6/25/09

Bon Voyage

[Insert honey-soaked softcore pop ballad here.]Welcome, won't you?

Two Three items:

1) The summer of Swayze begins today with Ghost, riffed by Janet Varney and Cole Stratton. Pick it up now.

2) I may be leaving on a, er, jet plane, but I do, in fact, know when I'll be back again. Normal reviews and coverage will resume upon my return on July 13, 2009. I might update a few times anyway from the road, though. You never know. Play nice while I'm gone, kids.

3) Mike Salva continues his intermittent world tour, bringing his excellent little MST3K alumni-populated superhero cartoon Max the Hero to the San Diego Comic-Con. Watch it on Friday, July 24 at 2:30 p.m. in Room 26AB.

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6/24/09

Swayze Mania Grips the Nation

Wolverines?  As in 'snickt'?Welcome, won't you?

Yeah, I already appointed Janet Varney and Cole Stratton as the new Official Swayze Torchbearers, but now Mike has run out onto the field and to try and snatch his torch back. And he's recruited Joel McHale (of E!'s The Soup) to help him. Tune in next Thursday, July 2, 2009, when Messrs. Nelson and McHale riff the eighties cold war paranoia classic, Red Dawn.

Wolverines!

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6/23/09

Delays, Delays

Guess where we're going!Welcome, won't you?

But for unknown (probably technical) issues, Janet Varney and Cole Stratton's commentary for Ghost would have been released this very afternoon. Alas, it is not to be, at least until the new release date, which will be Thursday, June 25, 2009. I was going to make a joke about how Patrick Swayze gets to live just a little longer, but then I remembered his current health issues and abstained. Sort of.

Sadly, this delay means that I will not be able to review it for you until mid-to-late July, as I will be taking my family on the road that very evening, and not returning until the thirteenth of next month. Given the occasional wi-fi connection I might update a couple of times from the road, but as I herd my children from exotic locale to exotic locale (for a given value of "exotic", anyway) I won't have time to type up a full review. I'll just have to catch up when I get back, I guess.

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6/22/09

We're Tearing Him Apart! (Lisa!)

Those eyes... They peer into The Room...of your soul.Welcome, won't you?

Wow. Just... wow. Here's my review for the Rifftrax of The Room. Let us never speak of this again.

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RVOD068 Back to School With Joan Miller

(1950s-ish?, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

In the end, there is nothing else. Only plaid. Well, plaid and taxes.

Rating: **1/2

In a Nutshell:


Young women model a lot of thick wool plaid.

Summary:

Sing the praises of plaid!One of Rifftrax’s longest shorts (about nineteen minutes) is also one of its emptiest. Back to School with Joan Miller features three young women who alternate thick wool outfits as they lounge around college campuses, in convertibles, with kittens, next to trees, with kittens in convertibles next to trees on college campuses, and so on. Throughout, the narrator uses phrases such as “excitingly plaid” without the slightest trace of irony or sarcasm. Plaid! It’s what’s for dinner.

Thoughts:

While I admit to owning a fair amount of plaid, it’s pretty much all hand-me-downs and gifts. Not that this makes me anti-plaid; “hand-me-downs and gifts” describes the entirety of my wardrobe. If there is such a thing as too much plaid, however, Joan Miller (who doesn’t appear in the film) crosses this line early and often, with outfits that wrap a woman neck to wrist to ankle in dense and creatively checkered wool. I hope these were meant to be winter outfits, but I suspect I’m wrong. I pity the well-dressed fifties woman who had to drape herself in thirty-eight layers of highly insulative fabric even at the height of summer.

Mike, Kevin and Bill have a lot to say on the subject of plaid as well. When the narrator claims that plaid can “slenderize” the wearer, Mike says, “I prefer the term ‘de-oinkify’”. At one point, Kevin speculates that the young women depicted are “attending Lumberjack University”. Bill caps off the short by shouting, “Plaid solves everything!” to which Kevin adds, “Except the problem of its own ugliness.” As a whole, Back to School with Joan Miller is reasonably entertaining and occasionally amusing. That may not seem like high praise, but when you consider the short’s length and one-note subject matter, it’s amazing the riffers made it watchable at all.

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6/19/09

Climbing Back Aboard the Swayze Train

Is it just me, or is Janet Varney hotter than Demi Moore?Welcome, won't you?

