Summer 2009: The Top 10 Hits and More

Today we continue with my recaps of the movie summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. I’ve already covered 1989 and 1999 and if you missed them, you can find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/07/10/summer-1989-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/07/23/summer-1999-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

Looking over the 2009 list, it’s a reminder of how one thing in particular has changed in just a decade. In the summer of 2008, Iron Man came out and kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two seasons later, Iron Man 2 followed. In every summer since, there’s been a massive MCU title often ruling the charts. 2009 is the last year not to feature one.

Instead, one of the most indelible images from 10 years past is Mike Tyson belting out a Phil Collins classic.

As I’ve done with previous entries, I’ll recount the top ten hits along with some other notable pics and flops. Let’s get to it!

10. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Domestic Gross: $150 million

Hasbro was kind of the MCU of this summer by bookending the top 10. Based on their popular set of action figures, Cobra spawned a sequel and introduced many moviegoers to Channing Tatum.

9. The Proposal

Domestic Gross: $163 million

What a year for Sandra Bullock. First she has this huge rom com with Ryan Reynolds and months later gets her Oscar winning turn in The Blind Side. Not to mention Betty White is in this!

8. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Domestic Gross: $177 million

While it couldn’t match the $250 million earned by its 2006 predecessor, the Ben Stiller led  family adventure sequel still did enough for a part 3 to eventually follow.

7. XMen Origins: Wolverine

Domestic Gross: $179 million

The first of three spinoffs for Hugh Jackman’s iconic clawed character, this is generally considered the worst of them. It still made a pretty penny and gave us a first glimpse at Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool.

6. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Domestic Gross: $196 million

The third of these five animated tales, Dinosaurs stands at the largest grosser by a mere $1 million over 2006 predecessor Ice Age: The Meltdown.

5. Star Trek

Domestic Gross: $257 million

J.J. Abrams was able to bring this long running film and TV milestone to the next generation in a critically acclaimed way. His reboot remains the highest grossing entry in the canon of Trek. Two sequels so far have followed.

4. The Hangover

Domestic Gross: $277 million

The breakout comedy of the summer made stars out of Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis in particular and had the aforementioned Mike Tyson musical moment of glory. Two lesser regarded sequels followed.

3. Up

Domestic Gross: $293 million

Pixar had another smash hit with this tale of aging and wonder that contains my personal favorite sequence of any of their titles. The opening montage of a couple’s journey through life is simultaneously beautiful and devastating.

2. Harry Potter and the HalfBlood Prince

Domestic Gross: $301 million

This sixth Potter pic set up the two part franchise finale and it stands at the third biggest grosser behind the eighth and final entry and the first film in 2001.

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Domestic Gross: $402 million

The follow-up to the 2007 original, Michael Bay’s metallic action extravaganza is the high point in terms of box office dollars overall and largest opening, even though critics mercilessly crucified it.

And now for some other notable flicks from the summer that was 10 years ago:

Angels & Demons

Domestic Gross: $133 million

The sequel to The Da Vinci Code, the return of Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon performed decently, but nowhere near the $217 million achieved by its predecessor. The next sequel Inferno bombed.

Inglourious Basterds

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist World War II saga become his best earning pic at the time and earned a slew of Oscar nods, including a win for scene stealer Christoph Waltz.

District 9

Domestic Gross: $115 million

Made for a mere $30 million, Neill Blomkamp announced himself a serious force of sci-fi nature with heralded work that nabbed a Best Picture nod.

Public Enemies

Domestic Gross: $97 million

This gangster tale from Michael Mann was headlined by Johnny Depp and Christian Bale as they took a break between their respective pirate and bat franchises. It was a slight box office disappointment as it couldn’t quite match its $100 million budget back domestically.

Julie & Julia

Domestic Gross: $94 million

Meryl Streep got her umpteenth Oscar nod playing famed chef Julia Child in this Nora Ephron dramedy that proved to be a nice August hit.

Bruno

Domestic Gross: $60 million

There was enough goodwill left over from Sacha Baron Cohen’s smash Borat to propel this satire about a fashion journalist to a $30 million opening weekend. It fell off quickly after that impressive start.

Drag Me to Hell

Domestic Gross: $42 million

Following on the heels of his SpiderMan trilogy, this horror comedy brought Sam Raimi back to his Evil Dead roots. Box office dollars were just ok, but critics appreciated it.

