3/31/09

As Someone Likes It, Anyway

I guess it's what's for dinner.Welcome, won't you?

Another day, another short from Rifftrax. Tune in for As We Like It, an educational film about tall, frosty glasses of beer and the cross-dressing sixteenth century Duke's daughters who love them. Or not.

In the meantime, my computer seems to have swallowed the review I wrote for the last short they released. If I can't find it by tomorrow, I'll write you a new one.

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3/30/09

RP011 Die Hard

(1988, Action, color)

Riffers:

Matthew Elliott

You don’t need personality when you have a gun.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


Bruce Willis fights European terrorists in a booby-trapped skyscraper.

Summary:

The aptly-named but short-lived Volcano Tower.Angry with his wife for accepting a high-paying job in Los Angeles, New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) refuses to move there with the rest of the family. As our movie opens, however, McClane softens enough to fly out for Christmas, meeting his wife at her office party.

Just then, terrorists attack! Well, infiltrate actually, slaying the security guards and putting on their uniforms while others cut off all phone contact with the outside world. Their leader Hans (Alan Rickman) takes everyone hostage and herds them into the main room. McClane was in the bathroom at the time; he avoids detection during the room-to-room search and sneaks out the back. He starts shadowing the terrorists, witnessing the shooting of the company boss, writing down names, and noting the quality and origin of their equipment.

His next goal: notify the authorities. First he pulls the fire alarm, but the terrorists are in control of the phone lines; they call in to cancel the alarm. Hans sends a henchman over to see who pulled it. McClane breaks the henchman’s neck, taking off with his weapon, some explosives and a short-wave radio. He uses it to call for help on the emergency channel.

He is so high right now.The dispatchers think he’s a crank caller, but eventually send a single cop to investigate anyway. The cop (Al) walks in, chats up a false security guard, and goes back to his car to call in another false alarm. By this time, McClane has encountered and killed several more henchmen. He throws a body out the window, which gets Al’s attention by landing on his squad car. Al drives backward as fast as he can while terrorists fire at him out the windows. Soon the place is surrounded by cops. Unfortunately, they’re inept cops commanded by a moronic police chief. S.W.A.T. troops charge the building despite a barrage of small arms fire and heavy rocket fire. McClane has to blow up the rocket-wielding terrorists with his stolen explosives to let the wounded policemen escape.

The rest of the film chronicles a bloody game of hide-and-seek throughout the booby-trapped skyscraper. Hans gradually reveals that his terrorist rhetoric is a cover for his real motives—to steal six hundred million dollars from the company vault. Meanwhile, a moronic hostage and an even more moronic news reporter reveal McClane’s identity, compromising his ability to rain sneaky death on Hans's henchman one by one. Hans eventually figures out which hostage is McClane’s wife, and takes her aside while sending the rest up on the roof to meet their would-be FBI rescuers. McClane figures out that the roof is wired to explode, and chases everyone back down the stairwell while fending off the aggressively stupid FBI.

Eventually, McClane rescues his wife from Hans using his last two bullets, some packing tape and a discarded Rolex. As the survivors stagger from the building, all the surviving moronic authority figures get punched, and Al (who, in an earlier bit of radio exposition, confessed to McClane that he retired from street copping when he shot a kid by mistake) regains his confidence just in time to pump the last surviving terrorist full of lead.

Thoughts:

We're ready for our close-up, Mr. Willis.It is implied by the tender embrace at the close of the film that McClane and his wife will get back together and Live Happily Ever After. Does this further imply that the gory, profanity-laden cat-and-mouse conflict has taught McClane several valuable new relationship skills, allowing him to let go of his resentment and express greater appreciation while apologizing for his shortcomings in the home, clearing the air for renewed partnership and more open communication with his spouse in the future? Or will they have great make-up sex for a few days before devolving back into their habit of screaming at each other about their respective careers while their children huddle tearfully in the next room? I haven’t seen Die Hard 2, but Wikipedia says he’s still married in it, so I guess the former, less plausible scenario is the one that applies... Oh wait. I just remembered that this is an action film. That means Mrs. McClane will realize What a Fool She’s Been and reward her rescuer with complete, unconditional submission. Relationship saved! Huzzah!

