9/30/10

RVOD135 Behavior of Domestic-Pigs in a semi-natural Pig-Park

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

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Just cut it out and be bacon, would you please?

Rating: ****

In a Nutshell:


Graphic Scottish pig husbandry.

Summary:

Parturition!Apparently pigs are best kept in herds, enclosed in large fields like sheep or cattle. A man with a thick Scottish brogue instructs us in the ways of these semi-wild pigs, going over mating habits, nesting habits, nurturing habits, etc. Birth (“parturition”), suckling and fights among males for dominance are graphically depicted.

Thoughts:

The summary above can’t begin to convey how weird this short is. We’re used to the rambling, unstructured style of the seventies and the oddly pointless tone of nature shorts by now, but when you put those together and then add the thick brogue, odd vocabulary and squirting porcine fluids, you’ve got a whole new level of surreal.

A few favorite comments: When the narrator addresses suckling, Bill says, “Well, at least now the word ‘teats’ is in play.” He then says this word at every opportunity for several minutes, ending with a horrified shriek when a hand reaches into frame to squeeze sow milk at the camera. When the narrator notes how piglets respond to threats, Mike says, “Threats With Erect Heads is the name of my vinyl punk cover band.” Near the end, Kevin notes the short’s Shyamalan-esque twist. “They were bacon this whole time!” he says. It’s not the strangest thing Rifftrax has ever shown me, but it’s pretty close, and the riffers take full advantage.

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What Frank!

'What Frank' what?Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax's newest short, Cops: Who Needs Them, posits that policemen are necessary and useful members of the community. It then goes on to imply that they're also huge a--holes, and should be avoided whenever possible. Not sure why someone thought this would be a useful thing to tell this short's presumably teenaged audience. Review here.

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9/28/10

Bacon Free

It's a great day for mediocrity!Welcome, won't you?

I've now seen the Rifftrax for High School Musical, the smash hit TV movie about... uh... Well, at least it's got all those catchy, memorable songs, like... um...

Okay, the commentary's funny, but I can't imagine it would change your experience much if you chose to listen to it sans movie. Review here.

Also, it's Tuesday, so there's a new Rifftrax short. This one's called Cops: Who Needs Them? My guess: the person asking that question does. Grab it here.

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9/27/10

RVOD134 Safe Living at School

(1948, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

The timpani drum head they installed in that kid is really paying off.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


Watch where you’re going or booong!

Summary:

An unholy amalgamation of Macaulay Culkin and Emo Phillips.Accidents happen at school every day. It’s not the school’s fault. Handrails, wide halls, rounded corners—everything about a school is designed not to hurt you. If you hurt yourself anyway (with a comical orchestra drum sound effect) it’s your own fault. So watch where you’re going. Walk, don’t run. Keep all four chair legs on the floor. Don’t trip people. And tie your shoes, you careless, clumsy little cretins.

Thoughts:

It’s interesting to see where the safety shorts of yesteryear like to place the blame. On the accident victims, of course. We—the builders, government officials, school administrators, corporate overlords, what have you—have done our best. Anything that happens to you in our sphere of responsibility is your own fault. American culture has gotten beyond that mindset these days, but the switch from “Blame the victim for everything” to “Blame The Man for everything” can’t exactly be called progress, not when there’s still no question of situation and nuance. We’re nothing if not a culture of extremes.

The short's tone of cheerful derision is rather odd, and the commentary spends most of its time exploiting this. When we meet one of our object lesson children, Mike calls him a "cute little Darwin Award." As the narrator lays continuous blame on the accident victims, Bill says, "His open contempt for children serves him well with the ladies." When use of a handrail prevents a spill on the stairs, Kevin says, "The narrator's bloodlust goes unquenched." It's a one-note short and a one-note riff, but those notes are funny and work well together.

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9/24/10

That's All I Have to Say About That

Which one is Efron, again?Welcome, won't you?

The High School Musical Rifftrax has been released. Grab it here.

