Twitter, as we all know, can be both great and terrible … often within a few heartbeats.
Very long story short (a story that will be more deeply explored in a future column), in 2017 I mostly abandoned Facebook as it had become hostile territory for conservatives, even moderate ones like me.
Something happened in 2016 that brought about this change, but I can’t quite recall it at the moment.
Anyway, I took my act over to Twitter where I found that my Facebook friend Richard C. Meyer had mutated (comic books!) into an influential comic book YouTuber cheekily named Diversity & Comics (an ironic jab at the lack of intellectual diversity in Current Year Marvel Comics.).
In his often crude and hilarious roast videos (he has since noticeably chilled) he would often refer to Mike Stoklasa and Red Letter Media. They sounded great; reviewers and roundtablers of terrible films. But out of loyalty to D&C (I was an early adopter), I resisted. Until, one night, I finally jumped in. And D&C quickly became my #2.
In 2017 Red Letter Media (RLM) were mostly famous for their epic, withering reviews of the “Star Wars” prequels. So I started with “Mr. Plinkett’s The Phantom Menace Review,” a seven-part vivisection of “Episode I.”
Nothing has been the same since.
The series will one day be taught in institutions of higher learning, so perfect is its distillation of everything wrong with the film.
I moved on to “Attack of the Clones” then “Revenge of the Sith.” Smart, funny, insightful, passionate and disgusting (“Mr. Plinkett” is afflicted with many chronic illnesses, most of which result in the sudden expulsion of fluids), the videos explore the many, many mistakes made by the minds behind the films. The team reserves special disdain for creator George Lucas.
Warning: The language can be adult at times…
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In short, what began with Lucas’ neverending digital noodling (did we really need a pixelated Jabba the Hut in “A New Hope”?) came to its logical end with the prequels.
Out were the adventures of our plucky heroes who use their guts and guile to defeat an overwhelming enemy. In were bewildering monologues about disputed trade routes and midichlorians delivered by joyless scolds.
Out were the inventive, on-location camera angles and beautiful models built by skilled craftsmen, in were the dull, flat, 2-shots filmed in front of green screens.
Lots and lots of green screens.
The “Mr. Plinkett Reviews” are generally saved for “event” films like the 2016 all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot and “Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” movies that are certain to produce a detectable level of cringe. They are hilariously savage when called for, pointing out yawning plot holes and questionable science (“You may not have noticed, but your brain did”) but also give credit when due.
This does not happen very often, mind you, but it happens.
The “Plinkett Reviews…” videos are, basically, clip shows with homemade bits stitched in which add depth, if you can call it that, to the character. He is brought to life by the voice of Stoklasa, RLM’s founder and creative director.
He, along with cohorts Jay Bauman and Rich Evans, form its gooey center. Call them the Three Stooges for the 21st century; Stoklasa as Moe, the stern taskmaster, Bauman as Larry, slyly hilarious, and Evans as Curly, the clown prince with an infectious laugh that’s part hyena, part fire alarm, all joy.
And yes, “infectious” can be used both ways in this description, as something so unbridled you can’t help but love it, or something that digs in like a tick that you just can’t seem to shake.
The “Harry S. Plinkett” videos laid the foundation for what followed;
Some combination of the hosts re-watch a classic genre film to either extoll its virtues or point out the many ways in which it does not hold up. (My personal favorite; a gushing second look at the criminally underrated “Exorcist III.”)
Half in the Bag
A more straightforward review show hosted by two of the RLM crew and copious amounts of alcohol, though for special occasions (“The Rise of Skywalker”) they’ll trot out a third.
Best of the Worst
This might be the greatest thing to ever have graced the internet. On Best of the Worst (BOTW) the gang film themselves watching three usually terrible movies (sometimes related by theme, just as often not), then have a freewheeling roundtable, helped along by draft beers and Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head vodka.
BOTW is where the real gold is. Four guys watching three movies over eight hours having dozens of drinks, all to anoint one stinker the most entertaining film of a horrible bunch. In other words, the best of the worst.
BOTW is presented in several skins; Wheel of the Worst (a play on “Wheel of Fortune”), Plinketto (a parody of “The Price is Right’s” Plinko game), and sometimes they just pick three films at random from their comprehensive and encyclopedic collection of awful movies. Usually on VHS.
But no matter how it is presented, the end result is reliably hilarious.
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RLM has a rotating cast of co-hosts outside of the Stoklasa-Bauman-Evans trinity (don’t sleep on the Canadians, their episodes are some of the best), and the occasional celebrity will show up. Macauley Culkin has made several delightful appearances, director Max Landis was an early adopter and comedian Patton Oswalt managed to dial down the left wing snark long enough to not ruin his episode. Stoklasa, Bauman and Evans remain the unquestionable Captains of this Enterprise.
The best part? The shows are 99.99 percent apolitical, and the 0.01 percent that sneaks through goes out of its way to savagely mock both sides.
Isn’t that all we want?
There are no Left Wing Sucker Punches (h/t John Nolte), even from Oswalt, who can be as nasty as they come. No “sly” asides like the ones that pervade the otherwise enjoyable “How Did This Get Made” podcast (another examination of bad movies worth a listen, but you’ve been warned; the hosts, all recognizable Hollywood actors, are pretty woke).
No rising acrimony towards 45 from hosts Adam Scott (Parks & Rec) and Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang Bang) on the “Are You Talking R.E.M. RE: Me” podcast (where alienating a potential 50 percent of your already niche audience seems a bad business model).
For this we should rejoice.
What’s more, the shows have a nearly endless rewatchability factor. I may or may not be halfway through my 12th pass through their oeuvre.
Fresh nuggets can be discovered with each viewing. Especially entertaining are Stoklasa and Evans’ regular, deep diversions into “Star Trek” lore (the two are impressively knowledgeable Trekkers) while reviewing, say, “Transformers 3.”
These guys should absolutely be in charge of the next “Star Wars trilogy,” assuming Disney chooses to punish us with episodes 10-12. Their love for the originals is palpable, as is their disappointment in everything that’s followed since.
Terry O’Brien writes “The Undertow” for Exit Zero magazine in Cape May, NJ. He is also the O’Brien half of “O’Brien & Joyce,” an acoustic duo that will be performing a virtual happy hour gig on Facebook, March 23rd at 5:30pm EST.
The Cape May music scene has been decimated by the shutdown response to Covid-19. Please support the Cape May Virtual Happy Hour and/ or any other artists bringing you their gifts via social media as we navigate these rocky waters.