30 August 2006

MST3K (312)

312 - Gamera vs Guiron - I can see why Sandy Frank skipped a movie, as this Gamera flick is very similar to the last. Twice in row, a couple of annoying kids get trapped on a UFO decorated by a triangle fetishist. What are the odds!? What I don't understand is why none of the adults believed the kids were really on a UFO. Wake up! That already happened once before! Remember the bumblebee-painted ship that landed on Earth? It wasn't much of secret at the time. Yeesh.

I have next-to-no idea who the hell Richard Burton was. Apparently, I've seen him when I watched the wretched Exorcist II, but I've tried to forget that fact. Any jokes that may or may not have been present in the host segment dedicated to him were lost on me. Unfortunately, this was also one of the longest host segments in the history of the show. Jokes about Boomer-era personalities and TV shows, I'd rather see confined to movie riffing. I may not get the McCloud riffs, but at least someone else will say something completely different within a few seconds. Give me a goofy song, a funnied-up scene from the movie, a creative invention, or the bots acting like kids in a host segment, instead, please.

Speaking of goofy songs, all of the versions of the "Gamera Song" were gold. Joel looks so carefree and happy when he's singing it in the host segments, I couldn't help but shoot a goofy grin back to him. During the final host segment, when we cut to Mike as Michael Feinstein, I was a bit concerned (I don't know who the hell he is, either). Once Mike started a-singing and a-tickling the ivories, it didn't matter anymore. Yeah, I've already heard the "Gamera Song" three times prior to his version. Sure, Mike was out of tune a bit in the middle. It was still A-OK.

"Well, for now we call it the Sony Bigman." Crow said this early in the movie and gave me a moment of utter confusion. What's Doctor Forrester doing in the theater? Is he speaking from Deep 13? Ahh… Crow was speaking as one of the scientist guys in the film and Dr. F. is a scientist, so that's Trace's scientist voice. Gotcha. It made me appreciate how well he handles both of his characters. I almost never think of Crow and Dr. F as the same guy.

"My mother's donuts are a saint!" (7/10)

film d. Noriaki Yuasa (1969)
mst d. Jim Mallon (7 Sep 1991)

Guest OLR: 'Manos': The Hands of Fate (1966)

... This is why actors no longer trust directors. (1/10)

d. Hal Warren

29 August 2006

OLR: Destroy All Planets (1968)

Double the annoying kids with 50% recycled footage. (5/10)

d. Noriaki Yuasa

MST3K (311)

311 - It Conquered the World (w/ The Sport Parade: Snow Thrills) - Happy 15th anniversary, 311!

Narrator: "And shiing is the correct pronunciation, they tell us." Joel: "Yeah, well, you're full of skit." Now that we're past the serial era, shorts are a nice treat before the movie. I love these old timey newsreels and I'll watch 'em with or without the sarcastic silhouettes.

This Corman movie could've been A-OK. It had a pod people thing going, a dash of Cold War paranoia and the interesting first attack of shutting down all technology great and small ("Hey, your carpeting doesn't work."). Character actors Dick Miller, Beverly Garland and Lee Van Cleef sweeten the deal. What does Corman do to ruin it? He creates one of the lamest alien monsters to ever grace the silver screen. Any credibility or good will built by the film is completely destroyed the first time we get a look at the giant cucumber. And maybe a giant cucumber wouldn't have been so bad, but they put the goofiest face on the thing that you can think of. He looks like he's lost from the Sesame Street set.

Anderson: "The days when people made fun of me are over, girl." Crow: "You will bow down before me!" Ah, the reference to General Zod made my day. Solid riffing all around this time. I also loved the "Coffee and Pie" skit. Like many of the great season three host segments, it's a take-off from a scene in the movie. The guys amp it up with some rapid-fire snark and run with it. Servo: "This coffee tastes like it came out of an oil derrick. What'd you strain it through a mummy?"

Boy, you could feel the guys struggling with the lack of length in this movie. Even with a short to help pad out the time, they still needed to drag out the final two host segments. Especially painful was the repeating Peter Graves speech, seen once during the movie, once as JatB immediately re-watch it, once when the Mads re-watch it, once again as a voice-over during the credits and finally, partially, in the stinger. At least the credits during the MST Hour segment were kind enough to forgo this torture for a sixth time. Yeesh.

"I learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature." (7/10)

film d. Roger Corman (1956)
short p. Eugene W. Castle (1938)
mst d. Jim Mallon (24 Aug 1991)

27 August 2006

OLR: Happiness (1998)

Altman-esque melodrama, filled with "real" people being "real" for far too long. (5/10)

d. Todd Solondz

OLR: C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004)

I was hoping for modern speculative fiction, not a century and a half of faux documentary. (6/10)

d. Kevin Willmott

26 August 2006

MST3K (310)

310 - Fugitive Alien - (aka Sutâurufu: "Episode 1" + Sutâurufu: "Episode 2") Amazingly, this movie made more sense to me the second time out. Oh, it's still a jumbled mess, but I was able to leap along with the editor with less trouble. I'm still looking forward to seeing the sequel. Will Ken defeat Heckraiser-Guy? Will he ever love again? And how many buttons will explode in the process?

I was wondering when Jack Perkins would show up. I knew he was a guest in the pretty-soon Turkey Day, so he was due to make an appearance. Geez, he gets it worse than Frank has so far from Dr. F.: a cattle prod, a giant chisel and an evil genetic experiment. I was expecting future-Jack to maybe comment on these tortures during his Mystery Science Theater Hour segments. He didn't, really. The good-natured old boy just referred to them as "antics." Despite being a parody of a TV personality that fewer and fewer people will remember, the MST Jack Perkins still works. All you need to know is that he thinks everything and everyone associated with film is "wonderful." I bet, if MST3K were ten years younger, Mike would've been dressing up as the similar James Lipton instead.

I'm bummed that Joel didn't sing his "Fugitive Alien" song from K12. I suppose the "Forklift" song is a suitable replacement, and much less embarrassing for all concerned.

