his own show in the 50s, and this is an example:

In 1966, he got his own movie set at his "wonderland". His style of clowning is more of a stream-of-consciousness where he starts a joke, comments, then tries to finish what he started. He's only slightly more coherent than the woman who narrated Fun in Balloonland.

As for the circus, it includes kids who wind up dressed as circus acts, but one girl is sad because she thinks Christmas should be more than just fun. Charlie Brown, of course, did the same thing much better.
He's able to conjure an "atomic time machine" which looks more like a junior Interocitor, and a magic carpet so the kids can travel to see Santa at the North Pole.
Here's a link to the movie trailer. As for Rifftrax's version, here's its trailer.

Before that, the gang found a holiday short called "The Christmas Tree" from 1976. It's about three Christmas trees are placed in three homes, and how they're part of the holiday. Thing is, these are the trees:

They're described as Hannibal Lecter's Christmas trees. The guys who play the trees basically respond by facial expressions. There's no dialogue, but it's weird to see them frown because the mom waters the plants but not them. There's also an afterlife for the trees, too, apparently.

OK, riff time:

Whizzo makes his first appearance
Guys, what have we done?

Mike loses his patience over Whizzo's act and how distracted he seems to be with the kids
Focus for more than a second and a half, you insane twisted harlequin (or as Joel would say, "DO SOMETHING! GOD!)

The sad girl who wonders if Christmas is more than just fun
God, I wish I didn't blow that Star Search audition

Whizzo shows lots of holiday store displays
(as Lupita) You call that a Christmas display? May Craig forgive you.

After the kids leave, Whizzo says he's kinda lonesome
And the camera pans left, we hear a single gunshot, followed by a thud.

There's also riffs on The Art of War, Christmas Rhapsody, Stranger Things, Krusty the Clown, and a Jerry Lewis movie no one can see.

The film is available at

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review of "Sing", or Zootopia Idol

For quite a while, movie fans think that the race for Best Animated Feature around award season would be between Zootopia and Moana.

It's still likely it'll be between those two movies, but a dark horse could be Sing from the guys who gave us Despicable Me. At the surface, it would be about a singing competition run by a koala named Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) with a Texas accent who hopes to get this theater out of a big financial hole. He's offering a prize of a thousand bucks, but it's accidentally upgraded to a hundred grand thanks to Moon's elderly assistant.

From there, the movie swoops to introduce the four main characters:  Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a  way too busy mom of 25 piglets, Mike (Seth McFarlane) , a mouse who's good with a sax but also sings like Sinatra, Ash (Scarlett Johansson) , a singer-songwriter who doesn't get respect from her musician boyfriend, Johnny (Taron Egerton) , a gorilla who would prefer to sing than steal despite what his gangster dad days, and Meena (Tori Kelly), an elephant with a killer voice but also stage fright. They all want something more out of life, and hope the contest will help them do just that.

While it's odd to see McConaughey voicing a koala who'll do anything to keep his theater open, you can't help but admire his enthusiasm. How he tries to get around unpaid utility bills is another matter. You feel for Rosita trying to balance motherhood and the contest, but also pleased with how she does it. Mike is a bit annoying in his arrogance, but he can sell a Sinatra classic. Meena helps out behind the scenes, and soon gets her shot on stage,

The story is very predictable, and there are some puzzling decisions. First off, Buster shouldn't have required the contestants to do specific songs, but maybe this is supposed to show that his shaky creative ideas led to his financial problems. They certainly hurt Ash's chances at one point. Also, Mike lies his way into getting a credit card, and almost winds up in the tummies of some angry bears. How come he doesn't use his sax playing as an edge? No one says he couldn't do that in the contest.

The big reason to see the movie is how these guys sing, especially in the final act when it looks like Buster's dreams are literally collapsing. Fans may be impressed by how Scarlett and Taron sound, for example. There's also a cameo voice early in the movie by Jennifer Hudson.
It may be a jukebox musical, but it's one that is done well. Sorry, J-Law and whoever is connected with Assassin's Creed, Sing hits more of the right notes for this holiday season.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Choose Your Rifftrax Holiday Double Feature

Rifftrax is wrapping up an very eventful year with its first holiday double feature with Santa Claus Conquers The Martians 3.0 and the 2009 Shorts-Stravaganza from San Diego. However, true fans of MST, Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax can make their own double-headers. Others may mix Rifftrax holiday shows with other holiday DVDs for a truly different experience,

In this case, let's stick to riffed holiday movies.

MST3K:  Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and Santa Claus

This is an obvious choice but for some reason one movie is tougher to get than another, Santa Claus, a holiday movie made in Mexico, is part of Volume XVI (the one with the free Tom Servo). However, Shout Factory has not re-issued SCCTM, which was only in the two DVD set MST3K:  The Essentials (the other episode being Manos). It can be found via Amazon or eBay, but it would make sense this classic episode be available again. At the very least, it should be on streaming video.

Both shows do feature new holiday standards, "A Patrick Swayze Christmas" and "Merry Christmas, If That's OK". Actually, they're quite different. The first one was a typical MST episode compete with holiday Invention Exchanges. The other one, though, is basically a spoof of "The Gift of the Magi" but it ends with a big showdown between Santa and Pitch, the demon who tries to ruin Santa's holiday. At least the crew exchange presents, including Gypsy's famous "Joike" sweater.

Cinematic Titanic:  Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and Rifftrax:  I Believe in Santa Claus

Before Rifftrax riffed SCCTM in a live show two years ago, Joel Hodgson and his Cinematic Titanic crew was the only group that had a post-MST3K riffed version of the movie. It was released in November 2008, and is available at eBay and Amazon. I reviewed the DVD, and noticed they updated the riffs a little. The best part, though, was before the movie, when Trace tried to run away and the mysterious staff who's trapped the crew had to drag him back.

The second feature was issued last year, and is probably one of the strangest holiday movies. A kid in France may spend Christmas alone because his parents have been kidnapped by an African warlord. He writes to Santa, hoping he'd get the parents back. Through a ridiculous series of events, the kid gets to meet Santa and a fairy queen who's a whimsical version of Safety Woman. It's pretty bizarre.

The  other suggestions are all Rifftrax videos.

Nestor The Long-Eared Donkey, Bridget and Mary Jo's Christmas and Magic Christmas Tree

This is a triple-header only because they're all much shorter than usual movies. The first is a Rankin-Bass feature that's a little darker than its most famous creations including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Nestor is clearly a knockoff on Rudolph, since he's mocked because of his really long ears. They do come in handy when he helps Mary and Joseph get to Jerusalem for the birth of Jesus. Instead of Burl Ives narrating, they had Roger Miller as the descendant of Nestor. It's a cute story, if you forget that at one point he and his mom are forced out into the snow, and she sacrifices herself to save her son. At least in Frosty the Snowman, he melts in a greenhouse but a cold wind brings him back.

