4/30/08

Emma Thompson Kills Everyone

Legend among mankind's new nocturnal majority, that is, but since the movie abandons that angle, the title is essentially meaningless.Welcome, won't you?

So, if you make him stop talking, Will Smith really can act. I guess I owe him an apology. Here goes...

Hey Will,

Sorry I said you sucked. If you want my advice (which you probably don't) I think you should shut up more often. It makes you look a hell of a lot more dignified. Anyway, you still irritate me when you try to be macho and/or funny, for what that's worth.

Sincerely,

Skenderberg

P.S. The Rifftrax review for I am Legend has been posted.

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4/29/08

Third Time's a Charm

With Disembaudio as Baron Nightmare von Bat Anguish.Welcome, won't you?

Apparently Vincent Price was a disappointment. Charleton Heston must not have been good enough either, because here comes Will Smith in yet a third big-screen adaptation of Robert Matheson's postapocalyptic vampire novel, I am Legend. Judging by his predecessors, this is a role that requires huge helpings of ham, and I do not doubt that The Prince of Freshness is up to the task. What I want to know is, can Dash Mihok really capture the essence of his predecessor, Anthony Zerbe?

Anyway, the Rifftrax for the above has been released. Purchase, download and enjoy.

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4/28/08

RP005 House of Wax

To be released on May 28, 2008.

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The Next Cinematic Titanic Release?

Buzz, buzz, chew, chew...Welcome, won't you?

The USA Film Festival in Dallas Texas has come and gone, and with it our first look at what's coming up in the way of future Cinematic Titanic releases. On Saturday the CT crew treated a theater full of fans to a live riffing of Roger Corman's The Wasp Woman (imdb page here). While I've seen no official confirmation one way or the other, I'm assuming it will probably be the next release in June, and almost certainly be one of the three upcoming releases the Cinematic Titanic people will be taping in May.

For an eye-witness account of how the Dallas show went down, see the Satellite News and Mary Jo Pehl's CT blog.

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4/27/08

RP005 To Serve All My Days

(2006, SciFi/Drama/Television-esque, color)

Riffers:

Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

Hard to chew the scenery when you’re wearing dentures.

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

Chekov talks to himself a lot, then dies.

Summary:

Walter Koenig doing his best Jon Voight impersonation.Welcome back to the world of Fake but Mostly Passable Star Trek. Today’s episode takes place before the previously reviewed episode, but continuity didn't seem to be much of a concern for anyone involved, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the order.

We begin with Lieutenant Chekov giving a flirtatious ambassador a ride in the shuttlecraft. A near collision with a cloaked Klingon warship leads to an asteroid field chase, ending with taunts and threats when they finally arrive at the Enterprise. A bit of boring and mostly irrelevant exposition goes on about the economic collapse of several Federation worlds and the expansion of the pre-forehead Klingon Empire. Thereafter, the episode splits into two parallel and mostly independent plots.

In Plot A, a cloaked and presumably Klingon vessel attacks the Enterprise, causing a lot of pseudo-Scottish technobabble. Through the accent we discern that the damage allows Kirk to use either the weapons and shields or the warp drive, but not both. Kirk sends out a distress signal and holds his ship in position. Soon the signal is answered by none other than the Klingon warship from the opening scenes. Klingon Captain Kargh protests that it was not one of his ships, and offers to help Kirk find the real culprits. Kirk hurls threats and abuse, but eventually agrees.

Secretary of Defense from Transformers...OF THE FUTURE!The Enterprise retracts her distress signal and lays in wait. The false Klingons attack again, and a rapidly aging Chekov holds them off long enough for the real Klingons to arrive and destroy the perpetrators. Turns out it’s from one of the economically collapsing Federation worlds, eager to start a Federation/Klingon war and thus revitalize their flagging weapons business.

In Plot B, Chekov saves Scotty from a radiation burst, but the exposure activates an aging virus. Walter Koenig takes over performing duties as he becomes all morose and elderly, eventually hallucinating long, introspective conversations with his younger self. He resurfaces just long enough to fend off the Klingons in Plot A, then returns to his quarters for a lengthy death scene.

Thoughts:

Don’t worry kids. Sure, Chekov fails to recover from his science fiction illness and shuffles off this mortal coil at the end of this episode, but he’ll be alive and well at the beginning of the next episode without explanation. And for the record, no, going back more than a year later to add a scene where young Chekov wakes to find out that (sigh) “it was all a dream” does not count as an explanation.

The Klingon version of a mindmeld.But then, these are fan films, lavishly produced ones at that, so I suppose I shouldn’t hold their crimes against continuity against them. Nor should I gag at the scenes where young Chekov hits on and is hit on by his grandpa’s ex-girlfriend. Yes, the age difference and her prior relationship with his ancestor make it profoundly creepy, but she’s played by an actress from the original series, so the May/December flirtation is probably a fanboy’s dream... Actually, you know what? Now that I think about it, that just makes it creepier. Perhaps I should have gagged more.

The above problems are egregious, yes, but they’re also amusing and are therefore forgivable. The real reason this episode sucks so badly is the fact that Plot B only takes one short paragraph to summarize, but eats up at least as much time as the Klingons. Guys, I understand you want to give Koenig as many lines as possible, but shouldn’t he get something to do as well? In his guest episode, Takei got to run around trying to stab people. Didn’t it occur to anyone that watching Chekov talk to himself in his room for half an hour might not constitute gripping cinema?

Bill and Kevin dig into this hunk of fan-produced cheese with abandon. While young Chekov pilots the shuttlecraft through the asteroid field, Bill notes, “This thing has fewer controls than a garden hoe.” When Kirk instructs Uhura to “Hail that ship,” Kevin says, “Yo ship! What the hail you doin’ out there?” When Chekov finally dies Kevin says, “There really need to be retcon laws,” and then describes his ongoing Batman series where the title character dies at the end of every issue, then appears alive and in apparent good health at the beginning of the next one every time. Bill and Kevin get off some good comments, and the plot about the fake Klingons provides goofy Star Trek fun, but the endless Chekov introspection scenes drag down the experience as a whole. It’s worth one look, but probably not two.

