Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are certainly familiar with RiffTrax, where MST3K alumni Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett pick on cheesy movies (the worst they can find, la la la) by creating play along audio files and occasionally taking their show on the road, doing live events that are beamed to theaters all around the country.
It’s the year 2762. The galaxy is plagued with warring factions using hokey special effects to destroy each other. Out of this chaos a hero rises: the dashing, exquisitely bearded Captain Saber Raine (Casper Van Dien). Saber and his elite squad of commandos (other actors) embark on a dangerous quest to save the Prince and Princess of an unnamed planet from the clutches of the Evil Overlord Sinjin – an overlord so evil HIS VERY SKULL IS FILLED WITH CHERRY JELL-O.
Can our heroes fend off Sinjin’s army of mutant androids and rescue the Prince and Princess? Probably! After all it’s Space Opera, but you never know!
Now normally, even though we love the RiffTrax guys, this wouldn’t necessarily generate a mention on ComicMix. But this one is special. Because this movie also features, as one of the other actors, Mike Grell.
Yes, that Mike Grell, famed of Green Arrow, Warlord, Iron Man, Legion of Super-Heroes, and our own Jon Sable Freelance, playing a character name Jax Grymm. (If this reminds you of GrimJack, well…)
Take a look at the full trailer and see if you can spot him, starting around 48 seconds…
You can order tickets for tonight and June 11th at RiffTrax. And if you’re strong enough, you can also stream the movie on Amazon Prime.
This past week I finished watching Iron Fist. I also went to a discussion at Manhattan’s Strand bookstore on queer representation in comics, with speakers including Jennifer Camper and Phil Jimenez, but I really want to focus on Iron Fist. Well, I checked out some of the old MST3K episodes they just added to Netflix too. That last part actually ties into my Iron Fist discussion. Yes, really.
The Internet has been flooded with reactions to Iron Fist that have been all over the place. Praise to malaise. I had already seen all the other Marvel Netflix series so I was diving in regardless of what the critics had to say. I got through it all in about days of watching.
It was a rough three days.
I’m not going to get too deep into spoilers, but if you want a 100% spoiler free viewing experience of Iron Fist and haven’t watched it yet, you may want to check it out first before reading ahead.
Welcome back! Okay, so is it just me or was there way too much of a similarity between this and the first season of Arrow? This all happens in the first episode, but Danny Rand coming back from being assumed dead after traveling far with his family and there being an accident and coming back to reclaim his dad’s company, his best friend’s dad being the bad guy, the Triad and the Hand both being Asian led criminal organizations, and that’s just off the top of my head. I might like the show more if I hadn’t seen it done a few years ago now.
Arrow was able to avoid the implications of cultural appropriation. As ComicMix’s own Martha Thomases pointed out in her last column, there is nothing inherently white about the character, so why did he have to be white? I totally understand the argument that casting an actor of Asian descent just because the character knows martial arts wouldn’t be ideal either. That’s what I talked about last year when I wrote about Iron Fist as a lose/lose. I’m not convinced that I was wrong yet.
The show also feels like it thinks it’s more clever than it actually is. I, like I imagine many others, figured out a major plot point a good ten episodes before Danny figured it out. I also liked the “thrown in an asylum when you’re actually magic and they just don’t know it” trope better when I saw it in Return to Oz and Buffy the Vampire Slayer many, many years before that.
Later in the week I ended up watching the MST3K classic, The Pumaman. This clumsy 1980 superhero outing is about a white guy who has the powers of an ancient God/alien worshipped by Aztecs and has a man of Aztec descent as his sidekick despite the fact that guy was definitely more knowledgeable of what was happening. The part of person of appropriate background to serve as sidekick this time was played by Jessica Henwick, whose opinions on this can be read here. Her character, Colleen Wing, is hardly the first character to play this role, nor is the sidekick in The Pumaman. The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, and more franchises have this premise. It’s dated and at this point it’s just boring. Give us something more creative.