The second feature was made last year by the Real Housewives of Rifftrax, Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl. This duo is coming close to out-shining the main Rifftrax crew thanks to several shorts, Catwomen of the Moon, and Gravity. The 30-minute special has a heavily edited version of A Christmas Carol (which doesn't include "Bah, Humbug"), a car ad Mary Jo really likes, footage of Dean Martin, and a short about a sheep that keeps Jesus warm on the night of the Nativity.

The third feature looks like a sitcom. A little boy saves the cat of a spooky old lady, and he gets a magic ring and a special seed that produces a Magic Christmas Tree that talks. It also gives him three wishes, including the power to kidnap Santa. Somehow it leads to him being kidnapped by a big giant. They're at the Rifftrax website.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (both versions)

It's possible to see both versions in less than two hours. The riffing of Santa Claus being stuck in Florida because his reindeer ran away or something is the same in both versions. Those who prefer the more recent version last year may go that way, but others may look at the original with Thumbelina then see the live show with Jack and the Beanstalk (which has much better songs).

Santa's House of Madness and Santa Claus (2014)

The first feature is actually three shorts with the exact same opening credits that have weird-looking animals and Santa Claus. There's outtakes from Santa Claus, plus footage from two Santa's Villages in California and Indiana. The third short is mainly Santa "threatened" by an ogre, and it ends with a song that would have killed it.

The live riff of Santa Claus is actually the uncut version with Spanish opening titles, and it shows why MST3K decided to cut a lot of it out. When we see a shirtless blacksmith and Merlin taking too much time making sleeping powders and the Flower to Disappear, it's best to move past those scenes. However, the riffs they come up with are incredible, especially one where Santa flies with his wind-up reindeer.

If you can come up with other combinations, feel free, but this will be a start. Just make riffed holiday movies part of your holiday season.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rifftrax: Jurassic World's A Lame World After All

Rifftrax's Kickstarter program for this year wrapped up over the weekend with its take on Jurassic World, the long-awaited sequel to Jurassic Park.
While the movie had enough nostalgic cred to earn a lot of cash and a sequel in two years, the commentary points out it's still loaded with cliches and callbacks to the original movie.
It's also not as respectful towards women as the original. At least in J-Park, you have a female dinosaur expert played by Laura Dern, and a computer-savvy girl who helps reopen the park while raptors and T-Rexes run amuck.

In Jurassic World, you have one major female character, Claire Dearing, who is corporate and cold and barely knows who her relatives are aside from her sister, She's excited over making new dinosaurs to attract visitors the same way Magic Mountain hopes new roller coasters will do the same thing. The movie goes out of its way to make her look bad, until it realizes a female hero could also be as attractive as hybrid dinosaurs. That's when she suddenly does heroic things yet clings to her high heel shoes (which ain't part of the next movie).
Meanwhile, you have competing forces:  a smooth mad scientist who engineered the new dinos because he boss wanted them, and a guy who hopes to make raptors the future of warfare. In the middle is Owen, the guy who trains the raptors and is supposedly the voice of reason (at least compared to Claire), and her nephews who are there as potential dinosaur chow.
On top of that, there's a film of Jimmy Fallon trying to explain science.

The Rifftrax crew of Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy really go to town on the movie's flaws and callbacks to the past, although its comment on Claire's first scene is a bit unfair. Otherwise, it's a pretty funny riff that's a nice compliment to the riff of Jurassic Park.

Now, a sample of the riffs:

Have Yourself..
A Jurassic Little Christmas

Claire’s upset her assistant Lowrey  is wearing a Jurassic Park shirt
Fine, I’ll wear my “The Village” shirt

Hoskins, the military guy, explains to Owen how using raptors for battle is better than using humans.
Drones weren’t controversial at all, so nobody will mind if we give them fangs.

Owen and Claire waste celluloid with a scene that’s supposed to show how she’s frigid and he's soooooo cooool
Bantersaurus is my least favorite dinosaur.

The Indominus Rex causes general damage
That’s for making your fuel  from the remains of my ancestors

Jimmy Fallon appears in a video the kids see in their gyrosphere
Isn’t there a lake we can drown in?

The T-Rex showdown with the Indominus Rex
Now they do the Lady in the Tramp spaghetti noodle thing, only with human intestines.

There's also riffs on Helen Hunt, Harambe, What’s Happening, Google, Jeff Goldblum, two other movies Rifftrax mocked, C and C Music Factory, and the traditional remark about a restaurant chain. The final riffs actually are the best closing remarks since The Dark Knight.

The riff of Jurassic World is available at It's now getting ready for its holiday show featuring their take on Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and the first holiday show from 2009 which features Weird Al Yankovic and a different version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It'll be shown in theaters on December first.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Honor and Glory? Rifftrax Says They're Missing Here

Rifftrax is well-known for mocking movies of every genre, including martial arts. It targeted a classic Bruce Lee movie,  a lousy Karate Kid knockoff with Jean-Claude Van Damme, and a movie where karate kids battle slum lords.

But Honor and Glory is so amazingly awful it makes any 3 Ninjas movie like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It features Cynthia Rothrock, a martial arts champ who did great in Hong Kong movies but not so well in the states. She may have a black belt in several martial arts, but she doesn't even have a brown belt in acting. Ronda Rousey's hair does, and that's the problem.

The script is even worse. Here's the first five minutes:  a Hong Kong cop goes into a break room, and is attacked by Rothrock. He's interrupted by someone telling him he's got a phone call, and she stops. Then they have a friendly chat, and it's revealed her name's Tracy and works with the FBI. This is an odd way for two friends to react.
Then we see her sister Joyce (Donna Jason),whose TV report is interrupted by someone who's referred to as "Bitter Girl." Seems she's mad at the reporter for insulting her senator dad, and also tries to cut the reporter with a knife. Reporter gal stops her with some karate, too, then shrugs off the whole experience in record time. Apparently, senators' daughters can attack people with knives, and getting the police involved is too complicated. It doesn't help both sisters sound like aging valley girls, or Tracy is dressed like Hillary Clinton, down to the hairdo.

It does downhill from there, Rothrock has a problem with her dad while sis wants them to get along. Then there's the main bad guy, Jason Slade (John Miller), a top banker who's also involved in a plan to buy a nuclear detonator. He's arrogant, cruel and the worst of all the actors in this movie. He's also into martial arts, but that includes twirling the world's biggest letter opener.