(500) Days of Summer

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Made for a tiny $7.5 million, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel charmed audiences with this rom com from Marc Webb. He would take over the Spidey franchise from Raimi shortly thereafter.

The Hurt Locker

Domestic Gross: $17 million

Kathryn Bigelow’s intense tale of bomb technicians in Iraq made a name for Jeremy Renner. While its box office earnings weren’t that potent, the real reward came later when it won the Oscar for Best Picture and Bigelow became the first female to be awarded Best Director.

We move to pictures that failed to meet expectations or were outright flops.

Terminator Salvation

Domestic Gross: $125 million

The Governor of California sat this one out and this McG directed franchise entry couldn’t match the opening of part 3 from six years prior. Today it’s perhaps best known for a secretly recorded onset argument between McG and star Christian Bale.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Domestic Gross: $65 million

A remake of a 1974 Walter Matthau action flick about hijacked subway cars, Tony Scott’s collaboration starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta fell short of anticipated blockbuster status.

Funny People

Domestic Gross: $51 million

Judd Apatow had made two huge comedies with The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. This one centered on the world of stand-up with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. It was more personal and divided critics and crowds alike.

Land of the Lost

Domestic Gross: $49 million

Based on a loopy 1970s TV series, Will Ferrell had a rare bomb with this critically derided prehistoric pic. It didn’t earn half of its $100 million price tag back stateside.

Year One

Domestic Gross: $43 million

Yet another prehistoric comedic failure, the talents of director Harold Ramis and Jack Black and Michael Cena couldn’t get reviewers or audiences on its side.

Imagine That

Domestic Gross: $16 million

Families ignored this particular Eddie Murphy headliner that stands as one of his lowest grossing efforts.

And that does it for my seasonal summer recaps! A year from now… look for 1990, 2000, and 2010 coming your way.

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…

In a Valley of Violence Movie Review

For all I know, director Ti West was exposed to the films of Quentin Tarantino last week. I doubt it. His western doesn’t really like feel inspired by QT’s genre works like Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight.

Instead, it seems like Mr. West’s western could be a product of the fact that the filmmaker was a young teen when Pulp Fiction came out in 1994. Just maybe that teen wanted to make a genre pic that felt a bit like Tarantino – the sudden jolts of violence, the dialogue that sounds a little hipper than the time period, the cool vintage fonts on the title cards. In 1994, Pulp resuscitated John Travolta’s career. Here he’s cast as the nefarious Marshal ruling a deserted Old West town. Ethan Hawke became a Gen X star that year as well in Reality Bites. Here he’s the strong, silent, and complicated hero who must go up against him. Maybe I’m reaching for connections to make my point. However, that’s how In a Valley of Violence felt to me and it was an appealing experience. And I haven’t mentioned the super cool dog yet…

Paul (Hawke) and his dog Abbie (Jumpy) are making their way to Mexico (their motives are unclear for a bit) when he comes across the town of Denton. It’s sparse in both population and set design, allowing this to look like a low-budget old timey western from decades ago. Blumhouse, the studio that specializes in bargain basement priced horror flicks, is behind this so it makes some sense. It’s clear that Paul knows how to fight, but doesn’t want to. Unfortunately dim-witted deputy Gilly (James Ransone) rattles his cage in small ways at first and then big ones. Suddenly Paul’s trip south of the border is delayed for revenge purposes. And he must also deal with Gilly’s father, Travolta’s aforementioned Marshal.

Valley doesn’t take itself very seriously. There’s a lot of humor and much of it is well written and well placed. Travolta has been known to overact over the last couple decades since his comeback. Here he does it in a role that seems appropriate for it. Hawke plays the lonely cowboy straight and solidly. Taissa Farmiga provides a spark as a town resident desperate to get out. And it’s not often I’d mention the real name of the dog in a film, but Jumpy deserves the shout out for a real performance. More kudos go to composer Jeff Grace for a pitch perfect score.

Again, I have no idea if my Ti West/Tarantino hypothesis (who’s worked in horror before this) holds merit. No, it doesn’t reach the brilliant level of impact and the dialogue isn’t consistently as poetic as Quentin’s. There’s moments and enough of them, however, to make the connection worth mentioning.

