Best Year’s Ever

As one year turns to the next in short order, it got me thinking. What are some examples of actors and directors who had remarkable calendar frames over the past few decades? The guidelines are pretty simple – the individual must have had two (and in a couple of cases, three or more) pictures that made an impact during 19(fill in the blank) or 20(fill in the blank).

And wouldn’t you know it? My ruminations quickly turned into a lengthy list that I’ve paired down to a top 25. Let’s call this Best Year’s Ever and count down from #25 to #1!

25. Channing Tatum (2012)

It was a busy year for the performer to say the least. Tatum was in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, but three major roles made him the star he is today. There was the hit romance The Vow, hit comedy 21 Jump Street, and his signature and semi-autobiographical title role in the summer sleeper Magic Mike (also from Mr. Soderbergh).

24. John Travolta (1996)

Two years following his major comeback in Pulp Fiction and a year following his Golden Globe nominated lead in Get Shorty, Travolta’s hot streak continued with three hits: John Woo’s action thriller Broken Arrow and fantasy dramas Phenomenon and Michael.

23. Clint Eastwood (1971)

The last two months of 1971 were fruitful for the legend. In November, he made his directorial debut with the well-reviewed psychological thriller Play Misty for Me. This began a career of dozens of behind the camera works, including Best Picture winners Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. In December, Eastwood starred as Dirty Harry which spawned his lucky cop franchise.

22. Sigourney Weaver (1988)

Weaver won two Golden Globes 30 years ago – Best Actress (Drama) for Gorillas in the Mist and Supporting Actress for Working Girl. She would be nominated for two Oscars as well, but come up short. All part of a remarkable decade that included Ghostbusters and Aliens.

21. Joe Pesci (1990)

Pesci won an Oscar for his unforgettable supporting work in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas. That same fall, he was a burglar terrorizing Macaulay Culkin in the holiday classic Home Alone.

20. Kevin Spacey (1995)

Current scandals aside, there’s no denying Spacey was the movie villain of 1995. He won an Academy Award as (spoiler alert!) Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects and as a demented serial killer in Seven. Earlier in the year, he costarred with Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman in  Outbreak and headlined the critically approved indie comedy Swimming with Sharks.

19. Nicolas Cage (1997)

Leaving Las Vegas awarded Cage his Oscar two years prior. By the summer of 1997, he was a full-fledged action hero with two blockbusters in the same month: Con Air and Face/Off.

18. Will Ferrell (2003)

Ferrell’s transformation from SNL favorite to movie star happened here with the spring’s Old School as Frank the Tank and in the winter as Buddy in Elf.

17. Morgan Freeman (1989)

The nation’s Narrator-in-Chief had a trio of significant roles nearly three decades ago – his Oscar nominated chauffeur in the Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy, a dedicated and stern principal in Lean on Me, and a Civil War officer in Glory.

16. Steven Soderbergh (2000)

The prolific filmmaker made two Best Picture nominees with Erin Brockovich and Traffic (he would win Best Director for the latter). Both surpassed the century mark at the box office and Julia Roberts won Best Actress for Brockovich and Benicio del Toro took Supporting Actor in Traffic.

15. Halle Berry (2001)

Ms. Berry had a revealing role in the summer action fest Swordfish. She then became the first (and thus far only) African-American to win Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. This was all sandwiched between XMen hits.

14. Hugh Jackman (2017)

Berry’s XMen cast mate Jackman retired his Wolverine character to critical and audience admiration with Logan in the spring. At the end of the year, his musical The Greatest Showman was an unexpected smash.

13. Leonardo DiCaprio (2002)

Five years after Titanic, the jury was still out as to whether DiCaprio’s leading man status would hold up. His roles in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can left little doubt. He’s been one of Hollywood’s most dependable stars since.

12. Francis Ford Coppola (1974)

In 1972, Coppola made perhaps the greatest American film of all time with The Godfather. Two years later, its sequel came with enormous expectations and exceeded them. Like part one, it won Best Picture. As if that weren’t enough, he made another Picture nominee in ‘74 with the Gene Hackman surveillance thriller The Conversation.

11. Michael Douglas (1987)

His signature role as greedy tycoon Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street won him an Oscar and gave him one of the most famous cinematic speeches ever. He also lit up the screen in the blockbuster thriller Fatal Attraction, which was the year’s second largest grosser.