There's also a bodyguard who pretends to be Eddie Murphy who decides to switch sides when Slade kills someone with his bare hands. That process, by the way, is punching a heavy bag and battling four other guys. That's supposed to be character development. Terrible transitions in the league of Astro-Zombies doesn't help either.

Oh, and this is the "Middle East" guy who's ready to sell Slade the detonator. Ken Patera was a more convincing sheikh.

Rothrock has been in slightly better B-movies where she really does good moves, such as this one:

But a movie that ends with Joyce gives a live TV report thanks to a crew that appears out of nowhere..and forgets to resolve the other storylines?

Rothrock got better after this movie, or at least avoided Honor and Glory II. Rousey, meanwhile, already got better.

Now the riffs:

Slade tells his board of directors he isn't quitting despite concerns about scandal at his bank.
"I am chairman of the board, for life"
Frank Sinatra appears and punches him out.

Joyce meditates on a hammock
I want to achieve enlightenment but I'm not into the whole dignity thing

Tracy meets Silk, a pimp who's involved in Slade's plan, and he tries to get away
From awkward flirty banter to awkward clumsy fighting in no time flat.

Slade grabs Dad, and has him beaten by his goons
Comcast customer service.

There's also riffs on Dateline, In Living Color, Pretty Woman and the Iron Sheik. The movie is available at

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Rifftrax Wishes It Can Throw Gold Boots At Astro Zombies

This time, there's no video preview for this movie because it's not on YouTube yet. So. we have the original trailer...

Here's the link to Rifftrax's page on this movie, though. It's still a pretty weird follow up to the MST3K classic, Girl In Gold Boots. As Stefan from SNL would say, this B-movie has everything: a mad scientist, a zombie who looks like a Mexican wrestler, a spy who fails miserably at resembling Casey Kasem, a boss who is not sober at all, a girlfriend who's barely more than bait, a leggy evil spy, a really oily French version of Igor and scenes that go nowhere for hours, especially in labs.

The deal here is that John Carradine plays a mad scientist who wants to make zombie androids, and we see every boring step that goes into that. Tura Satana plays an evil leggy spy who wears cut-out dresses because the producers can't get away with her being nude. That's why we see her legs much more than what most men want to see. She has an oily Mexican henchman who can at least talk and a bossy bald guy who thinks he's in charge.
The good guys include the not-Casey Kasem spy who likes to grab his lab assistant girlfriend because he's a guy, Wendell Corey is his drunk boss.

The main story of both sides battling over the intermittent killing spree of the one Astro-Zombie barely exists. There's lots of scenes of the doc making his monster from scratch, Franchot (the oily guy) looking around and at one point fiddling with an unnamed girl in a bikini tied to a slab, and the spies taking too long to start shooting at each other. There's even a scene of a topless dancer who's covered in paint to make it less sexy. The Astro-Zombie also tries to kill girls by undressing them first.

The weird thing about it is it was co-written and produced by Ted Mikels and Wayne Rogers. Yeah, THAT Wayne Rogers who starred in M*A*S*H and House Calls before he eventually became a financial expert that appeared on Fox News. They made another movie called Dr. Sex, which is now rightfully forgotten. However, Something Weird Video has it, and man, it's racier than you think.  Mikels also made The Doll Squad, a proto-Charlie's Angels that was riffed by Cinematic Titanic in its final live shows.

OK, now the riffs

The movie begins with a woman driving in a convertible
She's hoping the car is what the director meant when he said "You'll have to go topless"

The credits roll while we see toy robots not doing much at all
It's a more cerebral Transformers movie

Some blonde German tries to shake down the femme fatale for more money for a tape she wants.
You think I just give you my VHS copy of Shaquille O'Neal's Kazzan?

Carradine's first scene
So what is this? Am I on The Man from UNCLE?
No, John, you're doing a movie. Astro-Zombies.
So then we'll shoot Bonanza?

Satana smoking and pacing
Connie Chung after the divorce.

The spy's girlfrend is told to appear in a window so the bad guys know she's there.
The zombies like it when you kiss your own reflection like Alex Rodriguez.

There's also riffs on Michael Dukakis, The Go-Gos, Groupon, Sharon Tate, "Where's Waldo?" and Pepto-Bismol, which is what people needed after seeing this movie.

Rifftrax's version can be found here, but there's a blu-ray version that has the riff and commentary by Mikels himself. You can get it at Amazon and a few other places.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Walking Dead Gets Targeted By The Living Riff

While Rifftrax showed a lot of contempt for Marvel hoping to get success on Netflix, it had a lot more fun taking another look at the first episode of The Walking Dead. While kids strangely decided to skip my apartment complex for Halloween (and I had plenty of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups), I decided to see the gang's take on this episode, which aired on Halloween 2010. By the way, I used the app, and it worked beautifully.

Just like when the gang looked at the first episode of Game of Thrones, it's quite a jolt to see how much things have changed. People are still recovering from the arrival of Negan and what he did to Glenn and Abraham, while trying to figure out King Ezekiel and his tiger. When they see the very first episode, it's weird seeing departed characters like Rick's wife Lori, his ex-partner Shane and a really young Carl. The only familiar face was Lennie James as Morgan, who was the first non-Walker Rick meets after he wakes from his coma. Only hardcore fans recognized his son, Duane, who bonked Rick with a shovel.

The plot, of course, is Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes trying to get a grip on this horrible new world. At one point, he shoots the breeze about women with his partner Shane, who's now The Punisher. Then, they chase down three criminals in a high speed chase, and Rick gets a major gunshot wound. He falls into a coma for months until he wakes and sees things are different.
The Rifftrax group came up with some odd comments about the Apocalypse, and got in some digs about other TV shows and some other unusual choices.

Rick drives to what used to be a service station. Lots of wrecked cars all over the place.
Looks like another monster truck killing spree

Rick and Shane have lunch and shoot the breeze.
Southern Erik Estrada (maybe Shane), I hope you're the first to die.

Rick wakes from his coma. No doctors, no electricity, no people
When your hospital director is a big Silent Hill fan

The zombies try to break though the chained hospital door
Undead Kool-Aid Man can't bust walls like he used to.

Morgan describes what happens when a zombie bites you:  "Bites kill you. The fever burns you out, but then after a while..."
You become head coach of the New England Patriots. 

Morgan boards up the windows at his house
I do the same thing at Girl Scout Cookie time.

Rick sees a picture of his family, unaware they're fine with Shane.
My kid will be such a dorky zombie
My wife will be a hot one, though (which wasn't true).

Rick rides into Atlanta on a horse
You can almost hear Richard Jewell's life being destroyed. 