Wha? We've already had two new contests since then ("Kenney, What Gives?" and "Other Ways to Snuff Gaos"), but Joel pulls out another entry for the "Cool Thing" contest from nine months ago. Maybe they had a burning desire to reveal the really true answer (Mexican stoplight candy), but I'm guessing it was just because they liked the letter. Says David from Seattle: "Taking into account that, overall, the crew is against imperialism, jingoism, church-state-as-one, fascism, exploitation, racism -- in short, all those "ideals" held dear by our world leaders here on planet Earth -- I'd venture to say this time portal showed mankind living in peace." Rock on, David.

"Joel and the bots are making fun of my hair. MY HAIR!" (7/10)

film d. Minoru Kanaya & Kiyosumi Kuzakawa (1978)
mst d. Jim Mallon (17 Aug 1991)

24 August 2006

MST3K (309)

309 - The Amazing Colossal Man - I wonder when they're going to fix Crow's net? His theater silhouette's net is just fine. The host segment version's net is hanging by a thread. I think Joel's been angrily yanking on it too much this season.

Doctor Chad Feelgood: "Your name was the only word he spoke." Servo: "Well, that and AHHHHH!" The riffing during the entire post-accident hospital scene was excellent. The guys get a great rhythm going and the laughs build on each other. The constant references to cooked food and making the characters hit on the bereaved fiancée were some of the best riffs this season so far. The fun is continued in the following host segment in which Joel attempts to teach the bots how to be nice to spouses of nuclear accident victims. It doesn't work so well, much to our benefit. "He'll sure come off the bone easy."

Maybe unique in the series, both Joel and Mike play the same character in two different host segments. Joel's turn as Glen has him uttering the immortal quote "What kind of sin could a man commit..." Joel's Glen is sad, trapped in a room and poked fun of by robots. Mike's Glen is pissed off at the world and sick of getting hit in the gut by satellites. Not sure where Mike-Glen got those size 5000 blue jeans, though. I prefer either to the wuss in the movie. Bah. A few rounds from the military and he tumbles into a river. He didn't even pick up a bus and play it like a harmonica.

There is no way Stan Lee didn't see this movie. A man runs into a nuclear bomb test to save someone who has wandered into its path. The explosion turns him into a giant monster, much to his lady-friend's dismay. The military chases the monster in the desert. I can't want to get to whatever MST episodes contain the original ideas for the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man.

"Yeah, poor bum's screams were muffled by a throat full of his own blood." (7/10)

film d. Bert I. Gordon (1957)
mst d. Jim Mallon (3 Aug 1991)

23 August 2006

OLR: Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie (2004)

An interesting way to watch deleted scenes, though most of the best stuff was in the original. (6/10)

d. Adam McKay

22 August 2006

MST3K (308)

308 - Gamera vs Gaos - The KMTA repeats just aren't working for me. The riffing during them just seems lighter than during the non-Sandy Frank episodes. It's a bit disappointing, as I think these terribly dubbed movies are kind of fun on their own. I also keeping waiting for and being disappointed by the non-appearance of the famed "Gamera" song. Maybe next one?

My favorite part of the episode was Joel's arts and crafts host segment. Crow and Servo go all 305 during the beginning of the segment, mentioning yet more detective shows from the early '70s I've never heard of nor seen (Hec Ramsey, The Snoop Sisters, Banacek and McMillian and Wife). After that, it was smooth sailing with pure comedy. I wonder if this segment was born out of the knowledge that so many young kids watch the show? Did they ever worry about the more adult riffs they threw out there because of this? It all comes out in this segment (the answer: nope). "The word for today is booger."

Other ways to snuff Gaos? Hmm. I think I would construct a giant saw. I'd use this saw to cut off Gaos' feet once a night. After a year or so, I'd gather all of the severed feet in a huge net, haul 'em with a helicopter over Gaos' layer, and drown him in his own limbs.

"Ok, let's face it. He likes blood, but not the way you make it." (6/10)

film d. Noriaki Yuasa (1967)
mst d. Jim Mallon (27 Jul 1991)

Guest MST3K: 306

Time of the Apes. I remember that when I was a young lass I was really, really into the whole "Planet of the Apes" franchise. I don't exactly remember why, but hey, it was the early '70's, and lots of strange things were going on. This movie didn't exactly offer any insight into my earlier interest. It felt a bit odd to be watching a MiSTed Japanese flick and know that I would be seeing any big rubber monster stomping anything flat. At least it was comforting that the required annoying little kids were featured. Also the overly wacky music track that I've noticed in other gifts from Japan. And being a Sandy Frank film, an slow, hole filled trainwreck of a plot also shined through. And let's not forget the regrettable ape costumes. It was discerning to see them say line after line, all without moving their mouths. Like they were ventriloquist dummies manned by a really lazy operator. Still, the Felliniesque scenes at the end were almost worth sitting through the whole movie for even unMiSTed.

Overall, I kinda liked it. I guess I'm just always going to be an Apes fan deep down, know matter how hard I try to live a normal life.

What this movie taught me:
I've already learned from a previous experiment that islands are prone to just falling apart with no apparent warning. This movie instructs that if this should happen to you, the best way to handle the situation is to toss yourself and any nearby annoying children into a pod to be frozen for a very, very long time. Bonus lesson: I don't care!

I can't say that I'm much of a baseball fan, but I did like the sports enhancement upgrades Joel gave the 'bots. Too bad about Joel knocking out a window, though I would have guessed that the rushing air would have been going in the direction of the hull breach, not away from it. I found the cellulite phone to be funny, even if it did hit a bit too close to home. Good thing the mads were able to obtain an actual baby to experiment on. Frank must be pretty strong to haul around the result though! The "Why Johnny doesn't care" segment was good, I laughed when Servo's voice got garbled when the tape started malfunctioning. Is it my imagination, or was Joel especially low energy during the Scopes Monkey trial skit? I did enjoy the skit that pointed out that many of the ape sported fashions that were as laughable as their monkey suits. But, much like the movie itself, my favorite was the ending. How can someone watch Joel's mosh-pit dancing and not be happy!

I'm putting this episode down as a winner. The riffing wasn't as strong as it has been in other episodes I've seen, but the sheer goofiness of the flick and the strong host segments made up for it. And remember, I don't care!

