5/2/11

Welcome, Won’t You?

In honor of the man who invented lightning.Do you like beans? Do you like George Wendt? Would you watch George Wendt in a bean-eating movie? Do questions like this keep you up at night?

Me neither. Please disregard the above and pay attention to the following:

This is my episode guide for Mystery Science Theater 3000--you know, that one show where silhouettes of puppets make fun of old movies. I've included reviews of all the films featured. Also included are guides to its ever-proliferating offspring. For the sake of clarity, I have separated these guides into the following sections:

Mystery Science Theater 3000
Rifftrax
Film Crew
Cinematic Titanic
Miscellaneous

For information on the guide itself, choose one of the following:

For an explanation on how I’ve set up the reviews, please see Anatomy of a Review.

For a warning regarding my incautious summary style, please see A Note on Spoilers. Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Guide.

For miscellaneous information about the various whys, hows, and where-to-fores, please see the FAQ.

If, for any reason, you feel you need to find me, here's my contact information.

Also, it is worth noting that, to my knowledge, George Wendt does not appear in any of the movies featured by the show and its progeny. Just thought you’d like to know.

It is also worth noting that, as of May 2011, Rifftrax forges ahead showing no signs of fatigue, while Cinematic Titanic continues their active tour schedule and may actually produce another DVD the next time the planets appear favorable.  The War of the Colossal Fan Guide is, unfortunately, no longer updating.

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A Goodbye of Varying Length

Did they ever do an Elliott Gould movie?  I'm pretty sure they didn't.
I quit.

Sorry, that sounded more abrupt than I meant it to. My fondness for MST3K, Rifftrax, Cinematic Titanic and related works remains untarnished, but for reasons you have no reason to care about, I will no longer update the War of the Colossal Fan Guide. If, for some reason, you do care, I’ve posted said reasons after the cut. For now, suffice it to say that I’ve been revising my Big List O’Priorities, and the Guide is no longer on it.

Don’t worry (assuming you’re worrying), I’m not going to take the Guide down. It was a lot of effort to create and maintain. My current plan is to let it stand as a monument to my hubris until the end of time, or at least until Blogger finally goes the way of Geocities, Angelfire, etc. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

Still here? You want the whole story? I guess I could craft an elaborate tale of bankruptcy, foreclosure, death and divorce. Maybe point you to the donation button in my hour of need. I probably shouldn’t, though. For one thing, none of it would be true. I’m mildly solvent, happily married, current on my house payments, and all my close relatives are reasonably healthy. Life in general is pretty okay.

I’ve got kids too, which is where the real story starts. The oldest is a short ways into double digits and the other two aren’t far behind. I have to drive them places more frequently. Homework gets increasingly complex. They eat more and stay up later. This is not unexpected or unwelcome. It’s just different, in some ways harder and definitely more time-consuming. I also have more responsibilities at work (which I get paid less for—thanks, economy!), a spouse with ambitious home improvement plans, the list goes on.

Could I continue the Guide while still accomplishing all of the above? Certainly. Thus far I’ve already been getting it done in the cracks between more important responsibilities. Which brings us to the crux of the matter: it’s an extra responsibility. It’s a job. A fun job, to be sure. I love writing; I love MST3K et al. But it’s work. It takes a lot of takes time and effort, the expenses associated with running it far exceed the meager ad revenue, and I’m constantly falling behind. Staying on top of my real life responsibilities is hard enough. I don’t need more stress in my life.

That’s pretty much the long and short of it. I’m still going to watch Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic, albeit at a relaxed pace and without a notebook in my hand. I won’t feel obligated to buy every release (thinking particularly Rifftrax’s very occasional forays into gory slashers, empty Asian ghost stories and airheaded romances) but I’ll probably still pick up the vast majority. Odds are I’ll miss the writing part so much that I’ll probably start a new blog in a couple of weeks. If I do, it will only update sporadically, and most likely address topics that interest only me.

Thank you for reading this far. There aren’t many of you, but for the most part your comments have been intelligent and kind, qualities that, for internet denizens anyway, seem to be unique to MST3K fans. Thanks to the staff of MST3K and its offspring for tolerating and occasionally supporting my work. And also, of course, for creating, perfecting and perpetuating one of my favorite forms of entertainment.

Godspeed sirs,

Skenderberg

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4/21/11

RE: Tasking

Old Man: bitten by a radioactive nursing home, he has the strength of a thousand old men.
Welcome, won't you?

KHAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNN!

(Link above goes to the review, by the way.)

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4/19/11

Velociraptors Have Invaded Toad Hall

a.k.a. The Land Before Time CXXVIII.Welcome, won't you?

The weekend and it's most closely located weekdays have passed, laden with Rifftrax-related riches. From Matthew J. Elliott (the Beatrix Potter of Rifftrax Presents contributors) we have a commentary for Jurassic Park III, the first Jurassic Park Rifftrax to not include Weird Al. From the main gang we have another nature short: A Badger's Bad Day. If the promotional poster is to be believed, it has an actual badger in it and is thus not a sequel to Wind in the Willows. A review for Wrath of Khan ought to be up before the end of the week.

