So last Thursday, the 19th, I and a few of friends, made it to the RiffTrax Live! performance at one of the local theaters. Now usually when I mention RiffTrax I have to give a brief history about what RiffTrax is. If you already know, feel free to skip the next paragraph. If you don’t, a little history never hurt anyone… except all the people that were harmed in the making of the history involved… right! So about the history of RiffTrax, in order for me to do that I need to first tell you a little about their origins.
RiffTrax is essentially the love child of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) and short lived Film Crew. MST3K made a cult name for itself doing the very thing that we all do when watching something “sort of” to “epically” lame on the television, which is… making fun of it with your own open commentary. MST was a show about watching people watching bad movies while making fun of it. After the show ended, the three guys that finished the series started a new venture called the Film Crew. After a few hang-ups there, namely MST owner Jim Mallon (who, in my opinion, is kind of a douche bag) told the distributor of the DVDs that he would pull all future MST title distribution unless they passed on the Film Crew series, the Film Crew ended and RiffTrax began.
I know, it’s a lot of exposition just to get to the point, but I think it helps those who have no idea what RiffTrax is. A RiffTrax Live! event is where the RiffTrax crew do a live performance in a theater where you get to watch them on stage making fun of a movie. In some cases they broadcast this live event to a bunch of other theaters across the country. This is what I went to and enjoyed last Thursday.
Having been to a few of these broadcast events now, and being an MST3K fan that treads somewhere around of the edge of the “devoted” to “ludicrous” waters, I always know I’m in for a good time. One of the best things about these events is that you are surrounded by like-minded and like-humored people, people who are there because they too love MST. The audience is full of that ready to laugh energy. It’s infectious and it makes the whole event that much more entertaining. The experience did offer two new additions that I had not experienced before, namely Frank and Dwight… two of the friends that join me for the show were pretty much MST virgins.
Ok, so maybe Dwight had gotten to second base with an MST episode or two before, but that’s about it. Frank had heard about it, but I don’t think he’d ever had a full and true MST experience… which, technically, he still hasn’t, but he will. I can say that neither are RiffTrax virgins anymore. Not that it was ever on their “bucket list”, but at least now they can now put it on the list and cross it off at the same time. Also, both are newly devoted fans to the riffing on movies experience. I must say, there is something incredibly satisfying about introducing friends to one of your favorite things in the world and having them become fans of the art that is MST.
It felt a little like saving the Oompa-Loompas’ from total destruction and introducing them to a new life filled with songs and candy… and what really kind of comes across as slavery… hmmm, ok bad example. I guess you could say it’s more like smoking… minus the disgusting, smelly, smoky, cancer causing affects. What I mean is when a smoker meets someone who is also a smoker there is a sort of bond, an unspoken connection to that other person, I guess the same could be said for scrap booking… and I know I feel the same way when I learn that someone loves MST3K.
So what did we watch? Reefer Madness… in color no less. If there is one thing this 1930’s propaganda film can teach you about pot, it’s how to laugh at people who smoke too much of it. It really was a grand time, accompanied by a few really crappy special effects and some “crazy eyes” camera angles that will keep you giggling for a good two or three days after. Frank and Dwight loved it, which I loved because, guess what that means? Yep, I’ve got some MST/RiffTrax/Cinematic Titanic parties to plan. One universal truth about MST is that, even if they are fun to watch, they are so much better when you are watching them with friends that are enjoying them as well.
The point I wanted to make with all this is this… tomorrow, August 24th they are doing an Encore performance of the Reefer Madness RiffTrax Live! event. If you are a fan, but missed it, or didn’t even know about it, tomorrow is your chance to check it out. If you enjoy MST3K at all it’s well worth the price of the ticket. I just hope you live in a town that will be showing the Encore performance. Hope you can make it.
Click here to check and see if it’s playing in a theater somewhere close to you.
If you did happen to make it to the show, what did you think?
