Summer 1999: The Top 10 Hits and More

My recap of the summer seasons from 30, 20, and 10 years ago continues with 1999. It was a banner year for film in general with many acclaimed features hitting theaters at the turn of the century.

If you missed my previous post recounting 1989, you can find it here:

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

As with other look backs, I’ll give the top 10 highest earners along with other notable pics and some flops. Interestingly, the list begins at #10 with probably the most high profile misfire:

10. Wild Wild West

Domestic Gross: $113 million

The July 4th holiday weekend had literally become reserved space for Will Smith. Independence Day in 1996 and Men in Black the following year both came out in that frame and ended up as their summer’s biggest blockbusters. This update of a 1960s TV series cast the Fresh Prince with Kevin Kline and reunited him with MIB director Barry Sonnenfeld. Critics and audiences weren’t impressed.

9. Notting Hill

Domestic Gross: $116 million

Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant were a rom com match in heaven with this well reviewed pic from the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Our lead actress isn’t finished yet…

8. The Blair Witch Project

Domestic Gross: $140 million

Truly a phenomenon upon release, this handheld camera indie supernatural horror tale was made for a reported $60,000. Many audience members thought it was a real documentary and it scared up nearly $250 million worldwide and spawned two lesser regarded follow-ups.

7. Runaway Bride

Domestic Gross: $152 million

I told you we weren’t done with Julia Roberts. This rom com reunited her with her Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall and costar Richard Gere. It might not have captured the acclaim of that flick, but it made plenty of cash.

6. The Mummy

Domestic Gross: $155 million

Loosely updating the 1932 classic, The Mummy managed to turn Brendan Fraser into a temporary action star. Two sequels followed and a spin-off (The Scorpion King) that turned Dwayne Johnson into an action hero.

5. Big Daddy

Domestic Gross: $163 million

20 summers ago marked the height of Adam Sandler’s box office potency. Big Daddy remains his biggest live action grosser of all time.

4. Tarzan

Domestic Gross: $171 million

Disney was still knocking traditional animated hits out summer after summer. Tarzan managed to nab Phil Collins an Oscar for a song contribution.

3. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Domestic Gross: $206 million

The original Powers came out two summers prior. While it performed decently in theaters, it became a massive hit with its home video release. Due to that, this sequel made more in its opening weekend than part 1 achieved in its entire theatrical run. A third edition arrived in 2002.

2. The Sixth Sense

Domestic Gross: $293 million

An unexpected smash, this is the movie that introduced the world to M. Night Shyamalan and the line “I see dead people”. Bruce Willis didn’t get an Oscar nod, but the picture itself did. So too did Shyamalan’s direction, screenplay, and the supporting performances of Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette.

1. Star Wars: Episode 1The Phantom Menace

Domestic Gross: $431 million

Its reputation certainly hasn’t grown through the years, but George Lucas’s return to the cherished franchise after 16 years easily ruled the summer. We’re still haunted by Jar Jar two decades later.

And now more some other notable titles from the ‘99 season:

American Pie

Domestic Gross: $102 million

The raunchy teen comedy was a surprise smash that introduced us to a new group of young actors and spawned three theatrical sequels and four direct to DVD sequels.

The Haunting

Domestic Gross: $91 million

Jan de Bont followed up mega hits Speed and Twister with this critically unappreciated remake of The Haunting of Hill House. It didn’t reach the heights of those blockbusters, but came close to the century mark domestically.

Deep Blue Sea

Domestic Gross: $73 million

Renny Harlin’s tale involving sharks that could potentially cure Alzheimer’s (yes it’s absurd), Sea is best known for a killer death scene involving Samuel L. Jackson.

The Thomas Crown Affair

Domestic Gross: $69 million

Arriving smack dab in the middle of his Bond run, this remake of Steve McQueen’s heist film was a solid midsize performer.

Bowfinger

Domestic Gross: $66 million

The box office grosses were decent, but Bowfinger gave us a satisfying pairing of two comedic legends in Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin.

Eyes Wide Shut

Domestic Gross: $55 million

The swan song of Stanley Kubrick (who died shortly before release), this dreamlike sexual drama with then married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman polarized audiences and critics.

South ParkBigger, Longer and Uncut

Domestic Gross: $52 million

The landmark Comedy Central show from Trey Parker and Matt Stone got the big screen treatment and translated well to the multiplex, even nabbing an Oscar nod for Best Original Song (“Blame Canada”).

The Iron Giant

Domestic Gross: $23 million

A commercial failure at the time, this animated pic marked the debut of Brad Bird who went onto helm Pixar classics. Its reputation has grown significantly in time.