But then, pointing out the sexism in action movies is like complaining that daffodils are yellow. If that’s not what I’m looking for, then I ought to go out and pick some other kind of flower. Compared to its peers, Die Hard is actually pretty good. The violence is clear and satisfying; most of the non-violent scenes build tension; and the screenplay establishes its plot and characters fairly well without getting bogged down in them. In fact, it would achieve near-perfect action-movie-hood if not for one grating quirk—all the authority figures are morons. Seriously, there is not a single character with any kind of civic authority who amounts to more than a broadly played, one-dimensional nitwit. The police chief, the TV reporter, the FBI agents, the police dispatcher—every one of them acts with seemingly intentional incompetence in just such a way as to put our hero in greater danger. No one says that action movies have to be plausible, but if three quarters of your supposedly-able-to-function-in-adult-society supporting characters couldn’t pour water from a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel, you’ve got to expect to aggravate your audience.

British writer/radio performer Matthew J. Elliott returns for his third Rifftrax Presents title, and I finally get to see what he can do with a movie I actually enjoy. Turns out he can do pretty well. He’s still by far the calmest voice of the extended Rifftrax family—a tone that doesn’t quite fit with the ear-splitting mayhem of Die Hard—but he has a keen sense of timing and is nearly always handy with an well-turned phrase. A sample of the commentary: Regarding an establishing shot of a Southern California sunset: “Either they just dropped the big one, or that’s the L.A. skyline.” When a sudden close-up reveals a noise to be just a table saw: “This is not a drill!” When Al shakes off his troubled past to shoot the last terrorist: “He’s finally regained the urge to kill. I was looking for a happy ending, and there it is.” Also notable are the numerous references to episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. You almost have to have seen every episode to get them all. On the other hand, despite the presence of Alan Rickman in every other scene, Mr. Elliott shows remarkable restraint by including only one Harry Potter joke. With a fun movie to go with his fun commentary, this is the best Matthew Elliott Rifftrax thus far.

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Sparkle Power!

Munch!Welcome, won't you?

I missed last Friday's announcement of the next Rifftrax release because I usually don't check their twitter feed unless normal channels of communication are down. Now it looks like I may have to revise that practice.

Anyway, the next full-length Rifftrax will be Twilight, in which Cedric Diggory recovers from his death at the hands of Voldemort by rising as a glittery vampire, leaving Hogwarts to woo the emotionally fragile teeners of Washington State. Release date not yet announced. Stay tuned for more information.

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3/27/09

Idealizing Your Understanding

Starring Rasputin as the Grim Reaper.Welcome, won't you?

Two shorts in one week? Why not? Rifftrax contributes to our moral upbringing once again with a bit of fatherly advice from the fifties called Understanding Your Ideals. Check it out, won't you?

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Technology is Boner-tastic

Stan Moff Tarkin.Welcome, won't you?

(And now, my attempt to impersonate the narrator of Your Chance to Live: Technological Failures.)

Technology! Technology is a vision of a dream glimpsed through a glass, darkly. A glass of befuddlement, which, if drunk causes fire and other disasters yet remains wonderful and somehow arousing. Nobody understands technology, except for those who do, if they exist, because we don't know who those people might be. In short, the moon sometimes itches with the talcum of reason, by which I mean unreason, because I live in a small tugboat made of cheese. Now please pay close attention to the way I fail to start my car.

(Thank you! Thank you! Remember to tip your waiters generously, and read my full review on your way out.)

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3/26/09

All Works Become Public Domain Upon Evidence of Their Creators' Fornication

So bland, so nearly comatose...Welcome, won't you?

How Much Affection may be a stodgy morality film from the fifties, but once you've sorted through all the vague advice and dire warnings, it seems like pretty much anything that doesn't end in teen pregnancy goes. Hell, even intellectual property theft is okay. Too bad it feels too long for its running time. They've done full-length movies that felt shorter than this. Review here.

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RVOD057 Carnivorous Plants

(1955, Educational-Short/Religious-ish, b&w)

So, God is primarily a designer of plant weaponry.

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


Can’t think of a better description than the quoted line above.

Summary:

[Insert obligatory 'Feed me, Seymour' joke here.]We start off with a montage of unrelated images, served with irrelevant narration. Next, the narrator starts in on mousetraps. A few puzzling moments of this elapse before he finally gets to the topic of the day: carnivorous plants. We meet all kinds of carnivorous plants, go over how they’re trigged, and then settle in to watch insects die in desperate agony. Throughout, the narrator takes pains to inform us that carnivorous plants are unique and scientifically unexplainable masterworks of the Divine Creator.

