2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the year 2016 with the best of Lifetime!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2016!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

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Best Picture
Bad Sister, produced by Robert Ballo, Timothy O. Johnson, Rukmani Jones, Ken Sanders
The Cheerleader Murders, produced by Sharon Bordas, Arthur Edmonds III, Hannah Pillemer, Fernando Szew, Jennifer Westin
Girl in the Box, produced by Stephen Kemp, Charles Tremayne, Thomas Vencelides
Inspired to Kill, produced by Johnson Chan, Michael Fiefer, Douglas Howell, Stephanie Rennie, Vincet Reppert, Nathan Schwab, Tammana Shah, Shawn Tira
Manson’s Lost Girls, produced by Nancy Bennett, Kyle A. Clark, Lawrence Ducceschi, Joan Harrison, Jonathan Koch, Stephen Kronish, Steven Michaels, Lina Wong
Mommy’s Little Girl, produced by Tom Berry, Steve Boisvert, Neil Bregman, Cinthia Burke, Christine Conradt, Curtis Crawford, Pierre David, Donald M. Osborne, Andrew E. Pecs
*A Mother’s Escape, produced by Sharon Bordas, Lori Bell Leahy, Michael Leahy, Kristofer McNeeley, Fernando Szew
My Sweet Audrina, produced by Dan Angel, David Calvert-Jones, Harvey Kahn, Kane Lee, Tom Mazza, Mike Rohl, Jane Startz
The Night Stalker, produced by Matthew R. Brady, Patrick G. Ingram, Michel Rangel, Alisa Tager
The Wrong Car, produced by Mark Donadio, Miriam Marcus, Molly Martin, Michael O’Neil

Best Director
Doug Campbell for Bad Sister
Megan Griffiths for The Night Stalker
*Blair Hayes for A Mother’s Escape
David Jackson for The Cheerleader Murders
Leslie Libman for Manson’s Lost Girls
Mike Rohl for My Sweet Audrina

Best Actress
*Tara Buck in A Mother’s Escape
India Eisley in My Sweet Audrina
MacKenzie Mauzy in Manson’s Lost Girls
Alyshia Ochse in Bad Sister
Karissa Lee Staples in Inspired To Kill
Addison Timlin in Girl in the Box

Best Actor
Zane Holtz in Girl in the Box
Lou Diamond Phillips in The Night Stalker
*Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor: The Return
Antonio Sabato, Jr in Inspired To Kill
Jason-Shane Scott in The Wrong Roommate
Jeff Ward in Manson’s Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actress
*Toni Atkins in My Sweet Audrina
Eden Brolin in Manson’s Lost Girls
Zoe De Grande Maison in Pregnant at 17
Beth Grant in A Mother’s Escape
Ryan Newman in Bad Sister
Zelda Williams in Girl in the Box

Best Supporting Actor
Blake Berris in Wrong Swipe
Rogan Christopher in Pregnant at 17
*Rhett Kidd in The Wrong Car
Christian Madsen in Manson’s Lost Girls
William McNamara in The Wrong Roommate
James Tupper in My Sweet Audrina

Best Screenplay
Bad Sister, Barbara Kymlicka
*The Cheerleader Murders, Matt Young
Girl in the Box, Stephen Kemp
Mommy’s Little Girl, Christine Conradt
A Mother’s Escape, Mike Bencivenga, Blair Hayes, Kristofer McNeeley
My Sweet Audrina, Scarlett Lacey

Best Cinematography
The Cheerleader Murders, Denis Maloney
Mommy’s Little Girl, Bill St. John
*A Mother’s Escape, Samuel Calvin
My Sweet Audrina, James Liston
The Night Stalker, Quyen Tran
The Wrong Car, Terrence Hayes

Best Costuming
Girl in the Box, Barb Cardoso, Tania Pedro
Manson’s Lost Girls, Dorothy Amos
*My Sweet Audrina, Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh
The Night Stalker, Rebecca Luke
The Red Dress, Sophie Pace
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Mary McLeod

Best Editing
The Cheerleader Murders, Eric Potter
Girl in the Box, Julian Hart
Manson’s Lost Girls, Josh Hegard
*A Mother’s Escape, Travis Graalman
My Sweet Audrina, Charles Robichaud
The Night Stalker, Celia Beasley

