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RiffTrax Shorts Volume 2 - from the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
RiffTrax Shorts Volume 2 - from the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
DVD ~ Michael J. Nelson
Price: $6.13
13 used & new from $1.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of fun with a slight problem..., October 27, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
After a very entertaining first volume of short films, Rifftrax delivers a second round of educations shorts with funny commentary by Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy. I was looking forward to this volume, especially after seeing a clip from "One Got Fat".

One Got Fat - This short is about has disturbing as was hinted by the clip. Children with monkey masks riding bicycles into danger. Most of them are killed or injured in some way. All the while a narrator explains away the horror and pain. Lots of material for the riffers to work with and it keeps them quipping away the whole time. One of the highlights of the disc.
5 out of 5 stars

Lunchroom Manners - After some school children watch a puppet show featuring a dunderhead Mr. Bungle, they decide to do everything in their power to avoid becoming him. At first it seems harmless, but after a while we begin to wonder if Mr. Bungle is plaguing their minds. Another very funny short with lots to work with.
4 out of 5 stars

Each Child is Different - This one actually has a sound idea at its heart. It encourages teachers to understand that a child may have other factors affecting their performance in school. But the execution comes across harsh and bleak. Most of the children used as examples lead depressing and dead end lives. As it gets more tragic the funnier it gets. Kind of a mixed bag though. If you laughed at some of the more dark MST3K shorts (Last Clear Chance or Days of Our Years), you'll enjoy this. Others might find this too dark.
3 out of 5 stars

Why Doesn't Cathy Eat Breakfast/Petaluma Chicken - Words can't really describe this one. The first half is 70's and seems to have a narrator asking Cathy why she won't eat breakfast. But the question is never answered. The second half is a 50's film about a man making a huge omelet. One of the riffers asks if they've suddenly walked into a David Lynch film and it was all too true. So strange and odd that the riffing almost seems redundant.
3 out of 5 stars

Act Your Age - Some poor dope defaces a desk and ends up asking the question, why can't he or his peers act their age. A high school principle takes a special interest in the question and a survey is produced. This one seems to go on a bit too long, but the riffing is solid.
3 out of 5 stars

Harm Hides At Home - Crossing guard by day and super hero whenever some moron starts a fire: Safety Woman is there. This is one odd 70's short film. It appears to be humorous on the outside but everyone is deadly serious. Starts out pretty funny, but has that 70's dreariness to it that slows the film down. The riffers do a solid job and keep you laughing through the slog.
3 out of 5 stars

Coffee House Rendezvous - A 60's film about making your very own coffee house\teen hang out\folk music scene in your town. Maybe this was supposed to be an option to the evil influence of hippies? Rock music is considered annoying in this flick, and the kids seem to be an odd mix of beat poets and bad folk singers. On the long side but the riffers are up to the challenge, just when things seem to be winding down they get you laughing again.
4 out of 5 stars

Are you popular - 50's and very strange. At first it talks about how girls who "park with boys" may appear popular, but they really aren't. Then it goes into how a boy should ask a girl out on a date. Plenty to work with in this one and it's just the right length.
4 out of 5 stars

Good Health Practices - A brother and sister demonstrate how to eat right, use the toilet and keep clean. Extra strange with all the toilet hygiene referenced here. This keeps things really lively for the riffers. Plenty of bodily function humor in this one, but the short is really asking for it. I was laughing pretty hard in spite of myself.
5 out of 5 stars.

The average here is a four star disc. There are no two star shorts here, but there are fewer 5 five star efforts than the previous disc. Still it's a solid bit of comedy for this disc.

Now for the problem. The sound mix on my disc was problematic. Some episodes, like "Good Health Practices" were perfectly mixed, I could hear the riffers and the short with equal clarity. But some were really badly mixed. "One Got Fat" is the worst offender. Sometimes I couldn't hear the short, but the riffing was fine. Other times the riffing was overpowered by the narration of the short. The result was that much of the humor was lost. I ended up watching the thing twice and while it was hilarious, it was a lot of work to get there. "Lunchroom Manners" and "Why Doesn't Cathy Eat Breakfast" suffered in similar ways, but to a lesser degree.

I've noticed that others have had this problem too, and so I feel I must take at least one star off the score for the poor mixing job. It doesn't seem to happen to everyone, but just be warned that it could affect your copy. It's still a three star effort, but you might find yourself using the volume control more than you want to on these.


Essence of Anime: Ghost in the Shell
Essence of Anime: Ghost in the Shell
DVD ~ Steve Davis
Offered by Discount Music, Books, and other items
Price: $8.50
36 used & new from $2.98

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The cold eyes of a new life form, August 25, 2009
Ghost in the Shell is one of the rare sci-fi movies that manages to entertain as well as pose interesting questions. To often sci-fi is used as entertainment only with fun trappings of zipping space ships and explosions. There is a place for that kind of story and hell, I enjoy them.

