Friday, July 28, 2006

Rifftrax Review - *No Spoilers*

The wife and I just got thru watching the first rifftrax episode, the send up of Road House, starring Patrick Swayze. Let me start off by summing it up in one word...Hilarious!

Mike Nelson is in top form with the new rifftrax offerings. I honestly think the Road House mp3 was funnier than most of the old MST3k episodes (not as funny as Manos, The Hands of Fate, or Mitchell, but few things are).

The Purchase
The purchase was extremely easy. I basically went to the rifftrax website, clicked on the Road House link in the bottom center of the page and then clicked on the "Buy Now" button where I was whisked to PayPal to complete the transaction. The download came as a zip compressed mp3 file, that I unpacked and loaded into iTunes. The zip package also came with a text file with some simple instructions and a chapter by chapter breakdown of the DVD time and what point in the mp3 file it corresponded to. From there it was on to the iPod and off to the living room for viewing.

The Setup
We watched the DVD on a basic TV and DVD player setup and played the rifftrax mp3 (rifftrack?) on my 10Gb iPod mounted on a Bose iPod Dock behind us. Like the website said, getting the volume levels normalized was pretty painless. We did have an issue syncing up the source and DVD because both my wife and I thought that we were supposed to hit play on the iPod after the MGM lion roared for the second time, but we were supposed to hit play after the first roar. Still, it was apparent fairly quickly so we wasted about thirty seconds rectifying the problem. The other problem we had was that we had misplaced the remote to the iPod docking station during our home renovations last month and have still not found it. So, while pausing the rifftrax and the DVD should have been a simple affair, we made it a little more complicated than it should have been. Even given this, it was still fairly easy.

The intro of the mp3 is designed to introduce you to the rifftrax format and get the timing right. In addition, throughout the movie a monotone, computerized voice character "Disembaudio" repeats occasional lines from the movie as they occur to let you know how far off from the movie track you are. While it's a little disconcerting at first, you get used to it fairly quickly. And to be fair, it's not like the acting in these movies is really all that great to begin with. In addition, Disembaudio provides a decent character for Mike to interact with, a la MST3k.

Because it's difficult for the audio to start exactly in the right spot, we found that the slight drift got more pronounced as you made your way thru the movie. Still, about an hour into the movie it was a simple matter of pausing the DVD for a second to let the mp3 catch up and then we were able to enjoy the rest of the film with no issues.

The Humor
As I mentioned above, Nelson is as funny as ever, if not funnier, in this format. The fact that the movie had some nudity and "salty" language was the perfect foil for his squeeky clean brand of humor. While the rifftrax is family friendly, with no cussing, the movie is definitely not, so you may have to make a decision on whether you want to watch this with the family on a movie by movie basis.

The humor is the same as MST3k, and he does the same running gags he did with previous movies, the types of jokes that build on earlier jokes and become more hilarious, not just in the context of the movie, but in the context of the commentary itself. Example, a lot of jokes centered around the absurdity of Dalton, Patrick Swayze's character, being a "famous" bouncer. So, whenever one of the other characters talks about him in the context of having heard some story of his colorful bouncer past, Nelson usually takes the opportunity to work in a joke about how bouncers are revered as heroes in the film universe, or how Swayze does ordinary things in a "bouncer-like" way.

I was surprised by how much my wife (who is not an MST3k fan...having not seen most of the episodes) liked the rifftrack. Her comment after finishing it was that we had to get the Fifth Element commentary when it came out. The website indicates that the $1.99 rate for the commentary is a beta price, indicating that it will be raised once the site gets a following. It's unclear what the final price for the commentaries will be, but I can definitely say that at $1.99 it's a steal. I'm looking forward to seeing how the service develops as it goes on. I really do think that technical issues of syncing the playback aside, this widens the possibilities of the MST3k format quite considerably.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

yall should come to austin and check out the sinus show

- franks

12:59 PM  
Blogger egoodwin said...

been there...done that.

The Sinus Show is pretty good, and I'm sure they've improved since we left A-Town. Next time we're in town we'll have to call you and see if they're playing. They still at Alamo Draft House?

9:38 PM  

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