MST3K 11×08: Herculean Contact

“Thesaurus: The Movie.”

The movie: The Loves of Hercules, all three of them, except for all the others

OK: Another nice invention exchange.

Jonah’s new robot is distinctive-looking, by which I mean it looks unique and it looks like it wasn’t designed by the same person who built Crow and Tom. That’s one of the more fun segments in a while. Jonah must’ve been so excited about J. Sniffles or whatever that he underestimated the bots’ severe sibling rivalry issues (see: Time Travelers).

It stinks: Nothing particularly bad that I noticed. It just never puts together a string of killer riffs or anything. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad episode, just not A+ material.

Saaay . . .: I get it now. With a host segment before the theme, Joel prevents Netflix from doing their annoying “skip the theme song” thing when you’re marathoning a show.

Cantaloupe Lady is very unimpressive, and the movie doesn’t get much better. Eight-odd minutes into the episode, I was already jotting a note that the movie feels as cleverly plotted and acted as if some ten-year-old got hold of the family digital camera.

Queen Fainty: I must still undergo . . . The Great Trial! KJ: Why? Me: Why anything this movie?

At least the people-trees were a neat visual, even if some of them looked to be made of cardboard.

Something that’s happening more often this season is that J&tB just flat-out critique plot holes and bad sets and the like. From experience, I can say that that isn’t bad per se, but you have to limit it and keep it funny. Even just give the line a humorous delivery.

Push the button: Not one of the “great” episodes, but still enjoyable. Probably the sort of episode one puts on when it’s a lazy day and one wants to kick back and watch an episode one hasn’t seen in a while.

Next up: Yongary, whoever that is.

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MST3K 11×07: The Saurs Awaken

“This is what every Star Wars movie looks like before the CGI gets put in.”

The movie: The Land That Time Forgot, full of dinosaurs, which time abruptly remembers when a submarine comes to visit

OK: Uh, well, there are only so many ways to say “it was funny.” I’m glad they backed off on the modern brand-name–dropping, compared to the western a couple of episodes ago. Speaking of which: whoa, burn on Comcast! I’ve never had their Internet or other service, but their customer service seems to be universally despised.

The robosquid jazzes up an otherwise standard “re-enact the movie” sketch.

It stinks: The dinosaur cafe thing was full of jokes, no question. But it might have been better to either trim it a bit or divide it between two host segments.

Saaay . . .: Continuing to have some fun with the idea of Moon 13 not being the most competent operation in the world in the Solar System, Arby tells us that some of this movie leaked. It’s partly a device to tell us what the movie will be about, and possibly partly to explain unusually deep cuts they made to fit it into Joel’s preferred 90ish-minute runtime. I hope they made deep cuts, because I was confused as anyone as to who was supposed to be in control of the sub after a while.

I only now noticed the spotlight as Jonah makes his way toward the umbilicus during the opening theme. Speaking of which, the “reenactment” conceit is starting to feel more natural now.

I’m not sure whether this or King Dinosaur is worse in its wanton slaughter of ancient reptiles. I’d have to watch K.D. again to be sure, which honestly doesn’t sound like a good idea. How does that one always get left off the list when people talk about the worst MST3K movies?

Push the button: Not spectacular, but solid and funny.

Next up: Hercules gets it on, again.

MST3K 11×06: Crash Gordon

“I feel like I’m watching a community theater production of Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Movie: Starcrash, an aptly named Star Wars copycat about crashed ships that itself crashes and burns

OK: The riffing isn’t as spectacular as it’s been at times, but it’s consistently sharp and on point. The movie is entertainingly, incoherently bad, especially whenever some element is clearly ripped off from Star Wars. And how about that Beach Boys parody?

It stinks: Noticing the riffs being out-of-sync agaiiin . . .

Say . . .: The movie could have been okay, rip-off factor aside, with decent acting and a plot that didn’t depend on deus ex machinae and Acton reading ahead in the script. And with a police robot that stayed menacing instead of becoming all folksy American South for no good reason. Yeesh.

