This June fans of the cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 will get to witness the kind of event they have only dreamed of since the show went off the year more than a decade ago. The cast of Rifftrax (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett) will be joining the original cast of MST3K (Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl) as well as newcomer Jonah Ray for a one night only reunion show sure to blow your minds. The event will be simulcast in theaters all over the country on Thursday, June 28, at 8:00 p.m. ET, with a tape-delayed airing for those in MT and PT.
We sat down with the cast of the reunion to talk about how the show came about and their favorite moments over the years.
Q: You’ve been doing this for, like, decades now. How do you think your riffing style has evolved?
Trace Beaulieu: I only riff in French now.
Bill Corbett: Mine hasn’t.
Kevin Murphy: Boy, I don’t know. Probably, well, I’m old now, so I can’t keep up with the current culture so I really heavily depend on our younger writers to know what the hell is going on.
Bill Corbett: I only riff for money now.
Trace Beaulieu: Kevin’s jokes are all about the Big Bopper and Chubby Checker. So, you’re a little bit more contemporary than Frank, because Frank was told (Inaudible). He’s still riffing on the 20’s. Joe Besser jokes.
Kevin Murphy: Yes.
Trace Beaulieu: I’ll try to answer semi-seriously. I don’t know that I’m self-conscious enough – well, I’m plenty self-conscious – don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I’m smart enough to know how it’s changed until after the fact. And I think there’s been some natural, just slight shift in this now that we’re in the characters of ourselves, the middle-aged dudes, as opposed to Crow and Servo, a slight different anyway. Because with Servo and Crow, you could kind of pretend that they just fell out of the turnip truck or the robot factory, whatever, and our mashing together everything, and they can be a little more extreme and violent in their reactions. So, I think it’s just become a little more in our own voice; although, we do play psychopaths pretty convincingly, not quite at puppet level.
Q: So, I understand that as part of the RiffTtrax MST3K reunion special you guys are going to be doing a lot of shorts, a lot of short films. It really harkens back to the classic days of MST. What is it about educational shorts or informational shorts that really kind of resonates with what you do? And what’s the thrill like when you dig up a new one that you see so much potential into, for riffing?
Kevin Murphy: I think I love them because they’re just so – they seem at this point in time to have come from another planet and it’s like Lost or How To Live Your Life that is imposed by creatures from another civilization or another time. So, they also end up sounding very silly and very weird and filled with rules on how you should or should not run your life. And they’re so serious that they’re, like, the perfect straight man for us.
Alex Biese: Definitely, yeah. Trace, Bill, any other thoughts on that?
Trace Beaulieu: I like that they’re short.
Bill Corbett: Yeah. That is no small matter to me. I have to say, for someone who has a limited attention span, that is kind of a perfect unit for my wandering mind. Yeah. Kevin’s right. They’re like little archaeological digs to mid-20th Century America, and they are pretty tight-assed. I think they are really micro-managed aspects of life. As well intentioned as they were, they really dig in and they’re fun because exactly that; they’re good fodder because they take themselves seriously.
Trace Beaulieu: And they’re short.
Q:All right. This is a more general question for Trace and Kevin and Bill. Having been away from the franchise for over a decade and a half, what was it like collaborating with each other once again? And, for Jonah, I’m wondering seeing that you’ve never participated in the previous incarnation and series, do you have any expectations that were met or exceeded? And just, in general, what expectations did all of you have working once again together?
Bill Corbett: It’s going to be rough. I won’t lie to you,
Trace Beaulieu: I don’t think we ever stepped away – we all carried it with us. We all got that DNA on us from the same womb and we’re now carrying it with us into other projects that are all very similar.
Kevin Murphy: It’s true. And it’s funny, when I talked to Trace or Mary Jo or Bridget or Frank or any of the folks involved, there’s a kind of shorthand we have when it comes to actually doing the stuff that we all know. So, I think we haven’t really actually collaborated yet for the show. So, it’s hard to comment. But when we do, I anticipate that it’s going to be kind of easy, because we all know sort of each other beasts and each other’s shorthand.
Bill Corbett: Yeah. So far, we’ve collaborated on a bunch of emails to agree basically.