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RP004 House of Wax

(2005, Horror, color)

Riffers:

Matthew Elliott

Would he cover her in wax, or plaster of Paris?

Rating: *1/2

In a nutshell:

Vapid twenty-somethings battle psychotic wax museum curators.

Summary:

My, but that dribbly corpse looks life-like.Dead Teenager Movies™ have only one Genre-Sanctioned Plot™ and the Paris Hilton/Elisha Cuthbert vehicle House of Wax does not deviate. We begin, of course, with a Disparate Group of Promiscuous Young People™. While driving through the Uncharted American Wilderness™, they come upon an Unexpected Detour™. Unable to find lodgings, they pull over and make camp for the night.

A pick-up stops by to glare its headlights at them menacingly. The Troubled Loner™ drives it off by smashing its headlight with a beer bottle, much to the chagrin of his twin sister, Virtuous Heroine™ (Elisha Cuthbert). When they wake up the following morning, they find that One of Their Vehicles Has Been Sabotaged™. While relieving themselves in the woods, Virtuous Heroine™ and Air-Headed Slut™ (Paris Hilton) discover a pit filled with rotting deer carcasses. Soon they meet the pit’s Creepy Redneck Caretaker™, who offers to take them to a nearby service station for parts to repair their vehicle.

Virtuous Heroine™ and her Wimpy Boyfriend™ accept the filth-covered yokel’s offer, but find the service station deserted. They stop by a church, interrupting what appears to be a funeral. The Seemingly Helpful Local™ who emerges says he’s the service station proprietor; if they can wait for the end of the funeral, he’ll come out and help them. While they wait, they wander into the local wax museum, an enormous building that is literally made from wax. This is where things start to go Horribly Wrong™.

You see, the House of Wax is inhabited by a Faceless Freak™ who kidnaps unlucky motorists, paralyzes them, and covers them in wax for his menagerie. Wimpy Boyfriend™ is the first to fall. Soon his wax-entombed figure graces a waxified piano tableau. Virtuous Heroine™ realizes something is wrong when he Doesn’t Return™. Seemingly Helpful Local™ confirms her fears when he Kidnaps Her and Duct Tapes Her to a Chair in his Basement™.

Shiny and utterly immobile in a variety of unlikely poses, and she still can't believe they're not real.Meanwhile, Air-Headed Slut™, her Materialistic Boyfriend™, Troubled Loner™ and his Loser Friend™ have returned when their attempts to attend the Big Game™ in another town are unsuccessful. Troubled Loner™ and Loser Friend™ head into town to look for their missing friends while Air-Headed Slut™ and her Materialistic Boyfriend™ stay behind to make love. Loser Friend™ wanders into the wax museum where he accidentally peels off a large chunk of the paralyzed-but-still-living Wimpy Boyfriend’s™ skin. Faceless Freak™ finds and decapitates him for future waxification. Troubled Loner™ encounters Seemingly Helpful Local™ and has almost gotten shived in the back when Virtuous Heroine™ breaks the superglue on her lips to warn him. Troubled Loner™ escapes Seemingly Helpful Local™ and rescues Virtuous Heroine™. They spend much of the remaining film playing hide and seek with Seemingly Helpful Local™ in the small town, which they discover to be populated solely by posed waxed corpses.

Meanwhile, Air-Headed Slut™ and her Materialistic Boyfriend™ receive a Pre-Coital Visit™ from Faceless Freak™. Materialistic Boyfriend™ lasts only seconds against their assailant, while Air-Headed Slut™ leads him on a chase through a Sinister Warehouse™. This ends when Faceless Freak™ Rams a Metal Bar Through Her Head™.

Meanwhile, Virtuous Heroine™ and Troubled Loner™ have shot Seemingly Helpful Local™ full of crossbow bolts and gone to seek their friends in the wax museum. This is where they meet Faceless Freak™ and the Not-Quite-Dead™ Seemingly Helpful Local™ for the Final Showdown™. The fight moves from room to room and weapon to weapon, but it basically shakes out as Troubled Loner™ getting the snot beat out of him while Virtuous Heroine™ slaughters his assailants from behind. During the altercation, the whole waxen building Bursts Into Flames™ and begins to melt. Our last two survivors tunnel their way through the softened walls to escape.

In the Unsatisfying Denouement That Hints at a Possible Sequel (Depending on Box-Office Performance)™, a friendly ambulance carts our heroes to the next hospital. As the town rolls out of sight, they see the Creepy Redneck Caretaker™ parked by the side of the road. He smiles and waves.

Thoughts:

He wants to fit her with wax shoes and send her to sleep with the candle-ends.If you’ve seen a Dead Teenager Movie™ at any point previous in your life, then you’ve seen this one. Distill any such film down to its most basic elements and you are left with more or less equal parts titillation, tedium and gore. I don’t particularly mind titillation and gore if it’s in the service of a fascinating story, but Dead Teenager Movies™ are not known for such things. By and large, these misbegotten films give us nothing beyond the basic requirements of the genre. No intelligence on the part of any of the characters, nothing resembling an even remotely plausible story, no redeeming qualities, no entertainment value whatsoever... Unless blood and entrails entertain you, in which case you’d be better served by a trip to the slaughterhouse. All the blood and entrails you can stomach without all that pesky dialog, plus a chance to purchase discount sausages when you’re through.

Matthew Elliott gives us another top-notch commentary, coming down especially hard on Paris Hilton during her scenes. During an early appearance, he calls her “a sleazy [version of] Courtney Love.” Later, during the warehouse chase, he references her recent legal troubles with, “If he catches her, he’ll have to let her go on the advice of her physician.” When Seemingly Helpful Local™ (a.k.a. Bo) stumbles in full of crossbow bolts near the end he says, “I think he completely misses the irony of being a man named Bo who just got shot with an arrow.” When I saw what kind of movie he’d chosen, I was afraid his more understated riffing style would get lost under all the screaming and slashing, but this did not turn out to be the case. He manages to hold his own all the way through, gently poking fun as something new every few seconds. Sadly, this appalling film is still not something I feel comfortable recommending to anyone, regardless of how well-riffed it is.

