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Mystery Science Theater 3000 Lives!

Almost twenty years after the last new episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 aired (“Danger, Diabolik!” On August 8, 1999, though true MYSTies know that one additional episode, intended for earlier in the final season, actually aired later, in September 1999, because of an issue with the rights for that episode’s movie), an incredible FOURTEEN new episodes of the show launch on Netflix TODAY.

Our modern era of what TV critic Alan Sepinwall calls “peak TV” has witnessed some joyous resurrections of long-dead TV shows, from a fourth season of Arrested Development to last year’s six-episode run of new X-Files episodes, but the return of MST3K is particularly exciting.  And, in the end, far more creatively successful than either of those other two resurrections I just mentioned.

The brainchild of Joel Hodgson, Mystery Science Theater 3000 has always had a gloriously simple premise: a guy and his two robot friends riffing on old movies.  This was a groundbreaking idea for a television show when Mr. Hodgson and his team first launched the show thirty years ago.  For ten seasons (first on local KTMA in Minneapolis, then on Comedy Central and then on the Sci-Fi Channel), Joel and then replacement host Mike Nelson riffed on an array of endearingly goofy old movies.

In the years since the show went off the air, several of the key creative players have been involved in efforts to continue the idea behind the show in different ways.  Creator Joel Hodgson, along with Trace Beaulieu (the original voice for Crow; he also played Dr. Forrester), Josh Elvis Weinstein (the original voice for Tom Servo), TV’s Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester) formed Cinematic Titanic.  They traveled around the country, performing live shows riffing on old movies projected on the big screen.  I caught one terrific performance back in 2009.  Meanwhile, Mike Nelson, along with Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett (the lead players of MST3K during its later years), launched Rifftrax, which applied the MST3K idea to modern, well-known movies (rather than old, obscure ones), allowing folks to download audio tracks to play along with moves at home.  I have enjoyed many terrific Rifftrax over the years.  The players from both groups have continued to collaborate with one another, most notably Rifftrax’s recent MST3K reunion show.

But now, finally, the mothership has returned.  Joel Hodgson launched a Kickstarter campaign last year which resulted in an extraordinary success, eventually crowdfunding a whopping fourteen new episodes, and then landing a deal with Netflix to stream the new episodes.  All fourteen shows are now available on Netflix as of today, so you can go watch them right now!!

The new episodes were made … [continued]

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Updates to the Site and News Around the Net!

Do you like the new Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon on the homepage?  We’ve made a few updates to the site, most notably finally getting some social media buttons back on the individual pages, so feel free to share away on-line and spread the MotionPicturesComics.com goodness!  I’ve also added a “portfolio” section to the site, with samples of some of my illustration work.  Go ahead and take a peek and let me know what you think.

OK, what else is happening around the interwebs?

Let’s start things off with this extraordinary, in-depth interview with David Letterman.  Sit back and enjoy this great read.  You’re welcome.

Let it be known that I believe in the Oxford comma.  Here is a great reason why.

Oh man, a new film from Edgar Wright is coming out this summer?  I cannot wait.  Look at this cast.  This looks like a lot of fun:

Here’s a trailer for Becoming Bond, which tells the story of George Lazenby and his one Bond movie (the vastly underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) through what looks like a combination of documentary footage and reenactments with a great cast.  I am intrigued:

Holy cow check out this new trailer for War for the Planet of the Apes:

I cannot wait for that!!

How great is this new Spider-Man: Homecoming poster??  I love it!  There’s also a new trailer, but I’m not going to post it here because unfortunately gives away far too much of the movie’s plot.  I hate trailers like that.  I wish I hadn’t watched this one.  So click on the above link at your peril.

Meanwhile, in DC-land, this new Wonder Woman trailer looks great.  Is this film going to break the DC movieverse’s losing streak?  Here’s hoping:

This new trailer for the Justice League (the DCU movie following Wonder Woman) is a little less encouraging.

There’s nothing bad in the trailer, but neither is there anything thrilling.  For the most part, this looks like more of what we got in Batman v. Superman — dark, loud, and messy — and if that’s truly the case, then we’re in trouble.  (Though I do love that snippet of J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.  J.K. Simmons can do no wrong.  Is there any possibility that we can get him to reprise his role as J.J. Jameson in an upcoming Spider-Man movie??)

