If you’re unfamiliar with their show, it’s a pretty silly journey into the oddest movies made by Hollywood and points beyond, full of jokes and gags and weird little facts about the moviemaking process (that last bit is key! If they were just beating up on some shitty movies for hours on end, that’d get boring, but the trio has some real respect for how these movies are crafted). We’d recommend you listen to a couple of episodes before you get to the theater if you’re a total stranger, but even then, you’ll have to watch the movie that they’re going to talk about beforehand — this isn’t MST3k, and they won’t be riffing on the reels as they unspool — and they announced which movies they’ll be cracking wise about on their Twitter a few days ago. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with some background info on the titles they selected for the two shows that they’ll be performing that night — one at 7:30 and the other at 10 p.m. — and where you can watch them live.
Unfortunately, this means you’ll have to watch Second Sight if you got tickets for the first show, which is a dogshit movie that they probably chose because it’s set in Boston.
Made by journeyman director Joel Zwick (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the 2004 Fat Albert movie), Second Sight bets quite a bit on the charisma and humor of its TV-famous leads — Night Court star John Larroquette and Perfect Strangers’ Bronson Pinchot — and it doesn’t pay out. It’s an hour and 23 minutes and good lord does it drag on and on. It’s sort of a Ghostbusters riff, in that Larroquette runs a detective agency that uses Pinchot’s psychic to solve crimes. They’re tasked with solving the kidnapping of a Cardinal, who, of course, might become Pope if he makes it back in time, and sure enough, it’s just as awkward to watch in the years following the sex abuse scandals as you might suspect.
There’s about three laughs separating this movie from the depths of Leonard Part 6, though it’s thankfully free of the deeply creepy aftertaste of that film (hard to walk away from that one feeling anything but utter repulsion at the star’s “alleged” deeds). Larroquette is charisma-free and forced to be the Bill Murray of the Faux-busters, and he’s given some truly garbage lines and motivations. Pinchot’s even worse. His psychic character, Bobby, has several different tics, each more irritating than the last: at times, he lapses into a De Niro impression that may be the single worst ever projected on a theater screen, at others, he just reverts to your standard Woody Woodpecker nonsense, which is significantly more annoying coming out of the mouth of a grown man than it is a woodland creature.
If there’s one positive thing you could say about Second Sight, it’s that it’s a cool little time capsule full of images of late-’80s Boston, taken in a number of locations that don’t normally get their due in Hollywood portrayals of the city — Back Bay, the Esplanade, even South Street Diner — but you could very well look at the Dirty Old Boston page or their book and not have to deal with Pinchot’s screeching.
To be fair, though, it’s perfect fodder for the HDTGM gang, as it’s pretty much tailor-made for bong-hit humor after the fact, though we’d like to file a grievance against Scheer and company for making us watch this on an otherwise peaceful Sunday afternoon. It’s available for rental on all major digital storefronts, though it’s sadly not streaming through any outlet at the moment. What’s an extra $3, though? You probably paid more than that in Ticketmaster fees, and the least you could do is watch this so that you could know what the hell you were getting yourself into in the first place.
Second Sight is undoubtedly a test of your patience, and as such, should be seen as a challenge- all the other punks seeing the late screening will get a softball pitch in comparison to that one, though they may have a better time with the blast of full-on ’90s cyberpunk that they’ll be getting.
That’s right, they’ll be riffing on the 1995 Keanu Reeves-starring classic Johnny Mnemonic, and we’re not totally sure that they’ll have enough time to dig through just how totally nuts this movie truly is. Written by legendary author William Gibson and adapted from his short story, it’s easily one of the wackiest movies financed by a major studio in that decade, just by virtue of the sheer breadth of its lunacy (ever want to watch a movie in which the third act depends on the hacking skills of a Navy-veteran Dolphin?), and it’s flanked by an expert and intriguing cast (Beat Takeshi! Henry Rollins! Udo Kier! Dolph Lundgren! Ice-T!), lead by Reeves in one of his earliest flings with science fiction. It’s the one we’d tell you to watch if we had the choice, mainly because it’s a great deal less shrill and a lot more fun than the former.
Reeves plays the titular character, a “courier” who is responsible for transporting illegal data from city to city through a hard drive he had implanted in his skull, which contains a whopping 180 GB. Oh, also, it’s set in 2021, so his whole neural network has less memory than your average fresh-off-the-line Xbox One S. Anyways, he’s contracted by Kier’s character, whose clients are looking to offload a bunch of classified data from a corporation to a neutral site in Newark (lol), and the size of their file is nearly double that which Johnny can take. He pushes through and gets it downloaded into his brain, and next thing you know, the Yakuza break into the building he’s at and kill everybody involved with the deal except for Johnny.
So he makes a break for Newark, where he comes into contact with the Ice-T led group the LoTeks (lol), a group of Luddites looking to break free of the curse that technology has placed upon them in the form of a virus that looks a hell of a lot like junk sickness. Johnny hires some protection, an implant-ridden lady named Jane (Dina Meyer), to help him through the mean streets of New Jersey. He’ll need all the help he can get- the corporation that’s coming after him, run by Beat Takeshi, wants him dead at any cost, and they’ll send the craziest people they have on the payroll after him, including a Jesus freak who’s more machine than man (Dolph Lundgren) and a company man with a flair for decapitation (Denis Akiyama).
The cast is reason enough to see this film, but if you want to check out how the Blade Runner-like orientalist dystopia can be done poorly, this is probably the best example. It came out of a truly bizarre period in our cultural times where we thought that Japan was going to eat our lunch economically every step of the way (see the Sean Connery/Wesley Snipes vehicle Rising Sun for another film birthed from this ethos), and unlike, say, 2001 or Escape From New York, the future anachronisms aren’t buffeted by excellent filmmaking, genre or otherwise.
Cyberspace, mainly represented by early CGI filtered through the lenses of VR, isn’t too far off from what you might find on the Oculus Rift today, but it’s presented in a deeply silly manner with a style more in common with The Lawnmower Man than with Surgeon Simulator. Still, this is a fascinating missing link of a film, one that bridges the gap between the early cyberpunk films of the ’90s with The Matrix which would be the genre-defining masterwork that Reeves would also star in. Sure, that movie may be great and all, but does it have an evangelical Dolph Lundgren crucifying Henry Rollins? No? That’s what we thought.
Thankfully, Johnny Mnemonic is streaming for free (with the occasional ad interruption) on Crackle, and it’s also available from the same digital storefronts that Second Sight is available at. God have mercy on you all.
HOW DID THIS GET MADE? :: Frida, November 10 at The Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont St. in Boston, MA :: 7:30 and 10 p.m., $42, both shows are sold out :: Wilbur event page