3/30/10

An Almost Entirely Motionless Thing In Action

Ick infections in action.Welcome, won't you?

New Tuesday, new short. This one's An Aquarium in Action, which sounds about as exciting as... as... as a non-exciting... thing. I need to start getting more sleep. Grab it here.

Coming this Friday, Mr. Moto Takes a Walk, a Karate Kid remake with Jackie Chan and Jayden Smith... Or was that something else? Coming this Thursday, a chance to either watch Mr. Moto streamed online one day early, or watch the Rifftrax servers melt and gaze into their smoldering remains. Either way, it ought to be entertaining. Live treatment is $0.25. Studio versions remain $0.99.

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The Papier-Mache Mariachi Frog Game

The Submitting to Authority GameWelcome, won't you?

The Following Instructions Game is played as follows:

1) Listen to instructions
2) Ask questions if you don't understand them

Oddly, someone thought there was enough material there to make a movie. Review here.

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3/29/10

Rifftrax Live Online Tonight!

The great eye sees  all!Welcome, won't you?

Apparently there's gonna be an online broadcast of last year's Comic-Con panel right now (3/29/10) at 6 p.m. PST. Their last few attempts at this didn't go so great, but maybe the late notice and late hour will reward the die-hard. I don't know that I'll be available the whole time (I never know what complications my children's bedtime will bring) but I'm giving it a shot.

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RP019 Poltergeist

(1982, Horror, color)

Riffers:

Cole Stratton and Janet Varney

This is what happens when Mary Poppins turns evil.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


A family tries to rescue the youngest daughter from a restless spirit.

Summary:

Back when there were three channels, and none of them broadcasted at night.  Spooky.The Freelings are, as their name subtly implies, free-spirited. Mother Diane (JoBeth Williams) is a stay-at-home mom who smokes pot on the sly. Father Stephen (Craig T. Nelson) sells massive amounts of real estate by day and hosts beer-soaked football-watching parties on the weekends. Teenage daughter Dana (Dominique Dunne) spends most of the movie visiting friends, while prepubescent son Robbie (Oliver Robins) distinguishes himself with his fear of clowns and spooky trees. The real star, though, is Carol Ann (Heather O’Rourke), the preternaturally adorable youngest daughter.

The film begins when Carol Ann walks downstairs in the middle of the night to talk to a static-filled television screen. The foreshadowing-filled “ordinary life” section follows, taking up the first third of the film to teach us everything in the previous paragraph. One night, during a particularly scary lightning storm, Carol Ann gets up to talk to the TV again. Indistinct, spectral figures emerge, zapping into the opposite wall. The rest of the family wakes up moments later. “They’re here,” Carol Ann announces.

Diane figures out what she means by this later that morning, when the kitchen furniture starts to rearrange itself. Overjoyed, she maps out the pattern of furniture movement so that she can show Stephen how the ghosts can move chairs, Carol Ann, and Diane herself across the floor. Stephen is less than thrilled. He forbids the rest of the family from going into the kitchen until they know what’s going on.

Of the two parental reactions to the haunting, Stephen’s is the more appropriate, though even his precautions don’t turn out to be enough. That night the lightning storm returns and the aforementioned spooky tree becomes animate. It leans through Robbie’s window and snatches him from his bed. While Steve, Diane and Dana run out after him, it starts to swallow him whole. Steve climbs up and pulls him out, just before the whole tree is sucked into a vortex. There is some discussion as to whether what just happened was supernatural, or just a very localized tornado.

Meanwhile, Carol Ann has been left alone in her bed. Another vortex opens in her closet, sucking in toys, small furniture and finally Carol Ann herself. Unaware of what has occurred, the others return to the house. All the furniture is piled up in front of the bedroom closet; they dig through it but don’t find her. A subsequent search of the house turns up nothing. Finally, Robbie hears Carol Ann calling to him through a static-filled TV.

Jump forward a day or two, as Stephen tells his tale to a paranormal research team headed by Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight). They’re astonished by the level of supernatural activity at the house, and set up shop overnight to catch the phenomena on camera. They record floating objects, disgusting hallucinations and lights floating down the staircase. Having gathered evidence of the haunting and heard the voice of Carol Ann through the television, Dr. Lesh promises to come back the next night with more help.

