2017 in Review: The Best of Lifetime

Today, I continue my look back at the previous year with my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2017!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2017!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

(As a guide, I used the credits for the imdb.  If anyone has been miscredited or let out, please feel free to let me know and I’ll fix the error both here and, if I can, on the imdb as well.)

Best Picture

Drink Slay Love, produced by Tina Pehme, Kim Roberts, Sheri Singer, Bella Thorne

From Straight A’s to XXX, produced by Austin Andrews, John Bolton, Anne-Marie Hess, Tina Pehme, Kim Roberts, Sheri Singer

Four Christmases and a Wedding

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell, produced by Deen Dioria, David Manzanares, Ron Schmidt, Judith Verno, Frank von Zerneck.

The Rachels, produced by Paige Lauren Billot, Margaret H. Huddleston, Maggie McFarren, Hannah Pillemer, Rebecca G. Stone.

Running Away, produced by Dureyshevar, Jeff Faehnle, Jack Nasser, Jacob Nasser, Joseph Nasser, Bri Noble.

Sea Change. Produced by Sharon Bordas, Alec Chorches, Adam Fratto, Steven Gilder, David MacLeod, A.J. Mendez, Shawn Piller, Lloyd Segan, Stephanie Slack, Fernando Szew

Secrets in Suburbia, produced by Kristopher McNeeley, Jacobo Rispa, Damian Romay, Stephanie Slack, Fernando Szew.

The Watcher in the Woods, produced by Simon Barnes, Alexandra Bentley, Andrew Gernhard, Jennifer Handorf, Paula Hart.

* Web Cam Girls, produced by Tom Berry, Pierre David, Hank Grover, Sheri Reeves, Ken Sanders, Noel Zanitsch* 

Best Director

* Doug Campbell for Web Cam Girls

Michael Civille for The Rachels

Vanessa Parise for From Straight A’s to XXX

Damian Romay for Secrets in Suburbia

Brian Skiba for Running Away

Stephen Tolkin for New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell

Best Actor

James Franco in High School Lover

Zack Gold in Psycho Brother-in-Law

Stephen Graybill in Web Cam Girls

Timothy Granderos in The Twin

Ted McGinley in Fatherly Obsession

* Ryan Patrick Shanahan in Sinister Minister

Best Actress

Barbie Castro in Boyfriend Killer

Holly Deveaux in Running Away

Sedonna Legge in Web Cam Girls

* Penelope Ann Miller in New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell

Heather Morris in Psycho Wedding Crasher

Haley Pullos in From Straight A’s to XXX

Best Supporting Actor

Francois Arnaud in High School Lover

Joe Hackett in Web Cam Girls

William McNamara in Running Away

Patrick Muldoon in Boyfriend Killer

Judd Nelson in From Straight A’s to XXX

* Daniel Roebuck in New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell

Best Supporting Actress

Madison Iseman in The Rachels

Anjelica Huston in The Watcher in the Woods

* Tonya Kay in Web Cam Girls

Paula Trickey in Running Away

Ashley Wood in Wicked Mom’s Club

Lorynn York in Web Cam Girs

Best Screenplay

From Straight A’s to XXX. Anne-Marie Hess.

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Stephen Tolkin.

The Rachels. Ellen Huggins.

* Running Away. Sheri McGuinn.

Secrets in Suburbia. Damian Romay.

Web Cam Girls. Stephen Romano.

Best Cinematography

Drink Slay Love. Vic Sarin.

Four Christmases and a Wedding. Mike Kam.

Off the Rails. Denis Maloney.

Running Away. Patrice Lucien Cochet.

* Sea Change. Jackson Parrell.

Ten: Murder Island. Richard Clabaugh.

Best Costuming

* Drink Slay Love. Liene Dobraja.

From Straight A’s to XXX. Liene Dobraja.

The Lost Wife of Robert Durst. Tina Fiorda.

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Maria Bentfield.

The Rachels. Courtney Stern.

Stage Fright. Monique Hyman.

Best Editing

* From Straight A’s to XXX. Rob Grant.

Four Christmases and a Wedding. Paul Ziller.

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Mark Stevens.

The Rachels. Brett Solem.

Sea Change. Matthew Anas.

Web Cam Girls. Jordan Jensen.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Drink Slay Love. Jessica Green, Catherine Long, Alysha McLoughlin, Sahar Sharelo.

The Lost Wife of Robert Durst. Lorna Bravo, Kelly Grange, Shelly Jensen, Mary Renvall, Melissa Sahlstrom.

* New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Claudia Breckenridge, Daniel Casillas, Nicole Gabaldon, Pepper J. Gallegos, Madeline McCue, L. Taylor Roberts

The Rachels. Taylor Bennett, Austin Cuccia.

