By Sugar Ray Dodge and Jeremy Pluta
Oh friggin' wow! This is the FOURTH Annual RiffWiki.net Year in Review. Can't believe we've been doing this on this wiki for the fourth year in a row. As always, we're reviewing all the full length riffs RiffTrax released in 2017 as well as handing out awards for the best of the best, as voted on by RiffWiki.net readers. 2017 was... well, they threw a lot of really REALLY weird stuff at us this year. It's definitely an interesting year as far as movie selection goes, which made for quite a unique experience as compared to other years (in the best way, mind you.)
So let's get this show on the road. I've recruited Jeremy Pluta from Peanut Butter and Awesome to chime in from time to time on his favorite riffs of the year, and he even gets his own award to hand out! His entries are marked with (Jeremy,) just so you know, the rest are penned by me, Dave Chadwick, aka Sugar Ray Dodge!
The Amazing Mr. X - The year started out with this quirky and lovable entry from Bridget and Mary Jo, the Amazing Mr. X, about a guy who hypnotizes girls on the beach into... repeating it will make me feel unclean, so just watch the movie/riff.
The Wonderful Land of Oz - This one has been a long time coming. This horrendous “sequel” to The Wizard of Oz has blood relations to the RiffTrax classic Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, both of which have the same director. Barry Mahon, who apparently made “nudies” back in the 60s, decided he wanted to make a children's film. He even boasted about how he was going to get Judy Garland to narrate this pile of crap. Instead, we got a movie that looks like it was shot on the same soundstage as the Dr. Who movies without the star power. There's nothing about this movie that “should be,” so it's no wonder it was a strong contender in our Riff of the Year Competition.
Replica - Speaking of blood relations, this is something that is particularly impressive. Legendary filmmaker James Nguyen has made four full length movies, god knows how or why, but there is one that has never ever been released, his second movie Replica... that is until RiffTrax released it their-damn-selves. They did something almost unprecedented, they released the movie in its original form, then a few weeks later released their riff. It had all the great James Nguyen tropes we've come to know and love, and Mike, Kevin and Bill are in top form, which want sent this riff running away with the 2017 Riff of the Year Award!
Retro Puppet Master - (Jeremy) As someone who grew up on the first three Puppet Master films, I was pleasantly surprised when RiffTrax released this movie back near the beginning of this year. Starring Greg Sestero—better known as the Mark from “Oh Hi Mark”—as André Toulon, the movie serves as an origin story for the series. But this is the SEVENTH movie in a series that somehow keeps limping along to this very day, so you can guess at the quality here. The riff perfectly hits on all the same complaints I had the first time I watched the movie: mummies fighting French puppeteers, vague wavy magic powers, bad accents, and more repetition of lines than Jimmy Two-Times.
Ator, the Fighting Eagle - MST3K fans will recognize this as the move that preceded the classic Cavedwellers, which makes this entry a special treat for people who have followed the phenomenon for thirty some-odd years. This also marks the beginning of the bizarre “VOD Bear Run,” where a live bear plays a prominent role in the plot.
Day of the Animals - Take Birdemic, airdrop it into the 70s and add every other animal, throw in a shirtless Leslie Nielsen for good measure and you have just made Day of the Animals. Animals killing humans for crimes against the environment or something. Yay environmentalism, amiright? Don't worry, this won't be the last we see of this director and his ridiculous nature themes, but it is the last time we'll ever have to look at a shirtless Leslie Nielsen. This is also the second installment of the 2017 VOD Bear Run.
Angel's Revenge - Lots of people like to complain whenever RiffTrax takes a fresh stab at a movie previously riffed on MST3K. I'm not one of them and I'll tell you why. MST3K, despite the Netflix revival, happened 20 years ago! 20 years! That is a long time! These people have been through so much, a fresh take on a classic is more than warranted. In fact, I wish they'd do it more. Anything done before Bill joined the cast as Crow, as far as I'm concerned, is fair game. But handing this one to Bridget and Mary Jo was brilliant. It's the first Greydon Clark movie riffed in 2017, and getting the ladies take on it was just so much fun to see, they were beyond hilarious. Great job all around on this one.
RiffTrax Live: Samurai Cop - The VOD just wasn't enough! Mike, Kevin and Bill brought back 2016's classic Samurai Cop in for another round of riffing for the Spring 2017 RiffTrax Live event, and it was quite an event indeed. So much fun, so many LOLs, the whole night was electric and unforgettable. It also produced probably the best RiffTones song since 2009. Now, this is a first for the RiffWiki. Last year, Samurai Cop won 2nd place in our Riff of the Year competition. This year it nabs the top spot in the Live Show category, making it the first movie to receive an award in two different Year in Review features.
Grizzly - From the same director as Day of the Animals, the third entry in the 2017 VOD Bear Run can described as simply “Jaws with a bear.” That's it.
