22 December 2006

MST3K (602)

602 - Invasion USA (w/ A Date with Your Family) - "This makes me pine for Red Dawn." Me too, Servo. Me too. The 25% of this film that wasn't WWII stock footage was pretty engaging, actually. I'll take this piece of Cold War propaganda over the ridiculous Rocket Attack U.S.A. any day.

One bit I don't understand: why couldn't they say "Soviet Union" in this movie? It's always "the Enemy" or "the Communists." There's no doubt that it was that particular political power doing the invading, coming through Alaska as they did. Were the filmmakers afraid that, in addition to inflating American jingoism, they might also piss off the Russians and make the Cold War warmer? That's kinda arrogant for such a cheap-o film, ain't it?

"Hey, I like my family... as a friend!" I've said it before: I'm glad it isn't the 1950s anymore. Wow, were there ever a lot of rules for eating dinner back then. It was also, apparently, a terrifying event. Implicit during the entire meal: "don't tick Daddy off." What would happen were his ire raised, I can only imagine.

"The dinner table is no place for discontent." Both the short and the movie had some of the best riffing since Outlaw. I was afraid people in the offices around here were going to stop by and ask me why I was laughing out loud so much.

What a disappointment. The two Lois Lanes, though they strangely both had the same job as travel agents, were only in the movie for 3 seconds. It was implied in Crow's geeky host segment in his graph of the two Loises, but I'll say it straight and on the record: Phyllis was best. This, despite her unfortunate 'fro in this flick.

Sweet Data, another senseless robot murder. Not again! Not again! First there was the XT-5000, the delightful bot who spoke only the language of foam. He disappeared without a trace. Then there was Minksy, the kindly bot who only had best wishes for everyone. His life was snuffed out by Joel. In this episode, the cycle of violence continues. Clearly imitating their father Joel, Crow and Servo commit boticide most foul. I could only watch in powerless terror as they destroyed Mike's first son, the gentle Destroyer bot. Why? Why?

"They bomb our nation's hobos." (8/10)

film d. Alfred E. Green (1952)
short d. Edward G. Simmel (1950)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (23 Jul 1994)

[watched at work using my laptop. slow time during the holidays is great.]

21 December 2006

MST3K (601)

601 - Girls Town - The umbilicus is certainly no hexfield viewscreen. When that essential component of the SOL was introduced, we were treated to -- still -- one of the funniest hexfield appearances ever. In this season premiere, the umbilicus generates a boring set of host segments from the Mads and a tired pie-in-the-face gag. I can't really see how it'll be too useful for the show in the future. Was there a great need for Mike and the Mads to swap physical objects? I suppose I'll find out.

The "Honor System" host segment almost seemed like a leftover from the Joel era. In it, Mike brings his snack tray out from hiding and declares that bots can have one piece of candy per day on their honor. Servo eats the entire tray offscreen, of course. It felt like a classic "Papa Joel" segment, with the human trying to teach the bots a lesson as if they were children. I think the Brains are still trying to figure out Mike's relationship with the bots.

"Bet they're all on the same cycle at Girls Town." Crow, gross... Anyway, I was happy to find myself laughing at the riffing after the mediocre season finale yesterday. It helps, I think, to have a load of actors and characters begging to be razzed. The bubble-chinned Mel Tormé, the torpedo-chested Mamie Van Doren, the impossibly wussy Paul Anka and the coo-coo-crazy chick that's in love with him all fuel some great riffing.

Look at all of the writers listed in the credits now. I wonder why they hired all of the new faces? I really can't tell the difference between the writing in this episode as compared to similarly humorous ones from season five. Did they need to fill out a softball team?

"You'll have to check those at the desk." (7/10)

film d. Charles F. Haas (1959)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (16 Jul 1994)

MST3K (season five closing thoughts)

Goodbye, season five.

After 5 years of steady improvement, the show falters just a bit. According to the average of all of my ratings, I liked this season less than the previous two. This feels correct. There were a more than a few episodes this year that I will more than likely never watch again. Yet, season five is the only season with two 9-rated episodes in it so far, including the only episode to win a TV award. Interesting year, this was.

The slight decrease in average episode quality is understandable. The year saw the hugest, biggest cast change possible for the show. I'm very impressed that the guys made it through this major mid-year transition with such ease. Mike effortlessly steps into the role as master of MSTie ceremonies. He's so good at this job that I can say I wasn't missing Joel all that much by the time 524 came to town.

Other than the Joel-Mike switchover, this season marked a few milestones for me. It contains both the temporal and episode midpoints in this marathon of mine. Watching 3 or 4 of these things per week and blogging about it is quite a time-eater. It felt great to survive to the halfway point. It was also the first time that I ever managed to watch an entire episode on the MST3K high-holiday of Turkey Day. That wasn't easy at all.

