Summer 2008: The Top 10 Hits and More

We have arrived at part 3 of summer nostalgia looking over the cinematic seasons from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. If you missed my posts on 1988 and 1998, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/11/summer-1988-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/12/summer-1998-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

This brings us to 2008. It was a vaunted superhero summer to be sure and there’s some humdingers for our flops. Here are the top ten moneymakers in addition to other notables and bombs.

10. The Incredible Hulk

Domestic Gross: $134 million

The second feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe found Edward Norton taking on the angry green giant from Eric Bana. While better received than Ang Lee’s Hulk, it was mostly met with a shrug and Mark Ruffalo would take over the part four years later in The Avengers. It stands at lowest earner of the MCU.

9. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Domestic Gross: $141 million

The follow-up to 2005’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe made less than half of what that picture achieved. Like Hulk, it may have placed in the top ten, but it was considered a bit of a disappointment.

8. Mamma Mia!

Domestic Gross: $144 million

The ABBA infused comedic musical was a major sleeper hit and its sequel hits theaters this Friday.

7. Sex and the City

Domestic Gross: $152 million

Fans of the HBO series turned out in droves for the big screen treatment. A sequel two years later yielded less impressive returns.

6. Kung Fu Panda

Domestic Gross: $215 million

Dreamworks Animation found itself a franchise with this animal fest led by Jack Black. Two sequels have followed.

5. WALL-E

Domestic Gross: $223 million

Yet another critically lauded effort from the money minting machine that is Disney/Pixar, this would take home Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.

4. Hancock

Domestic Gross: $227 million

Despite mostly negative reviews, this superhero effort proved Will Smith’s potency at the box office. Director Peter Berg has mostly moved to true life dramas with Mark Wahlberg.

3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Domestic Gross: $317 million

Nearly 20 years after The Last Crusade, Harrison Ford’s iconic hero returned and teamed up with Shia LaBeouf. Critics and audiences had their issues with it, but Indy is slated to come back again in 2021 (when Mr. Ford will almost be 80).

2. Iron Man

Domestic Gross: $318 million

It’s crazy to think now, but the idea of casting Robert Downey Jr. as a superhero less known than Batman or Superman was considered risky business at the time. We know what followed… the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This started it all.

1. The Dark Knight

Domestic Gross: $533 million

The sequel to Batman Begins turned into a genuine phenomenon with Heath Ledger’s incredible work as The Joker and an experience that has influenced numerous franchises since.

And now for some other notables of summer 2008:

Get Smart

Domestic Gross: $130 million

Steve Carell experienced a box office bomb the summer prior with Evan Almighty. He got back into the good graces of audiences with this big screen rendering of the 1960s TV series alongside Anne Hathaway.

Tropic Thunder

Domestic Gross: $110 million

Ben Stiller’s comedy was a hit with crowds and critics. Robert Downey Jr. earned an Oscar nod for his work here and we see Tom Cruise as never before.

Step Brothers

Domestic Gross: $100 million

It didn’t make as much as Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s previous collaboration two summers earlier, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. However, this has achieved serious cult status in following years.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Domestic Gross: $75 million

Guillermo del Toro’s sequel managed to out gross its predecessor and it was another critically hailed comic book adaptation in a summer filled with them. A reboot of the franchise with David Harbour comes next year.

The Strangers

Domestic Gross: $52 million

This low-budget horror flick turned into a sleeper. A sequel was released this March.

This brings us to the flops…

The Happening

Domestic Gross: $64 million

M. Night Shyamalan had his first flop two summers earlier with Lady in the Water. This one focused on killer trees with a lackluster performance from Mark Wahlberg. Audiences were laughing at it more than frightened by it. The director has since rebounded with Split. 

Speed Racer

Domestic Gross: $43 million

This was the Wachowskis first picture since the Matrix trilogy and it fell far under expectations at the box office and with critics.

The Love Guru

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Mike Myers couldn’t make this creation anywhere near as iconic as Wayne Campbell or Austin Powers. Moviegoers simply ignored Pitka.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Domestic Gross: $20 million

Ten summers after the first adaptation of the FOX show did well at theaters, audiences didn’t want to believe in its long gestating sequel.