10. Julia Roberts (1999)

She started the decade with a smash star making turn in Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts ended it with two romantic comedy summer $100 million plus earners: Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Runaway Bride (which reunited her with Pretty costar Richard Gere). She’d win her Oscar the next year for Erin Brockovich.

9. Tom Cruise (1996)

1986 wasn’t too shabby either with Top Gun and The Color of Money. Yet it’s a decade later that serves as Cruise’s year with the franchise starter Mission: Impossible in the summer and Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, which earned Cruise a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nod. They were the third and fourth biggest hits of the year, respectively.

8. Sandra Bullock (2013)

Nearly two decades after her breakout role in Speed, Bullock had a banner 2013 alongside Melissa McCarthy in the summer comedy The Heat and her Oscar nominated turn as a stranded astronaut in the fall’s Gravity.

7. Sylvester Stallone (1985)

Sly was the undisputed champion of the box office (not to mention sequels and Roman numerals) in 1985, notching the second and third top hits of the year behind Back to the Future. They were for his two signature characters with Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.

6. Robert Downey Jr. (2008)

A decade after all the wrong kind of headlines for his drug addiction, Downey Jr. pulled off perhaps the most impressive comeback in movie history. 2008 saw him as Tony Stark in Iron Man, the film that kicked off the MCU in grand fashion. Later that summer came Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, which earned Downey a rare Oscar nod for a comedic performance.

5. Tom Hanks (1993)

There’s more than one year to consider for Hanks… 1995 (Apollo 13, Toy Story) comes to mind. Yet 1993 saw him with Meg Ryan in the now classic Sleepless in Seattle and winning an Oscar in Philadelphia as a lawyer diagnosed with AIDS. His status as a romantic and dramatic lead was solidified in a matter of months. A consecutive Academy Award followed in 1994 for Forrest Gump.

4. Mel Brooks (1974)

The director managed to make two of the most beloved comedies of all time in one year… Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. The two features combined contain some of the funniest scenes ever filmed.

3. Jennifer Lawrence (2012)

Already an Oscar nominee two years prior for Winter’s Bone, Lawrence’s road to superstardom was paved in 2012. In March came The Hunger Games, the year’s third top earner that spawned three sequels. In December came Silver Linings Playbook, where she won Best Actress.

2. Jim Carrey (1994)

In 1993, Carrey was known as a great cast member of Fox’s groundbreaking sketch show “In Living Color”. By the end of 1994, he was the most bankable comedic star in America as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber all hit screens.

1. Steven Spielberg (1993)

In a list filled with lots of choices, the #1 selection was rather easy. The highest grossing filmmaker of all time’s 1993 was astonishing. Dino tale Jurassic Park in the summer was a marvel technical achievement that began a franchise. At the time of its release, it became the largest grosser in history with the top opening weekend yet seen. Six months later, Holocaust epic Schindler’s List won seven Academy Awards (including Picture and for Spielberg’s direction).

I hope your New Year is your best yet, readers! Have a happy one…

A Simple Favor Movie Review

Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is the type of character who would be in the book club that reads something like A Simple Favor. Yet the cyclone level of twists in the story might only be thought up by someone like Emily (Blake Lively) after drinking too many of her patented mid afternoon dry martinis. Paul Feig’s satiric thriller is, alas, based on a novel by Darcey Bell that probably has been read in those clubs.

This takes the issues of female empowerment found in Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train (also from literary works) and casts a black comedic cloud over it. It occasionally risks collapsing under its sheer volume of plot turns. And somehow it rarely ceases to be a hoot with two dynamic lead performances.

We meet Stephanie on her daily vlog filled with cooking tips and child rearing tips. She’s a single mom whose husband died in a car accident along with her brother. Her instinct is to do it all, including hoarding over school parenting projects. She doesn’t blink when Emily, whose kid attends school with Stephanie’s, starts asking her to be an unpaid nanny. Emily has a hectic job as PR manager for a fashion designer, the already mentioned drinking problem, and has-been writer turned professor husband Sean (Henry Golding from summer smash Crazy Rich Asians). The two end up bonding with Stephanie deeming Emily her “best friend” (there’s a bracelet involved).

