Summer 1990: The Top 10 Hits and More

In what has become tradition on this here blog, I use the summertime months to reflect on the cinematic seasons that came 30, 20, and 10 years prior. So while we wait for features to hit theaters in the summer of 2020 (something that is looking less and less certain), let’s take a gander at the hits, misses, and other significant product from the past.

The format is as follows: a rundown of the top ten hits as well as other noteworthy titles and some of the flops. We begin with 1990… a summer where we all got ghosted.

10. Flatliners

Domestic Gross: $61 million

Fresh off her star making role that spring in Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts teamed with then boyfriend Kiefer Sutherland in this psychological thriller from the late director Joel Schumacher. A far less successful 2017 remake would follow.

9. Bird on a Wire

Domestic Gross: $70 million

Despite mostly poor reviews, the drawing power of Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn compelled this action comedy to a #1 debut and solid returns. Mr. Gibson wouldn’t fare as well later that summer when Air America with Robert Downey Jr. grossed less than half of Bird‘s earnings.

8. Another 48 Hrs.

Domestic Gross: $80 million

The re-teaming of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte from their 1982 hit might have earned more than the predecessor, but $80 million was considered a bit of a letdown compared to expectations. The quality left a bit to be desired as well.

7. Days of Thunder

Domestic Gross: $82 million

Another high profile reunification is this racing pic with Tom Cruise and his Top Gun maker Tony Scott back together. While it wasn’t as successful as that blockbuster, it did just fine and it cast a mostly unknown actress named Nicole Kidman alongside her future (and eventually former) husband.

6. Presumed Innocent

Domestic Gross: $86 million

Harrison Ford has had plenty of summer hits, but this adaptation of Scott Turow’s novel was a considerably more adult project that earned mostly rave reviews. The courtroom drama was a sizable earner considering its meager $20 million budget.

5. Back to the Future Part III

Domestic Gross: $87 million

The Western themed threequel arrived just six months after Part II. While it received better critical reaction, its gross of $87 million couldn’t match the $118 million of what preceded it.

4. Dick Tracy

Domestic Gross: $103 million

Warren Beatty’s long in development version of the 1930s comic strip was a visual sight to behold. However, critical reaction was mixed. It managed to just outdo its reported $100 million budget stateside. Tracy provided a showcase for Beatty’s then flame Madonna and earned Al Pacino a Best Supporting Actor nod.

3. Die Hard 2

Domestic Gross: $117 million

The goodwill brought forth by the 1988 original allowed this decent sequel to outgross its predecessor and permit Bruce Willis to return in his signature role three more times. This would be the last Die Hard pic with the Christmas Eve theme as it scorched the summer charts.

2. Total Recall

Domestic Gross: $119 million

One year before he would rule the summer of 1991, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a massive hit with this sci-fi rendering of the Philip K. Dick short story. Recall also provided the first juicy role for Sharon Stone, who would become a sensation two years later in Basic Instinct. 

1. Ghost

Domestic Gross: $217 million

At the start of the new decade, no one would have pegged Ghost to rule the summer frame. Made for $22 million, the supernatural romance ended up making over half a billion worldwide. A pottery themed love scene between stars Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore would become iconic, Whoopi Goldberg would win Best Supporting Actress for her psychic role, and it was nominated for Best Picture.

And now for some noteworthy titles from the season:

Problem Child

Domestic Gross: $53 million

Just outside the top 10 at 11, John Ritter headlined this tale of a rambunctious kid who just needs a family. Budgeted at a measly $10 million, it was a surprise performer that spawned two sequels.

Arachnophobia

Domestic Gross: $53 million

Doubling its budget, this black comedy about deadly black spiders received mostly praise from critics and had a nice showcase role for John Goodman as an exterminator.

Darkman

Domestic Gross: $33 million

Sam Raimi would eventually direct Spider-Man over a decade later and break box office records. Yet this original story (made for only $16 million) was a cult hit that introduced a lot of filmgoers to Liam Neeson. Two direct to video sequels would follow (minus Raimi behind the camera and Neeson in front of it).

Mo’ Better Blues

Domestic Gross: $16 million

This jazz infused dramedy was Spike Lee’s follow-up to his groundbreaking Do the Right Thing one year prior. Blues received solid reviews, but is best remembered as the director’s first collaboration with Denzel Washington.

And now for some pictures that didn’t match expectations either financially or critically or both (including a host of underwhelming sequels):

Robocop 2

Domestic Gross: $45 million

Irvin Kerschner made one of the greatest part two’s ever with The Empire Strikes Back. He wasn’t so lucky here. It made slightly less than its 1987 predecessor and reviews weren’t nearly as positive.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Domestic Gross: $41 million

It’s become a cult favorite since its release, but The New Batch grossed over $100 million less than the 1984 smash success.

