Summer 2000: The Top 10 Hits and More

As I do every summer on the blog, I am looking back at the cinematic seasons of 30, 20, and 10 years ago and recounting the top ten hits, other notable pics, and some misfires. A week ago, I covered the summer of 1990 (when we all were “ghosted”). If you missed it, you can peruse it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/18/summer-1990-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

Today brings us to the dawn of the new century. What struck me is that there weren’t a whole lot of outright flops, but the ones that were are rather significant bombs. Let’s take a trip down memory lane of 2000 and were we not entertained?!?!

10. The Patriot

Domestic Gross: $113 million

Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger teamed up with disaster flick specialist Roland Emmerich for this Revolutionary War era drama that managed to just achieve blockbuster status and barely top its reported $110 million budget stateside.

9. Big Momma’s House

Domestic Gross: $117 million

Negative reviews couldn’t prevent this Martin Lawrence comedy from nearly quadrupling its $30 million budget and spawning two eventual sequels. 30% also happens to be its Rotten Tomatoes score.

8. Nutty Professor II: The Klumps

Domestic Gross: $123 million

Eddie Murphy’s sequel to his 1996 hit certainly didn’t get the reviews of its predecessor, but it fell only $5 million short of the domestic gross of part 1 and introduced superstar Janet Jackson as his new love interest. Part 2 also greatly expanded Eddie’s work as other members of the Klump brood. As you can see from numbers 8 and 9, it was a big summer for comedians in fat suits.

7. Dinosaur

Domestic Gross: $137 million

The prehistoric Disney animated adventure is not one of their most talked about titles in recent decades, but it was still a profitable venture that grossed nearly $350 million worldwide.

6. What Lies Beneath

Domestic Gross: $155 million

Despite mixed reviews, Robert Zemeckis’s Hitchcockian thriller starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer landed big with audiences. Its filming schedule is a memorable one. Zemeckis was shooting Cast Away with Tom Hanks and there was a long break in filming so its star could shed weight and grow his long beard. It was enough time for the director to fit in Beneath. 

5. Scary Movie

Domestic Gross: $157 million

The summer’s biggest comedy was a Scream spoof from filmmaker Keenan Ivory Wayans. Shot for less than $20 million, it spawned four sequels and became its own franchise.

4. X-Men

Domestic Gross: $157 million

I recently wrote about the 20th anniversary of X-Men here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/14/x-men-at-20-a-look-back/

That post talks about its significant impact on the comic book genre that has dominated the 21st century.

3. The Perfect Storm

Domestic Gross: $182 million

Wolfgang Peterson’s fact based disaster drama with George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg was not much of a hit with critics, but crowds were swept up in the waves.

2. Gladiator

Domestic Gross: $187 million

Ridley Scott’s historical action drama kicked off summer 2000 and made a global superstar out of Russell Crowe and provided a juicy supporting part for Joaquin Phoenix. The film became an Oscar darling – winning Best Picture and Crowe taking Best Actor. This is the rare summer popcorn pic that achieved awards glory.

1. Mission: Impossible 2

Domestic Gross: $215 million

This sequel cruised to the top spot of earners for the season. Now that there’s been six editions in the franchise, this John Woo directed experience is generally (and rightfully) considered the weakest of the bunch. Yet that didn’t prevent huge grosses.

And now for some other notable features:

Chicken Run

Domestic Gross: $106 million

This still stands as the highest grossing stop-motion animated feature of all time and it doubled its budget domestically. A sequel is in development, but it was recently announced that lead voice Mel Gibson will not be part of the proceedings.

Gone in 60 Seconds

Domestic Gross: $101 million

Despite poor reviews, Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie’s remake of the 1970s heist pic still zoomed (barely) past $100 million and was a solid performer overseas.

Me, Myself & Irene

Domestic Gross: $90 million

The Farrelly Brothers reunited with their Dumb and Dumber star Jim Carrey for this comedy that earned mixed reaction. This was nowhere near the hit that the brothers had two years earlier with their runaway success There’s Something About Mary, but it still made money.

Space Cowboys

Domestic Gross: $90 million

Clint Eastwood guided this “old guys in space” tale alongside Tommy Lee Jones to a very respectable gross and decent critical reaction.

Hollow Man

Domestic Gross: $73 million

Paul Verhoeven’s take on the H.G. Wells novel starred Kevin Bacon and earned a Visual Effects Oscar nomination (losing to Gladiator). While it didn’t make its budget back stateside, it ended up doubling its price tag when factoring in foreign markets. A direct to video sequel followed.

