Summer 1989: The Top 10 Hits and More

In what has become tradition on this little blog of mine, the summer season brings us a lot of nostalgia on the silver screen. In the present, that means a slew of sequels and remakes and reboots coming on a near weekly basis. For these purposes, it means taking a look back on the movie summers of 30, 20, and 10 years ago.

As has been written in previous years, I’m listing the top ten hits as well as other notable pics and some flops. One thing is for sure about 1989. It will forever be known as the summer of the Batman and that blockbuster influenced what has become the predominant genre of the 21st century.

A recap of 1999 and 2009 will follow soon, but we start with what audiences were watching three decades ago.

10. Uncle Buck

Domestic Gross: $66 million

John Candy had one of his most notable headlining roles in this John Hughes family friendly comedy that also introduced the world to Macaulay Culkin. No sequel followed, but a short-lived TV series did.

9. Turner & Hooch

Domestic Gross: $71 million

Shortly before Tom Hanks started collecting Oscars and doing primarily dramatic work, he was still known for comedy in the late 80s. This one teamed him with a dog in a buddy comedy that followed the similarly themed with K9 with Jim Belushi from three months earlier. This one made a bit more cash.

8. When Harry Met Sally

Domestic Gross: $92 million

Rob Reiner’s romantic comedy (scripted by Nora Ephron) is considered one of the genre’s landmarks. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan headlined with a diner scene that has become quite iconic.

7. Dead Poets Society

Domestic Gross: $95 million

Robin Williams seized the day and an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of an unorthodox English teacher in Peter Weir’s film, which also nabbed a nod for Best Picture.

6. Parenthood

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Ron Howard’s dramedy sported an ensemble cast with Steve Martin and a crowd pleasing vibe. This is a rare pic that spawned two TV shows. The one from 1990 flopped while the 2010 version ran six seasons. Parenthood marks appearance #1 in the top ten for Rick Moranis.

5. Ghostbusters II

Domestic Gross: $112 million

The eagerly awaited sequel to the 1984 phenomenon was a disappointment critically and commercially when considering the original’s $229 million haul. That said, it gives us appearance #2 for Rick Moranis. A direct sequel will follow in 2020.

4. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Domestic Gross: $130 million

And we reach the trifecta for Rick Moranis as Disney had an unexpected smash hit here. It stood as the studio’s largest grossing live-action feature for five years. Two less successful sequels followed.

3. Lethal Weapon 2

Domestic Gross: $147 million

Of the four action comedy pairings of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, part 2 stands as the franchise’s top earner. This one threw Joe Pesci into the mix with sequels that followed in 1992 and 1998.

2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Domestic Gross: $197 million

While Harrison Ford’s third appearance as his iconic character didn’t match the grosses of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, it did earn more than 1984 predecessor Temple of Doom. Pairing Indy with his dad played by Sean Connery, the character wouldn’t make it to the screen again until Steven Spielberg and Ford teamed up again 19 years later.

1. Batman

Domestic Gross: $251 million

As mentioned, 1989 was dominated by Tim Burton’s take on the Caped Crusader. While the casting of Michael Keaton in the title role was controversial upon announcement, it turned out quite well (as did Jack Nicholson’s turn as The Joker and a funky Prince soundtrack). Three sequels and multiple reboots followed.

And now for some notable pictures outside of the top ten:

The Abyss

Domestic Gross: $54 million

James Cameron was riding a high after The Terminator and Aliens when he made this sci-fi aquatic adventure. Known just as much for its difficult production as its Oscar winning visuals, it had a mixed reaction that has grown more positive through the years.

Weekend at Bernie’s

Domestic Gross: $30 million

Turns out corpses are hilarious in this low budget comedy that turned into enough of a hit that a sequel followed four summers later.

Road House

Domestic Gross: $30 million

It may not have had critics on its side or been a huge success originally, but Patrick Swayze’s turn as a midwestern bouncer became a serious cult hit subsequently.