The Exorcist III

Domestic Gross: $26 million

Following 17 years after the phenomenon that was the original, part 3 simply didn’t land with audiences or critics. This is another example of a sequel that would pick up more fans in subsequent years.

Ghost Dad

Domestic Gross: $24 million

Sidney Poitier directed this supernatural comedy starring Bill Cosby. At the time, he had a smash TV comedy named after him. Yet audiences didn’t follow him to the multiplex for this critically drubbed effort.

The Freshman

Domestic Gross: $21 million

Marlon Brando seemed to have a fun time parodying his iconic Godfather role here alongside Matthew Broderick. It wasn’t a hit, but its reputation has grown since.

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane

Domestic Gross: $21 million

Andrew Dice Clay was one of the most popular and controversial stand up comics of this era, but his anticipated breakout to the silver screen landed with a thud.

Wild at Heart

Domestic Gross: $14 million

David Lynch’s follow-up to his heralded Blue Velvet starred Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. It garnered decidedly more mixed reaction from critics.

The Two Jakes

Domestic Gross: $10 million

Jack Nicholson went behind the camera and reprised his acclaimed role as Jake Gittes from 1974’s Chinatown. This was a year following the star’s turn as The Joker in Batman, which dominated that summer. Audiences (and many critics) simply turned a blind eye to this long gestating sequel.

And that’ll do it for now folks! I’ll have the summer of 2000 up shortly.

Music Biopics: The Name Game

A growing trend in movies for the past few years (and a bit beyond) is the musical biopic that incorporates one of the band or artist’s songs into the title. The latest example will come out this fall with Bohemian Rhapsody, the behind the scenes story of Queen.

2019 will bring us Rocketman with Taron Egerton as the legendary Elton John.

We’ve seen this trend in years past. For instance, the 1980s saw La Bamba about Richie Valens.

The 1990s gave us Angela Bassett in her Oscar nominated role playing Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It?

In 2005, we had Walk the Line with Joaquin Phoenix in his Academy nominated turn as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon winning as June.

More recent ones have been in the hip hop world with Straight Outta Compton (N.W.A.) and All Eyez on Me (Tupac Shakur). There’s also Get On Up with Chadwick Boseman as the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

So this got me thinking. What would be some other movie/song titles if certain iconic musicians got their biopic? For this blog post’s purposes, I tried to focus on artists where I feel a big screen treatment on them is at least feasible. In other words, while Rico Suave might be a spectacular title, I don’t envision two hours on Gerardo coming anytime soon.

There is already a Madonna flick reportedly in the works and it takes its name not from a tune, but from one of her tours – Blond Ambition. I suppose Material Girl or Like a Prayer could have worked, but Blond Ambition is just about perfect.

Some choices seem obvious. You gotta call the Bon Jovi story Livin on a Prayer, after all. And My Way seems like the natural fit for Frank Sinatra. And Born to Run for Bruce Springsteen. And there’s Piano Man for Billy Joel.

It doesn’t end there. Respect (Aretha Franklin) and Fire and Rain (James Taylor).

When it comes to some recently dearly departed legends, Prince presents a challenge because you can’t call it Purple Rain. And a number of his other massive hits don’t fit. When Doves Cry is probably the name the studio would go for considering it’s his biggest hit. Personally, I rather like the thought of My Name is Prince, taken from his Love Symbol album of 1992.

With Michael Jackson, Thriller would work but it’s hard to imagine Man in the Mirror not being the choice.

For David Bowie, Starman seems like the winner, but that’s also the name of a fairly well-known 1980s science fiction effort starring Jeff Bridges. That may not matter, but if so, Space Oddity or simply calling it Ziggy Stardust might fit.

Tom Petty? How about Free Fallin or Runnin Down a Dream. George Michael? Faith or Freedom. Whitney Houston? Tough one. Perhaps a studio would want I Will Always Love You. Maybe So Emotional works as well.

Some bands have more than one title that seem appropriate. Aerosmith has three great ones: Dream On, Sweet Emotion, or Walk This Way. With AC/DC – Back in Black or Thunderstruck.

Guns n Roses is an interesting one. Welcome to the Jungle is fantastic, but it was just the subtitle for the blockbuster Jumanji reboot. In this matter, you might have to go with their album name Appetite for Destruction, which is ideal.