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RP003 Saw

(2004, Horror, color)

Riffers:

Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

The entire film is coated in human excrement.

Rating: *

In a nutshell:

A sadistic murderer forces his victims to kill themselves in a variety of improbable ways.

Summary:

Be grateful that I didn't chose the poster that shows the hand's bloodly stump.Scruffy hipster Adam wakes up in a filthy bathtub in a grime-covered restroom. He stumbles out to discover that he’s chained to the pipes. Calling for help reveals the presence of another man: Lawrence (Cary Elwes), a doctor who’s been kidnapped and chained to the other side of the room. One of them finds a light switch, and they discover a man on the floor between them, his head ruptured by a gunshot wound, the gun still in one hand and a mini-cassette player in the other. The two search their pockets and find mini-cassettes with instructions on the first steps of a grisly little game concocted by a serial killer called Jigsaw. Apparently the object is for one of them to kill the other, providing the killer with a means to escape. As extra incentive, Lawrence’s family has been kidnapped and will be murdered if the game is not completed by a predetermined time.

What follows is a lot of gruesome, convoluted and violently edited nonsense. Some nested flashbacks take us through a number of Jigsaw’s previous victims, including the man who died trying to crawl through barbed wire, the woman who had to cut a key out of a living cellmate’s stomach so that a metal contraption wired to her jaw wouldn’t rip her head open, the man with drills on either side of his head, and so on. Through these flashbacks we meet Detective Tapp (Danny Glover) and his partner Sing. The drill-head adventure kills Sing, causing Tapp to go insane and starts harassing his prime suspect Lawrence, whose penlight was found at one of the crime scenes. Lawrence was with his mistress during the prior killings, and is thus in the clear, but this doesn’t stop the irrational Tapp from leaving the force to continue spying. When Lawrence complains, Tapp hires Adam to spy instead.

An Australian who can't do an American accent to save his life.All clear now? No? Let’s complicate things further with a variety of sadistic clues that try to convince Lawrence and Adam to kill each other via poison, gunshot, etc. Jigsaw occasionally electrocutes both via their chains when they try to find ways around the game. Eventually Lawrence realizes that Jigsaw is probably one of the orderlies from the hospital where he works, a man named Zep—something that was painfully obvious from his appearance in the first flashback. Meanwhile, Zep captures Lawrence’s family, but the crazed Tapp has been watching Lawrence’s house; he bursts in to rescue them. Tapp chases Zep out to the bathroom where Adam and Lawrence are being held.

Meanwhile, audio of the shooting, yelling and screaming makes it appear to Lawrence as if his family has been killed. He shoots Adam and saws through his own ankle to escape. Zep and Tapp arrive. Zep kills Tapp. The wounded Adam kills Zep. Lawrence tells Adam that he’s going to seek medical help for both of them before they bleed to death. He crawls away. Adam finds a mini-cassette in Zep’s pocket. It’s from Jigsaw, telling Zep that he’s been poisoned, and can only have the antidote if he sets up the situation with Adam and Lawrence. The body on the floor stands up and takes off his fake busted-head mask, revealing himself as a very minor character from an earlier flashback. He electrocutes Adam and leaves him screaming in the darkness.

Thoughts:

An Englishman who can't do an American accent to save his life.Kevin and Bill can riff a film like nobody’s business. Let’s just get that out of the way now. A few favorite riffs: “I’m glad this movie wasn’t filmed in Odorama,” (Bill); “Ross Perot and John Malkovich’s love child,” (Kevin, referring to Jigsaw’s horrific little dummy); and “A giant alligator has the cameraman in his mouth!” (Bill, referring to the, um, “quality” of the editing). They pull their chairs right up to this movie and punish it mercilessly for its worthlessness and stupidity.

Can you tell I didn’t like the film? The one-star rating has nothing to do with the quality of the riffing (funny) or the quality of the film (stupid, nonsensical, and edited by a man in the midst of an epileptic seizure, but otherwise competent). It has to do with my loathing of the genre. Yes, I hate torture porn, and have given it a low rating for no other reason.

If you like filth-coated movies filled with unlikeable characters that spend their every waking moment in a perpetual state of agony and despair, and you like Rifftrax, then you’ll like Bill and Kevin’s take on Saw. Me, I’m stuffing this atrocity back into the slot at Blockbuster just as soon as I get the chance. Then I’ll go home and watch The Muppet Show with my children until the dark stain lifts off my soul. We’ll stay up all night if we have to.

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RP002 Dark Water

(2005, Horror, color)

Riffers:

Matthew Elliott

I hear that drab is the new fabulous.

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

The ghost of an abandoned child haunts a divorcee and her daughter.

Summary:

[Insert raw sewage joke here.]I suppose I could elaborate more on the one-sentence summary above, but seeing as how this movie was adapted from a Japanese horror film in the grand tradition of The Grudge, there isn’t much more to tell. For a country so focused on cramming so much into such small spaces in nearly every other aspect of their culture, their ghost stories are remarkably empty. But then, I’ve never managed to work up enough interest to watch the original; maybe it’s a breathtaking tour-de-force, filled with unbearable plumbing-related tension and genuinely terrifying water stains. It could just be the American remake that seems so lifeless, squatting inside the burnt-out husk of its Eastern progenitor like a blank-eyed, urine-stained vagrant. Doesn’t sound likely, but I admit it’s possible.

Oh well. I guess I can give you a few more details. Rather than muck around with all the flashback tomfoolery, I’ll just tell you that a little girl was once abandoned by both her parents in an apartment building, then accidentally fell into a water tower and drowned. Thereafter, her spirit haunts a recent move-in named Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) and her daughter in the form of a malfunctioning elevator, slowly spreading patches of mildew, and the drip, drip, drip of leaky pipes. Yes, it’s every bit as exciting as it sounds. Finally, the ghost threatens to drown the daughter unless Dahlia comes to be her mother instead. Dahlia agrees. The ghost girl kills her. The end.