Meet Dave

Domestic Gross: $11 million

This sci-fi comedy was a massive bomb for Eddie Murphy, making a small percentage of its reported $60 million budget.

And that does it for my recaps of the summer! You can be sure I’ll be back next season covering 1989, 1999, and 2009.

Oscar Watch: Isle of Dogs

It’s been four years since Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel garnered a host of Oscar nominations. His follow-up is the stop-motion animated comedic adventure Isle of Dogs, which hits theaters stateside in March and has made its debut at the Berlin Film Festival. The pic (say its name out loud and pick up on its apparent affection for canines) features a whole bunch of familiar faces providing voice work including Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Ken Watanabe, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Courtney B. Vance, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schrieber, and F. Murray Abraham.

Reaction overseas to Anderson’s latest is that he’s delivered another winner. That likely means Dogs will follow in the steps of the director’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature by the Academy. It ultimately lost to Pixar’s Up and that powerhouse studio has The Incredibles 2 on deck this year. Additionally, it could be a factor for Mr. Anderson in Original Screenplay.

Yes, it’s early but it could already be a safe assumption that the Dogs will be on display come nomination time next year.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

David Frankel’s Collateral Beauty starts with a pretentious name and goes downhill from there. It’s a film dealing with weighty subjects in a manner that is borderline offensive and cheats the audience and its talented actors of quality. When you can’t get past an incredibly contrived concept, it makes any semblance of emotional resonance that the screenplay is trying to beat into you fail badly. And it does.

Howard (Will Smith) is an advertising exec who’s mourning the loss of his young daughter. He can’t get past the loss and he’s cut off communication with the world, including his coworkers. There’s three of them that are focused on and they’re all given their own soap opera subplots. Whit (Edward Norton) is a divorcee trying to reconnect with his own little girl. Claire (Kate Winslet) is the workaholic wanting to become a mother. Simon (Michael Pena) is terminally ill and trying to hide his diagnosis from everyone.

The trio make the tough decision to try to push Howard out of the company. In order to do so, the script invents quite a remarkably ridiculous way to do so. You see – Howard writes letters to issues he’s grappling with – Love, Death, Time. When his coworkers are at their wit’s end, they make the puzzling decision to hire an acting troupe to portray those emotions, catch Howard’s reaction to them on camera, and exploit his response for the company’s gain. It’s even more contrived than it sounds. So we have Helen Mirren as Death, Keira Knightley as Love, and Jacob Latimore as Time. Howard also reaches out to a grief counselor (Naomie Harris) who’s experienced similar life issues.

This is the type of picture that some may not want to criticize due to its subject matter. Yet Collateral Beauty deserves scorn, especially because so many other films have dealt with similar themes in far more mature and satisfying ways. There’s not a performance here worthy of praise and that’s remarkable considering the cast. Smith is stuck playing one note throughout and even Mirren (one of our finest actresses) is annoying. No actors could make this dialogue work to be fair. It’s as if screenwriter Allan Loeb took a bunch of sympathy and encouragement cards and self-help manuals, cut them up, threw them in the air, and let treacly word piles form. The result is ugly.

* (out of four)

 

Who Should Play Donald Trump?

This news should come as no surprise as HBO has announced they will be producing a miniseries in the near future focusing on the 2016 Presidential Election. The effort will come from the team behind Game Change, which told the tale of Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) in her quest to become John McCain’s (Ed Harris) VP in 2008. Game director Jay Roach will be behind the camera.

There is little doubt the project will heavily focus on the man who became the 45th President of the United States. So that begs the question: who will play Donald Trump? I imagine this will be the focus on much speculation until an announcement is made, so I’ll get in on it too. I’ve come up with a dozen interesting choices outlined in this here post. However, before we move to that, let’s discuss some choices that are sure to bandied about.