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Girl in the Box, Claudia Breckenridge, Jen Fisher, Oriana Rossi, Alex Rotundo, Collette Tolen
Killing Mommy, Cinthia Burke, Christie Capustinsky, Kevin Crawley, Kirsten Fairfield, Margaret Harding-Crawley, Corey J. Stone
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Jenni Brown Greenberg, Randi Mavestrand, Kelly Muldoon, Natalie Thimm
A Mother’s Escape, Jenny Hausam, Toni Mario
My Sweet Audrina, Alannah Bilodeau
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Tara Hadden-Watts, Alexandra Holmes

Best Original Score
911 Nightmare, David Findlay
*The Cheerleader Murders, Cladue Foisy
Inspired To Kill, Brandon Jarrett
A Mother’s Escape, Todd Haberman
My Sweet Audrina, Graeme Coleman
The Wrong Car, Ed Grenga

Best Production Design
Bad Sister, Lia Burton, Danielle Lee
Girl in the Box, Andrew Berry, Jere Sallee
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Cynthia E. Hill, Linda Spheeris
A Mother’s Escape, Zackary Steven Graham
My Sweet Audrina, Tink, Janessa Hitsman
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, James Robbins, Courtney Stockstad, Amanda Christmas

Best Sound
*Center Stage: On Pointe
The Cheerleader Murders
Honeymoon from Hell
I Have Your Children
Inspired to Kill
Toni Braxton: Unreak My Heart

Best Visual Effects
Final Destiny
*Flashback
House of Darkness
The Inherited
Little Girl’s Secret
The Watcher

Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you for keeping us entertained in 2016!

Want to see my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2015?  Click here!

And if you want to see my picks from 2014, click here!

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2016 with the 16 worst films of the year!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy

Let’s Talk About Sharknado 4!


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Last Sunday night saw the premiere of Sharknado: The Fourth Awakens!

For the fourth year in a row, SyFy and the Asylum allowed us to take a peak into the shark-filled life of Finn Shepherd (Ian Ziering) and his family.  Also for the fourth year in a row, the premiere of the latest Sharknado film was practically a national holiday.  Long before the film even started, #Sharknado4 was the number one trending topic on twitter.  I actually live tweeted the film twice, once for the east coast and then a second time for my friends on the west coast.  That’s right — I sent out over 300 tweets about Sharknado 4 on Sunday and I’ve never been more proud of myself.  Live tweeting the latest Sharknado is a lot like wishing someone you barely know a happy birthday on Facebook. It’s a part of the ritual of social media.  It’s like the Internet’s version of a Thanksgiving parade or a 4th of July fireworks show.

After four films, it’s easy to forget that Sharknado started out like almost any other SyFy film.  The first Sharknado film featured no celebrity cameos and very little of the self-referential comedy that has come to define the series.  In fact, I didn’t even see Sharknado when it first aired because it premiered, opposite a Big Brother eviction show, on a Thursday.  It was only on Friday morning that I discovered that Sharknado had become a phenomena, largely due to the fact that celebrities like Mia Farrow had decided to live tweet it.

After all this time, it’s easy to forget just how much we veteran live tweeters resented that attention that was paid to celebrities like Farrow, the majority of whom were virgins as far as live tweeting SyFy was concerned.  (The fact that the majority of Farrow’s Sharknado tweets weren’t that good only added insult to injury.)  The media acted as if those celebs had invented live tweeting.  They also acted as if Sharknado was the first entertaining and over-the-top film to ever premiere on SyFy.  Among those of us who had been live tweeting SyFy film long before the premiere of Sharknado and who had loved pre-Sharknado movies like Jersey Shore Shark Attack and Shark Week, there was more than a little resentment.

But you know what?  I watched Sharknado the following Saturday and I had a great time live tweeting it.  The next year, I made sure to watch and live tweet Sharknado 2 the night that it premiered.  The same was true of Sharknado 3 and I even ended up casting a vote on the question of whether or not April should survive that film’s cliffhanger.  With its cheerful absurdity and determination to continually top the glorious absurdity of each previous entry, the Sharknado franchise won me over.  In fact, the franchise won over not only me but hundreds of thousands of other viewers.  Sharknado has become very much a part of our culture.

