The Rotten Tomatoes Podcast with Matt Atchity

Rotten Tomatoes Editor in Chief, Matt Atchity is no stranger to podcasting. He’s a recurring guest on the Adam Carolla Show and the mastermind behind one of its most popular bits, “Rotten or Fresh.” He has his own theme song as well.

matt atchity pic

It was no surprise to see his podcast pop up in the iTunes featured category either. Not only is the movie reviews website the most popular there is, he personifies it with it a genuine “schlubby guy” persona, his theme song’s words on the Carolla show, not mine.

If you’re unfamiliar with how the Rotten Tomatoes universe works, it’s relatively simple; the Tomatometer score you see reflects positive reviews (3.5 stars out of 5) given to a particular film. If a movie has a critic’s score of 75 percent, that means 75 out of 100 critics who saw the film gave it a positive review. It has to be 60 percent to be “certified fresh.”

Got it? OK, now imagine an hour of deliberation on what I just described for you, and you have an episode of the Rotten Tomatoes Podcast. I sampled this brand new show recently, episode three to be exact. For the sake of time stamping, the hour’s early discussion revolved around the rottenish Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp. (They also cover TV; Game of Thrones has an entire episode devoted to it.)

As always, it’s important that I predicate any criticism I make of a new podcast with a qualifier. Matt Achity’s show is still a toddler. Very wobbly. But here’s what I noticed.

If you like talking about film, this show, surprisingly, is not for you. The discussion revolves around why critics like or dislike certain movies, not unlike the game Atchity brought to the Adam Carolla Show. It lacks heart. Even though it’s assumed the hosts have seen the movies being discussed, all critiques are flat and guarded.

Perhaps it’s my love of the Film Vault that taints this new podcast for me. Maybe I like a little more irreverence and palpable conflict in my movie reviewers. Either way, the Rotten Tomatoes Podcast just didn’t do it for me. Pretty boring stuff.

RT Senior Editor Grae Drake co-hosts the show and despite her comfort behind the microphone, something just doesn’t work about her personality. It grinds against Achity’s soft spoken proclivities. And her jokes feels a bit forced.

I’ll check back in on this one in couple weeks, but it’s sitting at about a 52 percent on my Tomatometer. Audience score of course.


Brian Posehn’s “Nerd Poker”

I know–this is the second Earwolf post I’ve done in a week. But it took a Comedy Bang Bang re-visitation to open my eyes to their vast content pool–so many shows I’ve either neglected to mention, or had no idea existed. And unfortunately the former was the case with comedian Brian Posehn’s Nerd Poker.

Nerd Poker

Brian Posehn is a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) enthusiast.  No real surprise there. And I can relate to his affinity for poker table realms–complete with violence, magic, and medieval drama. Those late-night, Mountain-Dew-fueled endeavors where high elves lay waste to water golems for vorpal wins are certainly an acquired taste; but isn’t most escapism? Much like comedy, fantasy blunts the edges of what is more often than not a mundane life. Mix a little obsessive fan culture in with skillfully placed fart jokes, and you’ve got something pretty special. Something to blunt the edges as it were.

“Nerd Poker with Brian Posehn & Friends” is cohosted by Gerry Duggan, a co-writer on Marvel’s Deadpool and comedian Blaine Capatch. The Dungeon Master is Scott Robison. The show is not unlike Whose Line Is It Anyway, in that this is improv and points are meaningless. Making up the story as they go along, the players drop fart jokes and obscure comic book references. This is the true crossroads of geek and comedy–kind of puts Nerdist to shame.

Poshen’s character, Amarth Amon, is a Viking/Barbarian who finds no greater pleasure than reeking destruction; big warrior, lots of destroying, and occasionally noshing on a burrito and sipping a soda between roles of the 12-sided dice.There are of course other players in the game who are equally entertaining–fellas and ladies.

The show runs about 45 minutes, and it’s all pretty funny, rooter to tooter. But this one, like D&D, is an acquired taste. Bone up on your casting spells and fox’s cunning before listening.

“The Arkham Sessions” A Chat with Hosts, Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Brian Ward

I discovered the The Arkham Sessions midway through a bout of podcast Wanderlust. I was looking for something unique, original in both design and execution.

arkham sessions

Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Brian Ward provided that uniqueness with their weekly psychological analysis of Batman: The Animated Series. The show is funny, accessible, and more universally applicable than the title would imply.