Name one: Alec Baldwin. Of course, he may be the first actor people think of due to his portrayal of the President on SNL. Yet I find it extremely unlikely that Baldwin would be interested (he’s already announced his impression of POTUS on SNL is soon coming to an end). The filmmakers themselves also might not be wild about casting the performer only known for an exaggerated comedic take on Trump.

Then there’s some big names that might be given the role if they’re interested. Two that spring to mind immediately: Kevin Spacey and Bryan Cranston. Here’s another – Matthew McConaughey. After all, he’s worked with HBO before on “True Detective”.

Yet I wish to delve a bit deeper into Hollywood’s rolodex for some other names. Here’s a dozen of them for your consideration:

Tom Berenger

This choice seems unlikely as he’s probably not a big enough name anymore, but he’s the right age (67) and he does kind of bear a resemblance to POTUS. It’s been over three decades since Berenger was Oscar nominated for Platoon, but he’s popped up occasionally in recent years in pics like Training Day and Inception. 

Kenneth Branagh

The Irish actor has been known more lately for his work behind the camera, including 2015’s Cinderella. Later this year, he directs and stars in the remake of Murder on the Orient Express. That should be a high-profile project and could dovetail well into this very high-profile experience.

Kevin Costner

Coming off a supporting role in the blockbuster Hidden Figures, I question whether Costner could get the look down. Yet he’s a big star who HBO would probably consider.

Russell Crowe

This is a possible example of HBO going with the Oscar winner if he wants to do it. Crowe would be a huge actor to cast in the part and he could potentially add Emmy winner to his award shelf.

Thomas Haden Church

The Oscar nominee for 2004’s Sideways is currently on HBO right now alongside Sarah Jessica Parker in “Divorce”. I could see him pulling off the look for Trump and see him as an intriguing prospect. Possible issue: big enough name?

Greg Kinnear

Another Academy Award nominee for 1997’s As Good As It Gets, it’s been awhile since Kinnear has had a major showcase role. I could see him totally pulling this off and he’s near the top of my choices.

Viggo Mortensen

Mr. Mortensen could be a fascinating pick and he’s coming fresh off an Oscar nod for Captain Fantastic. Like Kinnear, this pick would fascinate me.

Edward Norton

Like Crowe, this would be an example of a major movie star taking on the part. Norton can be a chameleon and I like this idea.

Bob Odenkirk

The Emmy winner for “Better Call Saul” could nail this part, I suspect. He’s shown both dramatic and comedic chops in his body of work.

Kurt Russell

Russell is simply one of my favorite actors period. He’s more versatile than he gets credit for and I totally buy him making this work.

James Spader

Another high-profile choice due to his exposure on “The Blacklist”, he’s toward the top of my personal choices.

Owen Wilson

Of all the choices here, I could really see him getting the look down. The big question: could his very distinctive voice pull off the tones of The Donald?

So there you have it! What actors not mentioned do you feel could step into the President’s shoes? And how about this question: how will Donald Trump react to his casting on Twitter??

 

Oscar Watch: Collateral Beauty

OK – stop rolling your eyes. When Collateral Beauty (out Friday) had its trailers unveiled months ago, it was not out of the question that the film could receive some awards chatter. After all, the cast is made up of multiple Oscar winners and nominees – Will Smith, Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, and Keira Knightley. Maybe its director David Frankel (who’s had some hits with The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me) would enter a new phase of his career that included Academy attention.

So it wasn’t unreasonable to include the Picture, the Lead Actor with Mr. Smith, and supporting players like Norton and Mirren in the realm of possibility for nominations. Yet there was also a general feeling from the trailers that perhaps it was trying a bit too hard. Reviews out today seem to confirm that notion. Bottom line? Collateral Beauty won’t get any Oscar nods.