Now… let’s recount some flops:

Mickey Blue Eyes

Domestic Gross: $33 million

Hugh Grant had a $100 million plus earner with Notting Hill, but this mob themed comedy was not a hit.

Mystery Men

Domestic Gross: $29 million

Ben Stiller had the previous summer’s largest comedy with There’s Something About Mary. This failed superhero spoof didn’t even make half its budget back stateside.

The Astronaut’s Wife

Domestic Gross: $10 million

This Johnny Depp sci fi thriller is not a title discussed often in his filmography or Charlize Theron’s. There’s a reason.

Dudley DoRight

Domestic Gross: $9 million

The Mummy provided Brendan Fraser with a franchise. This cartoon remake couldn’t hit double digits.

And that wraps my recap! Look for 2009 on the blog shortly…

Summer 1998: The Top 10 Hits and More

Continuing with my recaps of the movie summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago – we arrive at 1998. If you missed my post recounting the 1988 season, you can find it right here:

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

1998 was a rather astonishingly sequel lite summer with only one making up the top ten moneymakers. And while 2018 will be known for its Avengers phenomenon, it was a much different story with Avengers two decades ago.

Behold my synopsis of the top 10 hits, along with other notables and flops:

10. The Mask of Zorro

Domestic Gross: $94 million

He may be playing Pablo Picasso on TV now, but Antonio Banderas had a significant hit (alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins) in this tale of the famed swashbuckler. A less successful sequel would follow in 2005.

9. Mulan

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Disney’s 36th animated feature (with a voice assist from Eddie Murphy) didn’t reach the heights of titles like Aladdin or The Lion King, but the Mouse Factory has already commissioned a live-action version slated for 2020.

8. The Truman Show

Domestic Gross: $125 million

Jim Carrey’s first major big screen foray outside of zany comedy, Peter Weir’s reality show pic garnered critical acclaim for the film itself and the star’s performance.

7. Lethal Weapon 4

Domestic Gross: $130 million

The final teaming of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover (with Chris Rock and Jet Li joining the mix) made slightly less than part 3 and was generally considered rather mediocre, especially considering the heights that the franchise started from.

6. Godzilla

Domestic Gross: $136 million

Coming off the massive success of Independence Day, Roland Emmerich’s tale of the giant green monster was expected to possibly be summer’s biggest hit. It came in well below expectations with critics and audiences. A better regarded version arrived in 2014.

5. Deep Impact

Domestic Gross: $140 million

Our first asteroid disaster flick on the list came from Mimi Leder with a cast including Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, and Robert Duvall. Moviegoers loved their asteroids 20 years ago.

4. Dr. Dolittle

Domestic Gross: $144 million

Eddie Murphy was still in popular family guy mode with this remake of the Rex Harrison animal tale. A sequel would follow in 2001.

3. There’s Something About Mary

Domestic Gross: $176 million

The Farrelly Brothers had the comedic smash of the summer in this effort that made Ben Stiller a huge star and had a showcase role for Cameron Diaz’s talents.

2. Armageddon

Domestic Gross: $201 million

Our second asteroid pic (this one from Michael Bay) comes with Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler… and an Aerosmith ballad that played all season long.

1. Saving Private Ryan

Domestic Gross: $216 million

Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed World War II drama with Tom Hanks has one of the most intense first scenes in cinematic history. It was considered the Oscar front-runner until it lost in an upset to Shakespeare in Love. 

And now for some other notable films:

The X-Files

Domestic Gross: $83 million

Bringing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s alien themed FOX TV show to the big screen turned out to be a profitable venture. An ignored sequel would follow 10 years later.

Blade

Domestic Gross: $70 million

The vampire-centric Wesley Snipes flick spawned two sequels and major cult status.

Out of Sight

Domestic Gross: $37 million

Its box office performance was middling, but Steven Soderbergh’s romantic crime pic showed George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez at their best. Critics dug it.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Domestic Gross: $10 million

Not a success at the time, but Terry Gilliam’s wild ride featuring Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson created a serious following in subsequent years.

And now for some flops:

Six Days, Seven Nights

Domestic Gross: $74 million

Harrison Ford was flying high off the success of Air Force One one summer earlier, but audiences and reviewers weren’t as kind to this action comedy with Anne Heche.

Snake Eyes

Domestic Gross: $55 million

Likewise, Nicolas Cage experienced a trilogy of mega hits during the two previous summers with The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. This one from Brian De Palma didn’t impress nearly as much.

