MST3K returns in a glorious Thanksgiving Marathon to remind us of better times and also terrible movies.
Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray) has somehow survived being eaten by a robot monster at the end of the last season, but he is still stuck on-board the Satellite of Love with his robot friends Crow T. Robot (Hampton Yount), Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn), Gypsy (Rebecca Hanson), and Cambot. However, he is still the captive of Kinga Forrester (Felicia “You Make My” Day) and TV’s Son of TV’s Frank, Max (Patton “You Make My” Oswalt) who have prepared the most sadistic torture imaginable: Binge-watching 6 terrible films in “The Gauntlet.”
The films are: Mac and Me, Atlantic Rim, Lords of the Deep, The Day Time Ended, Killer Fish, and Ator, the Fighting Eagle. All of them are a special version of awful.
Many of you are aware that I love MST3K. At my brother’s wedding, my groomsman gift was a set of MST3K cufflinks. I’ve written papers on copyright law that referenced them on topics I picked just so I could mention Tom Servo in a legal essay. I was a backer in the kickstarter to revive the series and regret not giving more due to not having money. I considered robbing a series of consignment shops, but I believed that Joel and the Bots (or Mike) wouldn’t want me to commit crimes in order to get them back in space. I’m a fan, is the gist of this. One of my favorite things was always the Turkey Day marathons that would air either on Comedy Central or on local channels. After all, the first MST3K was aired on Thanksgiving, so nothing could be more appropriate. So, imagine how pleased I was when, on Thanksgiving, 30 days after the initial premiere, Netflix gave us an actual in-show marathon of glorious bad movies.
Look, it’s not like I can really spoil these episodes. The entire point of MST3K is listening to the comics riff on the movies. However, there are certain rules behind what film makes a great MST3K episode:
1) The movie should have some gimmick or recurring element that they can make into a running gag.
2) Some of the dialogue should sound like it was written by an English poet, Google translated into Arabic, Yahoo translated into Greek, translated by a sixth-grade student into Japanese, then translated by a drunk guy back into English.
3) The more fundamental technical flaws the movie has that it refuses to recognize, the better.
4) Logic within the movie should be thrown out the window into a pile of flaming hippos. Why hippos? Because origami octopus butternut squash.
All of these movies meet these criteria and then some. Mac and Me, in particular, has been a movie that has been requested for riffing ever since people first decided that they liked hearing three grown men make jokes about cinematic tragedies.
The key to this season is that it is meant to be binged. It’s shorter than any previous season except for the last episodes when Comedy Central ended the series and, even within the show, the Mads (Kinga and Max) are challenging Jonah and the Bots to try and sit through six bad movies in a row. Each of the episodes feeds directly into the next one, with the next film being “flushed” to the Satellite of Love at the end of the episode. If you do binge this one (and it takes like 9 hours to do that, so be prepared), it actually forms a solid narrative and has a number of surprising throwbacks to the entire history of the show and the fandom.
Take the time out of your life and watch this season. It’ll make you happy and help you forget about how horrible reality can be for most of a day.
It’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets every sitcom where the main character runs into their “unhealthy ex” on this week’s episode.
Rick (Justin Roiland), Summer (Spencer Grammer), and Morty (Roiland) are in space when they pick up a distress beacon. Rick follows it so he can loot the ship, but they find survivors who tell everyone that there is an entity taking over the minds of those it infects. They’re immediately infected themselves. Rick prepares to fight, but it’s revealed that the hive-mind entity is actually Unity (Christina Hendricks), his ex-girlfriend.
They return to the planet that Unity has recently taken over. Summer immediately is put off by the nature of Unity’s expansion by enslaving people to her will, despite the fact that Unity has improved the quality of life massively. Morty and Summer go off to explore the planet while Rick proceeds to rekindle his relationship with Unity. When another hive-mind named Beta-Seven (Patton Oswalt) comes to trade with Unity, Rick mocks him until he leaves, at which point he and Unity use Beta-Seven’s supplies to make mind-altering drugs and alcohol.
