Eegah – Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live Trip Report

MST3K LiveMystery Science Theater 3000 returned from the dead after two spinoff projects keep the spirit alive, hosting a huge Kickstarter that created a brand new season with a new cast (Disclaimer – I was a backer of the Kickstarter and my name is in the credits of one of the episodes as a result!) In addition to the new shows, the cast also went on a live tour across the nation, and as a guy who goes to these things, I went to these things when they came to San Francisco, braving the ridiculous $13 processing fee for each ticket to go see them at the Warfield in downtown SF over two nights.

First up was the ridiculous Eegah. Now, you are probably saying “Tars, wasn’t this movie already done by MST3K?” and I’ll say “Yes, yes it was, but now it is done again!” While both RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic have double-dipped into MST3Ked movies, this is the first time the tv series itself double-dips, even if just for a live tour. Every joke is new (except one deliberately left in as a classic riff and refered to as such after they say it!), and Eegah is one of those special movies with so much weird and ridiculous stuff going on that it is a never-ending fountain of jokes!

If you haven’t seen the new season, I suggest you get off your high horse and gets to watching! Not only do they cover a wide variety of ridiculous movies that fit right in with the MST3K canon, but the news cast brings an energy and joy level that is off the charts. They get close to maximum saturation of Riffs, you get the feeling there are hundreds of riffs on the cutting room floor just because there wasn’t enough time to fit them all into each film. The stage shows continues the wild blasts of riffs, and keeps the entire layout of an actual episode, including the theme song and host segments. The film is projected on a screen, and Jonah and the bots get into a shadow row of chairs to deliver their zingers. Of course Felicia Day and Patton Oswald (Kinga Forrester and Max) are too busy to go on a tour, so they’ve filmed video segments that the cast interacts with (and immediately break the fourth wall with by referring to them as such!) Rebecca Hanson and Grant Baciocco play Pearl Forrester’s clone Synthia and Terry the Bonehead, and are essentially the host segment foils. Joel hosts the show with opening Q&As and also helps with some of the host segments. The rest of the cast rounds out with Jonah Ray as Jonah Heston, Hampton Yount as Crow, Tim Rider as Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn had a baby so was understandably busy!), and Rebecca Hanson again as Gypsy.

We all know the classic story of Eegah, but for my readers who have been living under a rock for 25 years, this is the score: teenager Roxy Miller (Marilyn Manning) is out driving to a party but almost hits a giant caveman (who is later dubbed Eegah and is played by Richard Kiel), after telling her boyfriend Tom Nelson (Arch Hall, Jr.) and father Robert Miller (Arch Hall, Sr.), her dad sets out to prove the creature exists and promptly disappears, so Roxy and Tom go to look for him. He’s been kidnapped by Eegah, who also kidnaps (and falls for) Roxy, eventually following them back to the city after they escape his clutches, where he runs rampage before being gunned down by the police.

The film is noted for a lot of ridiculous things, but the standout scene is a very disturbing sequence where Roxy first shaves her father and then Eegah while trapped in Eegah’s cave. Just how creepy and gross this sequence is cannot be correctly conveyed by reading about it. Roxy sits on the lap of her father, shaving him like a doting young wife, his shaving kit being something he inexplicably brought with him during an overnight stay in the desert. Eegah gets jealous of Roxy not spending attention on him, so Robert suggests that she shave Eegah so he doesn’t get other ideas, basically raping her. Eegah covered in shaving cream that he keeps licking off while she’s shaving him is more terrifying than most horror movies. Don’t worry, one of the host segments also has lots of shaving cream on a giant Eegah face. Ewww…!!!

The other big thing the film is known for is a badly dubbed line that says “Watch out for snakes!”, spoken by no one as they trounce off into the desert. That became the name of the Live Tour, the Watch Out For Snakes Tour, and a running gag in the shows as when the line was said or whan any snake-related thing showed up on screen, a fancy Watch Out For Snakes graphic and song played and characters came out and waved snake guns around. You can’t get that at Hamilton!

