Cinematic Titanic // 2011 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // December 28th, 2011
"The U.S. Military is sent in to see if they can figure out the plot to the final episode of Lost."
James Cameron might claim that his big-screen, 3D re-release of Titanic is tied to the 100th anniversary of the fated voyage, but I know the truth. It's all just a ploy to piggyback on the success of a certain comedy troupe. Since launching in 2007, Cinematic Titanic -- made up of master movie riffers Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Mary Jo Pehl, J Elvis Weinstein, and Frank Conniff -- has grown from a download-only video project to a smash hit series of live shows and DVD releases.
Cinematic Titanic's first DVDs were in-studio productions, complete with Mystery Science Theater 3000-style silhouettes and a flimsy premise that involved something called a nanotated disc and a "time tube." In 2009, they shelved the studio releases in favor of live recordings of the group's movie-riffing stage show. The switch gave fans unable to attend these shows a taste of the live Cinematic Titanic experience, and kicked off a streak of excellent DVDs that continues with War of the Insects, their first release in more than a year.
War of the Insects (originally titled Genocide) isn't a typical Japanese monster movie. There are no rubber suits or short-shorted youngsters. Instead, the threat comes in the form of a swarm of genetically mutated, poisonous insects created by a sexy psychopath, all while the Japanese and U.S. governments squabble over a missing atomic bomb. It's an oddly depressing film, populated with unlikable characters -- like the philandering husband, who steals a dead pilot's watch, all while his wife casually shrugs off attempted rape by her sleazy, Hitler-mustached hotel manager boss. There are some juicy insect kills, but War of the Insects is more ponderous, sociopolitical commentary than fun monster movie. Good thing the Cinematic Titanic crew is here to lighten the mood.
Their hilarious drubbing ranges from jokes about current events (after a mushroom cloud, Trace pipes up "Michelle Bachmann's first day as president") to not-so-current events (during an insect-caused plane crash: "You know, Captain Sully has his bad days too") to knowing MST3K nods (after Trace challenges Joel's assertion that a lamp looks like Tom Servo, he responds "I was just pandering to the nice crowd!"). Some of the funniest gags come at the expense of the movie's hammiest actor, and the endless repetition of the word "genocide" ("clearly...the word you want to use if you ever use this movie for a drinking game").
The quips fly fast, as the Titans feed off each other and the high-energy audience. Even the occasional flubbed line gets a laugh because everyone is having such a darn good time. The enthusiasm is infectious. As much as I enjoy Cinematic Titanic's studio releases, I doubt a line like "We're butterflies!" would play as well without an audience. The jokes are evenly distributed among the players, but some of the episode's biggest laughs go to J. Elvis Weinstein. Consider it vindication for the guy who missed out on the biggest years of the TV show he helped create.
Cinematic Titanic Live: War of the Insects is presented in standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with clean Dolby 2.0 stereo audio. The film itself looks like an aging B-movie, but the live footage of the comedians is clear and well-shot. The menus need an update, but they get you to the episode quickly, so it's hard to complain. Like previous releases, there are no bonus features beyond trailers for other Cinematic Titanic DVDs.
At first, I wasn't crazy about the switch from in-studio to live Cinematic Titanic releases. Now, I wouldn't have it any other way. Joel, Trace, Mary Jo, Josh, and Frank are always funny, but the immediate feedback of an audience gives the material a boost. It also differentiates the group's current venture from their work on Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- expanding and evolving the movie-riffing genre they helped create. War of the Insects ends Cinematic Titanic's DVD dry spell in hilarious fashion. Antennae crossed we don't have to wait as long for the next one.
Buzzzzz-worthy. Not Guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinematic Titanic
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site