Then one day Emily vanishes and Stephanie’s daily posts become a darker (though always humorous) search for a missing person. Her protective nature draws her close to Sean, so much so that the authorities begin to question their motives. What follows is a relentless stream of genre clichés: insurance claims, alternate identities, unknown twins, and love triangles, just to name some. This is kitchen sink level stuff. It’s borderline exhausting, but you get the feeling that Feig and screenwriter Jessica Sharzer know it and are furiously winking. The director is known for his straight up comedies such as Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy. While this does venture into paperback adapted material, it does it with tongue in cheek planted wit. This is more in tone with 1998’s under appreciated Wild Things than something like Gone Girl.

Kendrick and Lively are the show here and their chemistry makes it work. Stephanie’s desperation for companionship is sold by Kendrick, who thinks she’s found someone special beyond her unseen blog watchers. She’s done so with Emily, whose back story is filled with too many secrets to keep track of (you will lose count). Lively has a ball revealing them. So do we once we realize keeping up with it all is secondary to its ridiculous and fun nature.

*** (out of four)

A Simple Favor Box Office Prediction

Director Paul Feig is best known for his comedies featuring Melissa McCarthy like Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters. He changes things up next weekend with the release of thriller A Simple Favor. It’s based on the debut novel from Darcey Bell released last year. The cast is headlined by Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and Henry Golding (fresh off his breakthrough role in the summer blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians).

Favor could have the benefit of appealing to a female audience in the midst of more male-driven fare such as The Predator and White Boy Rick, which both open the same day. The current forecast is in the $12-$15 million area. I feel that Kendrick, Lively, and the intended demographic could cause this to debut on the high-end of that range and perhaps exceed it.

A Simple Favor opening weekend prediction: $17.9 million

For my The Predator prediction, click here:

For my White Boy Rick prediction, click here:

For my Unbroken: Path to Redemption prediction, click here:

The Boss Movie Review

There’s a through line that’s marked a number of Melissa McCarthy vehicles since her Oscar-nominated turn in 2011’s Bridesmaids. Take the greatly talented comedic actress, give her a mostly unpleasant character, establish a backstory that makes her somewhat sympathetic, and hope audiences eat it up. These rules have generally applied to Identity Thief, The Heat, and Tammy. None of them have been terribly impressive due to weak material. This applies to The Boss as well.

Reuniting with her Tammy director Ben Falcone (who’s also her husband), McCarthy is self-made mogul Michelle Darnell. She’s a ruthless investor who sells out arenas with her take no prisoners business advice. Kristen Bell is Claire, her overloaded executive assistant who isn’t even allowed that lofty sounding title. When Michelle’s actions land her a short stint in Club Fed for insider trading, she’s back to square one and dependent on her old subordinate for lodging. That means crashing on the sofa in a crowded apartment with Claire’s young daughter (Ella Anderson). A trip with that child to a Girl Scout type meeting gives Michelle her first post felony money making idea: take Claire’s delicious brownie making skills, market them with a team of cute kids selling them, and work her way back up the corporate ladder.

Along the way, Michelle clashes with some of her new minions parents (most humorously with Annie Mumolo’s tightly wound Mom). These clashes even lead to an Anchorman style no holds barred brawl (Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are producers). The title character also deals with some of her own movie backstory demons. When she was young, Michelle bounced from one unhappy foster home to the next and has no sense or need in her view for family. Claire and daughter threaten to upset that apple cart.

There’s also the matter of her business rival  Renault, former lover and wannabe samurai Renault (Peter Dinklage) trying to shut her burgeoning brownie enterprise down. His character is as bizarre as he sounds, but the “Game of Thrones” star does throw himself into it with gusto. A superfluous subplot involves Claire trying to get her groove back with a kind co-worker (Tyler Lapine).

The Boss veers between wildly broad characters and physical comedy (which McCarthy and her stunt double are quite good at) and attempts at heart string pulling that falls flat. McCarthy’s abilities were proven nearly six years ago in one Bridesmaids scene where she told Kristin Wiig to get her act together. It was a brilliant scene that I suspect is responsible for that Oscar nod. Unfortunately, by now, McCarthy’s act is getting disappointingly familiar and the material she’s giving herself is forgettable.

** (out of four)

Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses of All Time (10-6)

We have now reached Top Ten of the Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses in box office history.

