Red Letter Media

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Red Letter Media
Private company
FoundedScottsdale, Arizona, U.S.(2004)[1]
FounderMike Stoklasa
HeadquartersMilwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Area served
Key people
Mike Stoklasa
Jay Bauman
Rich Evans
ProductsFilm reviews
Short films
YouTube information
Years active2007–present
  • Film review
  • comedy
Subscribers870 thousand
Total views350 million
YouTube Silver Play Button 2.svg 100,000 subscribers 2012
Subscriber and view counts updated as of November 2018.

Red Letter Media, LLC is an American film and video production company operated by independent filmmakers Mike Stoklasa (formerly of GMP Pictures)[2] and Jay Bauman (formerly of Blanc Screen Cinema). The company was formed by Stoklasa in 2004 while living in Scottsdale, Arizona, but, as of 2011, is based in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. It attracted significant attention in 2009 through Stoklasa's 70-minute video review of the 1999 film Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The review was posted in seven parts on YouTube, and was presented by his character "Harry S. Plinkett". While Stoklasa had published other video reviews of several Star Trek films before that, his The Phantom Menace and subsequent Star Wars prequel reviews were praised for both content and presentation.

Stoklasa has produced other works under the Red Letter Media banner, including short comedies and web series (The Grabowskis), several review-based web series (including Half in the Bag, Best of the Worst, and re:View), and concert, wedding, and corporate videos. His low-budget features have been largely horror and comedy, and have included Feeding Frenzy, The Recovered, Oranges: Revenge of the Eggplant and Space Cop. Bauman, who directed Stoklasa in several low-budget features under the Blanc Screen Cinema banner, has been a director and producer on most of his projects. In addition, Stoklasa has employed his colleague Rich Evans as a full-time actor and stagehand in their projects.

Mr. Plinkett [edit]

Stoklasa created his first video review for Star Trek Generations after watching the film again in 2008. He noted that he thought it was a "shitty movie" and "completely messed up the transition to the big screen from what was a really great TV show", inspiring him to share this view with others. Stoklasa believed his own voice sounded "too boring" for the review and adopted the persona of Harry S. Plinkett, a character he had previously used in several short films (originally played by Rich Evans) and since further developed within the reviews.[3]

Plinkett has been described as "cranky", a "schizophrenic", and "psychotic"[4][5] with a voice that has been called "a cross between Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers and The Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill".[4][6] The character has also been described as illiterate. He mispronounces words like "protagonist", and brags that he has never read a book and has no intention of doing so. He also displays ignorance of history, as shown by his confusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis with World War I, and the Nazi invasion of France with the French Revolution. Through side comments in narration, flashes of disturbing images, and cuts to live scenes filmed by Red Letter Media, Plinkett is implied to have murdered his various ex-wives. Glimpses of human remains and hostages seen in his basement indicate he may be a serial killer.[3][5] Plinkett has said he is 119 years old and claimed to have been aboard the Titanic when it sank. He claims to have had a disappointing son who hanged himself in a gas station bathroom, and an "adopted" son he kidnapped from a grocery store parking lot. Plinkett also has a fondness for Totino's Pizza Rolls, and encourages feedback by promising to mail one to viewers who leave comments on his "webzone". While seeming oafish and moronic, Plinkett appears to demonstrate an astute understanding of film history and criticism, referencing numerous other films. His voice and other traits were intended to incorporate a sense of humor to avoid making the reviewer sound too much like a "nerd" or "armchair critic".[3] Plinkett seems to live, or at least have lived, in Teaneck, New Jersey, having made references to its police department (in his Star Trek review) and the Cedar Lanes Cinema (in his Revenge of the Sith review). He also has a fondness for gambling in Atlantic City; some reviews give his mailing address as a slot machine at a casino there.

Plinkett first appeared in You're Invited! The Olsen Twins Movie, a short film that incorporates clips from The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley, in which the Olsen twins accept a phone call from a man named Mr. Plinkett who informs the little ladies that their mother had just died in a violent collision while driving his old red Cadillac Eldorado.[7]

Plinkett reviews[edit]

The Star Trek Generations review was met with many favorable comments, inspiring Stoklasa to review the other three Star Trek: The Next Generation films—First Contact (1996), Insurrection (1998), and Nemesis (2002).[3] Inspired by these, Stoklasa proceeded to create his review for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, citing his dislike of the franchise's prequel trilogy, and how it influenced a trend of films characterized by CGI spectacle, in lieu of the live-action stunts and meticulously crafted sets that characterized films of earlier decades.[4]

