Rifftrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party (B). Last night Fathom Events delivered another live show by the Rifftrax usuals (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett) and a slew of guest stars (Mary Jo Pehl, Bridget Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, and a fellow who was new to me named Paul F. Tompkins). I assume that by now you know what these shows are–comedians who specialize in riffing on bad movies and other video material. This time around they aren’t riffing a full-length movie, but rather a bunch of “educational” shorts from I don’t know when–roughly the 50s through the 70s. Although this wasn’t one of the riffers’ greatest performances ever, I did think it was a solid outing with plenty of decent laughs. I would say the funniest shorts were (i) an old black-and-white number about a woman who graduates from secretarial school and works her way up in some bland office job, (ii) another black-and-white film about a surly high-school boy whose conscience is trying to get him to stop griping about everything, and (iii) a p.e. film featuring a bunch of dejected elementary-school kids being forced to roll and bounce big rubber balls around for no apparent reason. I know they sound terrible, but they’re pretty funny when the riffers make wisecracks about them throughout! The show will be rebroadcast on June 20, so head on over to fathomevents.com if you want more information.
Rifftrax Live: Samurai Cop. (B+) This is a solid effort by the riffers at Rifftrax. (I saw the live show last night, but you can catch a rebroadcast next Tuesday night if you like!) They started with an amusing short, an old black-and-white educational film in which a surly student learns about good manners from a preachy chalk drawing come to life. Samurai Cop itself is a terrible 1991 knock-off of Lethal Weapon and other buddy-cop movies. A Japanese gang with almost no Japanese members is getting into the L.A. drug scene, and a muscle-bound samurai cop with long, flowing hair and no discernible martial-arts skills comes up from San Diego to help out. He and his African-American sidekick mostly drive around shooting people, but the samurai cop occasionally takes a time out to awkwardly hit on or make out with various women who are unfortunate enough to cross his path. The riffing was very funny, and the movie was amusingly inept in its own right, so I give it a solid thumbs-up.
Be aware, however, that the Rifftrax show is rated R. I was surprised to see that on my ticket, and it turned out to be because the movie has a lot of profanity in it–also some clumsy sexual banter, and some scenes in which the hero and heroine make out while wearing very small swimsuits. (According to IMDB there is nudity in the original movie, but the Rifftrax folks deleted that out.)
To my surprise, the red-headed gal who runs with the bad guys in this movie was Gates McFadden’s stand-in on Star Trek: The Next Generation and actually had small parts herself in no fewer than 43 STTNG episodes! How about that?
Rifftrax Live: Time Chasers (B-). Well, I didn’t actually see this 2016 show live; I just recently saw it on DVD. But I was really, really looking forward to it because the guys riffed Time Chasers back in their Mystery Science Theater glory days, and in my mind it was one of the funniest MST episodes of all time. Time Chasers itself is a hilariously low-budget 1994 time-travel movie about Nick Miller, a nerdy physics professor in Vermont who turns his little single-propeller airplane into a time machine with what looks like a Commodore 64. Unfortunately Nick’s physics prowess far exceeds his common sense, and he rashly sells his invention to an evil corporation called GenCorp, embodied by its tangibly evil CEO J.K. Robertson. The scene in which Nick visits the CEO in his “office” – a stairway landing in what I’ve read is the opera house in Rutland, Vermont – is one of the all-time greats. So, Nick has to do more time traveling to try to stop himself from selling the time machine to GenCorp in the first place.
Unfortunately, the riffers just don’t do as good a job shredding Time Chasers as they did on Mystery Science Theater so many years ago. While watching the movie, I often remembered the wisecracks from the MST version, and the new jokes just weren’t as good. Don’t get me wrong—it was still an entertaining experience, if only because the movie itself is such a target-rich environment. I just thought the Rifftrax version didn’t live up to the MST original. There’s also a short about a chimpanzee that becomes a fireman, but it was nothing in particular to write home about either.
