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…

A Simple Favor Box Office Prediction

Director Paul Feig is best known for his comedies featuring Melissa McCarthy like Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters. He changes things up next weekend with the release of thriller A Simple Favor. It’s based on the debut novel from Darcey Bell released last year. The cast is headlined by Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and Henry Golding (fresh off his breakthrough role in the summer blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians).

Favor could have the benefit of appealing to a female audience in the midst of more male-driven fare such as The Predator and White Boy Rick, which both open the same day. The current forecast is in the $12-$15 million area. I feel that Kendrick, Lively, and the intended demographic could cause this to debut on the high-end of that range and perhaps exceed it.

A Simple Favor opening weekend prediction: $17.9 million

For my The Predator prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/05/the-predator-box-office-prediction/

For my White Boy Rick prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/white-boy-rick-box-office-prediction/

For my Unbroken: Path to Redemption prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/unbroken-path-to-redemption-box-office-prediction/

Life of the Party Box Office Prediction

Melissa McCarthy is back in theaters after a two-year absence when Life of the Party debuts next weekend. The comedy marks her third collaboration with her husband/director Ben Falcone after 2014’s Tammy and 2016’s The Boss. It’s her first appearance onscreen since the Ghostbusters reboot in the summer of 2016. The pic casts her as a divorced mom who goes back to college and ends up in the same class as her daughter. Costars include Molly Gordon, Gillian Jacobs, Maya Rudolph, Jacki Weaver, Julie Bowen, Matt Walsh, and Stephen Root.

The previous efforts of McCarthy with Falcone has yielded results in the low 20s at the box office. Tammy opened to $21 million with an eventual gross of $84 million. Two years later, The Boss premiered with $23 million and $63 million overall. It certainly is possible that Life could start out in the same range, but I could also see this falling just a tad lower.

I’ll project Life of the Party doesn’t quite reach $20 million, which should easily be enough for it to place second to the third weekend of Avengers: Infinity War.

Life of the Party opening weekend prediction: $19.4 million

For my Breaking In prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/02/breaking-in-box-office-prediction/

Masterminds Box Office Prediction

At long last, the heist comedy Masterminds hits theaters next weekend after much delay. Whether or not it’s able to steal some box office dollars is very much in question. Director Jared Hess broke through in a big way 12 years ago with his sleeper hit Napoleon Dynamite. His follow-up, 2006’s Nacho Libre with Jack Black, was a critical letdown which still managed to make $80 million domestic.

Since then, Mr. Hess’s efforts have been little-seen and poorly reviewed efforts. 2009’s Gentlemen Broncos? 2015’s Don Verdean? Anyone? Masterminds had the whiff of a return to form, but it’s been mired in the financial distresses of its studio, Relativity. The pic was originally scheduled for release in August of last year and then October (hence its trailer having been around for quite some time).

The talent involved here is serious – Zach Galifianakis, Kristin Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. That’s three new Ghostbusters by the way – even though the ladies shot that reboot after this. Recognizable stars aside, I have a feeling that all of the delays and a fairly quiet marketing campaign will hurt Masterminds immensely.

I’m tempted to go really low — like $4 million, folks. I believe this may manage to reach a bit beyond that. Double digits seems like a reach, however.

Masterminds opening weekend prediction: $6.3 million

For my Deepwater Horizon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/deepwater-horizon-box-office-prediction/

For my Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-box-office-prediction/

For my Queen of Katwe prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/23/queen-of-katwe-box-office-prediction/

Box Office Predictions: August 5-7

The first weekend of August at theaters brings us two new films. One is among the most eagerly anticipated movies of the summer. The other finds Kevin Spacey reincarnated into the body of a cat.

They are Suicide Squad, the DC Comics gathering of super villains (including Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto as The Joker) that looks to be a box office juggernaut and Nine Lives, the aforementioned Spacey/kitty cat pic. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/26/suicide-squad-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/26/nine-lives-box-office-prediction/

Warner Bros. has to be feeling pretty confident with their Squad goals. My prediction for it puts it at the 15th highest domestic opening of all time and it has a legit chance at ruling the box office charts for the entire month of August.

As for Nine Lives, I’m predicting it falls just under double digits for a sixth place showing. As for holdovers, Jason Bourne will likely lose more than half its audience in weekend #2 while the drop for Bad Moms may not be quite as pronounced. Moms may stay put at third with Star Trek Beyond slipping to fourth and The Secret Life of Pets rounding out the top five (though those two could swap spots).

And with that, a top 6 predictions for the weekend:

  1. Suicide Squad

Predicted Gross: $144.3 million

2. Jason Bourne

Predicted Gross: $27.1 million

3. Bad Moms

Predicted Gross: $12.1 million

4. Star Trek Beyond

Predicted Gross: $10.8 million

5. The Secret Life of Pets

Predicted Gross: $10.6 million

6. Nine Lives

Predicted Gross: $9.8 million

**At press time, here are the results for my poll on the newbies:

Suicide Squad

52% believe my prediction is “Just About Right”

37% believe my prediction is “Too High”

11% believe my prediction is “Too Low”

Nine Lives

43% believe my prediction is “Just About Right”

37% believe my prediction is “Too High”

20% believe my prediction is “Too Low”

Box Office Results (July 29-31)

Matt Damon’s return as Jason Bourne brought audiences in to the tune of $59.2 million – a solid opening that didn’t match my estimate of $67.6M. While the star’s last turn as the title hero in 2007 performed better with $69M out of the gate, this is still a hefty enough debut to warrant further franchise entries.