*** (out of four)

 

 

Summer 2007: The Top 10 Hits and More

Well it’s Throwback Thursday and I’m giving you the culmination of my three-part series recounting the movie summers of 30, 20, and 10 years ago. We’ve already gone back to memory lane in 1987 and 1997. If you missed either of those posts, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/01/summer-1987-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/04/summer-1997-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

That means I’m traveling back a decade ago to 2007 and it’s a summer where threequels were majorly in vogue, accounting for four of the top six grossing pictures. Sequels were pervasive in general in this particular season and it was a breakout summer for one Seth Rogen.

As I have with these previous entries, I’ll count down the top ten hits as well as other notable pics and some flops.

Let’s get to it!

10. Rush Hour 3

Domestic Gross: $140 million

The third and final pairing of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in this action comedy franchise is our first threequel on the list. It fell a steep $86 million short of what Rush Hour 2 accomplished six seasons earlier.

9. Knocked Up

Domestic Gross: $148 million

The comedic summer breakout continued Judd Apatow’s hit streak after The 40 Yr. Old Virgin from two previous summers and gave Seth Rogen his first big leading role. Katherine Heigl may have inexplicably trash talked it later, but audiences disagreed.

8. The Simpsons Movie

Domestic Gross: $183 million

Arriving nearly two decades after the still going FOX animated series debut, The Simpsons Movie surpassed all expectations with its gargantuan gross. Just last month, producers announced there’s been traction on a planned sequel.

7. Ratatouille

Domestic Gross: $206 million

Our second animated entry comes from the Pixar conglomerate. The critically hailed rat tale actually experienced one of the lowest openings for Pixar, but it still managed to top $200 million and its reputation has only grown.

6. The Bourne Ultimatum

Domestic Gross: $227 million

Matt Damon’s third go-round as the title character is still the highest grossing entry of the franchise and the only to pass $200 million. The star returned to the series just last summer.

5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Domestic Gross: $292 million

The fifth installment of the $2 billion plus franchise marks the first one directed by David Yates, who would make the following three pics as well. It stands #5 of the 8 Potter pics in domestic gross.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Domestic Gross: $309 million

The third Pirates flick is when critics really started to turn on the series. Getting past $300 million is nothing to sneeze at, but it is nearly $115 million lower than its predecessor Dead Man’s Chest just one summer before.

3. Transformers

Domestic Gross: $319 million

Michael Bay’s bot series started a decade ago and it’s still going. The original ranks third of the five in grosses as its two sequels topped it, but the last two have fallen under it.

2. Shrek the Third

Domestic Gross: $322 million

Much like Pirates, this is when reviewers started to sour on this series. It was still chugging along, but it did fall $120 million below Shrek 2.

1. Spider-Man 3

Domestic Gross: $336 million

Anyone noticing a pattern here? Once again – a third franchise entry where critics started sharpening their knives. This end to the Sam Raimi Spidey trilogy was considered a big letdown in quality, yet it still topped the summer while earning less than its two predecessors.

And now for some other notable pictures of summer 2007:

Live Free or Die Hard

Domestic Gross: $134 million

From a pure numbers standpoint, it’s the highest grossing pic to feature Bruce Willis in his signature role of John McClane (though that changes when adjusting for inflation). From a pure entertainment standpoint, the decision to make this the only PG-13 Die Hard film was a bit puzzling.

Superbad

Domestic Gross: $121 million

Mr. Rogen’s big summer kept rolling along with this acclaimed comedy in which he costarred and co-wrote. Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and McLovin became household names due to this.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Before his movies moved to Netflix, Adam Sandler could still crank out $100M+ earners just a decade ago, even if it was this stale comedy co-starring Kevin James.

Hairspray

Domestic Gross: $118 million

Based on both the John Waters 1988 pic and the Broadway musical that followed it, Hairspray featuring John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken performed above expectations.

Ocean’s Thirteen

Domestic Gross: $117 million

Worth mentioning because it’s yet another threequel that couldn’t quite match the grosses of the first two. An all female version of the Ocean’s franchise is soon coming to a theater near you.

Once

Domestic Gross: $9 million

That may be appear to a small gross, but this little Irish romantic musical came out of nowhere stateside and has achieved a devoted following. It’s even been adapted into a Broadway play.

And now for some of the flops of summer 2007:

Evan Almighty

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Yes, it may have crossed the century mark, but this spin-off of 2003’s Bruce Almighty was considered the flop of the season. Starring Steve Carell fresh off the acclaimed 40 Yr. Old Virgin, this family feature came with a reported $175 million budget. Audiences and critics weren’t impressed.