Google Images, key words: RiffTrax Live, second base, and Reefer Madness.
Movies, we all know what one looks like after it’s had its 15 minutes and then walks the path of inevitable DVDism. And even though I gather most of my film consumption via DVD, I have even been known to do the occasional theater experience as well. I’d like to say it’s better, but you know how it goes, once you get there you find need for a tub of popcorn and a soda usually costs you slightly more than your first born, and if you want to get some Junior Mints to go along with that, you have to haggle with yourself on whether making your car payment that month is really more important than a box of processed dark chocolate stuffed with a foreign substance that is the equivalent of a aftermath of a candy canes sneeze. Sad thing is, sometimes we actually decide that chocolate covered peppermint boogers are worth being a little late on the car payment for the month.
There are some films that I think are enhanced by seeing them on the big screen. Granted, most of this enhancement comes from watching a film in a theater full of devoted fans as opposed to watching it with a group of people that are only in the theater because they want to get out of the summer heat. Fan excitement is a power to be reckoned with. Because of fan excitement I have found myself in the past enjoying the hell out of an incredibly mediocre film. Then again the opposite can happen as well. You can go to a rather exciting and entertaining film and if you happen to be surrounded by a collection of people jacked up on Ritalin, there is a chance it’s going to lose some of its splendor.
One of the magical aspects of the cinema is that it is an entertainment medium that gives every person that watches it the self proclaimed title of film critic. When first starting out as a film critic the initial practice of rating a film is very Roman in origin. A film either receives a thumbs up, meaning that it should be allowed to live so that others can experience the same viewing pleasure that you received. Or you give it a thumbs down, which simply means that you would recommend going to the dentist for a root canal as a viable entertainment option as opposed to seeing the film.
The situation that then follows is a result of film makers not holding themselves to a higher standard, or it could just be that the industry is flooded with trite and uninspiring film makers. The result is the relentless flow of films that are not good, but they don’t really suck either. This requires the novice film critic to add a new dimension to their film rating system. Enter the three star system:
1 Star = Hated it.
2 Star = It was ok.
3 Star = Loved it.
As opinions about film grow, so does the range of your ability to review a film, thus increasing your rating system to a five points, stars, A through F or something similar. For today’s purposes and to add clarity, I’m going to borrow Netflix’s five-star system and their definitions. It breaks down like this:
1 Star = Hated It
2 Star = Didn’t Like It
3 Star = Liked It
4 Star = Really Liked It
5 Star = Loved It
The problem I have with this is that there are way too many movies out there that evoke absolutely no emotion at all, or just fail to exceed any of your movie watching expectations, thus creating a completely new movie going experience. These are what I predominantly call background movies. Something you can put on in the background, while you are doing something else. The film really doesn’t have enough merit to encourage you to pay attention to them, meaning they are easy to ignore.
For me these are movies that earn my 3 Star rating. The nice thing about these films is their utter lack of interest, so it’s easy to work on other things and focus on other things while these movies play. This is the main reason movies I disliked or hated don’t fall into this category. Movies you dislike are instilling in you a negative response or an unpleasant emotion. On a personal note, if you are of the disposition that you need noise while you create and your preferred background noise is a television, please never create while a film that affects you negatively is playing. It’s just a bad way to create in my opinion.
Here is my personal 5 Star film rating system:
- 5 Star = Loved it. I am going to purchase this film when it comes out for my personal collection and worth watching a few times.
- 4 Star = Exceeded my expectations and worth the time I spent watching it.
- 3 Star = Met most to all of my expectations. An ok film… or in other words, out of all the movies I’ve ever seen that definitely was one.
- 2 Star = Mostly worthless. Met few to no expectations I had for the film.
- 1 Star = Screw you movie! That is two hours of my life I will never get back. I am actually stupider because I have watched this film. It might also be comparable to a vomit milkshake. (There are few movies that I hate this much, but there are some.)
If it makes sense to you, please feel free to adopt it and raise it as one of your own.
