Top 25 SNL Alumni Performances: Numbers 5-1

The list of my personal top 25 cinematic performances from the many alumni at Saturday Night Live reaches the top 5 today! If you missed my previous entries covering numbers 25-6, you can find them all at the following links:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/21/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/22/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/24/top-25-snl-alumni-performances-numbers-15-11/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/25/top-25-snl-alumni-performances-numbers-10-6/

Let’s get to my overall favorites, shall we?

5. Chevy Chase, National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Chase’s finest and funniest work belongs to his doofus dad role as Clark Griswold in this classic that spawned three sequels, including the cherished Christmas Vacation. This is one of the pictures that can be rewatched endlessly and much of that is due to Chase’s signature performance.

4. Mike Myers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Myers successfully translated his SNL character Wayne Campbell to the silver screen in 1992’s blockbuster Wayne’s World alongside his costar Dana Carvey (who nearly made the list for his work in that film). Yet the most hilarious work from Myers comes here as both the title character and (especially) nemesis Dr. Evil. Two sequels would give Myers an opportunity to play even more deliriously over the top parts.

3. Will Ferrell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

After the back to back hits of Old School and Elf, Ferrell developed his most iconic character with his arrogant and clueless news anchor. Anchorman has deservedly became an all-time comedy classic.

2. Eddie Murphy, Coming to America (1988)

Let’s face it – this list could have been dominated by Eddie. I had Trading Places and The Nutty Professor in the top 25, but could have included 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, Bowfinger, Shrek, Dreamgirls, or Dolemite Is My Name as well. However, my personal favorite is this 1988 humorous fairy tale when Murphy was at the peak of his power. This is the first pic that gave him the opportunity to portray multiple characters and he certainly makes the most of it.

1. Bill Murray, Groundhog Day (1993)

Just as with Murphy, many movies from Murray could have made the cut. You already saw Ghostbusters and Lost in Translation on here and other contenders included Caddyshack, Scrooged, What About Bob?, Kingpin, Rushmore, and Zombieland. Overall, I go with Groundhog Day as his finest hour and #1 on the whole list. Simply put, I find Groundhog Day to be perfection and the quintessential vehicle for its versatile star.

And there you have it, folks! It’s been fun putting together the list and I hope you enjoyed reading it…

Top 25 SNL Alumni Performances: Numbers 15-11

My top 25 personal favorite cinematic performances by the alumni of Saturday Night Live continues with part 3 covering numbers 15-11! If you missed the first two posts, you can find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/21/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/22/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-20-16/

Let’s get to it!

15. Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi, The Blues Brothers (1980)

This is the first spin-off movie from the show and it’s certainly one of the best. Aykroyd and Belushi sold out stadiums with their musical act and their car chase friendly comedy was a major box office success as they embarked on their mission from God.

14. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (2019)

Now is the time to address what many might consider to be oversights on the list. This is the only Sandler entry. That’s right – no Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore or The Wedding Singer or any of his other blockbusters. While I certainly admire some of his work in those features, my Sandler preferences lie with his rare dramatic work. I could have given the nod to 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love, but last year’s Gems absolutely floored me and I believe it represents his best performance yet on the big screen.

13. Bill Murray, Lost in Translation (2003)

Speaking of comedic actors doing less humorous work, Murray nabbed his only Oscar nomination here. The Sofia Coppola directed critically acclaimed pic perfectly pairs its star with Scarlett Johansson and is further evidence of just how versatile Murray is. And he’s not done on this list…

12. Chevy Chase, Caddyshack (1980)

Be the ball.

At his best, no one pulls off smarmy charm better than Mr. Chase. I could have gone with Fletch as the selection, but he’s at his smarmy peak in this now revered classic.

11. Christopher Guest, Waiting for Guffman (1997)

Guest was only on SNL for one season alongside Billy Crystal and Martin Short. He had already starred in the fantastic mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, which set the standard for that type of film. Guest would go on to direct his own treasured pics in the genre including Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. As far as his own performances, my favorite is his dedicated community theater director Corky St. Clair.

We’ll get to the top ten in short order! Until then…

Oscar Watch: Love, Gilda

In a year filled with documentaries focused on legendary figures, Friday sees the limited release of Love, Gilda. The pic recounts the life of original SNL cast member Gilda Radner, including her time on that landmark show, her marriage to Gene Wilder, and her battle with cancer. It features interviews with her contemporaries and admirers including Chevy Chase, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Martin Short, Maya Rudolph, and Bill Hader.