Jennifer Connelly, looking traumatized, standing ankle-deep in a flooded apartment.  That's pretty much all you need to know about the film.Other elements exist, to be sure. There’s an acrimonious divorce, a creepy caretaker (Pete Postlethwaite) and a homeless attorney. Why is he homeless? As lawyers go, he seems competent enough. And Postlethwaite was arrested…why? I thought the ghost girl’s death was accidental. And what does any of this have to do with the ghost story in the previous paragraph?

Thoughts:

Once again, I am faced with the difficulty of trying to write about a movie in which nothing happens. And yet here I am, writing words whose sole purpose is to fill space, trying to distract you from the fact that I have nothing to say about it. But now I’ve just attempted to distract you from my purpose by drawing attention to it. I admit it; I’m not very good at distraction. Neither is the movie.

I’m not sure whether the previous sentence qualifies as insightful. Whether it does or not, I’m moving on.

Just so you know, the amazing and terrifying object of their awe-struck stares is a patch of mildew.Regarding the commentary, this is the first Rifftrax to feature guest riffer Matthew J. Elliott. He’s world famous in England, I think, but since I don’t really follow British mystery novelists who aren’t Doyle or Christie, this is the first I’ve heard of him. As a riffer, he passes with fairly high marks; his timing is good and his writing is clever. A few favorite lines: “The famous Seattle shower of 1974, due to finish any day now,” “This movie has the amazing ability to make happiness look utterly miserable,” and “Did I remember to take off my slime-tinted contact lenses before watching this movie?” His delivery differs from previous guest riffers rather drastically in that his voice is always measured and calm, a tone that combines with his accent to make it sound like he’s narrating The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. This is more of an observation than a criticism, though. I like the way his commentary sounds more like gentle teasing than outraged mockery. My time spent with Dark Water was not a total loss, and this is largely thanks to his efforts on my behalf.

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RP001 World Enough and Time

(2007, SciFi/Drama, color)

Riffers:

Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

How can you be worse than Shatner?

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

A space/time warp causes Sulu to age thirty years and beget a holographic daughter.

Summary:

Despite the poster, this episode didn't really have any stabbings.  They need to work on that for future installments.The Romulans are testing new weapons on Federation ships who wander into their territory. Kirk and his crew (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) do their best to rescue one such unlucky vessel, but the Romulans disintegrate it before their eyes. Sensing that the experimental superweapon is about to be turned on them, the Enterprise opens fire, disabling and/or destroying the Romulan assailants. Unfortunately, the superweapon’s explosion traps the Enterprise in one of those space/time/quantum/flux/phase thingies of which the series is so fond.

The only way to escape is to send Sulu and his red-shirted romantic interest Dr. Chandris into the semi-destroyed Romulan ship’s derelict husk to retrieve the coordinates necessary for their survival. Motion sickness flirting gives way to frantic pseudo-scientific babble as poorly defined energy waves engulf the Romulan ship. Scotty tries to beam them back, but loses Dr. Chandris’ pattern. Sulu arrives, but thirty years older, decked in furs and knives, and played by George Takei. Scotty picks up another pattern, this one for the elder Sulu’s hot daughter Alana.

I kinnae bookend the plot any longer, cap'n!A bit of exposition establishes that Alana is the daughter of Sulu and Chandris while they lived for thirty years on a deserted planet in another dimension, one with a much quicker flow of time. Chandris died a few years back. Since Alana is purely a creature of the other dimension, she cannot be transported all the way to the Enterprise, but remains a semi-solid holograph-ish entity throughout the episode. Of course Kirk makes a pass at her anyway.

The Enterprise needs data that Sulu memorized while aboard the Romulan vessel, but it was so long ago (for Sulu) that he can’t remember it. A Vulcan mindmeld fails to reveal the required information. Drug therapy fails as well. Other attempts to extricate the ship not only fail, but reveal that Alana’s life is inextricably linked to the phase space thingy that traps them. If they free themselves, she will die.

Sulu is devastated, but Alana convinces him to help the ship escape anyway. Scotty fiddles with the transporter, using Sulu’s previous pattern to force him back to the way he was before he aged thirty years and forgot the Romulan data. Young Sulu emerges with no memory of his extra-dimensional adventure, but he remembers enough Romulan readings to fly the Enterprise to safety. Alana watches her enyoungened dad until she explodes in a shower of sparks. We close with some vaguely pro-family bookend scenes about mindmeld-restored memories and older Sulu’s grandchildren.

Thoughts:

Relax.  Give over to the androgynous devil man penetrating your mind.Imagine yourselves back in the days when alien girls were blue-skinned and promiscuous, and Shatner’s hair was real. Now imagine Spock more effeminate, Scotty less Scottish, and Kirk even hammier. Crank the production values up a few notches, and leave the writing quality more or less alone. This is Star Trek Phase II, a series of internet-only fan-made episodes in the style of the original series. Whether you judge their efforts good or bad depends on your basis for comparison. Compared to a professionally produced show, it’s unevenly acted, but is otherwise average or just below average. Compared to films of similar origin, however, they’ve knocked their little internet fanfic out of the park.

But then, it’s imitating Star Trek, one of the broadest, most ridiculously earnest space operas ever made. Even with Shatner, Nimoy and Kelly it would have been silly—indeed, compared to the real Star Trek featured on Rifftrax, it’s only a little worse than Generations and The Undiscovered Country. Of course it’s miles better than The Final Frontier, but that goes without saying. Or it would, if I hadn’t just said it.

As one of the initial Rifftrax Presents titles, this was my first taste without Mike taking the lead in the commentary. It’s still got Kevin and Bill, though, so it’s close enough. When we get a first taste of faux Scotty’s accent, Bill says, “He’s about as Scottish as Pauly Shore.” When Bones urges calm while Spock attempts to mindmeld with Sulu, Billy says, “Give over to the androgynous devil man penetrating your mind.” As Alana attempts to flirt with Kirk, then Scotty, then Spock, Kevin says, “Man, she’d flirt with the wallpaper.” It’s not real Star Trek, but it’s as close as makes no difference. That goes for my first Rifftrax experience without Mike as well.