Metallica could have For Whom the Bell Tolls or Enter Sandman. Nirvana might have Smells Like Teen Spirit as the studio choice, but I’m a little partial to Come As You Are.

I like Runnin with the Devil for Van Halen and I suppose Stairway to Heaven would be the choice for Led Zeppelin.

Let’s move off rock. How about Britney Spears? That may depend on what direction the studio goes. It could be Toxic or Stronger. Maybe Baby One More Time instead.

Stevie Wonder? Superstition or Sir Duke are possibilities, but I like Higher Ground.

With Bob Marley, maybe Get Up, Stand Up or One Love.

Circling back to hip hop, Fight the Power is the clear pick for Public Enemy and the same may hold true for Mama Said Knock You Out with LL Cool J.

And then there’s my favorite… the Rick James biopic Super Freak. Why hasn’t this been made already?

I could go on, but you get the idea. Let’s see if any of these suggested titles end up playing out in the future. Maybe there will be surprises… Barbie Girl: The Aqua Story, anyone?

Top Ten Summer Music Hits of 1987: A Look Back

As has become a summer tradition on this here blog, I’m taking you back 30 years, 20 years, and 10 years recounting the top 10 tracks of every season.

We begin today with 1987 before moving forward with 1997 and 2007 shortly. It’s a fascinating experience to relive the songs that were blaring (at least in this era) on our Walkmans and cassettes at this juncture.

Just as in years past, I will assign a scale of 1 (summer bummer) to 10 (seasonal classic) for each hit. I will also reveal whether or not said track is on my Apple Music.

As a side note, my series that will cover the summer movies of 1987, 1997, and 2007 will be coming your way soon as well.

Let’s get to it!

10. “Luka” by Suzanne Vega

OK, so you don’t usually pair “summer hit song” with a track about child abuse, but Vega’s largest hit of her career is a catchy little ditty. It earned a number of Grammy nominations. And just to slide a movie reference in, a deleted scene from Pulp Fiction reveals the character of Vincent Vega (John Travolta) may actually be a cousin of hers.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

9. “Heart and Soul” by T’Pau

Not T-Pain for you youngsters. No, this is T’Pau, a British pop song fronted by Carol Decker that had some hits in the late 80s. “Heart and Soul” is a perfectly reasonable track you’d belt out in the car alone.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

8. “Only In My Dreams” by Debbie Gibson

Teen Long Island pop princess Debbie Gibson (before she changed to her name to the more distinguished Deborah) had a huge hit with this ditty. It’s somewhat forgettable these days, but it’s an OK little pop confection.

My Rating: 5 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

7. “Who’s That Girl” by Madonna

And now for the real pop princess! This is the title track for Madonna’s 1987 box office dud that still managed to produce this hit. This has never been one of my favorite Madonna songs to be honest, but it’s decent.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

6. “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael

The late British pop sensation gave radio programmers heart palpitations with this first single from his heralded solo debut Faith. The track also served as the third single for the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop II, which was the summer’s biggest hit movie. As is the case with plenty of other GM tracks, it’s terrific and so are the various remixes that followed.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music? Yes

5. “La Bamba” by Los Lobos

This is, of course, the cover of the Ritchie Valens 50s smash that served as the lead single for the movie La Bamba. Truth be told, this is a track that grates on my nerves and maybe that’s due to its omnipresence three decades ago.

My Rating: 4 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music? No

4. “Shakedown” by Bob Seger

This is Detroit legend Seger’s only #1 single and it came from the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack. It was originally intended for the late Glenn Frey, who recorded “The Heat Is On” for 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. Do I think it’s great? No, but I might not turn the dial if it comes on.

My Rating: 6

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

3. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2

The second single from their beloved Joshua Tree album, this is one of Irish rock band’s signature tunes and it deserves to be.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

2. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston

Ms. Whitney’s dance inducing track here served as the first single from her second album and to this day, it will get bridal parties belting out the lyrics.

My Rating: 9

Is It On My Apple Music? Yes

1. “Alone” by Heart

Yeah, very few singers have pipes like Ann Wilson and this power ballad has tested the limits of many who attempt to keep up by themselves while sitting in traffic. Many have tried.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

And there you have it! I’ll be back soon with 1997 and 2007…

 

Blond Ambition: Who Should Play Madonna?

There’s a well known thing in Hollywood referred to as The Black List, a compilation of screenplays that have yet to be produced. Executives in the film industry vote on which ones that they think are the best. Since the inception of the list in 2005, some that have made it on there eventually became awards worthy material. This includes eventual Best Picture winners Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, Argo, and Spotlight. There’s Best Picture nominees like Babel, Juno, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Whiplash, American Sniper and The Revenant. We have hit movies of all genres including Superbad, The Fighter, The Hangover, Arrival, and John Wick.

