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…

Summer 1987: The Top 10 Hits and More

As we begin the month of August and the dog days of summer, I’ll be traveling back 30, 20, and 10 years ago to seasons past giving you the top ten hits and more of that particular time frame. Today we are going all the way to 1987.

It was a simpler time back then. There were very few sequels and franchises and reboots and a good portion of the highest grossing flicks dealt with law enforcement in action type settings. Only one picture grossed over $100 million dollars. Yes, the times have changed, but what a hoot to look back at what was burning up the box office charts three decades ago. This post will also discuss some other notable flicks outside the top ten and some big ole flops.

Let’s get to it!

10. The Living Daylights

Domestic Gross: $51 million

The 15th James Bond picture kicked off the brief two picture reign of Timothy Dalton, who took over the iconic role after the late Roger Moore’s 12 year long portrayal of 007. It’s $51M gross would just surpass the $50M earnings of Moore’s swan song, 1985’s A View to a Kill. Two summers later, Dalton would star in his swan song Licence to Kill before Pierce Brosnan donned the tuxedo six years later.

9. Robocop

Domestic Gross: $53 million

Paul Verhoeven’s futuristic sci-fi action thriller nearly received the dreaded X rating upon its release. It also received critical acclaim and spawned two sequels and a 2014 remake.

8. La Bamba

Domestic Gross: $54 million

This biopic of singer Ritchie Valens starring Lou Diamond Phillips was a major summer sleeper and even earned a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture (Drama). It also featured the Los Lobos cover of the title song that was in the top ten summer songs of 1987.

7. Dragnet

Domestic Gross: $57 million

A few years before Tom Hanks was earning back to back Best Actor Oscars, he was costarring in silly remakes of 1950s cop dramas. Dragnet managed to perform well and it’s a guilty pleasure, especially Dan Aykroyd’s take on Sgt. Joe Friday (a role made famous by Jack Webb).

6. Predator

Domestic Gross: $59 million

One of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s finest action pics, Predator also kicked off an impressive three picture directorial run by John McTiernan that was followed up by Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October. This franchise is still going strong today, but nothing beats the hard edged original.

5. Dirty Dancing

Domestic Gross: $63 million

The biggest sleeper hit of the summer vaulted Patrick Swayze into super stardom and won the Oscar for Best Original Song for Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’s “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”.

4. The Witches of Eastwick

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Mad Max maker George Miller went Hollywood with this critically appreciated comedic fantasy with an all-star cast of Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

3. Stakeout

Domestic Gross: $65 million

This was the height of the buddy cop era and it propelled this one starring Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez to big grosses. A less regarded sequel costarring Rosie O’Donnell would follow six years later.

2. The Untouchables

Domestic Gross: $76 million

Brian De Palma’s take on the classic TV series was a big-budget and highly entertaining affair headlined by Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, and Sean Connery (who won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his work).

1. Beverly Hills Cop II

Domestic Gross: $153 million

Eddie Murphy was just about the biggest movie star in the world in summer 1987 and that’s shown here by the enormous gross of the sequel to his 1984 classic, directed by Tony Scott. A much less successful third entry would follow seven summers later after Murphy’s box office potency had waned.

And now – here’s some other notable pictures from the season:

Full Metal Jacket

Domestic Gross: $46 million

Legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s first film in seven years (since The Shining) is now considered a modern classic, especially for its unforgettable first half featuring R. Lee Ermey’s Vietnam drill sergeant.

Spaceballs

Domestic Gross: $38 million

This Mel Brooks spoof of Star Wars may not be in Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein territory, but it’s certainly earned quite a cult status through the last 30 years.

Adventures in Babysitting

Domestic Gross: $34 million

The directorial debut of Chris Columbus (who would go on to make Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and the first two Harry Potter pics), Babysitting has also achieved cult cred in addition to its decent box office showing at the time.

The Lost Boys

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Another flick with a rabid fan base, the teen pic cast Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, and Corey Feldman in a California town overrun by vampires.

And now for a couple of 1987 summer box office bombs:

Jaws IV: The Revenge

Domestic Gross: $20 million

12 summers prior, Steven Spielberg’s original was a landmark motion picture. By the time the fourth entry came around, the series had gotten terrible. It still has a 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes and Michael Caine actually missed picking up his Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters because he was shooting this turkey.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Domestic Gross: $15 million

Not a solid summer for four-quels. This served as a bad ending to a series started nine years earlier. There was a moratorium on Supes pic for the next 19 years.

Ishtar

Domestic Gross: $14 million

Considered one of the largest bombs in film history at the time, this comedy with Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman was a punchline for years. Its reputation has grown a bit since.

And that’s my recap folks! I’ll be back recounting summer 1997 very soon…

Ghostbusters Movie Review

After over a quarter century of dormancy, the Ghostbusters have been rebooted with a female team and an appreciation for what came before it. Maybe too much appreciation. The 2016 iteration may not be ‘fraid of no ghosts, but perhaps it is of its own 1984 shadow and what followed it.

The concept here isn’t much different. Take a talented director (Paul Feig) and fill the leading roles with SNL related stars. Here it’s Melissa McCarthy (a favorite SNL host) along with former cast member Kristin Wiig and current ones Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. They’re the new Ghostbusters and the New York City setting is the same. Wiig is a Columbia professor who once cowrote a paranormal related book that she’s trying to forget about. McCarthy is her coauthor who’s now stuck in a dead-end job at a technical college along with McKinnon (she handles gadgets). Jones is an MTA employee who finds that ghosts are real in the bowels of the city’s subway. The NYC setting provides one of the most abnormal moments here when the team chows down on Papa Johns pizza. In New York City?!?!?! Product placement is vital, people…

Ghouls and goblins begin to sprout up in the Big Apple and soon the foursome find themselves in business, even if the city’s leaders don’t wish to acknowledge the presence of them or those they’re hunting. The Annie Potts secretarial duties are handled by a game Chris Hemsworth, showing off the same occasional comedic abilities he showed in another subpar 80s relaunch last summer, Vacation.