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4/12/11

Best Served with Pinto Beans and Muffins

What does 'He tasks me' mean, anyway?
Welcome, won't you?

My busy weekends often fill with offspring-related activities, keeping me away from the internet for days at a time. This weekend I missed the announcement for the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Rifftrax, due out on April 12, 2011. Why, that means it comes out today! Maybe. Actually, it's almost close of business here in California and the Rifftrax still isn't released yet. Keep checking here, and maybe it will be before the end of the day.

Update: It's available now.

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4/6/11

Bear Suits in the Sky

Fee, fi, fo, fum...
Welcome, won't you?

If you don't know who Vaughn Monroe was, you've probably at least heard "Riders in the Sky." And if, like me, you'd maybe only heard "Riders in the Sky" once or twice in your life, you'll probably recognize it anyway from all the times you've heard it parodied.

If none of the above applies to you, you'll know who both of them are after watching alleged fire safety short Vision in the Forest, in which a semi-famous singer sings a really famous song while a man in a bear suit suprises the singer's daughter in the woods. If that sounds weird to you, well, it is. Review here.

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3/29/11

SWEEEEEEP!

Hot leg-sweeping action.
Welcome, won't you?

I just saw The Karate Kid, Part III again, and I'm pretty sure my teenage self disliked it because he was bored. As far as he was concerned, screen time without karate was screen time wasted, and by that measure KK3 wastes quite a bit of screen time indeed. Review of the Rifftrax here.

The latest Rifftrax short Vision in the Forest probably doesn't have karate either. It has a man in a bear suit, though, and that's almost as good. Grab it here.

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3/22/11

Filmed in Same-O-Vision

Hot car-waxing action!Welcome, won't you?

Yet another film from my distant past. The Rifftrax this week is for Karate Kid III, which I dimly remember as being just like the first one, only worse. If my relatively indiscriminate past self thought it was bad, I shudder to think what it'll look like to my hypercritical present self. Grab the Rifftrax here.

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3/21/11

There Can Be Only One Not Counting Sequels

There can be as many as the world's indiscriminate SciFi geeks are willing to pay for.Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax aside, watching Highlander again pretty much ruined it for me. How did I not notice the awful fight choreography last time? I wasn't expecting Crouching Tiger levels of cool, but somehow I remembered it being better than "my kids are whacking each other with the curtain rods again" quality.

The commentary's good, at least, and there's plenty to mock. Review here.

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3/15/11

Who Wants to Live Forever?

There can be only, uh, as many as people are willing to pay for.Welcome, won't you?

A Highlander Rifftrax has been released. I saw it once maybe seventeen or eighteen years ago? Not what I'd call an inspiring film, but it was certainly memorable, in a decapitation-y kind of way. My sister is coming over to watch it with me despite my warnings. She figures that if she could handle Ice Cream Bunny, she can handle this. We'll put that statement to the test tonight.

Also, here's my review of The ABC of Walking Wisely. So, crosswalks then? Yes, crosswalks.

Also, the commentary for Karate Kid III has been scheduled for release one week from today. Look for it on March 22, 2011.

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3/11/11

And the 1-2-3 of Sagaciously Remaining Immobile

No harm, no foul I guess.Welcome, won't you?

Time for a new Rifftrax short, The ABC of Walking Wisely. Perhaps it will be instructive on the use of feet. Grab it here.

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3/9/11

The Land-Hinder

They want / To live / Foreveeerrrrrrrr...Welcome, won't you?

Two more announced Rifftrax left, and now we know which order they'll be in. Next up is the classic decapitation drama Highlander, due out on March 15, 2011.

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3/3/11

We Now Return to Tautology Theater

Oh, you're a CUSTOMER?  I suppose you WANT something then?Basic Job Skills: Dealing With Customers posits that customers are things that exist. It naturally follows that things that exist should be dealt with. Doesn't get any simpler (or more helpful) than that. Review here.

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3/1/11

Hangin' Out Wif Mah Family

SHOCK... and TERROR!Welcome, won't you?

Turns out that Birdemic: Shock and Terror is available for rental on XBox Live. It's the right cut of the movie and plays at the correct speed and everything. (Only downside: it costs about six bucks worth of points). So here's the review, a little earlier than I expected. Don't thank me, thank my most pernicious, time-wasting habit*.

Also, new short! The latest Rifftrax short addresses Basic Job Skills: Dealing With Customers. I hope it's at least as helpful as the last one in the series. Grab it here.

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

*Gaming, not Rifftrax.

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RVOD153 Vision in the Forest

(1957, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Pedo-Bear: The Motion Picture

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:

Respecting the forest pleases Smokey the Billboard Ghost Bear.