The live shows are always fantastic as they let the energy of the crowd enhance the experience. Everyone who comes is a fan, wants to see bad movies, wants to see jokes, wants to see robots be sarcastic, and that is delivered in spades! Essentially we get two bonus episodes of the series, produced live for you and several hundred of your fellow fans who also bought tickets. It was definitely a good time, but despite Eegah‘s amazing ridiculousness, the secret film we watched the next night was an even greater time, thanks to the movie being beyond ridiculous and a film I had wanted to see riffed since I first found a copy 15 years ago. The Live Tour was awesome, and maybe one day these will emerge somehow as actual episodes. Until then, it was fantastic and I hope the riffs never stop!

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - August 14, 2017 at 8:58 pm

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The Equalizer, John Wick and Generational Masculinity: Ruminations On a Theme

Academy Award winning screenwriter Sylvester Stallone once – or, indeed, many times – said that nobody is as tough as their grandpa, because the times were tougher back then. There’s certainly some truth to that, assuming you’re lucky enough to live in the right kind of place. Of course, when Stallone said it he was promoting Rambo, a movie about an elderly Vietnam vet teaching a bunch of idealistic missionaries that only violence can solve the world’s problems.

We’ve seen this a lot in recent years, but it isn’t anything new. Clint Eastwood seems eager to prove over and over again that old people are better at pretending to be tough in movies than young people. Stallone and Schwarzenegger, once the young athletes of the silver screen, have tried to corner the market in tough old man action and even the once-acclaimed acting powerhouse Liam Neeson has become a comical posterchild for the subgenre. Mel Gibson, meanwhile, has attempted to make several comebacks of the same type with little success, while Tom Cruise gets around the issue by never aging. Even Bill Nighy has taken a swing at it!

The message is always the same: when times get tough, you need to call on someone who was forged in tougher times. Remember: no matter how bad things get, you damn kids don’t know hard times. Your grandpappy saw worse shit than the Syrian civil war on the way to church every Sunday morning and he’s not gonna let you forget it. Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino fantasizes openly about shooting black teenagers on the street, but somehow evolves into a non-racist Christ figure by teaching a young migrant lad how to be a real man (apparently it’s all in the way you talk to your barber or something). And, naturally, that’s what this is all about: being a real man.

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Posted by Ian Maddison - July 21, 2017 at 9:00 am

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Gone with the Bullets (Review)

Gone with the Bullets

aka 一步之遙 aka Yi Bu Zhi Yao aka 隨子彈飛 aka One Step Away
Gone with the Bullets
Written by Jiang Wen, Wang Shuo, Guo Jun-Li, and Shu Ping
Directed by Jiang Wen

Gone with the Bullets
Jiang Wen’s followup to Let the Bullets Fly goes in a completely different direction, a period satire of the entertainment industry, a scandalous crime, and a China carved up by colonial forces. Basically they gave Jiang Wen a dump truck full of money and he made the most ridiculous razzle-dazzle he could craft that also spent a good portion of the film mocking the very razzle-dazzle it celebrated. Yet the whole thing is hard to engage with, not even bothering to spend time to keep the audience and just flies off in whatever direction it feels like as the story rumbles along. It is certainly a spectacle, but the whole thing just isn’t my cup of tea.

Jiang Wen is Ma Zouri, a local scam artist who is so good at self-promotion that a warlord’s son comes to him for advice in an effort to switch from new money to old money to impress foreign women. Ma Zouri and his partner in crime Xiang Feitian (Ge You) see this as the perfect opportunity to fleece this guy out of all his money while simultaneously putting on the biggest talent show for ladies of the night in the history of the world, which will put Shanghai on the map. The pageant for President of Escort Nation features women from across the globe and is a huge production with multiple numbers, but in the end Wanyan Yin (Shu Qi) emerges victorious. She’s a former flame of Ma Zouri as they were growing up together, and soon the pair are racing around town high on opium until Wanyan Yin is dead in a car accident and Ma Zouri is on the run, assumed to be her killer.
Gone with the Bullets
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - July 3, 2017 at 7:55 am

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Starcrash (Review)


aka Scontri Stellari Oltre la Terza Dimensione
Written by Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates) and Nat Wachsberger
Directed by Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates)

The galaxy is threatened by a secret weapon from a mad dictator – something that projects red blobs into ships! The horror, red doesn’t go with most peoples’ outfits, which drives them mad. Or maybe the red blobs themselves drive the people mad. Whatever the case may be, the galaxy is in danger, so who’re you gonna call? Obviously two random smugglers! Wait, WHAT? It’s Italy, baby!