There's also riffs that go from Carmax, The Brady Bunch and Game of Thrones to John Wilkes Booth, Bauhaus, Bronies and Adam Sandler.

The riff for The Walking Dead is available on the website, along with premiere shows for Game of Thrones, Netflix's Daredevil, Heroes and Grey's Anatomy. It will soon riff on Jurassic World in a few weeks, and feature a special holiday show December first with Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and the Shorts Festival from 2009 including Weird Al Yankovic. They'll also mock holiday photos their fans sent them.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Rifftrax Gets Lost In The Carnival of Souls.

Could adding a little color in a classic horror movie make it funnier and spookier?

Rifftrax tried that with the House of Haunted Hill movie in a live show six years ago, which also included a witch concerned about getting your money's worth at the supermarket.

This past Thursday, Rifftrax observed Halloween with another colorized horror classic, Carnival of Souls. This was a complete remake of the original riff, still available on the website or Yahoo View. It was much livelier than the original, and also better than Mothra last August.

They story is basically an extended Twilight Zone episode. A woman rides with her girlfriends in a drag race but their car falls into the river. She seems to be the only survivor. She moves to Utah to be a church organist, but is followed by a ghoulish zombie. She's also strangely drawn to a deserted bathhouse (the former Saltair Pavilion outside Salt Lake City), where ghouls also dance. It slowly dawns on her on what really happened at that accident.

It's an odd movie that has plenty of fans, and some say it may have influenced Night of the Living Dead. Still, you have to notice Candace Hilligoss' slightly mistimed responses to seeing the zombies coming to get her. The head ghoul, by the way, is director Herk Harvey (who the Rifftrax crew wonders what it was like to have first name that's also the sound of throwing up). He also directed a lot of education shorts for Centron, especially Shake Hands With Danger.

The new set of riffs were pretty good, although they had some standard riffs about Golden Corral and Nick Nolte. The gang were helped by the fact this was a familiar movie, and it helped them make the most of it. The colorized print was also better than I expected. It wasn't exactly Technicolor, but it seemed very natural, even the ghouls.

Naturally, I list some of the riffs. I saw the first version along with this one, So, let's compare riffs in certain scenes.

Mary seems to have survived the crash,

Then:  A date with Mickey Rourke mercifully comes to an end
Now:  Did we win the race? I knew that listening to Pat Boone would lead to this

She crashes on the road to avoid the head ghoul

Then: She managed to get into a single-car accident in Utah? That's Kelsey Grammer-level talent.
Now:  Maybe cars are not the mobile transportation for you

Linden (Sidney Berger) just happens to come by as she's taking a bath

Then:  A young Bill Clinton follows his instincts
Now:  The Blair Witch got him, followed by "Name's Norman Bates. You mind getting back to the shower?"
The relationship between Mary and Linden is really strange. Romance just doesn't bloom between those two. Mold, maybe, but not love. He looks like an greasier version of Peter Campbell from Mad Men. 

Then there's this picture:

Then:  The four people would go on to found Kraftwerk
Now:  They don't get how skinny dipping works.

That was kind of disappointing because Rifftrax used that picture for a riff contest, and the top three entries were better. The winning entry was "Brent Spiner's Dead Celebrity Pool Party", although "Prequel to Eight Heads in a Duffle Bag" had more zing.

There also a couple of good zingers. As Mary enters Utah, Kevin says "Welcome to Utah. Have you considered Colorado instead?"
Then there's a scene when Linden doesn't have fun at a bar with her. "You don't like to dance and you don't like to drink" inspires the riff "You're in the right state, honey".

There's also riffs on Shake Hands With Danger, Setting Up A Room, Dr. Phibes, Terry Gross, Birdemic, Amazon and Back to the Future.

There's an article in the Cincinnati City Press that questions why  Rifftrax would take on a horror classic. For the record, Kevin explains he doesn't think the movie's that good. Besides, the gang has battled Starship Troopers (an alleged classic satire) and Anaconda live, and lots of good movies thanks to mp3 riffs. This is hardly a big deal.

The show started with two shorts. One was "Masks of Grass," which seems to be the sequel to "At Your Fingertips: Grasses." Kinds make weird masks with grasses, and it almost turns into the sequel to Lord of the Flies. The other is "Dirt Witch Cleans Up" from the "Joy of Living"series. Apparently a witch decides to make other people dirty, including a pig farmer ("It's Mumford and Son's dad) and a painter with pink paint ("Must be working on John Mellencamp's house"). However, a little kid sets the witch straight and bathes her.

At least the witch doesn't melt from the water, like another witch we know. What's even more bizarre is what the witch looks like after getting clean. Ten bucks says she's not the same witch at the start of the movie. It's a weird way to get kids to keep clean.

Rifftrax has plenty of stuff to see as we head to November. It just released riffs on the first episodes of The Walking Dead and Netflix's Daredevil, and Jurassic World is coming next month. It will also have a special holiday show December first where they show Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and the live holiday shorts festival (including Weird Al talking about pork and that Rudolph short). They also plan to make fun of Christmas photos that fans sent them. Maybe they'll also riff on them on social media.
On that note, I plan to look at which Rifftrax holiday events are the best, and could be paired together. That'll come soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

It's Nice To Be A Battleground State

When I lived in California, I didn't go to big political events when presidential campaigns rolled around. While the Golden State had the most electoral votes, who it chose was usually a foregone conclusion. That's why in Sacramento there weren't too many big visits from TV stars or major political officials hoping to get our votes,

Now that I'm in Nevada, everyone wants its six votes, which is why people like President Obama, VP nominee Mike Pence and comic Patton Oswalt are dropping by Reno to get our attention.

I was happy to see Senator Bernie Sanders at University of Nevada give a boilerplate speech for Hillary Clinton. It's the usual talking points, with a copy of the Democratic platform that hopefully will see the light of day. He attracted a lot of people and students. I'll also say the Dems really care if you show up or not. They actually called me on my cell while I was across the street from the event.
I even got a nice close-up picture of Sanders...

There was also a brief speech from ex-Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who's slightly ahead of Congressman Joe Heck in the Senate race. She also gave a boilerplate speech, although a couple of supporters said "What the Heck?" It's amazing if the annoying tsunami of Senate TV ads, the Democrats never used that slogan in their ads.

I like it better when celebrity surrogates for Hilary Clinton show up, like Jennifer Garner and Patton Oswalt. Hopefully another one will show in the next two weeks. Since Clinton and Trump want Nevada's six electoral votes, it might be possible. It's nice to get that much attention.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

There Used To Be A Movie Theater Here

While the city of Sparks, Nevada has the only IMAX screen north of Las Vegas and east of Sacramento, it just lost a big chunk of screens in the same area where a casino also closed.