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Rifftrax Presents 001 to 010

RP001 World Enough and Time

RP002 Dark Water

RP003 Saw

RP004 House of Wax

RP005 To Serve All My Days

RP006 The X-Files: Fight the Future

RP007 Alien

RP008 Spider-Man 2

RP009 The Day After Tomorrow

RP010 Dirty Dancing

Apparently not satisfied with producing more post-MST3K riffing content than all other MST3K alumni combined, Rifftrax has added yet another brand of content to its catalog: Rifftrax Presents. This section features slightly cheaper commentary tracks by Mike's funny friends, including Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, Mary Jo Pehl, Matthew J. Elliott, Josh Fruhlinger, Cole Stratton and Janet Varney. Apparently designed to appeal to niche commentary consumers, Rifftrax Presents mostly steers away from the most recent CGI blockbusters to focus on other genres. Big-budget fan fiction and low-rent horror to start with, eventually rounded out with classic (and not so classic) SciFi and eighties cheese.

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4/24/08

Drop the Camera and Run, You Moron

What is it with disaster movies and the Statue of Liberty?  Why doesn't anyone ever deface the world's largest ball of twine?Welcome, won't you?

The latest example of cinema monstre verité is every bit as nauseating as you've heard. Cloverfield also appears to be a bit divisive in terms of quality. From what I've read, folks seem fairly evenly divided between those who thought it was a brilliant way to freshen up a tired genre and those who thought it was a pointless and unnecessary exercise in style. Or, in internet-speak, those who thought it roxxored and those for whom it was teh suck. Find out why I fall into the latter category by reading the Rifftrax review here.

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4/23/08

Starring Will Smith as Charleton Heston as Vincent Price

Kevin vants to drink your bloooooooood.Welcome, won't you?

After cold and barren March (i.e. only one full-length release), Rifftrax has announced its third feature commentary of April. Get ready for I am Legend, starring Will Smith as the last man on earth. This probably means that there will be no one to interrupt the constant stream of motormouth machismo we all enjoyed (read: did not enjoy) so much back in Independence Day. Featuring Mike, Kevin and Bill, to be released on April 29, 2008.

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4/22/08

Smoke Monster From "Lost": The Movie

Pay no attention to the monster behind the curtain.Welcome, won't you?

Get ready for the queasy-cam/mumblecore/Gozilla clone thrill ride of the century! The Rifftrax for Cloverfield has been released. Expect a review within the next few days.

Update: Free sample now available. See it at the Rifftrax site, or behind the cut:

<a href="http://freevideocoding.com/flvplayer.swf?file=http://www.rifftrax.com/files/videos/Cloverfield_Sample.flv&amp;autoStart=false" target="_blank">http://freevideocoding.com/flvplayer.swf?file=http://www.rifftrax.com/files/videos/Cloverfield_Sample.flv&amp;autoStart=false</a>

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4/21/08

Memento Mori

Porkpie hat?  Check.  Soul-less, eyeless monkey mask?  Check.  Earwax?  Checking...Welcome, won't you?

Do you hate monkeys? Do you wish nothing but death and misery upon scimiiformes in general? Do you revel in the sound effects of monkey bones being crushed under pavement engineering equipment, crackling like a bag of Doritos? If so, then I highly recommend One Got Fat, the bicycle safety short that hates monkeys with a burning, illogical passion.

If not, then you should probably watch it anyway, if only to gasp along with Mike, Bill and Kevin at the gruesome and repeated implied monkeycides. Read the review here.

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One-Offs

That's it.  Cram it all in until you have to put your whole weight into getting it shut.  Getting it open again will require you to disassemble the cabinet entirely.Here we have bits and pieces that do not merit their own mini-guides for the simple reason that there is only one of them. Think of it as my Fan Guide's junk drawer, the destination for useful things that aren't big enough to fill their own space.

Currently, the only things here are my reviews of Max The Hero and Meet Dave, a highly enjoyable webcartoon written and voiced by MikeNelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy, and an execrable SciFi comedy co-written by Bill Corbett and starring Eddie Murphy, respectively. Now that it's been released, I've moved my review of Darkstar: The Interactive Movie here as well. More reviews will probably follow, as always.

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Max the Hero

(2007, Animation/Comedy/Action-Superhero, color)

This Salisbury steak tastes like twenty Salisbury steaks to me.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:

The eponymous Max gains superpowers from a years-old sandwich.

Watch the cartoon here.

Summary:

After the nitroglycerin-infused racoon, a fire-retardant chicken is the next logical step.Mad genius Stu (Mike Nelson) tests his latest inventions on his ultra-nerdy roommate Chip (Kevin Murphy). Chip acknowledges the inventions’ success (the smokable coffee stains his fingers and the drinkable cigarette gives him the runs) but wonders why Stu can’t devote his scientific prowess to more impressive ends.

The arrival of their third roommate interrupts this line of thought. The rather unpleasant Max (Bill Corbett) flies into the room, crashing right through the wall. When queried about his new superpowers, he relates a long-ish story about lightning, toxic waste and a mystic convocation of mythical gods, but since he went out of his way to avoid them all, it boils down to the sandwich he ate when he got home. Stu notes that the sandwich was a) his and b) several years old, further hypothesizing that the composition of the sandwich had aged in just such a way as to give its consumer vast, otherworldly powers. As Max goes to bed, Chip notes how calm Stu is taking this, as the sandwich should rightfully have been eaten by Stu.

Next morning, Chip takes Max out to catalog his new powers, which include the usual: flight, strength, x-ray vision and so on, as well as a super sense of taste and super hair-growing-out-of-his-ears. But his old weaknesses are now super-weaknesses. He is now, for instance, super lactose intolerant. Chip is so overjoyed at Max’s new superhero status (and his own new position as sidekick) that he bursts into song. Max backhands him into the stratosphere.

Max proves his prowess to the supermarket-going masses.Meanwhile, Stu has been working on a new invention—the atomic powered hat! He wants to show it off to Chip, but Chip brushes him off to hang out with Max. Max reminds Stu that it’s his turn to clean the sink trap and leaves. Stu cleans the sink trap while he stews and frets about Max, finally descending into jealous madness.

