MST3K 11×13: Christmas Insanity III: It’s Italy’s Turn

“Can’t believe this is in the Bible!”

The movie: The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, an import that should have been seized by Customs

Now, I don’t consider myself a MST3K buff. I’ve probably watched less than half of the episodes. But I will still say it: I’ve seen the previous two Christmas MSTs, I’ve seen a lot of other episodes, this season included, but this is the first one I’ve seen where I genuinely wondered about the sanity of the people behind the movie.

This is not a logical movie. This is not an illogical movie. Somehow, it exists in a universe separate from logic. It creates, drops, ignores, and distorts its trite storylines and tropes at will. Nobody ever suggests the lawyer try to collect on his bills. In fact, the lawyer ignores his practice to work as a janitor, to earn enough money to pay that rent that’s so outrageous that less than a month’s pay for a janitor and mall Santa in a tiny department store are enough to pay it off. Nobody comments on the idea that someone could buy the North Pole from the Inuit, or out from under Santa, or . . . you get the idea. Mrs. Claus refers to her husband in private as “Santa”, which I guess is standard in these movies but makes just as much sense as referring to your spouse as “CEO” or “Mayor”. The little boy in the snow at the end talks exactly like a 40-year-old man. And on and on.

The intro animation is cute, even if the accompanying song isn’t all that. The Prune song is just, wow. The actors desperately try to make something out of a nothing song there. I got a strong Gene Wilder vibe from the head elf in this bit, go figure.

One thing the movie has going for it is the Dickens-level names . . . except how are we supposed to take a lawyer named Whipple seriously?

As for our riffing heroes and villains, everyone seems to be gelling now. The inventions and host segments are typically just okay, but well-executed, and everyone is their character rather than playing their character. It’s great.

The riffing falls into the category of consistently solid with some highlights. Ragging on the movie’s faults is balanced with more creative input. I, too, am beginning to understand this whole “broke lawyer” thing. And I hope that the lyrics to “Good King Wencelaus” are more easily found online today than when I went looking some years ago.

Push the button: It doesn’t match SC or SCCtM for spectacle, but this is insane and funny enough to go into the Christmas rotation with them both (my favorite is Santa Claus). The host segments just tend to be a little weak.

Next up: the last episode of this season! Will they finish with a bang or a whimper? And when will Netflix announce Season 12?!

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MST3K 11×12: Cirque du Soverybad

“Hey, wasn’t there a talking chimp in this movie?”

The movie: Carnival Magic, which sounds like it’s one of those old B&W shorts they riffed in previous seasons. If only it were so short!

This is it. This is exactly the kind of quality I expect from movies with titles like Because of Winn-Dixie. I avoid that kind of DVD cover like the plague, because in my head it plays out just this painfully. This is trying so hard to combine the “warm-hearted movie where someone comes in and fixes everything up” genre with the “mischievous animal comes in and terrorizes unlikeable people and IT’S FUNNY” genre. This isn’t even Beethoven. It’s obnoxious and unfunny and at the end when everybody gets SOOO upset over the obnoxious monkey it feels like a Mary Sue.

Urgh, this season features a lot of awful movies! But anyway, what about the riffing?

Well, it’s pretty good. “Al Adamson is the name Alan Smithee uses when he doesn’t want his name to appear on the film.” “Oh! And out of the trailer! This carnival really is magic!” “But their remains nourished this mighty oak.” “So when does the death part come?” “I’m sitcom mad.” There are a lot of good one-liners and good momentum.

The flavored sweat “invention” is dumb and gross enough to be worthy of Forrester and Frank. The host segments are just plain fun, with a send-up of the movie’s premise, the police codes thing, Mark Hamill, and Kinga declaring that Jonah is “completely at my mercy, and that’s what I need in a husband.” And then they have a nice little die-cut parade at the end to wind things down.

However, at this point I’ve realized a problem with this season. Look at the host segments. I feel like it’s nearly always Crow, Jonah, Tom, left to right, with Gypsy mainly hanging out in the left third of the screen. That’s sort of the de facto order in prior seasons, yes, but there just doesn’t feel like there’s much variety in staging. Everyone finds their spots and sticks to them. (As counterexamples from this season, consider the fashion show where the bots stay put but Jonah comes in from off-screen in different outfits, or when Crow made a bunch of Toms early on. From previous seasons, there are the Ingrid Bergman sketch, Tom and Crow refueling in The Starfighters, and, well, one bot or the other headed off screen fairly often.) As a result, the host segments sort of have a cumulative feeling of sterility. Doubtless this is partly because the new puppeteers need to learn their craft, but when Netflix finally orders a new season (*cough cough*), I’d like to see more motion, to make the set feel less stagey and more lived-in.

One last comment: Having just watched Werewolf before this one, my eye was caught by the credits: Stewart, Segal, Reynolds. As in Warwilf, these names aren’t attached to famous people either.

Push the button: Not a favorite-favorite, but this is a strong installment of the show.

Next time: the bonus Christmas episode! I hope it’s as wacky as Santa Claus and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

MST3K 11×11: These Wizards Are Ridiculous

They’re not even funny.

“And this is definitely a sequel, not a completely unrelated movie that we slapped the beloved Wizards brand on.”