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9/23/10

Oink, Quack, Woof

...That I Once Knew...Welcome, won't you?

So, ducks eat gravel and should be carried by the neck? I guess they do and they should. Petunia Pig's real life analog guides us through the wonderful, slimedrenched world of backyard duck farming in Seven Little Ducks. Review here.

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9/21/10

He Ruled the Others With His Quack, Quack, Quack

...That I Once Knew...Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax dips back into the well of Pointless Nature Shorts™ with Seven Little Ducks. It is, I assume, about ducks. No word yet on the actual number. Grab it here.

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9/20/10

RVOD133 You Can Do Something About Acne

(1970, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Sebum: The dirtiest non-dirty word ever
.

Rating: ****

In a Nutshell:

You can do something about acne. We won’t tell you what, though.

Summary:

The views and opinions expressed by this short do not necessarily reflect those of the ACNE corporation.What is acne? A narrator explains at length about hormones, sebaceous glands, bacteria and sebum, making sure to say that last word as often as possible. Tightly focused spotlights feature prominently for some reason. Helpful diagrams, skin cell models and fun-loving, acne-pitted teens fill the rest of the short’s visual needs. Also noteworthy: a score that careens wildly between hyperactive banjos and porn-implying swank.

Having painstakingly revealed acne’s causes, the narrator now turns to methods of prevention. Some kids need more sun. Some need less. Some should avoid greasy foods. Others have outbreaks triggered by emotional distress. But what causes your acne in particular? Damned if the narrator knows.

Thoughts:

There’s not much else to say about the short itself. The contrast between its specificity about acne’s causes and its evasiveness about methods of prevention is a little jarring. The frantic and often inappropriate soundtrack is a lot jarring. Beyond that, it’s about as boring as an educational short can be.

The riffers are only occasionally inspired by the score and don’t do much with the vagueness of the short’s advice, so it’s a mystery to me why the commentary works so well. A few favorite comments: When the narrator tells teens, “The world is your oyster,” Kevin clarifies, “The world is a slimy mollusk that, when eaten, can cause paralysis and death.” During a porn score/skin model combo, Bill purrs, “Oh yeah, show me the underside of your skin, baby.” While the narrator vaguely addresses skin grease, Mike suggests, “Use a washcloth instead of bacon.” A hilarious exchange about spotlights and many, many riffs on the word “sebum” are also worth mentioning. Despite the dull subject matter, the riffers hit all the right notes and keep the jokes flowing at a brisk pace, making this one of their funniest shorts in a long time.

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Release Date Madness

The classic 'we bad' pose.Welcome, won't you?

Darkstar is back in the news with, surprise of surprises, an actual publisher and release date.

At this point I think I'm supposed to say something like, "I hope it lives up to the hype," but thus far the hype has consisted entirely of "we hear it has MST3K alumni in it." I'm reasonably certain it's not going to disappoint on that front.

On the other fronts, I'm expecting a "Generic Riven in Space" sort of vibe, but I hope to be proven wrong.

Get it on November 5, 2010 via direct download, or in a box sometime in February 2011.

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9/18/10

Isn't Every Day a Television Festival?

I'm a quote whore!  Huzzah!Welcome, won't you?

Max the Hero creator Mike Salva's cartoon, Max the Hero (created by Mike Salva), will be shown in competition at the New York Television Festival next Wednesday and Thursday. In case you missed my earlier coverage of this MST3K cast-voiced little short, check out the review here. If you're going to be in the area, you should check it out.

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9/17/10

RP022 Jaws 3

(1983, Horror/Giant Critter, color)

Riffers:

Janet Varney and Cole Stratton

I hate to superimpose on you, but...

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Killer sharks terrorize a water park.