Cementing the image of 'clowns as vessels of unimaginable evil' in the public consciousness.Meanwhile, in a short but crucial bit of exposition, Stephen’s boss comes to check up on him. Stephen is his best salesman and the long leave of absence has him worried that he’s “entertaining other offers”. Though Stephen assures him this is not the case, his boss offers him a newer, better house higher up on the hill if he’ll stay. The bodies in the cemetery there will, of course, be moved prior to construction. Just like the bodies that were in the cemetery while his current house stands.

Dr. Lesh returns with a diminutive, chipmunk-voiced psychic named Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein). Though somewhat given to pretentious, overdramatic pronouncements, she is otherwise competent, and soon figures out what’s going on. There’s a host of spirits in the house, she tells them, sad and confused but not really dangerous. They’re not yet aware of their deaths, and are thus drawn to the living, especially Carol Ann, who occupies the unique position of a living person in the world of the dead. There is, unfortunately, another entity to worry about. A creature Tangina refers to as The Beast, a malevolent spirit powerful enough to rip holes in the fabric of reality and steal Carol Ann from them. Tangina explains her plan to get her back.

Tangina has Stephen and Diane call up Carol Ann to distract The Beast while she works. She tosses tennis balls into the spectral hole in the closet to make sure it goes all the way through. This is confirmed when they emerge from the living room ceiling covered in slimy red ectoplasm. They put a rope through, so one end comes through the closet and the other through the living room ceiling. She starts to tie herself on, but Diane objects. Carol Ann doesn’t know her, and won’t come to her. They tie Diane to the rope instead. Stephen feeds her into the void while Dr. Lesh and her helper start to pull her through. A huge spectral head emerges to roar at Stephen, and the rope slips through his hands. Diane and Carol Ann fall through the living room ceiling. Stephen and Dr. Lesh wash off the slime and revive them while Tangina urges the spirits to “go towards the light”. When it’s all over, she dramatically pronounces the house “clean”.

But there’s too much running time left for that to truly be the case. A few days later, the Freelings prepare to move away. Stephen goes down to the office to clear a few things up with his boss while Dana goes to a friend’s house (again) and Diane dyes all the spirit world-induced gray streaks out of her hair. Robbie and Carol Ann go to bed and try to get some sleep before the move. At this point, Robbie’s clown doll comes alive to attack him while the spectral hole in the closet reopens, sucking everything in the room towards it. Invisible hands drag the newly dyed and bathed Diane around the walls and ceiling. She’s eventually ejected from the house where moldering coffins emerge from the soil to spit inanimate corpses at her.

Diane screams for help and runs back in. She drags Robbie and Carol Ann away from the vortex. They try to flee the house, but coffins pop up in every entrance, keeping the newly arrived Stephen and his boss from leaping to the rescue. Stephen shouts at his boss, “You moved the headstones, but you didn’t move the bodies!” while his family flees through a side entrance. Dana arrives from a friend’s house to scream “What’s happening?” until the rest of her family can urge her into the station wagon. They drive away while the entire house gets sucked into a vortex. Arriving at a hotel some time later, Stephen drags the television out into the hall before he shuts their door for the night.

Thoughts:

Transparent clowns from the Other Side.I enjoyed Poltergeist far more than I expected to. I have, after all, made my distaste for competently made horror clear on several previous occasions. Poltergeist is horror, yes, and while it’s not especially complex or subtle, it’s certainly well-made. It has affection for its characters, attention to detail and fascination with the supernatural, all of which keep its tone far removed from the likes of Night of the Living Dead, Saw and Drag Me to Hell. Its fascination with the supernatural is particularly noteworthy when you consider that 99% of other horror films, good and bad, tend to view the supernatural in terms fear, dread and, well, horror. In fact, if you define a horror film as a film that attempts to horrify, Poltergeist might not qualify at all. Though directed by Tobe Hooper (who would never do anything this good again) it was written and produced by Stephen Spielberg, and it has his fingerprints all over it. It is, essentially, a ghost-centric adventure film in horror’s clothing. A bloodless suburban Jaws with an Indiana Jones-esque mythology.

