Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine – RiffTrax Live Trip Report!

Star Raiders Saber Raine
RiffTrax is still traxxing the riffs and the world is still better for it. This time we caught another of their live shows, featuring 2017’s Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine! Not only is this the newest film they’ve ever done, it was also one of the rare live shows where I haven’t seen the film beforehand. And boy I didn’t know what I was missing! Star Raiders is amazing genre pulp made on a shoestring budget and just does a bunch of crazy things that made me love the flick. That also makes it perfect RiffTrax fodder, as a movie with rubber aliens, CGI spaceships, lots of walking through a forest, and a villain who is missing a large portion of his skull means we got ourselves a target rich environment!

Before we got to the feature, we had us a short, this one that taught us an important lesson about telling the truth. At least that’s what the feature claimed, any actual lessons are accidental and you should consult your morality code. A teacher tells a group of students about three boys (why there was this weird framing device I am not certain, unless the movie company just repackaged another story) who wander around and eventually get a bunch of smooth stones from a crazed cement enthusiast and begin chucking them at random things. It’s all fun and games until one of the stones smashes a window and ends up in an old lady’s soup. One of the kids is too scared to run away and she grabs him, then the film ends and the teacher asks the audience of students to discuss telling the truth. Makes perfect sense, right? Crazy moral stories are almost as fun as when there is a creepy animated object teaching children valuable lessons, so this one was a hoot!

Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine begins in space with a confusing battle between forces we have no idea who are who, which is interrupted by Saber Raine in his custom CGI ship. He decides to defend one of his friends, who is from the species that the humans are fighting, so the humans aren’t too happy with their fellow human Saber and try to kill him, except they forgot the part where their ships were inferior and Raine Star Raiders the hell out of them. We cut to years later with the actual plot, which involves Raine being recruited by the bodyguards of the royal family to help rescue the missing children of the Emperor. This involves a lot of walking in the forest as a convenient energy net disrupts technology so they can’t fly around in their ships. The villains are lead by the guy we mentioned who was missing most of his skull, and most of his goons are dead bodies controlled by crystals and robots. What we get are a bunch of actors hamming it up, crazy costumes and makeup, and green screens up the wazoo! This leads to lots of fighting and visual insanity as the plot chugs along in brief bursts in between the wandering around scenes.

As you can imagine, the film presents a riffer’s paradise, and there were tons of jokes about Van Dien, the cgi ships, the makeup effects, the confusion on who the heroes an villains are, and the general plot. Special shout out to Gary, the name they gave one of the bug alien villains, who sadly died (multiple times thanks to the film reusing the mask as different members of the species! Poor Gary….) Some of the heroes came equipped with eyeware that was obviously sunglasses that had one of the eyecovers removed. Overall the riffing was pretty strong, the film has enough entertaining portions that fans will be pleased, and weird people like me would even enjoy the film without Mike, Kevin, and Bill cracking wise. The credits showed that writer/director Mark Steven Grove as well as actress Sara N. Salazar were in attendance. Mark Steven Grove has been making a series of genre films to showcase a lot of his talent pool at the choreography studio he runs, and he just made a fan that will be tracking down more of his filmography. Star Raiders has a big Galaxy Lords vibe, and everyone knows how much we love that one! Hopefully the rest of the batch live up to Star Raiders, and hopefully when RiffTrax Live does The Giant Spider Invasion, we will have another great show! Until then, keep raiding those stars!
RiffTrax Star Raiders Saber Raine
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Secret Movie – Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live Trip Report

MST3K Live datesMystery Science Theater 3000 returned for a kickstarted new season (disclaimer: I contributed to the kickstarter and am listed in one of the episodes) to wonderful fanfare and a whole new cast. And then it exited in Live Tour form to make even more money So of course I went, the first night was Eegah, which you can read here. The second night was a secret movie! WoooOOOoooOOooO!! Just in case this comes into play in a further season, please do not click\look below if you don’t want to be spoiled on the super secret movie! Everyone else, click away for the review!
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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!

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

MST3K Reunion Show – RiffTrax Live Trip Report

RiffTrax is ten years old, and to celebrate they put together their latest RiffTrax Live event packed to the gills with most of the cast of MST3K, leading to an amazing entry of RiffTrax Live. Not only do we get Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, but they are joined by Mary Jo Pehl, Bridget Jones Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Joel Hodgson, and newcomer Jonah Ray, making this the largest collection of MST3K alums performing at the same time ever! Some of it even helped erase the bad taste that was left in the mouths after the MST3K revival Kickstarter that came as news for practically everyone in the original cast except Joel, but mostly it was just a hilarious time that was one of the best RiffTrax Live events ever!