Summary:

Don't just stand there kid, run!
Singing star Vaughn Monroe camps in the wilderness with his family, introducing them to us while singing his hit song, “Riders in the Sky.” His youngest daughter gets bored and wanders away to engage in unspecified wood lore. In the middle of the forest, she comes across a billboard of Smokey the Bear, who springs to life to nod his head wisely at her. She returns to camp, declaring, “Smokey is real!” Mr. Monroe obligingly switches to a song extolling the virtues of a ranger-hatted man in a bear suit.

Thoughts:

Bear suits innnn thaaaa skyyyyy...Fire... bad... I’m pretty sure someone mentioned that in passing. Mostly, though, it’s about the environmentalist mascot epiphany of a country singer’s daughter. At five minutes, the short doesn’t have much opportunity to elaborate, so “Smokey is real” is pretty much the beginning and end of the fire safety instruction. Still, it’s a nice song, sung by a man with a nice voice.

For mockery purposes, the quasi-religious reverence offered to a man in a bear suit is a comedy gold mine. Not to mention the fact that most of Vaughn’s family is hideously ugly. When Vaughn introduces his wife, Kevin says, “Played here by the corpse of my grandmother.” Mike notes that they need more sun “to stop resembling the Vampire Council from Twilight.” As the Smokey song continues to the end, Bill says, “Keep singing! Smokey demands your constant tribute!” It’s quite short even for a short film, but it packs a lot of ridiculousness per second.

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2/28/11

Rifftrax 111 to 120

R111 The Karate Kid, Part III

R112 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

R113 To be announced

R114 To be announced

R115 To be announced

R116 To be announced

R117 To be announced

R118 To be announced

R119 To be announced

R120 To be announced

Comments will be added upon completion of this section.

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R120

To be announced.

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R119

Welcome, won't you?

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R118

To be announced.

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R117

To be announced.

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R116

To be announced.

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R115

To be announced.

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R114

To be announced.

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R113

To be announced.

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R112 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

(1982, SciFi, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

He’s getting too old for this ship.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell
:

Kirk assumes the role of White Whale in Star Trek’s adaptation of Moby Dick.

Summary:

Khan's pecs rule all!James T. Kirk (William Shatner) has retired from starship captaining to run training exercises for new recruits with his old buddies Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Bones (DeForest Kelley)... aw hell, you know who all they are. Early scenes are divided between Kirk’s dissatisfaction with his advancing age and his inspiration of cautious awe in the recruits.

While Kirk and friends supervise a training voyage of the newly rebuilt Enterprise, former crewmember Chekov (Walter Koenig) and his new captain cruise the galaxy seeking lifeless planets on which to test an experimental terraforming device called Project Genesis. In an enormous and mostly lifeless galaxy you’d think that wouldn’t be hard, but apparently just about every planet they find has some sort of developing microorganism on it. Their latest potential testing ground has unclear readings, so they head down to the surface to investigate.

On the surface they discover a group of semi-human warriors exiled by Kirk in an original series episode. They were apparently supposed to “live long and prosper” while stranded on a garden planet, but their nearest celestial neighbor exploded and scorched their world barren. Upset with Kirk for not coming to check on them, warlord Khan (Ricardo Montalban) drops mind control slugs into the ears of Chekov and the captain so that he can take over their ship. While he’s escaping, he learns about Project Genesis and realizes its potential as a weapon. While creating new life, it wipes out all prior life on a planet for raw materials. Mind-controlled Chekov calls up Carol Markus (Bibi Besch), the scientist in charge of the project, and orders her to turn over all materials to his ship.

Like many of the other women in the galaxy, Carol is one of Kirk’s ex-lovers. She’s incensed that he would do such a thing and gets off a garbled message to Kirk before Khan jams her space station’s ability to call for help. With Star Fleet’s blessing, Kirk assumes command of the Enterprise and takes his shipload of trainees to investigate. Upon arrival, a confrontation with Khan’s hijacked vessel cripples both ships.

You can see right down his blouse.
The Enterprise disentangles itself and limps toward the Genesis headquarters. On board they find most of the scientists slaughtered while Carol and a few others fled with the Genesis Device. They discover a shaken up Chekov and his captain. After some transporter technobabble and a message to the Enterprise ordering them to run for help, Kirk and friends follow Carol, beaming themselves to the center of a nearby planet.

Reunited within the planet, Kirk and Carol clear up misunderstandings while Khan assumes control of Chekov and the captain. When ordered to kill Kirk, the captain resists and kills himself while Chekov merely faints. Apparently disgusted by its host’s extreme wussiness, the mind-control slug exits Chekov’s ear canal where it can easily be incinerated by phaser fire. Having located the Genesis device, Khan beams it aboard his ship, taunting Kirk while he strands him in the middle of an unknown planet.

After a bit more exposition, Kirk calls up the Enterprise, which did not run for help per his earlier coded message. They beam aboard and taunt Khan into pursuing them into a nebula, which will make sure everyone’s firing blind for some reason? They win the subsequent blindfolded shootout, but Khan activates the Genesis Device before he dies. Realizing that the device will create a new world out of the nebula’s materials (which now includes the Enterprise) Kirk attempts to flee, but his badly damaged power core can’t make the jump to light speed. Spock descends into the irradiated engineering bay and replaces it manually, sacrificing his life so the Enterprise can escape. After a solemn funeral, the crew jettisons Spock into space. His space coffin lands on the newly formed garden world created by the Genesis Device.

