HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MST3K: THE RETURN (2017)

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MST3K: THE RETURN (2017)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was created by Joel Hodgson and originally ran for ten seasons from 1988 till 1999 and was a beloved show for movie geeks everywhere, as it playfully skewered some of the worst cult classics and B-movies of all kinds. The format had a working stiff (originally series creator Joel Hodgson and then Mike Nelson) being kidnapped to a satellite in space and forced to watch some of the worst films ever made. The subject and a group of robots would then comment on these films as the series’ villains observed and routinely tried to make things miserable for our heroes. Fans have missed the show since it’s cancellation and were overjoyed to find out that Netflix was reviving it.

Premiering on Netflix streaming this April, the new series follows the same plot with newcomer Jonah (comedian Jonah Ray) being the newest test subject under the watchful evil eye of Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day), daughter of original series villain Dr. Clayton Forrester and Max (Patton Oswalt), otherwise known as The TV Son of TV’s Frank, offspring of original series villain TV’s Frank. There are fourteen new episodes featuring fourteen bad movies to which our hero, along with robots Gypsy, Tom Servo, Crow and Cam-bot, watch and mock while Kinga and Max do their best to make Jonah crazy…all with mostly hilarious results.

The revived series certainly is a welcome return and, for the most part, can be as funny as the original show. As with all the other seasons, there are some strong and hilarious episodes and some which are just OK. The key here is the movies have to provide the crew with something to work with. The funniest episodes of the new season, such as premiere episode Reptilicus, Time Travelers, Starcrash, The Land That Time Forgot and the season finale At The Earth’s Core all provide material that is ripe for commentary and the writers certainly take the ball and run with it. Then there are movies which are just bad, like Cry Wilderness, the first hour of Beast From Hollow Mountain, Wizards of the Lost Kingdom and Carnival Magic, which are so bad that Jonah and the boys struggle through them to keep the comments coming and funny. If the movie they’re watching is boring, there isn’t much the crew can do. Thankfully, the episodes that do work…and more do than don’t…hilariously make up for the few where laughs and fun are scarce. As with the previous seasons, there are movie geek references galore, such as Kinga’s house band looking delightfully like Infra-Man’s skull soldiers and meta references to previous episodes.

The cast are all having a blast and it shows. Jonah Ray is a suitable replacement for the earlier Joel and Mike. He’s a likable lug and fits the part well. Felicia Day is having a blast as Kinga, a cross between Cruella Deville and Veruca Salt. Day knows how to ad camp in just the right amounts and to dial up just enough villainy so Kinga stays a fun bad girl, like her predecessors and doesn’t tip over into unlikable. Patton Oswalt is equally successful as the bumbling Max…who has a crush on Kinga, which she obviously ignores…and is not quite such a bad guy as his boss lady…though he is trying. The robots’ voice actors all do a good job with instilling them with personality, although they are the same characters from the original show, so they don’t have to work as hard to establish themselves like out new leads. There are also cameos from original series characters and actors and some amusing appearances from famous faces such as Mark Hamill and Jerry Seinfeld.

Overall, this is a very happy return for a personal favorite show. The new cast and characters are likable and fit in with the show’s established style and the old format still works and works well when given material ripe for the picking-on. There are a few yawn inducing episodes, when the movie itself is dull and not even funny in the wrong way, but when the movie is the right kind of bad, the episodes measure up to some of the previous series best on equal footing. Welcome back MST3K!…and when can we expect season 12???

EPISODE LIST

(Rating the show by episode instead of the usual overall rating)

  1. Reptilicus – 3 and 1/2 stars
  2. Cry Wilderness – 2 and 1/2 stars
  3. Time Travelers – 3 and 1/2 stars
  4. Avalanche – 2 and 1/2 stars
  5. The Beast of Hollow Mountain – 3 stars…the last 1/2 hour was very funny
  6. Starcrash – 3 and 1/2 stars
  7. The Land That Time Forgot – 3 and 1/2 stars
  8. The Loves Of Hercules – 3 stars
  9. Yongary – 3 and 1/2 stars
  10. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom – 2 and 1/2 stars
  11. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II – 3 stars
  12. Carnival Magic – 2 and 1/2 stars
  13. The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t – 2 and 1/2 stars
  14. At the Earth’s Core – 3 and 1/2 stars