But every once in a while I wish there was more stuff like Ghost in the Shell. You get a interesting story with a resolution that makes you think. On top of that, the animation is still stunning even over a decade later. For me it ranks up there with the top tier animated films like "Princess Mononoke" and "Akira".

First off the animation is very impressive for a number of reasons. The backgrounds include amazing amounts of detail for a mid 90's feature. There is some use of CG, but there is plenty of hand drawn stuff here. The most stunning sequence is where the Major is journeying down the water ways of the city. There is no dialogue, only animation and music. The visuals show the city living around her, no freeze frames or still bodies, everything is moving and alive. It starts to rain and the effect is amazing, transforming this near future metropolis into something beautiful and sad all at the same time.

Those familiar with the manga by Shirow will be a bit disappointed to see much of his character design has been revamped. The characters are given a more realistic look and the comedy of the manga has been toned way down - instead the movie is deadly serious and very moody.

The action set pieces are top notch. The two key ones are a chase into a crowded market place. Again, everything is moving in the market, the villain is camouflaged and attempting a desperate escape. The tension is high and the visuals are excellent. The second involves the Major being seriously outgunned by a tank, and yet doing everything she can to turn the tables. The animation is fluid and angles and mood are used to drive the intensity to a solid climax.

The story combines elements from the manga, picking up a villain here, a plot point here, a revelation there and mixing them all together. Normally this type of approach could end up hurting the film and creating a mish mash of story lines. But the writers have integrated all of it together very well. The key story involves the puppet master and his quest to become something more.

It is the themes that are in the manga and are well executed in the anime that make this film work so well. The character of the puppetmaster is interesting (and probably based off the idea introduced in the novel "Neuromancer"), and it's quest is intriguing. The ending always leaves me a bit chilled. What kind of being has been created and what will it do. The possibilities are endless.

The sound effects and music are well done and used to help create and sustain mood. As I mentioned this mood is one of tension and melancholy. The score is interesting in that it uses a very traditional Japanese sound and mixes it with a minimalistic and sparse soundscape. It's very effective in the film, but I know several people that find the main theme to this film to be too discordant and irritating. I think it fits in its own way, but I also understand their point of view.

Voice acting in Japanese fits the film a little better than the English cast does. When I first saw the movie it was with the English cast and some of the lines just never seemed to click. I'm not sure if they were playing the cyborg characters as robots or just trying to affect the gloom of the film in the voices, but it just didn't work. The Japanese actors seem to have a better handle on it and the subtitled script seems a little clearer as well.

Director Mamoru Oshii takes all these pieces and adds his own spin on it. Oshii is a man who takes his time telling a story. Even though there are moments of explosive action, for the most part the movie moves at a slow pace, allowing the viewer to drink in the world of the film and most importantly the mood. This creates a common complaint I see leveled against the movie - it's boring. I see where the argument comes from, but I'm never bored watching it. It is not an action film: it is an idea film with action in it. The themes of humanity and identity are what drive the film - not the action. As I mentioned this is very different from what Shirow did in his manga. The themes were there and sometimes they were focused on, but it was done with more humor and more action. It doesn't make Oshii's approach wrong, or Shirow's right. In fact I enjoy both. Oshii adapted the manga and put his own touch on it, and for me he struck a great balance. This was disrupted a bit in his follow up which ended up sacrificing storytelling for philosophy - but that's another review.

Manga has re-released this film a number of times, and has presented us here with what appears to be the same DVD as previously offered, but with a new cover sleeve (and oddly enough one that isn't even used in the film. It looks closer to Shirow's original work). Also this is not part of the "Stand Alone Complex" television series. It does lead into the second feature film, "Innocence", but as I said it is not directly tied to Shirow's work. Still it's a great price for a classic sci-fi anime.


Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell
DVD ~ Atsuko Tanaka
Price: $7.99
106 used & new from $1.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The cold eyes of a new life form, August 25, 2009
This review is from: Ghost in the Shell (DVD)
Ghost in the Shell is one of the rare sci-fi movies that manages to entertain as well as pose interesting questions. To often sci-fi is used as entertainment only with fun trappings of zipping space ships and explosions. There is a place for that kind of story and hell, I enjoy them.

But every once in a while I wish there was more stuff like Ghost in the Shell. You get a interesting story with a resolution that makes you think. On top of that, the animation is still stunning even over a decade later. For me it ranks up there with the top tier animated films like "Princess Mononoke" and "Akira".