Do the Right Thing

Domestic Gross: $27 million

A cultural milestone, Do the Right Thing served as the major breakout for Spike Lee and was named by numerous critics as the greatest film of 1989.

sex, lies, and videotape

Domestic Gross: $24 million

Winning the Cannes Film Festival, Steven Soderbergh’s provocative debut helped usher in a wave of independent films that followed in the 90s.

It wasn’t all success stories in the summer of 1989 and here’s some that failed to meet expectations:

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Domestic Gross: $52 million

Captain Kirk himself directed this installment after Leonard Nimoy made its two well received predecessors. This one was met with ambivalence and stands at the second lowest earner of this particular Trek franchise.

The Karate Kid Part III

Domestic Gross: $38 million

In 1984, the original made $90 million and the 1986 sequel made $115 million. Three summers later, moviegoers had tired of Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in their signature roles. Yet TV watchers are currently tuned to a series reboot with Macchio back as Daniel.

Licence to Kill

Domestic Gross: $34 million

Timothy Dalton’s second turn as 007 was a stateside flop and is the lowest grossing Bond flick when adjusted for inflation. Its star would never return in the role and the six year gap that followed when Pierce Brosnan reinvigorated the series with Goldeneye stands as the lengthiest gap in its near 60 years of existence.

Lock Up

Domestic Gross: $22 million

Sylvester Stallone had plenty of hits during the decade, but this one casting him as a tortured convict wasn’t one of them.

Casualties of War

Domestic Gross: $18 million

Brian de Palma was coming off a massive hit with The Untouchables, but this Vietnam War drama with Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn didn’t find an audience.

Pink Cadillac

Domestic Gross: $12 million

Three summers later, Clint Eastwood entered Oscar territory with Unforgiven. This action comedy with Bernadette Peters is one of his forgotten efforts and stalled with critics and crowds.

I hope you enjoyed this look back on the 1989 summer period and I’ll have 1999 up soon!

2018: The Year of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga

The buzz got loud in late summer when A Star Is Born held its first screenings across the ocean at the Venice Film Festival. The third remake of the rags to riches Hollywood story that began in 1937, the musical drama marked the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper and the first headlining acting role for pop superstar Lady Gaga (after a smaller part in Machete Kills). It soon became clear that audiences and critics found the tragic romance between the pair as anything but shallow.

Star now shines with a domestic gross of $200 million and the status as a front-runner for Best Picture at the Oscars. If Mr. Cooper’s inaugural behind the camera effort manages to do that, he would follow in the footsteps of well-known actors like Robert Redford (1980’s Ordinary People) and Kevin Costner (1990’s Dances with Wolves) whose debuts won the Academy’s biggest prize. Theoretically Cooper coukd win as many as four gold statues – Picture for producing, directing, lead Actor, and Adapted Screenplay. And while he technically wouldn’t be nominated for his duet “Shallow” with Gaga since he doesn’t share writing credit, the tune will probably emerge victorious in that race. To add even more to Cooper’s dynamic year, he costars with his American Sniper director Clint Eastwood in The Mule, which is performing well.

As for Gaga, her splashy foray on the silver screen certainly rivals others such as Prince and Whitney Houston to name a couple. She stands a real shot at winning Best Actress in a competitive category. Cooper likely has an even stronger chance for his performance.

In 2018, Cooper and Gaga are responsible for creating perhaps the year’s most memorable couple. They could be generously rewarded for it.

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?

The Blog Turns 5!

Five years ago tomorrow night, I decided on a whim to start this here movie blog. Truth be told, I had no clue what it would turn into or if I would even keep up with it.

This now marks the 1,897th blog post. And five years later – I know what it’s turned into for now. Primarily, the blog is focused on box office predictions, Oscar predictions and movie reviews.

There are deviations on occasion. I’ll even dip into my love of music. Sadly some of that has been due to the immeasurable loss of icons lately like Prince and David Bowie and Tom Petty (I’m still considering a top 25 songs for that genius).