Stoklasa does not believe that Lucas "ruined [his] childhood" but instead "disappointed [his] adulthood" through Lucas' direction of the prequel trilogy; Stoklasa comments that Lucas did not have the same amount of control during the filming of the original trilogy that he had during the prequel trilogy, ultimately resulting in more memorable movies.[8] He believes that Lucas continues to "devolve" the Star Wars franchise to target specifically younger audiences instead of the wide range of appeal that the original trilogy had.[9]

While contradictions in continuity are to be expected in science fiction and fantasy franchises with established histories such as Star Trek, Stoklasa stated that it is virtually impossible for writers working in those franchises to write viable stories that avoid such contradictions entirely. While he does focus on such gaffes for material in his reviews, he states that what truly irritates him is sloppy writing, in particular writing that exhibits traits such as poor character motivation, lapses in common sense or questionable logic, in order to advance the film's plot. He cited the Star Wars prequels as an example, saying: "You're mesmerized by all the visuals and excitement on screen, but if you really stop and listen you'll realize that almost every line and every action makes no sense and is just there to get to the next special effects scene."[3]

Stoklasa has since created reviews for the James Cameron films Avatar[10] and Titanic, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones,[11] Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,[12] Baby's Day Out[13] (which was referenced at the end of the Attack of the Clones review), the children's movie Cop Dog (originally mentioned in a short update video), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,[14] Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as its sequel The Last Jedi,[15] and the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot.[16] He also created a satirical short film review of J. J. Abrams' Star Trek[17] and later followed it up with a full-length review.[18]

Stoklasa has released audio commentary tracks done in the Plinkett character for Star Wars, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace[19] and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,[20] which are available for download. He has also created two brief video reviews based on the first two teaser trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII), which he notes builds on a previous comment about having Abrams direct a Star Wars film from his earlier Star Trek commentary.[21]

In an interview, Stoklasa stated that in creating a review, he and a friend would watch the film only once while taking notes and frequently pausing the film to discuss scenes. After that, he would write a 20-30 page script for it in the Plinkett character, voice it, and edit it together along with some improvisations.[22]

The Phantom Menace review[edit]

Stoklasa's review of The Phantom Menace was published to YouTube on December 10, 2009, and quickly became popular, receiving over 5 million views since its release.[3] The video was widely linked to by many people across the internet, including celebrities such as Damon Lindelof and Simon Pegg.[3][6] In comparison to his earlier Star Trek movie reviews, which lasted 30 to 40 minutes, the Phantom Menace review had a total run time of approximately 70 minutes.[6] The review took between seven and ten days to complete.[23][by whom?] Stoklasa believes that the film has no real protagonist or strong characters in general. He demonstrates this by asking his friends to describe characters from the original trilogy and Phantom Menace without referring to the characters' physical appearances or occupations. Juxtaposed with the archetype and personality descriptions they give for the characters Han Solo and C-3PO, Stoklasa's friends are unable to come up with similarly ardent descriptions for the Phantom Menace characters Qui-Gon Jinn and Padmé Amidala.[4][5] Stoklasa believes that many of the decisions made by Jinn's character are highly questionable.[6] He further suggests that the character is entirely unnecessary to the plot and overall story save to have a final climactic lightsaber battle.[3] He notes Lucas' attempt to add more concurrent plot elements in each of the successive Star Wars films, which he refers to as "The Ending Multiplication Effect".[5] Stoklasa then illustrates the chaotic and confusing nature of ending the film by pulling together four concurrent plot threads, each with a radically different tone, unclear objectives, and an overall lack of proper character motivation.

The review cuts among clips from The Phantom Menace, behind the scenes footage from the film's making-of documentary The Beginning, as well as the Plinkett sub-plot (which shows the character to be a murderous, emotionally unstable slob addicted to Totino's Pizza Rolls). Stoklasa also uses cutaways to unrelated still shots that he uses to make analogous comments or to inject additional irreverent humor.