First off the animation is very impressive for a number of reasons. The backgrounds include amazing amounts of detail for a mid 90's feature. There is some use of CG, but there is plenty of hand drawn stuff here. The most stunning sequence is where the Major is journeying down the water ways of the city. There is no dialogue, only animation and music. The visuals show the city living around her, no freeze frames or still bodies, everything is moving and alive. It starts to rain and the effect is amazing, transforming this near future metropolis into something beautiful and sad all at the same time.

Those familiar with the manga by Shirow will be a bit disappointed to see much of his character design has been revamped. The characters are given a more realistic look and the comedy of the manga has been toned way down - instead the movie is deadly serious and very moody.

The action set pieces are top notch. The two key ones are a chase into a crowded market place. Again, everything is moving in the market, the villain is camouflaged and attempting a desperate escape. The tension is high and the visuals are excellent. The second involves the Major being seriously outgunned by a tank, and yet doing everything she can to turn the tables. The animation is fluid and angles and mood are used to drive the intensity to a solid climax.

The story combines elements from the manga, picking up a villain here, a plot point here, a revelation there and mixing them all together. Normally this type of approach could end up hurting the film and creating a mish mash of story lines. But the writers have integrated all of it together very well. The key story involves the puppet master and his quest to become something more.

It is the themes that are in the manga and are well executed in the anime that make this film work so well. The character of the puppetmaster is interesting (and probably based off the idea introduced in the novel "Neuromancer"), and it's quest is intriguing. The ending always leaves me a bit chilled. What kind of being has been created and what will it do. The possibilities are endless.

The sound effects and music are well done and used to help create and sustain mood. As I mentioned this mood is one of tension and melancholy. The score is interesting in that it uses a very traditional Japanese sound and mixes it with a minimalistic and sparse soundscape. It's very effective in the film, but I know several people that find the main theme to this film to be too discordant and irritating. I think it fits in its own way, but I also understand their point of view.

Voice acting in Japanese fits the film a little better than the English cast does. When I first saw the movie it was with the English cast and some of the lines just never seemed to click. I'm not sure if they were playing the cyborg characters as robots or just trying to affect the gloom of the film in the voices, but it just didn't work. The Japanese actors seem to have a better handle on it and the subtitled script seems a little clearer as well.

Director Mamoru Oshii takes all these pieces and adds his own spin on it. Oshii is a man who takes his time telling a story. Even though there are moments of explosive action, for the most part the movie moves at a slow pace, allowing the viewer to drink in the world of the film and most importantly the mood. This creates a common complaint I see leveled against the movie - it's boring. I see where the argument comes from, but I'm never bored watching it. It is not an action film: it is an idea film with action in it. The themes of humanity and identity are what drive the film - not the action. As I mentioned this is very different from what Shirow did in his manga. The themes were there and sometimes they were focused on, but it was done with more humor and more action. It doesn't make Oshii's approach wrong, or Shirow's right. In fact I enjoy both. Oshii adapted the manga and put his own touch on it, and for me he struck a great balance. This was disrupted a bit in his follow up which ended up sacrificing storytelling for philosophy - but that's another review.

This is not part of the "Stand Alone Complex" television series. It does lead into the second feature film, "Innocence", but as I said it is not directly tied to Shirow's work. Still it's a great price for a classic sci-fi anime.


Rusty Nail (A Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels mystery)
Rusty Nail (A Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels mystery)
by J. A. Konrath
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
109 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Third Time's a Charm, August 25, 2009
I was in the mood for some light summer reading so I picked up J.A. Konrath's third book in his Jack Daniels series. Now Jack Daniels is a thriller series about a police detective who gets mixed up in dangerous cases. Konrath mixes danger, comedy and drama pretty well in all three books, but I was specifically interested to see how he would tackle book three.

He took a bit of an unexpected tactic. He based this case off of the events that occurred in the first book. At first Jack thinks she's dealing with a copy cat killer, especially since the case from the first book was very high profile. But as things go along, it becomes obvious to the reader (and eventually to Jack) that this is something new - but tied very closely to first book.

Now tying your plot back to the first book can be dangerous. You end up having to sum up the first case so that new readers won't be completely lost. But at the same time you have to keep the exposition down to a minimum, because momentum and thrills are very important to this genre.

Konrath's solution makes good sense, he has Jack think about the older case, specifically in how it relates to the current one. He actually makes it tantalizing, give a new reader enough to be interested (and maybe pick up that first book). Jack goes back to the old evidence to see if there is anything that matches with the evidence on the new case. This little journey triggers memories for Jack and for any reader who may not have picked up "Whiskey Sour" in a while (I read that book about a year and half ago, so my memories weren't too sharp either).

As Jack gets closer and closer to putting the pieces together, the more the past plays into the story, but Konrath never bogs things down. He manages to keep the balance going and the story chugs along to it's crazed conclusion.