Five years from now – who knows? That’s the joy of looking at a blank page nearly 2000  times and just starting. I love movies. I love writing. It’s that simple.

The blog has forged a great relationship with Fantasy Movie League, a remarkable website in which I’m fortunate to write a weekly box office predictions column for. It’s a terrific community with dedicated participants.

Time is a funny thing. 20 years ago today – Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant Boogie Nights opened. There is a solid argument to be made that no more impressive movie has been made since. There’s a scene involving a drug deal gone bad, a gloriously unhinged Alfred Molina, and Chinese firecrackers that ranks among the most memorable film scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

The joy of movies. They never stop. There’s always more to discover. More to study. More to speculate about. It’s a beautiful reel on continuous play for over 100 years. That’s a lot of time for the most timeless form of entertainment; the real American and worldwide pastime.

I’ve passed a lot of time writing this blog over the last half decade and loved every minute of it. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Prince: An Appreciation

I’m not sure I could have written this post a year ago.

It was an early Thursday afternoon on April 21st last year when I got a call from a colleague. A body had been found at Paisley Park. Those were the extent of the details known at that moment.

I remembered nearly seven years earlier that TMZ had been the first entity to report the news of Michael Jackson’s passing. They had it before CNN and the AP, etc…

My thought process immediately had me typing in that website to see what was happening. And there it was. Prince was dead.

For me, this was not your typical announcement of a celebrity’s passing. It was far more than that. To those who read this blog, you know I’m a huge movie fan, as well as a music lover. We all are in our own way (at least most of us).

As I’ve stated before on here, there are casual movie watchers and there are casual listeners of the songs playing on the radio. And good for you! I’m not wired that way. From a young age, I was transfixed by the world of film and continue to be right now.

When it comes to music, I come from a family that loves it. From hearing James Brown and Ray Charles and Chuck Berry from my dad to hearing the pop icons of the 1980s like Michael Jackson and Madonna and so many others from my older siblings, it’s always been part of my life. When the music of the early to mid 1990s was popular in my formative years, I was right there along with it. Mildly obsessive about it. The exploding genre of hip hop music at the time was a gold mine of greatness. Artists like Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan and 2Pac and Biggie and Outkast. Bands like Nirvana that upset the apple cart of rock and roll. Even the 90s R&B artists like Boyz II Men and TLC and Mariah Carey were busy spinning their gems on my CDs (which at that time was best kept in a giant case you lugged around everywhere).

And then there was Prince. As much as I adored all the aforementioned artists and bands and many more that I haven’t mentioned, Prince Rogers Nelson was and is in a category by himself. This applies to the man as an artist in general and what he meant to a young kid growing up in Northwest Ohio.

On the day he died, I wrote this on Facebook:

It’s difficult to describe what it’s like when you feel a connection with an artist. My brother and sister Troy Thatcher and Dawn Hammer are responsible for allowing me as a young lad to grow up listening to Prince. I saw him in concert 14 times and it was a connection shared with my siblings and sister in law Nicole. I remember certain times according to which albums of his were out. Young years with Purple Rain, Sign O The Times and Batman. Grade school jamming to the Diamonds and Pearls and Symbol album. High school parties putting on P. Control. My high school graduation cake had a rendering of Prince on it. It is honestly a family bond that my brother and sisters and I share together. Because of him. You know how those security questions ask you favorite musician? I’ll give you one guess. His creativity and his musical talent is in a class of its own. He is the greatest live performer… Period. For those not as familiar with his music, just pay attention to what other musicians say about him today. He had given me hours and hours and hours of joy, both on stage and with earbuds in. Some of my greatest memories with people I love involve Prince. He taught me growing up that being creative and even a little strange and different from your peers is cool. I love the genius that is Prince. There’s no past tense. His legacy and his music and his influence will go on forever.
That explains it pretty well. There have been a number of days over my life dedicated to watching Prince perform live. In Columbus. In Cleveland. In Detroit. In Las Vegas. In high school, his albums The Gold Experience, Chaos and Disorder, and Emancipation were released. No matter what was happening that day, I’m confident all I could think about was getting to the music store and buying them. I remember in grade school and junior high is when Diamonds and Pearls and the Symbol album were giving us classics like “Cream”, “Gett Off”, “My Name is Prince”, “Seven”, and “Sexy MF”. To a 12 and 13 year-old, this stuff was risque, funky, and I couldn’t stop listening. Even at that age, I also knew it was genius. It was really that era that caused me to look back at his past releases, which is rightly considered the golden era of his discography. You know, stuff like Dirty Mind, 1999, Purple Rain, Parade, and Sign O The Times. It was then I realized why my brother and sister loved him so much in the 1980s.
The first time I saw him in concert was December 27, 1997. This is the setlist from the show in Auburn Hills:
Note that he did two encores and played 34 songs. I was transfixed from the moment he walked out onstage. As mentioned in my Facebook post, he was the greatest live performer to ever grace a stage.
The last time I saw him was November 10, 2006 in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel on the second night of a residency that went on for months.
Here’s that setlist:
It was a smaller venue and we were right up against the stage. During a guitar solo, I will sheepishly confess that I may have taken the opportunity to give him a friendly pat on the leg while he ripped away on the chords. There was also a moment during a guitar solo where he bent down and came face to face with my sister. I thought she was going to faint.
So… there was a family connection with Prince. With my sister and brother especially. Everyone in high school growing up knew I was rather obsessed with him as well. At the time, he was going by that unpronounceable symbol that I used to constantly doodle on my notebooks. O ( + >
And at that time especially… he was considered pretty damn weird. He was not at the peak of his record sales. That time had passed. He had confounded many fans with the name change. In some ways, I’m almost glad I wasn’t at an age during the Purple Rain era where I would have followed him religiously. To me, the era where he came most vividly into my consciousness was just as important. I was able to cherish what he’d done before and breathlessly look forward to what was next. To me, the name change wasn’t that bizarre. And years later, recognizing that he basically did it to get out of a record contract he deemed unfair adds to the cool factor of the whole thing.
So let’s go back, shall we? He was considered pretty damn weird. I know I didn’t realize it at the time, but we all feel pretty weird in our teens. And here was a guy that embraced his persona and didn’t seem to care what anyone thought of him. He was around to make amazing music and play it live better than anyone else.
Here was someone who could somehow and someway pull off wearing high heels and make every woman desire him (at 5’2″ no less!). Here was someone whose beef with his record company is that they wouldn’t let him release more music. How cool is that? Here is someone who embraced (and later rejected) the Internet as a source of releasing his material. He was way ahead of his time in that respect.
Prince is someone who could balance funk, rock and roll, ballads, R&B, and about every other genre all into one album and it was shockingly brilliant.
In junior high and high school, I didn’t fully know it. Yet he was an inspiration. He was an inspiration to be yourself. He was inspiration to embrace a weird idea that being a 16 year-old more into writing movie reviews than being into sports was actually cool. And it helped me embrace the way I was at the time and am today.
So… in case you can’t tell, I’m more than just a casual Prince fan.
On April 20, 2016 – if you’d told me I’d be visiting Paisley Park in the fall, I would have said you’re crazy. And then April 21st happened. This led to his recording studio and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota being turned into a museum. In November of last year, my sister and I found ourselves inside Prince’s inner sanctum. We saw all three of his recording studios, his two concert venues inside the facility where he would entertain, and even his Ping Pong table. Everywhere you looked there were gold and platinum albums. And the first item we saw was a miniature model of Paisley Park located in the Atrium where his ashes are contained inside a small purple box. It was emotional and it was also a joyous celebration of his existence.
Prince died too young. The circumstances of his passing are truly sad. I have found myself on several evenings since April 21st with my earbuds in reminding myself of his work. I have found myself glued to YouTube now that it’s not too difficult to find videos and concert footage. I have smiled at the realization that some of the concert footage (Detroit 2004, performance of “DMSR”) is from a show I was at.
I remember in high school, some of my friends thought it was weird that I was so into Prince… or The Artist Formerly Known as Prince at that juncture. There was some teasing here and there. I couldn’t help it. At that vulnerable teenage time, I think I even got into little arguments with them: “But he’s so great!! You don’t understand!”
The funny part is… I’ve talked to some of my peers that may have teased and joked with me back then. To a person, they pretty much now say – “Ugh, you were right!”
I don’t say that to pound my chest at all. It has nothing to do with me. As I see it, it just took some folks a little while to realize how amazing Prince is.
And we saw how much people loved him on April 21st last year. Some of the tributes were remarkable. Many of them were more poetic and musically beautiful than anything I could create.
Creativity is what fueled Prince. His creativity created a body of work that has entertained and entranced millions around the world. In my case, Prince helped teach me that being creative and a little weird sometimes in is OK. In fact, it’s more than OK. As I said a year ago, it’s cool.
And Prince was the coolest inspiration this guy could have.
Prince Rogers Nelson:
June 7, 1958-April 21, 2016