Between all that and the character of Danny Rand quite possibly being the most annoying, unlikeable, mansplaining protagonist in a Marvel property makes this a bit hard to watch. If you enjoy it, great. There are people that do and they’re not wrong. I just found this to be a clumsy, ham-fisted attempt at the genre.
For the sake of fairness I will also say what I enjoyed about Iron Fist. It had a great score.
Another martial arts based franchise got a reboot recently. I saw Power Rangers with some friends over the weekend. It’s definitely a movie for a younger audience. I was impressed by how the character of Billy is a black autistic teenager, has a lot of screen time, was easily the second most consequential Power Ranger. The heroes in this were more diverse than in the original, but Rita was whitewashed with seemingly little backlash to that, which seems strange to me. Why care so much about diversity in one element of your film and not the other.
That said, I’d still recommend Power Rangers over Iron Fist. It has a little more heart, is about 11 hours shorter, and cares a lot more about Krispy Kreme.
Starting Monday, August 4, digital television provider Retro TV will be presenting the surviving “classic” episodes of Doctor Who weekdays at 8PM. the series will start as it should with William Hartnell as The Doctor in An Unearthly Child, and will continue in order, right through to the Sylvester McCoy series.
When broadcast television switched over to digital, stations received a bonus two digital sub-channels thanks to the extra ability to compress data. Most stations had no plan of their own to utilize these stations, which allowed for the rise of third party programming providers like Retro, Me-TV and many more. Offering mostly reruns of classic television, these channels have greatly expanded the number of classic shows available. While most classic TV station were only available through cable subscriptions, these new channels are available over the air, allowing everyone to enjoy them.
Retro TV scored a double-hit this summer for science-fiction fans. In addition to the adventures of the renegade Time Lord, they brought the travails of a man in space forced to watch cheesy movies with his robot friends back to the air when they premiered Mystery Science Theater 3000 earlier in the Summer.
Retro TV brought MST3K back to the air earlier this summer.
“Bringing MST3K and Doctor Who to Retro TV has been a passion project,” explains Matt Golden, Vice President of Production, “not only for myself, but others in the organization that love the shows and are thrilled to be able to share them with our audience. It’s for fans, by fans.”
Although the original broadcasts of Doctor were without commercials, Retro is doing everything possible to keep from editing the episodes. “A few of the episodes will be slightly edited for time. That said, it’s the minority.” Matt Golden clarifies. “For instance, of the first batch of episodes processed, there are only 20 out of those 121 episodes that are longer than we can support and thus need to be trimmed.”
“For the few that are over our prescribed durations, we’re making extremely judicious cuts, with careful consideration toward content and flow. Moreover, we’re not making any cuts that aren’t absolutely necessary, and the ones we have to make range from 30-60 seconds. We won’t be utilizing time compression, as episode-length speedup is more distracting and detrimental than subtle edits of a few lengthy establishing shots.”
This is not out of the ordinary. Back in its original foray into American television, the Tom Baker episodes were cut for commercial content, not mention adding explanatory narration by Howard DaSilva. Even BBC America edits episodes of the current series after their initial broadcast to accommodate ads.
Retro TV plans to bring the show to the fans by way of attending major Sci-Fi conventions as well. “We had a great time a couple of weeks ago at Con Kasterborous in Huntsville, AL, where we spoke with Sylvester McCoy, Andrew Cartmel, and several groups of fans, clips of which will be making their way onto TV and social media in the coming weeks as we roll out Doctor Who. We plan to continue doing so, and are in the midst of finalizing the details for another couple of cons this year”
In the area of genre programming, Retro had fallen behind ME-TV, which carries the original Star Trek, Lost in Space and many more. But with these two additions, Retro makes it clear they’re back in the game, with more to come. “I have a great love of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and feel that those genres have been somewhat underserved in our particular arena.” says Golden. “It’s all about the response, though, so if fans want to see more, they can help us out by making some noise: following us on Facebook and Twitter (and now on tumblr), calling stations in their markets to demand Retro TV, etc.”
Check the Retro TV website for local affiliates in your area, and with your local cable company to see if they carry the channel.