My 3 favorite riffs:

(A frozen lump of pale ape gets thawed)
Kitty! It's Snowball! [Ok, I'm always a sucker for Crow's "kitty" remarks.]

(Johnny nearly gets mashed into pasted by a falling rock booby trap he's stumbled into. In response, he holds up his pocket knife and declares "As long as I got this, I'm not afraid of anything!")
Kid, you're dumber than those rocks!

(Funny looking small ape: "Godo, where are we going?")
Do the words "Shallow grave" mean anything to you?

21 August 2006

MST3K (307)

307 - Daddy-O (w/ Alphabet Antics) - Continuity! Miracle Growth Baby returns. In a show where crazy Joel can disappear between contiguous host segments, a hold-over character from the Mads' previous invention exchange is quite a surprise. While the character of the MGB is not interesting in and of itself, he's a great MacGuffin for Mad-related antics. The alien facehugger pacifier was brilliant. As a horror fan and someone contemplating parenthood for the near future, I want one. I also love the multiple, baby-spill-caused false endings as the credits attempt to roll. The rare glimpse into the Mads' domestic life is hilarious.

Also returning to the show, Mike drops by the hexfield for the first time this entire season. He wasn't onscreen for very long, but he was perfect as the legally blind Bruce. "Give me that key, fella."

I see we're repeating 303's successful host segment formula by aping scenes from the movie. Works for me. "The Pants Up Song" is another great musical host segment sung with confident silliness by Joel. I also liked Crow and Servo's drag race re-enactment. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but Crow sure looks good with silky, blonde locks. "Now you both win a delicious pizza!" Splat.

Daddy-O: "What's this?" Servo-as- Chillas: "It's made of butter." Solid riffing this episode with a nice helping of laughs. I especially liked the recurring butter riffs, which seemingly came out of nowhere.

Joel Goatee II, week 1.

"Q is for the queer, queer pelican, whose beak can hold more than his belly can." (8/10)

film d. Lou Place (1958)
short p. Eugene W. Castle (1951)
mst d. Jim Mallon (20 Jul 1991)

20 August 2006

Fincher (closing thoughts)

David Fincher's one of my favorite directors. Even when he stumbles, his technical skills manage to create a visually interesting film.

Every-other Fincher film is a masterpiece, so I'm expecting great things from Zodiac. I have to admit, I'm not thrilled that this is his long-awaited next project. Fincher's pretty much tackled, slaughtered and mounted on his mantle the serial killer genre with Se7en. I don't know if there's any reason at all for him to revisit it. If he was interested in true-story-based filmmaking, I wish he'd stuck with The Black Dahlia. That unsolved crime story would've been perfect for Fincher's sensibility.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button sounds more interesting. A man begins aging backwards and falls in love with a woman. How can they last if she continues to grow older and he gets younger? The plot has the potential for sappiness, but I trust Fincher to infuse enough of his own darkness into it to make it worth while. Fincher is directing Brad Pitt again in this one, which has always worked out well in the past.

At any rate, I'm glad the man has settled onto some projects. It's been too long since the silver screen was darkened by his vision.

Fincher (1999-2002)

1999 - Fight Club - This frivolous, consumerist culture cracks a man's brain in two, creating an anarcho-primitivist-philosopher-sex-god. It had to happen sometime.

Unlike The Game, knowing the twist doesn't impact subsequent viewings of the film. In fact, it's fun to see how hard the film tries not to hide it. It's also amusing to imagine how insane Jack must seem, knowing the Tyler is just pretend. Unlike The Game, knowing the twist ahead of time is necessary to truly understand what's going on. With this knowledge, Jack and Tyler's real motivations can be seen.

"In the world I see, you're stalking elk through the damp canyon forest around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty carpool lane of some abandoned superhighway."
By the end of the film, Tyler is well on his way to accomplishing this goal by destroying a dozen credit card company buildings (and the debt records within). At the same time, it's also one hell of a bouquet to offer Marla. Marla is repeatedly seen stealing in order to survive. At one point, she explicitly states that she's in poverty. Pushing the reset button on the US economy is one way of helping her out with that issue. The entire film can be seen this way: Tyler pushes Jack into a philosophically rebirth and, at the same time, gives him a needed connection with the female of the species to balance that rebirth out.

What is interesting is that Tyler's anarchist goals required a pseudo-fascist cult to bring them about. This is a more realistic view of human nature, I suppose. Anarchy won't spontaneously happen the way Tyler wants it to without a little authoritarian push away from the tentacles of modern life.

Sorry, Roger Ebert, but I really liked this "macho porn." (9/10)

2002 - Panic Room - It's hard to find fault with technical aspects of this film. Beginning with the expositional real estate tour, the geography of the house is well-communicated to the audience. Using appropriately unnoticeable CGI, the camera is free to float all over and through the house, never letting us lose the positions of the players inside. Howard Shore's score is grim and fitting. The cinematography moves effortlessly from the warm, autumnal Central Park to the cold, concrete panic room. Child actors are always a gamble, but Fincher's last-minute choice of Kristen Stewart worked out very well. The story is a rollercoaster of tense moments that pushes the right buttons, as you would expect.

Despite all of its merits, I don't see myself revisiting this film very often. I could watch Alien³, Se7en and Fight Club once a week, but I last saw Panic Room nearly three years ago and wasn't particularly looking forward to the re-watch. I can see two reasons why I feel this way.

Unlike Fincher's 1995 and 1999 efforts, there's not a lot of depth in Panic Room. People commit crimes for different reasons; some are psycho. Mothers will do anything to protect their children. Fathers, too. The safety and sanctity of your home can easily be violated. Beyond the basics, I don't see anything else in here. It's a straight-forward thriller about a straight-forward fear. Once you know all of the forks in the road to the conclusion, there isn't much to think about.