This gives book three a different tone compared to the previous two books. Obviously the first "Whiskey Sour" was the intro novel. The follow up "Bloody Mary" was much more intense and graphic. It also moved at a very high speed. This book slowed down the pace a bit more and focused more on piecing the puzzle together and delving into Jack's character a bit more. The element of the past plays a key role in the story and gives it a theme all it's own.

So Konrath kept the series fresh feeling, even if he did end up with a serial killer on the lose as the basic plot again. The twists were pretty good and the identity of the killer had me guessing for a good while, but this time I did figure it out a few chapters before Jack did. I'm interested to see where he goes in book four. Will he keep the serial killer, or will Jack face a new type of danger? All in all, I found "Rusty Nail" to be a good read and an interesting study in keeping a series fresh.


Bloody Mary (Jack Daniels Mysteries)
Bloody Mary (Jack Daniels Mysteries)
by J. A. Konrath
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
99 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Switch it up, August 25, 2009
I imagine that one of the toughest things to do is to keep a series going. It doesn't matter if it's a series of novels, series of television episodes or movie series - you have one goal, keep people wanting more. There is a balance to keep. On the one hand you have to keep the stories fresh and interesting. On the other you can't change things too much, or you will alienate your readers/watchers. This becomes a big challenge for nonconsecutive stories. For example: if the "Friday the 13th" movie series decided to become a musical comedy/horror around the fifth installment - some of the audience may be upset. (of course I think that's a great idea and would make a hilarious movie! Do it! Do it!)

There is also the dreaded Sophomore slump, a rule that says that the second outing is usually a poor relation to the first. Sometimes the writer tries too hard to make it fresh, sometimes they try too hard to make it familiar. Either way can make for a disappointing installment. When I sat down with "Bloody Mary" I decided to see what author J.A. Konrath did to make this story fresh and familiar.

Right off the bat he starts with the familiar: the first chapter puts us in the mind of the killer. The second chapter puts us back into detective Jack Daniels' mind and we get our bearings. Old characters are introduced and some of the dilemmas take root here. It was nice to see the humor was back, as well as the craziness that seemed to plague Jack in the first book.

There are some great switch ups in actual plotting (I don't want to give away any spoilers here), and it kept things interesting. It even allowed the reader to focus a bit on Jack's personal life, as well as the way her job starts to affect those around her. I also enjoyed the subplot involving her partner's mid-life crisis.

The end of the novel is the final showdown - just what we expect. It's over the top and really pretty gruesome (the whole book seems to up the gore factor here), but it was a satisfying end to the tale.

I think Konrath did a good job keeping me off balance with his novel. I was not expecting resolution of the crime to handled this way, and at the same time I enjoyed the subplots and supporting characters. It was a solid follow-up and a quick read for summer. I'll be interested to see where Konrath goes in the third book. He's used serial killers twice and while he did switch things up a bit here, a third round of the same may be a bit much. He's got some solid and entertaining characters here: I think it's time he pushed them a bit further and make things a little more interesting next time around.


Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XV (The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy / The Girl in Lovers Lane / Zombie Nightmare / Racket Girls)
Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XV (The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy / The Girl in Lovers Lane / Zombie Nightmare / Racket Girls)
DVD ~ Joel Hodgson
Price: $39.03
34 used & new from $22.12

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aztec Mummy vs. Big Stupid vs. Zombie Rocker vs. Peaches Page, July 27, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Shout Factory delivers it's third box set of the infamous Mystery Science Theater 3000. This set contains four episodes spanning the comedy central years, from season one to season six. You get two episodes features Joel and two episodes featuring Mike. The film selection covers everything from a Mexican horror film to a exploitation film about women's wrestling. Throw in an appearance by Adam West and you've got a bit of everything.

"The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy" is the first film featured on this set. Since this is a first season episode of the show it means the whole vibe of the show was a bit different. The episodes have a slower feel, something that isn't necessarily bad, just a different. Things kick off well with the first episode of "Commander Cody and the Radar Men from the Moon". This serial provides plenty of fodder for Joel and the bots, with lots of silly costumes, special effects and nonsensical plotting. For me, the Commander Cody shorts are the high light of season one, and provide the best laughs.

When the feature starts up things slow way down. The movie itself is, in a single word, turgid. Huge sections are taken up with lengthy flashbacks to what appears to be previous films. There are long talky scenes that suck what little energy a movie about an Aztec Mummy should have. Attempts at gothic horror are lame at best and the dubbing is wretched. The final battle between the robot (a hilarious special effect) and the mummy is not worth the effort, and the whole thing is just a bust. This type of film would work better with more energy from the riffers, but we don't get it, and they seem drained by the train wreck of the movie as well.