And now, numbers 10-6 before we reach our finale tomorrow…

10. Jennifer Lawrence

Career Earnings: $2.3 billion

Franchises: The Hunger Games, X-Men

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – $424 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 9 (The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle)

Lowest Grosser: Garden Party (2008) – $10,000

Overall Rank: 57

9. Anne Hathaway

Career Earnings: $2.3 billion

Franchises: The Princess Diaries, Rio, Alice in Wonderland

Highest Grossing Picture: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – $448 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 10 (The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, Get Smart, Valentine’s Day, Alice in Wonderland, Rio, The Dark Knight Rises, Les Miserables, Rio 2, Interstellar)

Lowest Grosser: Song One (2015) – $32,000

Overall Rank: 52

8. Sandra Bullock

Career Earnings: $2.4 billion

Franchises: Speed, Miss Congeniality

Highest Grossing Picture: Minions (2015) – $336 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 8 (Minions, Gravity, The Blind Side, The Proposal, The Heat, Speed, A Time to Kill, Miss Congeniality)

Lowest Grosser: Who Shot Patakango? (1992) – $2,000

Overall Rank: 47

7. Emma Watson

Career Earnings: $2.6 billion

Franchises: Harry Potter

Highest Grossing Picture: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) – $381 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 10 (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, This is the End, Noah)

Lowest Grosser: Colonia (2016) – $15,000

Overall Rank: 32

6. Elizabeth Banks

Career Earnings: $2.7 billion

Franchises: Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – $424 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 8 (The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The LEGO Movie, Pitch Perfect 2, Seabiscuit, The 40 Yr. Old Virgin

Lowest Grosser: Ordinary Sinner (2003) – $4,000

Top 5 manana!


Summer 2015 Movies: The Predicted Century Club

The 2015 Summer Movie Season officially kicks off two weeks from today when Avengers: Age of Ultron blasts into theaters. It will compete for the largest domestic opening of all time (where it needs to beat its predecessor) and is highly likely to be the season’s highest earner. That got me to thinking – while Ultron is poised to gross $500 million or higher, it’s been the $100 million mark that studios still like to brag about. This prompted me to look at the past five summer flick seasons and how many pictures reached that milestone.

In 2010, it was 13 movies that reached the mark: Toy Story 3, Iron Man 2, Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Inception, Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, The Karate Kid, Grown Ups, The Last Airbender, The Other Guys, Salt, Robin Hood, and The Expendables.

Things improved in 2011 with 18 films reaching the century club: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Cars 2, Thor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: First Avenger, The Help, Bridesmaids, Kung Fu Panda 2, X-Men: First Class, The Smurfs, Super 8, Horrible Bosses, Green Lantern, Bad Teacher, and Cowboys and Aliens.

The low mark was the following year in 2012 with just 12: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave, Ted, Madagascar 3, Men in Black 3, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus, Magic Mike, and The Bourne Legacy.

Yet the high mark came the following summer in 2013 with 19: Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Fast and Furious 6, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Heat, We’re the Millers, The Great Gatsby, The Conjuring, Grown Ups 2, The Wolverine, Now You See Me, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Hangover Part III, Epic, Pacific Rim, and This is the End.

2014 dipped with 14: Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Maleficent, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Neighbors, Lucy, The Fault in Our Stars, and Edge of Tomorrow. 

That averages out to 15 pictures earning $100M plus per summer over this decade.

So where do I have 2015 matching up? Not breaking records, but in good shape. My predictions for the year’s $100M earners is 16 and they are as follows (in order of release date): Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, San Andreas, Spy, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Ted 2, Magic Mike XXL, Terminator: Genisys, Minions, Ant-Man, Trainwreck, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and Fantastic Four. 

Of course, there’s always sleepers. And there’s others that I could have predicted but think will fall short: the Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara comedy Hot Pursuit, horror remake Poltergeist, the film version of Entourage, the Adam Sandler video game inspired action comedy Pixels, the Vacation reboot, and the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton are among them.

As predicted, summer 2015 should see its number of century club inductees on the slightly high end without reaching the heights of 2013. And as always, you’ll see box office predictions every Saturday from me on each and every one of ’em!

2013: The Year of Melissa McCarthy

In the summer of 2011, the star of the CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly” Melissa McCarthy broke through to moviegoers in grand fashion with her supporting role in Bridesmaids. The film was a smash, grossing $169 million and earning McCarthy a rare Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for a comedic role.

After that terrific Bridesmaids part, McCarthy pretty much sat 2012 out with just a small part in Judd Apatow’s This Is 40. 2013 is a different story and this year has solidified McCarthy’s standing as Hollywood’s most bankable funny girl.

