Summer 1991: The Top 10 Hits and More

It is officially summertime 2021 and that brings my annual seasonal three-part series where I take a look back at the top ten pics, flops, and other notable selections from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. That means I’ll begin with 1991 at a time where Arnold Schwarzenegger said hasta la vista to all competitors.

Let’s count down from #10 to numero Ah-nuld along with other entries worthy of discussion (both good and bad).

10. Doc Hollywood

Domestic Gross: $54 million

Michael J. Fox had a midsize hit with this fish out of water comedy about an uppity surgeon stuck in the rural south. It marks the star’s last solid performer that he headlined.

9. Boyz n the Hood

Domestic Gross: $57 million

John Singleton had one of cinema’s most memorable directorial debuts with this coming-of-age drama set in South Central. He would become the youngest filmmaker ever to be nominated at the Oscars and the critically hailed pic kickstarted the careers of Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube.

8. One Hundred and One Dalmatians 

Domestic Gross: $60 million

Disney re-released their 1961 classic three decades after its release and picked up a cool $60 million for it. Later in 1991, the studio would begin another renaissance with Beauty and the Beast becoming the first animated film to nab a Best Picture nomination. Five years later, Glenn Close would headline the live-action version and another reboot, Cruella with Emma Stone, is currently in the top five.

7. What About Bob?

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Bill Murray had one of his signature roles as the multi-phobic patient tormenting shrink Richard Dreyfuss on his vacation. Apparently this comedy was a bit dramatic behind the scenes with the two leads having an actual antagonistic relationship.

6. Hot Shots!

Domestic Gross: $69 million

Spoofs were a hot commodity in the early 90s following the success of 1988’s The Naked Gun. Jim Abrahams, one of that film’s writers, created this sendup of Top Gun and many others that starred Charlie Sheen. A sequel would follow two years later.

5. Backdraft

Domestic Gross: $77 million

Ron Howard directed this firefighting drama that heated up the box office with Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, and a creepy Donald Sutherland as a pyromaniac. There was even a sequel released in 2019 with Baldwin and Sutherland that went direct to streaming and that I frankly forgot existed.

4. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear

Domestic Gross: $86 million

The spoofing love continued as Leslie Nielsen reprised his role as doofus detective Frank Drebin in this sequel to the 1988 classic. It couldn’t hold up the original, but it was better than part 3 which followed in 1994. And, needless to say, this was a simpler time for costar O.J. Simpson.

3. City Slickers

Domestic Gross: $124 million

As New Yorkers learning life lessons on a cattle drive, Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby starred in the comedy smash of the summer and costar Jack Palance even ended up with a Best Supporting Actor victory. A less regarded follow-up would come in 1994.

2. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Domestic Gross: $165 million

While his accent was spotty at best, Kevin Costner parlayed his Oscar success from the previous year’s Dances with Wolves into this blockbuster about the robbing from the rich and giving to the poor hero. The highlight was Alan Rickman’s sublime work as the Sheriff of Nottingham while critics mostly turned up their noses.

1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Domestic Gross: $204 million

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s android went from being the bad guy in the 1984 original to the good robot in James Cameron’s sequel that gave us eye popping and revolutionary special effects and a dynamite Linda Hamilton returning as a buffed up Sarah Connor. There’s been four more entries in the franchise and none have matched the potency of this one.

Now let’s turn the focus to some other notable releases:

Thelma & Louise

Domestic Gross: $45 million

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis both scored lead actress Academy nods for Ridley Scott’s now iconic tale of feminism and revenge with an unforgettable ending. This also marked audiences falling in love with a then unknown actor by the name of Brad Pitt.

Point Break

Domestic Gross: $43 million

Patrick Swayze starred in the previous summer’s high earner with Ghost. This surfing action pic from director Kathryn Bigelow paired the actor with Keanu Reeves and has amassed a deserved cult following. An unnecessary remake wiped out in 2015.

Dead Again

Domestic Gross: $38 million

Kenneth Branagh’s sophomore effort after the acclaim of his Shakespearian Henry V was this Hitchcock homage costarring his then wife Emma Thompson, Andy Garcia, and Robin Williams. As tributes to the Master of Suspense go, this is one of the best.

