Summer 2011: The Top 10 Hits and More

We have arrived at part III of my recaps of the summer seasons that came 30, 20, and 10 years ago. That means 2011 is upon us. If you missed my sizzling throwbacks to 1991 and 2001, you can find them here:

Summer 1991: The Top 10 Hits and More

Summer 2001: The Top 10 Hits and More

As is tradition, I will recount the top 10 hits as well as other notable features and some flops in a season where moviegoers bid a fond farewell to their iconic wizard:

Let’s get to it, yes?

10. Bridesmaids

Domestic Gross: $169 million

Kristin Wiig made one of the most successful jumps from SNL to movie stardom in this critically hailed pic that also earned Melissa McCarthy her silver screen breakout and even an Oscar nomination. It might not be the highest grossing comedy on here, but it’s definitely still the most talked about.

9. The Help

Domestic Gross: $169 million

Based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller, the 1960s set period piece from Tate Taylor brought the book’s readers and many others to the multiplex. Four Oscar nods followed including Best Picture and a Supporting Actress victory for Octavia Spencer.

8. Captain America: The First Avenger

Domestic Gross: $176 million

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first big branch out occurred during this summer where we would get our first glimpse at this OG avenger in the form of Chris Evans and another one who sits at the throne of spot #6. The sequels actually improved on what we see here, but the Captain gets rolling with this.

7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Domestic Gross: $176 million

Rupert Wyatt’s reboot of the franchise is deservedly better regarded than Tim Burton’s re-imagining that transpired in 2001. Debuting the fantastic motion capture work of Andy Serkis, this would spawn two follow-ups that also pleased audiences and critics and did considerable monkey business.

6. Thor

Domestic Gross: $181 million

Chris Hemsworth’s Asgardian heartthrob hammered into the public consciousness alongside Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins and managed $5 million more box office bucks than the Captain. The third sequel is currently in production.

5. Cars 2

Domestic Gross: $191 million

Despite grossing nearly $200 million, this Pixar sequel is not one of the studio’s most fondly remembered vehicles with just a 40% Rotten Tomatoes rating. A third Cars did zoom into theaters six years later.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Domestic Gross: $241 million

With a reported budget of $379 million, Johnny Depp’s fourth headlining of the franchise still sports the largest price tag of all time. The actor’s final participation in the series would come in 2017 with Disney still looking to reboot it without their signature player.

3. The Hangover Part II

Domestic Gross: $254 million

Crowds were still clamoring for the drunken exploits of Bradley Copper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. Critics weren’t near as kind to part II, but audiences didn’t begin to tire of the hijinks until part III two years later.

2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Domestic Gross: $352 million

Michael Bay’s third saga of the Autobots and Decepticons marks Shia LaBeouf’s last appearance in the franchise and includes drop-ins from acting heavyweights John Malkovich and Frances McDormand. Mark Wahlberg would take over starring duties three years later.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Domestic Gross: $381 million

After nearly a decade of enchanting kids and their parents alike, the franchise stemming from J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels received a fittingly massive send-off with this billion dollar plus worldwide earner.

Now for other noteworthy titles from the summer:

X-Men: First Class

Domestic Gross: $146 million

Bryan Singer’s handed over directorial reigns to Matthew Vaughn for this reinvigorating reboot of the series that introduced the younger versions of Charles Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique in the bodies of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence. Numerous sequels of varying quality followed.

The Smurfs

Domestic Gross: $142 million

Sony Pictures wasn’t blue about the financial returns for this half live-action/half animated adaptation of the popular comics and animated series. A sequel came in 2013.

Super 8

Domestic Gross: $127 million

In between Star Trek pics and before rebooting Star Wars, J.J. Abrams helmed this sci-fi original which paid tribute to the Spielberg efforts of the 1980s. Critics gave it their stamp of approval and it’s notable for one heckuva train crash sequence.

Horrible Bosses

Domestic Gross: $117 million

This raunchy comedy about workers exacting revenge on their wretched superiors showed us a whole different side to Jennifer Aniston and spawned a 2014 sequel.

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Domestic Gross: $84 million

Before their collaboration on La La Land earned lots of Oscar nods five years later, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling teamed up for this rom com with Steve Carell and Julianne Moore that exceeded expectations with audiences and many critics.