Janet Varney and Cole Stratton dip into the world of ghosts a second time with this movie and get us through pretty well. When Carol Ann’s parents catch her with her hands on the TV at the beginning, Cole says, “This isn’t what it looks like. Wait, what does this look like?” As a kitchen chair slides across the floor, Janet says, “I know we bought this chair in Toontown, but still.” When Stephen shows Dr. Lesh the room full of possessed toys, Cole says, “This room is about as stable as Crispin Glover.” Throughout, Cole does an awesome “nerdy kid” voice that’s funny all by itself whenever Robbie is on screen. It’s an entertaining film, and the riffers insert their comments into it quite neatly, enhancing the experience as a whole.

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3/28/10

Rifftrax Video On Demand 091 to 100

RVOD091 Three Magic Words

RVOD092 Parade of Aquatic Champions

RVOD093 American Thrift, Part 2

RVOD094 Molly Grows Up

RVOD095 Call It Free, Part 2

RVOD096 The Story of a Teenage Drug Addict

RVOD097 The Following Instructions Game


RVOD098 Little Lost Scent

RVOD099 An Aquarium in Action

RVOD100 Mr. Moto Takes a Walk

This section has a couple of "lasts." The last two shorts from the 2009 Rifftrax Live Christmas Show. The second halves of the last two two-part shorts. The best one by far is Three Magic Words, the musical pork short from live show. Little Lost Scent and Molly Grows Up are both fun as well, despite their fixation on the subject of malodorous discharge. Also, the Rifftrax people reach 100 Video on Demand titles. Granted, that's just according to my particular method of counting and my particular definition of what constitutes "Video On Demand", but still, it's an impressive feat.

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3/26/10

Little Lord Skunkleroy

Eat my stench, sucka!Welcome, won't you?

Still fillin' in the gaps with shorts. This one's Little Lost Scent, an old black-and-white nature film about skunks, chemical weapons of the forest. Grab it here.

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3/24/10

The Overelaborate Title Structure Saga: Pretentious Nomenclature

Row of faces poster, you will never disappoint me.  Not any more than you already do, anyway.Welcome, won't you?

My review of the Rifftrax for The Twilight Saga: New Moon, as promised. You will laugh, if you can stand the pain.

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3/23/10

RVOD101 Seat Belts: The Life-Saving Habit

(1986, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Mommy, why do we live in a gray box?

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


People have stupid reasons for not wearing seat belts.

Summary:

Seat belts are for jive turkeys.Why don’t people wear seat belts? Business types can’t spare the time. Soccer moms feel too restricted, and fashion plates don’t want to wrinkle their clothes. Old men can’t manipulate the buckles with their arthritic fingers, and loudmouth mechanics feel that seat belt laws infringe their civil rights. Computer nerds doubt the seat belt’s efficacy. Non-Stereotyped Man (the only one of his kind in the film) would rather be “thrown clear” in the event of an accident. The narrator disproves each of these objections one at a time.

Okay, but what about kids? They’re indestructible right? What if you just hold them on your lap really tightly? Or put them in the back seat? They’ll be safe, won’t they? In response, the film shows us a near-infinite loop of crash test footage featuring diminutive mannequins smashing against dashboards, against windows, through windows, out windows, into walls, into others, into each other and so on. (“Let’s see it five more times to make sure my nightmares stay good and vivid,” says Bill.) The narrator extols the virtues of car seats, providing an exhaustive list of types and places to obtain them.

Interspersed, we see wrecked cars getting pressed into little cubes in the junkyard, still shots of medical equipment, and many, many featureless gray backgrounds.

Thoughts:

Yes, the short’s subject matter is remedial and its subjects hopelessly stereotyped—my favorite being the funky Blaxploitation music that kicks in every time the African-American fashion plate appears on screen. But unlike certain prior films, I feel this is intentional; the work of intelligent filmmakers attempting to communicate with morons. Despite the idiocy of the anti-seat belt stances presented, I do not doubt that they are real. Even in these more seat belt-enlightened times, I have heard many of these arguments myself. I’m sure you have too. By outrageously exaggerating the people who make these arguments, the filmmakers hold up a carnival mirror to nature. “When you say things like this,” they tell us, “you really do sound this stupid.” We need to get these guys back to address the admittedly less pressing issue of Youtube commenting.

Oh, and though Seat Belts: The Life Saving Habit is thankfully bloodless, it gets a lot more graphic than the average scare-you-straight safety film by spending the entire middle third of its twenty-minute running time on the vehicular mutilation of child-shaped dummies. I know I’m echoing Bill here, but as a father of young children, I too would like to thank the makers of SBTLSH for last night’s nightmares.