Soapdish

Domestic Gross: $38 million

Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey, Jr., and Whoopi Goldberg are part of the ensemble in this comedy set in the world of the afternoon melodramas that populate the airwaves. Not a big hit at the time, its reception has since grown.

Jungle Fever

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Spike Lee’s tale of an interracial couple played by Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra received critical kudos. The two most memorable performances come from Samuel L. Jackson as a crack addict and Halle Berry (in her feature debut) as his girlfriend.

Madonna: Truth or Dare

Domestic Gross: $15 million

As she often is, Madonna was ahead of the cultural curve with this documentary set during her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. This was reality programming before it exploded.

Barton Fink

Domestic Gross: $6 million

The Coen Brothers pitch black comedy was the darling of the Cannes Film Festival, winning Picture, Director, and Actor for John Turturro. It would land three Academy nominations including Michael Lerner in Supporting Actor.

Now it’s time for the pictures that either didn’t land with audiences or critics (or both):

The Rocketeer

Domestic Gross: $46 million

Disney was hoping for a new franchise with this comic book based property. Yet the period adventure underwhelmed at the box office. This was a different era for the genre before the MCU changed everything. Director Joe Johnston, coincidentally, would go on to make Captain America: The First Avenger 20 years later.

Dying Young

Domestic Gross: $33 million

This seems hard to believe now, but Premiere magazine predicted this romance would be the largest grossing feature of the summer. Not so much. However, Julia Roberts was just coming off her smash breakthrough Pretty Woman. This didn’t land with audiences in the same way.

Only the Lonely

Domestic Gross: $25 million

Chris Columbus was basking in the box office bonanza that was Home Alone. This rom com with John Candy and Ally Sheedy that followed six months later didn’t cause many filmgoers to leave their homes.

Mobsters

Domestic Gross: $20 million

1990 was gave us lots of mobster fare such as GoodFellas, The Godfather Part III, and Miller’s Crossing. Crowds and critics didn’t take to the Christian Slater and Patrick Dempsey versions of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, respectively.

Hudson Hawk

Domestic Gross: $17 million

Bruce Willis’s vanity project is considered one of the gargantuan flops in history. Grossing only about a fourth of its $65 million budget, it was awarded the Golden Raspberry for Worst Picture of the year.

V.I. Warshawski

Domestic Gross: $11 million

Based on a series of successful novels, audiences didn’t take to Kathleen Turner in the title role for this detective action comedy. It made less than half its budget.

Delirious

Domestic Gross: $5 million

Also set in the world of soap operas, this marked another dud for John Candy in the same season.

Another You

Domestic Gross: $2 million

Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder are a classic combo with well-regarded comedies like Silver Streak and Stir Crazy. Even See No Evil, Hear No Evil in 1989, despite critical scorn, performed well. That’s not the case with their last collaboration (which reviewers also drubbed).

And that concludes my look back at summer 1991. Next up is the sweltering season of 2001!

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Nathan Lane in The Birdcage

And now for a new category on this here blog where I’ll be covering performances and films that I feel merited some Oscar attention. I’m calling it “Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders” and I’ll start with a breakout comedic turn from the mid 90s.

Nathan Lane was mostly known as a stage performer in 1996. While he was featured in supporting turns in a few features, his best known cinematic work was as the voice of Timon in Disney’s 1994 animated blockbuster The Lion King. That all changed two years later when he was cast as Albert, life partner to Robin Williams in The Birdcage from director Mike Nichols. A remake of the 1978 French hit La Cage aux Folles, the pic pleased audiences and critics alike.

Even with the inclusion of high profile thespians like Williams, Gene Hackman, and Dianne Wiest (all previous or eventual Oscar recipients), it was Lane’s performance that stole the show. The Hollywood Foreign Press took notice and nominated him for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy (he lost to Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire).