Also, based on that system, here are a few movies that I’ve seen that fall into each category:
1 Star = There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, and Star Trek 5
2 Star = Aeon Flux, Burn After Reading, and Jerry Maguire
3 Star = Across the Universe, Crazy Heart, and Dances with Wolves
4 Star = The Breakfast Club, Dear Frankie, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
5 Star = Harvey, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Stranger than Fiction
I do need to point out that I think for all people there is a kind of holy writ of viewing euphoria. It is very personal to the viewer and overflows with nostalgia, carrying with it such joy and appreciation that you could have it playing nonstop for days at a time. And whether you are paying attention or not, it’s fine, because you know that when you do stop and pay attention, it is always going to put a smile on your face, unconsciously causing you to appreciate everything in life that much more. It’s a kind of bliss movie, a blovie if you will. See even the word makes you smile. For me, it would have to be MST3K (or one of its off shoots), and for my sweetie-baby-cutie-pie its old Shirley Temple films. There is something permeatingly happy about watching Angela watch Shirley. They are a bit contagious in that regard.
So, what are some of your blovies?
Google Images, key words: watching movies, thumbs up, bored audience, and MST3K.
Last night some friends and I gathered at one of our local theaters to spend two hours surrounded by thrills, chills, smirks, and an assortment of laughter simply by watching a collection of short Christmas themed films being made fun of by some of the cast of the cultastic MST3K.
Most of the films came to us from Castle Films vault of misfit films. “Castle Films, pouring boiling oil into the eyes of their viewers for over 30 years.” I believe is how Mike put it at one point. Sadly, he wasn’t far off. Most of the films carried with them the visual equivalent having a bad acid trip being triggered as a result of watching Jack Black attempting to act. That’s the problem with Jack’s acting, even if you’ve never taken any drugs at any time in any of your lives, the second you see him appear on the big screen your skin starts crawling and your brain starts screaming, “TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF!” but you can’t because it’s, well, a bloody movie.
Thankfully though, the banter and quips that Mike, Bill and Kevin kept making helped diminished the visual trickle that we had to endure. This is the magic of what MST3K started and that RiffTrax has continued to carry on, the ability to create joy and laughter out of a pain invoking situation, which is exactly what the evening was all about.
The audience’s laugh track was already in full swing as my friends and I walked in to the theater. There were some snickers and even some wide open-mouth bursts as we began watching the preshow screen displaying a slide show of RiffTrax themed and made up movie quotes, trivia, and observations. Say what you will, but the audience is the great adjuster. They can either greatly diminish your watching experience or they can greatly improve it. My audience, the audience I was with, was ready to laugh and knew the evening would not disappoint. The energy was static with smiles standing on end.
And it was their flowing fountain of laughter that I began to pay attention to once I was settled into my seat. Some of the laughs were a bit premature, as if the laugher was so full and ready to giggle that they would start laughing at the expectation of the unknown, thinking the humor was bound to be there. Turned out their timing was a bit off and they started laughing too early. Like at the very beginning of the show when Mike, Bill, and Kevin walked out on stage, there was one chap that started laughing, in a sort of up then down pitch. Starting high where he was unable to hear anything he’s then drop the pitch so that he could hear a few words before laughing high again.
I figured he was expecting the humor to begin with the first syllable, instead of having the show begin with a few announcements from the cast. I believe the chap realized this during his second low pitched laugh. He was able to hear what was being said and stopped shortly after. He did keep “open mouth smiling” though. You know that smile, the one you’re never comfortable looking at, but you always get a picture of in your mind due to the sound of every exhale they make. You can actually hear them smiling.
One of my favorite parts about this power keg of giggles was the humming laughter. It’s kind of like the “open mouth smile” but nothing like it. See, its more of an energetic, or quantum smile, as if all the atoms that make you up are vibrating happily as positive “happy atom aura” charges, which permeate from you, allowing others to feel you smiling without seeing your face or hearing your breath.
