Cinematic Titanic riffs on bad movies for good fun

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Entertainment,Movies,Robert Fulton

Bad movies are timeless.

Riffing on bad movies, even more so.

"Just when you think you've reached the bottom of the barrel, you find that the barrel is deeper and broader than you ever dreamed of," said Mary Jo Pehl, a member of movie riffing troupe Cinematic Titanic.

The members of Cinematic Titanic will screen four films this Friday and Saturday at the Arlington Cinema N Drafthouse.

If you go
Cinematic Titanic
» Where: Arlington Cinema N Drafthouse, 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington
» When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, featuring "The Astral Factor," sold out; 10 p.m. Friday, featuring "The Wasp Woman," $25; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, featuring "The Doll Squad," sold out; 10 p.m. Saturday, featuring "Danger on Tiki Island"
» Info: $25; 703-486-2345; arlingtondrafthouse.com

Cinematic Titanic was founded in 2007 by alumni of "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Cable viewers of a certain age will remember the show's run on Comedy Central in the early '90s, featuring a man and his robots being forced to watch bad movies. "MST3K" creator Joel Hodgson also helped start Cinematic Titanic.

While "MST3K" was featured on cable, Cinematic Titanic is a touring group that also produces pieces that can be purchased on its website or viewed online through such portals as Hulu and Amazon.

The Cinematic Titanic formula, like that of "MST3K," is simple: A group of people sit around and crack wise -- or riff -- on bad films.

"There are no official guidelines," said member Josh Weinstein. "Every film has its own kind of vibe, and we all kind of feel, as we watch it, how we're going to interact with it."

Weinstein, who was the original voice of Tom Servo on "MST3K," said that the keys to a proper movie to riff on are long takes, hammy actors and drawn-out dialogue.

Pehl added that a film ripe for riffing can't be too inept, but it's always nice to have a weird monster costume with an exposed zipper.

"Although we look for poor production values because that's a lot to sink your teeth into as a riffer, it can't be so bad that the viewer or we the writers can't watch it," Pehl said.

Before the World Wide Web seemingly contained every form of entertainment ever recorded, "MST3K" introduced a wide array of B films to a mass audience. Pehl said that at meet-and-greets following Cinematic Titanic performances, she talks to fans of the old show.

When it comes to riffing, Weinstein cautions that there's a formula to making it work.

"I think for us, the philosophy is that we aren't there to punish the movie," Weinstein said. "We're there to interact with the movie and try to make it this entertaining thing for the audience when it wasn't necessarily entertaining under it's own power."

Because the five members of Cinematic Titanic live in different cities, the project is going on hiatus. This year will be the last of the group riffing.

"We've had a good run," Pehl said.

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