Gilda first screened last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival to positive, if not overly praising reviews. It sits at 83% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. As mentioned, from Won’t You Be My Neighbor? to Quincy to RBG to Jane Fonda in Five Acts to McQueen, 2018 has been loaded with high-profile docs.

Bottom line: while Gilda may well please her many fans, I don’t see this making the cut in this year’s loaded race.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Summer 1988: The Top 10 Hits and More

We are in the midst of the blockbuster summer season of 2018. As I do every year on the blog, I’m recounting the summers of 30, 20, and 10 years ago with the top 10 moneymakers and other notable features and flops. We begin with 1988 and unlike the current 2018 crop that is dominated by big-budget sequels, it was surprising to find that there were a host of follow-up flops three decades ago. Sequels make up just 20% of the top ten here.

The seasons of 1998 and 2008 will be posted shortly, but here’s what what was happening 30 years ago at the cinema:

10. Bull Durham

Domestic Gross: $50 million

Writer/director Ron Shelton’s sports comedy came as Kevin Costner was experiencing a string of hits in the late 80s and early 90s. Considered one of the finest sports films ever made, it also featured showcase roles for Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

9. Rambo III

Domestic Gross: $53 million

The third go-round for Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo earned only a third of what Rambo: First Blood Part II achieved three summers prior and received mostly negative reviews. The star would revise the character 20 years later in Rambo.

8. Willow

Domestic Gross: $57 million

Ron Howard’s fantasy adventure (with a story conceived by George Lucas) was considered only a moderate success at time of its release and critical notices were mixed. It has since gone on to garner cult status.

7. A Fish Called Wanda

Domestic Gross: $62 million

This acclaimed heist comedy was an unexpected critical and audience darling with a screenplay from the legendary John Cleese. Both he and “Monty Python” cohort Michael Palin starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, in a rare comedic role that won an Oscar for Supporting Actor. Nine years later, the cast reunited for the less regarded Fierce Creatures. 

6. Cocktail

Domestic Gross: $78 million

Coming off his iconic role in Top Gun two years earlier, Tom Cruise propelled this bartender tale to major success despite poor reviews (even Cruise admitted it wasn’t so good years later). It did provide The Beach Boys with a big comeback hit in the form of “Kokomo”.

5. Die Hard

Domestic Gross: $83 million

It might be #5 on the list, but Die Hard is easily the most influential film of the summer of ’88. Rightfully considered the quintessential action movie, it served as a springboard for Bruce Willis’s film career and gave us an unforgettable villain in Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber. Four sequels and numerous knock-offs would follow.

4. Crocodile Dundee II

Domestic Gross: $109 million

Paul Hogan’s Aussie creation struck box office gold in 1986 when the first Dundee made $174 million and was an unexpected smash. The sequel didn’t measure up to the first commercially or critically, but it still managed to edge past the $100 million mark.

3. Big

Domestic Gross: $114 million

Tom Hanks earned his first Oscar nomination (several would follow) for Penny Marshall’s classic comedy about a teenager wanting to be an adult. It also earned an Original Screenplay nomination.

2. Coming to America

Domestic Gross: $128 million

Eddie Murphy was about the biggest box office draw in the world circa 1988 and this serves as one of his classics. There’s been long rumored plans for a sequel, but whether or not it ever materializes is a legit question three decades later.

1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Domestic Gross: $156 million

This landmark blending of live-action and animation from director Robert Zemeckis combined beloved characters from the Warner Bros and Disney catalogs, winning three technical Oscars. The title character would appear in some animated shorts in the following years, but a traditional sequel surprisingly never followed.

And now for some other notable features from the summer:

Young Guns

Domestic Gross: $45 million

This Western about Billy the Kid and his gang cast many of the hot young stars of the day, including Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Charlie Sheen. A sequel would follow two years later.

Midnight Run

Domestic Gross: $38 million

Serving as Robert De Niro’s first major foray into comedy (blended with action), Midnight Run found him brilliantly cast alongside Charles Grodin in this effort from Beverly Hills Cop director Martin Brest. Its status has only grown in subsequent years.

And now we arrive at some of the pictures that didn’t fare so well and we have 5 sequels that couldn’t match the potency of what came before them:

The Dead Pool

Domestic Gross: $37 million

Clint Eastwood’s fifth and final appearance as Dirty Harry was met with mixed reviews and lackluster box office. It’s got perhaps the best supporting cast of the lot, however, including Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, and Jim Carrey a few years before he became a phenomenon.

Big Top Pee-Wee

Domestic Gross: $15 million

While Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure earned $40 million and introduced moviegoers to Tim Burton, this sequel underwhelmed. Star Paul Reubens would, um, pick up notoriety three years later for another experience in a movie theater.