Summary:

The 'D' stands for 'Disposable'.A shark follows stunt waterskiers into a nearly complete theme park lagoon, making it in just before the sea gates are closed. A drunken park worker and a pair of incompetent coral poachers get eaten offscreen while a main character’s cowboy brother falls in love with a lady waterskier. When the missing park worker’s girlfriend complains, park construction foreman Mike (Dennis Quaid) and his marine biologist girlfriend Kate (Bess Armstrong) head down into the lagoon to poke around. Kate's dolphin friends carry them to safety when they discover the ten-foot predator. A well-equipped crew easily captures the shark and transfers it to a holding tank. It dies in captivity the next day.

Believe it or not, it’s taken an entire suspense-free hour to get this far.

The last half hour begins with the first shark’s thirty-foot mommy poking her head out of an intake pipe on the park’s opening day. She proceeds to chase all the patrons and performers out of the water, slightly injuring cowboy brother and his waterskier squeeze. They vanish into an ambulance, never to be heard from again.

Hot breakfast cereal action!Meanwhile, park visitors stroll through glass tunnels near the bottom of the lagoon. This draws the ire of the shark, who batters open a seam, forcing a group of survivors to take shelter in a half-flooded tunnel hub near the center of the lagoon. Rakish shark hunter FitzRoyce (Simon MacCorkindale) offers to lure the shark back into the intake pipe and trap it there while Mike patches the tunnel. This works well enough, except that the shark eats FitzRoyce and then batters her way out of the pipe again. Mike just has time to finish welding the tunnel shut and get towed to safety (again) by the park dolphins with Kate.

They take refuge in an underwater control room with a glass window to the lagoon. The shark batters it open and eats one of the workers while Mike and Kate put their scuba gear back on. The shark opens wide, gives them a good view of its insides, and Mike sees the half-chewed FitzRoyce, still clutching a grenade. Next time the shark’s mouth opens, Mike pulls the pin and swims away really fast (with dolphin assistance, naturally). The shark explodes, flinging superimposed 3D viscera. Kate and Mike surface while the dolphins do victory dances around them.

Thoughts:

Yep, the movie's climactic scene expects you to be scared of a mechanical shark's ass.You might read the above and think it odd that an early eighties 3D horror—a tiny subgenre whose sole reason for existence is to hurl entrails at the audience—would sit on its hands for two thirds of its running time. It’s not like the audience has shown up expecting a stirring tale of love and revenge, or something with any redeeming qualities at all, really. They’re here for the titillation and gore. The original theater patrons must have felt like they’d ordered a hamburger, but only gotten the bottom half of the bun.

This wouldn’t be worthy of discussion if they’d managed to make to the non-horror parts (i.e.: most of the movie) even the slightest bit interesting. That’s what the first Jaws did, holding the threat of the shark like a note of tension over the character development. Jaws 3 can’t hold that note. Doesn’t look like it’s even trying, really, as the shark never eats anyone we care about, and the main characters don’t find out about it until the action’s kicked in for other reasons. (In the case of the coral poachers, no one ever finds out. That little secret stays between us and the movie.) It doesn’t help that the movie’s idea of “character development” is to take the blandest relationship clichés they can think of and then remove all the non-shark-related conflict in a successful bid to make them even blander.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to make your film interesting for its own merits, why film it in 3D?

A few favorite comments: When the title projects itself at us in Roman numerals, Janet calls it, “Jaws Ay, Ay, Ay!” When the shark crisis finally gets underway, Janet says, “You know this kind of crap doesn’t happen at Legoland.” When Mike gives us the list of things he needs to do before the movie can end, Cole adds, “Refund [the audience’s] ticket purchase and beg their forgiveness.” Mike Nelson shows up before and after as the ghost of the irascible shark hunter Quint (from the first movie), regaling us with sea shanties in a thick piraty accent. It’s a laughably bad film with a decent commentary, dragged down a bit by a ferociously dull first hour.

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Aw, Hell No

Which one is Efron, again?Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax does, occasionally, choose subjects from a genre I don't normally patronize, but I don't remember ever actually physically shuddering upon reading about an upcoming title. Not before today anyway. On September 24, 2010 Rifftrax will release their commentary for High School Musical.

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9/16/10

Assume Proper Crawling Position

No fire up there.  He must be jumping into it for some reason.Welcome, won't you?