February’s Identity Thief with Jason Bateman would put her box office abilities to the test. It received mostly poor reviews and gave McCarthy her first starring role. The result? Thief grossed a fabulous $134 million. Critics may not have been on its side, but audiences were.

In June, McCarthy would pair up with Sandra Bullock in the buddy cop flick The Heat and it managed to accelerate the star’s box office cache. The Heat earned $159 million giving McCarthy two laugh fests that easily crossed the century mark domestically.

Technically, there were three pics featuring her that crossed that milestone. McCarthy had a small role in The Hangover Part III, which made $112 million but was considered a financial disappointment. However, its subpar performance had nothing to do with McCarthy.

In addition to her work on her sitcom, 2014 will see McCarthy on the silver screen with two promising projects. There’s St. Vincent de Van Nuys which pairs her with bonafide comedic legend Bill Murray. July 4th brings us Tammy, a road trip pic that also features Susan Sarandon, Dan Aykroyd, and Kathy Bates.

Bridesmaids proved that McCarthy had the potential to be a major film star. Her movies in 2013 turned that potential into reality and it earns her a deserved spot on the list of performers who had a big impact this year.

My final entry in this blog series arrives tomorrow with an actor who was everywhere in 2013 from a famous yellow bricked land to… brilliantly spoofing a famous rapper’s ridiculous video?

2013: The Year of Sandra Bullock

It was twenty years ago that Sandra Bullock began to pop up on moviegoers radar screens with supporting roles in titles as varied as Demolition Man and Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. In the summer of 1994, she broke through in a major way costarring as one unlucky bus passenger in the smash hit Speed. Bullock was able to parlay that pic’s success and branch out to successful romantic comedies (While You Were Sleeping, Two Weeks Notice), a comedy franchise (the Miss Congeniality duo), and thrillers (The Net). There were also well-received dramatic roles: A Time to Kill, 28 Days, and Crash.

There were speed bumps as well… namely Speed 2, an unfortunate 1997 sequel. Also In Love and War, a poorly received romantic drama with Chris O’Donnell and All About Steve, a dud comedy from 2009.

However, 2009 turned out to be a watershed for Bullock. That summer, she starred in the rom com The Proposal with Ryan Reynolds. It was a massive audience pleaser. That fall, she headlined The Blind Side as a suburbanite who takes in an inner-city football phenom. The result? She won an Oscar and the pic did huge business.

Since that Oscar win, Bullock kept a relatively low professional profile, only costarring in 2011’s 9/11 drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which failed to impress audiences and most critics.

This all changed in 2013 and her year rivals the success of 2009. First off, there was the summer smash comedy The Heat, which teamed her with Melissa McCarthy in a buddy cop comedy that earned a remarkable $158 million domestically. A sequel is reportedly being sought from the studio though Bullock has yet to commit to it.

And then there’s Gravity. Released in October, this lost in space thriller was a visual game changer from director Alfonso Cuaron. It was Bullock’s performance, though, that audiences responded to. Gravity has (so far) made $250 million in the U.S. Furthermore, Bullock is on her way to a surefire Oscar nomination and possibly another win. The contest should come down to her and Cate Blanchett’s work in Blue Jasmine.

At press time, Bullock has no projects lined up other than Minions, where she’ll do voice over work for the Despicable Me spinoff coming in 2015. You can bet, though, that Bullock will continue to mix her comedic and dramatic work to great success in the future. She seems to have a formula that works brilliant for her and has earned her the title of America’s favorite actress.

The Heat Movie Review

Paul Feig’s The Heat answers the question as to whether a picture can simply coast on the charms of its personable leading ladies Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. That answer, for the most part, is yes. This buddy cop comedy displays all the hallmarks of the genre with the notable exception of said cops being female. We’ve had countless examples of male-driven movies in this category from Lethal Weapon to Bad Boys to Rush Hour to The Other Guys and so forth. As far as I can recall, there’s more examples of male cop/dog cop genre pics than straight up female buddy cop entries. Only 1988’s long-forgotten Feds with Rebecca DeMornay and Mary Gross springs to mind.

Bridesmaids director Feig changes that here and enlists some big stars to headline it. Bullock plays Sarah Ashburn, the uptight FBI agent forced to team up with foul-mouthed and streetwise Boston cop Mullins (McCarthy). Both think their brand of law enforcement is the best method and they’re naturally diametrically opposed… so let the hijinks ensue!