Thoughts:

This is one of those “What the hell?” shorts. Not as “What the hell?” as some others I could mention, which babble on while assuming that you’ll figure out their point on your own. Carnivorous Plants is actually rather informative once you get past the irrelevant introduction. It’s the odd insistence on constant acknowledgement of the Almighty that raises eyebrows here. Do students of American history constantly say things like “You could make a lot of wooden teeth out of Monticello,” or “If he wanted to, Abraham Lincoln might have cooked really good omelettes” while summarizing the civil rights movement? No? Maybe that’s because these statements, though potentially true, have nothing to do with the subject at hand.

I regret nothing!The commentary starts off with Mike’s riff on the name of the production company, “Moody Institute: A division of the Morose & Sullen Foundation.” While the narrator marvels at a Venus Fly Trap’s ability to tell between a leaf and a bug, Kevin notes that they “can also distinguish between Shinola and that other stuff.” After we’ve heard the narrator drone on and on about nature’s perfect traps, Bill speculates that “Admiral Ackbar loves this short.” The commentary’s solidly, decently funny, and if you can get past its quirks, the short can be kind of interesting.

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3/25/09

"Finished Product"? For Real?

It still looks like the ocean world of Manaan...Welcome, won't you?

Almost done with the How Much Affection Review; looks like I'll have it up tomorrow. In the meantime, the Darkstar site has been tweaked a bit, restocking its news section with updates on their search for a publisher for their now-finished product. (At least, I'm pretty sure it's finished. They used the words "finished product" in the latest post, but in a rather off-handed sort of way. I assume they're referring to the game.) So now somebody publish this thing, already!

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3/24/09

Didn't They Used to Open for the Pet Shop Boys?

Who was that gaggle of masked men?Welcome, won't you?

There may not be another full-length Rifftrax planned until next month, but the shorts are flying every which way, with their second release in less than a week. Your Chance to Live: Technological Failures sounds particularly promising. Judging by the title, I'm guessing it's either a Luddite screed or a British techno/dance band. Available here.

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RVOD056 Going Steady?

(1951, Educational-Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

So, his parents are telling him to screw around.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


Going steady with someone is something you definitely either should or should not do.

Summary:

I just can't love a man who won't keep his vehicle from swerving erratically.Jeff and Marie’s relationship consists of him showing up at her house several times a week to hang out. She encourages this behavior by waiting forlornly on her doorstep during every daylight hour not occupied by school. Because this has gone on for several months now, their friends and families assume they’re “going steady”.

When separately informed of their attachment status (she by her mother, he during a rather pathetic attempt to ask out another girl) both react with shock and trepidation. I mean, just because they spend their every scrap of spare time together and haven’t dated anyone else in months, it doesn’t mean they’re dating, you know, exclusively.

Fortunately, the friends/family are still there to offer advice. Jeff’s parents want him to continue to “go steady” with Marie, as well as any other girl who happens to catch his fancy. (I’m pretty sure they don’t mean for him to go steady with all of them at once, but that’s just a guess based on what I know about the social mores of fifties. Without context, it sounds for all the world like they’re encouraging their son to be a playa.) A friend, on the other hand encourages Marie to wrap Jeff around her finger and not let him date anyone else until she gets bored of him.

Our protagonists mutter their various advice-givers’ vague platitudes in preparation for their Serious Talk, a brief exchange of words that resolves nothing whatsoever.

Thoughts:

Behind them looms the face of rear-projected doom!The short ends with a title card that says, among other things, “This film has not answered your questions.” I wasn’t aware I was supposed to have any. The short itself poses no query beyond the one they imply by placing a question mark behind the title, and even that isn’t so much a question as it is an indication of question-ish-ness. Going Steady has no new information to put forward, no discernable goal, no action that the filmmakers would like the audience to take upon completion of the viewing. It’s as if a Driver’s Ed film showed a montage of cars, narrated a bit about their paint color and number of tires, and then ended with an enigmatic exhortation to “discuss the problem of vehicle operation amongst yourselves”. In terms of “going steady” specifically and dating in general, the sixties seem to have demonstrated the target audience’s willingness to figure things out on their own.