I also realized, watching this last night, that I have a hard time identifying with the female protagonists. I found myself more caught up in the problems the male burglars faced trying to accomplish their task than I was with the mother and daughter's plight. I'll be interested in watching this film again once I have children. I suspect that might make Jodie Foster's character easier to identify with. (7/10)

19 August 2006

MST3K (306)

306 - Time of the Apes - (aka Saru no Gundan: "Episode 1" + Saru no Gundan: "Episode 26") For some reason, the "poop throwing" jokes never got old. Any jokes about monkeys being stinky were amusing, too. Outside of those, laughs were pretty rare for me. That might be my fault, as I was pretty tired tonight. But, it was either get this one out of the way now or do four days in a row starting Sunday. Sometimes the "Year on the SOL" schedule is a harsh mistress.

I'm starting to regret watching the KTMA versions of these episodes. This isn't because I'm having trouble watching the movies again so soon, nor is it because the guys are repeating a lot of riffs (they aren't, as far as I remember). Nope, it's because the KTMA versions were longer and I'm noticing all of the cool stuff BBI cut for the season three versions. Gamera vs Barugon had an entire monster fight removed from it, making the movie seem more boring than it really is. In this movie, they've sliced all of the trippy UFO stuff that "explained" how the characters got back home. They could've sliced some of the really boring false ending stuff from the very end of the movie instead. Though, I suppose the way it is reflects the writers' room experience as told in the ACEG. I missed the 2001-style UFO weirdness.

The invention exchange was solid and the giant baby / grown man in a diaper was appropriately disturbing. I didn't really care for the other host segments this time out. "Why Doesn't Johnny Care?" was technically well-scripted, but all it did was make me want to watch a real educational short with the guys. Thankfully, we're finally getting one of those next episode. "Fashion Minute" was essentially the same segment: bot narration over clips from the movie. "Monkey Trial" could've used some weird masks to spice things up.

All, singing: "Sandy Frank / Sandy Frank / Likes to crap in his hand." Servo: "I hope he doesn't see this." Well, that certainly explains why Sandy Frank hates MST3K.

"They're gonna give him a 21-turd salute." (6/10)

film d. Atsuo Okunaka & Kiyo Sumi Fukazawa (1974)
mst d. Jim Mallon (13 Jul 1991)

17 August 2006

OLR: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

A good ol' goofball comedy and, unlike the ZAZ-style, refreshingly light on pop culture references. (7/10)

d. Adam McKay

16 August 2006

MST3K (305)

305 - Stranded in Space - The invention exchange is back with a vengeance! More than aptly making up for last episode's repeat, we get seven -- count 'em -- seven inventions this time. I can't remember the last time I laughed at the I.E., but the bang-gun expansions got me to chuckle. For the record, there was a bang-uzi (KABOOM), harpoon gun (SLUNK), knife (SLINCK), nunchucks (KLUNK! & WHSSHH), stick of dynamite (KACHOW), and some explosives (BOINGEE BANGA KA BONGA). You have to love when Frank pushes the TNT plunger down and immediately snaps off the left part of the handle. That's the MST3K charm right there.

I'm with Frank. I like TV movies, especially ones from the '70s. While this was no SST- Death Flight, it was interesting enough. It's a bit difficult to swallow the premise of the show, though. There's a planet on the opposite side of the sun. Sure, that's an old theory astronomers used to play with. Among many other things, just the fact that we have one moon's gravity yanking on us and they have three would ensure they'd develop completely differently. The three moons looked cool, I'll give them that. Everything was pretty much a Big-Brother-ized 1970s Earth except for subtle reminders like the moons and the left-handed shaking. Neat.

The guys made a record of references to TV shows I've never seen before in this episode. T.J. Hooker, The Rockford Files, Mrs. Columbo, etc., etc. That made the riffing a little hard to follow. Call it McCloud Syndrome. Other than those riffs, the guys did an adequate job spicing up the slow parts of the film.

I'm beginning to love those non sequitur Film Ventures credit sequences. Every movie should do this. Warm the audience up with some random, digitally-processed crap from another movie. I can see it as a modern replacement for serials, too. Watch the serial-style random scene and get the credits out of the way simultaneously. Efficient movie going for the 21st century.

"He drinks, he takes drugs and he's gonna get me off this planet." (7/10)

film d. Lee H . Katzin (1973)
mst d. Jim Mallon (29 Jun 1991)

15 August 2006

MST3K (304)

304 - Gamera vs Barugon - As a follow-up to 303, quite a disappointment. The riffing was sparse in this one. Maybe the guys used too much riffage power in the previous episode and ran out of juice? The only one that got me to laugh out loud would be funny even without the commentary. General Guy: "The monster can destroy everything with its tongue." Crow: "You try saying that without laughing."

Duplicating inventions from KTMA episodes is understandable. Virtually none of the Comedy Central audience had ever seen those. Ripping off an invention from season one just ain't right. Sure, the bubble belt was Joel's invention in 107 and now it's the Mads'. In the context of the storyline, maybe they copied Joel again. Sure, Joel even mentions that it looks familiar. But, to me, this just says that the invention exchange thing was worn out well before Mike put the kibosh on it in season five. I wonder if this segment will ever get back on its feet before then?

The only part of this episode that was above average -- the only thing that makes it better than K04 -- was the "T.G.I.Tokyo" host segment. Sugary model building that restaurant patrons demolish with their appetites was a clever tie-in with the movie. I'm betting Mike gave Joel some pointers on how to be a flair-addled waiter in a cheesy restaurant. The completely inexplicable masks on the bots are awesome. What in the hell does Crow have on his face? A miniature toilet seat attached to a fetish mask? One of the great, bizarre host segments.

"It's Mr. Bubble and boy is he cheesed." (6/10)

film d. Shigeo Tanaka (1966)
mst d. Jim Mallon (22 Jun 1991)

[Woo-hoo! I just finished creating the last MST3K DVD I needed. Now I've got everything that's necessary for this marathon. Someday, I'll start seeking upgrades. For now, the collection is stable, at last. In celebration, here's an ultra-geeky, labeled photo of a shelf chocked-full of MST discs in the tradition of gammer's website]

13 August 2006

MST3K (303)

303 - Pod People - Easily the funniest episode up to this point. Excellent riffing meets hilarious host segments wrapped around a bad movie from my favorite era.