Shaft

Domestic Gross: $70 million

Samuel L. Jackson took over the iconic private dick role from Richard Roundtree (who costarred here) in this sequel from the late John Singleton. Christian Bale memorably plays a villain here. Another sequel followed in 2019 and it was an outright flop.

Bring It On

Domestic Gross: $68 million

Made for only $11 million, this teen cheerleading comedy was an unexpected hit that gave Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union a boost in their careers. Five direct to video sequels followed as well as a stage musical.

The Cell

Domestic Gross: $61 million

Despite so-so reviews, this twisty supernatural thriller with Jennifer Lopez easily topped its $33 million budget. It has continued to have ardent admirers including the late Roger Ebert, who awarded it four stars.

Coyote Ugly

Domestic Gross: $60 million

This tale about saloon life with Piper Perabo and John Goodman managed to take in over $100 million worldwide against a $45 million budget and has become a cult favorite since.

The Original Kings of Comedy

Domestic Gross: $38 million

A stand-up comedy pic grossing this much in theaters is notable. Spike Lee directed Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, and Cedric the Entertainer and audiences turned out.

As I mentioned, the total bombs aren’t plentiful here. However, they’re notable:

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

Domestic Gross: $26 million

A pet project of Robert De Niro, this loose take on the 1960s animated series grossed a third of its budget domestically and was quickly forgotten.

Titan A.E.

Domestic Gross: $22 million

20th Century Fox had a big failure here at the start of the 21st century with this animated sci-fi tale with Matt Damon as a leading voice. The price tag was reportedly around $90 million and it made just $36 million worldwide.

Battlefield Earth

Domestic Gross: $21 million

Based on a work from Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, audiences and critics savaged this sci-fi tale with John Travolta. It won a then record 7 Golden Raspberry Awards and was mocked relentlessly for its poor quality.

And that does it, folks! I’ll have 2010 recounted on the blog in the coming days…

X-Men at 20: A Look Back

Twenty years ago today, Bryan Singer’s X-Men arrived in theaters and it’s not hyperbole to call it one of the most influential pictures of the 21st century. The 20th Century Fox release found the comic book genre at a rather low point at the end of that said century. While Blade was a nice size hit in 1998, the years prior found at a lot to be desired with the quality of the genre. 1995 brought us Judge Dredd and 1997 saw the release of Batman and Robin, which found the Caped Crusader with Bat nipples and bad reviews.

X-Men, though it’s hard to remember now, was released at a time where the idea of superhero tales was an uncertain box office prospect. This is two years before Spider-Man broke all kinds of financial records. This is five years prior to Christopher Nolan reinvigorating the Bat franchise with his Dark Knight trilogy. And this was eight years before Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark/Iron Man, officially kicking off the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In the summer of 2000, X-Men was by no means a guaranteed hit. It did, however, have credibility with the behind the scenes talent and cast. Bryan Singer was known for his heralded The Usual Suspects. Acclaimed actors Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen (fresh off an Oscar nod for Gods and Monsters), Anna Paquin, and Halle Berry were among the onscreen players. And it was another casting decision that provided its most enduring legacy. Russell Crowe, who headlined that summer’s Oscar winner Gladiator, originally turned down the part of Wolverine. Dougray Scott was then cast in the role, but had to drop out when his role as the villain in Mission: Impossible II (also out that summer) prevented him from filming. So it was the unknown Hugh Jackman who donned the claws. He would go on to make it his signature role as he played Logan/Wolverine in numerous sequels and spin-offs (including three stand-alone projects of wildly divergent qualities).

Let’s back up. Before the 2000 release, X-Men was in development for over a decade and a half. At one point, James Cameron was slated to produce with his then wife Kathryn Bigelow attached to direct. Later on, Robert Rodriguez turned the project down. A gander at the pic’s Wikipedia page is an entertaining read (Mariah Carey was in the mix for Storm at one juncture and Angela Bassett was first choice). X-Men was rushed to make its summer release date 20 years ago today after it was originally intended for Christmas 2000.

That rushed feeling does show on up on screen a little, but the overall end result speaks for itself. What occurred two decades ago is a major mark in the comic book movie renaissance that continues to this day. The franchise has certainly had its ups and downs. X2: X-Men United was the first sequel in 2003 and it is generally considered a high point. Three years later, Brett Ratner took over directorial reigns with The Last Stand and (while a huge hit) the quality took a dip. Matthew Vaughn would reestablish critical kudos in rebooting the series in 2011 with First Class (bringing Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Jennifer Lawrence to the screen playing younger counterparts to key characters). Jackman’s first spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine faced deserved backlash while 2017’s Logan was lauded and landed an Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination. And a cheeky and R rated offshoot called Deadpool with Ryan Reynolds would dazzle audiences and critics alike. Last summer’s Dark Phoenix didn’t do any dazzling and was another low ebb in the series. Spin-off The New Mutants has seen release date changes that began in 2018 and it’s pretty much a running joke as to whether it will ever come out.

