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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