Letamendi (Drea) has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and speaks about psychology and its role in the comic/sci-fi narrative at all the big conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con. She’s been interviewed by  just about every big media outlet you can think of, and she was Barbara Gordon’s psychologist in DC Comics’ Batgirl no. 16 and no. 20. That’s right; she’s an actual comic book character.

Ward is an award-winning DVD/Blu-Ray producer. In addition to his work in animation and The Arkham Sessions, he writes and directs. “The History of MST3K,” a documentary about Mystery Science Theater 3000 with Joel Hodgson and company, was one of his more notable ventures.

They took a few minutes to chat with me last week about their podcast and the power of comics as a psychological learning tool.

Q & A with The Arkham Session’s Drea and Brian

Drea, tell me a little about your blog Under the Mask and your mission.

A: Under the Mask started as a way for me to discuss psychology by applying it to fictional characters. Over the years, I’ve treated a lot of real-life heroes; veterans mostly. And there’s a lot that people need to know about what these people go through. I found it fascinating that there are many parallels between superheroes in comics and real life soldiers. I find that using these fictional characters helps people get interested and the goal with the site has always been to relieve a lot of the stigma that surrounds mental health discussions.

When and how did “the Arkham Sessions” come about?

B: I’ve always known Drea was a huge Batman fan, much like myself. And we’d often get into lengthy conversations about the mental states of several of the villains in the Rogues Gallery and even Batman and Robin themselves. But when I saw her in the documentary Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics, I knew that she’d be perfect for a weekly podcast literally going from one episode to the next, analyzing each character just as she would a patient. Luckily, she said, “yes!” And now, here we are.

A: The show may have been created to simply give youths a half hour’s worth of adventure every afternoon. But Batman: The Animated Series actually dealt with darker and psychologically deeper themes such as child abduction, childhood trauma, disfigurement, identity amnesia, bullying, eyewitness testimony, terrorism, and torture. As Batman encounters more moral distress, internal conflict and social struggles, it’s clear he’s a little different than in previous versions, in that, he is self-doubting and fallible, i.e. human. These are some of the things I’m really enjoying digging into throughout this process.

Drea, I noticed you recently lectured on comics teaching psychological resilience. What’s the fundamental message you try to convey in those kind of engagements?

As an educator and manager at a children’s mental health agency, I often work with other psychologists and mental health practitioners. In these lectures, I use fictional narratives like comics to discuss topics like trauma, recovery and resiliency. In this particular talk, the main message was how to work with children and convey important things about their mental health treatment, such as: “Bad things sometimes happen to good people, and it isn’t their fault. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control what we think and how we feel after things happen. It’s the meaning of the trauma that we have control over. Finally, it takes the help of others to get better.”

In general, do you see a correlation between the personalities of Gothamites and those who fan out over The Caped Crusader?

B: I would say, “yes,” only in that they/we all need Batman in some capacity. I’d hate to think about what my life would be like without a regular dose of the Bat. And I’d really hate to think about what Gotham would be like without him.

Which Batman characters to do you think you share the most psychological traits with?

B: I’m clearly Sherman, the ginger kid in “I’ve Got Batman in My Basement.” Especially if Drea’s take on the story is true. If you’ve not heard that episode of the podcast, you should check it out. Drea will blow your mind with her hypothesis.

A: I relate a lot to officer Renee Montoya. She wasn’t in a lot of episodes, but she stood out for me. Although her ethnicity wasn’t initially made clear or talked about on the show, I immediately recognized her as a strong, Latina woman (she was initially voiced by a Latina actress and later in comics confirmed as having Latina heritage). There is even an early episode of Batman: The Animated Series where she goes against the police force and rescues Batman. She wasn’t a damsel in distress. And it was during a time that she wasn’t there for political correctness, either!

What can we look forward to with “The Arkham Sessions” this year?

B: I think the podcast is getting stronger and stronger with every episode. And now that we’re starting to cover a lot of the villains for their second and third time, we’re starting to look at how much they grow psychologically.

A: And Bruce, too, for that matter. Everyone is being looked at equally. They’re all human characters. They all have flaws. And we’re finding that, whether the writers were conscious of it or not, their characters are, in fact, evolving. Some worse than others.