The 2016 Black List was released today and the pic that received the most votes caught my eye. It’s Blond Ambition, a biopic about Madonna that’s set in the 1980s as she was a struggling artist in NYC before becoming the world’s most famous Material Girl. Elyse Hollander is the screenwriter and it’s probably safe to assume this will be on the silver screen in relatively short order.

A well made Madonna biopic (paging Damien Chazelle to direct) could be quite a sight to behold. And, of course, it got me thinking. Who should play her? There’s always the option of casting an unknown. After all, taking on the role of music’s most successful female artist might work better with a performer unfamiliar to our eyes.

Yet one name in particular entered my mind when I read the news today: Chloe Grace Moretz. I think she could pull it off. Even if the film took a couple of years to get off the ground, she’s only 19 right now and would certainly fit the age appropriate timing of that are in its subject’s life. I also thought of Greta Gerwig and she could be interesting, but she’s in her early 30s and Madonna would be in her early to mid 20s here. It could still work though.

What say you? What other actresses could potentially do justice to Madge?

Top Ten Summer Music Hits of 1986: A Look Back

On this here blog, we have some summer traditions now. One of them will be a look back at the movies that dominated (and didn’t dominate) the box office from 20 years ago in 1996 and 10 years ago in 2006. Those posts will be coming to the site soon.

However, before we get to that… let’s get to bumping some music in here, shall we? As I did last summer, let’s recount the top ten summer music singles from 30 years ago, 20 years ago, and a decade ago according to the Billboard charts. With each track, we can take a trip down memory lane and I’ll give you my thoughts on each song and, most importantly, whether it’s on my iTunes.

I’ll rate each track (my personal opinion of course) on a scale of 1 (awful) to 10 (summer hit masterpiece).

We begin today with the summer of 1986!

10. “Mad About You” by Belinda Carlisle

You may have just seen Ms. Carlisle rocking out with her group The Go-Go’s on the Billboard Music Awards, but “Mad About You” was her first solo success after the band broke up over three decades ago. It’s a perfectly reasonable summer ditty that gave her a pretty solid start on her own, though it’s not particularly memorable.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No

9. “Venus” by Bananarama

As for girl groups that weren’t broken up in 1986, Bananarama had their signature tune with the dance hit “Venus” and it’s easy to see why. A remake of a #1 1970 hit, it’s catchy as hell and still receives plenty of airplay.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My iTunes? No

8. “Holding Back The Years” by Simply Red

From their debut album, this soulful ballad remains the group’s largest hit and it features fine vocals from front man Mick Hucknall.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My iTunes: No

7. “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood”

Winwood’s first #1 hit, it’s got Nile Rodgers on rhythm guitar and Chaka Khan doing backing vocals. As summer songs should be, it’s built for belting out with the top down when no one is hopefully looking.

My Rating: 8 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No

6. “On My Own” by Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald

Patti and Michael could sing the phone book and it would be riveting. This is the biggest hit of both of their careers in this Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager production. They’ve both had much better tracks, but those voices!

My Rating: 7

Is It On My iTunes: Yes, thanks to McDonald’s greatest hits

5. “Invisible Touch” by Genesis

The first single off their album that bared the same name, “Invisible Touch” is Genesis’s highest selling song. They’ve had better as well, but this is undeniably catchy stuff with some seriously sinister synthesizers.

My Rating: 8 and a half

Is It On My iTunes: Yes

4. “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” by Billy Ocean

Mr. Ocean has had plenty of memorable hits, but I’ll be honest in that I’d kinda forgotten this one. It’s perfectly passable, but it is a little forgettable in a way that “Caribbean Queen” is not.

My Rating: 6

Is It On My iTunes: No

3. “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel

Now we’re talking! This signature tune from former Genesis front man Gabriel has an iconic video and is just a total jam. Love those horns.

My Rating: 10

Is It On My iTunes: Yes

2. “Glory of Love” by Peter Cetera

Chicago lead singer Cetera had his first solo smash with this single from The Karate Kid Part II soundtrack. The David Foster produced ballad is schmaltzy as hell, but it’s also the definition of that song you’ll belt when no one is watching.

My Rating: 8 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

  1. “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna

Coming on the heels of her classic ballad “Live To Tell”, this track continued Madonna’s musical growth in the mid 80s with edgy lyrics dealing with pregnancy and abortion wrapped up in a groovy pop blanket.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My iTunes: Yes

We’ll get to 1996 soon, my friends!