Midnight in Paris

Domestic Gross: $56 million

It was a different time 10 years ago for Woody Allen, who scored his last big hit with this fantastical comedy starring Owen Wilson. Woody would win the Oscar for Original Screenplay and it landed three additional nominations including Picture and Director.

The Tree of Life

Domestic Gross: $13 million

Terrence Malick’s epic philosophical drama won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Cinematography at the Academy Awards. Not your typical summer fare, but it certainly had reviews on its side.

And now for some titles that didn’t meet expectations commercially, critically, or both:

Green Lantern

Domestic Gross: $116 million

Five years before he entered the comic book flick pantheon with Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds didn’t have as much luck with this critically drubbed flop. Even the star himself has taken to calling it a waste of time for viewers.

Cowboys & Aliens

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Coming off the huge Iron Man pics, Jon Favreau cast James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in this space western that didn’t impress crowds or critics and earned considerably less than its budget domestically.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Domestic Gross: $68 million

Audiences were mostly cool to Jim Carrey’s treatment of the popular late 30s children’s book though it did manage to top its $55 million budget. It probably would have made far more during the star’s box office heyday.

Spy Kids 4-D: All the Time in the World

Domestic Gross: $38 million

A decade after Robert Rodriguez kicked the kiddie franchise off to great results, part 4 marked a low mark for the series.

Larry Crowne

Domestic Gross: $35 million

The star power of Tom Hanks (who also directed) and Julia Roberts couldn’t elevate this rom com from a subpar showing (critics weren’t kind either). This is largely a forgotten entity on both actor’s filmographies.

Conan the Barbarian

Domestic Gross: $21 million

Before becoming known to the masses as Aquaman, Jason Momoa couldn’t fill the shoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger in this bomb that couldn’t swim close to its $90 million budget.

And that does it, folks! I’ll have recaps of the summers of 1992, 2002, and 2012 up for your enjoyment next season!

The Friends Zone: A Movie History

Friends: The Reunion premieres today on HBO Max and millions of the show’s fans can rejoice in seeing the six main characters from the NBC sitcom together on the couch once again. Running from 1994 to 2004, the show was an instant smash that continues to gain new followers through streaming services.

I was a viewer going back to the mid 90s. Due to Friends becoming so gigantic at the outset, Hollywood studios quickly tried make the main cast immediate movie stars. This resulted in varying degrees of success.

So in honor of the reunion, let’s take a look back in movie history at this iconic sextet and I’ll rank each actor from 1-6 on their cinematic output!

Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 1

Before her casting as Rachel, Aniston’s only significant big screen credit was as a lead in the cult slasher Leprechaun. Yet her filmography during and after Friends easily puts her atop these rankings. She garnered critical raves in the indie dramas The Good Girl and Cake, was the love interest in the now beloved Office Space, and has plenty of comedic hits like Bruce Almighty, Horrible Bosses, We’re the Millers, and Murder Mystery. 

Courteney Cox (Monica Geller)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 3

Cox is really the only Friendster with notable movie appearances before the show. Just a few months before the Friends premiere, she starred alongside Jim Carrey in the surprise hit Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Years before that, she acted alongside He-Man and Skeletor in Masters of the Universe. During Friends, she appeared in the horror blockbuster Scream and she’s about to turn up early next year in its fourth sequel. The rest of her filmography is pretty scant, but she’s the only one with a well established franchise.

Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 2

Many might call 1997’s cult favorite Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion her finest contribution to the silver screen. Kudrow has also appeared in several supporting roles over the years from The Opposite of Sex to Analyze This and its sequel to Easy A to Booksmart. There’s certainly been some clunkers (Hanging Up and Lucky Numbers), but the voluminous output is enough to rank Kudrow in second.

 

Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 6

He found further TV success post Friends (though it took some time after the ill-fated spin-off Joey). LeBlanc’s big screen career never really launched. The 1996 starring vehicle Ed paired him with a primate and was a critical and commercial disaster. To put it another way, the monkey business with Marcel on the TV show was far more profitable. Two years later, his participation in the Lost in Space pic was met with shrugs.

Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 4

Perry ranks first among the boys as he had solid performers alongside Bruce Willis in The Whole Nine Yards and Zac Efron in 17 Again. There were, on the other hand, some duds like his pairing with Chris Farley in Almost Heroes and in the Yards sequel. He’s about to appear in his most high profile entry in years with Don’t Look Up from Adam McKay which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence.