Yet, if you didn't know the Century Sparks 14 was about to close, you'd think it would be getting ready for screenings of Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, Deepwater Horizon and Masterminds. 
In fact, the poster for Peregrine is still there, along with Trolls coming in November...

 Then you see this....

...and in the lobby, a poster for Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story which will likely be at the Galaxy Theaters at the Legends Shopping Center off Highway 80.

To be honest, I went there today for one last look. While the Century Riverside 12 in downtown Reno is my go-to theater, I went to the Sparks theater twice to see Wild with Reese Witherspoon and Creed only because it wasn't in Reno anymore. I was also hoping they'd have some movie posters they didn't need any more, but the usher told me they got rid of them already.
Local news sources say the city is aware the agreement with Syufy Enterprises couldn't be renewed, and they're hopeful another theater chain could move in. Besides, there's still plenty of activities at Victorian Square. Still, the closure of the Bourbon Street Casino and the construction of new apartments that have cut off a lot of traffic probably didn't help. Add the fact that people may  prefer the Galaxy because of the IMAX screen, better concessions including wine and beer, and better seats that are worth the extra buck or two.

I had heard the Century/Cinemark group was thinking about adding a new complex at Meadowview Mall, the major shopping hub in town. Maybe those 14 screens will go there, but it's still bad news for Sparks movie fans, who may have to rely on a Redbox to see the movies they want.

Let's hope that movie multiplex doesn't go to waste.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pain Don't Hurt, But This Movie Does: A Look at Rifftrax's Two Road House Riffs

Earlier this month, Rifftrax re-riffed the first movie in its long history, Road House with Patrick Swayze and Ben Gazarra as a bad guy with the most boring evil name ever.

The riff not only had three guys instead of just Mike Nelson, but also it was a complete overhaul compared to the original riff in 2006. This is why I had to see the movie twice to compare both riffs.

The movie is rather ridiculous. A famous bouncer named Dalton goes from town to town straightening out rowdy bars, but then goes to a bar in Jasper, MO where he has to deal with Terry Funk. Then he deals with the local evil rich guy who wants Dalton to leave or else he'll blow up the houses of his friends and kill his doctor girlfriend who apparently has a dress that doubles as a tablecloth. It's a combination of Shane, Animal House, maybe Fists of Fury and No Defeat No Surrender. When you get right down to it, it's a movie where people can see a guy without his shirt and pass it off as character development....and this is years before Matthew McConaughey.

The style of the two riffs is the biggest difference of all. When you hear Mike, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett riff, it's the basic snarkiness that's been part of Rifftrax for years. However, when you hear the original version, it's just Mike delivering his jokes as if he was watching the movie because the Twins game rained out. There's also more use of the famous Disembaudio, who cautions Mike against seeing bare breasts and Swayze's naked butt. There was also a really long "where are they now" monologue during the closing credits, which they don't do anymore.

So, let's get to a few scenes and compare riffs:

First off, Dalton's first appearance

2006:  Feathered hair with a mullet. His hair came out to play
2016:  Behold Sawyze, also called Black Dog, Dancer Dirtiest, ex-President Bodie and
the Horny Ghost.

"You know who that is? Dalton"

2006:  John Dalton, the 19th Century developer of the Atomic Theory?
2016:  Dalton Trumbo?

Gazarra shows Brad Wesley?

2006: You have to irritate an old guy once a day
2016:  When you have a chopper and a Panama hat, you've got every reason to be smug.

The famous "Pain don't hurt" phrase Dalton says to Dr. Clay, played by Kelly Lynch

2006:  Actually by its very definition, it does (what she would say)
2016:  Also, it's French for bread. Wanna make out? (what he would say)

Dalton's tai chi scene

2006:  Clearly he has studies with the great master, Pat Morita
2016:  Relax and be one with the Batusi.

Dalton deals with Wesley's goons who try to cut off the bar's liquor supply

2006:  He's wearing his silk liquor unloading shirt
2016:  He's wearing his fucia fighting blouse.

The original riff had a lot of "Beef, it's what's for dinner" jokes since Sam Elliot was there. The new riff also had riffs on Frozen, Geico, Blossom, Kurt Russell, and Shake Hands With Danger.

You can get both versions of the Road House riff at The year should still be pretty active, with riffs on The Walking Dead, Daredevil (the Netflix version) and Jurassic World coming soon. There's also the next live show, taking on Carnival of Souls on October 27th.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Downtown Sacramento, Have You Changed!

For once, I'm not talking about movies, especially Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Last week, I took a cheap bus ride from Reno to Sacramento. It's been two years since I lived in Sacramento, since I was forced to move because my landlord evicted me to get higher rents, and that no one would hire me for anything, aside from radio, because I was too old. I did find something else. though.

To be honest, I wish I was still living in Sacramento because I could be part of the opening of the Golden 1 Center, the new home of the Sacramento Kings and eventual site of everything for the next two years. It's still not done, although it will be when Paul McCartney is in town early next month. This is the closest I could get to the new arena.

When I moved out, that was the site of a half-filled shopping center that lost a lot of stores to a new mall in Roseville. It's going to be much more popular now.

I was really interested in seeing this corner...

This was once the site of a Hard Rock Cafe. It looks like a deserted clothing store. It will soon be a new restaurant, but construction is interefering with the 24 Hour Fitness place next door.

In fact, there's still a lot of construction in the former shopping center, which still has some pieces of its past, like this....

..and the saddest thing for movie fans, an empty marquee...

Half the mall has been knocked down, including this, Starbucks and the downtown post office (which was moved a couple of blocks away but you had to tell the security guard on duty you're there to mail something). However, the Cinemark site is reassuring people the multiplex will be new and improved when it reopens. It's supposed to be ready by the fall, but December looks more likely.

In the meantime, the Crest is picking up the slack for movie fans, while also being a live music venue,,,

Despite the activity, Macy's is still open, but it has an interesting entrance..

There's literally a tunnel from here to the store to keep people away from the renovations. It's safe to say the situation is causing a dent on the business at Old Town, since people walked through the mall to get there. After October, and more likely by December, things should be back to normal.

The new construction is also affecting K Street, which had been the site of abandoned buildings. Now with the new arena, there's plans to build new hotels and condos. I just hope this will be preserved somehow. It's at 8th and K, the site of a former shoe store...

What was a local brewpub, meanwhile, will take on a new identity...

I was tempted to head to the apartment complex where I used to live, but I didn't. I did find out the bakery a few blocks away was closed by the city. I'd rather not say why.