Arthur 2: On the Rocks

Domestic Gross: $14 million

The 1981 original earned Academy Award nominations and a fantastic $95 million domestic haul. By the time the sequel followed seven years later, audiences weren’t interested in the comedy starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli.

Poltergeist III

Domestic Gross: $14 million

The franchise began in 1982 with acclaim and huge dollars. A sequel diminished those returns and by the time part 3 hit screens, crowds were tuned out. Tragically, Heather O’Rourke (who famously played Carol Anne) died months before its release at the age of 12.

Caddyshack II

Domestic Gross: $11 million

Part 1 was a comedy classic. Part 2 was anything but. Chevy Chase was the only returning cast member to return and there was no repeating the magic with Jackie Mason, Robert Stack, Randy Quaid, and Dan Aykroyd.

And finally…

Mac and Me

Domestic Gross: $6 million

A notorious bomb, this E.T. rip-off received plenty of ink on account of its awfulness. There is a silver lining, however, as Paul Rudd has hilariously incorporated it into segments on Conan O’Brien’s show over the years.

And there you have the summer of 1988 in a nutshell! I’ll be back with 1998 soon…

The Non-Sequel Actors

Next weekend sees the release of two high-profile sequels: The Equalizer 2 and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. The pair of part II’s have something rather interesting in common: they serve as the first sequels that their stars Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep have ever appeared in. Pretty surprising huh? Both have been mega-stars for decades and have never followed up on a character until now.

This got me thinking: what other major actors have never been in a sequel? And it’s not an easy list to cobble together.

Some actors are known for their cases of sequelitis. We know Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in a multitude of them, including Marvel Cinematic Universe pics and franchises ranging from Star Wars to xXx to Incredibles. He was John McClane’s sidekick in Die Hard with a Vengeance. And looking early in his filmography, 1990 saw him appearing in The Exorcist III and The Return of Superfly. There’s also Patriot Games from 1992 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 from 2004. Son of Shaft will be out next year. Dude loves his m****f***ing sequels!

Sylvester Stallone has made a career of out of them. Creed II will mark his 15th sequel by my count. There’s the Rocky, Rambo, and Expendables series and there’s also Staying Alive (which he directed and had a cameo in), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and the just released Escape Plan 2: Hades.

Eddie Murphy has returned in the following series: 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, The Nutty Professor, Dr. Dolittle, and Shrek. There could be a part II of Coming to America on the horizon.

Harrison Ford has the famous series like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and the Jack Ryan pictures. There’s also More American Graffiti, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and last year’s Blade Runner 2049.

OK, back to thespians who don’t constantly appear in sequels. Leonardo DiCaprio? Well, who can forget one of his first roles as Josh in 1991’s Critters 3? 

Matthew McConaughey has a similar situation. Since he’s become known, no sequels (not even returning in Magic Mike XXL). Yet one of his first roles was in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. 

Unlike his 80s comedic counterparts Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, and Steve Martin (all in plenty of them), I couldn’t immediately think of any sequel that John Candy did. Yet he provided a voice-over in the 1990 Disney animated follow-up The Rescuers Down Under. 

With Marlon Brando, I guess it depends on how you look at it. He refused to come back for a flashback cameo in The Godfather Part II. Yet he did appear in 2006’s Superman Returns… with a caveat. That footage was culled completely from his work nearly three decades earlier in Superman and it happened two years after his death.

So here’s the deal… it is really tough to come up with performers in the modern age who haven’t appeared in at least one sequel. However, here’s five of them and feel free to list others in the comments!

Warren Beatty

He’s famously picky about his projects and he’s never played the same man twice. There were rumors that he wanted to do another Dick Tracy, but it never materialized.

Annette Bening

Beatty’s wife has had a long and distinguished career free of sequels. She was originally cast as Catwoman in 1992’s Batman Returns but dropped out due to pregnancy.

Russell Crowe

The Oscar winner has yet to return to a role, though I’d certainly sign up for The Nice Guys II. P.S. – I do not count Man of Steel as a sequel.

Jodie Foster

She declined to return as Clarice Starling in 2001’s Hannibal after an Oscar-winning turn in The Silence of the Lambs ten years earlier. That was her biggest chance at a sequel and there are none before or after.

Jake Gyllenhaal

His first role was as Billy Crystal’s son in City Slickers, but he was nowhere to be found for part II or any other sequel. However, that long streak ends next summer with Spider-Man: Far From Home.

