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Archive for November, 2009

An Interview With Mystery Science Theater’s Kevin W. Murphy!

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Hey wow, in anticipation of the upcoming Shout! Factory DVD release of The Mystery Science Theater Collection Volume XVI, check out this exclusive interivew with Kevin Murphy!

-Ian 

Before you hooked up with MST3K crew, you did some production work on Jim Mallon’s Blood Hook, a movie where people are killed by a giant fishhook that was distsributed by Troma in the 80s. How did you wind up working on this project and what can you tell us about your experiences working on it?

I was working at WHA, the public TV station, and I’d run into Jim at shoots and parties.  We seemed to share a warped sense of humor, and at that time I was taking any job I could get that paid and seemed fun, so I was hired on as a grip.  After the DP was canned, I was promoted to Key Grip. I learned on the job how to work a camera dolly and hang lights over water for night boat-to-boat shooting.  Damn near killed myself a half-dozen times, but that shoot was the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie set. 

The biography on your website mentions that “As a location production assistant on the film Mrs. Soffel in 1983, Kevin witnessed Mel Gibson puking on the steps of a train caboose.” There’s got to be more to this story. Care to dish?

Sure, but there’s really not much to say.  Mel came to up Baraboo, WI for the shoot, started drinking immediately, partied all night,.  I was working as a grunt PA, and my pal Harry was in charge of “handling” Mel – he never told any tales.  But as I was stringing cables for the first shot of the day, Mel came out of the caboose of the train we were lighting, crouched on the steps and let fly.  Say what you want, he was on time for his call and worked all day.
 
Moving on to the MST3K material, you weren’t Tom Servo’s original voice, you replaced J. Elvis Weinstein. Why did Weinstein leave and how did you wind up taking his place?

Josh left for a number of reasons, all best left to Josh to answer.  As for me, I sensed an opportunity and simply asked Jim and Joel if I could have the job.  To my astonishment, they said Yes. 
 
How do you feel about the massive and enduring cult following that the MST3K shows have garnered over the years? Is it flattering? Scary? Maybe a bit of both?

It still amazes me.  Our audience seems to be getting older and younger at the same time.  it’s as if MST has spanned generations, and come around to being cool again. 
 
A lot of purists tend to rag on the show for poking fun at movies that they feel should be taken seriously. As one of the show’s chief writers and producers, how do you respond to those critics?

Fuck ‘em. 
 
During the MST3K days, you wore a lot of hats – writer, producer, set builder, actor – what was your favorite aspect of working on the show and why?

I loved writing sketches and songs, but I loved the shoot days the most, the camaraderie, the focus, the improvisations and colorings which would turn something funny to something DAMN funny.  Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, in every cast combination, we all worked together splendidly, no ego battles, no  prima donna fits, none of that jazz.  just fun and puppets and low-tech wizardry.
 
Where there any films you wanted to take on for MST3K but never got the chance to?

We came close to acquiring the Lily Tomlin – John Travolta movie “Moment by Moment,” but I think somebody realized what we had in mind and pulled the license.  Same thing happened with the Elvis Presley movie “Charro.”
 
When MST3K went off the air, you spent a year globetrotting and going to a different movie every single day and then writing a book about your experiences. That sounds exhausting and amazing all at the same time and it’s amazing that you didn’t kill yourself. Tell us about this, and have you got any other book projects in the pipeline?

The book was a labor of love, my love for the movies, and my disillusionment as an audience member.

I’ve been doing lectures and appearances with a slide show called “Why Hollywood Sucks.”  it’s the basis of a book that no major publisher wants to touch because now they’re all owned by huge media companies that also own studios.  So I changed the title to “Why Movies Suck” and I’m taking it back on the road.  it’s still Hollywood’s fault, I just don’t say it in the title. 

In 2006 you reteamed with Michael J. Nelson for the Riff Trax commentary project. What sets these tracks apart from the MST3K material, aside from the lack of puppets and talking apes? And how does this differ from the Film Crew releases you guys have been working on for Shout! Factory?

Well with Rifftrax we don’t try to put on a persona or a fiction, we just try to make the riffs as funny as Hell. The thing that has set Rifftrax apart is that we offer commentaries as podcast-type files, which you can download and  play along with a movie you own, buy or rent.  This allows us to riff on any movie we want.  Any. Movie. We want.   (insert your own evil laughter)  For instance, we’ve had a huge success with our riff of Twilight, and we just finished up Titanic.  In addition, we also do those dependably corny old movies and shorts that MST fans came to know and love and those you can buy or download as DVDs or files. 
 
