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In the Not too Distant Past, Last Thursday A.D.

This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of going to the theater, but not for the normal movie-going experience. Thursday was the cinema event of the season (the Halloween season), presented by Fathom Events, the promotions group that brings things other than movies to theaters. My wife, her friend and I went to see Rifftrax Live: House on Haunted Hill.

In the case that you are not familiar with Rifftrax, I have four letters and a number for you; MST3K. Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett are the stars of Rifftrax and they do what they have always done, only without the awesome puppets and side-story, space stuff. I know that Mike is a dividing line for some. Many prefer Joel. If you are one of those many, check out what Joel does now with Cinematic Titanic. If you appreciate the lovable Mike, Rifftrax is for you.

Is it on T.V.? A weekly program? Only in theaters? I know these are questions that one or two of you may have. Let me explain. Rifftrax is the plural form of a rifftrack or riff, for short, not to be confused with the riff of a short, but more on that later. A riff is a comedy commentary for a feature length film. A companion piece, if you will, making bad films great and films that you know backward and forward feel fresh and alive and funny. The only thing that can be frustrating about a riff is trying to keep it synced. You have to rely on two devices (your copy of the movie and an i-pod or however you choose to play the mp3) and hope they play at the same speed. Once you get around that hurdle, the $1.99 to $3.99 is worth it for a full length commentary. Some of my favorites include Michael J. Nelson and Neil Patrick Harris’ riff of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Kevin, Mike and Bill’s takes on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Avatar.

Quick recap, just to make sure you are still with me. Riff is a comedy commentary similar to what MST3K used to do; Rifftrax is a collection of riffs, not only similar to MST3K, but some of the actual guys that were on the show are the riffers. When we are lucky enough, this concept is taken to theaters. I haven’t told you the best part: Michael, Kevin and Bill do the riff live and it is simulcast to theaters all over the U.S.

This was not the first Rifftrax live event that I have seen. I had the chance to see the encore presentation of Plan 9 from Outer Space, Reefer Madness and the most recent House on Haunted Hill.

The drawback to the live event is that it is more expensive than a regular trip to the movies (other than a 3-D release), but it is well worth it for a night of laughter and here’s why: the guys don’t just riff on the main feature. They also bring two or three amazing shorts. Along with these, sometimes there are guest stars. Joining the crew to riff on a short last Thursday was the hilarious Paul F. Tompkins. At the end of the show, they even give you a code for a download of one of the shorts, a photo, and an mp3 of music that they play before the show while they flash funny “movie facts”. One of my favorite from this most recent show was titled “Movie Mistakes” and the text read, simply “The Last Airbender”.

Another great thing about Rifftrax – you think you’re funnier than some of the riffers? You can record your own riff and if it’s good enough, they will post it and sell it under their iRiff section. There you will find several riffs by amateur riffers. Always check the sample before buying an iRiff: sometimes they are not quite of the same quality as the riffs made by the pros.

If you enjoyed Mystery Science Theater 3000, you will like Rifftrax live. I hoped that there would be an announcement on the next live show, but I guess I will have to download the riff for The Room to tide me over www.Rifftrax.com.

How much would I pay to see another Rifftrax Live show? Out of $10, I would pay $10. Mike, Bill and Kevin always bring a quality, entertaining product that is worth the price of admission.

Jay Fralick is the co-host of the Wanna Watch a Movie? podcast

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