As the first short film, or as the profession calls them… “short”, the audience began to chorus in laughter, and it is this laughter that I want to talk about.
- There was the “ha ha that is truly funny” laugh, for the many bits that were in fact very funny.
- There was the “ha-AAA” laugh, where you are laughing in amusement and then something funnier happens and you keep laughing, but all you have breath for one last blast of projecting laugh and then you have to stop laughing so your body can take a breath or you DIE!!! Ok fine, or you’ll pass out! (See not nearly as dramatic.
- There was the “wheezing” laugh, where people who are forced to breathe in, because they have laughed all their breather out, do so but have the genetic ability to laugh while breathing in. Unfortunately those laughs sound more like one scared Troy hiding from cultists under the floorboards a garbage house belonging to one Mike Pipper.
- There was also the mid range “cackle” laugh, like that of a middle aged to oldish witch about to bake two Swedish children in her oven because it’s fun and funny.
- There was the little girl high pitched “hehehehe” giggling, which all my friends know I am very capable of and proficient at. I’ve been told when I start laughing like that it is a bit infectious. However, I think it’s mostly because men over six feet tall (1.83 meters for my metric friends) with thick facial hair are not suppose to laugh like that. So when I do, the site and sound is so baffling yet comical, giggling along is really the only option that comes to mind.
- Then there was the full bodied “ha ha ha” laugh. The type of veteran laugh that men in the 50s would share with other men to identify themselves as manly men who laugh at manly things, or, ohhh I know, like Ed McMahon would use on the Tonight Show back in the day. “Ha Ha, YES!”
- There was also the “silent” laughter, which I also took part in. This is the laughing so hard that your voice gives out and you entire body is shaking with laughter, but no noise is coming out. This is usually accompanied by some thrashing about in your seat in a bought of uncontrolled humor trying to escape.
- Don’t get me wrong, there was the occasional “ha, ahh” laugh. The kind, were you start laughing because you expectation is making you laugh, but half way though you realize you expectations were set a little too high and it turns out it really wasn’t that funny. It’s kind of like that one friend that is always telling a funny joke they heard, but isn’t any good at telling jokes, so they laugh though the whole thing and then screw up or have forgotten the punch line and whole prospect of being humorously entertained is sucked away in an uncomfortable silence. At least until someone else shares a joke that brings the laughter back.
I could keep going, but at risk at making a longish post longer I’ll just wrap things up by saying to Mike, Bill and Kevin, “Thank you for a brilliant, festive, and joy filled show.” It’s truly a rare experience when at the end of a show you can get out of your seat, and hear people around you say, “That was sooo bad.” all the while grinning uncontrollably and then adding “I can’t wait to see it again.” Well done men, well done.
Did any of you catch this show? If so, what did you think?
Google Images, key words: RiffTrax Christmas Shorts, MST3K Final Sacrifice, Ed and Johnny, audience laughing, and quantum.
MST is one of those symbols of permeating happiness for me. I can watch episodes by myself or with friends and quote along in giggly goodness, or I can have an episode playing in the background, like right now, while I work on my writing, or even while playing the occasional game.
As background noise, I love it. I don’t have to pay attention at all, but every now and again something will sneak through and I’ll start smiling or laughing. Even if I can barely hear it, I can look up from what I’m doing and if I know the episode really well, I’ll start chucking to myself because I know what riffs are coming up next, and I know they are going to make be laugh. They always do.
One of my favorite things to do is take a nap on the couch with an MST playing on the television. The collection of riff after riff is a lullaby of humor. I fall asleep and wake up smiling, and on more than one occasion I’ve even waken up laughing. It’s the perfect ingredient to the perfect nap.
Which finally brings me to today’s MST feature, Space Mutiny. I believe the cover of the 2008 DVD release describes this film best by stating, “It’s hilarious, but not on purpose.” Which is true, unless you are watching the MST version, then it’s most definitely on purpose. My main reason for highlighting this film is because it has been my giggle to sleep companion the past few times I have taken a nap.