As a subject of mockery, Going Steady works reasonably well. When the short starts out with its titular query, Mike retorts, “Quite the busybody, aren’t you 1950s educational short?” When a character asks how old a person should be to go steady, Bill replies, “Old enough to resent it.” While Marie and her friend discuss how to prevent petting, Kevin suggests, “Planting anti-personnel mines in your underwear helps.” It’s a staid if puzzlingly off-the-mark short, but decent riffing makes for fun viewing.

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3/23/09

Body-Painted Bloodsuckers of the South Pacific

Mammy!Welcome, won't you?

Ah, Blood of the Vampires, a film so unmoored from reality that it doesn't even know it's insane. One of the most cheerfully strange vampire movies I've ever seen--in fact, the only movie I've ever seen to inflict horrible death on all its major characters and still have the cojones to go for the happy ending. And it's the best Cinematic Titanic thus far. Review here.

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RVOD055 As We Like It

(1952-ish, Educational-Short, b&w and color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Beer: safer than food.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


Beer!

Summary:

I guess it's what's for dinner.Beer! Lots of people have imbibed it throughout history. Babylonians, Egyptians and whatnot. The Founding Fathers of these United States drank it too. Beer is clean, and has many valuable nutrients. Beer makers spend a lot of money making it. They also pay a lot of taxes, and spend a great deal greasing the wheels of democracy to promote beer-friendly legislation. Bars are also pretty cool. Barkeeps are respected, law-abiding citizens and noted philanthropists to boot. And so, in summary: Beer! It exists!

Thoughts:

I’m not a beer-drinker (or an any-kind-of-alcohol drinker, really) so it’s hard for me to understand the religious fervor with which the narrator praises this near-ubiquitous beverage. Perhaps I could relate to it better if I removed the word “beer” from the equation an inserted one of my favorite indulgences, “Reeses Peanut Butter Cups” in its place. I’m going to go back and try...

Um... No. Doesn’t make any more sense to me that way, actually. I imagine that Peanut Butter Cups are of paramount important to those whose livelihoods depend on their continued manufacture and sale, but the most they’ve ever done for me is add a little bit of pleasure to my day. If someone ever makes a film about the immaculate conditions in which Peanut Butter Cups are made, harping on the extraordinarily healthy protein content of the peanuts before they harangue me about all the money they spent making the damn things, I will raise a skeptical eyebrow and think, “You, sirs, take Peanut Butter Cups way too seriously.”

Am I going crazy, or does the pamphlet in the upper right corner read 'Cancer Farts for Women'?  Click the picture for a closer view of what I'm talking about.Of course, the word substitution breaks down when you realize that Peanut Butter Cups aren’t addictive or intoxicating, and don’t make you run over people if you drive right after eating them. I don’t have to eat my Peanut Butter Cups responsibly, which I find rather comforting, actually.

The short’s narration is fast-paced, but Mike, Kevin and Bill manage to wedge their comments into the flow very nicely. As beer trickles down the serrated end of a giant, oblong something-or-other (probably a beer-making machine of some kind), Kevin calls it, “One of those new gaming computers.” As the narrator continues his unstinting praise for the civic involvement of beer manufacturers, Mike exclaims, “Beer for president! Change you can drink!” As the narrator extols the immaculate sterility of the beer served on tap at your local bar, Bill notes that it is then drunk “by diseased longshoremen.” When the narrator spends the last few minutes going over the necessity of beer to any decent standard of “gracious living”, all three riffers pop open cans and make drunken pronouncements while they belch and guzzle. The riffers work themselves into the short’s reckless pace so well, that I can’t really imagine it without them. They did a good job with this one, especially considering the source material.

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3/20/09

How Much Can I Get Away With?

Enough to let her know you like her, and not enough to get you slapped.Welcome, won't you?

Didn't have to keep our fingers crossed for long, I guess. Rifftrax's latest short poses a question asked by horny, awkward teenage boys everywhere, How Much Affection? Seeing as how this was produced in 1958, I'm guessing the answer is "Not Very Much". Let's watch and find out, shall we?

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3/19/09

Yet Another "Blood" Movie...