Stardust

Domestic Gross: $38 million

This fantasy flick with Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer only earned a bit more than half its $70 million budget domestically. However, director Matthew Vaughn has bounced back in a significant way with Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and Kingsman: The Secret Service. 

The Invasion

Domestic Gross: $15 million

Another remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, bad reviews sunk this pic that featured Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, fresh off his heralded debut as James Bond.

I Know Who Killed Me

Domestic Gross: $7 million

Lindsay Lohan was a long way from Freaky Friday and Mean Girls with this panned psychological thriller that featured the starlet as a stripper. Audiences turned away.

And that does it, folks! You can rest assure you’ll see summer posts recounting 1988, 1998, and 2008 in a year’s time…

Summer 1997: The Top 10 Hits and More

Put on your nostalgia goggles (or maybe the sunglasses that make you forget stuff if Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones flash a light at you) because I’m recounting the summer of 1997 on the blog today!

This has become a seasonal tradition around here and I gave you the top 10 summer hits of 1987 and more earlier this week. If you missed that post, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/01/summer-1987-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

This time around, we’re going back 20 years when Nicolas Cage accounted for 25% of the top 8 moneymakers and Batman crashed and burned.

We’ll begin with the top ten and then get to some other notable pics and flops:

10. Hercules

Domestic Gross: $99 million

Disney’s ‘toon couldn’t reach the century mark and that was considered a disappointment after early and mid 90s smashes like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. 

9. Contact

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Robert Zemeckis’s follow-up to Forrest Gump (which ruled summer 1994) was a well-regarded science fiction drama with Jodie Foster and an emerging Matthew McConaughey.

8. Con Air

Domestic Gross: $101 million

This action thriller from the Bruckheimer factory is our first to feature Mr. Nicolas Cage (who was coming off a recent Oscar win), along with an all-star cast including John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, and Ving Rhames.

7. George of the Jungle

Domestic Gross: $105 million

Disney probably didn’t anticipate this remake of the  cartoon starring Brendan Fraser would manage to out perform Hercules, but that it did.

6. Batman and Robin

Domestic Gross: $107 million

This may have placed sixth for the summer, but Batman and Robin came in well below its three predecessors and director Joel Schumacher and new Caped Crusader George Clooney have been apologizing about it for the last 20 years. We’re still trying to block out those Arnold/Mr. Freeze bad puns.

5. Face/Off

Domestic Gross: $112 million

Mr. Cage teamed up for Mr. John Travolta for John Woo’s entertainingly over-the-top sci-fi and action mash-up.

4. My Best Friend’s Wedding

Domestic Gross: $127 million

Julia Roberts made a return to box office dominance in this rom com which featured stolen scenes from costar Rupert Everett.

3. Air Force One

Domestic Gross: $172 million

“Get off my plane!” became one of the season’s catchphrases with Harrison Ford as the butt kicking POTUS battling Russian terrorist Gary Oldman in the skies.

2. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Domestic Gross: $229 million

Steven Spielberg’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to 1993’s Jurassic Park kicked off with the biggest opening weekend of all time (at that time). However, in the end, it couldn’t manage to top the gross of its predecessor. If you’d polled probably any box office analyst at the beginning of the year, they likely would have said it’d be #1 for the summer. Yet that honor ended up belonging to…

1. Men in Black

Domestic Gross: $250 million

A franchise was born and Will Smith made it two summers in a row with the top grossing picture (the previous year being Independence Day) with Barry Sonnenfeld’s megahit sci-fi action comedy.

And now for some other notable pics:

The Fifth Element

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Audiences and critics didn’t quite know what to make of Luc Besson’s visual feast featuring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Chris Tucker. Sound familiar? Same thing is happening 20 years later with Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. 

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Domestic Gross: $53 million

The Mike Myers 007 spoof performed well, but it wasn’t until home video that Powers turned into a genuine phenomenon spawning countless catchphrases. Its sequel two summers later would earn more in its opening weekend that part 1 did in its domestic total.

The Full Monty

Domestic Gross: $45 million

This British import about unconventional male strippers was the summer’s true sleeper and went on to earn a host of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Monty would earn over $250 million worldwide compared to its tiny $3.5 million budget.

Cop Land

Domestic Gross: $44 million

After appearing in a string of high-octane action flicks, Sylvester Stallone changed it up with this crime drama featuring an impressive supporting cast that included Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Harvey Keitel.