Shout Factory adds a nifty bonus feature to the disk, a look at the old KTMA host segments. It's kinda neat to see this very early work by the crew, and fans will get a kick out of it. Also included are Comedy Channel promos for this specific episode and a double feature trailer featuring this film.

Great short, poor movie, average host segments and good bonus features makes this a solid 3 star effort.

"The Girl on Lover's Lane" jumps ahead to season five. The difference in riffing and overall comfort with the show is evident here, and for me it makes this episode shine a bit more.

The movie is a silly bit of melodrama about two drifters who roll into a small town. One is wet behind the ears, and seems to spend most of the movie clueless about hookers, and flashing his large wad of cash around in front of complete strangers. The other, Bix Duggan (called Big Stupid by Joel and the bots) is the world weary traveler. He keeps his eye on the young fool, but also falls for the naïve Carrie, who works as a waitress at the diner.

Carrie and Big seem to have a future, but Big can't be tied down, so he waffles back and forth. He seems like he's about to make up his mind when, horror of horrors, the director screws up a happy ending. The movie takes a dark turn when the town nutjob drags poor Carrie off into the forest. The movie actually offers plenty of funny moments and lots of good riffing by the crew. Things never really take off, though. Part of the reason is that the film drags in the middle and Joel and bots get caught in the dullness. But the random ending actually sparks them back to life and they deliver a solid drubbing at the end, and it flows right into the host segments. These are pretty funny as well, but my favorite is when the bots come up with better endings than the one the director came up with.

Shout Factory gives a nice behind the scenes look at the show in the extra on this disc. It looks like documentary footage taken from the creation of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians". There isn't any narration, but you get to see just about every stage of the process. It was a real treat to actually see these elements that I've read about.

Good movie, Good host segments, good extras. 3 stars.

"Zombie Nightmere" comes from season six, with Mike joining the bots in the Satellite and in the theater.

Boy does this cheesefest of a film provide the ammo. Pure 80's with huge hair, bad fashions and an all synthesized score, Zombie Nightmere amps up the wattage with some rockin' metal tunes that go to 11. You'd think you were in for some fun, especially when you see Adam West and Tia Carerre in the film.

After a strange prologue that looks to happen in the 80's version of the 60's, we follow a big muscled guy with a case of hockey hair around for a bit. He gets hit by a car and killed. Well, the jokers driving the car don't stop but continue on their merry way. These wicked teens are lead by one of the most annoying villains I've seen in a MST3K feature. He's such a bad boy that he throws pasta in his mother's face. Yeah, you read that right.

Anyway the beefy guy is brought back from the dead by a spaz-tastic voodoo priestess. He goes on the rampage, killing all those who wronged him. The police are on the case, but the young detective is too fooling to figure out the truth. Adam West plays the police chief who may have something to hide.

Mike and bots have so much to work with in this one and it's a pretty hilarious episode from beginning to end. Things slow up a bit when the detective comes nosing around, but Adam West usually shows up to make things more interesting. The Zombie is slow and non-threatening. The teens in the movie are pretty bad actors (even Tia), and the script tries to throw a curveball but it ends up hitting the batter. At least someone get's dragged into hell at the end of the film..

The extra on this disc is an interview with two cast members from the film and how they feel about the MST3K treatment and what they are up to now. These guys are pretty good sports about the whole thing and it's a fun extra.

Great movie, good host segments, good extras: 4 stars

"Racket Girls" is the final film in the set. It opens with a short film, "Are you Ready for Marriage". This black and white film follows the adventures of a young couple who think they are ready to be married. They go to their local church for advice and are quickly assaulted by a guy who could be a relative of H.P. Lovecraft. His advise is actually sound, even if his graphs, dolls and rubber bands are really silly.

The feature is a bizarre exploitation film about woman's wrestling. There is some kind of plot about a criminal underworld, but mostly that takes back seat to scenes of women wrestling (three matches, and one of them featuring women in cat masks), women working out in a gym, and one woman jogging and jumping rope while her... assets bounce all over the screen. Make no mistake this movie is all about having women bounce around and writhe all over each other. The only problem is, it's not the least bit erotic or shocking - at least to modern audiences. Sure you feel dirty watching it, but only because the movie has a kind of grime all over it.

It also is pretty dull. The whole story about the criminals making deals and sneaking around is boring. The poor acting and stupid script are worthy of Ed Wood Jr., and I was shocked to see he wasn't involved in this film.

As dull as the movie is, Mike and the bots attack full bore with riffs flying fast and furious. When they connect, they are right on and funny as hell. They keep the energy going, even when the movie slows to a crawl and it really helps to bring you along through it. After a while the wrestling scenes become funny because they never end. The looped crowd noise becomes a joke instead of an annoyance. The feeble attempts at a plot are just more pathetic and easier to riff. In a way it reminds me of "Red Zone Cuba" or "Starfighters". If you enjoyed the vibe from those films and how Mike and bots handled it, then you'll be on board for this one.

