Best Year’s Ever

As one year turns to the next in short order, it got me thinking. What are some examples of actors and directors who had remarkable calendar frames over the past few decades? The guidelines are pretty simple – the individual must have had two (and in a couple of cases, three or more) pictures that made an impact during 19(fill in the blank) or 20(fill in the blank).

And wouldn’t you know it? My ruminations quickly turned into a lengthy list that I’ve paired down to a top 25. Let’s call this Best Year’s Ever and count down from #25 to #1!

25. Channing Tatum (2012)

It was a busy year for the performer to say the least. Tatum was in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, but three major roles made him the star he is today. There was the hit romance The Vow, hit comedy 21 Jump Street, and his signature and semi-autobiographical title role in the summer sleeper Magic Mike (also from Mr. Soderbergh).

24. John Travolta (1996)

Two years following his major comeback in Pulp Fiction and a year following his Golden Globe nominated lead in Get Shorty, Travolta’s hot streak continued with three hits: John Woo’s action thriller Broken Arrow and fantasy dramas Phenomenon and Michael.

23. Clint Eastwood (1971)

The last two months of 1971 were fruitful for the legend. In November, he made his directorial debut with the well-reviewed psychological thriller Play Misty for Me. This began a career of dozens of behind the camera works, including Best Picture winners Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. In December, Eastwood starred as Dirty Harry which spawned his lucky cop franchise.

22. Sigourney Weaver (1988)

Weaver won two Golden Globes 30 years ago – Best Actress (Drama) for Gorillas in the Mist and Supporting Actress for Working Girl. She would be nominated for two Oscars as well, but come up short. All part of a remarkable decade that included Ghostbusters and Aliens.

21. Joe Pesci (1990)

Pesci won an Oscar for his unforgettable supporting work in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas. That same fall, he was a burglar terrorizing Macaulay Culkin in the holiday classic Home Alone.

20. Kevin Spacey (1995)

Current scandals aside, there’s no denying Spacey was the movie villain of 1995. He won an Academy Award as (spoiler alert!) Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects and as a demented serial killer in Seven. Earlier in the year, he costarred with Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman in  Outbreak and headlined the critically approved indie comedy Swimming with Sharks.

19. Nicolas Cage (1997)

Leaving Las Vegas awarded Cage his Oscar two years prior. By the summer of 1997, he was a full-fledged action hero with two blockbusters in the same month: Con Air and Face/Off.

18. Will Ferrell (2003)

Ferrell’s transformation from SNL favorite to movie star happened here with the spring’s Old School as Frank the Tank and in the winter as Buddy in Elf.

17. Morgan Freeman (1989)

The nation’s Narrator-in-Chief had a trio of significant roles nearly three decades ago – his Oscar nominated chauffeur in the Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy, a dedicated and stern principal in Lean on Me, and a Civil War officer in Glory.

16. Steven Soderbergh (2000)

The prolific filmmaker made two Best Picture nominees with Erin Brockovich and Traffic (he would win Best Director for the latter). Both surpassed the century mark at the box office and Julia Roberts won Best Actress for Brockovich and Benicio del Toro took Supporting Actor in Traffic.

15. Halle Berry (2001)

Ms. Berry had a revealing role in the summer action fest Swordfish. She then became the first (and thus far only) African-American to win Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. This was all sandwiched between XMen hits.

14. Hugh Jackman (2017)

Berry’s XMen cast mate Jackman retired his Wolverine character to critical and audience admiration with Logan in the spring. At the end of the year, his musical The Greatest Showman was an unexpected smash.

13. Leonardo DiCaprio (2002)

Five years after Titanic, the jury was still out as to whether DiCaprio’s leading man status would hold up. His roles in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can left little doubt. He’s been one of Hollywood’s most dependable stars since.

12. Francis Ford Coppola (1974)

In 1972, Coppola made perhaps the greatest American film of all time with The Godfather. Two years later, its sequel came with enormous expectations and exceeded them. Like part one, it won Best Picture. As if that weren’t enough, he made another Picture nominee in ‘74 with the Gene Hackman surveillance thriller The Conversation.

11. Michael Douglas (1987)

His signature role as greedy tycoon Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street won him an Oscar and gave him one of the most famous cinematic speeches ever. He also lit up the screen in the blockbuster thriller Fatal Attraction, which was the year’s second largest grosser.

10. Julia Roberts (1999)

She started the decade with a smash star making turn in Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts ended it with two romantic comedy summer $100 million plus earners: Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Runaway Bride (which reunited her with Pretty costar Richard Gere). She’d win her Oscar the next year for Erin Brockovich.