Thoughts:

Well, I guess you can 'prosper', anyway.  You know, in the time you have left.
Sure, it’s riddled with plot holes, subtle as a pickaxe and goofier than a clown school full of seventh graders, but Wrath of Khan is still my favorite original cast Star Trek movie by a very wide margin. I know I’m not alone in this. Why? Note that the first sentence of this paragraph does not include such phrases as “weighted with imaginary space politics,” “impressed with its own cleverness” or “heavily invested in a ludicrous moral message”—phrases that apply to nearly every other film in the series. It’s nice to see that, at one point, Star Trek knew how to riff on the literary classics without getting delusions of grandeur.

Ah, the simple pleasures of well-paced space opera, a broad melodrama filled with noble heroes, maidens in peril, ludicrous coincidences and mustache-twirling villains. And speaking of villains, that’s Ricardo Montalban acting his little heart out as the most delicious Star Trek villain of all time: an elderly man with bare, glistening pectorals, delivering every obsessive, semi-literary nugget of nonsense with the rich, velvet accent of Zorro. We’d never seen anything like it before.  Given that this particular combination of attributes would have been unspeakably horrible if attempted by another, we'll never see anything like it again.

Of note: it’s only the second movie and the original cast is already complaining that they’re “too old for this.” Subsequent filmmakers should have taken the hint.

A few favorite comments: When Bones arrives at Kirk’s apartment to give him reading glasses for his birthday, Bill adds, “I also brought you a hernia truss and adult diapers.” While Kirk openly leers at the younger, shapelier trainees, Kevin says, “Perving on the crew is part of the prime directive.” When Khan puffs out his gleaming bosoms for the eighty-ninth time, Mike demands, “Would someone get him a bra?” The movie’s already silly, lightweight fun, and the addition of the commentary makes it sillier, lighter and more fun.

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R111 The Karate Kid, Part III

(1989, Action/Drama, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Perrrrrrrrrfect

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi fend off attempts at vengeance and open a bonsai shop.

Summary:


Row of Faces III: The Row of Facesening
Having won a karate tournament in the first movie and studied martial arts in Okinawa in the second, Daniel-san (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) return to the United States. Daniel-san’s mom is caring for a dying uncle, forcing him to stay with Mr. Miyagi a while longer.

Subplot number one involves Daniel-san blowing all his college money on a broken-down storefront in a bad part of town so he can open a bonsai shop with Miyagi. There’s some tripe here about a supervaluable bonsai that gets broken and then is healed because the root is strong, hammered home many times as a metaphor for Daniel-san’s non-crisis of karate faith. The subplot peters out without going anywhere.

Subplot number two involves the pottery girl next door. She’s in a committed relationship with someone else but pals around with Daniel anyway. She occupies cinematic space serving no real purpose until it’s time to go home to her real boyfriend twenty minutes before the end. During the climactic tournament battle she reappears in the crowd to give our hero strength in his most desperate hour... Um, okay, no she doesn’t. Having forgotten all about her, the movie ends without resolving this subplot either.

Somewhere in the middle of subplots one and two, the main plot struggles off the ground. It seems that prior villain John Kreese (Martin Kove) is still smarting from his defeat two movies ago. He runs crying to his evil karate master Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). Silver hires an anti-Karate Kid named Barnes (Sean Kanan) to defeat Daniel-san in the tournament. At Miyagi’s suggestion, Daniel-san refuses to sign up for the tournament at first, changing his mind only after Barnes uses a series of strong-arm tactics that would get any real-world perpetrator locked up without bail.

Mr. Miyagi and pottery girl share a moment.
Disappointed, Miyagi refuses to train Daniel-san for the tournament. Sensing his opportunity, the improbably villainous Silver feigns friendship, offering a sympathetic ear to Daniel-san’s troubles. Daniel-san trains with Silver in secret, learning secret karate techniques such as punching and kicking. Eventually Daniel-san learns the error of his ways through Miyagi’s patient teachings and visits Silver to try and withdraw from the tournament. Silver cackles wildly and reveals his collaboration with Kreese and Barnes. They beat up on Daniel-san for a while, until Miyagi strolls in and thoroughly trounces all three. For some reason, this makes them all cackle more.

At the tournament, Barnes keeps the score even while inflicting as much pain and humiliation on Daniel-san as possible. Does he use tactics that would get any real-world athlete disqualified and barred from future competition forever? He does indeed. Daniel-san takes the beating until the end, when he remembers enough of his training to land a punch and win the match.

Thoughts:

Mr. Silver steps out for an evil chuckle in private.
I usually remember the horrible films of the eighties with affection. Up until recently, for instance, Highlander stood out in my memory as wicked awesome, or eighties slang to that effect. Karate Kid III held no such nostalgia for me. Odd, considering it had karate in it. For my indiscriminate high school self, that was usually enough.