David Schwimmer (Ross Geller)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 5

The Pallbearer found Schwimmer in a rom com with Gwyneth Paltrow in 1996. It wasn’t quite the loud flop that Ed was, but it certainly came and went with little fanfare. His filmography is rather low-key with supporting appearances in Six Days, Seven Nights and Apt Pupil. His greatest successes can be found in voiceover work as Melman in the Madagascar franchise and on the small screen in the heralded limited series The People v. O.J. Simpson.

And there’s your trip down Friends memory lane, folks! For the real thing, watch the team reunion on HBO Max.

Daily Streaming Guide: March 25th Edition

Two comedies make their way into my Daily Streaming Guide. Also – about the “daily” thing – I’m trying my darnedest to post each day, but sometimes life and work get in the way. I’ll do my best to update as much as possible!

Netflix

1996’s Kingpin from the Farrelly Brothers arrived in-between two of their massive and beloved comedies – Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. This bowling farce starring Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, and a glorious Bill Murray didn’t receive near as much attention. It’s since turned into a cult favorite and its brand of depraved and often hilarious comedy is well worth a look (for Murray’s hair alone).

HBO Streaming

2004’s Along Came Polly is the romantic tale of ultra cautious Ben Stiller and free spirit Jennifer Aniston. They are responsible for plenty of funny moments, but supporting players Alec Baldwin and especially the late Philip Seymour Hoffman make it even more worthwhile.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

2019: The Year of Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler

One of the welcome cinematic storylines of 2019 involves two beloved Saturday Night Live vets who accomplished some of their finest film work, have garnered Oscar attention, and both returned to the show that made them after many years away.

I’m referring to Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler and they both get spots in my Year of 2019 posts. Murphy had been absent from the silver screen since 2016’s drama Mr. Church. Over the past several years, he was known more for his family comedies then the raunchy comedian that sold out stadiums in the 1980s. 2019 saw a return to form with Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name, his critically hailed recounting of Rudy Ray Moore’s contributions to movies. The pic has given Murphy his best reviews since 2006’s Dreamgirls and gotten him back into the Oscar conversation. We also witnessed the legendary performer host SNL for the first time in 35 years. 2020 will showcase Murphy returning to stand-up (something he hasn’t done since the late 1980s) and reprising his Prince Akeem character and others in Coming 2 America, which again teams him with Netflix and Dolemite director Craig Brewer.

Mr. Sandler also hit the 30 Rock building to headline SNL. He hadn’t been back in that role since being fired from the show in the mid 90s and embarking on his own wildly successful film career. The SNL gig saw him perform a humorous and touching tribute to cast mate Chris Farley. His partnership with Netflix includes this year’s Murder Mystery with Jennifer Aniston. There’s already a sequel planned for it. And the critical kudos came with crime thriller Uncut Gems, which opens wide on Christmas. That pic, from directors Ben and Josh Safdie, has Sandler picking up awards precursors and, like Murphy, in the mix for Academy attention. He’ll return to his preferred streaming service next year with Hubie Halloween.

For SNL, 2019 will be remembered as a time when two of their most famous alumni returned. For Murphy and Sandler, it’s a time when they gave us some of the most memorable onscreen work.

2019: The Year of Netflix

Today kicks off my posts on the performers who will be remembered for having a strong 2019 and making an impact on the silver screen. However, as I have in previous years, my first writeup goes to a studio. And while Disney could be named every year nowadays (and they certainly had a terrific year), we turn to Netflix in 2019.

It’s hard to believe now, but it was a few short years ago that their big budget TV series House of Cards was considered a risk. Could this streaming service provide truly quality original content? Times have changed, ladies and gents.

Netflix has become an undeniable hub for high profile directors and actors. 2019 saw the studio give us successful comedies such as Murder Mystery with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston and the acclaimed rom com Always Be My Maybe. 

Action directors like Michael Bay turned to the service with 6 Underground starring Ryan Reynolds. We have filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh making Netflix a home with both High Flying Bird and The Laundromat. Millions of eyeballs were tuned to the Breaking Bad continuation El Camino. 

Most notably, 2019 seems destined to be the year when Oscar voters won’t be able to ignore it. The conversation about Netflix being able to garner multiple Academy nods is about to become a moot one. 2017 and 2018 saw voters nibble around the edges. Two years ago, Mudbound managed a Supporting Actress nod for Mary J. Blige and Adapted Screenplay. 2018’s Roma received a number of nominations and Alfonso Cuaron won for Best Director. It was considered a frontrunner for Picture, but lost to Green Book. Some blamed it on bias against the biggest streamer.

