The Sword and the Sorcerer – Considering that fantasy movies and TV shows have become this decade's answer to spaceship movies and TV show's of the 90s, this and Hawk the Slayer seem like they should have come a lot sooner. I suppose the staff didn't like the sound of Michael J. J. Nelson, Kevin W. W. Murphy and Bill Bill-Bill Corbett, and who could blame them?
Batman and Robin (Serial) – What an adventure this one was. Even though they were technically a collection of shorts, and they started in 2013, I decided to include them in this review and on the Riff of the Year survey because it really was something special. First of all, it's a monumental undertaking. 15 shorts that added up to four and a half hours of content that took over a year to complete. They could have dropped this after episode one and said "well, screw THAT!" But they didn't. They made the commitment to finish it. It had to have been difficult because every episode was essentially the same. It had to have been such a creative challenge to continue with it, knowing you still had SUCH a long way to go, and it must have seemed like they were just going around in circles. And would the audience even care? The fact that people are still clamoring for the last Harry Potter movie would seem to suggest that they do, and sometimes we riff fans can be pretty ruthless when we think there's even the slightest bit of joke recycling. I think it speaks volumes that they brought the entire adventure to a satisfying close when they really didn't have to, and in doing so they added a very unique gem to their already impressive collection of accomplishments. Bill's declaration of "Roast in Hell, 1940s Batman!" was fully earned and justified. Roast in Hell, indeed, good sir! And great job!
R.O.T.O.R. – I think that if there was a surprise hit of the year, R.O.T.O.R. would have to be it. It didn't have the big fanfare of Fun in Balloonland or The Wizard of Oz. It wasn't talked about for weeks and months ahead of time like the live shows. It received no more and no less attention than the average riff in 2014. But for some reason, everything about R.O.T.O.R. just clicked. When I first watched it, I had no real expectations of getting blown away, and I don't think anybody else did either. But almost immediately when the show got underway, you got the feeling that Mike, Kevin, Bill and the rest decided that they weren't going to take it easy on this one. Despite being surrounded by live shows and (upcoming) historic riffs, they could have phoned this one in and nobody would have held it against them. It would have been just another fun riff to kill time before Anaconda. But they brought their A-Game to this one, and I think a lot of people noticed. They had to have. It became the first new release to make the "Essentials" collection on the newly redesigned RiffTrax.com. So it came as no surprise to me when it was one of the five strongest showings in our Riff of the Year competition. So here's to R.O.T.O.R! Huzzah for the shopkeep and so on.
Hawk the Slayer – The difference between this movie and The Sword and The Sorcerer is that this touts the star power of Jack Palance and the guy who played Malachi in Prisoners of the Lost Universe. The only thing keeping it from having a perfect cast was the producer's failure to get THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MODEL IN ITALY and the rest of her boob-tastic co-stars from Fangs of the Living Dead to play the nuns.
RiffTrax Live: Anaconda – Like Godzilla before it, Anaconda had quite a mountain to climb to achieve the standard of excellence set by the previous show. Personally, this was not my favorite live show of the year, but it has nothing to do with RiffTrax. My local cinema bungled the presentation quite badly. I won't get into the details, but I was quite upset that their unprofessional and unacceptable presentation of the product completely ruined the night for me and the five people I brought along with me. I let the management know in no uncertain terms that I would be taking my business elsewhere if the issues were not addressed for the December show. So that was really my entire experience with Anaconda, and it really is a shame because everybody else out there seemed to enjoy it on the same level as Godzilla and Sharknado, but the electric nature of those shows was not present in my theater. I wish I could write about the experience in a more positive light, because this is kind of a bummer entry in an otherwise bummer-free feature. But I am glad that everybody else was able to enjoy it.
Fun in Balloonland – Conor Lastowka mentioned this in his interview with us: "A fan suggested a movie to Mike that was a real, gather everyone in the office and make them come in here and watch it moment. The guy in the Ice Cream Bunny suit would have considered it well beneath his dignity to be in this movie. How’s that for a tease?" Anybody who has seen Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny knows that it would take something pretty monumental for anybody to put the word "dignity" in the same sentence as "Ice Cream Bunny" with un-ironic intentions. I didn't know if any movie could out-weird Ice Cream Bunny, and something inside me said that maybe it was better off not knowing. So when I got the news that the film in question was "Fun in Balloonland," and that Mike had been saying that this was his new favorite movie, I decided I should watch the movie un-riffed just to prepare myself for what was headed my way. It wasn't easy, but I tracked down an .mp4 of this thing, watched it, and I was stunned by what I saw. I wanted to pick up the phone, dial the operator and say "Um, yes, child protective services in 1965 please. …yes, I'll hold." And that's really all I can say about it. If you've seen it, you know that it raises the WTF bar to a place we didn't even know was possible. It'll be a LONG TIME before any other movie, let alone another RIFFED movie, out-weirds this one. And it's no surprise that it got more than 55% of the vote in our Riff of the Year competition. So congratulations, Balloon kids! Your exploitation has resulted in the movie you were in being put in the same category with Manos: The Hands of Fate, The Room, Birdemic and The Guy From Harlem. Whether or not that's a good thing is entirely up to you.
RiffTrax Live: Santa Claus – It's always a treat when RiffTrax revisits material from MST3K. It's also a very smart business move from the standpoint of getting MST3K fans who aren't necessarily RiffTrax fans into the theater and exposing them to the new product. So far they have done Manos, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and now Santa Claus. Despite the moaning and grumbling of MST3K purists (and trust me, there are a lot of them,) I think this well can be gone back to a bit more frequently in the future. The three shows they have already done proves they can make a new riff based on familiar material that and have it stand completely on it's own. Bill Corbett joined the main cast in Season 8 of MST3K, and the core lineup has been Mike, Kevin and Bill ever since. I would daresay that anything MST3K did pre-Bill is fair game. There's no reason not to look to that catalog for inspiration to create something new and relevant. Life is too short for placate the self-important caterwaulings of purists who only want to live in the past. There's way too much fun to be had and not enough time to do it all.
Wild Riff Off – And what a better way to cap off an already spectacular year by returning to television once again? I can't think of one. Wild Riff Off was as much fun as it’s predecessor and it gives hope that maybe we'll be seeing more of them on TV in the future. Personally, I can't stand watching television, but I do make exceptions for certain things, and RiffTrax on National Geographic probably tops that very short list.
And there we have it! What a great way to close the book on 2014, the first year of RiffWiki's existence. Thanks to everybody at RiffTrax, and to all our contributors and readers who make this project so worthwhile and so much fun to work on. It was a hell of a ride and we're looking forward to an even better one in 2015!