My guess is that the Academy considered him in the supporting race, but he didn’t make the cut. Looking over the five nominees in 1996, I would easily take out James Woods (Ghosts of Mississippi) to make room for Lane. This is the first post in this new series, but I know it won’t be the last to hone in on a performance played mostly for laughs. The Academy is notorious for ignoring those roles. They shouldn’t have this time and you’ll see examples of others quite soon.

Daily Streaming Guide: March 19th Edition

My Daily Streaming Guide for titles worthy of including in your binge watching escapades continues with some lighter and laugh inducing material:

Amazon Prime

Our taste for cinematic whodunits increased this fall with the release of the blockbuster Knives Out. For those who haven’t seen Clue, not only is it my favorite flick based on a board game – it’s one of my favorite murder mysteries (packed with great one-liners). Featuring an array of hilariously broad performances led by Tim Curry, the pic has deservedly turned into a cult classic. I watched it endlessly as a kid and find it just as entertaining today.

Netflix

Over a decade before Robin Williams donned a dress and spectacles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Dustin Hoffman did the same in 1982’s massive hit Tootsie. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, a new generation might not be familiar with it. If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth a look.

Hulu

For something more recent, Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne headline the dramedy Instant Family. It casts the pair as foster parents entering unknown and often funny and dramatically resonant territory. Certainly a worthwhile experience that the whole family can enjoy.

I’ll be back at it tomorrow! Until then…

Jumanji: The Next Level Box Office Prediction

One of the biggest box office successes of 2017 was that of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the reboot of the 1995 Robin Williams family adventure. Considered to be a bit of a gamble at the time, Jungle ended up developing amazing legs at multiplexes and grossing just over $400 million domestically. In doing so, it edged out Spider-Man as Sony’s highest grossing stateside effort.

The inevitable sequel finds Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Se’Darious Blain, and Madison Iseman reprising their roles. Newcomers to the game include Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, and Awkwafina. Jake Kasdan returns to the director’s chair.

Before Jungle went on its moneymaking run, it opened at #2 to the sophomore frame of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It opened over the long Christmas frame two years ago on a Wednesday, earning $36 million over the traditional Friday to Sunday portion with a six-day holiday haul of nearly $72 million.

In 2019, The Next Level gets the jump on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by a week. And while this hopes to develop minor week to week drops like its predecessor, the sequel looks to make more than mid to high 30s out of the gate for the regular weekend.

Some estimates put this at around $40 million while others have it inching towards $50 million or possibly a bit more. I’ll say a gross in the high 40s is my range as this hopes for positive word-of-mouth and smooth sailing ahead like Jungle before it.

Jumanji: The Next Level opening weekend prediction: $48.7 million

For my Black Christmas prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/05/black-christmas-box-office-prediction/

For my Richard Jewell prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/06/richard-jewell-box-office-prediction/

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.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bdUboOde8eY

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!

Oscar Watch: Aladdin

Just a day before its theatrical release, Disney’s live-action update of Aladdin had its review embargo lifted. The big-budget fantasy, which casts Will Smith in the genie role made iconic by Robin Williams in the 1992 animated feature, could’ve certainly fared worse. Based upon fears from a poorly received first trailer, some wondered if the pic would be a disaster. Most critics, while certainly mixed with some negative, haven’t been too harsh. It stands at 60% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Particular praise has gone to the performances of Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, who respectively play the title character and Princess Jasmine.

When it comes to these updates of studio classics, many in the past decade have scored technical nods. This includes Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast. In 2019, Aladdin will find itself competing for space with three other Disney live-action renderings: the already released Dumbo, this summer’s The Lion King, and this winter’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Don’t be surprised if The Lion King gets the lions share of attention.

That said, Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling could be the two best possibilities here. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Aladdin Box Office Prediction

The second of four live-action renderings of Disney animated features in 2019, Aladdin is wishing for bountiful box office returns over Memorial Day weekend. Directed by Guy Ritchie, the musical fantasy adventure casts Will Smith as the genie in a role made iconic in 1992 by Robin Williams. In the title role is Mena Massoud with Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. Costars include Marwan Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad, and Billy Magnussen.

