A team of writers has fun with bad movies

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There are "good" bad movies and then there are "bad" bad movies.

"What you really mean by the 'worst' movie is the worst movie that you can still watch," said Mike Nelson, writer/talent for RiffTrax, which adds snarky commentary to films of all stripes in downloadable form.

It's similar to Mr. Nelson's previous gig as a writer and actor on the cult television classic "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

So, coming soon to a theater near you: a couple of the best bad movies around.

RiffTrax is partnering with Fathom Events to bring two nights of streaming to the Cinemarks in Robinson, McCandless, Tarentum and Center Township, Beaver County.

"The Best of RiffTrax Live" hits the big screens with "Manos: Hands of Fate" on Jan. 24 and Ed Wood's infamous "Plan 9 From Outer Space" on Jan. 31.

The program begins at 8 p.m. Visit www.fathomevents.com for more information and tickets.

Although many people are familiar with "Plan 9," thanks to Tim Burton's biopic of Mr. Wood, the infamous director, "Manos," is a weird, hidden gem.

"I think fans have always wanted us to revisit "Manos," which we did on 'Mystery Science' years ago," Mr. Nelson said. "It's a darker film, darker in tone [than 'Plan 9'], even though it is ... so incredibly, incompetently done, it makes you laugh."

There is a method to the RiffTrax madness. The team of five writers, which includes Mr. Nelson as well as his fellow commentators Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett -- break a prospective film into sections.

They comb through their sections repeatedly, mining for jokes or notable oddities. They all meet in a writers room setup and "stitch" their parts together, going through the movie at least twice more.

"So by the time we're done, we've gone through it many, many times," Mr. Nelson said.

The whole process takes about a week. With "Manos" and "Plan 9," they were filmed in a theater, commenting as the movie played onscreen.

RiffTrax sometimes takes on popular films that don't stink, such as last summer's "The Avengers," but in general, it's the strange stuff that cries out for dissection. Mr. Nelson highly recommended Tommy Wiseneau's so-terrible-it's-brilliant "The Room," but he also cited the disturbingly inept "Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny" as "one of the most successful things we've ever done."

It's a movie about Santa's sled getting stuck on the beach and for no reason, this is the framework for telling the story of "Thumbelina," circa 1972. And, it's a musical! Little wonder it's a big hit with the RiffTrax staff.

"Writers are a weird sort. We just kind of gravitate to the weirdest things."

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Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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