Max goes to bed and wakes up a week later—his tendency to sleep in has now become super sleeping in. Having lost his job due to super tardiness, he wanders the streets to look for freelance hero work. After an attempt to find a lost cat turns tragic (he vaporizes it accidentally) Max is suddenly confronted by a giant robotic octopus-clown.

Stu emerges from the top of the device (alternately called both an Octoclown and a Clownopus) to cackle and monologue. Max laughs at the many-armed abomination’s first attempts to subdue him, but then Stu reveals the milk cows strapped to each tentacle. Caught in a spray of his own mortal weakness, Max collapses to the sidewalk. Chip arrives to congratulate Stu on his new supervillain-hood and burst into song. Stu endures this for a very short period of time before throwing a cow at him. Max and Stu share a hearty laugh at Chip’s injury and decide to renew their friendship by going home to watch their favorite TV show. Chip emerges from beneath the cow to tell them that the show ended an hour ago, so Max circles the earth until it starts to spin backwards. The abrupt reversal of the earth’s rotation causes fires, floods, eruptions and general catastrophe.

Thoughts:

You didn't think I'd let this review end without a shot of this little beauty, did you?Wow. That’s a lot of summary for a twelve-minute cartoon. Lots of stuff happening, but it doesn’t feel perfunctory and it’s funny as hell. Interesting choice to make the villain more sympathetic than the hero and his sidekick, but it works and, hey, it’s a comedy. I laughed at it, and this is all that is important. The drawings are a bit crude but the animation is fluid and the writing is sharp. Of course it is, with Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy both writing and performing the characters of this twelve-minute cartoon. Mike Salva produced and directed, with music by John Mark Painter and the provocatively named Corn Mo. So head on down and watch it already!

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4/18/08

...But Then Two Got Skinny and Three Got Ice Cream and So On Down the Line Until We Got Eggroll with Six

Featuring special guest riffer Coco.Welcome, won't you?

We have a number of things to discuss today:

1) In the grand tradition of Shorty Got Low and Baby Got Back, Rifftrax has released One Got Fat, a short film that no doubt features a ridiculously named rapper waxing eloquent about female anatomy. Or it could be an utterly insane-looking little concoction about cyclists in papier-mache monkey masks. Find out which for only ninety-nine cents.

2) If you're one of those DRM-hating luddites who've been avoiding the early On-Demand shorts (A Visit to Santa, Act Your Age, Lunchroom Manners, and Cathy/Petaluma) then avoid no more. The previously DRM-only shorts have now been re-released in all their unprotected glory. If you've bought them previously, then they're already sitting in your download list, so no need to buy them again.

3) Two Darkstar updates in one week? Hell really has frozen over. There are no new updates to the News Section, but the initial splash screen has been updated, now listing the release date as Christmas 2008.

4) A representative sample of One Got Fat, found behind the cut.


<a href="http://freevideocoding.com/flvplayer.swf?file=http://www.rifftrax.com/files/videos/OneGotFat-sample.flv&amp;autoStart=false" target="_blank">http://freevideocoding.com/flvplayer.swf?file=http://www.rifftrax.com/files/videos/OneGotFat-sample.flv&ampautoStart=false</a>

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4/16/08

Regarding Stars of Darker Hue

A diagram of the Millenium Darkstar.Welcome, won't you?

After posting a stub with basic information about the eternally incomplete MST3K alumni-heavy video game Darkstar a month or so ago, I pretty much figured I'd be leaving it to molder there untouched for the next year or two. But, surprise of surprises, their website has actually updated. Click here, select the bandwidth option that applies to you, and click on "News" to see for yourself.

Even more surprising: the update is both lengthy and substantive, detailing everything that's done and everything that isn't. So... they'll be done in no more than a decade, tops.

(Kidding, guys. Don't throw things at me.)

Also, during this trip to the website I noticed something amidst the jumbled navigation interface that I hadn't before. A handy prospectus, with what looks like the clearest overview of the project I've seen so far. Needs to be updated though. It still lists the release date as Christmas 2005...

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4/15/08

Bold Predictions for the Coming Week

I thought it was the monster from The Host that had tentacles.  Isn't the Cloverfield beast pincers-only?Welcome, won't you?

I predict that during the next Rifftrax:

Bill will ask for Dramamine at least once.
Kevin will pretend to vomit noisily into the studio trash can.
Mike will say, "Tonight on COPS!"
There will be a discussion on the subject of crab cakes.

Tune in next Tuesday (April 22, 2008) for Mike, Bill and Kevin in the upcoming commentary for Cloverfield.

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4/14/08

Thank Goodness They Don't

Clown-Zebub.Welcome, won't you?

Apparently, even as recently as the seventies, child psychology consisted of finding new ways to say, "Get your minds right, you little $@*%!s," to everyone regardless of the underlying problem. The latest Rifftrax short, If Mirrors Could Speak, is an example of this practice at its most egregious. I've posted a revew here.

Also, it looks like we'll get at least two whole full-length Rifftrax this month, with the title of the second to be announced tomorrow.

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4/11/08

...They'd Tell Us How Loathsome We Are

Apparently, this mirror gazes into the very depths of hell.Welcome, won't you?

Just when I thought I'd figured out their system, Rifftrax releases a full-length commentary and a short in the same week. Head on over and pick up the latest advice from mental health professionals of the past in If Mirrors Could Speak, available now for ninety-nine cents.

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An Open Letter to the Film Industry

Black-suit Spider-Man represents intrusive studio oversight.Dear Film Industry,

I realize that, due to the peculiar demands and nature of your work, you can't stop making bad movies. Would you at least consider making them shorter?

Sincerely,

Skenderberg

P.S.: My review of the latest Rifftrax pertaining to the interminable cringe-fest Spider-Man 3 has been posted.

P.P.S.: Welcome, won't you?

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4/8/08

So Many Villains, So Little Time

Graaauuuuggghhhrrrr!  Lileks smash!Welcome, won't you?