This year, we have two films that could win the largest prize of all – Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Other contenders for a nomination include The Two Popes and Dolemite Is My Name, which returned to Eddie Murphy to form. Between those four pictures, you could see as many as a dozen acting nominations.

There’s little doubt that 2019 gave us a shifting in the tide of Netflix’s credibility. And that’s likely to stay. My Year Of posts will continue soon with some of the actors who had a lot to celebrate…

Murder Mystery Movie Review

Like the whodunnit paperbacks that Jennifer Aniston’s character reads to distract herself, Murder Mystery is a flimsy experience that you’ll quickly forget. It’s not bad while it lasts, but I wouldn’t count on retaining it. Adam Sandler and Aniston team up again after 2011’s middling Just Go with It and that title aptly describes this. Don’t expect much other than a few amusing moments from the cast and it’s probably best viewed in transit somewhere as a minor distraction.

Sandler is New York cop Nick, who yearns to be a detective but can’t pass the exam. Aniston is his hairdresser wife Audrey. They’ve been married 15 years and she’s bitter that Nick hasn’t made good on his long standing promise of a European vacation (Amazon gift card is more his speed). He finally acquiesces and on the ride over, Audrey befriends the dashing Charles (Luke Evans) who invite the couple to join his family on their luxury yacht.

Charles is nephew to Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp), a mega billionaire who owns the vessel. He stole Charles’s young fiancée and their nuptials are imminent. Others on the boat are financially dependent on Malcolm, including his son (David Walliams), a Hollywood actress (Gemma Arterton), a Formula One driver (Luis Gerardo Mendez), and a hip hop influenced maharajah (Adeel Akhtar). When Malcolm is killed, Nick and Audrey find themselves aboard a plot akin to her throwaway books.

The body count rises as the head couple become the lead suspects. Nick must utilize his detective skills, which are most certainly not considerable. Murder Mystery is often as generic as its name. Sandler is in goofy nice guy mode while Aniston plays exasperated for an hour and a half. They do share a comfortable chemistry that helps as this moves along. Some of the supporting players momentarily rise above the material, including Arterton (her reaction to accusations of being the culprit is genuinely funny).

It’s not exactly high praise to say that this isn’t bad like some of Sandler’s other Netflix excursions. Mildly diverting is more apt. For a watch involving a flight or long train ride somewhere, Murder Mystery could fit the bill for Sandler and Aniston admirers if you decide to just go with it.

**1/2 (out of four)

Office Christmas Party Movie Review

A good portion of the populace can probably relate to that work holiday gathering we’d rather forget. Maybe one or several drinks too many. Perhaps a comment to a coworker that doesn’t seem wise later in the light of day. There’s a lot of funny directions you can go with the concept of Office Christmas Party, but the film mostly misuses them as it hurls in too many directions. The end result is one we’ll forget quickly after we’ve experienced it.

Director Will Speck and Josh Gordon give us their third major feature. It’s not as good as their first (Blades of Glory) nor as bad as their last (The Switch). The latter featured Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston and so does this. Bateman is chief tech officer of Chicago corporation Zenotech, a family business run by Aniston. She’s the unfriendly task master and bottom line efficiency expert that her employees are afraid of. Her brother (T.J. Miller) is the free spirit who runs the day-to-day operations. He’s not great at his job, but his minions adore him.

Tough financial times cause the possibility of the Windy City branch closing. Bateman and Miller decide to throw an all-out Yuletide bash in a last-ditch attempt to woo a big money client (Courtney B. Vance, last seen gloriously chewing scenery as Johnnie Cochran in “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson”). Here, instead of memorably defending America’s most notorious running back, he gets sprayed in the face with a snow machine filled with cocaine.

There’s plenty of R rated comedy as the employees let loose and there’s a lot of them and their subplots to keep up with. We have the single mom (Vanessa Bayer) looking for companionship (it’s one of the more humorous ones). There’s Bateman’s assistant (Olivia Munn) and their romantic tension (it’s one of the more boring ones). And supremely talented comedic actors like Kate McKinnon (who has her moments) and Rob Corddry are in the mix as well. Jillian Bell, who made a hilarious villain in 22 Jump Street, plays a drug dealer here and her inclusion is mostly wasted. The main plot involves the love/hate relationship between siblings Miller and Aniston and it doesn’t provide much (other than a chance to see the former “Friends” star berate a little girl in an airport).