Now that I’ve seen it again, of course, the mystery is solved. The answer: there is almost no karate in it. Six or seven minutes maybe? The other ninety-plus minutes are pretty much worthless, but that’s to be expected from the second sequel to anything, especially a popular teen fantasy that was of suspect quality to begin with. If the ratio of karate to non-karate were significantly higher, Teen Me probably would have loved it.

Modern Me would have noticed other things. He would have complained that the little bit of karate we actually got to see really, really sucked. He would have pointed out that the movie should have ended after the first rock climbing scene, with Barnes and cronies incarcerated for attempted murder. He would have noted that the movie’s refusal to clarify Miyagi’s initial objections to the tournament made his subsequent change of heart kind of meaningless. He would have cringed while Macchio vomited inane babble like a primordial Shia LeBeouf.

It has Ian Michael Griffin in it though, so that’s something. His gleefully wicked Terry Silver will be forever enshrined in the pantheon of Happiest Villains Ever. (“I wish I loved anything as much as he loves being evil,” says Kevin.) In looks and mannerisms, he reminds me a lot of a post-glasses-and-mustache “Weird” Al Yankovic. I have a feeling, however, that even Mr. Yankovic would have not played it that far over the top.

A few favorite comments: When Daniel-san asks Miyagi if he wants to open a bonsai shop, Kevin asks, “Do I look like an elderly lesbian from Vermont?” While Daniel-san and pottery girl stumble over their meet cute, Mike says, “It’s like watching lobotomized kittens flirt.” When Daniel-san can’t stop repeating himself, Bill speculates, “Johnny Two-Times was his father.” The commentary is fast and witty, but only partially makes up for the fact that this is a dull, meaningless little karate film with no karate in it.

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2/24/11

ProNOUNciation

NUCULAR!Welcome, won't you?

Improve Your Pronunciation would like you to know that people who aren't from the same part of the country as you are stupid. It would also like you to know that if you aren't from the same part of the country as it is, you are also stupid. Though it isn't explicitly stated, one can probably infer that foreigners are the stupidest of the lot. Stupid foreigners and their stupid accents... ...grumble, grumble...

What was I talking about again? Oh yes, Improve Your Pronunciation. The review has been posted here.

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2/23/11

Harry Potter and the Video Cliff Notes Version of the Franchise

Row of Faces Poster: Junior Wizard Edition.Welcome, won't you?

The Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix review has been posted, with the Rifftrax and the movie rated Pretty Good and Actually Not That Bad, respectively. A Harry Potter riff has pretty much always been good times; the only surprise here is that the movie isn't as incomprehensible as the last three.

Also, it appears that Birdemic: Shock and Terror is something of a specialty purchase. You can't just stroll into a store to buy or rent it; the DVD must be ordered and shipped. This will probaby delay my review a bit. Just a heads up.

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2/22/11

You Will Believe a Bird Can Fly

They've all got magic feathers!Welcome, won't you?

My Order of the Phoenix review is in process and will probably get posted tomorrow, with a Pronunciation review the day after that. In the meantime, please download and enjoy the riff of Birdemic: Shock and Terror, that timeless classic starring Rod Taylor. Grab it here.

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2/18/11

Pronunununciation

Missississississississississi...Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax fills out their burst of productivity with a Friday short, called Improve Your Pronunciation. I'd get right on that if I were you.

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2/17/11

RVOD152 The ABC of Walking Wisely

(1959, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

How are they any different from the G, I and K walkers?

Rating: **1/2

In a Nutshell:


Don’t run into the street or accept rides from strangers.

Summary:

The walking alphabet begins with J.A narrator runs us through different kinds of walking children. She starts sat “J”, who doesn’t use the crosswalk. Also, there’s “G”, who doesn’t pay attention while he’s not using the crosswalk. “I” doesn’t pay attention in a slightly more self-absorbed manner while not using the crosswalk. “K” goofs off while not using the crosswalk. “Y” tries to hitchhike with one hand and flips off his friends with the other, while not using the crosswalk. X is dead because he did not use the crosswalk. Really, the only kind of walker to be is an “A” walker, which seems to involve using crosswalks. And installing a bar between your knees.

Thoughts:

You thought I was kidding about that, didn't you?We just covered this territory a few shorts back in the much funnier (and far less helpful) Walking to School. The ABC of Walking Wisely has the same basic advice, and doesn’t hesitate to repeat it endlessly while pretending it’s different each time. As an educational film, I found it more instructive if only because it doesn’t try to soften the potential dangers of running into the street or getting into a stranger’s car. As an entertainment product, it’s quite a bit duller.

A few favorite comments: When the narrator instructs us not to look up or to the side while walking, Bill adds, “Gaze forever downwards; the world around holds nothing for you.” Several letters in, Mike says, “Just then, they’re crushed by AT-AT walkers.” After we’ve seen the same couple of kids walk through the same landscape several times, Kevin says, “Bob and Betty, with only 488 laps left to go...” The riff/short combination was okay, but not as funny as the previous walking short. I’m not sure if I felt that way because it was less funny, or because I felt like I’d seen it before.