Starcrash is one of those films that if you love bad movies, you have to watch it. It’s the law. Bad Movie Law. That’s totally a thing. Because Starcrash is freaking awesome! There’s so much to love from every direction of cheese! We got crazy costumes, scantily clad space babes, a ridiculous robot, David Hasselhoff, light sabers, model spaceships (complete with model sprues glued to the outside!), fireworks explosions, blobby weapons, giant titans, dodgy dialogue, traitorous goons, amazing amazons, kooky cave dwellers, a hand-shaped space station, and scene-chewing villains. Mix that together and Starcrash crashes all over the screen with top notch entertainment!
Star Wars that is totally not Star Wars was a brief specialty in a lot of local movie production hot zones. Italy managed to produce more than most, thanks to Italy then being a source of hundreds of cheap films pumped out. While that system was slowly breaking apart, it was still cohesive enough to produce a good amount of science fiction junk that could cash in on Star Wars. Starcrash manages to be 1000% times more 1970s while still being an entertaining film that is a lot more swiftly paced than most of the Italian Star Wars ripoffs (the rest are almost universally long and terrible)
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 26, 2017 at 7:00 am

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Summer Shorts Beach Party – RiffTrax Live Trip Report!

RiffTrax is back in theaters again for the 25thish time, but this time has nothing but shorts, which are always the best times! Summer Shorts Beach Party also has some special guests and even live show flubs with bad mics and Kevin accidentally getting a sticker on his forehead! The special was actually pretty long, so please forgive me if I get the order slightly out of sync, I didn’t take notes (What a monster I am!)

The beach party theme was the name of the game except for the part that it was just the set decoration that was following the theme, none of the shorts took place at the beach. Though you got the feeling that weird raccoon did hang out at the beach a lot perving on the girls! Ricky Raccoon was his name, star of Ricky Raccoon Shows the Way, and he materialized from this air to explain to what must be the dumbest kid alive how to cross the street without being murdered by a car. The kid’s family was along for the ride, and Ricky demonstrated his magical powers of creating and destroying matter, becoming authority figures, displaying random charts about how he isn’t a bear, and having a terrible beard. It is implied that Ricky lives in the house the family just bought, so they’ve basically doomed themselves to a forever haunting until Ricky kills them and waits for the next family.

The Mads from MST3K Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff bring us Office Etiquette, where we learn about just how much power a local high school typing teacher has to get her students jobs, and also how to behave at work. And thanks to Trace and Frank, lots of jokes pointing out how ridiculous things are! The short contained what is my favorite riff of the night, but I’m not going to spoil it!

We also learn about the exciting world of Rhythmic Ball Skills. No, not playing with your testicles, this was having kids roll a ball around in gym class, or briefly toss it in the air and catch it. So we got a 10 minute long video explaining this concept with children who appear to have never used balls before. So many shots of multiple kids where one loses the ball and has to chase it and then go back to the choreography, all conveniently left in the film. The whole thing is ridiculous on its own, and even better with Mike, Kevin, and Bill commentary.

Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl take on The Griper, who doesn’t gripe your windows, he’s just a kid who complains about everything, and even torpedoes his chances with the only girl who actually likes him for some reason. The Griper’s conscious explains to us, the audience, what a moron he is. The conscious is played by the Griper except transparent, which implies lots of awful things if you try to break down the mythology.