The Avengers

Domestic Gross: $23 million

Not THOSE Avengers, ladies and gents. This big screen adaptation of the 1960s TV series with Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery landed with a thud in August. No sequels here.

54

Domestic Gross: $16 million

Mike Myers was coming off a little something called Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery when this pic about the famed NYC nightclub opened. Critics weren’t kind and crowds didn’t turn up.

BASEketball

Domestic Gross: $7 million

Trey Parker and Matt Stone rarely create something that isn’t massively successful – like “South Park” and The Book of Mormon. This sports comedy is the rare exception, though it has developed a following since.

And there you have it – the summer of 1998! Look for 2008 shortly…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

The 20th and just wrapped season of “South Park” essentially posited a theory that a lot of the love for last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens was due to our nostalgia goggles being tuned up to 11. In short, Trey Parker and Matt Stone came to the conclusion that Force really wasn’t very good. It was just that we were hungry for that feeling we had from Episodes IV-VI (I-III not so much).

Comedy Central’s show made their position clear through the ingenious creation of Member Berries, talking fruits who constantly reminded us of Star Wars characters and situations from decades ago. In other words, to Parker and Stone – The Force Awakens was partially just two hours of ” ‘Memba Han Solo?!?!?!” and ” ‘Memba R2D2?!?!?!”.

This is a feeling that many of the Star Wars legions of fans share in that Force was too much of a rehash of the beloved 1977 original. It’s fair criticism and somewhat true, but I personally felt it didn’t really take away from it being a very satisfying experience.

Another hallmark of South Park’s season (and the one before that) is that it’s been serialized into one long plot line over ten episodes. For 18 seasons, the show never did that. When we get to season 21, there are hints it could go back to the past as the finale was titled “The End of Serialization As We Know It”.

Why all the South Park talk? ‘Memba you’re supposed to be writing a review of the new Star Wars?!?!?! Well, I just love the show, but it also dovetails into Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which marks the first interruption of this cherished franchise’s serialization. We have our inaugural spin-off in the series. The first without a Roman numeral episode behind the title. When Disney paid George Lucas billions of dollars to begin producing new titles, it was quickly revealed that we’d get individual stories without episode numbers involved about every other year.

Rogue One is the first and just as The Force Awakens had large expectations attached, so does this. It must simultaneously introduce new characters into that far, far away galaxy while feeding us those Member Berries. It must especially do so because the events in Rogue happen between Episode III (2005’s Revenge of the Sith) and IV (that first entry nearly forty years ago). This is when Darth Vader is alive and well and developing his Death Star to wreak havoc on the planetary system.

‘Memba Daddy issues?!?!?! They’re prevalent everywhere in this franchise and here too. Our central hero is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), whose scientist father (Mads Mikkelsen) was recruited against his will to develop that evil device Vader pines for. Jyn is separated from him as a child after being rescued from being taken by Imperial forces by Rebel leader Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). Flash forward to Jyn as a young lady when she teams up with defected Imperial pilot Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) and Rebel fighter Cassian (Diego Luna) to find her long captured Pops and stop Vader’s destructive deeds. In true Star Wars fashion, there’s also sidekick droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) providing effective comic relief.

‘Memba strange looking CG effects that hindered the prequels?!?!?! I found them here, but explaining them in detail would move into spoiler territory. I’ll just say there’s one well-known returning character whose inclusion is badly hampered by what I’ll refer to as technical issues.

Gareth Edwards, who last directed 2014’s pretty cool Godzilla reboot, clearly has reverance for the world George Lucas created. Since the happenings here directly lead to what we saw in 1977, Edwards does an often remarkable job in getting the look down for what transitions into Luke, Leia, and Han. The final third of Rogue One is non-stop action and it’s well-developed and thrilling. There’s not a performance I can complain about (at least not the live-action ones) and particular stand-outs include Ben Mendelsohn, an Imperial baddie trying to impress Boss Vader and Donnie Yen as a blind warrior whose belief in the Force is quite strong.

Yet this end of serialization as we know it for Star Wars presented this critic with some perhaps unavoidable challenges. I found it tough to get as involved in the central characters knowing that this is a one off picture. The Force Awakens gave us newbies mixed with oldies where we know their saga will evolve and grow. That’s not the case here. Therefore it’s often the case in Rogue One that the most memorable moments involve Member Berries being served to us as opposed to enjoying what is new. ‘Memba that feeling of dread mixed with excitement hearing James Earl Jones voice one of the greatest villains in film history?!?!?! Of course you do. You loved it then and will love it again.