Who knew safety preparedness involved so much butt-wagging? The makers of What If We Had a Fire? apparently did. Review here.

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9/15/10

RVOD132 Cops: Who Needs Them?

(1973, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

What Frank!

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


Cops are huge (but necessary) jerks.

Summary:

Their wives and children probably do.The short starts with cops shoving a smart-mouthed big-haired teen against a patrol car for a patdown, peppered with threats of arrest. The teen apologizes—for previous unkind remarks I think; the short starts mid-brutality—and the cops let him go.

Later, the teen and his big-haired friends emerge from a movie theater, but his car is gone. His friends urge him to call the cops. The teen would rather go out and look for it himself. When this well-thought-out plan fails, he relents. At the station, who should he meet but the surly, humorless cops who hassled him in the opening scene. They hassle him further, finally telling him that the two-hour delay in reporting his vehicle stolen has all but assured that it’s gone forever. Teen whines and complains until they agree to let him ride in their patrol car while they go out and look.

Someone briefly suggests they get Teen’s dad to sign a waiver (because of ice cream trucks or something) but the next thing we know, they’re cruising the streets, scarfing donuts, harassing passers-by and accosting beautiful women with unfunny jokes about oversized canaries. Late that night, they find the car’s stripped remains in a shady warehouse in the bad part of town.

The thief is still there, too—a kid Teen recognizes from school. Officer Black Guy leaps out of the car to give chase on foot while Officer White Guy pulls the patrol car around the front of the building to head the suspect off. All they find is Officer Black Guy bleeding from a bullet wound to the leg. Teen helps the wounded cop lie still while his partner calls an ambulance.

Thoughts:

Think of five seventies cop show clichés off the top of your head, and I guarantee this short will contain at least three or, more likely, four of them. Oh, well. At least the black character doesn't have his own funky incidental music.

It’s lucky for our whiny, easily offended protagonist that there isn’t any other crime happening that day. Apparently the cops just have five to six hour blocks of time to kill. Might as well spend it teaching ungrateful punks the value of community police work.

And speaking of punks, is it just me, or are those cops continuously nasty for no good reason? Maybe it’s because I’m not what you’d call a hardened criminal, but every peace officer I’ve spoken with has always been unfailingly polite, even while lecturing me about taillight maintenance. Why fly off the handle at Teen so often? Granted, he should have been more respectful, but if juvenile backtalk was an arrestable offense, we’d have to divert the state’s entire secondary education budget to the criminal justice system.

A few favorite comments: When our big-haired protagonist can’t find his car, Mike says, “Man, that’s the opposite of groovy.” Near the end, when lots of things have happened, but no one has bothered to organize them into any kind of message or theme, Kevin says, “I’m still not clear on who needs cops.” About that same time we get a patented seventies still image/end credits combo, and Kevin notes, “They forgot to throw their heads back and laugh before the freeze frame.” It’s a jumbled, angry short, unnecessarily so in my opinion, but several of the things that happen in it are mind-bendingly strange and others are hilariously stereotypical. The riffers have a good time pointing this out.

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Overcomplicated Marionette Drama LIVE!

Starring Mike as Vincent Price, Kevin as Psycho Leprechaun Man, and Bill as Everyone Else.Welcome, won't you?

Looks like Rifftrax will revisit another public domain, uh, "classic" this October 28, 2010 with a live presentation of House On Haunted Hill. Tickets aren't on sale yet, but mark your calendars. The event page is here.

In other news, a What If We Had a Fire review is in the works, and the next full-length Rifftrax (the first in more than a month) will be announced on Friday.

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9/14/10

We Could Roast Marshmallows

No fire up there.  He must be jumping into it for some reason.Welcome, won't you?

Today's Rifftrax short asks the question, What If We Had a Fire? I'm assuming it begins with family of cavemen huddled together for warmth while nibbling raw meat. Grab it here.