The "Burning Rubber Tires" host segment shouldn't work as well as it does. It's just the guys directly imitating a scene from the movie and expanding on their goofy song lyrics riffing from the theater. Yet, this is my personal favorite musical segment so far. The nonsense lyrics, Frank wearing the "I'm a virgin" t-shirt and Joel's facial expression when he says "it stinks!" all kill me. I'm laughing again just typing about it.

Similarly, the "Trumpy is Magic" host segment just imitates a scene from the movie. The original scene was funny; the host segment was even funnier. Dr. F and Frank's facial expressions of silent, bemused horror are perfect. Plus, we get to see Crow's spindly legs for the first time. Weird!

Joel: "You know, this might sound crass, but we're getting really good at this." People in the movie were really nonchalant about the ever-increasing pile of corpses in the house. This may have something -- a lot -- to do with the massive amount of alcohol in the house. I'm glad the guys picked up on that impressive cabinet. It was a goldmine for riffage. I was actually sad to see Uncle Dickweed die because it meant the end of them.

Crow on Tommy: "Boy, I hate Kenny." It wasn't Kenny, but he's got a point. This is the second movie in a row in which a little boy adamantly claims, against all evidence to the contrary, that the murderous monster is really a good guy. I blame the parents.

My only complaint about this episode: I've no idea who McCloud is. Normally, this is nothing to whine about. There are a lot of references I don't get in every episode. It's just that the McCloud gag was repeated more times than I can count, taking away valuable riff-time from other, non-McCloud-based jokes. I'm sure it was hilarious to the folks out there born before that show was cancelled.

Potentially embarrassing revelation: I'd buy the unMiSTied version on DVD in a second. Worse: I'd buy the soundtrack on CD.

"Huzzah!" (9/10)

film d. Juan Piquer Simón (1983)
mst d. Jim Mallon (15 Jun 1991)

[With a pickled mind,
We kick the nipple beer.
Steady as a goat,
We're flying over trout.
Getto down the highway
At the speed of light.
All I want to feel now is
The wind in my eyes.
Sack of monkeys in my pocket,
My sister's ready to go.

Hear the engines roar now.
Hear the engines roar now.
Idiot control now.
Idiot control now.
Hideous control now.
Hideous control now.
Nitty on the road now.
Nitty on the road now.

Midi in control,
Wheels on fire,
Burning rubber tires!
Rubber tires!

Near each other rolls now.
He really lets me go now.
Needy inches bow down.
Bow down!
Pity and a poor boy.
Poor boy!

Hear the X's roll,
Peas on fire,
Burning rubber tires.

11 August 2006

MST3K (302)

302 - Gamera - The first KTMA repeat of the season. I watched K05 just under three months ago, but I couldn't remember much about it. I do recall that K05 is the worst episode to date, with Joel all alone in the theater. Watching Gamera get riffed by all three guys using pre-written lines was a thousands times better. Appropriately enough, they begin with a KTMA riff: "Water, the source of all life."

"If someone walked in and saw the images on the screen that I was watching…" That thought bounced around my head throughout the "Tibby" song. A paper mache turtle sits in a glass fishbowl, relentlessly spinning on a turntable spray-painted silver. The lighting is dim and moody. A man with mussed hair and sleepy eyes stands behind a pair of puppet-robots. The puppet shaped like a gumball machine belts out a ballad directed towards the faux turtle, his voice full of yearning. It's all beautiful in its calculated silliness.

The guys were into breaking the fourth wall this episode. At the end of the "Tibby" song, Crow makes a crack about the scene towards the camera (die-hard "just a show" deniers might say he was speaking to the Mads or CamBot). Later when a cheesy rocket model lifts off, Crow asks "Hey, Joel, remind you of anything?" and Servo sings a bit of the theme song. Wink, wink. Then again, I suppose the weekly letters are bit of fourth-wall breaking themselves.

I don't know why, but Joel acting like an abusive parent is always funny. As punishment for a bad pun ("And that's the tanks I get.") and without warning, Joel rips off Crow's arm, bonks him on the beak with it and tosses it across the theater. Not as hysterical as the time he broke a chair over Servo, but still pretty funny. Funny the second time, too.

"Do you realize a robot just sang a love song to a turtle?" (7/10)

[Update: Shoot, I forgot to enter the "Kenny, What Gives?" contest. I would have to claim that Kenny is, in reality, composed of millions upon million of tiny, little turtles. This would explain everything.]

film d. Noriaki Yuasa (1965)
mst d. Jim Mallon (8 Jun 1991)

10 August 2006

Guest OLR: Dumbland (2002)

A more accurate title would have been "OH GOD, WHY?!!" (6/10)

d. David Lynch

Guest MST3K: 213

Godzilla Vrs The Sea Monster. I have to admit it, I've never been a fan of the guys in big rubber suits genre. Many years ago when I was watching MST3K for the first time, I cringed whenever I realized we were in for a Gamera or Godzilla flick. I must say though that this one did seem to have unusually peppy music, and the zippy dance numbers were fun as well. But, just like any Japanese rubber extravaganza, I didn't understand alot. What was going on with the dance marathon at the start? Why did the master thief invite the three trespassers to spend the night on the yacht he was stealing? Why... oh, never mind. The point of this movie, like all of its ilk, is to see rubber monsters stomping on models and each other. I did however find this movie sorta endearing with its goofy charm. Tiny miniature singing twins, Japa-naizes, and catchy dance numbers were all fun, even before the monsters came on in full swing.

What this movie taught me: If for some reason you feel a need to wake up Godzilla, it makes sense to do this by rigging up a copper necklace to deliver a lightning bolt, thus insuring that he's in a really, really bad mood when he does get going. Only wimps would think of trying to make a big noise or something first.

Despite my misgivings of all things Godzilla, I took an instant liking to this episode with the first host segment. I just love it for some reason when Joel does nurturing things like reading a story to the bots. "Do ALL the voices!" The invention exchange was a winner as well. Loved the facial expressions on Joel as he grimaced musically. And the mad's "music" segment was great as well. Seeing Frank in shades and his black chauffeur's uniform really worked. I didn't expect to like the genesis of Godzilla segment, but the rhyming beat poetry format quickly won me over. And it does make sense that if Joel did ever crack from the strain of being marooned in space, he's react by building bizarre little models of places on earth. I kinda wish that theme had been expanded on more in the next segment, though it was still nice hearing Mike do his Mothra impression. The entries in the "Cool thing" contest were indeed cool. And the bit about Dr. F "spearheading the committee" had me laughing.