*** (out of four)

Top 25 Greatest South Park Episodes of All Time: Nos. 5-1

We’ve reached the final installment of my personal favorite “South Park” episodes of all time. As previously mentioned, picking 25 out of 248 was seriously challenging. I’d love to hear your favorites and please feel free to comment below. The Season 18 (where has the time gone?) premiere airs on Comedy Central tomorrow evening.

If you missed the four previous installments, please find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/19/top-25-greatest-south-park-episodes-of-all-time-nos-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/20/top-25-greatest-south-park-episodes-of-all-time-nos-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/21/top-25-greatest-south-park-episodes-of-all-time-nos-15-11/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/22/top-25-greatest-south-park-episodes-of-all-time-nos-10-6/

And now the crème de la crème of my SP universe:

5. “Chickenlover”

Original Air Date: May 27, 1998 (Season 2)

There is a criminal on the loose in South Park and Cartman wants to track him down. Famously, this is the show with a “Cops” parody in which Cartman informs us all to “respect his authoritah!”.

4. “Trapped in the Closet”

Original Air Date: November 16, 2005 (Season 9)

One of the most notorious episodes of all time, this SP mercilessly took on Scientology, Tom Cruise, R. Kelly, and John Travolta. Shocking and tear inducing funny, there’s a reason this created such an uproar.

3. “The Death Camp of Tolerance”

Original Air Date: November 20, 2002 (Season 6)

Mr. Garrison tries to get fired for his sexual preferences. There’s a gerbil named Lemmiwinks involved. It’s highly inappropriate as SP can often be. And it’s unforgettably hilarious.

2. “Scott Tenorman Must Die”

Original Air Date: July 11, 2001 (Season 5)

Perhaps the most famous episode of all time, this season 5 gem was a game changer in the show’s history. Why? Because it turned Cartman from just a bratty and foul-mouthed kid to a seriously demented and perhaps evil character. It was glorious… and Radiohead makes a cameo, too!

1. “Imaginationland – Part I – III”

Original Air Dates: October 17, 24, and 31, 2007 (Season 11)

The three-part “Imaginationland” episode arch tops my list for many reasons. It’s downright uproarious and endlessly clever. The “Imaginationland” song. The Saving Private Ryan themed war montage. The hilarious nod to James Cameron’s The Abyss. The skewering of Mel Gibson, M. Night Shyamalan, and Michael Bay. The longing for Cartman to get Kyle to perform a deed made on a bet (I won’t get into the dirty details). The Stargate references. Popeye is in it. So is Morpheus. And Luke Skywalker and Jesus and Aslan and Gandalf. And the Woodland Christmas Critters! I mean, come on! “Imaginationland” is stunningly great and the pinnacle of a show that has produced one classic episode after the next.

And there you have it, folks! I hope you enjoyed the list…

Comment away

Top 25 Greatest South Park Episodes of All Time: Nos. 10-6

This evening we’ve arrived at part four of my personal favorite “South Park” episodes and that means we’ve breached the top ten! If you missed the first three installments covering 25-11, you can peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/19/top-25-greatest-south-park-episodes-of-all-time-nos-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/20/top-25-greatest-south-park-episodes-of-all-time-nos-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/21/top-25-greatest-south-park-episodes-of-all-time-nos-15-11/

Let’s get into it:

10. “Good Times with Weapons”

Original Air Date: March 17, 2004 (Season 8)

The Season 8 premiere of the show has Parker and Stone going wild playing in the field of Japanese anime. The episode’s song “Let’s Fighting Love” is perhaps my favorite musical montage ever on the program.

9. “Woodland Critter Christmas”

Original Air Date: December 15, 2004 (Season 8)

The next spot belongs to the season finale of Season 8 and it’s the Christmas episode that makes Mr. Hankey look positively G-rated. The boys befriend a group of adorable animals only to find out they’re evil Satan worshipers. It’s even weirder than it sounds and side splittingly funny.

8. “You’re Getting Old”

Original Air Date: June 8, 2011 (Season 15)

An absolute stunner of an episode that generated significant publicity because it seemed to signal Parker and Stone’s frustration with having to keep the show going. The final montage set to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” is surprisingly emotional for a raunchy animated series.

7. “Butter’s Very Own Episode”

Original Air Date: December 12, 2001 (Season 5)

Besides Cartman and Randy Marsh, my favorite SP character would be Butters. In season 5, he got his own episode dedicated to him where he’s presumed dead and his parents are suspected. This leads to a scathing and brilliant condemnation of the Ramsey parents, O.J. Simpson, and Gary Condit in one of the funniest closing scenes in the program’s tenure.