As I mentioned above, Sharknado 3 ended with a cliffhanger and that alone indicates just how big a deal Sharknado has become.  Sharknado 2 was made because the first Sharknado was an unexpected success.  Sharknado 3 followed because Sharknado 2 had proven that the first one was not a fluke and that there was an audience for these films.  However, by the time 3 was in production, there was never any doubt that there would be a Sharknado 4.  Sharknado 4 also ends with a rather abrupt cliffhanger, leaving little doubt that there will be a Sharknado 5.  At this point, not doing another Sharknado film would be the same as canceling summer all together.

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As for what Sharknado 4 was about … well, does it really matter?  At this point, we know that there’s going to be another sharknado and that Finn is just going to happen to be nearby when it strikes.  We know that landmarks will be destroyed (in this case, Las Vegas is thoroughly ravaged during the film’s first 30 minutes).  We know that Al Roker will show up and say stuff like, “There are reports of a Lightningnado near Kansas…”  (Both Roker and Natalie Morales apparently survived being attacked by sharks during Sharknado 3, though Morales does have an eyepatch in 4.  Matt Lauer is nowhere to be seen so I assume he wasn’t as lucky.)  We know that celebrities will appear in a cameos and that the majority of them will be promptly eaten by a flying shark.  We know that Finn and his family will eventually have to use a chainsaw to battle the sharks and we know that at least one person will be rescued from the inside of a shark’s stomach.

We don’t really watch a movie a like Sharknado 4 for the plot.  We watch it for the communal experience.  Last Sunday was Sharknado Day and it seems like the entire world was on twitter, talking about Sharknado 4.  The majority of us weren’t tweeting about the plot.  Instead, we were acknowledging that we had picked up on the in-jokes and the references to other films.  When April (Tara Reid) showed up alive and was revealed to now by a cyborg, many references were made to the Terminator — both in the film and on twitter.  When we learned that David Hasselhoff has been rescued from the moon, it was time to make jokes about The Martian.  When it was announced that a sharknado was headed towards Kansas, I made a Wizard of Oz joke on twitter.  Three minutes later, in the movie, a house fell on a character who could charitably be called a witch.  We briefly got a shot of her feet sticking out from under the house.

(I should also mention that Gary Busey shows up, playing a mad scientist.  The fact that Sharknado 4 could find prominent roles for both the Hoff and the Busey says a lot about what makes this franchise so endearingly entertaining.  Considering that Penn Jillette was in Sharknado 3, you have to wonder if the franchise will eventually feature every single person who appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice.  Who doesn’t want to see a flying shark bite off Piers Morgan’s head?)

(Actually, as long as I’m mentioning stuff — here’s my favorite inside joke.  Finn and his family are driving through North Texas.  Just judging by the hills and the mountains in the background, this scene was not actually filmed in Texas.  Anyway, they stop off at a general store where Dog Chapman — the bounty hunter — sells them a chainsaw.  When the sharks attack Texas, a chainsaw-wielding army is waiting for them.  Among that army is Caroline Williams, who starred in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.  On the one hand, everyone viewing will immediately get the chainsaw joke.  But only the dedicated horror fans will truly understand why it’s so brilliant that Caroline Williams was credited as playing a character named Stretch.)

At this point, the Sharknado franchise is no longer just a series of films.  Instead, it’s a deliriously over-the-top experience.  In these times of partisan rancor, it briefly did not matter if you were a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican.  For two hours on Sunday night, if you were watching and live tweeting Sharkando 4, you were a part of a gigantic family, a community of people with an appreciation for over the top silliness.  Sharknado 4 brought this country together.

That’s not bad for a film about a bunch of flying sharks.

If you missed Sharknado 4 the first time, catch it when it’s shown again.  Just make sure that you watch it with a friend, someone who you can trust to make you laugh.

And, for God’s sake, enjoy yourself!

Life’s too short not to enjoy a Sharknado film!

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Cleaning Out The DVR #12: Bad Sister (dir by Doug Campbell)


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Last night, after I finished with Going My Way, I decided to stick with the Catholic theme by rewatching Bad Sister.  Bad Sister aired on Lifetime on January 3rd.  Having seen several wonderfully sordid commercials, I watched it and I loved every minute of it.  I was really looking forward to watching it again but apparently, there was some sort of screw-up with my usually ultra-dependable DVR.  It only recorded bits and pieces of Bad Sister.

I was so disappointed!  Fortunately, however, I still remember Bad Sister well enough to review it.  For instance, who could forget this scene?