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: STRANGER THINGS (2016)

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STRANGER THINGS (2016)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Stranger Things is an eight episode series from Netflix that takes place in Hawkins, Indiana in 1983. This fun retro series tells of four friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Will (Noah Schnapp), who are into Dungeons and Dragons and Star Wars like most nerdy kids of this era. A bizarre series of events occur with Will disappearing and a mysterious young girl (Millie Bobby Brown) with strange powers showing up in town, at the same time. She calls herself ‘Eleven’ and seems to be on the run. The three friends bond with Eleven and the four set out to find Will, as does local police chief Hopper (David Harbour) with all clues pointing to the mysterious Hawkins Laboratory and it’s presiding head scientist (Matthew Modine). Where is Will? Who really is Eleven? And what do the experiments at Hawkins have to do with all this?

This is a fun and nostalgic series from Ross and Matt Duffer (Hidden) that not only pays homage and gives affectionate nods to the sci-fi/horror flicks of the 80s and their filmmakers, but succeeds in being it’s own thing as well. Sure we see references to many 80s classics, but Stranger Things has it’s own vibe and it’s own story to go along with it’s tributes and provides it’s own chills, as no more evident than it’s opening scenes. We get little girls with deadly powers, evil men in black, alternate dimensions, creatures, conspiracy and a small town caught in the middle of it all. The Duffers deliver it with the look and feel of a movie of that era, as well as, a really cool electronic 80s score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, but not without a touch of their own style. While the mysteries slowly unravel over the course of the eight chapters, we are kept in the dark as long as possible, fed only small bits till it all comes together in the thrilling last few episodes. It’s a delightfully retro series that delivers the goods on all levels including having a little bit of an unobtrusive and offbeat sense of humor. It’s engaging and entertaining and very cleverly written by it’s creators who know exactly in what degree to deliver both it’s homages and it’s scares. The FX are well done, with much of the creature work appearing to be live effects and it never goes too overboard with them as to not betray the era it is recreating. To say anymore would be to spoil a really enjoyable and spooky show.

The cast are all really good from the name actors to the new faces. Winona Ryder is solid as Will’s emotionally troubled mother, who is pushed close to the edge by her son’s disappearance and the strange events that follow. Matthew Modine is appropriately arrogant and sleazy as head Hawkins scientist, Dr. Brenner, who pretends to care for Eleven, but is only using her for his experiments. Young Miss Brown is very endearing as Eleven, a child with some amazing and dangerous gifts who just wants to have a normal life and be cared for. We do feel sorry for her use as a test subject and how hurt she is that people fear her once they know what she is capable of. As our main group, Wolfhard, Matarazzo and McLaughlin all are engaging and make a likable trio of friends. They are brave in their search for Will and noble, especially Mike, in their befriending of Eleven. Harbour is also a good hero as the police chief who will go up against some very dangerous people to find a little boy. Schnapp doesn’t get much screen time as the missing Will, but he is likable enough in his brief appearances that we are sympathetic to what has happened to him. A good cast.

This was a solid and very entertaining series from start to finish. The 80s nostalgia was very enjoyable as was the recreation of the look and feel of films of that era, especially those of Carpenter and Spielberg. It payed homage to and referenced many 80s classics, yet was very much it’s own story that let it’s paying tribute be part of it’s tale, but not dictate it. The cast are all good, the FX were well-rendered, but did not look out of place in an 80s style film and there were plenty of chills, suspense and thrills throughout. Highly recommended and hopefully, there is only a second season, if it can match the quality of the first. Otherwise it stands perfectly on it’s own.

 

EPISODE LIST

  1. The Vanishing of Will Byers – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  2. The Weirdo on Maple Street – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  3. Holly Jolly – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jessica Mecklenburg
  4. The Body – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Justin Doble
  5. The Flea and the Acrobat – directed by The Duffer Brothers written by Alison Tatlock
  6. The Monster – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Jessie Nickson-Lopez
  7. The Bathtub – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Justin Doble
  8. The Upside Down – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers from a story by Paul Dichter

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 mysterious and powerful little girls.
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