It took JatB a long time to enter the theater. Well, only a minutes or two, but I missed them anyways. Once there, though, the riffing was solid and well paced. I was relieved that there weren't as many drawn butter jokes as there might have been, thought the Planet of the Apes riff got old fast. Still, it was a solid effort all around. A good episode, and one that puts me in a better frame of mind for watching other Best Brains treatment of Japanese monster flicks.

My 3 favorite riffs:

(Dinner time aboard the boat)
Wow, Steve is really delicious!

(Our heroes scale a cliff.)
Oh no guys, we got rock climbing! [Various groans]

(Our heroes make a made escape attempt, dodging bullets!)
Oh, Scooby-san!

09 August 2006

MST3K (301)

301 - Cave Dwellers - A solid start to season three. This episode actually feels like a continuation of season two. The guys seem to be on the same wavelength and Servo's still wearing his late season two fez. Not a surpise, as this ep aired only four months after 213. Of course, the real reason there was a four month gap between 213 and 301 was that the SOL was trapped in an asteroid field (in Earth's orbit?).

Ator: "Man's destiny is always predetermined." Joel: "Oh, he's a Calvinist." Except for a slow period near the beginning of the movie, the riffing was consistently funny. I like it when the guys give characters their own voices. Ator was always meant to sound like a dumb jock, anyway.

Joel's smoking jacket wasn't a great sign for the invention exchange idea drought. Smoking jackets that actually smoke… hrm… old joke. The robot arm wrestling that the Mads had wasn't bad, though. It was made better by Frank and Trace's goofy acting as they tested their mechanical strength.

C'mon. There's got to be a scene cut out of the MST3K version of the movie where Ator takes a couple weeks to construct a hang glider. Or maybe, he has them strategically stashed all over the countryside? I'd even buy that some wizard guy beamed him one. Ator suddenly appearing in the sky seemingly five minutes after arriving in the vicinity of the castle? No way. Not even with two swords.

"She's making flash powder from her own filth." (8/10)

film d. Joe D'Amato [as David Hills] (1984)
mst d. Jim Mallon (1 Jun 1991)

MST3K (season two closing thoughts)

Goodbye, season two.

The highlight of the season for me was the introduction of Frank. Dopey and good-natured, he's the perfect foil for the pessimistically evil Dr. F. My only complaint is that he doesn't get enough screen time. I never cared much for the Mads' section of the host segments, but Frank makes them fun.

Just as welcome were Mike's guest appearances as various visiting movie characters. The hexfield viewscreen was a brilliant addition to the SOL, allowing for greater variety in the host segments. Already, it's pretty clear that Mike was the only choice to don the jumpsuit in 513. He's the best actor of the crew, able to mimic an evil TV dad and a mush-mouthed villainess with equal aplomb.

Gerry and Sylvia are plain scary.

Gone is the ADHD Joel, unable to sit in his seat in the theater. Sure, he gets up a few times to play with a handful of things onscreen, but Joel is much more chair-bound than he was in season one. I liked the dancing, prop-using Joel in season one's theater segments. I wonder what made him change?

I've seen some bad movies in my day, but some of season two's selections wowed me with their ineptitude. Rocket Attack U.S.A. and Ring of Terror, in particular, were on a level of badness that I'm just not used to. These are the kinds of films that fool other bad filmmakers into thinking they can easily make something for the big screen. This may actually explain Manos.

Though I didn't like any single season two episode as much as I liked season one's Robot Holocaust, overall things are getting better. Except for the lack of invention exchange ideas, the host segments are funnier in season two. Joel's lemur and space madness sketches are my favorites of the entire show so far.

I'm looking forward to season three, coming up next. From how people talk about it, it is seems to be the quintessential Joel season, packed with classic episodes.

The Numbers

Total Length
21 hours, 5 minutes, 58 seconds
(97 min average for 13 episodes)

Years Spanned
(1961 average)

Shorts Years Spanned
(1940 average)

Time to Watch
22 days
Time to Broadcast Originally
134 days

Turkey Day Episodes
10 (77%)
201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 213 (28 Nov 1991)
208, 210 (26 Nov 1992)
Total Robert L. Lippert Films
201, 203, 208, 210 (31%)
Total Giant Lizard Films
208, 210, 212, 213 (31%)
Total "Biker" Films
202, 207, 209 (23%)
Total Episodes with Joel's Goatee
207, 208, 209 (23%)
Black and White to Color Ratio

08 August 2006

Guest OLR: Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Dated, unrealistic, and a bit sexist, but it's refreshing to see characters do nothing but talk to one another for two hours and fourty minutes. (6/10)

d. Otto Preminger

06 August 2006

OLR: Godzilla (1998)

The people, Minillas and story were terrible, but Zilla himself was cool. (6/10)

d. Roland Emmerich

MST3K (213)

213 - Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster - Godzilla, Part 7 is much better than Part 13. No annoying kids and kooky robots here; just old school Mysterious Island-style giant monsters and James Bond-style evil organizations. The titular Sea Monster was pretty nifty, I thought. A big, disgusting lobster is neater than the unidentifiable bug-thing from the last movie. It seems to be SOP that you get more giant monsters in a Godzilla movie than mentioned in the title. It was nice to see Mothra put in an appearance as an escape vehicle, even though she didn't partake in any fisticuffs.

Joel's bout of space madness was hysterical. His facial expressions and voice are dead-on obsessed geek. I love Crow's loud laugh when he hides under the table. My only disappointment was that the guys didn't follow up during the next host segment. C'mon, Crazy Joel forgot about the destruction to his precious models?

I was a little disappointed there wasn't any special season finale-type stuff going on. Last year, we had a doomsday device that spanned the host segments. Crazy Joel would've been a great idea to span the segments for this finale. He has been up there for two years now.

The theme of ripping on the one-eyed evil guy's monocular vision was fun. Leader-Guy: "You must be losing your sight." Servo-as-One-Eye: "I don't think that's funny, sir, but go on."