With this cast, there are bound to be some decently humorous bits here and there, but Office Christmas Party might have been more successful with a little more focus among the ribaldry.

** (out of four)

 

2016 Oscars Reaction

Well… then! Who expected that ending at the Oscars?? One that involved Bonnie and Clyde, Leonardo DiCaprio, wrong envelopes, and a mild Best Picture upset! Yes, the jokes about that already infamous finale to the 89th Annual Academy Awards deserves the endless tweets about M. Night Shyamalan coming up with it and Steve Harvey being off the hook for his Miss Universe gaffe.

All in all, it was a fairly unpredictable night even up until that wild conclusion. My predictions went 14 for 21. Expect for Picture, I did get all the high-profiles race right: Damien Chazelle (La La Land) for Director, Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) for Actor, Emma Stone (La La) for Actress, Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) for Supporting Actor, Viola Davis (Fences) for Supporting Actress, Moonlight for Adapted Screenplay, and Manchester for Original Screenplay. Animated Feature Zootopia and Foreign Language Film The Salesman were also rightly called. Down the line categories that I got right: Original Score and Song (La La and “City of Stars” from that film), Production Design and Cinematography (La La), and Visual Effects (The Jungle Book).

I whiffed on Documentary – O.J.: Made in America was the front runner and won over my upset pick I Am Not Your Negro. Others: Sound Editing (Arrival instead of Hacksaw Ridge), Sound Mixing (Hacksaw instead of La La), Makeup and Hairstyling (Suicide Squad over Star Trek Beyond), Costume Design (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them over Jackie), and Editing (Hacksaw over La La).

And, of course, Best Picture, where La La Land won for about two minutes before the Academy’s producers pointed out a mistake and that Moonlight actually won.

The evening started on a happy note with Justin Timberlake dancing his way into the auditorium to his hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls. Jimmy Kimmel did a decent job hosting for the most part. Some bits worked better than others. I enjoyed the group of tourists unknowingly being brought to the theater and his endless ribbing of Matt Damon. The candy and cookies falling down to the audience felt a little old hat. The In Memorium package was a little tough with the legends lost this year and props to Jennifer Aniston for mentioning the passing of Bill Paxton as news had just broke that morning.

Did the show feel long? Of course. It always does, but for those that stuck around… yowza! That was an Oscar ending that will not soon be forgotten.

Office Christmas Party Box Office Prediction

Comedic holiday hijinks ensue next weekend as Office Christmas Party RSVP’s into theaters. The R rated pic features a cast of familiar faces including Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jillian Bell, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Matt Walsh and Kate McKinnon. Josh Gordon and Will Speck handle directorial duties and their previous effort was 2010’s The Switch, which featured Bateman and Aniston.

The Paramount release could benefit from both its cast and the fact that drunken and wild work XMas bashes are something many can relate to. Party comes from a story originated by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who wrote The Hangover. It also has no competition in the second weekend of December in its genre.

I’ll predict a decent number of moviegoers attend this Party to the tune of a mid to high teens debut.

Office Christmas Party opening weekend prediction: $18.4 million

For my Miss Sloane prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/12/02/miss-sloane-box-office-prediction/

Storks Box Office Prediction

Warner Bros keeps the onslaught of animated titles being delivered to theaters going with Storks, opening next weekend. The comedic adventure comes from Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland. Mr. Stroller is known for his live-action genre titles like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, and the Neighbors franchise. The pic features the voices of Andy Samberg, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Kelsey Grammer, and Ty Burrell.

2016 has been a banner year for animated material with mega-hits like Zootopia, Finding Dory, and The Secret Life of Pets and critically acclaimed fare like Kubo and the Two Strings and Sausage Party. With all those titles mentioned, it’s a distinct possibility that an animated feature will really have to stand out now for family audiences to plunk down their dollars. Whether Storks fits that bill is a legit question.

September has been an occasionally fruitful month for the genre. Hotel Transylvania and its sequel are responsible for the month’s two largest openings at $42 and $48 million, respectively. The two Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs flicks both opened above $30 million. Warner Bros should be ecstatic if Storks manages those numbers.

I don’t believe this will quite reach that level and a debut in the mid to high 20s seems more probable.

Storks opening weekend prediction: $27.9 million

For my The Magnificent Seven prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/14/the-magnificent-seven-box-office-prediction/