I'll probably return to Sacramento after the New Year, depending on the weather. I would really like to come up and touch what some will say is the most advanced arena ever...until the next Olympics or so. What I really wish, though, is that I can somehow afford to live in Sacramento again.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

TV's Frank: The Man and His Movies In New Book

For five years and 109 episodes, TV's Frank Conniff was the loyal lackey on Mystery Science Theater 3000 to insane scientist Clayton Forrester:  the punching bag, the guinea pig, the eternal victim to Forrester's delusional plans to take over the world so his mother will finally love him (which was equally delusional)
Yet, when Frank was taken away by Torgo the White (or maybe Magic Jack Perkins in disguise), Dr. F was totally lost without him. The movie version is proof of that.

That's how important Frank was. He went on to write for a teenage witch and riff more movies through Cinematic Titanic. He's now got a podcast with fellow Mad Trace Beaulieu, and also was in the MST3K Reunion show that will be Rifftrax's biggest seller when it's available in two weeks.

So, what could be left...except write a book?

Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life In No Way Whatsoever is a very long title for a short book, but he goes into detail about his life on MST3K, gets in some comments about politics like he does on Twitter, and tries to remember movies he may or may not have seen as a kid.
And sometimes he talks about the movies he had to see before they were accepted as experiments for the show. Of course, he recalls how Sidehackers forced the staff to see all of the movie rather than first first half hour. However, he also wonders if Catalina Caper would have been a better beach movie if there was more Little Richard. He compares Gilligan's Island to Vietnam while trying to discuss The Beatniks, and thinks Attack of the the Eye Creatures should be on trial (and not just because of those pervy Army guys).

He also makes a good argument about how we should praise Ed Wood for his movies, not to bury him, only because he tried to make movies (and unlike that Eye Creatures movie, he really did care).
However, he also apologizes (again) for exposing the world to Manos, the Hands of Fate, and suspects that maybe George W. Bush was the closest thing we had to President Torgo.

After each chapter, there's a special note from the Federal Bureau of Incoherence which explains some of the references to those too young or old to remember them. That even includes explaining a long-forgotten Disney musical about a family who has their own band, and their last name is NOT Partridge. Clearly, we need such an organization to explain other references to people who may not understand...especially with the current presidential election.

It's interesting that the list of movies Frank chose are almost all episodes during the Joel Hodgson era. The exceptions are The Brain That Wouldn't Die and Red Zone Cuba. Naturally, Frank doesn't talk too much about the movies, but he wonders why The Beast With Two Heads didn't get riffed by MST3K..or why the Oscars didn't even nominate it for anything,  It's too bad he didn't get deeper in his final season, especially his last episode, Samson vs. the Vampire Women.

This isn't the first time Frank has tried to write essays on MST3K movies. In the Episode Guide, he looked at several movies including Time of the Apes, which was also examined in this book. In the Episode Guide, he talked about the "time code" incident where the movie seemed to have more endings than the last Lord of the Rings movie. In his book, he talked more about how funny talking animals are on TV and the movies, and how Ronald Reagan may have wound up doing that if he didn't go into politics. Apparently the trauma from the "time code incident"is still too painful. The "TV's Frank Pix" columns are very funny and are worth looking for.

Til then, this book is a great look inside TV's Frank from his career on MST3K to his views on movies, politics and everything else. If only there was a fake autobiography by Clayton Forrester on how he ruled the world after he ruined everyone's self-worth through bad movies. Of course, he would write it the day before the first experiment back in 1988, and none of it happened, but it would be a great read.
Your move, Mr. Beaulieu.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review of Rifftrax's "Ruby": Carrie On, My Exorcist/Psycho/Tennessee Williams Puree

This tweet from Rifftrax says it all about the latest VOD title:

It's been days and we're still not sure
What IS Ruby?

Well, it was Piper Laurie's first movie after getting an Oscar nomination as Carrie's crazy religious mom. Judging by this character, it's hard to say who's more nuts: Margaret White, the mom who was driven insane by the shame of illicit sex that she enjoyed and convinced the product of that sin is her telekinetic daughter, or Ruby, a woman who lives in a former roadhouse in a swamp next to a drive-in that shows a movie that was made seven years after the movie is set. Then again, Ruby also feels guilty that maybe it's partially her fault the father of her mute crazy daughter got gunned down by the mob--who now works at her drive-in.

Rifftrax has several bad horror movies in its library, like The Last Slumber Party, Fever Lake, Sisters of Death, Terror at Tenkiller, Ghosthouse and Troll 2. However, none can compare with Ruby, made by a guy who decided to take chunks of Carrie, The Exorcist, maybe a dash of Sunset Boulevard and every Tennessee Williams play, put it in a movie blender and push "puree".

Ruby Claire was a singer who was in love with a gangster named Nicky and got pregnant by him. In 1935, they were about to have a rendezvous at a Florida swamp when several mobsters decided to shoot him down. She then went into labor, and gave birth to a daughter named Leslie

Sixteen years later, Ruby runs a drive-in next to the swamp, and the mobsters are her employees. No explanation why, of course. She drinks a lot and walks around in slinky clothes. Actually, she looks better than Mrs. White in Carrie. For some reason, the drive-in is showing Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (which should be an MST target someday since the title character is played by Alison Hayes, the evil bar owner in past MST target Gunslinger), which was made seven years after the movie is set. If the movie decided it was set in 1958, it would have looked a little better.

While people watch a movie from the future, the staff gets killed in pretty strange ways, One is found dead in a vending machine, while another is impaled on the drive-in screen. Ruby, meanwhile, is convinced Nicky has come back from the grave for revenge. He even possesses his mute daughter Leslie and literally speaks through her at one point. Thing is, when he does that, he tries to come on to Ruby. Yep, dead  Nicky is in Leslie's body trying to seduce Ruby. He didn't think this one out.
Still, he knows how to make his presence known, driving in his ghost car with bullet wounds on his face, or trying to talk to Ruby through the drive-in speakers.

There's a doctor of parapsychology played by Roger Davis who tries to exorcise Leslie, but only succeeds in seeing how flexible she is. Also, for some reason, the movie poster emphasizes Leslie over the title character...

In the end, Ruby decides to walk into the swamp to be reunited in death with Nicky, and looking damn good in a slinky red dress. Too bad the director decided at the last second to have Nicky's skeleton kill Ruby.
And you thought what happened to Zindy the Swamp Boy made less sense.

It's a miracle Piper Laurie washed this "movie" out of her hair and the rest of her body. She would go on to success in TV and movies (including an Emmy and a third Oscar nomination), but it's safe to say she'd rather not talk about making Ruby, unless she finds her way to a Comic-Con or two.