Okay, technically, that was a scene from the episode of King of the Hill where Peggy pretends to be a nun so she can get a job teaching at a Catholic school.  (“Sister Peggy, will my cat go to heaven?”  “Well, I’ve heard that all dogs go to Heaven so I’m pretty sure that cats do not.”)  For whatever reason, I couldn’t find any Bad Sister clips on YouTube but really, the movie has pretty much the same plot.  It’s just, in the case of the movie, the fake nun is also a sociopath who starts to obsess on one of her students.

From the minute Sister Sophia (Alyshia Osche) shows up at her new job as a teacher at a Catholic boarding school, it’s obvious that she’s not like the other nuns.  For one thing, she’s awfully enthusiastic about her students, especially the male ones.  Plus, there’s not many nuns who specifically make it a point to strip down to sexy red lingerie while being watched by a teenage boy.  Even beyond that, Sophia refuses to take part in Morning Prayer and she doesn’t seem to know much about … well, anything Catholic.  Is Sister Sophia just young and naive or is it possible that she’s actually an escaped mental patient named Laura?  And could it be that, perhaps at the start of the movie, Laura murdered the real Sister Sophia and stole her identity?

Well, this is a Lifetime movie so, of course, that’s exactly what happened!

As a result of seeing him sing on YouTube, Sister Sophia is obsessed with Jason (Devon Werkheiser, the star of Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, all grown up).  Jason’s a student who dreams of being the next Justin Bieber.  However, to get to Jason, Sister Sophia has to deal with not only Jason’s girlfriend (Sloane Avery) but also Jason’s suspicious sister, Zoe (Ryan Newman).  And, of course, there’s Sister Rebecca (Helen Eigenberg), another nun who is starting to suspect that Sophia might not be who she says she is…

Bad Sister was a totally over-the-top masterpiece of Lifetime moviemaking.  Director Doug Campbell is one of my favorite Lifetime directors and he doesn’t disappoint with Bad Sister, playing up the sordid melodrama while, at the same time, never making the mistake of taking this story too seriously.  Alyshia Osche was brilliant as Sister Sophia.  One of the most entertaining parts of the film was watching her switch back and forth from being the enthusiastic Sister Sophia and the perpetually annoyed Laura.  (Just watch the scene where she goes through the real Sister Sophia’s stuff and discovers the boring, dowdy underwear that she’s expected to wear.  The look of total and thorough annoyance that flashes across her face is absolutely brilliant acting on Osche’s part and, within seconds, totally and completely defines the character of Laura/Sister Sophia.)

Bad Sister was the first great Lifetime film of 2016!  Keep an eye out for it.

(I should add that you probably don’t have to come from a Catholic background to enjoy Bad Sister.  But it definitely helps!)

Let’s Talk About Sharknado 3!


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(This review contains spoilers because it’s impossible for me to imagine that you somehow have not already seen Sharknado 3.)

Last night, I watched and live tweeted Sharknado 3 and I’m still recovering.  After the first hundred, I lost track of how many tweets I devoted to Sharknado 3.  Of course, I wasn’t alone in that.  Last night, it seemed like the entire nation was tweeting about Sharknado 3 and it was a wonderful thing.  At its best, twitter can be the great equalizer, giving everyone an equal voice and last night was one of those moments.

In fact, I was tempted to just devote this review to posting the best Sharknado 3 tweets from last night.  However, if I did that, 90% of those tweets would be from me.  Out of the millions of Sharknado 3 related tweets last night, mine were definitely the best.

Over the past three years, the premiere of the latest Sharknado film has almost become an unofficial national holiday, a summer version of the Super Bowl.  On twitter, Sharknado 3 was trending for days before the film even premiered.  And, once Sharknado 3 did start, it seemed as if everyone in the country was watching and taking bets on which celebrity guest star would be the next to die.  (I’m very proud to say that I correctly predicted the bloody and prolonged death of Frankie Muniz.) Even the majority of the commercials were specifically meant to tie in with the Sharknado franchise.

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Fans of the first Sharknado will be happy to know that Nova returns!