And there you go! As I said, feel free to chime in with your own non-sequel actors…

A Futile and Stupid Gesture Movie Review

David Wain’s A Futile and Stupid Gesture centers on a Golden Age of comedy while attempting to tell a conventional biopic story line somewhat unconventionally. At times, it succeeds. In others, it strains itself. The overall effect is a retelling of moments that led millions of us to some of our biggest laughs in print and onscreen, even if the humor here is hit or miss.

The film’s central figure is Doug Kenney (Will Forte) of Chagrin Falls, Ohio (as he constantly reminds us). He grew up in that affluent Ohio suburban setting in the 1950s with uppity parents and a family tragedy that seems to inform his feeling of self-worth. However, he’s got one whip smart sense of humor and it translates to his time at Harvard. He partners with fellow humorist – the ironically pipe smoking Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) and they excel at producing the “Lampoon”, the university’s premier comedy publication. While this Ivy League duo could pretty much get any job, Doug convinces Henry to expand the magazine nationally. Hence the “National Lampoon” and the treasure trove of history that follows.

Kenney and Beard’s venture turns out to be a runaway success that provides a platform for brilliant writers such as Michael O’Donoghue and P.J. O’Rourke and performers Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Bill Murray to shine. It’s obvious to say that “Saturday Night Live” never would have existed without Kenney and Beard and that’s acknowledged here. Some of these later famous faces are given seconds of screen time and others considerably more. In a movie about the advent of ironic comedy in many respects, there’s some casting irony here. Joel McHale is Chevy Chase, an actor who dealt with the well-documented difficult nature of Chevy himself on the set of “Community”. Martin Mull is the narrator of Gesture as the older man who Kenney himself never became. The screenplay gleefully acknowledges the many clichés that come with making a biopic. The drug use, strained romantic relationships, and family drama are presented here, but with a winking eye.

The picture often plays like a greatest hits of Kenney’s accomplishments. His contributions to the big screen were short but monumental with National Lampoon’s Animal House and Caddyshack. The screenplay doesn’t linger long on either and perhaps it could have benefited with more minutes spent on the party atmosphere of the former and the coke fueled chaos of the latter.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is clearly made by a team who reveres its central subject. It doesn’t delve too far into Kenney’s considerable issues in an attempt to keep the tone fairly light. Yet it also doesn’t fully enjoy the opportunities to spend time with these young upstarts who would become comedy legends. That creates a sometimes unwieldy mix. Forte certainly impresses in the lead and there’s a few memorable supporting turns, including Matt Walsh as the magazine’s beleaguered financier and Ed Helms in a brief, but devastatingly biting scene as interviewer Tom Snyder.

There are segments of Gesture that remind us to thank our lucky stars for the existence of the people chronicled here. It doesn’t fully succeed as a stand-alone movie that ironically apes the biopic genre that it finds itself in, though it tries hard. In fact, it sometimes tries a little too hard to be ironic. The makers of the “Lampoon” shown here probably would have known how to make it a little funnier and let the serious moments be a tad more subtly rewarding.

**1/2 (out of four)

Vacation Movie Review

The reboot of Vacation may make you long for the days of European Vacation, which came 30 years before it. Not the original Vacation from 1983, which this pic is most inspired by. Not Christmas Vacation from 1989. This new entry doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those two franchise highlights. I’m saying this is substandard to the Griswolds overseas adventure, which was certainly nothing special and this is more on the level of 1997’s unfortunate Vegas Vacation when the series ran out of steam.

Our fifth flick concentrates on grown up Rusty (Ed Helms) and his bored wife (Christina Applegate) taking their two boys to Walley World, the famed amusement park from the original. What follows is an R rated celebration of sex jokes, poop jokes, and pedophilia jokes (yep) that does little to capture the spirit of when Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo took their brood from Chicago to California the first time around. There’s plentiful nods to the ’83 pic and even Clark and Ellen show up for a surprisingly unfunny cameo where Chevy essentially bumbles around for five minutes. Sister Audrey appears in the form of Leslie Mann, now married to weatherman hunk Chris Hemsworth (who does manage to provide a few weak laughs). Cousin Eddie is nowhere to be found (let’s assume he went to Canada).

Vacation isn’t terrible but the majority of its jokes are obvious lowbrow and tired ones mixed in with intermittent genuine laughs. The new Griswolds incarnation is uninspired and this is not a Vacation we need.

** (out of four)

Vacation Box Office Prediction

A new generation of Griswolds comes to the big screen as Vacation hits theaters this Wednesday. It’s been 32 years since Clark, Ellen, and the kids starred in the now classic original and 18 years since the last installment, the poorly received Vegas Vacation.