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2/16/11

Shock and Terror: They're Cops

From left to right: Birdemic, Shock and Terror.Welcome, won't you?

A date has been set for the next Rifftrax: on February 22, 2011 we will all be subjected to Mike, Bill and Kevin's take on Birdemic: Shock and Terror. Experts predict it will unseat The Room from the Throne of Uncomfortable Awfulness. We shall see.

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2/15/11

Riding a Magic Train to School

Why didn't they photoshop someone's face onto Lucius?Welcome, won't you?

The Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix riff has been released, so head on down and grab it. If I remember correctly, this one is shorter than its predecessor, but is based on a longer book. Jumbled, incomprehensible hilarity ensues. Either that or oppression and soul-crushing despair. It's one of those, I'm sure. Good times.

Also, here's my review of Walking to School, in which children walk (are you ready for this?) to school. Of particular note is the part where the narrator cautions children not to accept rides from strangers because "they might be poor drivers". Wandering unaccompanied into a dark tunnel is okay, though.

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RVOD151 Basic Job Skills: Dealing With Customers

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

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

We’ve proven mathematically that you have the ugliest shirt/tie combination possible.

Rating: **

In a Nutshell
:

If you work with customers, then you work with customers.

Summary:

Oh, you're a CUSTOMER?  I suppose you WANT something then?Similar to the prior short riffed in this series, the ubernarrator introduces three undernarrators. These include the bland motorcycle salesman, the ditzy kennel attendant and the spherically coiffed TV station receptionist. Each of them didn’t think they dealt with customers, until one day they realized that they, in fact, do. The short goes over how to deal with customers, such as how to speak with... um, no; it doesn’t address that at all, actually. When a customer asks you for something, you should... er... Well, if a customer is angry you should, uh, make someone else deal with them? The takeaway here is that customers exist, and if you have a job, you probably deal with them in some fashion.

Thoughts:

Okay, so the Basic Job Skills series has returned, and this time the message seems to be: “If you deal with customers, you should deal with customers.” Let me be the first to welcome you back to Tautology Theater.

The kennel lady didn’t think she dealt with customers? Who did she think those people dropping off their dogs were? The motorcycle salesman didn’t either? The motorcycle salesman didn’t think he dealt with customers? I bet the word “commission” utterly mystifies him every time it accidentally appears on his paycheck. Of the three examples depicted, only the round-haired black lady seems to know what she’s doing.

A few favorite comments: The first time the kennel attendant favors the camera with her glazed stare and says something vague, Kevin says, “I haven’t the faintest grip on reality.” While she describes her job, Mike says, “The Baja Men have a pressing question to ask you.” As another customer approaches a counter, Bill says, “I’m trying to turn into a human egg. Can you help me?” Unfortunately, this vague, muddy short has nothing to say, and rather than elevating the proceedings with its humor, the commentary seems to drown in the vagueness.

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Rifftrax Video on Demand 141 to date

RVOD141 Unto the Least of These

RVOD142 Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

RVOD143 Santa Claus' Punch and Judy

RVOD144 Courtesy: A Good Eggsample

RVOD145 The Being On Time Game

RVOD146 Basic Job Skills: Handling Daily Problems

RVOD147 Courtesy Counts a Lot!

RVOD148 Remember Me

RVOD149 Walking to School

RVOD150 Improve Your Pronunciation

RVOD151 Basic Job Skills: Dealing With Customers

RVOD152 The ABC of Walking Wisely

RVOD153 Vision in the Forest

The real standout here is that full-length Christmas theme park special, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. The review is in the regular Rifftrax section, but since it's only available as Video On Demand, it seemed appropriate to mention it here as well. Shorts-wise, the best of this lot are a pair of animated courtesy films, A Good Eggsample and Courtesy Counts a Lot. Santa Claus' Punch and Judy and Unto the Least of These also deserve special mention, for horrible child-friendly racism and flagrant misappropriation of tax dollars, respectively. A handful of job training shorts rounds this section out, but are perhaps better avoided; shorts that aren't condescending and insane don't seem to bear riffing well.

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2/11/11

Schooling to Walk

Welcome, won't you?

New Rifftrax short today, called Walking to School. Hard to say what it'll be about. Grab it here.

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2/10/11

Added to my Dark List of Pain

He will make us all pay.Welcome, won't you?

Remember Me introduces us to a man known only as The Customer. His superpower: internalize life's every small injustice until his resentment builds to towering, slow-motion rage. And bad reviews for auto mechanics. That too.

Aside from that he might be the blandest, most forgettable man in history. Review here.

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2/8/11

"Elephants"

I suddenly have an uncontrollable urge to break up my father's company.Welcome, won't you?

What I learned from Inception.

1) Leo DiCaprio's a lot easier to take seriously now that he no longer looks like a giant baby.
2) Christopher Nolan's films aren't especially riffable.