A few favorite comments: when a ridiculously urban black man refuses to buckle up, Bill exclaims, “That’s for jive turkeys!” While the narrator shows that even low speed crashes can be fatal without seat belts, Mike declares, “I drive faster than that in my house.” As the old man querulously complains of arthritis, Kevin says, “If you’re too old to buckle a belt, maybe you shouldn’t be driving.” Throughout, whenever the question of seat belt laws infringing rights is brought up, the riffers urge us to “Vote Ron Paul!” It’s long-ish for a short film and the riffing doesn’t stand out much against its pointed strangeness, but hey, it’s fun to watch.

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The Buying Another Short Game

The Submitting to Authority GameWelcome, won't you?

Just in case you aren't punch drunk from all the glowering twitchiness of New Moon, Rifftrax has released The Following Instructions Game, the indoctrination short you can follow along with at home. Grab it here.

A New Moon review is coming tomorrow. For now, put it in the "hilarious but painful" column.

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3/19/10

Dracula vs. Wolfman vs. Emo Chick

Effervescent zombies not included.Welcome, won't you?

The Rifftrax for The Twilight Saga: New Moon has been released, but you won't be able to grab the DVD until tomorrow at the earliest. I'm thinking I'll wait until early next week, and thus hopefully avoid the worst of the estrogen-maddened hordes. Grab the commentary here.

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3/18/10

Something I Forgot to Mention Yesterday...

They're going to FLY, FLY FLY!Welcome, won't you?

The 2009 Rifftrax Live Christmas show has been released on DVD for the low, low price of $14.95. Reasons to buy it:

1) Weird Al.
2) Hilarious old toy commercials.
3) The running gags make more sense when you see the shorts in order.
4) Audience participation increases the riffers' energy level substantially.

Reasons not to buy it:

1) Weird Al not in it very much.
2) Besides the toy commercials and minor contributions by Mr. Yankovic, there's not much to the presentation beyond the shorts themselves, studio versions of which are already separately available.
3) In a couple of cases (specifically for the non-Christmas shorts) the riffing's easier to follow without the audience messing up the timing.

If you haven't bought the shorts already, it's a no-brainer. Go pick one up right now. If, like me, you went to the show and then bought all the shorts when they came out, well... Looking at the pros and cons, I think the pros come out slightly ahead anyway. I'll probably be adding this one to my Christmas movie library fairly soon. Grab it here.

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RVOD100 Mr. Moto Takes a Walk

(1960s-ish, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Mr. Moto will return in Mr. Moto Takes a Dump.

Rating: **1/2

In a Nutshell:


Mr. Moto is a monkey who looks at animals in the zoo.

Summary:

I expect Mr. Moto pooped on her shoulder at some point, forcing them to halt production so that she could change.A timidly voiced zookeeper idly strolls the zoo with Mr. Moto, a monkey on a leash. Their goal? Visit one animal for each letter of the alphabet. Aardvarks, bears, camels and so on. Somewhere around the middle of the tour, Mr. Moto escapes to continue on his own while the zookeeper continues to narrate. (“Presumably, Mr. Moto related this to her after the fact,” says Kevin.) They take care of U with an oddly-named breed of sloth, skip W for some reason (what, no walruses?) and then X as well. The zookeeper finally catches her escaped charge with a well-placed letter block outside the zebra pen.

Thoughts:

So, bears were cuddly in the mid-twentieth century? For both Gregory the skunk and Mr. Moto, these huge, hairy omnivores are playful, harmless animals. You can just scamper on up and honk their noses, no big deal. I mean, it’s not as if they’re irritable, sedan-sized predators or anything. But should they come into contact with some other predator (dogs for Gregory, jaguars for Mr. Moto), look out! Instant life-threatening situation. How did campers survive before people learned to be afraid of bears?

And speaking of Little Lost Scent, I seem to recall wondering if all nature programs were pointless and meandering by nature. Well, now I’ve seen Mr. Moto take his walk, I’m just about prepared to say “hypothesis confirmed.”