Reaction to the teaser was mixed at best. The full trailer was better received. The film follows this spring’s Dumbo, which was a bit of a disappointment with a $45 million opening gross. The Lion King will follow later this summer with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in the year’s fourth quarter.

While there’s little doubt Aladdin will rule the holiday frame, it’s got a wide range of possibilities. The Mouse Factory’s largest start for one of its reimaginings was 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, which roared to $174 million. Don’t expect anywhere near that kind of number. Some forecasts are putting this in the $100 million four-day ballpark, but I have serious doubts about that.

I could actually see this performing similarly to Mr. Smith’s other Memorial Day opener – 2012’s MIB 3, which earned $69 million. For a Disney comp, there’s 2015’s Cinderella with its $67 million haul. Given that there’s an extra day involved, I’ll bump Aladdin up slightly.

Aladdin opening weekend prediction: $74.8 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Brightburn prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/15/brightburn-box-office-prediction/

For my Booksmart prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/17/booksmart-box-office-prediction/

Best Supporting Actor: A Look Back

Continuing on with my look back at the major categories from 1990 to the present at the Oscars, we arrive at Best Supporting Actor! If you missed my post regarding Supporting Actress, you can find it right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

As I did with that blog entry, I’m picking the top 3 least surprising winners (performers who essentially sailed right through awards season) and the 3 biggest upsets in each race. I am also selecting the strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the 28 actors whose support earned them a golden statue:

1990 – Joe Pesci, GoodFellas

1991 – Jack Palance, City Slickers

1992 – Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

1993 – Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

1994 – Martin Landau, Ed Wood

1995 – Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects

1996 – Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire

1997 – Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting

1998 – James Coburn, Affliction

1999 – Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules

2000 – Benicio del Toro, Traffic

2001 – Jim Broadbent, Iris

2002 – Chris Cooper, Adaptation

2003 – Tim Robbins, Mystic River

2004 – Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

2005 – George Clooney, Syriana

2006 – Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

2007 – Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

2008 – Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

2009 – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

2010 – Christian Bale, The Fighter

2011 – Christopher Plummer, Beginners

2012 – Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

2013 – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

2015 – Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

2016 – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

2017 – Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

There are plenty to choose from as far least surprising winners, but here’s my top ones:

3. Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s Western picked up a slew of awards on Oscar night and Hackman’s inclusion in that race was never really in doubt. It was his second statue after winning Best Actor 21 years previously for The French Connection.

2. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

It was director Christopher Nolan giving numerous awards speeches on behalf of the late Ledger, as his work playing the iconic villain swept all precursors as well. This remains not only the only win in the omnipresent superhero genre in the 21st century, but the only nomination.

1. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Like Ledger, Bardem created a bad guy for the ages in the Coen Brothers Oscar-winning picture. He picked up all the precursors as well for his role.

And now the upsets!

3. James Coburn, Affliction

There was clearly no front-runner in 1998 as a different actor was honored in each preceding awards show. Ed Harris took the Golden Globe for The Truman Show, Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan) was victorious at the Critics Choice Awards, Robert Duvall’s role in A Civil Action was honored at SAG, and Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth) was the BAFTA recipient. Surely one of them would win the Oscar, but it instead went to Mr. Coburn.

2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

In 2015, the general consensus was that Sylvester Stallone would punch out the competition in his signature role for Creed. That would have been quite a feat after Rocky took Best Picture in 1976 – nearly four decades prior. Yet it didn’t materialize when Rylance made the trip to the podium.

1. Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Along the same lines, Eddie Murphy was the strong favorite for his rare dramatic work in Dreamgirls. With Jennifer Hudson as a sure thing for Supporting Actress (which did happen), the musical looked safe for a supporting sweep. The Academy surprisingly went another route by honoring Arkin.

And now to the fields overall and choosing a strongest and weakest. For the least impressive of the bunch, I’m going with 2011. Here were the nominees:

Christopher Plummer, Beginners (winner)

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

When it comes to best overall field, I chose 1993. This is the year that Tommy Lee Jones got the gold in The Fugitive. That’s a rare acting win for an action flick. It was deserved in my view and the other four nominees were very strong as well. They were:

Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

Furthermore, I could keep going with other deserving actors that year, including Val Kilmer in Tombstone and Sean Penn for Carlito’s Way. 