Trace Beaulieu: And I’m looking forward to seeing what Jonah brings to the whole thing. I’m hoping for food.
Kevin Murphy: That would be great. If he can bring some snacks, that would be great.
Jonah Ray: Yeah. I’m going to be Team Mom; that’s the title I’ve given myself.
Trace Beaulieu: Awesome.
Jonah Ray: Some Chee-Tos.
Trace Beaulieu: And Fritos.
Jonah Ray: Yeah. This is all still very surreal to me, even beyond a phone call with these guys that have – especially shaped my sense of humor. I’ve never had so many – I don’t think anyone has had as many surrogate fathers as me from the Midwest. I find myself – the way I joke around my friends and the way I like to write jokes and the comedic stuff I do, it’s all really based off of the rhythm that I learned from watching Mystery Science Theater. So, it’s going to be really exciting and surreal for me. Also, waking up, just to let you know this is an odd thing for these guys. I’m not sure if you know this, but my most watched movie is The Mystery Science Theater for This Island Earth. I had it on VHS and I watched it all the time. And then, it became one of those things where I knew it so well that I could turn it on and then fall asleep to it because I knew it so well. And so, you guys have put me to sleep more times than my mom. And so, to come, to start, and I’ve riffed on movies and stuff before with friends or shows and stuff like that, but the work that goes into it is now, like, I’m more in awe of all the guys, just because it’s such applause. It’s, like, no one ever told me that the idea, like the whole concept of the show is also what you go through while making the show. And so, you’re really just slogging through these cheese balls and I’m really excited that, even just to get to go to the show in Minneapolis, so it’s very exciting.
Dune Part Two: The Lisan Al Gaib comes for you!
Welcome back to our struggle for control of the known universe already in progress, the continuation of the journey of Paul Atreides from exile to Emperor, Dune Part Two!
So when we last left our intrepid if dubious heroes, House Atreides had been betrayed and virtually destroyed, by a combination of House Harkonnens surprise attacks and the added treachery of Emperor Shaddam and his Sardaukar. Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), the last surviving heir (so far) of House Atreides and his mother Jessica, have taken refuge on the desert planet of Arrakis amongst the indigenous Fremen, and as far as most are aware, the other remnants of House Atreides are dead as well. And here is where we catch up with everyone, as the struggle for Atreides emergence and dominance begins in earnest!
The Emperor’s daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) is known for her many skills, but her copious note-taking and writings on the large events shaping her world come to the forefront as she takes counsel with her father amidst games of chance on their homeworld. Her life is one of luxury and privilege but alas, Irulan is a trained Bene Gesserit and is well aware that in all likelihood, she will be used as a pawn in the marriage games empires have to go through. Bet she never imagined it could be to a House everyone swore had been utterly destroyed.
Meanwhile, on Arrakis, Paul is trying to integrate himself into the Fremen way of life, which is admittedly far different from the life he led back on the Atreides homeworld of Caladan. (If nothing else, Caladan has vast oceans.) The Fremen are fiercely independent, gloriously strong fighters, survivors who dare to ride and revere the giant sandworms that inhabit their planet that they call Shai-Hulud, and rightfully distrustful of outsiders. After all, the previous stewardship of Arrakis belonged to House Harkonnen, known for their cruelty and glee at hunting Fremen and torturing their victims, sometimes for weeks at a time. But Paul won his and Jessicas way into the Fremen by fair combat against Jamis, and if nothing else, the Fremen are firm in their beliefs of the old ways.
Or rather, the elder Fremen are, most particularly the famed Fedaykin fighter and Naib (leader) of Sietch Tabr Stilgar (Javier Bardem) is adamant in his unshakable belief that Paul is the foretold Lisan Al Gaib, the Voice from the Outer World, that will lead the Fremen to peace and paradise. Stilgar’s steadfast belief in Paul’s potential only grows, and he manages with just that to convince a great many of the other Fremen elders. The younger generation of Fremen however, of which Paul’s beloved Chani (Zendaya) is a part, generally scoff at the legends of otherworldly prophets and Arrakis as a fabled green, wet heaven. In the beginning, Paul himself swears he doesn’t want to be the Messiah, only a Fremen fighter amongst the rest of them, hundreds of years of the Missionaria Protectiva, the Bene Gesserit practice of spreading useful religious propaganda as seeds on various planets, is working double-time against him. It doesn’t help that Paul’s mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is expounding on that myth as much as she possibly can.