Interestingly, a number of critical write-ups have called it the Hollywood version of Manchester by the Sea, which also deals with the heavy issue of losing a child. Those reviews haven’t exactly meant it as a compliment. While Manchester is poised for many nominations (including Picture), Beauty‘s best hope now is to connect with audiences. At least its costar Naomie Harris looks certain to be recognized, but it’ll be for Moonlight and not this.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Collateral Beauty Box Office Prediction

After headlining the summer comic book hit Suicide Squad, Will Smith switches to drama mode in the holiday season with Collateral Beauty. Out next weekend, the pic casts the Fresh Prince as a father who loses his child and begins writing letters to events and feelings such as Love, Death, and Time. It turns out those things are embodied by real people and some of them are famous actors. Costars include Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, and Michael Pena. David Frankel, who’s had his hits (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) and misses (The Big Year anyone?), directs.

The trailers for Beauty leave no doubt that this aims to be a tearjerker appealing to an adult (and probably more female) crowd. Word of mouth could cause this to play well throughout the Christmas season. For its opening, I don’t anticipate anything higher than to low to possibly mid teens. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is opening against it and I think it’s a rather safe bet it will dominate the charts and possibly siphon away some of the females Beauty is looking to attract.

Though they are certainly not apples to apples comparisons, I could actually see this performing similarly to last year’s Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters. That pic also opened against the Star Wars franchise (in the form of The Force Awakens) at $13.9 million and subsequently managed to perform admirably from weekend to weekend. I’ll predict this falls a couple million under that.

Collateral Beauty opening weekend prediction: $11.4 million

For my Rogue One: A Star Wars Story prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/12/06/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-box-office-prediction/

Sausage Party Movie Review

The comedic team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (they were childhood friends) was first witnessed by mass audiences in 2007’s inspired Superbad. That pic was conceived by the duo when they were young and that teen spirit infused it with a refreshing authenticity. Their cinematic marriage has since shown their fondness for raunchiness and weed. Nothing has quite hit the effectiveness of their first collaboration. Some have come pretty darn close (Pineapple Express, This is the End) while others have come up a bit shorter (The Watch, The Interview, The Night Before). Most of their works have performed well or at least decently at the box office (The Watch is a notable exception) and Sausage Party is the kind of movie you get to make when studios let you do whatever you want. It ends up on the higher scale of their work.

Party gives us the rare instance of a truly R rated animated flick. Rogen and Goldberg’s affection for vulgarity is on full display and one suspects it was green stuff other than money that may have assisted in coming up with the concept. Here it is: the food and products in your local grocery store are alive and blissfully unaware of what happens to them after they walk out of the sliding doors. Rogen’s Frank is a sausage and Kristin Wiig’s Brenda is a bun and they’ve been waiting to connect once they break out of their respective packages. In their understanding, this will occur once they’re purchased by the Gods (who are actually just your everyday consumers) and enter the Great Beyond outside of Shopwell’s.

A returned jar of honey mustard (voiced by Danny McBride) tries to warn his market friends of what lies ahead when their dream of freedom is met. Many are skeptical and what’s often most surprising about Sausage Party is its allegorical themes pertaining to religion and sex with some expected drug humor thrown in. It’s also chock full of bad puns (some quite hilarious) and plenty of the living products representing their stereotypes. The most obvious and amusing example? The villain of the establishment (voiced by Nick Kroll) is literally a Douche. We also have Sammy the Bagel, giving Edward Norton a chance to be funny and essentially do a Woody Allen impersonation and his ex-girlfriend Salma Hayek coming out of her shell as Theresa del Taco.

As mentioned, Goldberg and Rogen are free to do what they want here and Sausage Party does have plenty of uproariously inappropriate moments. There are also times when their out there idea is funnier in concept than actual execution. Additionally, the final gag practically begs for a post-credits sequence that never materializes. Still, at a brisk 88 minutes, this Party is fresh enough for consumption of its creators fans.

*** (out of four)

Sausage Party Box Office Prediction

It’s a banner year for animated movies at the box office (excluding the freezing out of Ice Age: Collision Course), yet a very different one opens next weekend with Sausage Party. The 3D animated flick comes from the minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and it is definitely not meant for the little ones.

Supermarket produce comes to life in the very hard R comedy that features a whole lotta familiar voices other than Mr. Rogen’s. They include Kristin Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, Edward Norton, and Salma Hayek. Made for a quite reasonable $30 million, this has been a passion project for Rogen and company and took years to get produced. Early reviews have been strong – it holds a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes (no word yet on whether actual rotten tomatoes are featured in this).