Unlike many other fans and critics, Stoklasa only makes passing comments about the widely unpopular character Jar Jar Binks, though Plinkett does dismissively refer to him as a "cartoon rabbit that steps in the poopy". In a later interview, Stoklasa called Binks the "most realistic and understandable thing" in the film compared to all of the film's other problems and what most moviegoers could easily focus on when pointing out the film's faults.[8]

Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle lauded the video's humor and Stoklasa's insights into filmmaking, despite the occasionally sophomoric tone of Mr. Plinkett.[24] Even without the Mr. Plinkett voice, the analysis and critique from Stoklasa was considered to be "plenty fascinating", but with it, the review becomes a "deep-dish analysis packaged like a gonzo stand-up comedy routine".[5] The review was considered to be "an epic, well-edited well-constructed piece of geek film criticism" by Peter Sciretta of /Film.[25] Damon Lindelof, in a Twitter message on the video, noted that "Your life is about to change. This is astounding film making."[26]

To coincide with the release of the 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace, Red Letter Media created a version of the review in 3D that can be viewed with standard red and cyan glasses.[27] He also released an audio commentary track for the film done as Plinkett, which offered more criticism.[28]

Attack of the Clones review[edit]

Stoklasa's review of Attack of the Clones was previously announced by a trailer posted on January 6, 2010; the 90-minute review consisting of nine parts was posted to YouTube on April 3, 2010.[29] The review gained similar recognition shortly after its posting.[30][31] In the review, Stoklasa presents his thoughts on the romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala, the miscasting of Samuel L. Jackson, and numerous visual allusions to The Empire Strikes Back. The video also continues the subplot of the prostitute, Nadine (Jocelyn Ridgely), locked in the basement from the Phantom Menace review, which is built up in the last minute or so of each part. Nadine is forced to watch Attack of the Clones with Plinkett, and at the end of the review she escapes from his house.[32]

Within the first 48 hours of its posting, the first part of the review was pulled from YouTube based on a copyright infringement claim by Cartoon Network. Stoklasa was unsure of the reason for the claim and consequently whether to counter the claim or let it go, even after seeking legal help.[29] Stoklasa commented that while using copyrighted clips as part of reviews and commentary is generally considered fair use, he was unsure how Lucasfilm would take a full deconstruction of the film.[29] Stoklasa moved forward on the Attack of the Clones review only after Lucasfilm had remained silent about his Phantom Menace review. Furthermore, if the matter was not settled, he would have been unlikely to proceed with his plans for a similar review for Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.[29] Neither Lucasfilm nor Cartoon Network responded to the matter, but the claim was later retracted and the first part of the review was again available on YouTube. Stoklasa believed this was a combination of media coverage about the review, including interviews with MTV and fans writing to the parties involved to request its return.[8]

Revenge of the Sith review[edit]

On December 31, 2010, Stoklasa's 110-minute review of the Revenge of the Sith was released on YouTube.[12] The review had less content regarding the Plinkett-Nadine subplot, as Stoklasa felt it was already too long.[22] The subplot was instead split into a separate short film and was released on March 10, 2011.[33]

In the review, Mr. Plinkett notes that the only character he liked was Palpatine, as he was the only character who ever showed any charisma or clear motivation. Additionally, he again laments the use of blue-screen effects and the simplicity of the filming, claiming that there are only two types of scenes in the movie: Scenes done in shot, reverse-shot; and the "mind-numbing action sequences that the fanboys crave".

The review was noted by film critic Roger Ebert in his blog, who said, "I was pretty much sure I didn't have it with me to endure another review of [Revenge of the Sith]. Mr. Plinkett demonstrates to me that I was mistaken."[34]

Cop Dog review[edit]

In a departure from his usual reviews of films and movies relating to science fiction and fantasy,[35] on June 24, 2011, Stoklasa released a review of Cop Dog, first on Blip (website),[36] and then later on YouTube.[37] On April 27, 2012, Stoklasa was invited to the CPH:PIX 2012 Film Festival in Copenhagen to meet Danish film festival fans and discuss his unique brand of humor.[38] There, despite it not being listed on the festival's catalog schedule,[39] Stoklasa's review of Cop Dog was screened before a live audience, wherein afterwards he says he received unexpected excitement from the fans.[40]

The Star Wars Awakens review[edit]

On October 2, 2016, Stoklasa's 105-minute "Mr. Plinkett's The Star Wars Awakens Review" video was released on YouTube. Although it includes Stoklasa's review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, nearly half of the video is a broad examination of the Star Wars franchise as a whole.[15] Topics explored in the video include the future of Star Wars under the ownership of The Walt Disney Company, the Star Wars Ring Theory internet fan theory, and recent praise that the prequel trilogy had received on the internet.[41] The video contains a minor subplot in which George Lucas and J. J. Abrams each pose as repairmen in an attempt to murder Mr. Plinkett.[15]


Stoklasa's reviews have been considered part of an emerging art form that hybridize mashup with video essays, as they use a combination of footage from the movie in question and other related sources.