Back on Earth, Jerry (Chris Parnell) discovers that Rick has a secret basement lab under the garage. He and Beth (Sarah Chalke) get into a fight over her being unable to stand up to Rick until they find a captive alien. The two of them begin fighting more and more about Rick’s behavior until the alien, revealed to be Blim Blam the Korblock (John “I’m the f*cking Cryptkeeper” Kassir), escapes and tells them that they are the “f*cking worst” even by the standards of him, a baby-eating alien murderer with Space AIDS. He tells them that their marriage is terrible because they hate themselves and each other and Rick has nothing to do with that. He then leaves the planet forever just because he hates them too much to stay.
Back on the Unity Planet, Unity’s alcohol and drug use has reached the point where she’s not able to maintain her control over the population and several people start to gain their freedom back. Unfortunately, this immediately leads to a race war between the people of the planet over the shape of their nipples. Morty and Summer are rescued, barely, by Unity. When they rejoin Unity and Rick, Summer tells Rick to leave with them, because he’s a terrible influence on Unity. He refuses and sends them away, only for Unity to realize that he’s bad for her, even though she loves him, and leave him in a letter.
Rick returns home and is confronted by Beth over the basement lab, which he immediately apologizes for and concedes the point to Beth. He then tells her he’s not going to leave and tells the kids that he left Unity. Immediately afterwards, in one of the bleakest sequences in the show, Rick then goes to the lab and attempts to commit suicide. He survives by passing out slightly before the death ray fires. Later, he confronts Beta-Seven in order to see Unity again, but Beta-Seven stops him and Rick leaves.
We actually learn quite a bit about Rick in this episode. First, we learn that he has actually had relationships other than his failed marriage to Beth’s mother. Well, one relationship, at least. Given how much Rick continually disdains marriage and the idea of love, it makes sense that he might seek out relationships which, by their nature, almost certainly can’t lead to marriage. As for love, Rick certainly doesn’t seem to actually care about Unity in any loving manner and he very much uses her love of him to manipulate her into doing what he wants. However, at the end of the episode, Rick’s reaction to Unity’s break-up and the accompanying note leads him to be so depressed that he cries and attempts to kill himself, suggesting that he either actually did have feelings for her, or at least realizes that she didn’t deserve to be treated the way that he treated her. Literally any of those reasons would be a revelation about Rick’s character.
Second, we learn that Rick really has a thing for redheads, is pansexual, and has daddy issues. Given that Beth is a blonde, Rick has blue-grey hair (and, since his 14-year-old clone did, too, apparently always has), Jerry has brown hair, and Jerry’s mother has blonde hair, this means that Summer’s red hair is likely a recessive trait inherited from her grandmother, Rick’s ex-wife. As such, Rick’s insane lust over redheads, telling Unity to get all of them naked in a stadium, could be a sign that he still has repressed feelings for his wife, or maybe that’s part of the reason he fell for her in the first place. Additionally, we get a sign that Rick has some father issues when he tells Unity that he wants to have sex with her in front of any man that even remotely resembles his father. We even, disturbingly, get to hear this later when the stadium chants “go, son, go!” The idea of Rick, who is borderline amoral and an admittedly terrible father, being the product of another terrible parent is believable, but sadly common and mundane. Still, this is a revelation about Rick.
Unity is a reference to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other such films where a single hive-mind takes over. The difference is, with Unity, the episode actually makes the case that individual will is overrated when compared to societal progress. Unity might not allow the people to act according to their own desires, but the planet improves massively under her rule. Part of that is that people, especially the ones on this planet, suck. The minute they’re free, rather than trying to fight Unity or rebuild, they immediately start a race war. It’s hard to go downhill from that. It reminds me a little of a line from Alan Moore’s Miracleman: “If you see a kid about to drink bleach, you take the bleach out of his hand. There’s no discussion of ‘free will’ about it.” That same line of thinking is used in that series to justify taking complete control of humanity, but the result is a utopia, much like with Unity.