When describing this film, I think it’s important to point out that all of the space scenes are taken from the original TV series of Battlestar Galactica. The only thing I could think of that makes sense for why this was done is that the director won some Battlestar Galactica stock footage in a poker game and decided to make a film around it.
The inconsistencies throughout this film are simply astounding, and is probably the only consistent thing about the film. I think Mike sums it up perfectly during the opening credits. As the Edited By credit appears, three names appear below it, and Mike quips, “Passed from editor to editor in a desperate attempt to save it.” And you know what, each one consistently failed.
One of my favorite moments in the film happens when one of the ships crew members, not wearing red I might add, gets killed by the films evil villain and then in the very next scene the dead crew member is sitting at her work station on the bridge of the ship. They even walk past her a second time letting her fill the foreground of the shot. Apparently it wasn’t enough that she appeared once in the scene so the few people still paying attention while watching the movie might notice, oh no, they just had to show her a second time just so the people that did catch it the first time could prove it to everyone else who missed it. It’s always nice when a movie gives you a freebee like that, so you tell your friends, “See! I told you!”
The hero of the movie, Slab Bulkhead, no wait, it was Fridge Largemeat, no, no, I think it was Punt Speedchunk… bah, I have no idea. Oh wait, that’s right it’s David Ryder. He’s a big beefy guy who screams like a little girl constantly throughout the film. Personally I think this makes him an anti-hero, but considering the lack of hero options, you’re pretty much stuck with him. This brings me to my favorite part of this film… Mike and the bots endless barrage of nicknames they give to our hero throughout the film. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Bolt Vanderhuge
- Thick McRunfast
- Blast Hardcheese
- Crunch Buttsteak
- Slab Squatthrust
- Big McLargehuge
For the complete list, click here.
If you are a fan of the show and have not yet seen this one yet, or if you’ve never watched an MST before, this one is worth the effort. Don’t get me wrong, it is a bad movie, and sometimes its worse than bad, but it is worth it. Here, I’ll even make it easy for you to find:
If the video does not load, click here.
I think one of the best things about watching an MST’d movies is that no matter how bad the movie is, you truly feel a sense of accomplishment at the end. Not only did you make it though a film that even a mime would give the finger to and personally call the director to tell them what a piece of shit it was, while still wearing their mime garb, but you finish the picture smiling, sometimes laughing. There’s also a good chance you will actually tell your friends that the cinematic abomination you just watched really wasn’t that bad… I mean it’s bad, you don’t lose all common sense, it just that it’s not THAT bad. Call it what you want, but be being able to do that to an unwatchable movie is nothing less than miraculous.
What are some of the movies that you think should be made fun of? Do you think we should start a petition to get the MST crew sainted… saintified… sainthooded? That thing that old people in funny hats do to people who do miracles? It’s a thought anyway.
Google Images, keywords: Space Mutiny and watching mst3k.
With the delight that many consider to be Halloween, I’ve decided to use today’s post to share with you one of the most frightening movies I’ve ever seen. There are so many things that cause this film to be the horror that it is. It’s not a slasher film, a gore fest, or a thriller, nor is it a zombie film, alien picture, fightmare, musical, or any film starring Mike Myers. This I am referring to is none other than… Manos, Hands of Fate.
Manos: The Hands of Fate is a… I think it was supposed to be a horror film. It was filmed in 1966, and was written, directed, and produced by one Harold P. Warren. The film would have fallen into obscurity… well into unwatched obscurity that is until Mystery Science Theater 3000 got their hands on it. Then it moved into the realm of viewed obscurity. Nothing moves a film out of normal obscurity and into cult status obscurity quite like MST.
The plot of the film consists of a vacationing family who get lost while driving and end up in a desert. The family finds a house in the desert, which turns out to be the home of a polygamous pagan cult, as if there is any other kind.