Secrets in Suburbia. Andrea Ahl, Trevor Thompson

The Watcher in the Woods. Chloe Edwards.

Best Score

Drink Slay Love. Justin R. Durban

Fatherly Obsession. Aiko Fukushima.

Sea Change. Shawn Pierce.

* Story of a Girl. Travis Bacon.

Ten: Murder Island. Ceiri Torjussen.

The Watcher in the Woods. Felix Bird.

Best Production Design

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Will Albarz, Anthony Medina.

Running Away.   Vincent Albo, Rose Beltran

Secrets in Suburbia. Brendan Turrill.

Ten: Murder Island. Eric Whitney, Caley Bisson.

Tiny House of Terror

* Web Cam Girls. Catch Henson, James W. Thompson Jr., Katherine Bulovic, Valerie Munguia

Best Sound

Britney Ever After

Drink Slay Love

From Straight A’s to XXX

Sea Change.

Under the Bed

* The Watcher in the Woods

Best Visual Effects

* Drink Slay Love

Fatherly Obsession

Sea Change

Stalker’s Prey

Ten: Murder Island

The Watcher in the Woods

And there you have it!  Those are my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2017!  Thank you for your indulgence!  On Friday, I’ll be concluding my look back at 2017 with my picks for the 26 best films of the year!

Previous entries in the TSL’s Look Back at 2017:

  1. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Single Issues by Ryan C
  2. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Series by Ryan C
  3. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Edition (Contemporary) by Ryan C
  4. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Editions (Vintage) by Ryan C
  5. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Graphic Novels By Ryan C
  6. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I saw in 2017 by Valerie Troutman
  7. My Top 15 Albums of 2017 by Necromoonyeti
  8. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Picks For the 16 Worst Films of 2017
  9. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Final Post About Twin Peaks: The Return (for now)
  10. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 14 Favorite Songs of 2017
  11. 2017 in Review: The Best of SyFy by Lisa Marie Bowman
  12. 2017 in Review: 10 Good Things that Lisa Marie Saw On Television in 2017
  13. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 12 Favorite Novels of 2017
  14. 2017 in Review: Lia Marie’s 10 Favorite Non-Fiction Books of 2017

What Lisa Watched Last Night #172: Web Cam Girls (dir by Doug Campbell)

Last night, I watched one of the final Lifetime movies of 2017, Web Cam Girls!

Why Was I Watching It?

Well, the obvious answer is that I was watching it because it was on Lifetime and our regular readers know how much I love Lifetime!

However, from the minute that I saw the first commercial for Web Cam Girls, I grew convinced that it would be better than the average 2017 Lifetime film.  The commercials were just so melodramatic and wonderfully sordid.  If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that the best Lifetime films always seem to be about capitalizing on people’s fear of the dark web.  (Then again, people probably should be scared of the dark web…)

Finally, I knew that I was going to have to review this film just because of the title.  Now, whenever someone does a search for “web cam girls,” there’s a good chance they’ll end up on this site.  They’ll probably get mad once they arrive here but a click is a click.

What Was It About?

Carolyn (Lorynn York) needs money so she becomes a web cam girl.  Her cousin, Alex (Sedona Legge), says it’s a bad and dangerous idea but Carolyn claims that it’s actually the safest way to make money.  She never meets the men who watch her.  All she has to do is undress a little on camera and, pretty soon, she’ll be able to get an apartment in New York and make all of her dreams come true.

But then, one night, Carolyn gives in to temptation to agrees to meet one of her admirers in a sleazy motel.  She promptly vanishes, leaving Alex and their friend Shawn (Liam McKanna) to try to figure out what happened.  Was she kidnapped and, if so, by whom?  There are suspects all around and it’s starting to look like the only way Alex is going to find her is by going on camera herself.

What Worked?

Oh my God, Lifetime really did save the best for last!  After a year that left many longtime Lifetime viewers feeling somewhat disappointed, Lifetime finally gave us the type of movie that made us fall in love with the network in the first place.  Web Cam Girls is wonderfully melodramatic, over the top, and incredibly entertaining.  The houses are beautiful, the villain is perhaps one of the most evil characters to ever appear in a Lifetime film, and the whole thing is full of details that will reward the observant viewer.

For instance, Carolyn, Alex, and Shawn discuss watching Sunrise in film class.  Sunrise, of course, is a film about an innocent who is tempted by the sinful city, much in the same way that Carolyn and Alex are tempted by the sinful internet.  Later, another teacher tells Alex that he was impressed with her essay about H.P. Lovecraft.  References to both Lovecraft and F.W. Murnau in a Lifetime movie?  How can’t you love that?