That's all of it, right there....that makes, what, three now? If you count The Oozing Skull (original title: Brain of Blood), anyway. Today's Cinematic Titanic release, Blood of the Vampires holds a special place in my heart, though, as it's the one I saw live in San Francisco last month. At that time it was, to use the vernacular, awesome. Indeed, one could even say (if one were willing to delve into a youth-oriented dialect that I tend to use only sparingly and with a certain amount of awkwardness) that it rocked. I'm wondering if the live experience has caused me to imbue this as-yet unreviewed release with unrealistic expectations? I hope not. I'll let you all know soon.

In other news, announcement of the next Rifftrax isn't scheduled until April 8, 2009, so it looks like they (and we) all get a break until the middle of April at the earliest. Unless they drop a short or two on us unannounced, of course, which has been known to happen. Cross your fingers.

Oh, and welcome, won't you?

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3/17/09

Why Is My Big Head So Hard?

Hmmm, there's something significantly undercutting the romantic tension in this scene.  I wonder what it is?Welcome, won't you?

At long last, Rifftrax brings us a movie that addresses the nation's worries about omnipresent problem of mule blindess. To quote directly, "Don't you worry about that mule. That mule ain't goin' blind." Doesn't that just take a load off your mind?

Anyway, here, as promised, is my review of the three-riffer commentary for Swing Parade. Not enough stoogishness in it, but fortunately it contains just the right amount of Rifftrax.

Also: Congratulations to That Guy With The Glasses on winning the recent iRiffs contest. We'll be seeing a Rifftrax Presents title from him in the near future.

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RVOD054 Understanding Your Ideals

(1950, Educational-Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Man, I even find me boring.

Rating: **

In a Nutshell:


A selfish jerk monologues himself into reformation.

Summary:

Starring Rasputin as the Grim Reaper.Jeff desperately wants to be popular, a desire he expresses in a lengthy speech to the family dog. There are lots of variables involved in popularity, but he believes the major requirements are as follows:

1) A bowtie.
2) A date to tonight’s event.
3) A car.

Unfortunately for his aspirations, Grandma falls and severely injures herself somewhere offscreen, forcing Dad to take back the car and drive to the hospital with Mom. Upon hearing the bad news, Jeff can only whine about the temporary loss of his dating chariot, his voice increasing in pitch and petulance while his parents make for the door. Jeff angrily tears up his event tickets and cancels his date, pretending infirmity. Then he walks to the nearest malt shop to commiserate with his friends.

And who should he happen to meet at the malt shop but the girl he lied to about being sick. After a few more transparent attempts to prevaricate his way out of an already awkward situation, he finally confesses. She chews him out and leaves. A dejected Jeff goes home.

At this point, Dad arrives from the hospital to deliver a long-ish sermon about ideals. Do we have good, clear ideals, or lame, vague ones? Monks and pioneers figure prominently, somehow, as does a tortured analogy about vehicle headlight maintenance. Dad leaves Jeff to ponder what he’s said. (Ponder aloud, that is, in another lengthy soliloquy to the family dog). Jeff sits down and begins a letter of apology to his spurned date.

Thoughts:

That facial expression is the windup to self-entitled lie.Before I get to the criticism, let me first state that I agree with most of what the short has to say—amazing, considering how much social norms have changed since it was made. An astonishing number of the people I meet these days are willing to Fight to the... um, Extreme Discomfort for their most passionately held beliefs, but if pressed, cannot for the life of them tell me exactly what those are. There is an exception to my approval, however; Understanding Your Ideals revisits a fallacy often repeated by the social engineering shorts of this era, to wit: The most popular kids at school are also the best-behaved. We discussed this in my reviews for the last two Rifftrax’d shorts to assert this ridiculous untruth, so we probably don’t need to go over it again.

With those two items off my chest, I can finally say it: this is one of the dullest shorts Rifftrax has ever done. The dialog could fit into a teaspoon, and you’d need a pair of tweezers to pick up the action. But if you’re a fan of long, static monologues delivered aloud to no one in particular, then hoo-boy, are you in for a treat.