Season six will be interesting. I think I've only seen two of the (Rhino-released) episodes from that year, so it'll be all new to me. I'm really looking forward to 604. After watching Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare, I'm a confirmed Thor fan. I also can't wait to see 611, which I gather is the "parallel universe" episode. That should be fun. I'll also find out whether Frank's last episode is as great as Joel's? From today until February, season six it is.

The Numbers

Total Length
36 hours, 57 minutes, 51 seconds
(92 min average for 24 episodes)
(13 min average for 1 special)

Years Spanned
(1963 average)

Shorts Years Spanned
(1954 average)

Time to Watch
44 days
Time to Broadcast Originally
204 days

Turkey Day Episodes
9 (38%)
505, 507, 512, 513, 514, 517 (25 Nov 1993)
503, 511, 512 (24 Nov 1994)
512, 519 (23 Nov 1995)
MST Hour Episodes
3 (13%)
504, 505, 507
Teens Gone Wild
507, 509, 514, 522, 523 (21%)
Total Episodes with Joel's Goatee
--- (0%) [Joel, what happened this year?]
Crappy Italian Movies Purporting to Take Place Partially in My Home State
504 (4%)
Black and White to Color Ratio

20 December 2006

MST3K (524)

524 - 12 to the Moon (w/ Design for Dreaming) - Though as a piece of cinema it isn't fit to shine Rocketship X-M's shoes, I have to admire the progressive -- for the era -- ideas in this flick. Seven years before Star Trek, it features a diverse crew exploring space with the intent of declaring the Moon international territory. Even more impressive than this, just three years after the Red Scare, the film features a sympathetic character from the Soviet Union who soundly rejects the evil Frenchman's treacherous offer. Plus, they accurately guessed the name of the first manned craft to land on the Moon. None of this is enough to save the movie, but it's interesting nevertheless.

Now, why in the hell did the Moon People freeze Earth? We'd just given them a pair of cats (and a pair of humans) and taken off for home just like they asked. What's the problem, guys? I suspect that, in an ill-advised effort to feel useful, the Asian lady just pretended to know how to read the Moon People language and made up everything. Their script really didn't look like any earthbound oriental language. Even if it were related, given language's ability to mutate into mutual unintelligible dialects within even one little country on Earth, I sincerely doubt she'd be able to understand the Moon People's version of Chinese. Or am I reading too much into this?

As far as the MST3K crew's contribution to this episode, I wasn't impressed with that either. I feel like they're on autopilot lately. Technically, everything seems to be executed just fine. The riffing is plentiful and appears to be cleverly written. They're just not pushing the humor button in my brain as much with the past few episodes.

The host segments from this episode just had to be shown at Mike Nelson and Bridget Jones' wedding. Bridget dancing around the bridge like a spaz in her Nuveena costume with Mike singing to her in a deep, operatic voice is just the thing for the family to pull out in order to embarrass the couple. I can imagine the DJ at the reception, imagining that he's clever, shouting into his mic during the couple's first dance: "Do the Nuveena, Bridget!"

"Clown suit by Bargin Clown® of Hollywood." (6/10)

film d. David Bradley (1960)
short d. William Beaudine (1956)
mst d. Jim Mallon (5 Feb 1994)

19 December 2006

MST3K (523)

523 - Village of the Giants - Holy cow! B.I.G., master of the intended-to-be-serious giant monster flicks of the 1950s, dives headfirst into the style and sensibilities of the '60s. I'm not likely to forget his 3-hour-long scene in which the newly giant-ized teens dance in slow-mo to psychedelic music.

This is one of the rare episodes that I enjoyed the host segments more than any of the riffing. The riffing didn't manage to get me to laugh out loud even once. The density of the commenting was high. There was good variety to the things they had to say. I'm not sure what went wrong. It could be that the movie was sufficiently goofy enough on its own and didn't need any help from snarky silhouettes. Not helping is the laugh that Crow has begun using to laugh at his own jokes. I don't mind when Servo does it -- he keeps his chuckles short, low and respectful. Crow's, on the other hand, is kind of like a higher-pitched Hawkeye laugh.

No riffs about "Mickey"? C'mon, guys! Toni Basil, the one-hit wonder, was the redhead who distracted the giants with her interpretive dance.

I normally dislike it when all of the host segments follow a continuing story. I usually argue that I'd prefer the crapshoot of random segments. I take that back. The storyline of Frank getting laid off from Deep 13 was great. I was looking forward to the next segment as soon as the previous one had ended. I'm a huge fan of Frank, anyway, which undoubtedly increased my appreciation of the segments. Normally, we only get 3 seconds of guy per episode.

