7/12/10

Comic-Con Rifftrax Panel, July 23, 2010 (by guest correspondent E.P. Haury)

Have you noticed how often the Rifftrax trio makes fun of Comic Con in their riffs? Yet somehow they keep attending themselves. And with this panel, it’s clear that they have settled on a pattern. They opened with a montage of movies and riffs, did a live riff of a short that they had previously released, then held the Second Annual Help Pick a Movie They Will Riff Contest. They even kept the same moderator as last year, Veronica Belmont.

Video Montage

This year, montage started with a caption reading “Since we last saw each other.” Then they showed videos elusively form riffs released in the last year. Films included The Matrix Revolutions, Titanic, Avatar, Paranormal Activities, Transformers 2, Content-Winner Dragon Wars, Return of the Jedi, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, New Moon, and The Return of the King as well as a “host segment” from the Christmas Special. Multiple clips were shown from each movies. A clip from Return of the King included a riff declaring that Comic Con is coming to Minas Tirith while the horrified image of King Theoden filled the screen.

Once Veronica introduced the trio after the video, they entered and started cracking jokes. Bill came on and asked people to announced whether they were on “Team Edward,” “Team Jacob,” or “Team What the [Expletive Delegated] is This Sparkly Vampire [Expletive Deleted]?” You should be able to easily tell who won.

Live Riff

They quickly went on to do their live riff, which was a reprise of “Buying Food.” No need to summarize the story, since that’s already done. But it is worth noting that, perhaps because the original release of “Buying Food” is two years old, about one third of the riffs had been changed—either with revisions of earlier riffs or wholly new ones.

For example, when Henry Slinkman decided to buy oysters, Bill called them, “The classic impulse buy.” When we were shown (in vibrant black and white) the different grades of caned tomatoes, Mike asked, “Tomatoes? Are you sure those aren’t crushed rats?” Faced by the incredible difficulty in determining the grades of different canned foods Kevin went with a running Rifftrax joke and suggested, “So avoid them and stick with bacon.”

And along with all the changed riffs, it was interesting how the same riff, said in a different way could change the meaning of what was said. So bottom line, it was a good riff before and is a good but different one now.

Second Annual Help Pick A Movie They Will Riff Contest

Like before, people lined up and were given about thirty seconds to pitch the movie they thought should be riffed. I was able to write down most of the suggested movies with a few comments. In general, it seems to me that the types of movies didn’t vary as wildly as they did last time, perhaps because people might have been prepared this year and been thinking about them. There were no suggestions to riff the MST3K movie, for example.

The contest has two purposes. Not only to actually help pick a movie, but also to provide entertainment by having the trio riff the suggestions. So anyone who tries this in the future, bear that in mind and be ready. Last year I suggested Speed Racer. This year, I was tempted to suggested Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. But even though I really felt the need for it to be riffed, I didn’t think I could articulate it this time. Here’s hoping they get to it anyway.

And here’s the list with notes for most of the films:

Footloose: Mike reminded the person that Janet and Cole already riffed it and recommended it be checked out.

Last Airbender: That suggestion received heavy applause.

Jaws the Revenge: One of the major selling points the suggester gave was that the movie was boring. Mike leaned forward at that, as if intrigued, and said, “Boring, you say?” Bill added, “I'm intrigued.” Bill also reacted to the statement that someone died at the beginning with “They’ve never did that before in a movie.”

2012

Jonah Hex: Because they would bid farewell to Megan Fox’s career. All three thought that would be a worthy cause.

Pandorum: The woman who suggested it said she’d take her top off instead of giving reasons. (This refers to something said while giving the instructions for the contest.) But she didn’t do it because Bill threatened to have Kevin take his top off in response, and Kevin said he was ready to do so at a moment’s notice.

Samurai Cop:

Skycraper: Die Hard with McClain played by 300 lb. Anna Nicole Smith.

Hook: Some people booed the man who suggested this and started shouting “Rufio! Rufio!”

Passion of the Christ: Got laughter and then Mike riffed on Gibson’s latest rant.

Tremors: The suggester said it was the first Brokeback Mountain. Mike asked, “What the Hell were you watching?”

Zardoz: Bill said that the comment “Sean Connery in a diaper” was all that needed to be said. I’ll say right now that that became my favorite. But more on the results later.

Black Sheep

Pocahontas: The man who suggested it said that should try another family movie to expand their repertoire. Mike chimed in with “The Room wasn't a family movie?” Leading to the suggester saying, “I don’t know what your family is like, but. . .” (This was only one of many references to or imitations of Tommy Wiseau the trio made during the panel.)

Cool as Ice with Vanilla Ice: The suggester impressed the guys by knowing Vanilla Ice’s real name. As the suggestion as bring made, noise from a neighboring room (probably a video clip being shown) caused the walls to shake, leading the guys to wonder if that was Vanilla Ice enraged that he was being mocked. The wall shook several times during the panel. Surprisingly, no Paranormal Activity references resulted.