From the start there were MST3K songs during the preshow slides (usually it’s a mix of funny songs from various artists), and the large volume of slides referenced a lot of RiffTrax episodes over the years including things like Setting Up A Room, Manos, and Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. There were even references to a some of the RiffTrax VODs I haven’t even had time to watch, which shows not only how behind I am on RiffTrax watching but also how familiar I am with bad cinema that I recognized what they were from. That’s a weird thing to be happening, but it is.

To start, each group of riffers got their own short, followed by the megariffing session where everyone came out. Mike, Keven, and Bill started things off with a ridiculous mess of a car safety short – A Talking Car, about a careless child brought before a tribunal of talking cars, one of which seems to want to feel that kids blood ground beneath its tires. Luckily for the kid, the two cooler-headed cars prevailed and we aren’t witnesses to child murder. Not that I would have been sad had this annoying child been destroyed. The kid is accompanied in the dream car tribunal by his loyal dog (it is unclear if the dog is also dreaming this), and the dog will growl and bare its teeth practically every time the old cranky car that wants the kid dead talks. Later the trio also tackled Shake Hands With Danger, a ridiculously gorey safety short that I saw them do live years ago and it was just as hilarious this time out.

Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl paired up for a short about the kitchen of the future in a modern home, and how you women can conspire to teach your husband to buy you a new kitchen. Which in this case meant buy a new house with a new kitchen inside it! It featured Darren McGavin (best known to modern eyes as the dad from A Christmas Story) as the husband, and of course there were plenty of references to that as well as other good lines. Mary Jo and Bridget have become a regular team at RiffTrax with their own series of shorts that focus more on the types of films they’d make the girls watch in home ec back in the 1950s.

Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu were up with More Dates for Kay, which I think is supposed to be a followup to the MST3Ked short What To Do On a Date. A hapless young lady who mopes around at home complaining that she doesn’t have a boyfriend gets a talking too from her older (married!) sister, who talks about her friend Kay (why this married, older woman is friends with a high schooler is not addressed!) The advice switches from basically go out and have fun and meet people and be friendly to the bizarre like do favors and pretend to be interested in every random boy that comes along in the off chance one asks you out. Also, the sister is totally not approving of Kay’s calling of boys. Frank and Trace straddle the border of working dirty with some of their lines (the short makes it soooooooooooo easy to turn everything sexual it’s crazy!) and Mike, Kevin, and Bill even joke about how Frank is dying to go blue but can’t. Probably the best riff of the night.

Jonah Ray and Joel Hodgson come out for Americans At Work: Barbers, an AFL-CIO joint about how barbers and hairdressers are totally valuable workers, and also women take forever to look good. There was a hilarious running gag with a hairdresser who looked like Frankenstein that just got funnier and funnier. Jonah did well and showed he’ll do a good job as the new MST3K host, despite a line flub that got its own riff by Joel.

Then it was time, the Riff-a-palooza! Everyone came out for a special short with the 1950s Superman selling saving stamps to young children! Shockingly, though we finally got Joel and Mike riffing at the same time (and everyone else!), this wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, because the short itself was pretty darn tepid. Far too talky and not enough cheesy. Luckily, they seemed to pick up on this while putting the show together because we got a second short that was also riffed by everyone, and it was a recurring favorite: At Your Fingertips: Grass! That short is so awesome it alone is worth the price of admission, even with a lot of repeated lines. And now we can finally find out if corn is grass or not!

Before I got I want to also mention there was a ten years of RiffTrax highlight video that was great and hopefully shows up online somewhere (and also reminded me there are a few of the mp3 riffs I haven’t watched yet, either!) Overall, this show ruled, the non-Superman shorts were largely amazing, and it was great seeing the old gang back together, even in a new together form. Hopefully this leads to more collaboration between the groups with more RiffTrax and more guest spots on the new MST3K. If you are someone how is more cautious with what you spend your money on but are a nominal fan of MST3K, it is well worth your dollars to go either see the rebroadcast or get the VOD when it is released.

Disclosure: I donated to the Kickstarter for this RiffTrax.

MST3K riffrax  reunion postcard

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny – Jack and the Beanstalk Edition – RiffTrax Live Trip Report

RiffTrax burst back to theaters to bring us a new take on an old classic, with Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. But, instead of the familiar Thumbelina insert, instead we got Jack and the Beanstalk, which turned out to be not only way more ridiculous and cheap than Thumbelina, but actually more enjoyable! Strange, I know. Along with the film we had three shorts that ratcheted up the Christmas crazy while having increasingly less to do with Christmas as they went along. Like most of the RiffTrax Live shows, it was recorded live on stage and broadcast throughout the country. This is also the first time Todd from Die Danger Die Die Kill and I were both free to watch a RiffTrax Live together in over a year, and it was a fitting return. This was one of the best RiffTrax Life shows, packed with hilarious riffs, hilarious shorts, and a movie that deserved every sling and arrow fired at it.

