MST3K 11×14: No goose in this one

“Edgar R. Burroughs? They’re really trying to spread the blame around.”

The movie: At the Earth’s Core, which feels like it might have been better if they had come up with the idea themselves instead of adapting a book

No smoking in the giant drill, but you’re taking along your fine china? Okay then.

I suspect if this movie were made today, the guy would have gotten the girl somehow or else she would have ended up dead. Not sure which era of movie-making that reflects more positively on.

All the host segments are good here. The meta backhanded compliments as Crow and Tom tell Jonah he’s pretty okay for not being Joel or Mike, the steampunk robots (although Crow is just eh), the camaraderie, fun songs, the approaching and actual wackiness, and what’s this? Dynamic camera angles for the big finale? Yes please. Everybody’s clicking, Cynthia certainly included.

Max confesses the movie is kind of fun, and it seems likely the riffing team thought so too: A lot of fun references here, ranging from Carol Burnett to Hungry Hungry Hippos to Tim Burton, and fun riffs in general.

That was quite a shock ending, and Kinga’s reaction is flawless. Not a hint of humanity there, without coming off as a monster. So, was Jonah not sure if he’d want to come back, or was Joel not confident of getting a second season, or did they just want to do something different?

I say hidey-hole.

Push the button: A strong ending to the season. Overall it’s a pretty good, enjoyable season, especially if you allow for the actors settling into their roles and relationships.

Top of the top episodes: Reptilicus, Yongary, Wizards I, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t

The not-so-great: Loves of Hercules, Wizards II

The episode I mainly remember as “Oh, and that one happened too”: The Land That Time Forgot

Funniest invention: Probably the Afterlife Alert in Time Travellers

Funniest host segment: Probably Gypsy’s time travel safety lessons from the same episode

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#12: The Millennium Falcon was brainwashed by Hydra during ESB

Straight from a disturbing part of our subconscious, it’s . . .

The Top Eleven Plot Twists We Want To See in The Last Jedi

11. The heroes get into a fierce sabers-vs.-blasters fight, but Mara Jade comes out of nowhere, tells Luke, “I got your back, hon”, and turns the tide. WOOHOO!

10. Kylo Ren either grows a spine or gets over himself.

9. A battle for an orbital robotics factory ends with the factory exploding, with droids and droid bits spraying in all directions. Stopping the DVD at the right frame reveals: droidekas, V.I.N.CENT, Bender.

8. While dealing with her late husband’s belongings, Leia finds Han’s stash of C/7 Voyager fanfiction.

7. There’s a subplot about trade disputes and it’s absolutely gripping.

6. Finn goes to Endor’s moon to recuperate from trauma he feels because of all the evil things he did as a stormtrooper, and finds he shares a love of show tunes with Wicket III. And yes, that leads to the final celebratory scene at the end of the trilogy in exactly the way you expect.

5. “Shoot, Rey! SHOOOOOOOOOOT!”

4. Snoke turns out to be a fist-sized human-salamander hybrid who just sits really close to the holoprojector.

3. Artoo dresses up as Darth Vader for Halloween Death Day and totally scares the stuffing out of everyone.

2. Remember all that nonsense about midichlorians boosting your Force powers? Turns out that was just propaganda from the eugenics-industrial complex.

1. Luke has no deep philosophical convictions about wanting the Jedi to end. He’s just been depressed since the last Quizno’s within a parsec closed its doors.

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?!

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.