Blade Runner: The person argued it was slow and dull, and that’s as far as I could hear before the boos completely covered up his argument. He might have been better off arguing it be done like they did Casablanca.

Onichan Bara: Not sure if I got the title right. Apparently a Japanese zombie movie.

Mighty Morphing Power Rangers Movie: Another big applause getter.

Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000: Suggested it be done in honor of Corman’s honorary Oscar.

Remo Williams

The Mystical Adventures of Billy Owens: Bill asked if there were any non-mystical adventures.

Shock Treatment:

Valley of the Guanji: Cowboys and dinosaurs

Vampire Kiss: With Nicholas Cage.

Sex in the City: (either movie) The woman who suggested it said “It's like a Michael Bay film except for women.” The idea intrigued the trio, although Kevin asked if they could burn all the prints instead of riffing it. Bill and Veronica agreed that Mike is a Samantha.

The Warriors: 70s Cult classic.

Basic instinct:

Super Mario Brothers: The suggester noted that this was a repeat suggestion from last year. It got cheers.

Silent Running: The woman suggesting this one wore a coat covered with various buttons, so it makes sense that she called herself “The Button Lady.” She pitched the movie as “One man, two robots,” which led Bill to say, “What a ridiculous premise.”

Clash of the Titans (remake): The guys liked the idea, but Kevin asked about the possibility of the original—whether instead of or in addition to, I’m not sure.

Can't Stop the Music: Staring Bruce Jenner, Steve Gutenberg, and the Village People

Grizzly Man: A documentary with a sad ending. You can imagine how well that went down.

And with that, the suggestions ended. The trio got to work, repeatedly announcing that they would solicit the audience’s opinion but would feel free to disregard its sentiment if they wished. As they went through the list, they said for the first of perhaps a dozen times that, “Last Airbender is a gimme,” or in other words, “Of course we’re doing that.” Bill expressed a desire to do 2012, and Kevin spoke up for Zardoz. (He did say he thought there were few copies of Zardoz available, limiting the market. This led to people shouting that Netflix has it. And I know my medium-sized public library has a DVD copy. Kevin noted that availability and said, “Good to know.”)

They asked for audience options on Clash of the Titans (the remake), Zardoz, 2012, and the Last Airbender. The response to 2012 was tepid, but all others were reasonably enthusiastic.

After gauging the reaction and a little more discussion, they announced the results. The Last Airbender won. But because, as they again said, it was a “gimme,” they declared the Clash of the Titans remake to be the special runner up.

Trailer

After that, they played the trailer for the August theater riff of Reefer Madness. It’s the colorized version. Along with the main feature, they will riff three shorts so obscure that, they said, not even the people who made the films had seen them before. And Lowtax will again be involved to provide that special something.

Thoughts

The guys were funny. Buying Food was great, and hearing it done differently gave an interesting twist to things. The preview for August makes me hope that Flagstaff finally gets a theater that will show these live riffs, since I can’t possibly drive two hours into the heart of Phoenix, AZ—in summer—just to see one performance.

I also have to say that I would like one year for them to take questions.

But the heart of the matter is the Pick the Movie Contest. And I have to admit to being disappointed. Not extremely, but a little bit. One of the great things about last year’s choice of D-War is that there was no way we would have gotten that riff without the contest. More than half of us in the room hadn’t heard of the movie before, and I’m sure many of those who had heard of it hadn’t seen it. Even though I haven’t seen The Last Airbender—which is a “gimme,” in case you haven’t heard—it sounds like a perfect fit. And Clash of the Titans should work well, too. But those are both obvious choices.

If the contest doesn’t get the guys to riff a movie they wouldn’t have done otherwise, at least I should have gotten them to riff a movie that fit their typical profile but had slipped through the cracks. The Clash of the Titans DVD was only recently released. There’s no reason to assume they weren’t going to get to it soon. (Zardoz, on the other hand, a movie that has so much for them to riff, they probably wouldn’t get to otherwise.) Like I said there’s nothing wrong with either of the riffs they promised to do. They could and should do well with both. (And if they were to do a one two punch of the original and then the remake of CofT, now that would be something.) I just feel like we were given a (admittedly limited) wish by the Rifftrax genie, and it ended up wasted.

But who knows, nothing to forbid them from taking other suggestions they heard and doing them anyway.

And the experience itself was fun. I usually watch Rifftrax alone. To hear multiple hundreds of people laughing along with me added something special to the experience.

MST3K-Related Booths

Legend Films didn’t have a booth this year. But Shout Factory, releaser of the MST3K and Film Crew videos, did. However, unlike last year, when MST3K was one of Shout Factory’s big new shows, they didn’t have any Mystery Science products available for sale. (Films by Roger Corman, one of this years big shows, were prominently displayed. I wonder if this will influence the priority of releases of Corman produced MST3K episodes.) But a banner dominating the booth’s wall, laid out like a theater marquee, did mention MST3K along with other Shout Factory Releases. And they had a sample statuette of Gypsy, perhaps four inches high, on their table. The statuette will be included in the next MST3K box set in November.