A bunch of other MST3K alumni teamed up for the Cinematic Titanic commentaries but you didn’t take part in it. Why is that?

I wasn’t invited. 
 
The Riff Trax crew recently did a live show. How did this go over and are you guys considering maybe taking this idea on the road?

The Rifftrax Live Nationwide show was very successful and the most fun I’ve ever had on a stage.  What we did was stage a live Riffing of Plan 9 From Outer Space at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, and beamed it out to 435 theaters across the country, LIVE.  The wonderful thing about it is that we could reach people all over the country, not just in the big cities, and we didn’t have to charge an arm and a leg to do it.  We sold out hundreds of theaters, entertained tens of thousands of people, and even got to show the live show again as an encore.  And yes, do do hope to do another sometime soon.  Stay tuned.  
 
You’re rumored to be working on a book entitled Why Movies Suck and What We Can Do About It. It’s true that a lot of movies do suck and I’d be interested in learning more about what I can do about it. Sell me on this.

When I write, it’s always as an audience member.  So I’m preparing ninety-five Theses regarding why movies suck, and lots of advice on direct action we can all take.  On publication I intend to nail the Theses to the door of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  Hopefully it will bring about a great schism.
 
It must be kind of cool to see the MST3K material finding new life on DVD and to have all of the various new projects in the works. Looking back on this long and illustrious career, what’s been the highlight?

The continuing blessing of it all is getting to make a career out of something I love to do, and working with the most splendid and funniest people I know. 

To close, what else have you got in the works? Anything else you want to tell us about?

I’m writing my first comic book – it’s about the world of the Con, from both sides of the autograph table.  Geek Lit, pure and simple.

Awesome, thanks Kevin!

Interested parties are encouraged to keep up with all that is Kevin J. Murphy by visiting his website here!

Paranormal Activity on DVD and Blu-ray 12/29/09

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

The Supernatural Thriller Comes Home December 29, 2009 Including an Unrated Version with a Shocking Alternate Ending Not Seen in Theaters

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – The “truly scary” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times), edge-of-your-seat horror film PARANORMAL ACTIVITY will make its presence known on DVD and two-disc Blu-ray December 29, 2009 from Paramount Home Entertainment.  Hailed as “a horror phenomenon” (Richard Corliss, Time) and “one of the scariest movies of all time” (BloodyDisgusting.com) the hypnotic and harrowing film drove filmgoers to demand that it play in their cities, ultimately earning over $100 million at the domestic box office.  Loaded with suspense and punctuated by moments of sudden and unexpected horror right up to the shocking ending, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is more frightening to watch at home, even with the lights on.

Written and directed by Oren Peli, the intense and chilling story follows a young, middle-class couple who become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be demonic, but is certainly most active in the middle of the night.  Especially while they sleep.  The DVD and two-disc Blu-ray include the original theatrical version of the film, plus an unrated version with a shocking alternate ending not seen in theaters.  The Blu-ray also includes a digital copy of the theatrical version.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY DVD & Blu-ray
The PARANORMAL ACTIVITY DVD is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 televisions with Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround and Spanish 5.1 Surround (theatrical version only) and English, French and Spanish subtitles.  The two-disc Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital (theatrical version only) and English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.  Special features include:
-Unrated version with alternate ending not seen in theaters
-Digital copy of theatrical version (Blu-ray only)

Popatopolis

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Popatopolis: Director Clay Westervelt: 75mins. 20

One of the finer and more worthy candidates for widespread acclaim at Raindance was this feature. Anyone who grew up in the VHS/PAL video age will remember Chopping Mall and Return of the Swamp Thing even if the name Jim Wynorski does not immediately ring any bells. He was the exploitation film director responsible for these titles and plenty more. He is – as Popotopolis rightly informs us: a highly prolific director with an output that numerically outstretches Scorcese’s.

As a piece of work, there’s what Popatopolis is and what it does. As a documentary, it follows the painstaking process of Jim getting together a group of actresses and a crew to make a film in three days ‘The Witches of Breastwick.’ It also works as a character study as interplayed with hilarious action is interviews with the interested parties including sweet and tender views of the man himself from those that know him well, including his Mum. There are impressions given of Jim – the man, his methods and work from an eclectic cast including the legendary B-movie director Roger Corman. Jim has been in the business of making low budget features for a long time under various pseudonyms and has garnered respect – even if his methods are demanding and unorthodox. He did after all makeChopping Mall when he was only 21 – at the same time Raimi was making The Evil Dead – at more or less the same age.

Popatpopolis doesn’t draw this comparison, but Wynorski, like Corman decided to stick to the low budget feature as opposed to going into mainstream cinema.