Enough of this, though. The important thing is that the Rifftrax crew gets in some really good riffs.

The start of the credits
Can we skip to the ending where Jason Voorhees jumps out of that water?

The projectionist notices something is wrong
Did I forget to pay the evil bill last month?

Ruby recalling the old days when she could sing and dance
This is if the Three Stooges made Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Ruby looks at her mute daughter Leslie, and wonders what she's thinking.
Are you thinking you look like Truman Capote in a wig and a nightgown?

There's also riffs on Back to the Future, Kenny Rogers, Zooey Deschanel, Swamp of the Ravens and Game of Thrones.
If you dare, you can find Ruby here, and other titles at

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

MST3K's OTHER New Network

We all know the new version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is coming to Netflix next year, but some fans may not be aware it will also join another network in a couple of weeks.

Comet TV, a sci-fi channel owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, has been around since last Halloween. It's been best known for showing cheesy sci-fi movies like Troll 2, The Raven, In the Year 2889 and Terrordactyl, along with Stargate SG-1, Johnny Sokko and both versions of The Outer Limits. Now, it's announced it will air Mystery Science Theater 3000 every Sunday starting September 4th, It already has its own section to the website which includes a complete episode guide. Does this mean all episodes will be airing on Comet?

Well, we do know that when it starts on the 4th, Comet will have Manos and Teenagers From Outer Space. (Update: it will air Attack of the Giant Leeches and Wild, Wild World of Batwoman on the 11th.) It's expected to have two episodes every Sunday night.
Thing is, Comet has NO press release on which episodes it will be airing, When Retro TV started airing MST3K a couple of years ago, it provided a list of episodes it would air. It's added another 26 this year, but didn't reveal which ones ahead of time. The ones that arrived were pleasant surprises, including Killer Shrews, The Beatniks, Swamp Diamonds, Hercules Unchained and Bloodlust.

If Comet is airing MST, will that mean Retro will let the Satellite of Love go? I have tried everything from social media to e-mails, but it's not saying anything. As of now, it's still on the schedule, and Retro could air Manos the day before Comet does.

I also sent an e-mail to Comet about its plans for MST3K. It says it answers every e-mail, and I am hoping that includes mine.

Fortunately, I have heard from fellow MSTies who have said Retro is keeping the show, and it looks like Retro and Comet will have two sets of MST3K episodes to show. So far, though, both packages seem to overlap. If Comet wants to stand out, it should promote episodes Shout Factory doesn't have. Imagine the excitement of showing Amazing Colossal Man, Rocketship X-M, Hellcats, Monster-A-Go-Go, or Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders. Even some titles it does have, including Catalina Caper or Space Travelers, would also be great.
UPDATE:  Comet told me through Facebook it's airing "a season of its best episodes". That could mean the top 22 episodes out of the whole series, but no specifics on which episodes it will offer.

It's surprising that as recently as three years ago, the only place to see MST3K episodes is through DVDs and YouTube..and circulating the tapes. Now, two over-the-air digital channels are showing classic episodes, and Netflix will present the next generation
These are good days in the not-too-distant present.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review: Mothra Doesn't Soar High Enough in Rifftrax Live Event

After last June's historic MST3K reunion, it would be tough for the Rifftrax Three (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett) to produce another classic riff event.

They did their best with the 1961 kaiju classic Mothra, but the riffing didn't soar as it should. Much of the fault should be in the movie itself. While it's about a big moth, most of the movie shows an evil guy named Nelson from Rolisica (a heavily biased version of the US) stealing a couple of tiny singers known as Shobijn (Secret Fairies) to make money. He doesn't care that their god, Mothra, will kick serious kaiju butt unless he brings them back. It's also strange he seems to have control of Rolisican military to keep the girls although he's just a shady businessman. You might call this movie "Mothra: Not Without My Shobijin".
It's also interesting that instead of some pesky kid trying to defend the main monster, it's the press hoping to appease Mothra by getting the girls back. They really don't encounter Mothra until the end, when the reporters hope Mothra will be back soon to devastate the OTHER half of New Kirk City (not New York City, because it's not in Rolisica).

Some of the riffs were pretty weird, too. When Nelson sees the two girls, we hear this riff...
Do you know what Woody Allen would pay for these two?
That was a bit too edgy for some, but you should have heard the riff that followed a sign that says "The Secret Fairies Show". Let's just say it refers to two familiar leading men.

Other riffs...

Mothra as a larvae about to spin a cocoon
You call that a cocoon movie? Where the Hell is Wilford Brimley?

When they arrive in Infant Island, they're surprised to see a big forest.
It's a Bob Ross painting. So many happy trees.

A pesky fat kid finds the twins
The moon is wearing a hat.

Mothra finally shows up, fully formed
Its adorableness will destroy us all. 

There's also riffs on Pink Lady and Jeff (way too old of a reference), Hello Kitty, the Twilight books (damn vampire plants) Johnny Cash, Branson, and the Cowboy Junkies.

Before the movie, the crew took on a strange short about the importance of soap, Soapy the Germ Fighter. It involves a kid who hates to wash being visited by a bar of soap with legs but no pants. The crew was a bit disappointed Soapy didn't show the kid a world without soap, like Coily the Demon Spring showed "no springs, cuckoo" to some guy.
This is also the second time the Rifftrax crew took on a short that was also riffed by Incognito Cinema Warriors XP. Here's the link to how Rikk Wolf and his crew dealt with Soapy (at the 26-minute mark).

Although Mothra was funny, it wasn't as good as MST3K's take on Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, which also features the Shobijin trying to wake Mothra up after her tough battle with Ghidorah, and get her to help Godzilla stop some evil army or something. That was strange.

Next up for Rifftrax will be Carnival of Souls, about a girl who survives a car crash and encounters a spooky carnival. It's believed to be have influenced the films of George Romero and David Lynch, and has the most annoying organ music. Despite the fact its DVD has some impressive extras, it's also one of the first movies Rifftrax has targeted. The DVD used to be offered, but Yahoo View has it for your enjoyment. They're expected to present a restored and colorized 80-minute version when the show airs October 27th. The only question whether a color version will make the movie, or at least the organ music, spookier,

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review of Sausage Party: We Eat What We Are

So far this year, we have seen a world where animals live together in harmony (more or less), what pets do when their masters are at work, and an absent-minded fish look for her family. It's been a typical year for animation, and there's still Animal American Idol, a kid with two strings and another Disney movie yet to premiere.

Yet this year may be remembered for Seth Rogen deciding to produce a movie that has one of the most bizarre premises ever: what do food think before we eat them?