SF Sketchfest co-founders Janet Varney and Cole Stratton, not heard from since their last venture into Swayzedom, have finally returned to mix things up a little with... another venture into Swayzedom. On June 23, 2009, Janet and Cole will officially succeed Mike as bearers of the Swayze torch with a Rifftrax Presents commentary for Ghost.

Note: This movie co-stars Whoopi Goldberg. Consider yourselves warned.

Also, I have seen The Room (full review next week) and it is, um, surreal. The movie's odd, mellow, melodramatic, fever-dream tone is truly unique, as evidenced by the fact that the adjectives I just used to describe it ought to be mutually exclusive. If you're squeamish about sex scenes, I suggest you skip this one (unappealing sex takes up about a fifth of the running time, no exaggeration), but if you don't care, well... The closest I've ever gotten to stoned was a handful of post-surgical codiene I took when I was twelve. Watching this movie made me feel kind of like that. Yes, The Room is so bad, it actually has psychotropic side effects. Watch with caution.

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6/18/09

Oh, Hi Readers

They feel like they're sitting on atomic bombs!Welcome, won't you?

It's been nearly a week since I last posted, but in my defense, reviews are all caught up and there hasn't been anything new to post about since then. Today, however, marks a Rifftrax release for The Room, a film that at least one Rifftrax employee has referred to as "the worst thing we've ever done." Coming from the crew that gave us commentaries for Plan 9, Troll 2 and The "Star Wars" Holiday Special, this is quite the statement. I'll be watching it tonight simply because I watch everything they do, but for the casual fan, this sounds like some sort of dare.

So go on. Click here and buy the commentary for allegedly the worst film to get the Rifftrax treament thus far. I dare you.

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6/17/09

RP014 Running Man

(1987, Action/SciFi/Postapocalyptic, color)

Riffers:

Matt Sloan, Aaron Yonda and Chad Vader

The eighties of the future looks worse than the eighties of the eighties.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


A falsely accused man must fight for his life on a reality game show of the future.

Summary:

Grim determination--Ahnuld's only facial expression.Armed Forces helicopter pilot Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) refuses an order to fire on the food-rioting masses of the dystopian future. His Armed Forces passengers subdue him and gun the crowd down anyway. The corrupt future government blames the massacre on Richards and shuts him away in a prison/work camp.

Some time later, Richards conspires with members of the resistance to break out of the foundry/explody-head prison. He and his best two resistance buddies (played by Yaphet Kotto and Marvin McIntyre; their characters’ names escape me and aren’t that important anyway) flee to an outdoor fair of some kind, where they get their exploding collars removed by a Dumbledore wannabe in khakis.

They go their separate ways. Richards heads to his brother’s apartment, only to find it occupied by a shapely Latina named Amber (Maria Conchita Alonso). Richards interrupts her lingerie workout routine to tie her to a weightlifting bench and ask after his brother. Amber tells him the previous owner was taken away by the government a month ago. Richards steals her money and forces her to help him escape to the foreign country of Hawaii. Amber gets away and turns him in when they get to the airport.

Richards wakes up in a holding cell, where he’s greeted by game show host Killian (Richard Dawson). Killian hosts a show called “The Running Man” in which convicts are given a chance at freedom if they will run a gauntlet of Stalkers (i.e. crazed killers). Richards agrees, on the condition that his resistance buddies (also recaptured) not be included in the show. Of course Killian goes back on his word and sends all three convicts into the Running Man arena. They survive the first Stalker—a, er, big-boned hockey player with a sharpened stick named Sub Zero—when Richards strangles him with barbed wire.

Meanwhile, Amber has noticed that the official account of Richards’ capture doesn’t seem to match the one she experienced. They invented a body count, for one thing. Curious, she uses her position as an employee of the state-run media to break into a restricted area and find undoctored footage of Richards’ supposed helicopter rampage. The authorities catch her, suit her up, and throw her into the Running Man arena as well.

Richards isn’t exactly happy to see her, but there’s no time to argue; two more Stalkers have appeared. A chainsaw-wielding motorcycle psycho named Buzzsaw chases Richards and Kotto, fatally wounding the latter before getting yanked off his bike and chainsawed up the crotch by the former. An opera-singer with lightning bolt generators on his hands named Dynamo chases McIntyre and Amber. Dynamo kills McIntyre, but not before he finds a switchbox with The Code in it. Amber memorizes The Code (whatever that is) and runs away. Richards gets Dynamo to chase him up an embankment and flip his Dynamo buggy. Though his foe is trapped, Richards refuses to kill a helpless opponent.