Our reboot finds Ed Helms as the grown up Rusty Griswold with Christina Applegate as his wife. Leslie Mann costars as sister Audrey with Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day among the supporting cast. And as you’ve likely seen from the trailers and TV spots, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo do return once again.

The name brand and nostalgia factor alone should be enough to get this Vacation off to a pretty healthy start. There is some comedy competition in the form of Trainwreck‘s third weekend, but that shouldn’t be a huge factor. With its five-day roll out, the pic looks poised for a likely second place showing behind the weekend’s other newcomer, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. I’ll say it manages to reach mid 20s over the five day frame.

Vacation opening weekend prediction: $17.1 million (Friday to Sunday), $24.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/07/23/mission-impossible-rogue-nation-box-office-prediction/

Todd’s 15 Most Anticipated 2015 Summer Movies: Nos. 15-11

In less than one month, the Summer 2015 Movie Season will be upon us! That means studios will be bringing out their big wannabe blockbusters with sequels, reboots, animated tales, comic book heroes, and a surprisingly robust group of potentially intriguing comedies.

Therefore, I am bringing you my personal 15 most anticipated summer movies for the year. Let me talk briefly about some pictures that didn’t quite make the cut. I left off animated fare such as Pixar’s Inside Out and Despicable Me spin-off Minions. Same goes for Pitch Perfect 2, Magic Mike XXL and the film version of HBO’s Entourage. And then there’s a film I figured would make the cut: Terminator: Genisys that marks Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to his iconic role after 12 years. Why? Quite frankly, I wasn’t crazy about the trailer. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still highly curious to watch it.

I will be breaking up my list in three installments and we begin this evening with numbers 15-11. Subsequent posts covering the top ten will arrive Friday and Saturday.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

15. Spy

Release Date: June 5

Originally, I probably wouldn’t have figured Melissa McCarthy’s new comedy would make the cut. That’s until reviews from screenings at South by Southwest came out and they indicate this is the star’s best feature so far. It doesn’t hurt that Paul Feig, director of McCarthy’s Bridesmaids and The Heat is behind the camera. Jude Law, Rose Byrne, and Jason Statham co-star.

14. Masterminds

Release Date: August 14

From the director of Napoleon Dynamite comes this heist comedy with a killer cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kristin Wiig, Owen Wilson, and Jason Sudeikis. The trailer inspires hope.

13. Vacation

Release Date: July 31

Yes, they’re rebooting the Vacation franchise with Ed Helms and Leslie Mann as grown-up Rusty and Audrey and Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo back as Clark and Ellen. Christina Applegate, Chris Hemsworth, and Charlie Day round out the cast. Here’s to hoping this is more like the original and Christmas Vacation than Vegas Vacation. No trailer has been released at press time.

12. Southpaw

Release Date: July 24

Jake Gyllenhall has been on a roll lately choosing his projects, including last year’s terrific Nightcrawler. This sports drama sees him playing a boxer with serious family issues. It also sees him heavily bulked up in a pic that could get awards attention, like 2010’s The Fighter. Antoine Fuqua directs (he made Training Day and The Equalizer) and Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker co-star.

11. Fantastic Four

Released Date: August 7

The first two installments of the famed Marvel comic books (the ones with Jessica Alba and Michael Chiklis) were decent size hits, however critics didn’t approve. This reboot comes from Chronicle director Josh Trank with a cast that includes Miles Teller, Kate Mara, and Michael B. Jordan and it will attempt to begin the franchise anew.

And that’s all for now! Numbers 10-6 coming at you tomorrow…

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Box Office Prediction

Nearly five years after the original turned into a somewhat minor cult classic, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 hits theaters this Friday and will attempt to at least make what its predecessor accomplished in 2010.

The R rated sequel was supposed to come out this past Christmas, but the studio pushed it to a less competitive February spot. Machine 1 star John Cusack opted not to return for the follow-up, but Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke and Chevy Chase are back to reprise their roles with Adam Scott thrown into the mix.

The original premiered to a decent $14 million with an eventual solid gross of $50 million stateside. I have serious doubts as to whether this sequel can match that. The first certainly has its fans (I count myself among them) yet there doesn’t seem to be a big clamor for a second helping. Even some admirers of the 2010 pic could opt to wait for VOD.

As I see it, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 may struggle to even reach double digits out of the gate and, ultimately, I don’t believe it will.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 opening weekend prediction: $8.3 million

For my McFarland, USA prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/02/15/mcfarland-usa-box-office-prediction/

For my prediction on The DUFF, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/02/15/the-duff-box-office-prediction/