For a song not written by Mike, the "Godzilla Genealogy Bop" wasn't bad. However, I was thrown off by references to a couple famous people I didn't recognize. (Lorna Luft is Judy Garland's non-Liza daughter, Karl Malden is a character actor who apparently possesses a grotesque nose). Good to know that Ron Perlman is Godzilla's grandson, too.

I get the sense that the guys recently watched Killdozer. This is the second ep in a row in which they reference it. Makes me want to seek out a copy.

"I'm on a seafood diet. I see food and I rip it out of your arm socket." (8/10)

film d. Jun Fukuda (1966)
mst d. Jim Mallon (2 Feb 1991)

Fincher (1995-1997)

1995 - Se7en - I remember watching this the weekend it came out. Serial killer flick, seven deadly sins, directed by some music video guy. That's about all I knew about it. I'd gone to see the film with a friend who I was visiting at a college. Both fans of Nine Inch Nails, we'd been listening to The Downward Spiral and its remix albums at loud volumes in his dorm room and car. As soon as the tortured open credits began, backed by NIN's grinding remix "closer (precursor)", I knew I was in for something that spoke to my sensibilities.

I wasn't disappointed. Ostensibly a buddy-cop crime thriller, Se7en destroys this conventional framework by questioning the nature of evil in the world. It's here to stay, so what do you do about it? Do you try to righteously destroy it? Do you channel your anger into battling it as best you can? Or do you simply "pick up the pieces"?

The production and sound design for this film are excellent. Both come together to create a horribly depressing atmosphere for the nameless city. Rain, rust and rot abound. The poorly lit gluttony house is beautiful in its decay. John Doe's apartment is a masterpiece, as are his actually written-in diaries. Sight and sound convincingly create a city composed of the worst parts of every major city in the United States.

Howard Shore is not John Williams. He doesn't make movie music that you whistle to yourself. Instead, he creates music that can be organically woven into the sound design of the film. His simple, low string sounds make the nameless city breath with depressed sighs.

This is one of the few films to ever elicit a physical reaction from me in the theater (Begotten was another). The path to the climax, starting with the conversation in the long car ride out into the middle of nowhere, steadily and confidently builds tension. As the climax approached, much to my surprise, I felt myself getting nervous. Movies never make me nervous or jumpy, yet my heart rate and breathing quickened. Eleven years later, it's still a helluva scene and contains some of best acting Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are ever going to commit to celluloid.

Better than my other, favorite serial killer films: American Psycho, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, M, and The Silence of the Lambs. Out of more than 500 movies over the past two-and-a-half years, this is only the fifth that I've given my highest rating to. I wouldn't change a thing about it. (10/10)

1997 - The Game - Both my friend and I agreed that this film doesn't hold up to multiple viewings. Knowing that this really is just a game forces you to watch the entire middle portion of the film with a mixture of cynicism and incredulity. There are just too many hard-to-believe pieces to the game that can't be easily swallowed. A physical and psych test could only get a company so far.

More ambiguity might have given repeat watchers something more to chew on. The fact that Claire heard Nicholas' password for his Swiss bank account could've been played with a bit. Instead of Nicholas "getting the girl" at the end, a slight implication that she was running off with his fortune might have been interesting.

This film is kind of a cruel version of Groundhog Day. Fate tortures a lonely, cynical man until he is forced to change himself. Instead of learning piano and how to love, Nicholas gets the legacy of his suicidal and distant father beat out of him. It didn't actually work that well. Being stripped of his father's fortune, having his father's mansion trashed and being forced to sell his father's watch didn't do it for him. He needed to be pushed into a suicide attempt before, presumably, he was free of his father's shadow. More interesting than therapy, anyway.

The film is technically well-shot, lit and scored. I particularly liked the depressingly nostalgic 8mm shots and Howard Shore's accompanying music. Michael Douglas plays his standard asshole character better than anyone.

This is probably the happiest film Fincher will ever make. That's one reason I like the guy. (7/10)

05 August 2006

MST3K (212)

212 - Godzilla vs. Megalon - I'm a little ashamed to say that this, Godzilla, Part 13, is the first Godzilla movie I've ever seen. I can now say I've seen one third of a Godzilla film, anyway. The titular character doesn't bother to show up until the movie's almost over will. Meanwhile, we're stuck with an annoying kid straight out of Gamera and an Ultraman rip-off robot. At least the quad-monster fight at the end gives the guys plenty of non-dialogue film to riff with.

Why's the red jumpsuit back? The color scheme of the show was evolving until now. In the KTMA days, Joel was in a blah-beige suit with both Crow and Gypsy painted a very similar gold color and Servo painted silver. Not very exciting to look at, they were all washed out and indistinct. Enter the Comedy Channel and a bigger budget. Now Servo and Joel are red, Crow is yellow and Gypsy is purple. Pretty good. Things are brighter and almost everyone has their own thing going. Enter season two. Joel switches to a green jumpsuit. Finally, everyone is pleasantly iconic. Servo is red, Crow is yellow, Joel is green and Gypsy is purple. Bonus: the three who enter the theater have colors that match the lights on the movie sign console.

With this episode, Joel is Servo-color again. You wouldn't put both Alvin and Simon in red dresses, would you? Velma and Shaggy would never both wear orange, right? Jason would never don a red and green striped jumpsuit to battle Freddy, I don't think? Ah well, Mike's wisely-colored jumpsuit will fix this in two-and-half years.

I'm guessing there was a series of Redenbacher ads back in '90 in which Orville starred with his grandson? Apparently, the grandson had a funny haircut? I don't remember, luckily for me. This is probably the least timeless sketch the guys have ever done. I was alive during that time and didn't get it. This one'll be mystifying to anyone too young or not alive at that time. I suppose we're lucky it wasn't a "Where's the beef?" skit.

No need to state: "Rex Dart: Eskimo Spy" simply rules.