The movie: Wizards of the Lost Kingdom 2, now with more wizarding and even less pretence at competence

Some may have Disney Aladdin flashbacks during the early movie, where the old wizard is informed by the Dungeon Master that there is but one boy who is pure in heart blah blah blah. Others may think of Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars, or any of several bits in the Bible. For me, it primarily brought thoughts of Magic Carpet. The point is, it’s not the most unique start to a plot ever.

And then the plot signals that there are three Macguffins to be gathered together to save the world, which is not the most unique continuation to a plot either. It also isn’t the sanest thing to do, because the first movie could barely handle the recovery of a single artifact.

And there’s some terrible acting, atrocious plotting and pacing, and bad dialogue, which you can spot for yourself. Some of those lines must have been written by a quarter-wit who thought (s)he was being such a clever half-wit. When a riffer says early on, “I never thought I’d miss Simon and Cor”, I agree.

Anyway.

The opening host segment is one of the better opens we’ve had this season, and the puntbunny invention is one of the funniest this season (and I like cute rabbits), and the “restaurant training video” and “Pearl’s second visit” segments are pretty good, but the riffing is just okay, grading on a curve of “this season”. Even on a second viewing, it’s a letdown from last episode, no question. At least the riffing is properly synched with the movie at this point. Kinga has a nice moment at the end, when she realizes she’s helping the experiment subjects.

It’s a bummer watching the movie tube thing fill up at this point. Just a few more episodes to go.

Push the button: Far from the best of the season, but there are several pretty good host segments.

Next time: more magic, of the carnival variety.

MST3K 11×10: A Wizard Did It. A Very Bad One

“The most charismatic character is a hat.”

The movie: Wizards of the Lost Kingdom. Wizards, because if they claimed there were any actors in this kingdom they could be sued for deceptive advertising

This is the sort of movie that I might call “endearing” if it had any heart to it. As it is, it just felt weird watching it.

Starting the show with a solo Mad in front of the camera was a bit of a shock, but it went well enough. I suspect we’re going to see more development of Max’s crush before the end of the season.

After so, so many unimaginative tropes had already made their appearance, the huge yeti thing showed up and I groaned about a Cute Animal Friend. KJ: “I don’t think that ‘cute animal friend’ would be the words for what that is.” Me: “I don’t think that ‘acting’ would be the word for what they’re doing.” Chewbacca, Cute Animal Friend, whatever, it just didn’t need to be there in any scene. Don’t put CAFs in your stories. Just don’t.

Cor, or whatever his name is, seems less like a conqueror than a self-help guru who can pick up a sword without cutting himself open.

The host segment song wasn’t the greatest lyrically, but I enjoyed it for the interaction and content. And tampering in God’s domain is one of my favorite callbacks.

Letters! I had just been wondering if there would be any more this season.

I feel like I should recognize the music in the bit where Bad Guy calls Princess In Distress “delicate”. It’s annoying that I can’t think of where I’ve heard something like it.

Again pushing to keep the casual viewer around, the Mads as good as announce that next time will be the sequel.

Push the button: “Maybe this is the menu and we have to click on the movie we want.” “I really hope whatever they’re panning to is worth it.” The riffing just nails this movie, all the way through, hilariously so. One of the highlights of the season.

Next time: Can they keep up the momentum with Wizards II: Wizardly Boogaloo?

MST3K 11×09: Yongarrection

“Yongary is the kind of monster you get at the 99ยข store.”

The movie: Yongary, an import from Korea

Felicia Day seems to be settling in as Kinga. The Hitler coffee is goofy and well-played, while the tiny desks of rage are just one of those cute little ideas that the previous seasons had in abundance.

The movie itself is fun and the riffing is even more fun, all the way through. It doesn’t, in my opinion, rise to the level of being killer material, but the movie gives a lot to work with and J&tB deliver A-grade lines. Part of it is the line delivery. In nearly every episode, there will be lines that, well, the delivery seems off to me in one way or another. That never happened in this episode.

The bit about sending the newlywed up in a rocket is ridiculous on several obvious levels. Even if South Korea couldn’t rely on its allies for data and had to fly its own rocket over the Middle East, just send another astronaut (Koreanaut?) to run the instruments and have the data ready for the groom when he’s good and ready. And ultimately, the rocket doesn’t matter, because the only bearing the flight has on the Yongary plot is that the guy lands and tells them “Yep, that earthquake is a-comin’ this way!” which they already knew.

I liked Crow in the astronaut music segment. And nice bubble-blur in the nightclub segment to make it easier for Crow to take a bite out of the model.

So, uh, that’s the dark side of the Moon we’re seeing in the commercial break segments? Kinga had the title carved into the far half of the Moon? Wow.

Hah, a River Kwai reference about a week after I read the book for the first time. And whoa, self-riff with Crow scoring off of Tom!

I agree with J&tB that the bleeding was too much. Reptilicus killed its monster unconvincingly and got away with it just fine without having to get gory. But they did get a nice closing segment, with a relatively serious song, out of it.

Push the button: “Before the Internet, it took so much more effort just to tell people not very much.” Agreed — nowadays, any old schmuck can start a WordPress account and babble at the world what he thinks about cheesy TV shows.

This is one of the season’s best. The host segments aren’t stellar, but they’re enjoyable enough, and the riffing is a breeze.

Next week: Wizards, or possibly wizzards given the SFX budget of your average MSTed movie.