But what’s amazing and admirable is that, even though the franchise has now become an international phenomena, Sharknado 3 stayed true to its SyFy roots.  Ignore all the hype and you’ll see that Sharknado 3 tells  a story that will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched any SyFy original movie.  The world is threatened by a flamboyant threat, in this case a bunch of tornadoes that happens to be full of sharks.  Only one man (Ian Ziering as Finn) can save the world but first, he has to deal with skeptical military jackasses.  As always seems to happen in these films, he’s separated from his wife (Tara Reid playing the role of April and sporting a truly badass robotic hand).  Meanwhile, their teenage daughter (Ryan Newman as Claudia) has gone off on her own and finds herself right in the center of the disaster.  It’s a plot that has been used in thousands of SyFy and Asylum films but director Anthony C. Ferrante directs with a lot of energy and writer Thunder Levin provides so many clever one liners that it doesn’t matter if the storyline is familiar.  Ignore all the hype and you’ll discover that Sharknado 3 is still a wonderfully fun film that features everything that we love about SyFy movies.

Of course, one thing that distinguishes Sharknado 3 from other Asylum film is that it is full of celebrity cameos.  Usually, I am weary of excessive celebrity cameos because they’re distracting and the celebs often turn out to be terrible actors.  But the celebs in Sharknado 3 all do a wonderful job.  (Add to that, the majority of them get eaten, as well.)  Then again, the same could be said for the entire cast.  Regardless of what they’re asked to do or say, Ian Ziering and Tara Reid both full commit to their performances.  Casting director Gerald Webb is indeed one of the unsung heroes of the entire Sharknado phenomena.

The film opens with a shark attack on Washington D.C. and it’s during this time that we meet President Mark Cuban and Vice President Ann Coulter.  And, oh my God, how certain heads on twitter exploded when Ann Coulter showed up.  But you know what?  After seeing Sharknado 3, I would totally vote for a Cuban/Coulter ticket.  I don’t care what their platform is, they know how to fight sharks and they seemed far more believable than anyone who is currently running for President.  At first, I assumed that Mark Cuban was supposed to be playing himself and I thought that Sharknado 3 had somehow managed to predict the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.  However, I then checked with the imdb and I discovered that Cuban was playing President Marcus Robbins.

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The same people on twitter who were bitching about Ann Coulter weren’t much happier when Michele Bachman showed up, playing herself.  (For a few minutes, I was hoping that the movie would be full of cameos from former Presidential candidates.)  However, the political cameos in Sharknado 3 are bipartisan.  When the action moves down to Orlando, noted Democrat Jerry Springer shows up as a tourist and promptly gets eaten.  And then Carlos Danger himself, Anthony Weiner, shows up as a heroic NASA guy.  Eventually, for those of us who lean towards the libertarian side of the political spectrum, Penn Jilette and Teller eventually show up.  Personally, I suspect that Teller knew how to stop the sharks but, of course, he wasn’t going to say anything.

As for the cameos from various media personalities, Sharknado 3 never manages to top the moment from Sharknado 2 where Kelly Ripa stomped a shark with her high heels.  But no matter — it’s still fun to watch Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda get drunk while sharks fall around them.  And then Matt Lauer gets eaten by a shark so yay for that!

(Incidentally, whether intentional or not, the film was full of former contestants from The Celebrity Apprentice, with Ian, Penn, and Lou Ferrigno all showing up.  Personally, I would have enjoyed seeing Piers Morgan get eaten by a shark.)

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However, of all the celebrity cameos in Sharknado 3, nobody could top the Hoff.  When David Hasselhoff first showed up as Finn’s father, it felt like a funny but obvious joke.  Of course, Finn’s father would be David Hasselhoff.  But you know what?  Give credit where credit is due.  The Hoff actually gave a pretty good performance and, during the film’s interstellar climax, he managed to do a pretty good impersonation of George Clooney as he looked out into space and said, “It’s a beautiful view.”

And yes, Sharknado 3 does go into space.  How could it not?  The film may have started out as an homage to the classic weather disaster films but, by the end of the movie, it turned into a delirious combination of JawsGravity and Interstellar.  By the time Finn was exploring the stomach of a shark while it floated through the starry sky, Sharknado 3 had achieved a definite state of grace.

Incidentally, the film ended with a cliffhanger and we were asked to vote whether or not April would live.  At first, I voted to kill April because, quite frankly, I thought it would be fun to see a vengeance-obsessed Finn.  But then Tara Reid tweeted the following and made me feel totally guilty:

So, I’m changing my vote!  APRIL LIVES!

Of course, all this means that there will be Sharknado 4 and I can hardly wait!

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