I didn’t know anything about this movie Atomic Blonde before watching this trailer, but now I am desperate to see it.  The trailer makes this look like a Matthew Vaughn type of mix of mayhem and fun; if the actual movie delivers on this promise, this one is going to be great:… [continued]

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News Around the Net!

#BringBackMST3k!!  Joel Hodgman has launched a kickstarter to bring back Mystery Science Theatre 3000!!  I’ve backed the project, I hope you all will too!

Prepare to lose your afternoon, comic-book fans.  Alan Moore (author of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell, and so many other great works) answers a TON of questions in this great Q & A thread.

As the release of The Force Awakens draws ever closer, this in-depth interview with J.J.Abrams will help tide you over.  (Nice to hear him admit to script problems on Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness.)

In other Star Wars news, you’ve gotta love this super-detailed fan theory laying out the case for Jar Jar being a trained force-user who was secretly behind all of the events of the prequels.

Sacha Baron Cohen & the great Mark Strong have fun with spy movie tropes in The Brothers Grimsby?  Sign me up:

I wish Pixar would stick with creating original films rather than sequels, but it’s hard to feel too unhappy about this new teaser trailer for Finding Dory:

I’m also quite happy with the latest, most substantial look at Netflix’s upcoming Jessica Jones show, the adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos’ phenomenal comic book series Alias.  I am really hoping this doesn’t disappoint.  We’ll know very soon!!  This trailer is great:

I don’t think I’ve written anything yet here about the news that a new Star Trek TV series is in the works!  (Albeit one that won’t actually air on TV — it’ll only be available on CBS’ All Access digital subscription service.)  I love the idea of a new Trek series, it is too-long in coming.  Star Trek belongs on TV.  But obviously my degree of excitement in this new venture will be determined by who is involved, and the subject matter of the show.  (The most pressing question is not just the era of the show — Kirk’s era?  Pre-Kirk?  Next Generation era?  Beyond Next Gen? — but rather the timeline.  Will this new show be set in the timeline of the original Trek shows and movies, or the rebooted J.J. Abrams universe?)  For the moment, the involvement of Alex Kurtzman (who co-wrote the terrible scripts for the two rebooted Trek films, as well as several of the abominable Transformers films) does not give me joy.  But hope springs eternal.  And as for the show’s only being available digitally, I am OK with that.  I’ve long felt that CBS/Paramount should play to Trek’s built-in fanbase by using digital platforms to deliver new Trek shows to the fans.  (Why not use a Netflix or Amazon model to help pay for the creation of … [continued]

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Did you know that genius Calvin & Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson recently drew a few new comic strips?  I sure didn’t!!  Here’s the whole crazy story of how master artist Bill Watterson wound up collaborating with Stephan Pastis on his comic strip Pearls Before Swine.  And here are the cartoons.  Wow.  Holy cow am I jealous of Mr. Pastis!!  Well done, sir!

In last month’s News Around the Net post, I noted the 30th anniversary of both Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  This summer also marks the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters (holy hell, the summer of 1984 was AWESOME), and, to celebrate, the film is getting re-released to theaters on August 29th!!  Mark your calendars!  I’ll certainly be there.  (I love these sorts of revival screenings and wish the studios would do this far more often with their great films of yore.  As it happens, I’ve been able to see Ghostbusters a few times on the big screen in the last decade-or-so — click here for my thoughts on a screening of the film from 2011.)

And, sticking with Ghostbusters for just a moment longer, this is an awesome 30th anniversary infographic.

Gillian Flynn (author of Gone Girl) and Dave Gibbons (the artist of Watchmen) have collaborated on a short comic-book story.  Here it is, and it’s great.

This collection of Lucas Lee’s fake movie posters from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World really made me laugh.  I love that movie!!

This is a great, great list of the five best episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

I love this fantastic look back at two classic Newsradio episodes.  My lord that show was great.

Here’s another great stroll back down TV memory lane (as well as another reason to dearly miss the great, late Phil Hartman): a look at one of the very best episodes of The Simpsons, and one of the very best half-hours of television ever: “A Fish Called Selma.”