Jerry’s and Beth’s plotline is basically just a continuation of their constant marital strife. In this, though, Blim Blam says something that often get overlooked: Rick is just the catalyst, he is not the cause. Beth hates herself for not living up to her own image of success, Jerry hates himself for his weakness and insecurity, and both of them hate the other for constantly keeping them from fixing those problems. In Unity’s letter, she actually acknowledges that she’s okay with Rick being Rick, but that her being okay with it means that she has problems with herself that she needs to address. The difference is, by leaving, Unity figures out how to address her problem, because she can’t separate from Rick enough while he’s present to ever work on herself.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
Alright, so, there are a few theories about the creature that Rick kills before he tries to kill himself. Sadly, a few were destroyed by Ryan Ridley and Justin Roiland, who stated that the creature is in unstoppable pain and therefore was being freed by death and that was its purpose in the narrative. One theory said that it was a creature possessed by Unity that Rick had saved to always be close to her, but the eyes are the wrong color for someone possessed by Unity. Instead, I think that the creature, which seems to be a Cronenberg, was the last thing Rick saved from his previous universe and, not to be dark, I think it was a mutated baby.
Hear me out, we witness a lot of people dying in the process of everyone becoming Cronenbergs and Rick and Morty were on the planet for a while after the mutations started. I think that Rick found an abandoned mutant baby that was suffering due to all of the changes and froze it, not to try and give it comfort, but to have a test subject. See, if you’re amoral or have… alternate morality… as Rick does, then a baby is likely going to be the best test subject for any genetic treatment since their cells are still changing, there are fewer of them, the test subject is easier to transport, and the subject’s metabolism is higher. I believe that Rick took the baby with them and planned on using it as a test subject to cure the Cronenberg-ism in case he and Morty ever needed to find another dimension. That way, they could just go back to their regular dimension, cure everyone, and resume life as usual.
This means that Rick’s killing of the creature is akin to murder, but is also probably an act of mercy in his opinion, since the baby would just die if it was sent back to C-137. However, what it mostly indicates is that Rick has completely given up on ever going back and he wanted to grant it a quick death rather than allow it to thaw and die slowly or get discarded by the Smith family. He also wanted to test that the death ray worked, of course, but it makes sense that Rick would want to double check that his suicide method is effective. After all, what if he just crippled himself or removed his ability to drink alcohol? That’d just make his life harder.
So, yeah, that’s Rick killing a baby he mutated through his own incompetence which he planned on experimenting on so that he could have another escape option available. It’s Rick, he’s a monster. This shouldn’t shock you.
LEAVING THE CORNER
Overall, this is one of the darkest episodes of Rick and Morty and also one of the most subversive in its message. Since those things are what the show calls “The Wheelhouse,” that also makes it one of the best.
Overall, I give this episode an
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.
I didn’t intend to see this movie. I didn’t really hear much about this film aside from it existing. But, I was walking back past the theater and it was the next film that started that seemed worth seeing. And I could not have been more pleasantly surprised.
So, I loved the original Teen Titans cartoon. I thought it was well-crafted, well-animated, well-voiced, had great characters that were complex while still being relatable, and had some great plotlines that allowed all those things to shine. But, it came to an end and was reborn as Teen Titans Go! which was… different. Truthfully, I only watched like 3 episodes of the new show (one of which was about assembling a sandwich, another about waffles, and another that was about thwarting a pizza boy, so food is clearly a big thing in the show) before stopping because I just didn’t think it was that funny. It was lighter, to be sure, and definitely was supposed to be a comedy rather than a superhero show, but it was not my thing. Even with the same voice actors (WHO ARE ALL AMAZING), it still just didn’t grab me.
Then I watched this movie. If someone could tell me that the rest of the series after I quit watching was like this film, I would probably go binge it all right now. Hell, I probably will anyway, because this was actually pretty well done. Is it perfect? No, but it was funny and original, which is more than I can give most comedies.