Dawson's Killian gloating; Ahnuld still grimly determined.By this time, the viewing audience’s sympathies have shifted to Richards. (I guess they’re suckers for murderous, misogynist a—holes.) Starting to get nervous now, Killian sends in his last Stalker, the flamethrower-equipped Fireball. While Fireball stalks Richards and Amber through whatever industrial basement hellhole they’re currently in, Amber stumbles across the remains of the show’s previous winners. She realizes what every viewer has already guessed by now—the Running Man game is unwinnable. If you make it past all the Stalkers, they’ll just murder you after the show.

Fireball catches up, but before he can roast her, Richards catches up with him and pulls the fuel hoses out of his flamethrower. He drags Amber from the room and then burns Fireball alive with his own fuel. So, that thing he said earlier about not killing helpless opponents? I guess he didn’t really mean it.

Desperate to bring the show to some sort of closure, Killian brings a former Stalker called Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura) out of retirement. Captain Freedom kills a couple of stunt doubles in a rigged match. Killian’s crew digitally alters the unfortunate doubles to look like Richards and Amber.

The real Richards and Amber somehow wander into the secret resistance base, a hideout run, of course, by Dumbledore Wannabe. Amber gives Dumbledore Wannabe The Code, which he uses to take control of the government media satellite and broadcast subversive videos. Richards leads the resistance fighters into the studio, gunning down the guards and chasing out the audience. Killian tries to talk his way out of getting killed, but Richards straps him into an explosive rocket chair and blasts him through a billboard. So, that thing he said earlier about not killing helpless opponents? I guess he really, really didn’t mean it.

Amber kills Dynamo with ceiling sprinklers and makes it back to the studio in time to smooch Richards. The subversive broadcast ends. The oppressed people of the dystopian future realize that they’re oppressed, and are implied to overthrow the corrupt government.

Thoughts:

Still more Ahnuld, this time grimly determined to embarrass his costar.For a big, dumb, loud action movie from the eighties, The Running Man isn’t half bad. The broad, stupid plot is easily followable, the action never slows down, and each kill is followed by an appropriately groan-worthy post-kill pun.

But then, it isn’t half good, either. Two of the three main characters don’t speak English all that well. (The third, Richard Dawson as a sinister and weasely Killian, is a fantastic villain.) Not to mention the awful, self-defeating social satire. What’s that you say? The sleaze-and-violence-loving masses and the cynical entertainment companies that feed them are degrading our culture and, indeed, the nation as a whole? I agree, though I’m a bit puzzled as to why you felt you had too say this in an amoeba-brained film that glorifies sleaze and violence. And did I mention that Ben Richards, our supposed hero, is a murderous, misogynist a—hole? I did? Can’t be mentioned enough, really.

The doughty men of Blame Society (Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda) take on the commentary for this film, along with their fictional creation Chad Vader. Chad only shows up intermittently, but always has something funny to say. A couple of my favorites: “These guards attended the storm trooper school of marksmanship” and, upon the appearance of Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura, “They should call this The Running-For-Office Man.” Matt and Aaron both have perfect timing all the way through. A few of my favorite quotes from those guys: (Since I’m not as familiar with Matt and Aaron’s voices, I’m not able to tell you who exactly who said what.) Re: the game show about Dobermans eating people who want money, “The Michael Vick Rope-Climbing Hour.” Re: Fireball walking through his own jet of flame, “He’s flame-retarded.” Re: a conversation between Schwarzenegger and Maria Conchita Alonzo, “Can we turn the subtitles on?” Throughout, there are many references to Dungeons and Dragons, video games (most notably Fallout 3), and other purely nerd-specific topics. They follow up every kill with at least half-a-dozen of the worst puns they can muster. Oddly, no matter how bad they try to make them, they’re always at least a hundred times funnier than the one Schwarzenegger just spouted. Can you tell I loved this commentary? I hope so, ‘cause that’s what I was going for. If you can still stand to watch Schwarzenegger (insert sarcastic political comment here), it’s worth your time.

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6/12/09

Cult Favorite Time

They're tearing each other apart!Welcome, won't you?

The next Rifftrax will be Tommy Wiseau's The Room, a film you've probably never heard of, but which multiple online sources have referred to as "the Citizen Kane of bad movies." To hear them tell it, it's even worse than the last awful cult classic they skewered. In the words of Geena Davis, "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

The DVD for The Room can only be obtained via Amazon, so order now. The Rifftrax, featuring Mike, Kevin and Bill, will come out next Thursday, June 18, 2009.

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Gosh All Fishhooks!