The Wachowskis are working on a ten-episode sci-fi show for Netflix, and the co-showrunner will be Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski?  OK, I am interested.

Speaking of Netflix, is Rosario Dawson going to be playing Karen Page on Netflix’s upcoming Daredevil show?  That would be awesome.

This is a fun article: Kramer, Meet Feldman: 19 TV Bizarros.

Joss Whedon has some fascinating thoughts on the state of super-hero movies today.  I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us with The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Meanwhile, is Nathan Fillion going to be in Guardians of the Galaxy???  Holy cow that’s … [continued]

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So… has there been some Star Wars news this week…?

Well, let me just say this, which I’m sure I’ll be repeating over and over again ad nauseam between now and Dec 18, 2015.  I would love nothing more than to see a great new Star Wars movie in a theatre at some point during the rest of my life.  I would be delighted and thrilled for Episode VII to be that movie.  I am rooting for it.

Although there are a billion ways for it to go wrong and turn our embarrassing, I like the idea of the original trio of Luke, Han, and Leia (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher) being involved in the movie.

I am cautiously optimistic that J.J. Abrams is the right director for the film.  I think J.J. understand how to balance nostalgia with telling a fresh story; I think he has a good cinematic eye; and I think he has the muscle in Hollywood to make the movie he wants to make.  On the other hand, his last film was the execrable Star Trek Into Darkness.  So that’s a problem.

There are some really exciting names in the new cast just announced.  John Boyega was phenomenal in Attack the Block.  Oscar Isaac was phenomenal in Inside Llewyn Davis.  Domhnall Gleeson was phenomenal in About Time.  Andy Serkis is the new god of 21st century big-budget fantasy film-making.  (I assume he’ll be playing a mo-cap creature, but I’d be equally happy if he’s performing as himself in the film.)  Max Von Sydow was absolutely BORN to be in a Star Wars movie.  Adam Driver is a surprising choice — I think he’s a terrific actor, but he has a very “modern” feel that I have a hard time imagining translating into a Star Wars movie, but I can hold my judgment for now.  (Interestingly enough, he shared a scene — a GREAT scene — with Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis!)  Like the rest of America, I have no idea who Daisy Ridley is (just that she has a cool name), but I look forward to finding out.

So, so far, I am cautiously optimistic about Star Wars: Episode VII.  This is not a film I think needs to be made.  But since they’re making it, I hope to hell it’ll be great.  Right now, I have plenty of reasons to worry (none of us have to imagine what a terrible Star Wars movie looks like — we’ve all already seen it), but also plenty of reasons to hope.  We’ll all know for sure in just a year and a half.

In other news…

This is a fantastic [continued]

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Josh Enjoys Rifftrax Live: Reefer Madness!

I’ve written before about Rifftrax, the on-line enterprise from Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy (formerly of Mystery Science Theatre 3000).  Rifftrax continues the familiar MST3K model of making fun of terrible movies, via downloadable podcasts that you can play along with DVDs of the films being riffed.  It’s a clever concept, and I’ve found the hit-miss ratio of the tracks to be very high.

Last year the Rifftrax gang broadcast a live riff of the sci-fi classic-in-its-awfulness Plan 9 From Outer Space to theatres nationwide, and I was lucky enough to catch the showing at a theatre here in Boston.  It was a hoot, and I guess successful enough that the Rifftrax team is continuing to occasionally broadcast live shows.  I missed the show in the spring, but I was able to attend Thursday night’s screening of a riff on Reefer Madness, the 1936 anti-marijuana (or marihuana, as it’s spelled in the film) screed.

As always, Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy did not disappoint — the event was hilarious.

The evening began with the screening of two old shorts.  As they always do, Nelson, Corbett and Murphy made jokes over the broadcast.  (Usually we’d see the film shown in the main part of the screen, with the heads of the 3 Rifftrax members in little boxes on the right-hand side.)  The first short dealt with the epidemic that was apparently sweeping the nation back in the ’30s of housewives washing their laundry in gasoline (you read that right) and then blowing themselves up.  According to this film, that’s a bad thing.  The second short was from the ’70s, and dealt with all the sorts of fun art projects one could make from grass (the stuff that grows in your lawn, not marihuana).  This second short was the highlight of the event for me — the short was absurd all on its own, and the riffs were priceless.  I was practically crying from laughter.