The Rifftrax for Spider-Man 3, with guest riffer James Lileks, is now available for purchase and download. I'm looking forward to it in the same way that I looked forward to the Matrix Reloaded Riffrax when it was announced: secure in the knowledge that I will face many consecutive moments of hilarity enclosed within a lengthy and excruciating narrative. Expect a review by the end of the week.

In the meantime, please enjoy a free sample, found behind the cut:


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4/7/08

Sadly, The Answer Is No

Scarf or mittens?  You decide.Welcome, won't you?

As previously reported, the latest Rifftrax on Demand release asks the all-important question Are You Popular? Checking myself against this short film's requirements reveals that I fall short in a number of ways, including but not limited to: gender, age, and sexual orientation.

Check out my newly posted review to see how you measure up.

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RVOD022 One Got Fat

(1963, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

A bicycle safety film where apes evolved from men?

Rating: ****

In a nutshell:

A troop of monkeys’ unsafe bike-riding practices lead to their own horrific deaths.

Summary:

It's a madhouse! A madhouse!So there are these monkeys. And they all have wire tails and grotesque papier-mache faces. Most have flamboyant hats as well. And they decide to go on a picnic nine blocks away. But the only one with a basket on his bike is Orville “Orv” Slump. He agrees to carry everyone else’s lunches for them.

On the very first block we lose “Rooty” Toot Jasperson, who doesn’t signal a turn and gets run over by a sedan. The other monkeys can’t have missed this (it happened right in front of everyone) but instead of stopping to mourn or call an ambulance or the police or something, they press on.

Next block we lose monkey cyclist Tinkerbelle “Tink” McDillingfiddy when she ignores a stop sign and gets ploughed under by a water truck. Did anyone else notice or care? No?

On to the next block, where Phillip “Floog” Floogle rides on the wrong side of the road. While congratulating himself about a near miss with a pickup, he plasters himself across a soccer mom’s windshield. The others press on.

Mossby “Mossby” Pomegranate didn’t register his bike with the city or lock it up after his last outing, so his bike was irretrievably stolen some weeks before. Determined to participate anyway, he doggedly runs along beside the others until his shoes begin to smoke from the continuous friction of running. He sits down dejected by the roadside, unaware that his bike-less state has spared him from becoming a gruesome object lesson.

Trigby “Trigby” Phipps is a safe bicycling monkey. Or rather, he would be if the beefy “Slim” Jim MacGuffney wasn’t sitting on his handlebars. An open manhole looms ahead. Not a problem—or it wouldn’t be if Slim’s hideous monkey mask didn’t muffle his warnings. They tumble together into the unknown depths. Whether they break their backs against a concrete floor, get electrocuted by underground wiring, or slowly suffocate in a river of human waste is left to the viewers’ imagination.

Nelbert “Nel” Zweiback somehow remains upright despite her jerky, seizure-like arm spasms. Either impatient with the obstacles of the road or guided by seizure-induced visions, she ends up on the sidewalk where she collides with a couple of pedestrians. This, of course, causes her to explode like can of TNT. Though we assume she did not survive this encounter, the pedestrians are spared, lifted gently by the explosion into a nearby tree.

Filbert “Fil” Bagel is going to get a new bike for his birthday, and so he hasn’t bothered to take care of his old one. Thus, when a steamroller approaches from the opposite direction, he finds himself quite unable to apply the brakes. (Or turn left, or put his feet down, or shout at the steam-roller operator to stop...) The scene fades to black, but we are not spared from hearing the sickening crunch of his flattening bones.

Stanislaus “Stan” Higgenbotham has no reflectors or lights on his bike. The camera follows him into a darkened tunnel. Screaming brakes and crash sound effects are heard. Stan does not emerge.

And so Orv arrives at the picnic area alone. Viewing him from the front reveals that he has survived because he is not a monkey, and is thus cognizant of basic, life-saving bicycle safety rules. He was carrying everyone’s lunches if you’ll recall, and decides to eat them all to honor his fallen friends’ memory. This makes him the eponymous One who Got Fat.

Narrated by the voice of Fractured Fairy Tales, Edward Everett Horton.

Thoughts:

I want a hat like that.  He can keep the face, though.I was something of an absent-minded cyclist as a youngster. Between the ages of twelve and seventeen, I hit, and was hit by, at least half-a-dozen cars. And yet, thanks to quick reflexes, safety gear, and a heaping helping of dumb, blind luck, I was never injured. The worst one was that time I collided with a parked car that had been abandoned across the bike lane at the bottom of a hill. I was going full tilt; cracked the top of my helmet and knocked off my chain and front wheel. Got up and put my bike back together and just continued on. I don’t know why the hell I didn’t see it there and stop, or swerve around. Man, I was stupid back then...

Where were we? Oh, the short, yes. Those were some butt-ugly monkeys meeting some grisly fates, weren’t they? I’m not sure what I can add the above summary, except to emphasize that this is not a cartoon. Every death depicted is implied to happen to a real-life kid in a real-life satanic monkey mask. The whimsical narration and cheerful music does nothing to lighten the mood; if anything, they underscore the short film’s dark, twisted soul. For kids under a certain age (i.e. the film’s target audience) this is nothing short of a wide-awake nightmare.

Also horrified are Mike, Bill, and Kevin, who spend part of the running time discussing whether or not the bicycle safety rules depicted constitute “ape law”. When Mr. Horton talks about Tink’s optimistic outlook on life right before she squishes under the tires of the water truck, Kevin says, “In case any of you kids thought being happy was a good thing, choke on this.” Further in, Mike expresses frustration the monkey appellations—“Dr. Seuss rejected these names,” he says. After we cringe at the crunch of Fil’s bones, Kevin says, “I’ve heard of film noir, but this is nuts.” It’s so cheerfully inappropriate that it would have been funny to watch on its own. The Rifftrax crew responds in kind, and the result is one of their best shorts yet.

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4/4/08

Popular With Whom, Exactly?

We always knew that Kevin was the popular one.Welcome, won't you?