And there’s cameos by way of the franchise before it – both in human and special effects form. They serve more to make us nod in knowing appreciation than actually laugh. As for the Ghostbusters themselves? McCarthy and Wiig acquit themselves fine and have their strong moments, as does Jones. The weakest link is McKinnon, whose over the top antics work well in five minute SNL sketch bursts but seem out of place and rather annoying here.

Perhaps what hinders Ghostbusters from being a satisfactory experience is the fact that the melding of science fiction and comedy felt fresh over 30 years ago with Ivan Reitman’s original. Since then, we’ve seen everything from Men in Black to more obvious (and less pleasing) knock offs like Evolution and The Watch to name just a couple. The injection of a gender change isn’t enough to make this feel new and the CG effects add nothing out of the ordinary either. It is the ghosts of genre past that ultimately haunts what we see here.

** (out of four)

Ghostbusters Box Office Prediction

One of the biggest summer 2016 mysteries will be answered next weekend when the Ghostbusters reboot hits theaters. 32 years after the original became a smash hit (with a less beloved sequel that followed five years later), the Columbia Pictures property is a hopeful franchise yet again. This follows years (decades in fact) of rumors about the comedic paranormal team making a return to the big screen. A third go round with the original cast never materialized, so the series has undergone a makeover with Paul Feig taking over directorial duties and a female ghostbustin’ cast donning the iconic uniforms.

Like they did in 1984 – the Ghostbusters have a strong “Saturday Night Live” connection consisting of frequent host Melissa McCarthy and current and former cast members Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Chris Hemsworth takes over secretarial duties in the part made famous by Annie Potts. OG ‘Busters Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson (along with Sigourney Weaver and Potts) are said to cameo.

This is the fourth collaboration between Feig/McCarthy. They’re previous pics (Bridesmaids, Heat, Spy) have grossed $169M, $159M, and $110M, respectively. This is a whole new ball game that comes with a different set of expectations, however. For starters – the budget is a reported $154 million with a studio likely hoping for a domestic haul in the $200 million range.

That could be a challenge. The word of mouth for Ghostbusters has not been overwhelmingly positive and underwhelming trailers had a little something to do with it.  The first trailer even earned headlines for being the most disliked trailer in YouTube’s history. Buzz aside, it’s been marketed relentlessly in recent weeks.

The release poses a whole bunch of questions that won’t be answered until its opening: will younger viewers turn out for a franchise that’s laid dormant for nearly 30 years? Will the negative trailer reaction greatly hinder its potential? If and when the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man returns, is it the same one from the original or his offspring?

Ghostbusters, even with the lengthy time passed between entries, is still a massive brand name and the name alone should get it to a $40 million opening. How much above that number seems to be the real question. I’ll predict that it falls just under $50M in the opening weekend. How it plays out in subsequent weekends will answer the question for the studio as to whether those grosses make them feel good.

Ghostbusters opening weekend prediction: $47.3 million

For my The Infiltrator prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/06/the-infiltrator-box-office-prediction/

 

Get On Up Movie Review

Get On Up never fully finds a way to break out of the typical biopic conventions that we’ve come to anticipate from the genre. The same holds true for some of the prevalent flaws we find in these types of pictures. The rough edges of the central subject are mostly glossed over. Family dynamics including mother abandonment issues, no matter how true, are too familiar.

What director Tate Taylor has going in his favor are two big things: James Brown is one hell of a subject and Chadwick Boseman was born to play him. Told in a non linear structure, Get On Up explores sixty years of history for the Godfather of Soul, from childhood to the early 90s. We witness his troubled and poor upbringing, his rise to stardom, his business abilities that earned him more money than any other African American musician at the time, and so forth. There’s also his well known history with women that includes domestic violence and infidelity yet that subject is not a primary focus.

Taylor enlists some of his cast from his blockbuster The Help with Viola Davis as his mother who left him and Octavia Spencer as the aunt who raised him. Dan Aykroyd appears as Brown’s longtime business manager. The real Brown, by the way, had a cameo in Aykroyd’s The Blues Brothers in 1980. The second best performance belongs to Nelsan Eddie as best friend and JB hype man Bobby Byrd.

Just as Mr. Brown (his preferred method of what to be called) owned every stage he was on, the man playing him owns this picture and makes it worthwhile. Boseman embodies Brown and is quite remarkable during the musical numbers. Those sequences are the best thing about Get On Up. One of them includes mingling Boseman with the real Brown and it’s thrilling. Let’s face it: by now we have witnessd a lot of biopics that include the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, musicians with inflated egos, addictions, and Mommy and Daddy issues. The music isn’t usually as impossibly funky though with an actor expertly channeling a complicated legend.

*** (out of four)

Get On Up Box Office Prediction

The Godfather of Soul gets his own biopic when Get On Up debuts in theaters this Friday. Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in the hit 42, portrays James Brown with The Help director Tate Taylor behind the camera. Costars include Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Craig Robinson, and Jill Scott.

Get On Up could be in a good position for a solid debut. Taylor’s The Help opened in August three summers ago to $26 million. That would certainly be a good number for this. 42 premiered to $27 million in 2013.

The pic could be successful in bringing in African-American audiences and adult moviegoers burnt out on sci-fi blockbusters. I’ll predict Get On Up manages a debut in the mid 20s.

Get On Up opening weekend prediction: $24.9 million

For my Guardians of the Galaxy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/07/27/guardians-of-the-galaxy-box-office-prediction/