9. Tom Cruise (1996)

1986 wasn’t too shabby either with Top Gun and The Color of Money. Yet it’s a decade later that serves as Cruise’s year with the franchise starter Mission: Impossible in the summer and Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, which earned Cruise a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nod. They were the third and fourth biggest hits of the year, respectively.

8. Sandra Bullock (2013)

Nearly two decades after her breakout role in Speed, Bullock had a banner 2013 alongside Melissa McCarthy in the summer comedy The Heat and her Oscar nominated turn as a stranded astronaut in the fall’s Gravity.

7. Sylvester Stallone (1985)

Sly was the undisputed champion of the box office (not to mention sequels and Roman numerals) in 1985, notching the second and third top hits of the year behind Back to the Future. They were for his two signature characters with Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.

6. Robert Downey Jr. (2008)

A decade after all the wrong kind of headlines for his drug addiction, Downey Jr. pulled off perhaps the most impressive comeback in movie history. 2008 saw him as Tony Stark in Iron Man, the film that kicked off the MCU in grand fashion. Later that summer came Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, which earned Downey a rare Oscar nod for a comedic performance.

5. Tom Hanks (1993)

There’s more than one year to consider for Hanks… 1995 (Apollo 13, Toy Story) comes to mind. Yet 1993 saw him with Meg Ryan in the now classic Sleepless in Seattle and winning an Oscar in Philadelphia as a lawyer diagnosed with AIDS. His status as a romantic and dramatic lead was solidified in a matter of months. A consecutive Academy Award followed in 1994 for Forrest Gump.

4. Mel Brooks (1974)

The director managed to make two of the most beloved comedies of all time in one year… Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. The two features combined contain some of the funniest scenes ever filmed.

3. Jennifer Lawrence (2012)

Already an Oscar nominee two years prior for Winter’s Bone, Lawrence’s road to superstardom was paved in 2012. In March came The Hunger Games, the year’s third top earner that spawned three sequels. In December came Silver Linings Playbook, where she won Best Actress.

2. Jim Carrey (1994)

In 1993, Carrey was known as a great cast member of Fox’s groundbreaking sketch show “In Living Color”. By the end of 1994, he was the most bankable comedic star in America as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber all hit screens.

1. Steven Spielberg (1993)

In a list filled with lots of choices, the #1 selection was rather easy. The highest grossing filmmaker of all time’s 1993 was astonishing. Dino tale Jurassic Park in the summer was a marvel technical achievement that began a franchise. At the time of its release, it became the largest grosser in history with the top opening weekend yet seen. Six months later, Holocaust epic Schindler’s List won seven Academy Awards (including Picture and for Spielberg’s direction).

I hope your New Year is your best yet, readers! Have a happy one…

Green Book Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (11/20): On the eve of its premiere, I have decreased my projection for Green Book

Green Book is debuting on four screens this weekend, but expands to approximately 1000 over the long Thanksgiving frame on Wednesday. The 1960s set dramedy played at the Toronto Film Festival a couple of months back and is said to be quite the crowd pleaser. Oscar buzz has followed. Viggo Mortensen plays the driver to Mahershala Ali’s classical pianist Don Shirley and both are likely to nab Academy nods for their work. Peter Farrelly, best known for co-directing comedies such as Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary with his brother Bobby, is behind the camera.

With an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Book will attempt to bring in an older audience over Turkey Day. With the anticipated awards attention, this looks to develop sturdy legs throughout the holiday season.

So how will it open? The theater count should limit its potential out of the gate, but I believe the opportunity to top double digits for the five-day is possible. I’ll say it just gets there.

Green Book opening weekend prediction: $4.5 million (Friday to Sunday); $6.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Ralph Breaks the Internet prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/13/ralph-breaks-the-internet-box-office-prediction/

For my Creed II prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/14/creed-ii-box-office-prediction/

For my Robin Hood prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/14/robin-hood-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Green Book

If the name Peter Farrelly rings a bell, it’s likely because you usually hear it as part of the Farrelly Brothers. They’re the comedy team responsible for directing such massive hits as Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. At the Toronto Film Festival, Peter has made his first solo venture and it’s a more serious effort in the form of Green Book.

The true life pic tells the story of an Italian American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) chauffeuring jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) through the Deep South in 1962. Critical reaction is out and the term crowd pleaser is a common one in the notices. There’s even been some comparisons to Driving Miss Daisy, based on its themes. That won Best Picture nearly three decades ago.