A few favorite comments: Early on, Kevin describes the monkey/zookeeper pair as “Chris Kattan and his girlfriend.” When Mr. Moto escapes, the zookeeper suddenly remembers what letter comes next, prompting Mike’s comment, “What kind of person ‘just remembers’ the alphabet?” As Mr. Moto scampers madly about, Bill says, “Someone help! That bizarre food guy is trying to chill and eat my brain!” It’s an okay short with okay mockery, but it lacks the vicious energy of Little Lost Scent or the dizzy, mind-altering quality of Moose Baby.

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RVOD099 An Aquarium in Action

(1970s-ish, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Is it possible that this aquarium has just a little too much action?

Rating: **

In a Nutshell:


An aquarium... in ACTION!

Summary:

Correct PH balancing in action.Elementary school students narrate about their aquarium. They describe the functions of various fish and subaquatic arthropods. Guppies, for instance, should not be allowed to cannibalize their own children. Snails and algae eaters, however, should be allowed to eat algae. I, uh... I guess there isn’t anything else to say about it.

Thoughts:

Nope, nothing to say about it in this space either. Huh. I guess you either find decorative fish fascinating or you don’t.

A few favorite comments: At the beginning we see that the film was made by Xerox. “From the people who give you hideous copies of your coworkers’ asses,” says Bill. As disembodied voices from the elementary school class trade off narration duties, Mike says, “[That’s] either the teacher, or somebody hit puberty in a hurry.” After a long day of piscine feeding and mating habits, Kevin ends the short with, “Mommy, today I learned about cannibalism and infanticide!” Considering the dullness of the subject matter, the riffers did a decent job with it. There’s not much more to it than riffing on a fish tank, though.

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3/17/10

Withdrawerererererereral...

Oh, the pangs of withdrawerereral.Welcome, won't you?

Bored? Don't start doing H. That's what The Story of a Teenage Drug Addict wants you to know, anyway. In fact, breathy consonants in general are best avoided. A nice cockney accent ought to be sufficient protection. Or maybe you just shouldn't box or play the trumpet. I'm pretty sure it's one of those. Full review here.

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3/15/10

A Planet Where Cars Evolved From Men?

Radiator demons are made from people!Welcome, won't you?

While we wait for our worlds to be sparkily rocked this weekend (see one post below) I might as well take advantage of the time to catch up on the shorts. This review for Call It Free, Part 2 puts me in striking distance of "all caught up" status and fills in the end of the last dangling two-part short. Despite it's cheerily repeated message and buxom auto part imps, however, I remain at a loss regarding what, exactly, I am supposed to call "free".

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3/12/10

Just Toss It In the Fridge For Later

Monsters that shine.Welcome, won't you?

The Twilight riff was one of the best (and most profitable) riffs of last year, so news of a The Twilight Saga: New Moon riff should surprise absolutely no one. But what if I told you it was going to be released on Friday, March 19, 2010, the day before its release on video? Would you be surprised then? A little at least?

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3/11/10

RVOD097 The Following Instructions Game

(1978, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

From the makers of The Don’t Ask So Many Questions Game.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


Obedience is fun!

Summary:

The Submitting to Authority GameLittle Blond Boy (whose name I didn’t bother to remember) can’t follow even the simplest of instructions without failing. He’ll ignore signs to slide right down a freshly painted slide into a puddle of freshly spilled paint. He’ll accidentally cut paper doll chains into separate bits of randomly shaped paper. He’ll go to the store for bread, but not remember what he was supposed to buy when he gets there. He does remember one crucial bit of his mother’s last instruction, though. It goes, “Something, something, Mr. Mack.” LBB shifts into hyperdrive and heads down to Mr. Mack’s shop.

Mr. Mack is an avuncular old handyman/puppeteer/Dr. Seuss impersonator who speaks in the most badly constructed couplets imaginable. He takes time out from his busy mariachi frog construction schedule to teach LBB the wondrous and delightfully addictive Following Instructions Game. The rules are as follows:

1) Listen to instructions.
2) Ask questions if you don’t understand them.

Naturally, a game of this complexity cannot be learned in a single repetition, so Mr. Mack and LBB go over it many, many times. The newly rehabilitated LBB goes back out into the world. He uses his newfound insights to buy bread, make proper paper doll chains, and interrupt his grandma at the correct time.