The three day shoot with next to no money means that there is no wardrobe, make up – or semblance of proper co-ordination. A self confessed movie geek (his kitchen cupboards are full of movies), Jim provides none of the usual creature comforts. The make up and towels are brought in by the female cast themselves. ‘The Witches of Breastwick’ is a soft porn film and there are creative differences. One actress wants to keep a pair of pants on during a simulated sex scene and wants to know in her defence if Jim has never “pulled them to one side to get nasty.” “No” Wynorski blankly replies. The same actress wants to keep a pair of glasses on protesting on continuity grounds – who also later is made to go over the same line time and time again. Though evidently tired she goes on until it is delivered protesting at not having the time to go through what is needed like it was in the old days of low budget movie-making.

This is the clever part about this film – it follows a new demand made on those concerned whilst revoking the charm of what was. The scenes where the ‘witches’ gather around a fired cauldron, for the rest of the crew to rustle paper to simulate fire when the fire goes out harks back to the methods of Beaudine and Wood – well loved B-movie directors whose output is charming and innocent. But the methods here are purposely imposed by a Hollywood, as one actress rightly points out doesn’t make B-movies anymore, only A or C movies.

What Popatopolis does is hold a mirror to Hollywood’s nastier modern self: in an opening sequence, Jim is waiting for an actress to turn up for an interview. She eventually drives in late to see him, without much of an apology – or a resume, which Wynorski takes as a typical gesture. “Here’s a lesson for all you stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid chicks in Hollywood…and there’s plenty of you.” The vacuous nonchalance of the woman concerned deserves the sentiment. 

But ‘Witches’ is nonetheless successful having been bought by a respectable amount of broadcasters and has proved as a training ground for one of the crew who has gone on to assistant direct in multi-million features. This is what Hollywood was good at in its production of such films, giving newcomers the opportunity to cut their fledgling teeth. B-movie features were never made with enormous budgets but were not meant to be painful to endure in their making. It is considerably more fun watching the making of ‘The Witches of Breastwick’ than it must have been to make it.

 A lone criticism of Popatopolis is the lack of any direct questions posed by Clay Westervelt to Jim himself. It would have made the movie slightly more complete had we known Wynorski’s opinion as well as others involved. It is apparent that Jim likes making films with hot women in them (“let’s pop some tops”), but it is doubtful he really enjoyed the ructions that making a rushed effort creates. This does not detract however from the serious points underpinning the film.

 Popatopolis is a good film and a very enjoyable watch providing a cultural commentary on the lot of the modern film maker. Two weeks after this was shown at Raindance, David Putnam, responsible for Chariots of Fire told an interviewer at The London Film Festival that he would not bother making an ‘intelligent’ film as Chariots was, as now he did not believe that he would get the green light on the mid-range budget. What we are left with then are movies made with massive budgets or camcorders. Popatopolis although dealing with a very different subject matter, subtlety evokes the shame of it.

 Gail Spencer

 

For more information on the movie

http://www.popatopolis.com

The link for the YouTube trailer is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTV4Hmlio1U

Seagal is back in… The Keeper On DVD From Fox on January 19th, 2010!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

REAL LIFE SHERIFF AND FILM ACTION STAR WITH OVER 2 BILLION IN BOX OFFICE SALES… STEVEN SEAGAL IS BACK IN THE KEEPER

A High Impact Thrill Ride Arriving Exclusively On DVD January 19th
From Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

LOS ANGELES, CA – (November 17, 2009) – Iconic film action hero Steven Seagal (Hard to Kill, Under Siege) delivers his own form of justice in The Keeper, igniting on DVD January 19, 2010 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Steven Seagal unleashes his wrath – and his fists – in this fast-paced thriller about an ex-cop caught in a web of deceit, racism and murder. Chock full of high-octane stunts and eye-popping action, The Keeper is a nonstop adrenaline rush. Double-crossed by his rogue partner and forced to retire, Los Angeles street cop Rolland Sallinger (Seagal) accepts a gig guarding the beautiful daughter of a wealthy businessman. But when mobsters kidnap the girl, Rolland’s job turns from protector to hunter as he untangles a dangerous web of lies and murder. Now, in a race against time, Rolland must use his wits, weapons and brute force to get her back – before it’s too late. With a supporting cast that includes Luce Rains (Public Enemies) and Kisha Sierra (“In Plain Sight”), The Keeper was written and produced by Seagal and directed by Keoni Waxman (I Shot A Man In Vegas). The Keeper will be available on DVD for the suggested retail price of $22.98 U.S. Prebook date is December 8.