Altered "Pardon My Dust" note: The Great Rifftrax Renumbering Project(tm) is now complete. If you notice any discrepancies please bring them to my attention here. Thank you for your patience.

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9/9/10

And Don't Call Batman This Time

A convocation of potential future Robins.Welcome, won't you?

Telephone For Help imparts the message that if you need help, you should telephone for it. You know, when you get around to it. Don't expect a big reaction, though. Emergency personnel are very bored with emergencies by now. Review here.

Reprinted "Pardon My Dust" note: The Great Rifftrax Renumbering Project(tm) proceeds apace. Thank you for your patience.

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9/8/10

Rifftrax Video On Demand 121 to 130

RVOD121 The Boy in the Plastic Bubble

RVOD122 William's Doll

RVOD123 Decisions, Decisions

RVOD125 Library World

RVOD126 The Fad Diet Circus

RVOD127 More Dangerous Than Dynamite

RVOD128 Alone at Home

RVOD129 Telephone For Help

RVOD130 What If We Had a Fire?

This section kicks off with the very funny full-length VOD of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (review in the main Rifftrax section). The rest is all shorts, the best of which, by far, is More Dangerous Than Dynamite. Believe it or not, it's about washing your clothes in gasoline. William's Doll earns runner up for its earnest and unintentionally uncomfortable discussion of male ownership of dolls.

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RVOD131 Seven Little Ducks

(1967, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

The yard is ankle-deep in feces.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


A little girl cares for dozens of ducks.

Summary:

...That I Once Knew...Seven Little Ducks relates the tale of three rather large ducks, who are then joined by five mid-sized ducks and a rather porcine-featured little girl. The little girl appears to keep dozens of ducks on a quarter acre of back lawn. Ducklings hatch to one of the large ducks. (Seven ducklings? Possibly. By this time I’d stopped counting.) Their mother takes them out of the pen and introduces them to their hideously disfigured father, and then they all go swimming in a concrete pond only slightly larger than a birdbath. One of the girl’s friends comes over to select a mid-sized duck as a pet. She seizes one by the neck and carries it off.

Thoughts:

It’s about domesticated animals, but still, it’s sort of a nature short. And, in keeping with that tradition, it’s rather pointless. It’s an amusing kind of pointless, though, as the randomly shown elements tend toward the ridiculous. The ugly little girl and her unsanitary waterfowl accommodations top this list, but the staged animal events are pretty silly too. (The adolescent duck that just happens to come and steal the duckling’s food has obviously been thrown into frame, while the puppy who shares the back yard has been stuffed into a corner so it won’t try to mutilate a duckling on camera.) And then, of course, there’s the hideous Father Duck.

The riffers have a field day with it. When the girl comes to watch over her ducks, Bill speculates, “She won them in a pig-resembling contest.” When a sticky newly-hatched duckling writhes in the duck pen filth, Mike asks, “Shouldn’t that thing be bursting out of John Hurt?” When we meet the deformed father, Kevin notes that he “turned to a life of crime after a horrible accident that he blamed on Batman.” The short is a bizarre, unstructured mess, but there are plenty of things to harp on, which is what riffers do best.

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9/7/10

Telephone For Governor

I'm Telephone, and I approved this message.Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax's latest short, Telephone For Help, seems to imply that a personal communication device approves of "help" as a concept. The title doesn't give any clues as to what kind of assistance this telephone favors; hopefully the short itself with specify. Grab it here.

Reprinted "Pardon My Dust" note: The Great Rifftrax Renumbering Project(tm) proceeds apace. Thank you for your patience.

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9/2/10

Your Life as a Paranoid Shut-In Is Well Underway

I could try to work in a Catherine O'Hara joke if you like.Welcome, won't you?

Alone at Home is a reasonably informative how-to film for kids who are, as you might imagine, alone at home. Don't miss the upcoming companion film for parents, Hire a Babysitter, You Idiots. Review here.

Reprinted "Pardon My Dust" note: The Great Rifftrax Renumbering Project(tm) proceeds apace. Thank you for your patience.

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