Thoughts:

Once you’ve listened to your instructions, and asked questions to understand them, presumably rule three would be to actually follow those instructions. It’s implied by the game’s title, to be sure, but something tells me that the thick little rugrat in question requires more explicit direction. Perhaps he and Mr. Mack covered that bit while the cameras weren’t rolling. Tune in next week when Mr. Mack teaches him The Drinking Water Game, in which our little hero learns to press a cup to his lips and stop breathing long enough to swallow. Tragedy strikes when Mr. Mack forgets to tell him to resume breathing afterwards.

A few favorite comments: When LBB enters Mr. Mack’s, er, interestingly decorated shop for the first time, Bill wants to know, “Why is your workshop full of insane garbage?” When LBB demonstrates an inability to follow even the simplest and undemanding of instructions, Mike calls him, “The Cub Scouts’ first dishonorable discharge.” As the end titles appear, Kevin pipes up to reassure about the short’s theme. “The dangers of fascism have been greatly overstated,” he says. It’s a vaguely weird, spectacularly remedial short, and the riffers help it along.

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RVOD098 Little Lost Scent

(1955, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

He’s gone mad with power. Gregory, you monster!

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


The adventures of Gregory the baby skunk.

Summary:

Gregory the overly entitled skunk baby.Gregory the baby skunk lives with his mother and many, many siblings somewhere out in the American wilderness near a farm. As the “rugged individualist” (narrator’s description) of the family, Gregory likes to wander off on his own a lot. One day his mother doesn’t recover him fast enough, and Gregory is free. He meets (read: brutalizes) bear cubs, cats, geese, a dog (whom he sprays) and a tractor before his mother finally tracks him down.

Thoughts:

Are all nature programs pointless and meandering by, well, nature? Do the good ones somehow overcome this inherent shortcoming to impose a narrative on the wild kingdom’s vastness? Do you think maybe I should wait until more than four of these have popped up in the Rifftrax Video On Demand catalog before making such a sweeping generalization? At least there’s action in this one.

A few favorite comments: Though the narrator goes to great lengths to play up Gregory’s secret weapon, after several stink-free fights Mike says, “Why does he need a secret weapon? He’s absolutely dominating without it.” Bill narrates another fight with a cat with, “I can haz battle to death with skunk baby?” The funniest moments don’t come out of specific lines, but out of the extended routines, like Bill’s angry Mafioso skunk monologue, and the baby skunk crowd patter provided by all three riffers. Near the end Mike sums it all up with, “Gregory is a lawless psychopath who sees what he wants and takes it.” So yeah, it’s a pointless, meandering nature short, but it’s a pointless, meandering nature short filled end-to-end with baby skunk battles and funny commentary. I should have had you at “baby skunk battles,” but the funny commentary goes in the plus column too.

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3/9/10

Story of a Teenage Object Lesson

He wiped drugs on the back of his hand, and he's absorbing them through his eyeballs right now.Welcome, won't you?

It's time for another short, this one called The Story of a Teenage Drug Addict, which is nice, because at least we don't have to wonder what the subject matter's going to be. A cursory internet search has failed to reveal the running time, but given the $1.99 price point, it's probably kind of long for a short film. Grab it here.

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The Short With a Good Attitude About Menstruation

Your period makes E.T. weep tears of blood.Welcome, won't you?

Molly Grows Up is about a young woman who looks forward to her first period with rapturous anticipation. And when it finally happens, it's everything she ever dreamed it would be. Mike, Kevin and Bill have fun riffing, but they can't possibly enjoy themselves as much as Molly enjoys menstruating. Full review here.

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3/5/10

All Loose Ends Tied Down

From left to right: Rosie the Riveter, Peter Pan and the ice cream man.Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax finishes off its last dangling two-parter today with a riff of Call It Free, Part 2. Will the incredibly stupid lady's abusive husband deck the oversolicitous mechanic? How does the cartoon figure in? And what about scarecrow's brain? Let's all watch and find out.

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3/4/10

Pennies. Because, Uh... Well, Why the Hell Not?

Pennies.  Sorry, lost my place in the copy there.  Pennies.Welcome, won't you?

Do you like the sixties? Do you like nonsense? Then the Rifftax for American Thrift, Part 2 is for you. Enjoyment of Rifftrax also required. Review here.

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3/3/10

Stilt-Wookiees Are Go

Alien bon vivant, extraordinaire.Welcome, won't you?

My review of Cinematic Titanic's The Alien Factor has been posted. It's just like last week's mini-review, only longer.