Niiiigggghhht Traaaiiiinnn to Mundo Finaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy...Welcome, won't you?

I don't know what the post title means, but it sounds like something the Boy Wonder should exclaim, punctuating it with his guardian's alias as a preface to an epic battle with a villain called The Angler. "Gosh all fishhooks, Batman!" just feels complete to me.

None of the above has anything to do with anything in Voodoo Man, of course, except for the part where a minor character exclaims "Gosh all fishhooks!" for no apparent reason. Review here.

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6/9/09

El Hombre Voodoo

You will have a large house and (snag, ptui!) there's a swimming pool!Welcome, won't you?

Update 6/11/09: The Voodoo Man VOD has been fixed and made available again.

Update 6/10/09: The Voodoo Man VOD has been pulled due to ducking problems. A new version ought to be posted for sale tonight or tomorrow.

The Voodoo Man Rifftrax has been released. (VOD only, as previously noted. No DVDs available to sync up with this one.) Watch Mike, Bill and Kevin riff away at Bela Lugosi as you've never seen him before, hypnotizing beautiful young women while spouting cryptic nonsense in an impenetrable accent...

Okay, what I meant to say was: Watch Mike, Bill and Kevin riff away at Bela Lugosi as he reprises the only role anyone's ever seen him play. Grab it now.

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6/4/09

Something, Something, Hill of Beans...

Why does Paul Henreid get third billing when he's the least famous actor in this movie?Welcome, won't you?

Have you seen Casablanca often enough that you already know the lines and plot? Do you possess enough a liberal enough sense of humor to let yourself watch a timeless classic with a Rifftrax? If you answered yes to both questions, then you, my friend, are qualified to enjoy Mike, Bill and Kevin's commentary track for Casablanca. Others should probably bring themselves in line with the above criteria before viewing. Full review here.

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6/3/09

Bela Lugosi vs. Some Guy Named Ralph

Eenie meenie, chili beanie...Welcome, won't you?

The consensus from last night's viewing party indicates that the Casablanca Rifftrax is hilarious if you already know and love the film, but kind of puzzling in parts if you've never seen it before. I suspect this is due to all the fast talking done by the actors and the riffers, sometimes all at once. In any case, I heartily recommend that you pick up the commentary, but make sure you've seen the movie at least once without it before use. Review to come.

In other news, the next Rifftrax will be an obscure horror-ish old thing from the 1940s called Voodoo Man. I think it features Bela Lugosi as a Haitian. Apparently fished directly out of the Legend Films vault, this movie is not publicly available in any form, and thus will only be released as Video on Demand. Mike, Bill and Kevin riff. Look for it on Tuesday, June 9, 2009.

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6/2/09

I Love the Part When Rick Goes Doppling as a Filthy, Filthy Anteater

I am interfaced!Welcome, won't you?

Were you wondering what would happen if Mike, Bill and Kevin took on a movie that cinemaphiles widely consider to be among the best films ever made? I wasn't, but I'll show up to find out anyway. So long as they can make it funny, I don't care what they choose*. The commentary for Casablanca has been released. I'm curious to see how it turned out. Check it out, why don't you?

--------------------------------

*Exception: As previously noted, I hate torture porn, riffed or not.

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6/1/09

RP013 Ghost

(1990, Drama/Romance/Fantasy/Comedy, color)

Riffers:

Janet Varney and Cole Stratton

See a penny, pick it up. If it floats toward you, run like f---!

Rating: **1/2

In a Nutshell:


A deceased Patrick Swayze haunts his girlfriend while solving his own murder.

Summary:

Despite the lighting effects, neither of these characters are ghosts.  One will be, but not till later.First we meet our three leads: Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is a bank accountant. Molly Jensen (Demi Moore) is his artistic live-in lover and Carl Bruner (Tony Goldwyn) is his best friend/immediate subordinate at the bank. The movie starts slowly, boringly even, as Sam discusses his feelings and has messy pottery clay sex with Molly. Interspersed with the honey-soaked tenderness we see him joke and work with Carl. Sam has to transfer a large sum of money to another bank at the last minute before a big meeting. He runs out of time and gives Carl his password to do it for him.

The next day, Sam discovers strange imbalances in the bank’s accounts, and locks all other users out to investigate. When Carl asks why the password doesn’t work anymore, Sam confides that he suspects malfeasance of some sort. Carl asks where Sam will be that night. Sam says he’ll be out at the theater with Molly. Cut to the aforementioned theater excursion, after which Sam is shot and killed in an alley. Sam’s spirit leaves his body and starts to walk towards a beam of light, but turns back to Molly’s cries.