Rifftrax Live: Mothra (C). I thought this was a mediocre effort by the fellows at Rifftrax. They started with an okay short in which a little boy learns lessons about personal hygiene from a bizarre nighttime apparition called “Mr. Soapy.” The main feature was the Japanese monster movie Mothra, about a giant moth who destroys a bunch of Hot Wheels cars and styrofoam buildings after two tiny (like Barbie-doll sized) women get kidnapped from Mothra’s tropical island. The movie was, of course, quite ridiculous, but I didn’t think the riffing was particularly great. Part of the problem was that the movie was so incessantly loud it was occasionally hard to hear the jokes. Also, I thought the riffers used a little more off-color humor than they usually do, and I didn’t think it was very funny. So it was a bit of a let down, on the whole.
She Loves Me, by the Greater Lewisville Community Theatre. I saw this musical three years ago over in Fort Worth and liked it quite well. (Click here for that review.) If you like old-fashioned romantic musical comedy, this is one you should see if you get the chance. The main plot is that two lonely people have fallen in love by writing to each other through a lonely-hearts club, but unbeknownst to them they have also started working together at the same perfume shop—and they can’t stand each other in real life. (The movie You’ve Got Mail is loosely based on the same premise.) Anyhoo, this production’s run ends tomorrow, so my main point is to say a few words about GLCT, which I had never experienced before. In a nutshell, I liked it fine and wouldn’t hesitate to go back. The facility is old and a little time-worn, and the sound system was a little spotty at times. But the theater itself was fine (and cozy, seating maybe 100-120 people I would guess). The performances were mostly good, and a couple of the guys could really sing. And at $22 for a full-price ticket, it won’t break the bank. I’ll be back next time they do a show that catches my eye.
The Zombies were a 1960s rock band and part of the so-called British Invasion. A minor part, to be sure: they charted only three singles in America, all of which made the Top Ten. They broke up in late 1967, and their last hit (“Time of the Season”) peaked in 1969. But like their undead namesakes, the Zombies proved tough to kill. Keyboardist Rod Argent formed a band called Argent that had a Top Ten hit in 1972 (“Hold Your Head Up”). Vocalist Colin Blunstone occasionally contributed vocals to The Alan Parsons Project, which was a favorite band of mine back in the day. And Wikipedia says that various reincarnations of the Zombies have been kicking around for a while. Now they are kicking off a new American tour, and their first show was two nights ago in Dallas’s historic Majestic Theatre. They are promoting a new album, but they are also performing their last 1960s album, Odessey and Oracle, in its entirety. It’s a good album–trippy, tuneful, and said by the cognoscenti to be very influential on other musicians. Anyhow, the show was good (if a little too loud). The first half featured several new songs, a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” and the Zombies’ other two Top Ten hits, “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There.” After a short intermission, they came back and played Odessey and Oracle straight through, ending with “Time of the Season,” and then doing a reprise of “She’s Not There” for the encore. For a bunch of old British guys in a band that broke up 48 years ago, they played quite well. Blunstone’s distinctive voice, high and breathy, is pretty much the same as it ever was. If you like the Zombies, or at least their three hit songs, I encourage you to give a listen to “Old and Wise,” a Blunstone track on the Alan Parsons Project album Eye in the Sky.
The Glass Menagerie, Theatre Three. This was my first time to see this Tennessee Williams play, which I gather was his first big success. It was also my first trip to Dallas’s Theatre Three, a little theater in the Quadrangle area of Uptown. I enjoyed it. The play is a snapshot of just a few events in the life of the Wingfield family, as remembered years later by Tom Wingfield. During the Depression, Tom and his sister Laura are young adults living with their mother Amanda in a shabby apartment in St. Louis. Amanda’s husband fled the family long ago, and now Amanda reminisces continuously about her youth in the genteel South, when she had so many “gentleman callers” she could hardly keep track of them all. Laura is a basket case, so pathologically shy that she does nothing but take long walks, listen to her father’s old records, and gaze adoringly on her collection of tiny glass animals. Tom keeps the family afloat with a warehouse job that he hates, and he yearns to run away and be a poet. The performances were good, but I got the feeling that Amanda was supposed to be a bit of a monster, and instead she got more than a couple of laughs with her histrionic carrying-on. Allison Pistorius, whom I have seen in a couple of other local productions, was quite good as the fragile Laura. It runs through August 23, so check it out if you’ve never seen it before.