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]
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]
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]