Primetime Review: RiffTrax provides cinematic satire - The Explorer: Livenup

Primetime Review: RiffTrax provides cinematic satire

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Evan Hofmann

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 4:00 am

It’s happened to you. It’s OK to admit it. You have entered a movie theater with high hopes of viewing a big-budget blockbuster film that actually lives up to the hype it has obliged itself. Unfortunately, things do not always pan out quite the way we would hope, and we are often left disappointed, frustrated, even insulted by the film maker’s disregard for our intelligence. 

Films belonging to the Transformers franchise, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, even the Star Wars prequels are among the guilty parties that have robbed innocent moviegoers of $12 from their pockets and 150 minutes from their lifespan. But from the rubble of ripped movie tickets, spilled popcorn, and stray Milk Duds rises a hero of the people, one that fires back at movie producers with an arsenal of stinging satire and pop-culture references.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mystery Science Theater 3000 emerged as a cult favorite T.V. show that mercilessly mocked terrible movies by dubbing in wise remarks as the film played on the program. Unfortunately, due to expensive copyright laws, the shows creators were limited to poking fun at low-budget films that were not widely known. Today, however, MST3K writers and hosts Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett have found a loophole in copyright laws in order to forgo their newest spinoff of cinematic heckling entitled RiffTrax.  

The RiffTrax team has utilized the modern expansive capabilities of the internet in order to provide downloadable audio commentary that, when synchronized with the viewer’s own copy of a specific film, allows for an entirely new and satirical viewing experience. Because the comedic triumvirates are not using the films images or audio directly, but are merely recording themselves telling jokes that can be harmonized with each film, they are able to “riff” or make fun of any motion picture they choose, regardless of copyrights. After purchasing the audio commentary for a specific movie from rifftrax.com, the viewer can play the file on any device they choose. 

In addition to specific installments of the franchises mentioned above, the RiffTrax team has also made available audio files poking fun at Road House, The Fifth Element, X-Men, Top Gun, 300, Independence Day, and dozens of other films with endless comic potential. The RiffTrax creators select films to riff based on two requirements: that they provide ample room for jokes, and that they are widely circulated and readily available in most video stores. 

Out of sheer principle, the RiffTrax team recently attempted to purchase rights to riff what they consider to be one of the most terrible films ever created, Twilight, in a live theatrical experience. Because the audio tracks would be accompanied by the film itself in each theater, the team would need to purchase the rights from the film’s producers. Unfortunately, for all mankind, the RiffTrax Kickstarter campaign failed to reach it’s goal. That’s not to say that all hope of a live mockery of a blockbuster film is lost. The comedy trio has elected the 1997 campy sci-fi flick, Starship Troopers, as it’s next victim. The live riff can be viewed on August 15th at the Oro Valley Marketplace, Park Place, and El Con theaters.

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