After two quick animated shorts by Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka of Something Awful, we were treated to our third short of the evening — an acid-trip of a black-and-white animated cartoon from the ’30s.  Despite being titled as an Aesop’s Fable, the cartoon depicted a menagerie of bizarre animals living in the North Pole skating through the snow, getting haircuts, and bouncing happily… then fighting with one another and eating one another.  So weird.

Then we got to the main event: Reefer Madness.  Made back in 1936, the film is an absolutely loony look at how marijuana would destroy teenagers, turning them into manic, wild-eyed murders.  The whole thing seems to have been made by a bunch of adults who had … [continued]

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Another Chance to see Rifftrax Live: Plan 9 From Outer Space!

September 24th, 2009
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At the end of August, I wrote a piece about an amazing event that I had the pleasure of seeing at my local movie theatre: Rifftrax Live: Plan 9 From Outer Space. (Did you miss what I wrote?  Check out my description of this phenomenal event here.)

Apparently the event was so popular they have scheduled an encore re-broadcast of the entire evening in 285 movie theatres around the country on Thursday, October 8th at 7:30 PM EST.

This is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy former Mystery Science Theatre 3000 members Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett as they have their way with what is often referred to as the worst movie ever made: Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space.

You can find out more information about the event, and purchase tickets, by clicking here.  What are you waiting for?  I almost want to go see the show again!… [continued]

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Josh takes in Rifftrax Live: Plan 9 From Outer Space!

I just got back from a spectacular evening — seeing the Rifftrax gang live (just not exactly in-person) riffing on what they described as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies,” Plan 9 From Outer Space!

I was overjoyed when I discovered Rifftrax a few years back.  Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy, three of the masterminds behind the later years of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, had again teamed up to make fun of terrible movies.  At Rifftrax.com one can download feature-length commentary tracks to play along with movies you own or rent on DVD, in which Mike and the gang make glorious sport of the film being played.  I’ve downloaded quite a few Rifftrax over the past few years, and they are every bit as entertaining as the best MST3K episodes.

Tonight, the Rifftrax gang performed a live riff in Nashville Tennessee to one of the most well-known awful movies of all-time: Plan 9 From Outer Space.  The performance was broadcast live to movie theatres across the US, and I was lucky enough to take in the show at a theatre here in Boston.  It was fantastic!

The event started promptly at 8 PM (and bonus points for that, by the way).  After introducing themselves, the Rifftrax crew kicked the evening off by riffing on an old short from the 1950’s called (as I recall) Flying Stewardesses.  It’s not, as the gang is quick to point out, a documentary about stewardesses gifted with the ability of flight — rather, it’s a pretty quaint little piece about the training that women must go through to become what we’d now call flight attendants.  The guys were in top form, and their riffs on this short were hilarious.

This was followed by a little time-filling.  Jonathan Coulton (you can find out more about him here) came on and played two amusing songs, which were funny, but not nearly as hilarious as when the cameras broadcasting the event would capture Nashville audience members rapturously mouthing the lyrics along with Mr. Coulton.  There were also some amusing fake ads (created by Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka — I don’t know what that “Lowtax” nickname means, but he created the Something Awful humor site).  All of this stuff was cute, but I started to get a bit antsy for the main event to begin.

But once it did — yowza!  Plan 9 From Outer Space is every bit as catastrophically terrible as you might expect.  (I hadn’t watched the whole film through, start-to-finish, since college.)  It’s so bad that it’s quite unintentionally hilarious to watch all on its own, without any sort of Rifftrax commentary.  Going in, I was a little worried, in … [continued]

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“Sorry, we’re closed” — Josh’s Favorite TV Series Finales!

As I prepare for this weekend’s series finale of Battlestar Galactica (and contemplate life without that brilliant show, one of the greatest of the last two decades), I’ve been thinking about some of the great series finales of the recent past.  Here are some of my favorites, counting down from ten!