That long road began in 2000 and has shaped the cinematic universe since. And if you had to mark a spot for the comic book landscape today as it stands now on the screen, it started that day.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout Movie Review

The Mission: Impossible franchise has now reached its sixth feature and its 22nd year of existence, providing the seemingly ageless Tom Cruise with a hit making series that continues to deliver. That’s a rather remarkable accomplishment and Fallout belongs in the upper echelons in terms of bang for your buck entertainment.

Truth be told, there’s been no total dog yet in the Mission sagas. My one minor complaint about its predecessor, 2015’s Rogue Nation, was its lack of directorial vision. Christopher McQuarrie and his large squad of tech and stunt wizards pulled off some impressive action sequences in that picture. However, unlike the previous four pics, it didn’t feel quite as distinctive. Part 1 was certainly a Brian De Palma experience and the first sequel was all kinds of John Woo (for occasionally better and more for the worse). Same goes for J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird in the next ones (Ghost Protocol still stands as my personal favorite).

McQuarrie is the first filmmaker to return in the director’s chair. I must admit that maybe I just didn’t fully recognize his stamp on the series the first time around. These latest missions are all about spectacle and not really concerned with melding the mayhem to its maker’s vision. In Fallout, that’s pretty much perfectly OK even more so than in Rogue. That’s because the team of people making the action are the best at it. We’ve seen plenty of car chases, helicopter battles, and bathroom brawls in our time. This franchise excels at it in ways few others do.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF squad (including Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames) pick up two years after the events of the fifth installment. Learned Mission watchers know the plot will likely be convoluted and a secondary consideration. That’s true here, but let’s go over the basics. We have lost plutonium that IMF must find or risk nuclear attack. Part 5’s villain (Sean Harris) is involved. Ethan is forced to partner with a bulky CIA agent (Henry Cavill). MI6 agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) from Rogue resurfaces. She continues to be one of Hunt’s more interesting partners. And the short-lived wedded bliss that we witnessed Ethan in during part 3 with Michelle Monaghan becomes a focal point. Oh… and there’s plenty of double crosses. And those masks. Fallout also features the most satisfying use of a CNN anchor ever committed to film.

Of course, all of this leads to Ethan globe-trotting from London to Paris to Kashmir. And the song remains the same: our hero is the only one capable of figuring out how to keep the world from crumbling. What’s often startling is just how much care is expended in creating the impossible situations he finds himself in. McQuarrie’s biggest contribution may just be the go for broke style vibe to Ethan’s dangerous exploits. As always, Cruise is a more than willing subject and he even broke his ankle during one stunt.

Cruise and McQuarrie simply refuse to allow Mission to coast on auto pilot. The franchise continues to come up with new and exciting ways to put our mega star in peril. Six films in, that is quite a feat.

***1/2 (out of four)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout Box Office Prediction

Now in its 22nd year of existence, Tom Cruise’s signature franchise keeps rolling along as Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth offering in the series debuts stateside next weekend. Christopher McQuarrie is the first director to come back behind the camera (he made 2015’s predecessor Rogue Nation) for repeat work after Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird made their stand-alone entries. Returning cast members from previous installments include Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan, and Alec Baldwin. Newcomers include Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett.

The buzz for Fallout indicates it could be a high mark in the long running franchise. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 93% with some critics claiming it’s the best of the bunch thus far. It’s particularly being praised for its action scenes and stunt work (which actually caused its mega-watt star to break an ankle on set). Even with the generous helping of sequels and genre pics out there (Skyscraper will be in its third weekend of release with The Equalizer 2 in its second), this series seems to be going strong.

In order to achieve the largest opening of all the M:I features, Fallout would need to top the $57 million achieved 18 years ago by part 2. Rogue Nation came close three summers ago with $55 million. I believe this should have enough juice to do so with a low to mid 60s gross.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout opening weekend prediction: $63.6 million

For my Teen Titans Go! To the Movies prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/18/teen-titans-go-to-the-movies-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

For 22 years now, the Mission: Impossible franchise has been a sturdy and profitable one for its star Tom Cruise. Two weeks from now, the sixth picture in the series Mission: Impossible – Fallout hits theaters stateside. Early reviews have been quite impressive with some critics hailing it as the best movie of the bunch so far. One prominent critic went as far to say it’s the best action flick since Mad Max: Fury Road. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 96%.