SUMMARY (SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE LITERALLY NEVER SEEN A TRAILER)
So, in the Teen Titans universe, every superhero has a movie (and the real ones are parodied and mocked mercilessly) despite also being real superheroes. One person who really wants their own movie is Robin (Scott Menville), leader of the Teen Titans, consisting of Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Raven (Tara Strong), and Cyborg (Khary Payton). The movie consists mostly of them trying to get a movie made, part of which is finding their arch nemesis in the form of Slade (Will Arnett), a villain trying to take over the world, and part of it is convincing Director Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) to make the movie.
First off, this movie is a DC Fan’s dream. There are references to DC comics, movies, and TV series in basically every shot of the city, ranging from the obvious (Mr. Freeze Pops) to the obscure (The Challengers of the Unknown are actually a minor plot point!) to the ridiculous (there’s a poster for the film Jonah Rex, a T-Rex version of Jonah Hex that should totally be real). There are animation sequences designed to mimic the live-action movies, the DC Animated Universe, the Arrowverse TV Shows, and even Superfriends. The cameos are so frequent I think it’s harder to think of a property that WASN’T in the movie than one that was. And so much of them are used as in-universe product placements that it really makes me think that this entire world runs on superheros. If you’re like me and you think that postmodern style mashups between all of these properties can be funny, then you will be laughing throughout… often at jokes that nobody else got. Laugh anyway.
Second, there are the meta-gags. There are so many of these sprinkled throughout, like everyone mistaking Slade for Deadpool (because Deadpool was a rip-off of Slade’s identity of Deathstroke) or calling Superman (voiced by Nicolas Cage) a “National Treasure.” There are at least two “this is Nicolas Cage voicing Superman” jokes that I caught and I’m sure there are more. There are countless jokes about how much DC and Marvel are willing to exploit their IP as much as possible. There is a cameo that makes fun of Stan Lee cameos. There are jokes about the fact that people will continually see superhero films at the expense of any other form of entertainment. There’s even a running gag about how overpowered Raven is and lampshading how boring a movie of a character like that fighting villains onscreen might actually be. The jokes just keep coming, sometimes buried under other jokes.
Then there are just the bizarre gags, like having an 80s-style song called “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” by MICHAEL FREAKING BOLTON that plays out like you’re on LSD or having the group poop in a prop toilet on a movie set. They’re mostly for the kids but, like I said, sometimes they’re actually just the set-up for a much better joke. And the last line of the film made me laugh for like 5 straight minutes, because it was just such a bizarre shot at children’s movie moralizing. There are also several that I don’t think I got because I didn’t really watch the show, but the fact that they mostly were still entertaining was a good sign.
It honestly made me think of Arrested Development in the way that the humor was just kind of shotgunned at you from every direction. It just wasn’t quite as clever as the writing on Arrested Development, but, again, it’s ostensibly a kids’ movie. Some of the jokes had to be made for kids, but I don’t think they all really speak down to them. Maybe a better comparison is The Lego Batman Movie: you can enjoy it as is and think it’s funny, but the more you know about the property and the world in general, the more you enjoy the movie. Granted, Lego Batman was a better film in general, but that’s a really high bar.
The casting in the movie is perfect, with most of the characters being voiced not by people who would play them in movies, but by people who just love the characters they’re voicing. It gives even the minor cameos a passion that adds something to the experience.
As to the plot, it comes off less as a traditional film and more a collection of 15-minute episodes that loosely interconnect until the 30-minute finale, but, honestly, it worked out great, because you never got bored nor knew exactly what gag was going to come next.
Overall, the only real “problem” with the movie is that it is still a kids’ film. The humor is either referential or juvenile, without a ton of other jokes for people who don’t love DC and are old enough that a 2-minute fart joke is 90 seconds too long. But, I still enjoyed it from start to finish. Hell, there are probably 3 scenes in it that are so funny that I would recommend seeing the movie just to see them.
If you love comic books or have kids, you need to see this movie. Oh, and if *SPOILER* the end credit stinger is true, and we are getting a sixth season of the original Teen Titans show (which Cartoon Network started re-running last year, so it’s very possible), then just finding out about that early might be worth the ticket price.