Literary and cultural critic Benjamin Kirbach argues that Plinkett enacts a kind of détournement by recontextualizing images that would otherwise serve as Star Wars marketing material (such as behind-the-scenes footage and interviews). Defined by Guy Debord as "the reuse of preexisting artistic elements in a new ensemble", détournement is a way of generating meaning out of cultural texts that is antithetical to their original intent.[42] Kirbach argues that Stoklasa uses this tactic to construct a subversive narrative that frames George Lucas as "a lazy, out-of-touch, and thoroughly unchallenged filmmaker".[43]

Kirbach also argues that Plinkett's popularity can be explained, in part, as a form of catharsis. Because he is portrayed as insane, the Plinkett shtick "legitimates our nerd-rage by literalizing it".[44] Plinkett enrolls George Lucas in an ongoing Oedipal drama as the castrating father figure, a father figure we are invited to rage against owing to his flagrant ineptitude. But aside from raw catharsis, Kirbach claims that Plinkett's insanity is also a critique of the film industry itself. By fictionalizing his critic, Stoklasa constructs a character who is unable to speak at a safe distance from the text he analyzes. "Plinkett becomes the figure of a consumer culture that has been force-fed Hollywood schlock beyond its carrying capacity," Kirbach writes.[45] And further:

Stoklasa's major conceit—that someone would have to be "crazy" to watch movies the way Plinkett does—also implies a barely hidden inverse: that the film industry has induced a consumerist fantasy in people who don't watch movies this way. Plinkett's obscenity and jokiness are without a doubt designed to garner viewership, but they are also Stoklasa's apology for—or defense against—a culture that already construes his level of passion as pathological. This central irony leads us to question what is actually more insane: the consumer who rejects the expressions of a massive culture industry, or the massive culture industry itself. Plinkett satirizes the kind of consumer such a system generates: psychotic, sexist, homicidal.[44]

In an interview with Esquire, comedian Patton Oswalt noted that the Mr. Plinkett reviews are an example of "amazing film scholarship" on the Star Wars prequels that demonstrate how much of the Star Wars universe is squandered by them.[46] The Daily Telegraph called the reviews "legendary" and described them as being more popular than the actual films.[47]

However, the reviews have also been criticized by Star Wars fans. Stoklasa stated that he feels "Star Wars to some people is like a religion so they respond to attacks on it as such."[22] One fan wrote a 108-page-long point-by-point response to the Phantom Menace review, taking issue with many of Stoklasa's criticisms,[48] which Stoklasa mocked in an announcement video for his Revenge of the Sith review.[49]

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, whilst critiquing CinemaSins' Everything Wrong With... video of his film, Kong: Skull Island, for bad film criticism masked under the guise of "satire", praised Red Letter Media for good film criticism and satire, stating that "Red Letter Media's phantom menace [sic] review IS satire. They lampoon a certain type of nerd culture AND their takedown is accurate & thoughtful. Red Letter Media's critiques hold up under scrutiny. Cinema Sins [sic] just wants to shit on things for the sake of shitting on them."[50]


Red Letter Media also produces original feature-length films. Among the low-budget features Stoklasa and Bauman have produced and directed on Red Letter Media are the talking fruit action film Oranges: Revenge of the Eggplant, made in 2005 and available on Netflix[23] (currently only available for DVD rental, not for streaming); The Recovered, a horror thriller starring Tina Krause; and Feeding Frenzy, a 2010 genre-spoof of puppet monster movies like Gremlins. Feeding Frenzy featured Rich Evans as Mr. Plinkett; Evans originated the character in short films, and this feature was filmed before the popularity of the Phantom Menace review.[22] Stoklasa's short films are usually dark comedies. Plinkett, played by Evans, appeared in several of them, starting with "You're Invited".

Stoklasa created and starred in five seasons of the web sitcom The Grabowskis, opposite Dixie Jacobs, about an exaggeratedly trashy and unpleasant sitcom family. Installments of the series were only a few seconds long at first (comically giving more screen time to the lengthy intro than the episode itself), but grew to full episode length over time.

On October 26, 2015, the company announced via a short video that it had completed the feature-length film Space Cop, which had been in production for at least seven years.[51] Space Cop stars Evans in the titular role alongside Stoklasa, who wrote and directed the film. It was made available on January 12, 2016, on Blu-ray for $25 through Red Letter Media's Bandcamp page. The first run sold out in a matter of hours.

Half in the Bag[edit]

Half in the Bag is a regularly released series in which Stoklasa and Bauman do more traditional movie reviews. Stoklasa has described it as a cross between Siskel and Ebert and a 1980s sitcom, with himself and Bauman as VCR repairmen who discuss movies.