In case you forgot, Fury Road got itself a Best Picture nomination. That seems highly unlikely for Fallout, but it’s fair to speculate whether voters will choose to honor it in any way. If they do, it would probably be in a technical category or two with Sound Editing and Sound Mixing being the most obvious. Fallout is being hailed for its amazing action sequences (if there was an Oscar category for Best Stunts, that race could be a wrap).

Of the five Mission‘s that have preceded this, they have a collective Oscar nod count of zero. Just that fact makes it a long shot that part 6 receives any attention. However, if some of the tech category voters want to throw it a bone, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Ethan Hunt Files – Mission: Impossible II

Over two years ago on this here blog, when it was in its infancy, I did the 007 Files where I wrote individualized blog posts on all 23 Bond flicks. That got me thinking about other series I could do the same with and in January 2013, I started The Ethan Hunt Files and wrote about the first Mission: Impossible pic from 1996.

https://toddmthatcher.com/2013/01/31/the-ethan-hunt-files-mission-impossible/

I had every intention of writing about the other three in short order. For whatever reason I did not follow up. With the fifth M:I picture Rogue Nation debuting in July, I decided it was time to resume this series of posts and we continue with Mission: Impossible II from the summer of 2000…

And what an interesting film it is, especially considering the franchise entries that preceded it and followed it. M:I II stands out as the strangest pic in the series and the one that fits in least with the rest. Two words explain the main reason for this: John Woo. The acclaimed action director took over directing duties from Brian De Palma for the second picture and didn’t have an ounce of hesitation about turning it into a bonafide Woo affair with all the slow motion shots, quick cuts, and (yes) doves that come along with it. There are certainly some similarities to the original – foremost of which is the continuation and multiplication of those fancy face masks.

Unlike Mission 1, here we have Tom Cruise’s Ethan in a romantic relationship with the gorgeous Nyah (Thandie Newton), a jewel thief who is the ex of Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), an IMF agent gone bad who Ethan is after. Ambrose has stolen a nasty virus called Chimera, as well as its antidote, in an effort to make billions on the pharmaceutical market. Nyah is enlisted to get back in the good graces of her evil ex to get information, but not before she falls in love with Ethan first. They do so during a car chase in which Ethan nearly kills her, then kisses her. It happens.

Ethan is given his mission by the new head of IMF, played by Anthony Hopkins in what is essentially a glorified cameo. Our hero is conflicted by sending Nyah into such a dangerous mission. This all might’ve worked a bit better if the chemistry between Cruise and Newton felt authentic. We simply have zero investment in their romance and by the time Nyah bravely infects herself with the virus, you don’t really mind if Chimera wins. And a lot of the film could have been improved if Scott’s performance as our head villain wasn’t so utterly unremarkable. Some may know that M:I II’s production went into overtime and it forced Dougray Scott to be dropped from playing Wolverine in that same summer’s X-Men. An unknown actor named Hugh Jackman stepped in at the last minute. This is a good thing and Scott went from the next potential Wolverine to that dull M:I II villain that kinda looks like Ewan McGregor.

Ving Rhames returns as Luther, Ethan’s fellow agent who excels in counting down the clock as Hunt performs those impossible stunts. Rade Serbedvija gives a somewhat delightfully off kilter performance as the doctor who created Chimera and Brendan Gleeson is the nefarious owner of the corporation exploiting the virus for financial gain.

The De Palma Mission was a rock solid spy thriller anchored by three first rate action centerpieces: the aquarium sequence, the Langley infiltration and the train finale. In part two, there’s the bio chem lab sequence and the motorcycle chase finale that are front and center.

Neither are as memorable as anything from the previous effort. There’s also the Cruise rock climbing business in the beginning which basically exists so its stunt loving star can look cool rock climbing.

In hindsight, M:I II is easily the weakest link of this franchise. It doesn’t much feel like a Mission feature anymore as much as a John Woo movie with Ethan Hunt in it. Acclaimed screenwriter Robert Towne (who cowrote the first) has sole credit here and a hefty portion of the dialogue, particularly Newton’s, is a bit cringe worthy. Mission: Impossible II has enough fairly cool action to satisfy your average teenage boy, but it pales next to the rest of the Missions. And there’s no excuse for Limp Bizkit reworking that classic TV series theme either.

So while its reputation has deservedly soured in recent times, that didn’t stop part two from becoming a huge global success and earning over half a billion worldwide. It also was the highest domestic grosser of summer 2000 and virtually guaranteed a third go round for Hunt and his IMF team.

Here are the facts:

Film: Mission: Impossible II

U.S. Release Date: May 24, 2000

Director: John Woo

Screenplay: Robert Towne

Budget: $125 million

Worldwide Box Office: $546.3 million

The Ethan Hunt files will return with Mission: Impossible III