My Top Ten Prince Albums

Well this wasn’t easy! Prince had nearly 40 studio albums in a career that didn’t even span 40 years. Pretty much every release he put out has at least three (in most cases more) genuinely great tracks.

Yet for those looking for the starter kit on his cream of the crop works, here’s my personal top 10 Prince Albums of All Time:

10. Diamonds and Pearls (1991)

Key Tracks: “Diamonds and Pearls”, “Cream”, “Gett Off”, “Money Don’t Matter 2Nite”, “Strollin”

9. Lovesexy (1988)

Key Tracks: “Anna Stesia”, “Alphabet St”, “Glam Slam”, “When 2R In Love”, “I Wish U In Heaven”

8. Around the World in a Day (1985)

Key Tracks: “Raspberry Beret”, “Pop Life”, “Paisley Park”, “America”, “Condition of the Heart”, “The Ladder”

7. The Gold Experience (1995)

Key Tracks: “Dolphin”, “Gold”, “(Eye) Hate U”, “P. Control”, “Endorphinmachine”, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”

6. Dirty Mind (1980)

Key Tracks: “When You Were Mine”, “Uptown”, “Dirty Mind”, “Head”, “Partyup”, “Gotta Broken Heart Again”

5. The Symbol Album (1992)

Key Tracks: “Seven”, “My Name is Prince”, “Sexy MF”, “The Morning Papers”, “The Max”, “Damn U”, “The Continental”, “Love 2 the 9’s”

4. Parade (1986)

Key Tracks: “Kiss”, “Sometimes It Snows in April”, “Mountains”, “Anotherloverholenyohead”, “Girls and Boys”, “New Position”, “Under the Cherry Moon”

3. 1999 (1982)

Key Tracks: “1999”, “Little Red Corvette”, “Delirious”, “DMSR”, “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)”, “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, “Free”, “Lady Cab Driver”, “International Lover”

2. Purple Rain (1984)

Key Tracks: All of them… “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Take Me With U”, “The Beautiful Ones”, “Computer Blue”, “Darling Nikki”, “When Doves Cry”, “I Would Die 4 U”, “Baby, I’m a Star”, “Purple Rain”

1. “Sign o’ The Times”

Key Tracks: “Sign o’ the Times”, “Housequake”, “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker”, “U Got the Look”, “Forever in My Life”, “Adore”, “Hot Thing”, “Strange Relationship”, “The Cross”, “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”, “Starfish and Coffee”, “Slow Love”

 

Prince: Five Live

As we approach the one year anniversary of Prince’s death on Friday, this evening I’m giving you five performances that remind us what a brilliant and one of a kind live performer he was:

Enjoy!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7drerpudJ6o

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE095si3jvE

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yC4AbWsKH7I

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qVxcXTg5Gk0