If you have never suffered through the cinehorror monstrosity that is Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, then you are a lucky mofo! The rest of us have been suckered in through all the “love of bad movies” thing and wound up hitting the wall. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is a wraparound story designed to house a different movie in between to fill time, the wraparound designed to advertise the 1960s amusement part Pirates World, which was located in Dania, Florida, until this place called DisneyLand opened up and destroyed them. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is impossible to describe in proper terms just how awful it is. A scrawny Santa stews in a filthy suit sitting in a sleigh on the beach in the hot Florida sun. Apparently, the sleigh is trapped and the reindeer ran off, so he entices a group of local kids to help him by psychically commanded them by song. The children bring a parade of rented animals to try to yank the sleigh out, including a guy in a gorilla suit. Watching the action for reasons never explained is Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The madness continues only a few minutes longer before Santa breaks into a story, the story being a completely different movie.

The version of Ice Cream Bunny that has seen the widest release features Barry Mahon’s Thumbelina, which is ridiculously long and boring (even the RiffTrax VOD version released years ago had to trim it down!), but this version featured Barry Mahon’s Jack and the Beanstalk. If you are familiar with Barry Mahon’s children movie work (as opposed to his nudie cutie work), then you remember most of them are basically filmed stage plays with budgets in the tens and tens of dollars. Jack and the Beanstalk is no exception, and yet it is somehow way more entertaining than Thumbelina.

As usual, the preshow featured trivia slides and songs (a few songs were snoozers…), and there was a slightly modified opening song that added the Ice Cream Bunny to a key lyric. The show then began, and we launch into the shorts. A 1930s-era short featured Santa telling two children a random story involving a Christmas Pretzel Monkey or something, featuring a lot of stock footage from a zoo and scenes of chimps dressed up in clothes. The second short was children in costumes as a narration of Ogden Nash’s The Tale of Custard the Dragon poem was read. It featured a grown man dressed as a pirate stealing presents after assaulting children, before the child dressed as a dragon devours him. Merry Christmas! The final short was one of K. Gordon Murray’s Santa’s Christmas Village shorts, with features actors dressed up as characters from the various Mexican films he imported, meaning there is a K. Gordon Murray Cinematic Universe. Puss in Boots, Stinky the Skunk, Merlin, The Big Bad Wolf, and enslaved elf children all have an adventure which basically shows Stinky escaping his slave job for a few moments before being forced back to work, at which time his supervisor then steals him leisure time. Santa the overseer just laughs and laughs and laughs. There were three of these shorts in total, all mind-inducingly awful and handled previously by RiffTrax in Santa’s Village of Madness

Then we get to the main cinematic yule log, log being of the kind of logs you flush down the toilet! Bathroom humor, folks! The junk. Jack and the Beanstalk takes place in a storyland that features costumes that are Ren Faire meets Brady Bunch and what appears to be three sets on the same sound stage (complete with painted cloth backgrounds), the film follows the normal Jack and the Beanstalk plot, though claims the golden hen and magic harp Jack steals were previously owned by his father, and the family somehow didn’t notice a giant burgling their house. Of special note here is that the golden hen isn’t an actual hen, but a papier-mâché creation roughly in the shape of a hen with golden paint covering it. This is a slight bit better than the magic harp, which is lumpy papier-mâché with gold paint and uneven strings, which makes it look like how Tim Burton would draw a stove.

Jack and the Beanstalk is a musical, and the characters will randomly burst into song. This is most jarring with the giant, who spends his time chewing the scenery as a tough giant who yells at his wife for dinner and yells his declarations of taking a nap, but will then suddenly breaking into perfectly operatic renditions of “Fee Fi Fo Fum”.

Eventually the giant dies after the beanstalk is chopped down (in the most hilarious special effect of the film!!) and everyone in town comes to Jack’s house to sing, and we return to Santa stuck in the sand. Until the Ice Cream Bunny arrives in an old school firetruck packed with all the children from earlier. The Ice Cream Bunny is a terrifying suit, and the dog one of the kids owns runs along in front of the truck, looking like it is seconds away from getting ran over (thankfully, it doesn’t, but this is the kind of movie that you think could kill a dog!)

The Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny segments are directed by R. Winer – which is totally not an acronym for someone who wanted to keep his name far away from this thing! It’s the only thing credited to him, and the name is too generic to do a good records search. A mystery for the ages, because almost no one cares.

The Riffs were ON POINT, this is the most I’ve laughed at a RiffTrax Live event that I can remember. Favorite riffs include the quip about the “man hand scooping” and the “HUURRRRRRR HUUURRRRRR HURRRRRRRR” sounds as Ice Cream Bunny goes full crazy. Seriously, by that point the film does most of the work, the riffs being icing on the cake. My only complaint is it is missing one of my favorite jokes from the VOD version, when the gorilla appears, Mikes reminds us that this was Plan A. But that is an extremely minor quibble, and this RiffTrax Live is definitely a new Christmas Classic for one and all!
Santa Ice Cream Bunny RiffTrax Live