Joel talks in an interview about having the chance to have a plot of his own this season. I wonder if the brief blackout during the “Send them the movie” spiel is connected to the ghostiness that Joel/Arby complained about in a previous episode. At any rate, it looks like Max has a genuine thing for Kinga.

The bots get in quite a bit of visual humor in the theater this episode.

A curious number of Fugitive Alien elements in the first five minutes or so, right up to a spaceship hiding in an alien canyon. Speaking of incompetence shared with other bad stories, the protagonists find a “crashed” spaceship that plowed up an awfully short furrow by a body of water.

Push the button: The cameo I was hoping for never happened, but still another good solid episode. And hey, Jerry Seinfeld.

Next time: We check in with Littlefoot and the gang, worn out after like fifty sequels.

MST3K 11×05: The Beastless Frontier

“His whole life is coffee, kerchiefs, and striped pants.”

The movie: The Beast of Hollow Mountain, which delivers what it promises . . . eventually . . . and then, as Crow(?) complains, not an animal that the word “beast” brings to mind in a western

OK: Hey, I think the riffs are synched now! The bit where someone speaks as the horse, as the horse is bobbing its head, takes good advantage of that.

A lot of great riffs. It’s a very riffable movie, and J&tB take full advantage.

I liked the invention exchange: simple but amusing. The hot water thing is dumb, let’s face it, but it sets up the funny so it’s excused.

One of the recurring host segment themes I like is when the bots get individually creative, and the beanbag segment, where they write their own movies, is a good example (as is the opening segment). Also, the bots just sitting there in beanbags for no apparent reason is an amusing visual, and takes advantage of Crow’s new design. They didn’t really show his legs much in the old series.

Tom’s flight capabilities are used well when he “tries” to fly through the credits.

It stinks: I felt like they were trying too hard to get the hip technological riffs in. LinkedIn, Etsy, and how many others? There were too many to keep the “haha, this is a glaringly anachronistic thing” angle, but not enough to achieve “haha, these glaringly anachronistic things are somehow just a part of their lives” status.

Saaay . . .:I caught on last episode that, during Robot Roll Call, the screen is showing bits of the current movie. I like it. I like it very much.

Most of the bumper bits have just been there. I’m fine with them, they add a bit of style, but right now they don’t do much for me. But there was a funny one this episode.

This movie is a stellar example of why it’s important to structure your story well. For most of its runtime, the movie is about quicksand and drunkards and a rich jerk willing to play dirty to rob the good guy of his cattle, all standard enough in a Western. The plot feels complete in itself, with the alleged beast just a vague rumor off to the side to add some spice. And then suddenly, it turns into a monster movie that just happens to be set in the West . . . and the titular beast turns out to be a dinosaur. Well, first it turns out to be a pair of laughably rubber feet stomping through a swamp, but then it’s a dinosaur.

You don’t change the genre at the last minute without so much as an old man warning “They say the beast is a creature unknown to mankind, a thing from ancient forgotten ages.” Or a mysterious shadow hanging over a stray calf and then pouncing. Some sort of build-up to the reveal. You certainly don’t abruptly change the rules in such a way that it ends up with a cowboy grinning idiotically as he swings back and forth over quicksand, because the characters are so ill-equipped to deal with this new menace that stupid plans are all they can use to fight it. All of this just makes your movie look badly executed.

I do like the waggly tongue, it gives the thing some character.

I got most of the music riffs this time.

The “costumes” host segment is a bit of a twist on the usual meta. The bots often want to play with an idea they saw in the movie, and then the human comes in and wants to know what they’re doing, the bots explain, and wackiness ensues. This time the bots are maddeningly, eerily silent, and drive everyone up the wall. And then there’s the Big Reveal as they enter the theater afterwards. It’s different and I like it, although Kinga could have done with an additional shot to more smoothly progress her breakdown.

Push the button: Another great episode, with more of the new season’s inventiveness.

Next time: Starcrash! And you know who that means . . . !