The riff and the film are both great tastes, but they don't quite taste great together. Maybe the guys will prove this thesis wrong next week with a gut-busting send-up of The Machinist, but I doubt it. Review here.

Also, new short! This one's a customer service training film called Remember Me and, heaven help me, I think I remember it. The screenshot they used in the graphic caused painful flashbacks to the beginning of my very short career at the Sears customer service center. I'll find out tonight if I'm right. Grab it here.

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2/1/11

I Suspect Blue Pills Are Involved

Which one is Neo?Welcome, won't you?

Inception depicts a dystopian future in which a cruel machine race suspends humankind in a perpetual dream while using their body heat as... Okay, I haven't seen Inception yet. But look at those posters. C'mon!

The Inception riff has been released. Grab it here.

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1/31/11

RVOD150 Improve Your Pronunciation

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

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

It’s amazing how little I care.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


The title is summary enough.

Summary:

NUCULAR!Fabulous seventies teens gather on a fabulous seventies game show set to correct each other’s common mispronunciations. The fake-ly named Ned Blandford moderates, while jumping in with the occasional correction of his own.

Thoughts:

Is it just me, or is a lot of this short’s advice overly prescriptivist? About half of the supposed wrong pronunciations have to do with regional dialects: that is, they’re considered correct where they’re most widely used. Who are these kids to say otherwise?

Q: Is it entertaining? A: It’s a bunch of teenagers correcting each other’s diction for ten minutes. Yeah, it’s dull and pedantic, no surprise there. The surprise is that it’s not actually coma-inducing, maybe because the kids on display are so self-consciously stilted, imbuing the proceedings with a measure of camp. I guess that’s what perfect pronunciation does for you.

A few favorite comments: While Blandford draws tenuous connections between shyness and poor diction, Bill further extrapolates, “People become typesetters because they hate onions.” As the mispronunciations get more and more ridiculous, Mike says, “Next they get ‘money’ and pronounce it as ‘hedgehog’.” Near the end, Kevin sums up the experience with, “This is like Sesame Street if they replaced the Muppets with ugly people.” Usually they have a vicious barb or two for the latest contestant to mess up a word. Despite the dull subject matter it’s a good, solid, middle-of-the road riff.

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Further Adventures in Rifftraxery

i.e. The Second Repackaging of Karate Kid I.Welcome, won't you?

This thread (and embedded video) announces the three Rifftrax to come, er, after the two that were announced previously.

First we have Highlander, in which Freddy Mercury wails while immortal Europeans slice off each others' heads.

Second, Karate Kid 3, in which they remake the first one in Okinawa--wait, that was Karate Kid 2. Number three was when they remade the second one using the first one's setting.

Thirdly, Birdemic, currently a legend in internet/film convention circles. It possesses a formidable, Room-esque reputation.

One would assume they're listed in order of release, but I'll hold off adding them to the guide until actual release dates are announced. Inception riff coming tomorrow, kids!

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1/20/11

Who Forgot? I Did Not!

Never forget.Welcome, won't you?

The latest insane courtesy short, Courtesy Counts a Lot, is just about insane as they come. Did you know that courtesy can save you from witches, ballooning accidents and angry lepidopterists? Neither did I. Review here.

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1/18/11

I Am a Terrible Fanboy

Snagglepuss gained some weight and got strung out on smack.Welcome, won't you?

Yes, it's true. I'll turn in my fanboy badge at the local chapterhouse. Just look at all the things I've missed:

1) Rifftrax Live in San Francisco on Thursday. Mike won't be there, but Kevin and Bill will, along with special guests Paul F. Tompkins, Adam Savage, Maria Bamford, Janet Varney and Cole Stratton. I won't be going because of the late notice. (i.e. It was too late for me to arrange a trip down there by the time I noticed.) But maybe you can! Check it out here.

2) This video, posted last Thursday, announcing the first new full-length Rifftrax of 2011--Inception on Febrary 1 and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on February 15. Also, two new DVD shorts collections on January 25, 2011. I guess they're Pooping Monkey-approved?

3) A new short, released today. It's called Courtesy Counts a Lot, and it looks like more hallucinogenic animated manners mayhem. Grab it here.

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1/13/11

Self-Evident Platitudes: The Movie

My workplace needs more explosive switchboxes.Welcome, won't you?

Basic Job Skills: Handling Daily Problems advises workers with problems to handle them, which I guess fulfills its mandate in a Minimum Requirements kind of way. If the rest of the shorts in the series are like this, I recommend changing the title to Wonderful World of Tautologies. Review here.

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1/12/11

Vivan Las Ranas!

My androgynous partner is always late.Welcome, won't you?

The Being On Game is, appropriately enough, about being on time. The unexpected twist comes at the end, when you find out there isn't a game. Not even an attempt to dress something up as one. Just a boring bit of common sense advice.

There are also, sadly, no mariachi frogs. In this installment of the award-winning* Routine Daily Task Game series, Mr. Mack's workshop features large posters of insane clowns. Review here.

---------------------------
*May not actually be true.