So, we get a new short every Friday, except in weeks where a full-length Rifftrax was released on Tuesday? I can roll with that.

This week's ninety-nine cent entertainment is another educational short called Are You Popular? Apparently, at some point in our past, school administrators thought that clique-ish, attention-seeking behavior was a good thing, and actively encouraged it.

Rifftrax is busy updating it's various systems, so I'm not sure when it will hit the Rifftrax main page. If you don't see it there, hit the On Demand link in the Welcome paragraph to find it.

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Picking Up The Slack

I'm sure J. Elvis cares about you too, honey.  He's just got a lot on his mind right now.Welcome, won't you?

A couple of days ago, I posted with some justifiable excitement regarding a news-filled mass email I received from the folks at Cinematic Titanic, complete with a basic summary of its content and a link to the as-yet-unupdated Cinematic Titanic news page.

Two days have passed, and the news page is still not updated, so for those of you who haven't signed up for emailed CT updates, I have posted the text of that missive behind the cut.

Hi, Everybody!

Just wanted to fill you in on some of the news from here at Cinematic Titanic. First off, starting today, "Cinematic Titanic: The Oozing Skull" is AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD at the low, Steve Jobsian price of $9.99! If you've been waiting to get in on the future of movie riffing, now's the time – watch it on your computer or easily burn to a DVD for use with your super-awesome home theatre set-up you spent your kids college money on. We're very excited to present this download option as it has always been our intention to make Cinematic Titanic available as easily and inexpensively as possible. Now's the time to buy the show TOM SHALES, TV critic for the Washington Post, calls "Consistently and unfailingly funny."

Speaking of our intentions, many of you may be saying to yourself: "That's great, I can download the first episode - now how about some MORE EPISODES, you lazy bums!?" Well, here’s the deal: due to the disruption of the 100-day writer’s strike, Hollywood has been in catch-up mode for the last couple of months making it impossible for us to secure a soundstage to shoot on at a rate we could afford. No one wanted to rent us a stage for a week when there were others in line wanting it for several weeks at a time…until NOW. We have officially secured a stage for the second week of May, at which time we will be shooting the next THREE EPISODES of CT! That means starting in June, we can all start to enjoy the regular release schedule we all hoped to achieve for CT. The positive response from people over "The Oozing Skull" combined with the amount of fun we've had working with each other made it a no-brainer for us to continue (no-brainers are the decisions we make best around here).

CT LIVE, Y'ALL

On April 26th, we're all headed to Dallas for the USA FILM FESTIVAL for a MST3K panel (also featuring Kevin Murphy) followed by a Cinematic Titanic live riff of a new movie (well not a NEW movie, but new to CT, and a secret for now).

Mystery Science Theater 3000 at 20: Panel Discussion
Saturday, April 26, 5:00pm
$8.00 per ticket

Cinematic Titanic Live Riffing
Saturday, April 26, 7:00pm
$25 per ticket

THEATER LOCATION
Angelika Film Center
5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas

TICKETS AT THE BOX OFFICE (Cash sales only; Day of show ONLY)
Tickets will be available at the Angelika Theatre upstairs sales desk, for DAY OF SHOW ONLY, beginning at 2:00pm.

ADVANCE TICKETS (telephone only)
Available exclusively through Ticketmaster - On sale April 10.
Dial 214-631-ARTS (2787) then HOLD for LIVE OPERATOR option.
(Note: Tickets to the Festival are NOT available via Ticketmaster's automated online order service or via the outlet locations.)

For additional information, contact the USA Film Festival at www.usafilmfest@aol.com

That’s the CT skinny for now. Keep checking out our website – we're now blogging on a regular basis and very, very soon the CT store will be open to fulfill all your CT merchandise needs.

Love,
J. Elvis Weinstein
Cinematic Titanic
Note: The original email had a bad link, pointing its recipients to a flickr account instead of the Oozing Skull download page. It was quickly followed by another email with the correct link. Rather than repost both emails here, I have simply posted the first one with a corrected link.

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4/2/08

Substantive CT News! Huzzah!

Words like violence break the silence.Welcome, won't you?

This isn't up at the Cinematic Titanic news page yet, but I'm linking to it anyway in the hopes that it soon will be.

As folks in the Cinematic Titanic email club already know, the riffers of the good ship CT have booked a sound stage for early May to record, not just the next one, but the next three Cinematic Titanic releases. The first of these will come out in June (knock on wood). So, I guess it's either feast or famine with these guys.

The titles of these films are still unknown, but since they'll be performing one of them (presumably the next one) live in Dallas on April 26, we won't have long to wait.

Also exciting is the release of The Oozing Skull in download form for $9.99. That's the same price as a full-length Rifftrax On Demand purchase. I've already got one of the slightly more expensive hard copies, but this is good news for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, and for anyone who hopes they'll be able to download future installments on release day.

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Danger Dodger Salute!

Guardiana has no advice to offer on the subject of cross-contamination.Welcome, won't you?

What do The Chipmunks, Wonder Woman, CHiPs, and household safety have in common? Absolutely nothing, but the latest Rifftrax On Demand short will give conspiracy theorists plenty of fodder with which to draw tenuous connections. Yes, after several delays (mainly related to Cesar Chavez Day and a certain endless forum game) the review for Safety: Harm Hides at Home has finally been posted.

In other news, James Lileks (soon to be of Spider-Man 3 fame) has been added to the Rifftrax Dramatis Personae page.

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4/1/08

What Happened to the Second One?

Do big spiders get scared when they find little spiders crawling up their arms?Welcome, won't you?

The next Rifftrax has been announced: Spider-Man 3, riffed by Mike Nelson and James Lileks, to be released on April 8, 2008. No, I've never heard of him either. Check out his site if you want, but it doesn't appear to be entirely functional.

In other news, the game to guess the movie (which we already knew, and now officially know) still soldiers on towards prizes of some sort. It's about to enter its fifth hour, but I don't think anyone will mind if you join in late. Me, I have to go home soon.

Update: Checking in now that I've gotten back to a computer reveals that the game has finally ended after eight and a half hours. I am vicariously exhausted.

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