Star Trek Beyond fell precipitously in its sophomore frame with $24.7 million for second, under my $28.5M prediction for a two-week take of $106M. The third Trek pic in this particular franchise will easily be the lowest grosser thus far and puts into question its viability going forward (and… beyond).

Bad Moms had a good start in third with $23.8 million, a bit below my $26M projection. As mentioned above, it may not fall too hard next weekend to remain in third.

The Secret Life of Pets was fourth with $18.9 million (above my $16.4M forecast) for a $296M total. A less successful animated feature – Ice Age: Collision Course – was fifth in weekend 2 with $10.9 million (I said $10.1M) for an overall gross of $42 million. Sleeper horror hit Lights Out was sixth, earning $10.8 million in its second weekend (I said $10.6M). It has also made $42 million so far. Ghostbusters was seventh in its third weekend with $10.1 million (a touch under my $11.2M projection) for a $106M total.

YA tech thriller Nerve performed fairly well in an 8th place debut with $9.4 million over the traditional weekend and $15.4 million since its Wednesday roll out – slightly below my respective estimates of $10.8M and $16.3M.

Rounding out the top ten: Finding Dory in ninth with $4.3 million (I said $4.5M) for a $469M haul and The Legend of Tarzan in tenth with $2.4 million (I was over with $3.6M) for a $121M total.

Outside the top ten, Woody Allen’s Cafe Society expanded nationwide and placed 12th with $2.3 million. I said $2.3M! So we’ll end on that high note!

That’s all for now – until next time…

Box Office Predictions: July 29-31

**Blogger’s Note: Mid-week numbers for NERVE has significantly upgraded my estimate to $10.8M for Friday to Sunday and $16.3M for Wednesday to Sunday. These changes are reflected in the breakdown for the top 10 below. – TT

***Blogger’s note 2 (07/28/16) Cafe Society opening on less screens that I anticipated. My $3.8M Estimate now revised down to $2.3M, outside of top ten.

The final weekend of July comes at us with three new debuts: Matt Damon’s return as Jason Bourne, raunchy comedy Bad Moms, and techno thriller Nerve. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/jason-bourne-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/bad-moms-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/nerve-box-office-prediction/

As I see it, Mr. Bourne should have no trouble ruling the charts and I have the fifth franchise entry (and first with Damon in nearly a decade) falling just short of the series high debut of $69 million for 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. 

It’s after that where things get a little more interesting. The battle for second place could be a close one as I have Bad Moms posting a very solid debut that may put it in close proximity to the second weekend of current champ Star Trek Beyond. 

As for the rest of the top five, The Secret Life of Pets should easily hold the fourth spot while a three-way battle for #5 should be fought between Ghostbusters, Lights Out, and Ice Age: Collision Course (all of which posted similar grosses this past weekend). I’m estimating Ghostbusters will have the smallest decline of the trio and manage to stay put at the five spot.

Then there’s Nerve, which opens Wednesday. I’m not expecting much out of it – so much so that I’m placing it ninth after Finding Dory in 8th.

AND we have another title that count enter the top ten this weekend as Woody Allen’s Cafe Society expands nationwide. It’s been performing well in limited release and could have a decent roll out elsewhere. There’s no theater count yet, which makes this estimate a bit tricky – but if it opens on around 900 screens (par for the course for Woody pics), I’ll put it at $3.8 million. That would be good for 10th place just ahead of The Legend of Tarzan. 

So we shall expand my typical top 5 predictions and go with a top 10 for this weekend:

  1. Jason Bourne

Predicted Gross: $67.6 million

2. Star Trek Beyond

Predicted Gross: $28.5 million

3. Bad Moms

Predicted Gross: $26 million

4. The Secret Life of Pets

Predicted Gross: $16.4 million

5. Ghostbusters

Predicted Gross: $11.2 million

6. Nerve

Predicted Gross: $10.8 million (Friday to Sunday), $16.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

7. Lights Out

Predicted Gross: $10.6 million

8. Ice Age: Collision Course

Predicted Gross: $10.1 million

9. Finding Dory

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million

10. The Legend of Tarzan

Predicted Gross: $3.6 million

Box Office Results (July 22-24)

As expected, Star Trek Beyond easily topped the box office with $59.2 million, reaching beyond my $53.4M prediction. Both its predecessors in the current iteration of the franchise made over $70M for their starts, but this is still a respectable showing and should be enough to see the series chugging along.

The Secret Life of Pets slipped to second after two weeks on top with $29.6 million, above my $24.9M projection. The smash hit animated feature has amassed $260M so far and surprised all by accomplishing more in weekend 3 than Ice Age: Collision Course in weekend 1 (more on that below).

Perhaps the brightest spot of the weekend belonged to third place Lights Out, the critically acclaimed micro budgeted horror flick which earned $21.6 million. That’s a quadrupling of its $5 million price tag and a doubling of my meager $10.2 million projection. Good reviews and James Wan’s participation clearly helped.

The aforementioned Ice Age: Collision Course proved to be a franchise on thin ice as family audiences mostly rejected it. It grossed $21.3 million for fourth place (below my $28.3M estimate) for an embarrassing franchise low by a lot – the previous low was the 2002 original’s $46.3M. Ouch.

Ghostbusters rounded out the top five in its sophomore frame with $21 million (just above my $19.8M forecast) for an $86 million total.

And that’ll do it for now, friends! Until next time…

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)