If there’s one genre where not a whole lot of data exists – adult animated pics would be one of them. 1996’s Beavis and Butthead Do America opened to $20.1 million and 1999’s South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut earned $11.3 million. Word of mouth could certainly help here but in the end, I envision this performing similarly to some other Rogen features. This is The End earned $20.7 million in its initial weekend and this summer’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising disappointed with $21.7 million. That seems like a reasonable range for this Party and I’ll put it at just below $20M.

Sausage Party opening weekend prediction: $19.4 million

For my Pete’s Dragon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/08/03/petes-dragon-box-office-prediction/

For my Florence Foster Jenkins prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/08/03/florence-foster-jenkins-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Zootopia and Sausage Party

Two wildly different 2016 animated features could both find themselves in the Best Animated Feature category come Oscar time next year.

The first is Disney’s Zootopia, which has ruled the box office kingdom for the last two weeks and looks to reach an eventual gross of $275-$300 million domestically. With a fantastic 99% Rotten Tomatoes score and bragging rights for being the biggest opener of all time for a traditionally animated tale, there is little doubt it will be among the five nominees. It could even win, though its biggest competitor might be Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory, which is out this summer.

Our second possibility is Sausage Party, which screened in a rough cut at the South by Southwest Festival last night. Billed as the first hard R rated CG flick, Party comes from the minds of Seth Rogen and his writing/producing partner Evan Goldberg. In addition to Mr. Rogen, featured voices include Kristin Wiig, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Edward Norton, and Salma Hayek. It’s not out until August, but word of mouth from the festival is strong and this looks to be a potential sleeper hit come summer. This isn’t your typical animated material that the Academy would recognize, but it might be tough for them to ignore.

We’ll see how this race plays out as more competition is released in the coming months, but we may already have a couple of major possibilities in the mix.

Todd’s FINAL Oscar Winner Predictions

Well here we go! The Oscars honoring the best of 2014 in film air this Sunday and after many round of predictions, it’s time to man up and pick up the winners for the final time in all major categories, minus documentary and short film contenders. For each race, I will predict the winner and a runner-up. On Sunday evening or Monday, I’ll post a recap of how I did.

Let’s get to it:

BEST PICTURE

Predicted Winner: Boyhood

Runner-Up: Birdman

BEST DIRECTOR

Predicted Winner: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Runner-Up: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

BEST ACTOR

Predicted Winner: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Runner-Up: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

BEST ACTRESS

Predicted Winner: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Runner-Up: Reese Witherspoon, Wild

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Predicted Winner: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Runner-Up: Edward Norton, Birdman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Predicted Winner: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Runner-Up: Emma Stone, Birdman

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Predicted Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Runner-Up: Birdman

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Predicted Winner: The Imitation Game

Runner-Up: Whiplash

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Predicted Winner: Ida

Runner-Up: Leviathan

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Predicted Winner: Big Hero 6

Runner-Up: How to Train Your Dragon 2

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Predicted Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Runner-Up: Into the Woods

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Predicted Winner: Birdman

Runner-Up: Unbroken

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Predicted Winner: Into the Woods

Runner-Up: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST EDITING

Predicted Winner: Boyhood

Runner-Up: Whiplash

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Predicted Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Runner-Up: Guardians of the Galaxy

BEST SOUND MIXING

Predicted Winner: American Sniper

Runner-Up: Birdman

BEST SOUND EDITING

Predicted Winner: Birdman

Runner-Up: American Sniper

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Predicted Winner: Insterstellar

Runner-Up: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

BEST SCORE

Predicted Winner: The Theory of Everything

Runner-Up: The Imitation Game

BEST SONG

Predicted Winner: “Glory” from Selma

Runner-Up: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

My predictions reflect a belief that the following pictures will win multiple awards: Birdman (4) and Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel with 3.

And there you have it…. My final Oscar predictions! We shall see how I do come Sunday evening.