The show often features Plinkett portrayed by Evans. Fans often call this iteration of the character "Fake Plinkett", but Stoklasa has noted that Evans was the first person to portray Plinkett, with Stoklasa's later portrayal based on Evans's performance. Tim Heidecker, who hosts a satirical movie review show On Cinema, makes a cameo in episode 37 as the owner of the VCR repair shop who bequeaths employment to Jay and Mike.[52]

Stoklasa stated that this series would not replace the Plinkett reviews. The first episode premiered on March 12, 2011, with a review of Drive Angry and The Adjustment Bureau.

Irish sitcom writer, creator of The IT Crowd, and co-creator of Father Ted and Black Books Graham Linehan praised Red Letter Media in an interview with British comedian and writer Richard Herring on Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast. He spoke particularly about the Half in the Bag review of Jack and Jill.[53]

Best of the Worst[edit]

Best of the Worst is a regularly-released series in which members of Red Letter Media watch and review multiple films ranging from B-movies to instructional videos, sometimes sent in by fans.[19] After viewing and riffing on the films, a rotating panel of four sit to discuss what they just watched, typically expressing further contempt or ridicule for what they have just seen, though occasionally offering praise for films that show uncommon quality or effort. Panels typically consist of any combination of Mike Stoklasa, Jay Bauman, Rich Evans, Jack Packard, Josh "The Wizard" Davis, or special guests. Panel participants then individually decide upon which film or video represents the "Best of the Worst". Viewing material that is deemed to be insulting, offensive, or especially poor is often destroyed in a creative fashion. Methods of destruction have included dissolving a VHS tape in acetone, forcing a DVD through a paper shredder, dragging a tape around the streets tied to the bumper of a car, and cooking a tape on a charcoal grill alongside cheeseburgers.

Canadian visual effects artists Colin Cunningham and Jim Maxwell, who have worked on numerous feature films, frequently appear as recurring guests. Special guests on the show have included screenwriters Max Landis and Simon Barrett, comic book artist Freddie Williams, actor Macaulay Culkin and indie film auteur Len Kabasinski.

Some episodes feature the "Wheel of the Worst", in which a wheel is spun to select which films/videos will be watched.[19] Wheel selections are often videos that are either extremely bizarre (such as "Dog Sitter", a movie apparently made to appeal to dogs), or have little modern relevance (such as Chinese-language instructional tapes about how to use AOL). The Daily Herald praised Best of the Worst for being Red Letter Media's most entertaining series.[54]

The show occasionally features other gimmicks to randomly select viewing material such as the "Choose-And-Lose" and the Plinketto Board.

Best of the Worst also introduced a recurring character known as "Scientist Man" (played by Mike Stoklasa in a lab coat and glasses). Scientist Man attempts to explain things in a "scientific" way, often mincing his words, and clumsily creating hazardous work environment situations such as spilling acetone on his clothing.

Much of the comedy in the scripted portions of these episodes comes from meta, exaggerated behaviour and dialogue and slapstick gags. Much of this is deliberately done in such a way as to lampoon the same type of humour in conventional comedy productions.


On May 24, 2016, the company released the first episode of a new series called re:View. Compared to the company's other shows, the format is a much more stripped down and straight forward approach to film critique. Two members of Red Letter Media sit in front of a red curtain and offer thoughts and insight on a "classic" film such as Tremors, Eraserhead, and Ghostbusters. Clips of the film being discussed are interwoven, typically to lend emphasis to a specific point being made, or to showcase some of the most memorable moments from the film. Former child star Macaulay Culkin made a guest appearance in a 2018 episode reviewing Hackers.[55][56]


In July 2014 Red Letter Media affiliates Rich Evans and Jack Packard began a YouTube Video game review channel under the name Previously Recorded or Pre-Rec. Videos from the channel have been featured on the Red Letter Media website alongside other Red Letter Media content. The channel has been referenced on numerous Half in the Bag and Best of the Worst episodes, with Mike Stoklasa implying the rec in Pre-Rec stands for rectum. As of July 22, 2018 they announced that they would be broadcasting their final livestream on July 25, 2018 and then the channel would be put on hold for the foreseeable future.[57]

Commentary tracks[edit]

Since 2012, Red Letter Media has produced commentary tracks for various films, releasing them on Bandcamp.[58] These began with three commentary tracks by Stoklasa as Mr. Plinkett, but the company has since released tracks by Stoklasa, Bauman, and Evans as themselves.

Commentary tracks (listed in order of release)[58]



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