Mike was better than ever as Torgo, Frank's replacement. Mike has Torgo's signature tics and voice mannerism down better than even the great John Reynolds. I had no idea that there were more Mike-as-Torgo appearances after 508. What a treat! I hope he makes more surprise visits.

"There were sanitation problems." (7/10)

film d. Bert I. Gordon (1965)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (22 Jan 1994)

MST3K (522)

522 - Teen-Age Crime Wave - Living Room: The Movie. This is definitely the dullest of the juvenile delinquent films we've had so far. Lots of Bible readin', phone callin', and standin' 'round with guns. Not one person was offered a recording contract. Imagine.

Mrs. Kernunrex was in the room for a portion of the episode. She: "Is this a much later episode?" Me: "No, it's the one right after the one we watched." She: "Oh, their comments are so much funnier." I don't know about that. I think she was just more awake today. Maybe the riffing during this one had slightly more "pure funny" comments as opposed to references, which would appeal to her more. The riffing was pretty standard for this point in the show to me. Or maybe I'm the one not awake?

Some of the host segments seemed to be lacking something. The "Doughy Guys" song never really broke into a true MST3K-style tune. It also could've used some visual aids. In the Joel era, we would've at least had some colored pencil drawings on cardboard to illustrate the doughy guys of the song. Instead, we just get a scrolling list. The "Mythos" parody of a Mentos commercial was probably a lot fresher back in 1994. At this point, the proportion of Mentos parodies to real Mentos commercials I've seen is around 20:1. I was hoping the guys might have an extra joke or two to spice this particular parody up, but all they had were some clever lyrics.

The movie and host segments were too short for the 92-minute slice of Comedy Central programming they had to fill, so the guys pulled out an old trick. I still think the first time we had a never-ending series of false starts for the end credits was funnier. This is probably only because of the novelty of the idea two years ago; clearly, Frank dressed in tights and screaming in pain should be the more hilarious of the two. I wonder if Frank still has that costume?

"I'm afraid you're going down, kitten. Hard." (6/10)

film d. Fred F. Sears (1955)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (15 Jan 1994)

13 December 2006

MST3K (521)

521 - Santa Claus - It's the second (and final) special Christmas episode of the series. I like that I got to watch it at the appropriate time of year. I'm in the mood to watch Christmas movies anyway, so one wrapped inside of an MST3K episode sounds particularly delicious. The big question is: which one was better? During future Decembers, am I going to pull out Santa Claus Conquers the Martians or this episode? I gave 321 the very same numerical rating that I ended up giving 521. If forced to choose, I'd have to say that I slightly prefer 321 over 521. The Martian stuff is just too bizarre not to love and there's just way too much international singing at the beginning of this movie.

This was the first episode I ever got Mrs. Kernunrex to watch with me. Well, she was awake for 2/3rds of it, anyway. Whenever I'd suggest watching an ep before this, she'd just groan. This time, I sold it as "a Christmas movie that was also a MST3K episode." That seemed to work. She appeared to enjoy it, chuckling just as much as I did. We both laughed loudly at the utterly insane "cackling, mechanical reindeer" scene. She also commented about how clever the lyrics to the theme song of the show were, which is something I just take for granted at this point.

It's a Christmas musical bonanza, with three of the host segments dedicated to songs. This is appropriate, seeing as how most Christmas specials on TV are musicals. The prologue segment features a hilariously tragic attempt at a carol. I love it when the bots go to pieces. The first host segment features Santa Kläws performing "Whispering Christmas Warrior." Mike and the bots put together a spookily accurate representation of an '80s new wave band. This segment also displays the most camera movement I've seen in the show so far. Usually the most we'll get is a zoom, but they pulled out all of the stops to imitate the camera gyrations of a music video in this one. The third host segment features a successful attempt at a carol, the all-inclusive "Merry Christmas - If That's O.K.", which Mike unsurprisingly sings beautifully.

The Brains read my mind. All throughout the movie, I kept thinking "wow, I'd like the see Santa kick Pitch's ass." Wish granted. Thanks Paul Chaplin and Kevin Murphy for making my dream come true!

"Well, he was here alright. This is definitely Santa scat." (7/10)

film d. René Cardona & K. Gordon Murray (1959)
mst d. Jim Mallon (24 Dec 1993)

11 December 2006

MST3K (520)

520 - Radar Secret Service (w/ Last Clear Chance) - A terribly boring movie welded to not-great host segments makes for, hopefully, the worst episode of the season. As Kevin Murphy said in the ACEG, the movie is "like an episode of Commando Cody without the action." Worse, I found it impossible to keep anybody straight. All of the main characters are similar-looking white guys wearing gray suits and gray hats who stand around a lot. The two female characters are blondes with upswept hairdos who wear similar dark dresses. Everyone drives big, black cars. Everyone pulls revolvers on everyone else at one point or another. Everyone says the word "radar" a lot. Speaking of that part of the EM spectrum, even the extreme goofiness inherent in watching propaganda promoting radio detection and ranging wasn't worth the pain of the rest of the film.