Now that I'm back to reviewing, I realize that I'm two Rifftrax shorts behind. If they're back to their two-a-week pattern, I'll be another review behind tomorrow. I'll do my best to get that up-to-date as soon as possible.

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3/2/10

And Here I Thought They Couldn't Sink Lower Than Syphilis

She doesn't feel fresh.Welcome, won't you?

The newest Rifftrax Short is Molly Grows Up, and it's about a cantankerous old man who improbably lifts his house of its foundations with a bunch of... Oh wait. I guess it's about menstruation. Given the short's age, I bet no one ever mentions the word. Grab it here.

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The Madness of March

They're mad, I tell you.  Mad!  Stop them before they kill again!Welcome, won't you?

Greetings all,

If you were waiting for an opportune time to drop several loads of cash on Rifftrax.com, that time would appear to be now. Head on down to take advantage of their March Madness sale. 10% off for orders of $10 or more or 20% for orders of $20 or more.

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3/1/10

RVOD096 The Story of a Teenage Drug Addict

(1940s-ish, Educational-Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Heroin: When you’ve got nothing better to do.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


Apparently, heroin is bad for you.

Summary:

Oh, the pangs of withdrawerereral.Our hapless thirty-ish teen protagonist (whose name escapes me) is all broken up about his father leaving him and his mother. Meanwhile, the provocatively named Moose and his drug-dealing henchmen try to drum up business, but the squares at the local high school keep turning them down. Hey, Narrator-Boy is both popular and emotionally vulnerable. They invite him to a party, where someone hands him a dope-laced cigarette. Our accidentally buzzed protagonist beats up the first person to laugh at him.

Moose takes him aside. “You fight pretty well,” he says. “Wanna fight for me?” Narrator-Boy drops out of school so that Moose can supply him with drugs and boxer training, culminating in a humiliating defeat. That’s what comes of showing up to your first match stoned out of your gourd, I guess. Victory, for Moose at least, was never really the point anyway. Who cares that Narrator-Boy is a hopeless fighter? He’s quit school to live the dream, and every kid in high school wishes they could be just like him. Moose’s drug-dealing henchmen drop a few rumors about Narrator-Boy’s unsavory habits, and now demand for drugs has never been higher.

Narrator-Boy quits boxing, quits drugs and gets a job. But his girlfriend moved away while he wasn’t looking and his mom went to a sanatorium, so he’s so bored. He starts taking drugs with Moose again. Mom comes home early one day and catches him shooting up, so off he goes to rehab. Social workers stutter an offer of help, which he spurns. He goes to shoot up again, but Moose has gone mad from withdrawal (pronounced withdrawerereral). He breaks into Narrator-Boy’s house looking for drugs. Frightened by his former friend/dealer’s degeneracy, Narrator-Boy decides to call the social workers after all.

Thoughts:

The Story of a Teenage Drug Addict is essentially Reefer Madness with a touch more accuracy (marijuana and heroin are correctly portrayed as downers) and far fewer histrionics. The opening titles say “cast of non-professionals” and they mean it. There’s not much acting, just a lot of dispirited line recitation. Also, it’s often hard to tell people apart, so much so that at one point Kevin asks, “Are all these characters played by the same guy?” They’re not, but I’d be willing to bet that the casting pool had a lot of siblings and first cousins in it.

You’d think that a Reefer Madness clone without absurd melodrama would collapse under its own boredom, but The Story of a Teenage Drug Addict is actually kind of endearing. What it lacks in peculiarity it makes up in inept earnestness. The message was so important to them they had to get it out there regardless of whether or not they had anyone who knew how to act, write, edit or point a camera in the right direction.

The riffers do their best to help it along. When the obligatory “introduction doctor” drones anti-drug platitudes in the opening scene, Mike drones with him. “Please let me die,” he says. “My soul is a dried-up orange peel.” When our protagonist bemoans his loneliness with unnatural diction, Kevin adds, “People hated me on account of my crisp Ts.” When Moose tells narrator-boy that he’ll accept the offer “if he’s smart,” Bill replies, “I just punched out a kid for laughing after I smoked the first thing he gave me. Does it look like I’m smart?” Though there’s nothing especially amusing about the short itself, the mellow tone and inept filmmaking give it a slightly surreal feeling. With the riffers propping it up in all the right places, I liked it in spite of myself.

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