The next trip down memory lane will be Best Actress and it will be up soon!

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Movie Review

The word classic in cinema world can be thrown around too loosely at times. For instance, 1995’s Jumanji with Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, and lots of CG animals is not one. It is a mostly entertaining experience about that board game that comes to life and it made a lot of money. So 22 years later, Sony has rebooted the franchise into the video game era. Welcome to the Jungle is no classic either, but it’s often lots of fun with great casting… and of course a horde of CG animals. Truthfully, it’s a lot better than it should be.

A prologue picks up shortly after its predecessor’s events with teenager Alex finding that cursed Jumanji board game. Sort of. It’s in the original casing of the game, but has been downsized to a video game cartridge. Alex tries to play but gets sucked in and disappears for two decades.

Flash forward to 2016 with four teens serving detention together. They are the archetypes you’re accustomed to: nerd Spencer (Alex Woolf), jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), shy girl Martha (Morgan Turner), and bombshell Bethany (Madison Iseman). While doing their punishment in the high school basement, they happen upon the game and decide to select which characters to play. Soon enough, they find themselves transported to the far away title world. And they’re the people they chose to be with more famous faces and odd superpowers and weaknesses. Scaredy cat Spencer is now the heroic Dr. Smolder Bravestone, represented by the giant biceps of Dwayne Johnson. Athletic Fridge is now the diminutive zoologist Mouse, sidekick to Dr. Bravestone whose weaknesses include cake. Martha is Ruby Roundhouse, a foxy martial arts expert with an inexplicable wardrobe considering her jungle surroundings. Most humorously, Bethany has traded in her bod for Jack Black’s cartographer Dr. Shelly. All the adult actors have a ball playing their counterparts, but Black shines brightest channeling his social media obsessed teen girl.

The majority of inhabitants in Jumanji world are only programmed to speak in video game dialogue, meaning their vocabulary is quite limited. This is a funny touch in a screenplay filled with them. There’s some potential jungle love between Bravestone and Ruby (and therefore Spencer and Martha), as well as Bethany’s crush with Alex once he’s found and portrayed by Nick Jonas. Seeing Jack Black’s heart a flutter with a Jonas brother is a highlight. There’s also a first kiss between two characters that produced a knowing belly laugh. Johnson and Hart (who first teamed up in Central Intelligence) smartly play to their onscreen strengths with Gillan bringing the term dance fighting to our consciousness.

Welcome to the Jungle is in many ways an improvement on the 1995 pic. Yes, the special effects have elevated tremendously in two decades plus, but it’s more than that. The joyous and adventurous and often sweet tone here just feels right with a game cast along for the ride.

Not everything works. An interesting villain would have been nice. Bobby Cannavale’s conniving explorer isn’t it. He’s forgettable even when he’s speaking. That quibble aside, part 2 of the Jumanji saga should be remembered fondly two decades from now and probably deserves it even more.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing in Utah and that means a batch of 2018 Oscar Watch columns are coming your way. In 2017, the fest gave us four pictures that find themselves in the awards mix: Get Out, Call Me by Your Name, Mudbound, and The Big Sick.

We begin with Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, a biopic of Oregon cartoonist and quadriplegic John Callahan. He’s played by Joaquin Phoenix with a supporting cast that includes Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black. Some of the early reviews out of Park City are quite positive, though not all of them are across the board. It’s scheduled for stateside release this May.

The project was originally intended as a starring vehicle for the late Robin Williams and it would’ve marked a reunion with his Good Will Hunting director. Van Sant has seen that film and 2008’s Milk garner multiple Oscar nods.

Could Foot follow suit? It’s certainly possible, especially for Phoenix and Hill. If so, it would mark the former’s fourth nod and the latter’s third. Neither have yet to win. Interestingly, Phoenix could face competition in the form of himself as his You Were Never Really Here played the festival circuit last year and won him acclaim.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…