10.  Cheers — “One For the Road” — Diane Chambers (Shelly Long) returns in an attempt to re-kindle her romance with Sam (Ted Danson) in this extra-long finale.  To be honest, it’s been years since I’ve seen this one, but my recollection is of really enjoying it.  Bringing back Shelly Long, who was pretty much the star of the show (along with Danson) for the first half of its run, was a brilliant idea.  And the final scene is perfect — Sam waving away a customer while saying “sorry, we’re closed.”  Sniff!

9.  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — “What You Leave Behind” — I am giving props here to the entire 10-hour, 9-episode “final chapter” of this, the greatest of the Star Trek series.  The show finally becomes what it has always flirted with: a true serial, as seven seasons worth of storylines come to fruition over the course of this magnificent final epic run of episodes.  The Dominion War escalates, a secret section of Starfleet’s complicity in attempted genocide is revealed, and Captain Benjamin Sisko must finally fulfill his destiny as Emissary of the Prophets (a story thread begun in the series’ pilot episode). The show was notable for its enormous cast of recurring characters, and everyone gets his/her due here (with quite a number of popular characters meeting their demise!).  The show gets bumped down a bit on my list because the actual final two-hour episode isn’t quite as great as the episodes leading up to it (it looks like they used up their special effects budget, as one of the major battle sequences is composed almost entirely of recycled footage, something that eagle-eyed fans like me noticed).  Still, the melancholy tone (so unusual for a Trek series) and the sad, final shot of Jake Sisko looking out the window for his lost father as the camera pulls back and the station slowly fades away into the blackness of space is just perfection.

8.  Justice League Unlimited — “Destroyer” — Classic DC Comics villain Darkseid launches a full-scale invasion of Earth, and even the combined might of practically every character (hero & villain) who ever appeared on this amazing animated show are powerless to stop him.  In an epic battle atop the ruins of the Daily Planet building, Superman ultimately falls before the might of Darkseid.  (That sequence, by the way, is a showcase for the … [continued]

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Cinematic Titanic

February 25th, 2009

I saw a truly amazing performance last weekend at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, MA.  Before I tell you about it, let me share a bit of history:

If any of the topics that I have written about on this site appeal to you, then I probably don’t have to tell you about Mystery Science Theatre 3000.  Created by Joel Hodgson, the TV series ran from 1988 through 1999 on a variety of stations.  The plot is irrelevant, and is quickly dispensed with during the catchy opening theme for every episode.  In short, a man is trapped in space and forced to watch terrible movies.  To maintain his sanity, he constructs a bunch of robot buddies, and the three of them wisecrack their way through each film as it unfolds.  In each hour-and-a-half episode, the gang would take on a different, awful old film.  It was a riot.  Like many fans, I was deeply disappointed when the show took its final bow (making fun with the truly abysmal Danger: Diabolik on August 8, 1999).

But that was not the end!  Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett (the lead players of MST3K during its later years) reunited a few years back to form Rifftrax!   The project involved the three recording feature-length “riffs,” making fun of movies exactly as they did back with MST3K.  Except, this time, the films they’re making fun of are modern, well-known movies (everything from Star Wars to Star Trek to The Lord of the Rings to Indiana Jones, etc etc etc.).  The way the site works is that for a few bucks you can download one of their podcasts, for a movie whose DVD you either already own, or go out and rent.  Pop the DVD into your player, start the podcast, and you’re off!  I’ve downloaded a bunch of their Rifftrax over the past two years, and their over-all quality is stellar.  It’s the same joke-a-second format of MST3K, and it’s a lot of fun to listen the gang take on some of the big films from the past decade.  (If you’re looking for a place to start, I’d suggest downloading their Rifftrax for Batman and Robin.  Sure, making fun of that movie is like hitting the broad side of a barn, but still — the track is genius.)

Entirely separate from the Rifftrax project, five members of the ORIGINAL MST3K team have re-formed to create their own MST3K-type project: Cinematic Titanic.  Creator Joel Hodgson has teamed up with Trace Beaulieu (the original voice for Crow; he also played Dr. Forrester), Josh Elvis Weinstein (the original voice for Tom Servo), TV’s Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester).  Unlike Rifftrax, the … [continued]