And now for some of the season’s large belly flops:

Speed 2: Cruise Control

Domestic Gross: $48 million

Keanu Reeves didn’t want to touch it, but Sandra Bullock came back for this ridiculed sequel where Jason Patric was the new lead. Considered by many to be one of the worst follow-ups of all time.

Out to Sea

Domestic Gross: $29 million

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau created comedic gold with The Fortune Cookie and The Odd Couple and reunited years later to box office fortune with the Grumpy Old Men movies. This one? Not so much.

Father’s Day

Domestic Gross: $28 million

Ivan Reitman directing Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in a high-profile comedy? Sounds like a good recipe, but the product was mediocre at best and audiences didn’t turn out.

Excess Baggage

Domestic Gross: $14 million

Two summers earlier, Alicia Silverstone had broken out with Clueless. The summer of 1997 was a breakdown. In addition to appearing as Batgirl in the already discussed Batman and Robin, this action comedy with Benicio del Toro bombed big time.

Steel

Domestic Gross: $1.7 million

People may have wanted to watch Shaquille O’Neal on the basketball court, but they had zero interest in watching him as the title superhero in this disaster.

And that does it for now, folks, but I’ll be back soon recounting 2007!

David Letterman’s Goodbye Begins

This evening brings the beginning of the end for the longest tenured late night host in the history of the television medium. After 33 legendary years, David Letterman’s final run of programs kicks off tonight with five and a half weeks and 28 shows left.

A CBS press release confirmed what many suspected: the final Dave shows will be a very star studded affair. Many Letterman regulars will make their pilgrimage over the next month and change (his swan song is Wednesday, May 20).

That impressive list includes Bill Murray, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Howard Stern, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Downey Jr., Sarah Jessica Parker, Martin Short, Don Rickles, Ray Romano, George Clooney, Scarlett Johannson, Will Ferrell, Alec Baldwin, Michael Keaton, Jack Hanna, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Tina Fey and Billy Crystal, among others. Not too shabby. Musical guests include Elvis Costello, Mumford and Sons, and Dave Matthews Band.

The press release promises more names not yet revealed over the last 28 hours of Letterman’s TV existence. Who could that be? Let’s start with the easy. Foo Fighters are Dave’s favorite band and it is likely they could be the final musical performance. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Dave’s late night brothers come to pay their respects. That list includes Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart and Letterman’s successor Stephen Colbert. I also anticipate an appearance by Jay Leno – something that would truly be an event after their over 20 year history of being rivals and their battle for The Tonight Show after Dave’s idol Johnny Carson retired in 1992.

Furthermore, it wouldn’t surprise me to see politicos such as Hillary or Bill Clinton or even President Obama appear. I will have one more post timed to Letterman’s departure to pontificate on what his show has meant to me and, frankly, my sense of humor. It’s not insignificant.

Until then, it’s going to be an interesting few weeks of Dave bidding America farewell.

This Day in Movie History: February 18

20 years ago Today in Movie History – February 18 – Ben Stiller made his directorial debut with the now Gen X classic Reality Bites. The romantic comedy/drama starring Winona Ryder helped establish not only Stiller, but also Ethan Hawke and Janeane Garafalo as rising stars. Its soundtrack was also a hit and include the single “Stay” by Lisa Loeb. Stiller could onto direct The Cable Guy, Zoolander, Tropic Thunder, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

As for birthdays – John Travolta is 60 today. After becoming known to TV viewers from “Welcome Back, Kotter”, he very successfully transitioned into film with late 70s megahits Saturday Night Fever and Grease and Urban Cowboy in 1980. After some lean years in which only his Look Who’s Talking flicks did well, he had one of the most notable comebacks in film history with 1994’s Pulp Fiction. Since then he’s starred in numerous commercial and critical hits including Get Shorty, Broken Arrow, Phenomenon, Michael, Face/Off, Primary Colors, and Swordfish. He’s had some flops too – particularly the disastrous Battlefield Earth.

Matt Dillon is 50 today. He broke out in the early 80s in such pictures as My Bodyguard, Rumble Fish, The Outsiders, and The Flamingo Kid. He had a major critical hit in Gus Van Sant’s 1989 indie pic Drugstore Cowboy and a big comedic breakout in the smash There’s Something About Mary. Other notable movies include Singles, To Die For, Beautiful Girls, Wild Things, and Crash.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between them:

John Travolta was in Get Shorty with Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman was in Target with Matt Dillon

And that’s today – February 18 – in Movie History!