Thereafter, his ghost invisibly follows her while both of them mope—until the mugger who killed him breaks into the house to look for something. Sam frightens a cat (which, apparently, can see ghosts) which scares the mugger away. Sam follows the mugger home, finds out his name and address, and goes looking for someone to tell.

He finds Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), a fraudulent spiritualist preying on gullible ethnic bit players in a psychic storefront. Sam discovers that Oda Mae can hear him and sings “Henry the Eighth” for hours on end until she agrees to help him. She goes to Molly, convinces her with life details that only Sam could know, and then gives her the name and address of the mugger. Molly tells Carl, who gets upset, but promises to check it out. Sam follows him to the mugger’s house and discovers what every reasonably observant viewer has already guessed—Carl is the one behind the accounting irregularities, and hired the mugger to kill Sam before he could find out. He needs to transfer four million dollars of newly laundered money back to the mob, but can’t actually do it until he finds Sam’s password.

So, they're trying to say that sex is viscous, oily and gross?Sam realizes he needs better firepower if he’s going to protect Molly and punish Carl. To this end, he seeks out a subway-dwelling poltergeist to learn how to move objects despite his ghostly form. By the time he’s done, Carl has found Sam’s little book of passwords at Molly’s house himself, and has transferred the money to a fictitious person named Rita Williams in preparation for its upcoming delivery to the mob. Sam goes back to Oda Mae. He convinces her to pose as Rita Williams, withdraw the money and donate it to charity.

Carl is frantic until Molly mentions that she saw Oda Mae claiming to be Rita Williams in the bank that day. When Molly leaves, the ghost of Sam starts pushing him around with his new powers. Carl realizes he’s being haunted and threatens to cut Molly’s throat if the money isn’t returned by a certain time. He and the mugger go to find Oda Mae, but Sam gets there first and warns her. Sam uses his poltergeist powers to frighten the mugger into traffic. He’s hit by a car and dies, after which his spirit is dragged to hell by shadow demons.

Sam leads Oda Mae back to Molly’s apartment to warn her, which leads to Demi Moore nuzzling a possessed Whoopi Goldberg (excuse me while I vomit—hhhuuuaaaarrrrrggghhh!—okay, I’m better), which leads to a weakened Sam’s Ghost when Carl arrives. The ladies flee to the attic, where they play hide and seek with Carl until Sam recovers his enough of his strength to defend them with his poltergeist powers. Carl somehow pushes himself halfway out a window, which shatters, sending a huge pointed sheet of glass through his midsection. He dies, rises as a ghost, and is promptly dragged to hell by screaming shadows. With Sam’s work on Earth finally done, a heavenly light appears to take him away. Able to see and hear him at last, Molly bids him a tender farewell.

Thoughts:

Ham and beef, together at last.Whoopi Goldberg can act. I know this. I’ve seen her do it before and, okay, she’s no Streep or Hepburn, but she’s perfectly competent when she wants to be. So what the hell is she doing in this film? Oda Mae isn’t so much a character as she is a broad stereotype played by a spastic slab of spiral cut ham. Whoopi packs more mugs for the camera per minute than most comedians get per film. She mugs more than Eddie Murphy. She mugs more than Robin Williams. She mugs more than Bobcat Goldthwaite. She mugs more than Bobcat Goldthwaite! How is that even physically possible?

Here’s a better question: why did the filmmakers let her do this when every other friggin’ actor in this dumb but reasonably engaging film is playing it straight.

Now I have a confession to make. This is kind of difficult for me to admit to myself, let alone the world at large, but here goes... I... I don’t think I like Patrick Swayze movies all that much. The movie is decent enough. It kept my attention and passed the time fairly pleasantly. The commentary is decent too, with Cole Stratton and Janet Varney making quips, snide remarks and drawn out comedy routines every few moments throughout. (Favorite lines: Cole's “I just realized this is going to be a movie with a vulnerable Swayze. I prefer vendetta Swayze.” Later, Cole calls Swayze’s seductive stare the “forbidden squint”. As the shrieking shadows make their appearance, Janet compares the noises they make to “a wookiee making love to a tauntaun”.) I dunno. Mike loves these hunks of Swayze cheese. Judging by the forum chatter, so do most of his fans. But there’s something about Mr. Swayze’s bland eighties machismo that I just can’t enjoy, not even on an ironic level. Is there something wrong with me?

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