It was also well-acted.  Stephen Graybill and Joe Hackett were memorable as two sinister teachers.  I liked both Jon Bridell as Carolyn’s drunk but ultimately heroic father and John Dinan as his best friend.  In the role of Carolyn’s mentor, Nikki, Tonya Kay made such a strong impression that a lot of us on twitter were demanding that Nikki get a spin-off film of her own.  Down to the smallest part, everyone made their character interesting.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

When I was in high school, I also used to dress in black and write essays about H.P. Lovecraft.

Lessons Learned

Beware the dark web!


Film Review: The Shallows (dir by Jaume Collet-Serra)


Have you seen The Shallows yet?

The Shallows was released last week, to strong box office and surprisingly good reviews.  Ever since it came out, people have been telling me, “You have got to see The Shallows!”  Well, I finally did see it earlier today and you know what?  I should have seen it earlier.  The Shallows is one of the best films of the year so far.

Now, I have to admit that, even before I saw the film, I was pretty sure that I was going to like it.  Just from watching the trailer, The Shallows looked like a big-budget Asylum film or maybe a mainstream version of Shark Exorcist.  After all, here we had a movie about a blonde in bikini being menaced by a giant shark while stranded on a rock in the middle of the ocean.  It looked like it would be one of those big, over-the-top nature-gone-crazy movies that I always enjoy watching on SyFy.

And, to a certain extent, it is.  The Shallows was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, a Spanish director whose previous work would seem to indicate an appreciation for old school grindhouse and drive-in cinema.  There’s really not a subtle moment to be found in The Shallows.  The shark is huge and whenever it finds something to eat, the ocean turns red with blood and while this grudge-holding shark may not behave like a real-life shark, it does behave like a movie shark.  When, at the start of the film, Lively is on her surfboard and blissfully unaware of the danger under the sea, girl power anthems blast on the soundtrack.  Whenever the camera briefly pans underwater for a shot from the shark’s point of view, the music suddenly becomes ominous and full of menace.  The action is nearly non-stop, pausing only occasionally for a few moments when the camera lingers on Lively either stretching on the beach or resting on the rock and yet the cinematography is so stunning and Lively’s performance is so great that these shots don’t feel exploitive but instead celebrate her both her outer and her inner strength.  Undoubtedly, a lot of people are buying tickets because Blake Lively spends most of the movie in a bikini but The Shallows is still one of the most empowering films of the summer.

That’s right, I just said that Blake Lively gives a great performance.  I have to admit that, despite loving Gossip Girl, I was never really sold on Blake Lively as an actress until I saw her in The Shallows.  I thought she was wasted in The Town and her performance in Savages left me so annoyed that I was literally screaming in the theater.  But no matter — Blake Lively proves herself to truly be a talented actress in The Shallows.  From the minute she appears onscreen, you’re on her side.  You’re happy for her when she finally gets to surf the beach that her recently deceased mother surfed when she was young.  You fear for her when the shark makes its first blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance.  And when she’s stranded on that rock, fighting for her own survival and trying to figure out a way to close a huge gash on her leg (and this was a scene that I literally watched through my fingers), you find yourself truly fearful that she’ll never be rescued.  (One of the strengths of the film is that you’re never fully convinced that Lively is going to survive her ordeal.)  Blake Lively gives a performance here that I would compare to James Franco’s breakthrough work in 127 Hours.

Actually, a lot of the scenes in The Shallows reminded me of 127 Hours.  For that matter, there were also a few scenes that reminded me of Wild and, of course, the Jaws influence was obvious as well.  The Shallows is a derivative film but, to its credit, it borrows from the best and Collet-Serra always manages to add his own individual spin to even the film’s most predictable moments.

Along with Lively’s performance and Collet-Serra’s direction, there are three other things that make The Shallows special.

Number one, it features an amazing seagull.  The seagull, which has an injured wing, spends most of the movie hanging out with Blake Lively on that rock and provides her with some much needed companionship.  The seagull also happens to be a helluva actor and, at times, I found myself even more worried about the seagull’s survival than Lively’s.  According to the credits, the seagull’s name is Sully and he better get some love from the Academy next January.

Number two, there’s a scene in which two soon-to-be-doomed surfers ask Blake Lively if she’s from California.  “No,” Lively replies, “Texas!”  From the minute she said that, all of us at the Alamo Drafthouse were on her side.  And, just in case any of you northerners have any doubts, people do surf in Texas.  Just ask anyone who has ever spent spring break in Galveston or Corpus Christi.

Finally, The Shallows is a short movie and, after sitting through so many overlong movies, it was nice to see a movie that was direct and to the point and which did not include any unnecessary padding.  The Shallows only needed 86 minutes to tell its story and not a minute more!

(Compare the 86-minute The Shallows to the 151-minute Batman v Superman and you’ll understand what film critics mean when they complain about a film being overlong.)

With its truly breathtaking shots of the ocean and it’s nonstop action, The Shallows is a film that you owe it to yourself to see on a big screen.  So get to it!