In praise of Red Letter Media
I just wanted to take a moment in between posts as long as War and Peace to remind you that if you love movies, you really need to be following the work of Red Letter Media.
RLM is a small group of filmmakers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, led by Mike Stoklasa and Jay Bauman. Their first work to hit it really big came back in 2009, when they released an absolutely amazing 70-minute video dissection of all the flaws in the script of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The video, which featured the character of an obsessive-Star-Wars fan-slash-serial-killer named Harry S. Plinkett, managed to simultaneously amuse while also educating the viewer on what elements are needed to make a strong film screenplay. It was a YouTube sensation.
Unlike most YouTube hits, though, these guys proved themselves to be something other than one-hit wonders. They produced several more “Plinkett reviews” of similarly high quality, breaking down such films as the second and third Star Wars prequels, Avatar, Titanic, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. They’re all hilarious, and will make you look at movies you probably think you know quite well in a completely new light.
But as their audience grew, they started branching out from the basic Plinkett format as well, launching other Web video shows in other formats. Two of them have found a place among my favorite things to watch, in any medium.
Half in the Bag features Stoklasa and Bauman, as themselves, discussing movies in current release; recent episodes have covered Pacific Rim, Man of Steel, and Star Trek Into Darkness. While Half in the Bag discussions generally aren’t as in-depth as the Plinkett reviews are, the more casual format lets them cover more movies, and Stoklasa and Bauman prove to be engaging conversationalists; they’re smart and funny, so I could watch them talk about movies all day. I haven’t felt that way watching movie reviewers talk since the days when Siskel and Ebert would spar with each other on syndicated TV. (Sometimes they do still go deep on a single movie in a Half in the Bag episode, though; for an example, check out their must-see evisceration of the cynicism behind Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill.)
Their other great show is newer; Best of the Worst, a panel discussion of terrible movies from the height of the direct-to-video era, just launched this year. In it, Stoklasa and Bauman are joined by a rotating cast of other guest reviewers to talk about such classic films as Russian Terminator, R.O.T.O.R., and Thunderpants. If you’re a fan of bad movies, Best of the Worst is a gold mine; I’ve discovered tons of hilarious stink-burgers I’d never heard of before just by watching, including the absolutely jaw-dropping Miami Connection, which I raved about in this space not long ago.
So yeah — if you’re into movies, you’ll want to get familiar with these guys sooner rather than later, just so you can tell people you were a Red Letter Media fan before being a Red Letter Media fan was cool.