Star Wars: Rogue One - This is the ninth Star Wars entry in the RiffTrax canon, surpassing Harry Potter in terms of proliferation. It is also the most raw, vicious RiffTrax I've heard in a very, very long time. It bleeds with contempt for its subject matter and in the best possible way. Almost every single line was an A+ winner, especially towards the end, I could not stop laughing. An amazing experience that I think can be duplicated in future MP3 commentaries. I felt like the pre-VOD RiffTrax had come back to life and upped its game by a factor of ten thousand. Fantastic riff!
Star Games - And on the hot heels of Rogue One came Star Games! The second Greydon Clark entry for 2017 raised the bar for weirdness so high, there were times when I had to pause the movie and take a break. This movie was throwing insanity at me so fast that I literally couldn't handle it in one sitting. Every single time I thought the movie couldn't get weirder, they threw some new craziness at me. From the opening sequence, to Bug Vader's reveal, to Happy the Clown, to the dinosaurs being projected out of watches, to neon vomit to... look, that's just the mild stuff! Star Games is beyond all description, you must see it to believe it exists. It is the second place winner in our Riff of the Year competition, and the final entry in the 2017 VOD Bear Run.
Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident - This one of the least insane movies of all of 2017, in fact maybe THE least insane. And that's really all there is to say about it. Great riff, forgettable movie.
Uninvited - (Jeremy) Uninvited was, believe it or not, one of three movies made by Greydon Clark that was released by RiffTrax this year. It’s a movie about a cat, with an evil cat that lives inside it. And something about a gangster I guess. No one cares about the gangster though. In fact, no one dies in this movie that doesn’t deserve it. This release is yet another highlight in a year filled with so many great riffs.
Hangar 18 - Confession time! I am a Matthew/Ian fanboy. I really, really am. Ever since they first teamed up in King of Kong Island, I have always been very excited when they have a new riff released. In 2015, they released, what I thought as at the time, the best RiffTrax Presents entry ever, Warning From Space! In 2016 they upped their game even more with the brilliant Flight to Mars, which walked away with the RiffTrax Presents of the Year Award. Their riff this year did not disappoint, taking on the ridiculous conspiracy theory flick, Hangar 18. These guys are always on top of their game, I don't have a single bad thing to say about their work. Keep it up guys! You're only getting better and better!
RiffTrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party - (Jeremy) Following up on the live MST3K Reunion show from 2016, RiffTrax once again had a night of shorts being riffed by Mike, Kevin and Bill, as well as others from MST3K past (and Paul F. Tompkins). I loved every short included, but the short at the end that was riffed by everyone was easily one of the most insane shorts they have ever done. Titled “The Baggs”, this short is about two burlap bags that become sentient and have a wacky adventure while being chased by a guy who it seems sells used burlap bags (and other things found while trash picking). It really is something, and along with all of the other shorts, make for a great show.
The Little Unicorn - David Warner is like Joe Estevez, that dude will be in ANYTHING! Here's a man who has shared a stage with Patrick Stewart in the Royal Shakespeare Company and Star Trek: The Next Generation, in a movie about a sparkly horse that may or may not be a blatant ripoff of Free Willy. I honestly don't know what to say about this movie. As always, the riff was outstanding... but the movie itself is another example of how RiffTrax just kept throwing crazy after crazy at us in 2017, and in the best possible way.
Final Justice - Another MST3K movie revisited and the last entry this year by the prolific Greydon Clark. Any Sci-Fi era MST3K will tell you how important this movie is to the MST3K experience, so I am glad that it has found its way into the RiffTrax catalog as its own unique experience.
RiffTrax Live: Doctor Who: The Five Doctors - The big, big secret from the 2017 Kickstarter! What movie were they riffing? I have never seen RiffTrax fans in such a frenzy trying to figure it out. In the end, it was something nobody saw coming. This was an actual canon episode of Doctor Who, broadcast with the blessing of the BBC itself! It became probably the biggest night for RiffTrax since the MST3K Reunion Show in 2016. Such a great choice for the summer Live Show, which also served as a uncharacteristically early finale to the live show season. The environment was electric and Mike, Kevin and Bill did no disappoint with the LOLs.
Deadly Instincts - Oh man, talk about a masterpiece of riffing! When I first saw the promotional artwork for this, done by the incomparable Jason Martin, my first thought was GASP! ROLLERGATOR! Alas, Rollergator did not appear, but what we got was just as much fun. Not from the movie itself, screw the movie, but Bridget and Mary Jo take their last two years of experience and pour everything they learned into this glorious piece of riffing art. It should be framed and put in the RiffTrax Hall of Fame for all to see, which is why it is this year's RiffTrax Presents of the Year! Congrats ladies, you done good!
Merlin the Return - THE ARTHURIAN LEGEND REIMAGINED FOR THE NINETIES was what I kept thinking while watching this one, despite it being released in the year 2000. What better way to make a movie based on the Arthurian Legend than NOT to have the characters reflect anything recognizable about them, and instead make a *cough cough* EDGEY neckbearded monstrosity that's utterly incomprehensible? I can't think of one!