Green Book would really need to turn into a major hit to get Best Picture attention. As for Mortensen and Ali, their work has been praised. There is some confusion which categories they’ll be placed in, but buzz up north suggests they’re both unquestionably leads. If that holds true for the Oscar campaign, they enter into a crowded race with the risk of splitting one another’s votes. Both men are no stranger to Academy attention. Mortensen is a two-time nominee for 2007’s Eastern Promises and 2016’s Captain Fantastic. Ali took the Supporting Actor statue two years ago with Moonlight.

On the brighter side, the Original Screenplay category is looking a little light right now. That could be the perfect place for this to be recognized.

Bottom line: if things go really well for Green Book, it could be a factor in more than one big race. Original Screenplay looks more possible.

The film debuts November 21. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Dumb and Dumber To Movie Review

David Spade once said that when you see a classic rock band in concert and they proclaim that they’re about to perform a track off their new album, it’s essentially inviting the crowd to take a restroom break. At the conclusion of Dumb and Dumber To, scenes from the 1994 original are played next to this two decades later sequel. It has a likely similar effect to watching The Rolling Stones play “Satisfaction” while simultaneously playing some unknown new cut. Bottom line: this film feels very new album too much of the time.

The Farrelly Brothers and Jim Carrey created their zaniest and most consistently laugh out loud feature in ’94 with Dumb and Dumber and got an unexpectedly great assist from Jeff Daniels, who managed be to Carrey’s equal. There’s little doubt that the studio has probably been attempting for years to get the dim duo back as Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey). We can be sure of this because New Line even went as far as releasing a dud of a 2003 prequel which featured younger actors playing them. That didn’t go over so well with audiences.

It took two decades for the gang to reunite. If you think it may have a little to do with Carrey not having much box office success in recent years, you’re probably not dumb. When we begin, Lloyd is completing a moronic practical joke on his bestie that he’s managed to keep up since we last left them not realizing they could’ve run off with the bikini team.

We soon discover that Harry has a long lost daughter he wasn’t aware of from Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner, who if nothing else proves she’s a good sport). This leads our dynamically dumb duo on a trek to Santa Fe to find her. The daughter (Rachel Melvin) also is super hot and not very bright. Her adoptive father is a brilliant scientist whose trophy wife (Laurie Holden) is trying to off him, along with her boy toy (a sadly underutilized Rob Riggle). We could delve deeper into the plot, but let’s be real. It’s hardly important and to be fair, it wasn’t in the original either.

Dumb and Dumber To is about seeing Carrey and Daniels back amongst their most iconic roles. The actors reprise their roles with glee and often remind us why we found them so strangely endearing in the first place and in countless cable TV re-airings. They could’ve slept walk through their return and they do anything but.

Some of the gags work well due to them, like Lloyd being blissfully unaware that a highly agitated slobbery dog would rather rip out his larynx than play with him. Yet these moments are too far in between. A good portion of the proceedings here have an air of desperation. Bringing their blind neighbor Billy and creepy trucker Sea Bass back results in only retreading jokes that worked better when Ace of Base were chart toppers.

Our leads give it their all and we as an audience occasionally get rewarded. Not enough though, but this isn’t nearly as bad as it might’ve been. The greatest hits happened in 1994. The new material is often an excuse for that bathroom break in the middle of its countless bathroom jokes.

**1/2 (out of four)

Dumb and Dumber To Box Office Prediction

One of the most beloved comedic duos returns as Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) blast back in theaters in Dumb and Dumber To, out Friday. The Farrelly Brothers are back in the director chairs as this sequel is released nearly 20 years after the original earned $127 million domestically. Kathleen Turner, Laurie Holden, and Rob Riggle are in the supporting cast.

A lot has changed in those two decades. At the time, Carrey was a box office force as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and the first Dumber all were huge hits in 1994. In the last decade or so, Carrey’s power has waned. His last traditional comedic release, 2008’s Yes Man, couldn’t break the $100M dollar mark. We’re a long ways away from even 2003 when his Bruce Almighty could debut to $67 million. And it’s important to remember that to a young generation of moviegoers, a high-profile Carrey release is something they’re not accustomed to rushing out to the multiplex to see.

Having said that, 1994’s Dumb and Dumber is arguably the actor’s most fondly remembered release with its constant rotation on cable TV and the great work of Jeff Daniels is part of the reason as well. The most fair comparison to how Dumb To could perform may well be last year’s Anchorman sequel (another cherished comedy) which got off to a $28M traditional Friday to Sunday start.

Rolling out in approximately 3000 theaters, the Anchorman number is just about where I see this premiering. It could certainly reach past $30M, but I’ll put it just under that.

Dumb and Dumber To opening weekend prediction: $29.2 million

For my Beyond the Lights prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/11/09/beyond-the-lights-box-office-prediction/