Well, they have pretty strange ideas about what life is all about..and maybe their sex drives, too.
But first things first.

Sausage Party had a successful sneak preview at Comic-Con last month, and scored 34 million dollars last weekend, just behind Suicide Squad. It's an interesting try at making animation for adults. It was more strange than hilarious, but you can't help but think the edible characters are pretty much like us.

As the meat, bread and produce at the supermarket see it, the customers are gods, and they take the food to "The Great Beyond". Somehow, they don't know what the "Gods" do after that.
The story features Frank, a hot dog voiced by Rogen, who hopes the fill the bun of Brenda, voiced by Kristen Wiig. The way she's baked, she is the Jessica Rabbit of baked goods. A short weiner named Barry (Michael Cera) is worried that he'll be able to fill a bun.

Anyway, they're hoping to reach the Great Beyond when a crazy jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) who was returned claims the Great Beyond is a lie. After a crash between two shopping carts, Frank and Brenda get separated from their friends. They do meet a bagel (Edward Norton) and and a lavash (David Krumholtz), who complain about shelf space in a familiar way, They also have to deal with a douche (Nick Kroll) who's mad that he lost his chance to reach the Great Beyond (or at least the woman who wanted to buy him).

As for the grocery items who do make the Great Beyond, they find out the hard way what the Gods really do. Barry tries to escape and winds up crossing paths with a guy that enjoys "bath salts" (James Franco).

Frank wants to know the truth about the Great Beyond, and learns it from Firewater (Bill Hader) and couple of non-perishable items (Craig Robinson and Scott Underwood). Brenda doesn't want to know because she thinks she's being punished for just touching Frank by the tips. She does get attention from Teresa (Selma Hayek), a lesbian taco shell.

So how can the food fight back against the Gods who buy them? There is a solution, but it's rather drastic. That's followed by an all-out orgy you can't unsee, and a pretty weird ending.

Seeing the secret lives of food is an unusual idea, and the movie pulls it off by making some comments about religion, and what we believe is the Great Beyond for us. The ending was weak, though. There were also too many stereotypes, especially how the Chinese and Mexican foods were portrayed. Then again, how can you come up with a happy ending for those whose destiny is being in our stomachs?

It's safe to say someone will come up with a better animated movie with lots of sex and profanities, but Sausage Party is a decent attempt at making Pixar After Dark.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Review of Suicide Squad or How To (Almost) Get Away With Bad Filmmaking

When DC comic book fans were disappointed by Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice, they were hoping the next movie, Suicide Squad, would be the one to get the DC-verse back on track and maybe make the MCU look over its shoulder.

That hope continued through Comic-Con and all the promos. If it's gotten to the point that super heroes are battling each other, maybe some villains can be cajoled into helping their fellow man. After all, they can rub it into the faces of the hero that's always bugging them.

Well, it worked as well as B v. S, sadly. Despite really good performances by Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Suicide Squad fell flat because, like B v. S, it was another prologue to the Justice League movie that's really the beginning of the DC-verse. For one thing, the crew faces a villain worse than Zod and Lex Luthor Being the Riddler, and it was sort of the fault of the person who organized the squad. It also inserts two heroes that are featured in the Justice League trailer.

Anyway, the squad is organized by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who thinks that the best way to deal with an evil Superman is recruit the worst villains to fight against this threat. Along with Deadshot and Quinn (who still misses her Mr. J, played by Jared Leto) the crew includes Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Slipknot (Adam Beach), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje),   Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and anthropologist Dr. June Moone, or rather the monster that possesses her, Enchantress (Cara Delevigne). The guy directing them on the ground is Rick Flagg, played by Joel Kinneman. He only thinks he's in charge.

Here's where Suicide Squad makes its big mistake.  Waller thinks she can control Enchantress by taking its heart, while Rick thinks he can do the same by loving the human side of her. That's how Waller can get Enchantress to take some key intel from Iran faster than Dr, Strange can travel through portals in his movie trailer. However, she double-crosses them both and revives her "brother." They plan to build a machine that would destroy mankind.
Sound familiar? It's the same Big Bad plan that Batman v. Superman had. It's less complex than Lex Luthor combining his DNA with the body of General Zod to create Apocalypse, but it shows a lack of imagination. Besides, her plan is mostly making soldiers easily broken by Harley's sweet swings with her bat, while dancing in one spot to make her machine like a showgirl. This movie didn't need her, or the romantic angle Waller sort of encouraged.

Waller should have been the Big Bad. It was her idea to create the squad, so have her create a problem to justify her idea and make sure no one knows. Then have the Joker make things more complicated by trying to take over the situation. This would have forced Harley to decide whether to stick with the squad, or go over to Joker...or maybe get him to help when things go really wrong. That would have made things better, just enough to give DC fans hope as we wait for Wonder Woman's movie to be shown.
And why shouldn't Waller be the Big Bad? Viola Davis shows she's about as ruthless as anyone, trying to make her own Injustice League. Still, you have to wonder if Annalise Keating could have done better.

Instead, we have the squad squabbling with each other as they get through the disaster Enchantress has started. In fact, we only get to see her destruction sparingly until the final act. There are pretty good moments, like Diablo explaining how his power has cost him too much, and Harley recalling how she jumped into a boiling vat to show her devotion to the Joker. That was a nice callback to the 1989  Batman movie.

The biggest crime is that the Joker doesn't play a major role. We see him be evil and nuts. Leto's performance takes a bit from Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger's interpretations, but it's basically him being creepy. At least with Ledger, he went the extra mile because of the story. You think Leto will really make things interesting once he comes for Harley, but the story has other ideas. It may give Robbie a great opportunity to make Harley special by herself, but it ruined Leto's chance to show how special his Joker can be,

There are good parts in the movie, especially how the squad members are introduced. They also do a lot to show how Deadshot may be a very bad man, but he's also a loving father. It's because Will Smith plays him, and winds up being the most heroic of the bad guys. Maybe the Justice League will give him a call. You have to wonder if Deadshot would be darker if someone else played him.

Overall, DC fumbled again because Suicide Squad tried to be just like BvS only with bad guys and a Big Bad who was just like Apocalypse. Besides, couldn't Enchantress go all over the city to pick up parts for her Darkness Machine instead of having her "brother" do all the heavy lifting? If they took another route, like Waller causing the catastophe to justify the need for a Suicide Squad, it would have been better.

There is a post-credit scene that shows what the movie really is:  another prologue for the real start of the 'verse, the Justice League movie. At least all Marvel movies may be connected, but they are also their own stories. Warner Brothers and DC better figure that out fast, or the Guardians of the Galaxy will lap them twice.