"Mine has a secret. There's an elf in his head." (7/10)

film d. Jun Fukuda (1973)
mst d. Jim Mallon (19 Jan 1991)

OLR: V for Vendetta (2005)

The spirit, hopes and fears of 2005 writ large on screen. (9/10)

d. James McTeigue

02 August 2006

MST3K (211)

211 - First Spaceship on Venus - A surprisingly diverse cast for the time, cool visuals, some good ideas, and still not a fun movie. I think this is mostly because the film constantly grinds to a halt under the weight of its thick technobabble. In fact, anything that takes place on the ship -- which is the majority of the movie -- is pretty tedious. There's lots of banter between the scientists aboard about topics I don't want to hear about.

The sparse scenes on the surface of Venus are creative and interesting. The little metal bugs that serve as the Venusians' historical records are imaginative, despite JatB's contention that they're Johnson Smith products. The sequence involving the living, black ooze was the best in the movie. Even the surface and atmosphere are effectively alien.

The guys just didn't have it in them this time around. The riffing isn't as funny as it has been earlier this season. I'm not sure what the deal was with the space ape. I don't think XT-5000 will be returning. In the ACEG, Murphy says that they immediately went on vacation (presumably for Christmas) after filming this episode and offers that as an explanation.

I did get one solid laugh from one riff. Astronaut: "I'm completely surrounded by thick clouds." Servo: "Mostly produced by my own body."

The Klack host segment was great fun in the tradition of SPACOM. The rapid-fire, completely weird food items were worth an immediate re-watch. Again, there was no 800 number, so I wasn't able to order this wonderful product.

"Everything's better in the Crawlercopter." Yes. Yes it is. (6/10)

film d. Kurt Maetzig (1960)
mst d. Jim Mallon (29 Dec 1990)

01 August 2006

MST3K (210)

210 - King Dinosaur (w/ X Marks the Spot) - I waited in eager anticipation almost the whole episode for the titular King Dinosaur. Is he going to be like a Godzilla thing? Maybe we'll get to see the lost stop-motion dinosaur action from Lost Continent? Nope, it's an iguana. Geez, what a rip. Worse, I ended up feeling sorry for the lizard. The filmmakers make the critter do battle with another lizard and a baby alligator. The gator even death-rolls with the poor iguana's leg in its mouth. The magic of editing ensures that our "King" wins, but it didn't look good for the pet store reject.

The alien planet is pretty much just some woods and all of the animals from the Toledo Zoo let loose. This seems goofy on its face. It's an alien planet, but the filmmakers were so financially and creatively bankrupt that all of the alien creatures are identical to earth animals, just with a few size variations. I like it, anyway. It's not so much that it's an alien planet, but that it's unexplored territory. There's barely an inch on this planet that isn't owned by someone somewhere. To suddenly find another entire planet full of untouched, but earth-like wilderness would be something special and exciting.

Of course, this is a Lippert movie we're talking about and that beautiful, unspoiled nature is soon consumed in a fireball of atomic hell. Lippert's significantly upped the stakes since Jungle Goddess (is this BIG's influence?). Back then, it was "shoot anything you don't understand." Now it's "nuke it and ask questions later." Man, I can't believe they nuked an island full of unique species. This is sort like a jungle explorer getting stung by a bee and setting fire to the whole forest.

Finally, a real short! And it's educational, too. If you drive like an asshole, you'll die at an intersection that lacks stop signs, but is clearly marked with a large, white death X. That seems fair.

Boy, Joel is a goofball in this episode. In the lemur host segment, he bounces his lemur puppet all over the place with silly glee. At one point, he makes the lemur hump the back of Servo's head. In the final host segment, he runs around the set pretending to play a bad prop version of a Theremin. I like utter goofball Joel. I hope he returns.

We're really running out of invention ideas this season. A squished Dr. F. and stinky socks aren't really inventions. I did dig the sly reference to Joel's now-missing goatee with the fake beards on the bots.

A couple of riffs didn't make me laugh, but got my attention. Nora: "You conservative doctors." Joel: "Hey, we're neoconservative doctors." Sixteen years later and the joke is timely. Crow, after a shot of an owl: "The owl footage is not what it seems." Neat, a reference to the other best TV show ever. (8/10)

film d. Bert I. Gordon (1955)
short d. Warren Murray (1944)
mst d. Jim Mallon (22 Dec 1990)

Guest MST3K: 208

The Lost Continent. An experimental rocket makes a desperate bid for freedom, and it's cruel military overlords vow to return it in chains for a lifetime of soul crushing slavery. Luckily for the audience, the rocket has attempted to escape to the top of a mountain, so our heroes have to climb rocks to find it. Alot of rocks. For hours and hours of film time. With little dialog to distract from the non-stop action. Or even, at times, music. It's understandable that Joel and the Bots end up screaming and crying at the screen. The film does actually have some pretty neat looking stop motion claymation dinosaurs. More dinos, less seeming endless rock climbing scenes, and this might have actually been a fun little flick.

What this movie taught me: Sometimes mountains crumble into rubble for no apparent reason.

I laughed a bit at the opening host segment. A sports pep talk probably is a good idea if you're stuck in space forced to watch stinkers. The athletic theme continued with Frank's moving treadmill and other mobile exercise machines. Poor Joel, though, not being able to do his invention. I guess they had to cut it to make room for all the rock climbing. And I guess the Mads were using electric shocks to force him into the theater against his will? Mike makes a fine Hugh Beaumont, whom I never really saw as the bringer of the apocalypse, but it does make sense now that I think about it. I enjoyed the call backs to Jungle Goddess in the skit where Joel explains that he needs the bots to act stupid so he can indulge is white man's need for smug imperialistic superiority, though I think I would have liked it better if Mike and Jim had been back as the British aliens. And I'm pretty jealous that nothing cool ever appears for me to watch outside my rocket #9.

I thought the riffing tended to be a bit overly repetitious in this episode. The line "You ever fly one of these before" was repeated several times, and didn't seem that funny to me to start with. Joel seemed more interactive with this movie than I've seen in some other efforts, I guess maybe the dialog might not have given them much to work with.

My 3 favorite riffs:

(Pilot: Liberation. It's a wonderful thing. Let's drink to it.)
Oh, must be a Northwestern flight.

(After the plane crash lands)
Let's form a soccer team and eat each other.

(a pterodactyl shows up, with a peculiar cry)
Hey! It's a trumpeter swan.