You can always tell that the guys are really bored with a movie when they insert unrelated conversation into the riffing. In this episode, they kept going back to discussing the characters from Welcome Back, Kotter.

The host segments didn't generate any laughs for me, either. Outside of Crow imitating the engineer from the short ("When will they learn?") and wearing underwear on his head, I didn't find much of interest here. Hypno Helio Static Stasis is no Rock Climbing and certainly no Deep Hurting. Mike poking himself in the eye with lint is OK, I suppose. I'm not a fan of the high school reunion parody, maybe because I just skipped my own ten year reunion and don't have a frame of reference for such things. The Quinn Martin Park segment was another one of those segments aimed at the generation that preceded mine. I didn't recognize most of the character actors in the park, nor am I really sure who Quinn Martin is. It looks like he was a TV producer from before I was born.

The only worthwhile piece of this episode was the short. It's a classic auto safety film with the obligatory deadly ending. Due to its earnest seriousness, it's more entertaining than the similarly themed X Marks the Spot. This also allows for plenty of funny riffing. "Gee, lady, sorry about your boyfriend. So you wanna have a drink? Maybe at the bar car over there?" That poor, kindly police officer. Not thirty seconds after he spends three hours lecturing little Alan about all of the terrible things that can happen on the road, the kids slams into a train. Not a really efficient use of tax payer money, was it?

"It has no time to stop for you corn shucking crackers." (5/10)

film d. Sam Newfield (1950)
short d. Robert Carlisle (1959)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (18 Dec 1993)

09 December 2006

OLR: Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (1980)

The new scenes with Brando and Reeve are excellent and it has a less goofy edit, but suffers from the traditional Superman movie weak ending. (8/10)

d. Richard Donner & Richard Lester

OLR: Lifeforce (1985)

Too much time is spent in the confines of the Space Research Center, but the hottest space vampire in the galaxy helps make up for that. (6/10)

d. Tobe Hooper

03 December 2006

OLR: The Santa Clause (1994)

The large sections about divorce and custody battles clearly bored my six-year-old niece, but the Santa stuff was neat. (6/10)

d. John Pasquin

[watched at Brother-in-Law's house using an Xbox]

01 December 2006

MST3K (519)

519 - Outlaw - I was curious and now I know. This episode won the 1993 Peabody Award for Outstanding Quality Programming because it's damned funny. I'm glad I saved this one to watch with a friend. We both enjoyed some hearty laughter after watching what we both considered to be a depressing documentary.

Not knowing anything about this episode (other than the award), the Mitchell-level riffing was a pleasant surprise. Ground stabbing, '80s hair, hinders everywhere, Jack Palance with neat hats and one of the most annoying characters in MST3K history give the guys plenty of material to work with. I also think this episode would make for a great double feature with Cave Dwellers, which is another strong show with a very similar movie.

"I'm supposed to be some kind of freaking wizard." This line, from the "Palance on Palance" host segment, had us both cracking up long after the segment had finished. After watching Jack parade around in his silly outfits for the entire movie, this was the perfect window in his likely state of mind about the part. I almost never laugh this hard at a joke from a host segment. I'm going to insert this line into conversations tomorrow to make my friend re-crack-up over it.

I liked most of the host segments in this episode, in fact. The "Tubular Boobular" song was incredibly well-written, funny and expertly performed. The quick montage of "buffalo shots" in the final host segment was, clearly, the only logical item to comment upon after surviving the intense rumpage of the movie. Frank, dressed as a Roman, and Dr. F, dressed as a caveman, dancing together was a delicious bit of silliness reminiscent of the host segments from Pod People.

Wow. Two all-time favorite episodes in one season: one with Joel and the other with Mike. Way to conquer the difficult host replacement thing, guys!

"Cabot!" (9/10)

film d. John "Bud" Cardos (1987)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (11 Dec 1993)

[watched with Chef Gregory Jay after traveling through a helluva winter storm]

OLR: An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

I found the graphs the most interesting bit; I can't see how I could possibly share Gore's optimism. (8/10)

d. Davis Guggenheim

[watched with Chef Gregory Jay]

OLR: Alone in the Wilderness (2003)

The ingenuity Dick Proenneke displays is amazing and we're lucky he decided to film himself, though many great stories from the book are left out. (9/10)

d. Bob Swerer Jr. & Dick Proenneke

[watched with Chef Gregory Jay]