It’s a little confusing trying to figure out who the main character is. For the first 20 minutes of the film I’d have to say that the main character was the scenery. There is a family that the story seems to center around, but there is also Torgo, the assistance of the Master (aka Manos). Who has just as much screen time as, if not more, the family. There is also a picture of the Master, who gets plenty of screen time as well.
I was actually talking about this very film a few weeks ago with a friend of mine. We were discussing what exactly makes this one of the most horrific films ever made. We came to the conclusion that what makes this an ultimate horror film is:
- Negative Watchability: The personal uneasiness that comes from watching the film. It’s really difficult to get through the film in one sitting because it is so frighteningly bad.
- Poor Direction. The director had so many options to make a choice in how the film was to go, about what needed to happen next, and he did absolutely nothing.
- Profane Angst. At the end of the film, if you make it that far, you will shutter, and probably use a verbal exclamation equivalent of wtf.
- Longevity. The film will stay with you forever. It’s probably been around 15 years now since I first saw Manos, which means that it’s been around 15 years that I been telling people Manos: Hands of Fate, any time people ask me what the one of the worst/most horrific films I have ever seen was.
If you think you have the constitution and determination to make it though the film, feel free to check it out:
If the video does not work for you click here to watch the film.
Let me know what you think of Manos: The Hands of Fate.
For my first installment of my list of things that don’t suck, I give you one of the funniest movies you’ve never seen…The Final Sacrifice.
I do need to specify though that the only way this movie actually meets criteria of a comedy is if you watch the MST3K (aka Mystery Science Theater 3000) version. Otherwise…actually skip the otherwise, and believe me when I tell you that you should never, ever watch this film without the help of MST3K…EVER!
Note: To those of you who have seen this film, please go out today and share it with a friend.
For those that don’t know about MST3K it was a television show about a man who was stuck in space on a satellite with some robot sidekicks. The man and two of his robots were forced to watch bad movies while an evil scientist and his henchman(men) would observe them, and that was essentially the show. I would spend two hours watching a silhouette of a man and two robots in a movie theater watching and making fun of really bad movies and for me The Final Sacrifice was one of the most brilliant episodes they ever made.
The Final Sacrifice is Canadian, which definitely sets a mood for the entire film. Now what that mood exactly is, I’m still not sure. I have yet to figure it out, but I do keep trying. To date I’ve probably watched the film around thirty to forty times and as far as I can figure, the mood of the film is kind of a cross between Shatner performing Rocket Man and a hockey hair Barbara Mandrell giving Bigfoot a pedicure.
The first hurdle of the film is trying to distinguish who the hero actually is. For the first thirty or so minutes you are pretty sure that the hero is an egg noodle of a boy named Troy. The problem with this is, case and point…
This is Troy.
Now even though Troy does pull off some pretty amazing feats, such as outrunning a Ford Torino full of evil cult members while on a 10 speed. You will spend the first portion of the film wanting, actually pleading to the film to give you a different hero. The film actually does its best to comply, but once again the film was made in Canada, so it’s really not an up trade, and that is how we end up with is Rowsdower…Zap Rowsdower.
One amazing feat accomplished in the MST version is that we do get to hear the name Rowsdower, or close variations of it, said approximately 54 times. Even more impressive is that you find yourself giggling every time you hear it.
Then we have our villain, who is lovingly referred by the MST crew as “Canadian Villain Garth Vader” but is called Satoris. Is he a super villain? Hmmm, I’ll put it to you this way, he does get a hair cut between his first scene in the movie and his remaining scenes, and he does have some first rate nostril flaring scenes that would rival even the great Judd Nelson. So, I guess, yeah he’s sort of a super villain. Well he’s a Canadian super villain at any rate.
Its well worth the watching, and best of all it’s free.
Thank you Google videos, thank you.
Let me know what you thought of the film. Seriously though, it’s brilliant. Oh, and your welcome for telling you about this.