The extras include a trailer for the film (using it's other name, "Blonde Pickup") and a trailer for something called "Hamlet ADD", that features vocal work from Trace and Kevin.

Great Short, Good Movie, Great Host segments, Good extras. 4 stars.

When it's all said and done you've got a good set here. Two three star discs and two four star discs round up to a solid four star box set. A fan can't really go wrong here, with "Zombie Nightmere" being a really great episode. I've seen mixed fan reaction to "Girl on Lover's Lane" (some people are really bothered by the ending) and "Racket Girls" (some people find the movie too dull). But I'll be watching all three again. Another great set from Shout Factory.


The Film Crew: Wild Women of Wongo
The Film Crew: Wild Women of Wongo
DVD ~ Film Crew: Wild Women of Wongo
Offered by kylakins
Price: $12.49
33 used & new from $3.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Cult of Izod will Rise Again, July 13, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I ended up getting the final round of Film Crew discs after enjoying The Giant of Marathon" and "Hollywood After Dark". This is the final of the four discs, "The Wild Women of Wongo". Judging from the title and the number for animal print bikinis on the cover I had a feeling this was going to be really funny or really painful.

Turns out "Wild Women of Wongo" is both. This movie's budget was really low, with most of the money going to hire women willing to wander around in furry underwear for 90 minutes and the rest spent on renting a parrot and maybe even an alligator or two. This left roughly a quarter or maybe fifty cents for a script and crew. The result is a movie in the most basic sense of the word. The pictures move and there is sound, but the plot is well... dumb.

You see Mother Nature shows up and tells us a long time ago she and Father Time created the tribe of Wongo. It was comprised of lovely women and ugly men. Then on a neighboring island they set up just the opposite. Then they stood back and watched the sparks fly. And fly they do. One of the pretty boys shows up in Wongo and the women go ga-ga over him. The Wongo men won't stand for this so they plot to kill the young punk. Well this doesn't sit well with the women and things go wrong - an alligator god is toppled and the girls are sent off to become human sacrifices.

But the movie doesn't end there. You still have to have an invasion of ape men, a crazy priestess who loves interpretive dance, men getting roped by Wongo women and lots of people running round in fur clothing.

This is a bad movie. No use in beating around the bush here. Compared to the previous three Film Crew discs, "Wild Women of Wongo" is the worst film of the bunch. It's production values are bargain basement, the script is wretched, the acting is worse, the dancing is hilarious and the ending is so stupid you'll be scanning back to see if you just witnessed a proto-Mentos wink-a-thon. Add a really annoying talking parrot into the mix and you've got a movie that is punishing.

It's perfect for the Film Crew and they jump right in, riffing at everything in sight. And boy is there plenty to work with. Unlike the previous three flicks, there are no dull spots in this film. Each new scene brings forth something perfect for mocking. It could be the strange hair die on the Wongo men - is that supposed to make them ugly? It could be the Wongo women who can't seem to remember any of their lines and were obviously chosen for other assists than acting ability. It could be the endless fight with a pigmy alligator. It could be priestess who is so over the top and yet so bad of an actress that every line is pure riffing gold.

This disc felt most like Mike, Bill and Kevin's previous work at MST3K and future work at Rifftrax. And that means it's a real winner. If you're a fan of these guys and want to give Film Crew a try, this is the disc I recommend - lots of laughs to be found here.

The three host segments break down this way. The first is the intro with Bob Honcho telling the crew about the film. The second has Kevin interrupting lunch again with a detailed discussion on exactly where the island of Wongo is. Kevin knows it's somewhere on the map near the Island of misfit toys and Narnia. The finale has Bill with a machine that will match anyone up with his or her perfect mate based only on appearance. Yeah, I don't see e-harmony using that any time soon.

The extras include the Film Crew being compelled to dance, just like the characters in the movie. Hey if that nutzoid priestess was shouting at me, I'd obey her commands too. There is also a bit where the Crew attempts to recreate the ending using cardboard hula girls and lots of cheesy facial expressions.

This was my favorite disc by the Film Crew. The previous three movies all had slow spots in them, and these ended up thwarting the riffing. But "Wild Women of Wongo" is full of odd moments, goofy acting and well, just poor film making. With all that to work with the Film Crew strikes gold. Not quite a five start effort, but really damn close.