And why would she do that? Survival yes, but also, Jessica is a thoroughly trained Bene Gesserit and knows of plans within plans within plans. Jessica also has many secrets of her own, and one very important one happens to be that she’s pregnant with Paul’s sister. The Bene Gesserit bodily control may be something out of legend, but even Jessica, possibly Reverend Mother Mohiam’s best and most fractious student, will have trouble with the trial the Fremen are insisting she go through to become truly one of them. The Reverend Mother equivalent of Sietch Tabr, known as their Sayyadina, is old and dying, and the Fremen have to have a Reverend Mother. Jessica tells Paul this much and explains that each culture is different in their trial to become a Reverend Mother, so she honestly doesn’t know what to expect. The reality happens to be worse than she could’ve imagined – Jessica must drink the Water of Life, a deadly poison that comes from Shai-Hulud (sort of), and come out the other side of it. And Jessica manages to do it, barely, with almost all of the consequences going to the poor fetus in her womb, the girl that will grow to become Alia Atreides, an insane legend in her own right. But for now, the unnamed fetus is awake and aware and full of the memories of generations of Bene Gesserit women that came before her – before she was even born.
Paul participates in razzia raids amongst the Fremen as they work to take out the spice mining operations of the Harkonnens, immerses himself in the vastly different desert culture of his chosen people, and perhaps most importantly, his romance with his beloved Chani only grows stronger. After declaring his desire to join the fierce fighter elites amongst the Fremen known as Fedaykin, Paul is told by Stilgar that he must summon and ride one of the giant sandworms, the embodiment of Shai-Hulud where the Fremen get their terrible tooth Crysknives from. And after much sendup, in a glorious scene of blinding sand and huge monstrous killer worm-riding, Paul is triumphant and riding atop the sacred creature, his Maker hooks set properly to control the great beast, waving at great distance to his fellow Fremen as Chani looks on in bemusement.
But that’s all external, and inside Paul is beginning to become divided on what he wants to do. As Jessica pushes the Protectiva hard amongst the women and priestesses of the Fremen, she is also pushing her son to become much larger than he ever wanted to be, if nothing else a conqueror can take revenge for the destruction of House Atreides and the death of her beloved Duke Leto. Paul may have earned his place amongst the Fremen and been given new names – Usul, meaning the strength of the base of the pillar, as his private name within the Sietch; and Muad’Dib, from the small mouse survivor of the desert, well versed in desert ways, called ‘Instructor-of-Boys’ in Fremen legend, as his open-use name – but now everyone wants Paul to be something greater, and potentially more destructive, than what he currently is. It only gets worse when Paul begins to suffer prophetic dreams, and visions when he’s awake, prodding him further to his destiny as an epic conqueror of worlds. Nothing can be done for it, Paul convinces himself that he must take the Water of Life himself, to awaken the sleeping prophet inside himself, and allow him to hopefully See a path through the future.
The problem with that plan, is that Bene Gesserit are almost exclusively all women, and only they are supposed to know how to transmute poisons internally, along with all sorts of other “witchcraft”. But Jessica has been training Paul in forbidden Bene Gesserit ways all his life, and as much as Paul might rail and even quail against it, there is no denying his incoming destiny, crushing any resistance he may have with all the force of a giant sandworm hunting a spice blow. And even when Paul has finally given in and taken the cursed substance almost mockingly called the Water of Life, it falls to another strong and prophetic in her right female in his life, his beloved Chani, to save him from himself. But even Chani can’t stop Paul’s destructive destiny as the conqueror of the known worlds, guilty of slaying millions upon millions of people in his quest for vengeance, thinly disguised as peace.