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1/11/11

RVOD149 Walking to School

(1950s-ish, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

It’s like walking, but to school!

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


Two kids, um, ambulate to a local educational institution.

Summary:

You MUST use them.Lots of children walk to school. They do it all over the world, except in places where they ski, row and/or ride burros instead.

In 1950s America, an eight-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister join hands and walk to school. They are careful to pause before every blind corner and wait for a fresh green light every time they have to cross the street. Where the sidewalk dips below the road, they descend through the tunnel. Where it rises above, they cross the pedestrian bridge. When it disappears, they balance on the curb. They do not accept rides from strangers.

Very, very, very eventually, the kids arrive at school. The narrator retraces their steps to go over all the rules of walking-to-school safety one more time.

Thoughts:

Bad driver?  Probably.Walking to School is either dangerously naïve or the product of more innocent times. Probably both, actually. It’s a very special kind of film that makes small children traverse a densely populated urban landscape including four lane thoroughfares, sidewalk-less underpasses and narrow pedestrian tunnels without supervision. It also warns them to not accept rides with strangers because (I kid you not) “they might be poor drivers”.

A few favorite comments: During the multicultural introduction, Mike notes, “All around the world, people travel by stereotype.” As the kids stop at their fifth blind corner before using their third crosswalk, Kevin says, “Meanwhile, their classmates finish lunch.” At one point, Bill has to emphasize one of the narrator’s admonishments. “Wander into tunnels, kids,” he says. “You MUST use them.” The short is simple and tedious with the occasional bit of outrageously bad advice, but the riffers fill the spaces well, and never let it get boring.

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Alternate Title: When Coworkers Attack

Nothing ever explodes where I work.Welcome, won't you?

Instead of their usual schoolchildren-centric short, today's Rifftrax is aimed squarely at working stiffs like me and, I assume, you. Head on down and grab Basic Job Skills: Handling Daily Problems.

So, yeah. With flus and year-end worklists out of the way, I should probably get to clearing out that review backlog. Here's the first review. It's for Courtesy: A Good Eggsample, the first children's short ever (as far as I know) to feature graphic egg puppet evisceration.

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1/10/11

RVOD148 Remember Me

(1980s-ish, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

He has a femur collection, doesn’t he?

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


Various service representatives ignore, harass and otherwise mistreat a customer.

Summary:

He will make us all pay.Nondescript Guy is a regular customer at his bank, grocery store, garage, etc., but no one remembers him. The teller always checks his signature. The mechanic never gets his car done on time. The checker closes her line and walks away, even though he’s been standing there waiting for several minutes.

It’s like this at work too. The copy repairman is always several days late, and then doesn’t finish fixing the problem for days after that. When Nondescript Guy points this out, the repairman blows him off like it’s no big deal. When he travels, Nondescript Guy has his auto reservation misplaced, his hotel clerk refuses to serve breakfast, and then the airline ruins his luggage. Nondescript Guy finally snaps, letting out his fury with a slow-motion roar at the baggage carousel. No one pays much attention.

Nondescript Guy gets the last laugh, though, badmouthing his inattentive mechanic to another random guy at the gas station. The random guy thanks him and drives off. Afterwards, Non Descript Guy rewards an attentive gas station attendant with an oil change appointment.

Thoughts:

I saw Remember Me near the beginning of my brief and inauspicious career as a Customer Service Representative at a Sears Call Center. MST3K was still on the air at the time. I had just become a fan, so when Non Descript Guy finally let out his yell of slo-mo frustration, I couldn’t help but remark, “This is when he becomes The Incredible Hulk.” A few people chuckled. I don’t think the trainer was one of them.

Sears did its best to train us well in the ways of customer pleasin’ actually. Too bad they never gave us any authority to do so. If you’re only allowed to say “no”, a customer will find your sympathetic tone small comfort. It felt a bit like being trained with body armor and rifles, only to be dropped on the battlefield with a loincloth and a length of string.

So yeah, the short. People can’t remember Nondescript Guy? I find that hard to believe. He’s just so memorable, with his average looks and his quiet demeanor, his inward promises to never forget every tiny injustice... I can’t believe I didn’t see the rather creepy undertones the first time I saw this, actually. He’s got “belltower sniper” written all over him. Any halfway decent customer service rep would have been eyeing him nervously every time he walked through the door.

A few favorite comments: When Nondescript Guy reluctantly shows the teller his driver’s license, Kevin says, “Your name is Dogballs McQuack?” When he says doesn’t always complain, Mike adds, “I just add them to my dark list of pain.” When he declares that “All banks are the same,” Bill says, “Except the ones run by nudists.” In the end, the commentary keeps pace with the short, but Nondescript Guy is pretty nondescript despite his sociopathic tendencies.

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1/5/11

I Hope It Has the Mariachi Frogs

These two are no doubt perpetrators of hideous rhymes.Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax continues another educational short series with The Being On Time Game. Grab it here. The new year has buried me in work and viruses, so I'll review it, along with the previous short, just as soon as I can.

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