The grand, stirring action theme over the beginning credits starts us off right, with Bill confusing this film for Captain Blood. Once we’re into the short proper, however, mockable material quickly dries up. A few of the better comments: While Jeff’s parents leave and Jeff complains that his evening is ruined, Kevin shrills, “Can’t you let Grandma die?” As a long tortured analogy compares living without ideals to driving without headlights, Bill notes that both scenarios end “in a hail of twisted metal and shattered glass.” When Dad finally finishes his stilted, formal sermon, Mike concludes with, “From Jeff’s bedroom, I’m Dad. Goodnight.” Decent riffing means that Understanding Your Ideals isn’t totally devoid of merit, but you’ve still got to go in steeled against one of the whiniest, speechiest shorts they’ve ever done.

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3/16/09

Site Maintenance II: The Site Maintenance-ing

This is what I look like in real life. Really.Welcome, won't you?

Greetings all,

Comments have been added to last section of ten Rifftrax. Placeholders been added for the next set of ten. The Video on Demand section has been expanded again. And a review for the three-riffer version of Swing Parade is coming tomorrow.

See ya then.

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3/12/09

By "Tomorrow", I Guess I Meant "Sometime in the Near Future"

I will dance with your SSSSOOOOOUUUUULLLLL!Welcome, won't you?

The three-riffer Carnival of Souls Rifftrax is one of those rare commentaries that makes exceedingly dreary source material far, far funnier than it deserves to be. Have a listen, and maybe, just maybe, get taken hostage by an angry riffer. Review here.

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3/10/09

Just Before the Jungle Gym Convoy, Right After the Slide Procession

Mike and Bill are right, but Kevin looks more like a cherubic butler than a stooge.Welcome, won't you?

The three-riffer commentary for Swing Parade has been released, hopefully bringing the era of reheated commentary to a close. Go here for your helping of lukewarm melodrama, mixed with bland nightclub acts, sprinked with delicious stoogishness.

My review of the three-riffer Carnival of Souls will be posted tomorrow. For now, sufficeth to say that it is substantially better than the solo version.

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3/9/09

RVOD053 Your Chance to Live: Technological Failures

(1973-ish, Educational-esque/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Technology is boner-tastic.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:

Fire bad! Machines bad too! But sometimes good!

Summary:

Trying desperately to save a flatlining script.The short runs for twelve minutes—twelve full, information-packed minutes—and I still don’t know what I can add to my one-line “In a Nutshell” description. Basically, it’s a montage of stock footage—and by “montage” I mean “often just an epileptic barrage of one second clips”. Interspersed we see a thin, weather-beaten old man who narrates... well... Sometimes he likes technology. Sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes it seems as if he’s agreed to mouth a script written by a program that generates email spam. (You know, one that spits out random words in an effort to slide its unwanted missives past your filter.) At one point he spends nearly one full, narration-free minute trying to start his car. Your Chance to Live: Technological Failures is, in short, a twelve-minute expanse of sharp-edged, jarringly edited nonsense.

Thoughts:

Stan Moff Tarkin.The short is a disaster preparedness film from the Your Chance to Live series of disaster preparedness films, made in the seventies in cooperation with various branches of state and federal government to be shown in schools. Just to be clear, I would not have known or even guessed any of the information in the previous sentence if someone in the Rifftrax forum hadn’t posted a link to teacher’s manual that goes with the series. I recommend you download and skim through it a bit. On its own, the short is an impressive bit of gobbledygook. With the teachers’ manual, however, it is nothing short of a monument to Things That Make No Damn Sense.

For a short this inscrutable, Mike, Bill and Kevin keep up with it surprisingly well. While the narrator mocks stock footage of early inventors, Kevin says, “Remember, engineering and innovation is stupid.” Bill comments on the narrator’s uncanny resemblance to a certain classic Star Wars character by calling him, “Stan Moff Tarkin.” When the narrator repeatedly makes his point that most people don’t know how technology works, Mike adds, “But we do know where Britney is at this exact moment.” The short is unfocused and impossible to follow, but the riffers insert themselves into its stream of consciousness so well that you can’t help but laugh at it moment to moment.

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3/5/09

Watching Other People Playing Together

Be careful not to let your pool become infested with deadly freshwater clowns.Welcome, won't you?

Forbidden sticks. Glowing, khaki-clad buttocks. Deadly freshwater clowns. Playing Together contains all of the above and more, yet remains sterile and empty. Yet another cinematic proof that the fifties mostly consisted of people sitting almost entirely motionless while waiting for the sixties to happen. Review here.