6. “The Jeffersons”

Original Air Date: April 21, 2004 (Season 8)

No one is better at mocking celebrities than this show and their take on Michael Jackson (five years before his death) is incredible. The musical number “Wishing Tree” is classic.

Tomorrow – I’ll announce my all-time top five… stay tuned!

Top 25 Greatest South Park Episodes of All Time: Nos. 15-11

Back at it continuing with my personal Top 25 favorite “South Park” episodes of all time, ahead of its season 18 debut on Wednesday. We’ve arrived at part 3 covering numbers 15-11. We’ll get into the Top Ten tomorrow! If you happened to miss the first two installments covering numbers 25-16, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/19/top-25-greatest-south-park-episodes-of-all-time-nos-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/20/top-25-greatest-south-park-episodes-of-all-time-nos-20-16/

And away we go!

15. “Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo”

Original Air Date: December 17, 1997 (Season 1)

Leave it to Trey Parker and Matt Stone to come up with the craziest Christmas mascot imaginable. Mr. Hankey made a few appearances on the show, but the first from season 1 is still the best.

14. “The Losing Edge”

Original Air Date: April 6, 2005 (Season 9)

Any episode focusing on Randy Marsh is usually a winner and this one is comedy gold where he can’t control his anger at the parents of teammates on his son’s baseball team.

13. “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson”

Original Air Date: March 7, 2007 (Season 11)

“South Park” has never been shy tackling taboo subjects and the season 11 premiere dared to undertake racial issues in a truly hilarious fashion. The opening “Wheel of Fortune” sequence is dangerous yet the creators pull it off, creating one of the most memorable sequences in the show’s history.

12. “All About Mormons”

Original Air Date: November 19, 2003 (Season 7)

Parker and Stone have famously never been shy about discussing all forms of religion on the program. Their take on Mormonism is brilliant and certainly helped lead to their most famous side project, the Broadway play “Book of Mormon” which is still going very strong.

11. “Kenny Dies”

Original Air Date: December 5, 2001 (Season 5)

One of the show’s hallmarks of “South Park” is Kenny’s death in every episode. It took until season 5 to treat his demise in a “serious” fashion and it’s unforgettable. When Cartman visits Congress and leads the body in a rendition of Asia’s “Heat of the Moment”, one of the program’s best musical moments was born.

And that’s today edition, my friends! The Top Ten will arrive tomorrow…

Top 25 Greatest South Park Episodes of All Time: Nos. 20-16

Today on the blog, we continue my personal favorite Top 25 “South Park” episodes of all time. Picking 25 out of 248 was quite a challenge, to say the least. If you missed part 1 covering numbers 25-21, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/19/top-25-greatest-south-park-episodes-of-all-time-nos-25-21/

Let’s get to it!

20. “Cartman’s Mom Is a Dirty Slut”

Original Air Date: February 25, 1998 (Season 1)

This season 1 episode served as the first in a two-part episode arch where Cartman tries to find his real father… and there’s lots of suspects. This episode remains the highest-rated in the show’s history.

19. “Towelie”

Original Air Date: August 8, 2001 (Season 5)

How did Parker and Stone decide to parody the fact that their show had become a merchandising bonanza? By creating Towelie, a character ripe for product tie-ins who’s constantly reminding the boys “Don’t forget to bring a towel!” The problem is – he’s also an irresponsible drug addict.

18. “Cripple Fight”

Original Air Date: June 27, 2001 (Season 5)

The boys don’t understand their parents concerns with Big Gay Al being their scout leader. A great story to be sure, but the episode’s undeniable highlight is said “Cripple Fight” where Jimmy and Timmy duke it out. Their brawl is a shot for shot recreation from the 1988 John Carpenter B movie They Live. Amazing stuff.

17. “Best Friends Forever”

Original Air Date: March 30, 2005 (Season 9)

A prime example of “South Park” reflecting what’s happening in the news, “Best Friends Forever” took on the Terry Schiavo case mere hours before she passed away. This show won an Emmy.

16. “Crème Fraiche”

Original Air Date: November 17, 2010 (Season 14)

Pretty much any episode focusing on Randy is awesome. This time around, he’s uncomfortably obsessed with TV cooking shows and Sharon is displeased. Her subplot involving the Shake Weight product is a riot, too. Definitely a huge highlight in the last several years of the show!

And that’s all for now! I’ll be back with part 3 and numbers 15-11 tomorrow…