Over on the Harkonnen homeworld of Geidi Prime, “Beast” Rabban (Dave Bautista) is disgusted and enraged at the continuing Fremen raids against the Harkonnens on Arrakis, and terrified of what his uncle the notoriously cruel Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard), will do to him in response. The Baron’s nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), heir apparent or na-Baron to House Harkonnen, demonstrates his blood-inborn savagery in a slaughter of the remnants of House Atreides gladiator-style, as his birthday celebration. Pleased with the spectacle, the Baron commands Feyd-Rautha to take control of the fight against this Fremen rebel known as Muad’dib, as Rabban is proving himself more and more useless. And any tool or toy that the Baron finds broken or unusable, is destroyed before being discarded.
As the legend of Muad’dib grows off Arrakis and circulates among the Imperial worlds, the Emperor grinds his teeth in frustration and the Bene Gesserit, led by Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) as the Emperor’s Truthsayer, begin pushing forward their plots and machinations. Lady Margot Fenring (Lea Seydoux), a criminally underused character in this respect, demonstrates her willingness to be a pawn in Bene Gesserit machinations, but never forget, strong Bene Gesserit women have been breaking their own rules for generations. Just look at what Jessica did.
As the raids and rebellion on Arrakis continue, both the Emperor and the Baron become more and more desperate, sending in mercenaries and smugglers in the hopes they might have more luck. And aboard one of those smuggler’s vessels happens to be an old hand at being a smuggler himself, the warrior troubadour with the scarred face given him by “Beast” Rabban himself, Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin). Reunited with his beloved Duke’s only son, Gurney finds himself swept up in the legend of Muad’dib in the making along with everyone else, though at least from Gurney’s point of view, Paul is using the messianic angle to take revenge for House Atreides.
Finally, in an act of what could be considered the ultimate in arrogance, Emperor Shaddam Corrino himself comes to Arrakis, along with Princess Irulan and many others of his Court, the Baron, and Feyd-Rautha in tow as well, to crush this upstart Muad’dib and his Fremen warriors. Sadly for all that the powerhouse actor Christopher Walken plays him, Emperor Shaddam Corrino is shown as a doddering old man, cowed in the face of Muad’dib’s overwhelming vitality and growing-ever-stronger legend. And there is where we will end the review, for the final confrontation between all key players in the Known Universe is full of spoilers and derivations from the original opus of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune.
For those of you who stuck around long enough to get to the end, after all, Dune Part Two is almost three hours long itself, if you are fans of the original novel and the zany Lynchian masterpiece that was the first Dune film, you may be disappointed or even angered at the changes made to the story for the climactic end scenes. Director Villenuve has an eye for making grand epic scenes like Paul’s sandworm ride but can be a bit scattered when it comes to piecing the story together with all the key players needing to be involved in a way that can be understood by any layman. Dune in any form is a rich, vast universe of storytelling, and even an almost three-hour-long sequel simply can’t cover every last bit that’s in the novels. But if nothing else, the film is an overwhelming feast for the eyes and should bring a whole new legion of fans to the many worlds contained within Dune.
If you want to dive further into the Dune-iverse, do yourself a favor and read the Dune prequel books written by Herbert Jr. and Kevin J. Anderson. Until then, dive into the sands of Arrakis along with Shai-Hulud and scream vengeance to the skies with Paul Muad’dib Atreides in Dune Part Two, in theaters now!
Thatsmye Interviews: Les Weiler on Henchin’: the Series
The 8 Episode Series Tries To Encompass A Lot Leaving Fans In A Cliffhanger.
The 2010 “Avatar: The Last Airbender” movie by M. Night Shyamalan faced criticism for its deviations from the beloved animated series. The film struggled with pacing, casting, and a lackluster script, disappointing fans who cherished the source material. In contrast, the 2024 Netflix series has generated positive buzz for its commitment to diverse casting, adherence to the original storyline, and improved character development. The series seems poised to capture the essence of the animated show, offering a fresh and faithful adaptation that resonates with both new and existing fans.
Even though the Netflix series comes closer to the core ideals of the animated series, I feel it lacks heart. Many scenes barely scratch the surface of the relationships between the characters and the push-and-pull relationship between Aang and Zuko. I will admit the CG versions of Momo and Appa are just so gosh darn cute.
The 8 episode series tries to encompass a lot leaving fans in a cliffhanger. It’s worth a watch and I am hanging on for the next season to be announced.