The Psychotronic Man - I don't even know where to start with this one, it might almost be better if I didn't even try! Psychotronic Man is the PERFECT RiffTrax movie. Everything about it lends itself so well to what RiffTrax does from the unappealing lead, to the driving and parking, the technical incompetence, the terrible acting, terrible special effects and plot holes so big you can drive a truck through while you have your truck drivin' blues! There's nothing about this movie I don't love, and as always, MKB take something that should not be and polish it into something you can watch many, many times. Needless to say, I loved the hell out of this one and it's why I'm giving it my nod for the 2017 Editor's Choice Award!
Oblivion - I am going to show this movie to anybody whoever tries to tell me that Hobgoblins isn't funny. There are not words in the English language to describe how much I despise Oblivion. Now don't misunderstand, the riff is great. Mike, Kevin, Bill and the rest all did a damn good job riffing this one. But I have never loathed a RiffTrax movie more than this one. It was just offensive to every sensibility I have, first and foremost my preference to never have to look at George Takei's unfunny, bloated form if I don't have to! I'll be here all night if I keep talking about all the things I despise about this film, so I'll wrap it up. Great riff of a terrible TERRIBLE movie. It's literally the worst movie RiffTrax has ever taken on.
Kill and Kill Again - Well... that sure was a movie. Don't ask me what the hell was gong on in that thing, cuz I have no clue whatsoever. Its one of the most puzzling entries RiffTrax has ever released, I still have no idea what to make of it. It suffers from severe Yambao Syndrome, meaning it's story and point are so unclear that it angers you that something like this is allowed to exist.
Wes Craven's Mind Ripper - A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream... Mind Ripper? C'mon, Wes! Get your head in the game!
Pressure Point - It's always so much fun when an Edgewood movie pops up. Like with Radical Jack, Icebreaker and Arachnia, we get all the Time Chasers goodness of David Giancola, who happens to be an amazing human beings who makes a lot of fun movies, which are then made even better by Mike, Kevin and Bill. It's a winning recipe whenever it is tried and I certainly hope we get more of it in the future.
Beyond Christmas - It's been a long time since we've seen a Legends Film colorization of a classic movie in the vein of Reefer Madness, Little Shops of Horrors and House on Haunted Hill. Again, it was a brilliant move to give this one to Bridget and Mary Jo. RiffTrax did so many interesting new things this year, and some of the best were the ones that were handed off to the ladies. Great job, gals! You keep knocking them clear out of the park!
Batman v. Superman - This is definitely one of the most significant and important entries in the entire RiffTrax catalog because of its format. 13 riffers were brought into play. The main lineup of MKB, and all the regular RiffTrax Presents teams (Bridget and Mary Jo, Matthew J. Elliott and Ian Potter, Cole Stratton and Janet Varney,) along with The Mads (Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu) and two of my favorite people on planet Earth, senior RiffTrax writers Conor Lastowka and Sean Thomason! ...that's a lot of people with radically different styles all taking a different chunk of the movie and making it their own.
This riff reminds me that there's so much possibility and diversity within movie riffing as a genre to just limit it to people who have connections to MST3K. It made me hopeful that Conor and Sean will take up their own riffs in the near future, and trust me, they are gonna be awesome at it. It reminded me how much I love Cole and Janet riffs since we haven't seen them since 2015, hopefully they'll make a full-fledged return in 2018 (no pressure, guys!) It reminded me how Matthew and Ian belong in the top tier of movie riffing personalities. It reminded me how much talent was poured into the old MST3K and how almost all of them are still at the top of their game 20 years later with Bridget, Mary Jo, Frank and Trace.
But what stands out the most is the creative genius of Mike, Kevin, Bill and the entire RiffTrax team, to keep innovating and experimenting of what RiffTrax can be in the equivalence of a 12th season of television. There's no slowing down for RiffTrax, no looking backwards. Always the in the present, always looking towards the future. Maybe this should have been Riff of the Year, and perhaps it may have been if it had been on the ballot longer, but it's late release prevented this from happening (and that's not a gripe or judgment at all.) It did have enough power to take 3rd place, but I think it's legacy will endure into 2018 and the entire future of RiffTrax and the movie riffing phenomenon in general.
Jack Frost - When I first saw this was coming out a few days before Christmas, I was stoked. But as I watched I kept thinking “I thought Michael Keaton was in this!” Turns out another movie named Jack Frost starring the original movie Batman a year after this pile of crap was released with an almost identical snowman design. So what the hell was I thinking, y'know? This catchphrase/non-sequitur spouting... THING belongs in the pantheon of truly terrible movie monsters. Absolutely none of it makes a bit of sense and MKB use that to their advantage, resulting in a pretty fun year-ending entry.
And that's it! 2017 is in the can! Keep on bringin' it, RiffTrax! We'll be here in 2018 and beyond!