The Film Crew: Killers From Space
The Film Crew: Killers From Space
DVD ~ Film Crew
Offered by 1stVideo
Price: $14.89
30 used & new from $3.18

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Peter Graves vs. The Ping Pong Eyed Aliens, July 13, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I ended up getting the final round of Film Crew discs after enjoying "The Giant of Marathon" and "Hollywood After Dark". The first one I popped in was "Killers From Space" starring frequent Mystery Science Theater 3000 actor, Peter Graves. Was I prepared for more references to "Biography"? You better believe it.

"Killers from Space" has all the hallmarks of a classic bad movie just asking for the riffing treatment. It's a black and white 50's sci-fi thriller that contains not only aliens from another world but atomic mutations! That's right two genre clichés in one film.

Peter Graves is a scientist who is popped into a jet fighter and sent to monitor an atomic test blast from above. While flying above the blast zone he notices something shimmering in the desert. As the jet moves to investigate, things go horribly wrong. The jet is downed and the blast occurs.

But fear not, Graves miraculously shows up the next day unharmed except for a surgical scar on his chest. His doctor and co-workers are baffled by his condition, and Graves discovers that his dreams are plagued by visions of men with ping pong ball eyes. Could it be that Graves is controlled by some unknown force!?!

I've actually made the movie sound much more interesting than it turns out to be. The basic idea is actually good solid sci-fi pulp fodder. With the right approach a nifty little movie could have been made. Instead, turgid direction, slow ponderous acting and some really bad editing sucks all the joy from the film.

In particular this movie suffers from a saggy middle section. The opening scenes with the jet and atomic blast are actually pretty good and goofy enough to provide lots of laughs. The ending with Graves running around trying to stop the aliens (or is he controlled by them?) is also pretty solid. But that middle portion with Graves sneaking around and lots of long pointless conversations between grey lumpy faced men just slows the film to a halt.

Even the big moment of the alien reveal and the appearance of giant mutated desert beasts doesn't do anything more than annoy the viewer with a very long, very pointless chase scene with poor special effects.

Fans of bad movies will enjoy a nice game of spot the actor. Most of these guys have shown up in a Mystery Science Theatre film at some point. I recognized one man from "The Atomic Brain" and another who was in "Miracle on 34th Street". And keep an eye on one of the workers in the power station - could it be Coleman Francis (of "Red Zone Cuba" and "Sky Divers" fame)? Some mysteries were never meant to be solved.

So where does that leave Mike, Bill and Kevin? Well this type of movie works pretty well for them. The bookends are great material and they really roll with it. The whole atomic test/jet sequence is riffed perfectly and I was laughing pretty hard. The finale was also really funny. But that middle section, especially the talky scenes was tough. They did their best, but it was a bit of a drag. I was actually thankful that the lunch break popped up when it did.

Speaking of host segments there are three. The first is the introduction to the movie with Bob Honcho talking about male body parts and funerals. Then Kevin goes a bit crazy and won't let Mike and Kevin eat their lunches, but insists on discussing some bit of trivia. The final segment deals with a little known film technique that involves reaction shots provided by actors who are completely devoid of any living spark. Are they dead, or are they acting?

The extras include a bit about the alien language used in the film. It is followed by outtakes from the film in which the alien language is translated.

Not a bad outing all together. Once again the movie itself seems to be the major hurdle here. The saggy middle slows the laughs down, but the bookends are definitely worth seeing. Basically I give it the same score I gave the previous two Film Crew discs.


RiffTrax: Reefer Madness - from the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
RiffTrax: Reefer Madness - from the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
DVD ~ Michael J. Nelson
Price: $8.46
20 used & new from $0.86

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You got your Riffs in my Reefer!, June 1, 2009
Ah, good old Reefer Madness, an infamous film for a number of reasons. This is one of those films that is so bizarre and so knuckleheaded, that you start to wonder just who the creators thought the target audience would be.

This film is part warning of the dangers of smoking marijuana, part exploitation flick, all goofy! Witness a man refusing a soda but accepting a root beer! Gasp in horror at the goofy pratfall into a fountain. Curl up in the fetal position when the pusher's meal is interrupted. Run screaming from the room when the high school principle gets up to deliver a dry boring speech... for the fourth time!!!

Oh yeah and a bunch of forty year old actors play teenagers, get high, smooch on a couch, die, or become permanently insane. But that's just the typical stuff you'd expect.

As a whole the film is just a mess. Editing is laughable, with scenes going on way too long, some scenes just ending for no apparent reason and others existing for no reason either. The film opens with a scrolling prologue that lasts nearly four minutes. It is followed by the dry dull monologue from the high school principle character that also goes on for another four minutes. When the movie finally does start, you'll be excited to see actual actors.

It's a shame they are pretty much all horrible. With performances veering from the disinterested pusher, all the way to the completely insane piano player who looks like he's about ready to chew all the scenery in the small closet he's locked himself inside of (waiting for his Kramer stand in audition). The acting fused with the moronic story and silly dialogue doesn't so much convince that drugs are evil, but it does make you suspect that the creators were using drugs while making the film.