With Sentinels of Safety, we get a lot of shots of children horribly injuring themselves, because that is educational, somehow. (I can’t remember if Paul F. Tompkins riffs this short or A Touch of Magic, I think it was A Touch of Magic but I could be wrong)

A Touch of Magic is a companion short to Design for Dreaming, both sponsored by General Motors and A Touch of Magic also features dancer/actress Tad Tadlock , who was dubbed Nuveena, the Woman of the Future in MST3K and even played by Bridget Nelson. We witness a party full of imaginary guests that in no way implies our leads have some sort of weird mental condition, and also fantasy knights and dragons and Jared Letos.

The highlight of the night was The Baggs, the weirdest intersection crash of “Things come to life” and “1970s grant money wasting” to ever hit the silver screen. Two sacks of trash come to life and run around, chased by a determined hoarder hobo that just must add those bags to his collection in the back of his truck. It features bags devouring bags, bags vomiting up said bag, bags eating lots of trash and getting drunk, a gang of children, and Geoffrey Lewis (!!!) as a cop!

Overall, this was an amazing show with all sorts of ridiculous fun, well worth your time to get it on replay or when the VOD/DVD drops!

RiffTrax Summer Shorts beach party

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 19, 2017 at 7:39 pm

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Mister Universo (Review)

Mister Universo

aka Mister Universe
Mister Universo
Written by Tizza Covi
Directed by Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel

Mister Universo
A pursuit for a lucky charm leads into a quasi-magical realism world with Mister Universo! The last of our SFIFF coverage, this time running over to the San Francisco Alamo Drafthouse for a fun Italian film that I probably wouldn’t have watched on my own if it wasn’t part of a festival and caught my eye in the movie listing. I’m glad it did!

Mister Universo is actually a sort of sequel to 2009’s La Pivellina (Little Girl), Tairo is grown and a lion tamers, now with a quest of his own. Besides the quest we still get an extended view of the family and friends of Tairo as he travels up and down the Italian peninsula, with most people playing themselves (or versions of themselves.) It is a fun slice of life into a culture that there isn’t really much about (except Covi and Frimmel’s other films!)

We begin following Tairo and him preparing for his show, hanging out with his girl Wendy Weber, and generally causing trouble with some of the circus performers he doesn’t like. These arguments have escalated to pranks, and Tairo soon finds all his stuff has gone missing, scattered around the park the circus is staying at. Tairo doesn’t have much and finds many items quickly, but there is one item that has completely disappeared, and it is important to him. An iron bar bent by a strong man when Tairo was a child, his lucky charm that he needs to touch before every performance.

Wendy is way more superstitious than Tairo, she is into charms, fortune tellers, putting candles in streams to remove bad luck/the evil eye. She is a contortionist bends her body in much the same way that the iron bar was bent. Tairo knows her interests and even takes her to one of those hills that goes down but is also going up (if you’ve been to one of them you know what I am talking about) for some neat scenes. He does find plenty of time to good-naturedly harass her little dog, Panico. While Tairo dismisses Wendy’s superstitions as nonsense, he has superstitions of his own and soon is off on a search to find the strongman so he will bend him another bar.

The bar was bent by Arthur Robin, Mr. Universe 1957, the first black Mr. Universe and also called Black Hercules. As far as I can tell he didn’t make any movie appearances. He does eventually appear in Mister Universo, so I guess he did end up in movies after all! Taizo’s journey lets him visit all sorts of relatives, including his parents, grandmother, cousins, brother, and other circus friends. The interactions with the performers and with the circus culture and families are the film, everyone knows everyone in a roundabout way, having worked with them long ago at some earlier job. Taizo’s big cats are aged and obviously overweight, they have health problems just from being so old, and one passed on earlier but there is no money for replacement animals. It’s a totally obvious metaphor for the whole circus industry aging out and fading away. We see it in the family members who have moved out of the circus life and are doing other things. Even Mister Universe himself is a shadow of his former self, though he still looks amazing for his age!

Superstition and reality blend to make Mister Universo an amazing travelogue that shows that there may just be some magic left in the world, but not in the obvious way.
Mister Universo
SFIFF 2017

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 4, 2017 at 7:09 am

Categories: Movie Reviews   Tags: , , ,

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