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3/4/09

RVOD052 How Much Affection?

(1958, Educational-Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Darling, I've never felt this way before. So bland. So nearly comatose.


Rating: **1/2

In a Nutshell:


Thirty-something teens struggle to keep their raging hormones under control.

Summary:

Enough to let her know you like her, and not enough to get you slapped.Mary flees Jeff’s car in tears as soon as he pulls up by her house. In her room, she sobs and confesses to her mother that she and Jeff almost went all the way. Her mother looms into horrifying close-up and surmises that Mary is every bit as much to blame as Jeff, and that they should learn to control themselves better.

Jeff and Mary awkwardly make up at school, just before a meeting of the Overage Teen Committee for Stealing Cartoons from Fallen Former Friends. Jeff and Mary meet the Fallen Former Friend in question on their way home, cooing at her unwanted baby and patiently nodding along to her bald-faced lies about how happy she is that she was forced to drop out of school and marry her boyfriend. An interspersed montage of her home life tells the real story. Her teen husband’s newly married status forced him to abandon his dreams of law school, and now he works at a steel mill instead. Nowadays he refuses to get up on time or help around the house, generally treating his family with undisguised contempt.

Now we cut to a party where Jeff asks Mary to wear his class ring as a symbol of his love. She accepts, and they smooch tenderly on the porch. Their friends urge them to go “parking” with them, but Jeff refuses, opting instead to go home to hang out with Mary’s parents. Turns out that Mary’s parents have decided to go out of town on a whim, leaving Jeff and Mary with the whole house to themselves. They switch on the radio and start to dance, while previous words of caution ring through their heads. As the scene fades to black, we are left to wonder, will they or won’t they?

Tho
ughts:

So bland, so nearly comatose...I’ve kinda got mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, How Much Affection is old and stodgy and poorly paced. It stretches no more than ten minutes worth of morality play into twice that length, making it one of the longest Rifftrax shorts released thus far. On the other hand, I actually agree with what it’s trying to say, to wit: don’t let your gonads do your thinking for you. They’re relatively stupid, and do not have your best interests at heart. On yet a third hand, I really have a problem with a mindset that forces pregnant teens to marry before they’re ready. Children’s lives are too precious to waste by using them as punishment. It’s like catching a bank robber and then expecting him to learn his lesson by making him your banker.

The commentary works well enough. When Mary describes how hot and heavy things were getting with Jeff, Mike adds, “The couch we were sitting on melted.” When we see Fallen Former Friend’s new baby, Kevin says, “Hi, I’m an unwanted statistic.” When Mary asks after the baby’s name, Bill replies, “Boat Anchor.” My favorite quote comes at then end, when we see that the film was made in Canada and Kevin assumes, “They were referring to Canadian affection, which is nothing at all like real affection. Or is that bacon?” Despite some good comments, the short is ultimately defeated by being too long for its subject matter, with too little to consistently mock.

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This Time It's Not Personal

So, is that a drop of the blood of the vampire, or is it a drop of the blood of the vampire's victim?Welcome, won't you?

A number of things to talk about today.

1) Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, I finally posted my review of the Rifftrax for Jaws. Good movie, funny commentary. They don't quite mesh, but it's fun no matter which one you're paying attention to. Don't go swimming until at least an hour after viewing.

2) In case you've been waiting for just the right time to put large-ish amounts of cash towards filling out your funny commentary collection, Rifftrax is having a sale. 10% off orders of more than $10 and 20% off orders of more than $20 for the first week of March only. Go ahead and stimulate the economy.

3) According to J. Elvis' latest Email Club missive, Cinematic Titanic's next title, Blood of the Vampires, will release on March 19, 2009. I saw it live in San Francisco, and if the DVD turns out half that funny, it will still be their best release thus far, by far. See the trailer here.

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3/3/09

Night of the Waltzing Dead

Welcome to the Undead Cabaret!Welcome, won't you?

Now that we've got our week of pesky original material out of the way, it's time to revisit old stomping grounds again with a three-riffer version of Carnival of Souls. I haven't seen it yet, but the Rifftrax folks have stated that this is their most re-written do-over yet. If it's more re-written than Night of the Living Dead, then it is heavily reworked indeed. Pick it up here.

A Jaws review is in the works; I'll post it tomorrow.

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