All this is perfect fodder for Mike, Bill and Kevin to tackle. I owned Mike Nelson's solo commentary on this film and it did have its moments, and some of the best have made it onto this new commentary. But there is plenty of new material here, and lots of it appears to be written with Kevin, Bill and Mike in mind.

But for some reason the whole thing just never goes out of the park. It's funny, and the team delivers some hilarious lines, but as a whole the effort seems a bit slight. Part of it is the running time. The movie is short and lots of it is filled with those stupid monologue scenes or bad dialogue scenes that don't offer much for the guys. However when the smoking and wacky antics are full bore, then the guys deliver.

It's entertaining, but feels like it should have been a bit funnier. I'd say it's better than Mike's solo effort, but about average on a Rifftrax or MST3K scale. The black and white print is pretty good for a movie this old, but other than that, you don't get any other extras. Rifftrax fans should be fine with this. Fans of the movie should pick up Legend Films version with both the black and white and fully (and trippily) colorized version as well as numerous extras. Then download the Rifftrax commentary from the site for the complete experience.


The Film Crew: The Giant of Marathon
The Film Crew: The Giant of Marathon
DVD ~ Steve Reeves
Offered by 1stVideo
Price: $12.89
40 used & new from $3.49

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Imagine Thunderball with men in diapers, June 1, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but I was a little late to the Film Crew party. I heard about the series back when it was announced but for some reason it flew under my radar.

Recently I read some good reviews of the series, especially ones that compared it favorably to the seasons of the sci-fi channel run of MST3K. I decided to break down and pick up a couple. "The Giant of Marathon" was the second one I popped in.

I'm a fan of the Hercules episodes of Mystery Science Theater, so I figured this one would be right up my alley. However instead of a mythical epic, this is a historical epic detailing the turmoil in Athens leading up to the first battle with the Persians climaxing in the battle of Marathon. Now, I've read my Herodotus and I'm pretty sure that all the stuff that happens to Pheidippides in this movie didn't come from history.

In contrast to most of the Hercules movies most of the action in the film is loaded to the final third. For most of the first half or so you get lots of political maneuvering and dialogue. Now the movie is dubbed, so the voice acting is pretty lousy. This makes these long talky scenes particularly painful.

Once the action kicks in, things get better, with lots of laughs being generated by the horrific stage fighting, the horse abuse and the extended underwater battle that looks like "Thunderball" BC.

This movie appears to have a pretty large budget, so there are some impressive sets, costumes and lots of extras. The ship battle is probably the most impressive in scope. There are actually a number of ships on screen and lots of extras doing battle in and out of the water. It's fairly impressive to tell you the truth.

One of the strange things about the film is the fact that there are a lot of mostly naked men running around in it. Now, I know that most of the sword and sandal films have lots of oiled up half naked guys in them, but usually there is a voluptuous evil queen or sexy slave girl to balance it all out. Not so much in this film. Sure the main girl Andromeda is curvy and pouty, but she's hardly in the flick. Instead you get an extended scene of two hairy men wrestling or lots of underwater scenes with guys in what appears to be diapers swimming around. I'm not kidding.

Of course all this fodder give the Film Crew plenty of ammo for lots of homosexual humor. They end up going a bit overboard, but at the same time the movie seems to be really courting it. Seriously the amount of bare man flesh is really odd for a sword and sandal flick from the 60's.

For me this adds up to a pretty average outing for the Film Crew. The movie is pretty slow for the first half. They do a good job with what they are given, but it isn't until the battle of Marathon really kicks in that the jokes start flying. The last twenty minutes or so of the film are absolutely hilarious (even the scenes with the horse abuse. Warning to animal lovers, these look pretty brutal and while the Film Crew makes light of it, try not to think about it too much).

There are three host segments. The intro has the Film Crew discussing the film with Bob Honcho. During the lunch break Bill uses everyone's lunch to recreate the battle of marathon for Mike. Kevin is not amused. The finale has everyone creating super goofy hats (with Kevin's being the most disturbing of all), and Mike insulting ancient Persians.

This leads to the extras, which include Mike apologizing for insulting ancient Persians but insulting Italians instead. This continues with Mike digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself with Kevin and Bill trying to bail him out in the end. It's actually pretty funny. There is also a mini-commentary by an extra from the film (who sounds a lot like Mike). It starts off goofy and ends up going right over the top for some good laughs.

I have to admit it, I was a bit disappointed in this episode. I think my love of the Hercules episodes raised my hopes a little too high and the movie was just too slow in the beginning. Like I said the last 20 minutes are top notch material, but it's a little dull getting there.
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