There’s really nothing about the plot that separates The Heat from its counterparts in the genre. Let’s face it – it’s pretty tough to bring much new to the buddy cop flick. That’s where Bullock and McCarthy are able to make this fairly worthwhile. The duo is chasing after a group of drug runners and there’s a mole either in the FBI or Boston PD that they’re trying to nab. All this plot stuff is incidental, however.

McCarthy exploded onto the movie scene with her Oscar-nominated turn in 2011’s Bridesmaids. She deserved the nomination and I’ve used one particular scene in that pic with Kristin Wiig as an example of Movie Perfection previously on the blog.

Here McCarthy is given some humorous scenes with her dysfunctional family who haven’t forgiven her for sending her own criminal brother (Michael Rapaport) to the slammer.

Yet it’s the chemistry of the two stars that makes or breaks The Heat and Bullock does a commendable job as the straight woman. Throughout her career, Bullock has shown a keen ability with dramas and comedy. This film gives her the opportunity to show those chops in something other than a rom com.

There’s a whole lotta familiar territory to find here. Since Agent Ashburn is the tightly wound cop, it’s up to Mullins to get her drunk and they’re eventually getting the whole bar to dance to Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart”. Ashburn’s loner personality is explained because – well, she was a foster child (of course). The ladies learn that the old trick of holding a suspect over a balcony doesn’t always go as planned.

Bullock and McCarthy, though, have a winning chemistry and they manage to often rise above the cliched material and allow The Heat to be a mildly entertaining experience. Their fans should be mostly pleased. This isn’t like the previously mentioned The Other Guys that both satirizes the genre while also being an entry in it. That pic worked much better because audiences know all the tricks of buddy cop pics and The Other Guys had fun with it. The Heat is more safe and serviceable. And the two leads do just enough to make it tolerable.

**1/2 (out of four)

2013 Comedy Summer Movie Preview: Vaughn&Wilson, McCarthy, Rogen, and Wiig

Every summer, we usually see a major breakout comedy that connects with audiences across the board. Last season, it was Ted which earned $218 million. In 2011, it was The Hangover Part II with $254 million, as well as Bridesmaids ($169M) and Horrible Bosses ($119M). In 2010, Grown Ups brought in $162 million. In 2009, the original Hangover grossed $277 million and The Proposal made $163 million.

This summer, there’s no shortage of contenders. The comedy winner could be The Hangover Part III and that film was already covered in my sequels blog post. However, that film faces serious challengers, particularly from two titles:

From Bridesmaids director Paul Feig comes The Heat, a buddy cop comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. This is Bullock’s first headlining role since her Oscar winning turn in The Blind Side. Added to that, McCarthy is a hot commodity right now with her spring comedy Identity Thief well exceeding analysts expectations. The Heat could easily post Bridesmaids size numbers when it opens June 28th.

We also have The Internship, which reteams Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Their first collaboration was, of course, Wedding Crashers. That came out in the summer of 2005 and grossed an astonishing $209 million. If The Internship delivers, it could be a real factor in the top comedy discussions. It’s out on June 7th.

These three titles are likely to have a healthy competition for the top spot (Grown Ups 2 is probably poised to earn between $100-$125 million and has also been covered in my sequels write-up).

There are plenty of other comedies that will attempt to bring crowds in. Two high-profile entries have yet to release a trailer: the road trip flick We’re the Millers (August 9) with Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston and Girl Most Likely (July 19), which brings us Kristin Wiig’s first starring role since Bridesmaids. 

Then we have This is the End (June 12), which has Jonah Hill, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, and others playing themselves in an end of the world scenario. The trailers are pretty damn funny and I’m particularly looking forward to this one. End could be a major breakout player if it’s as funny as its potential suggests.

The Tyler Perry factory brings us Peeples (May 10) starring the very funny Craig Robinson, who also is featued in This is the End. It basically looks like the Tyler Perry version of Meet the Parents, which his name alone will likely mean solid grosses.

The coming of age flick The Way, Way Back (July 5) with Steve Carell received rave reviews at Sundance and is being looked at as a potential sleeper hit.

And Woody Allen brings us his movie a year with Blue Jasmine (July 26) with Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin. Two years ago, Woody had an unexpected hit with Midnight in Paris. However, last summer his To Rome with Love tanked. No trailer is available at press time.

All in all, there are plenty of comedies to choose from this summer. If some Hangover fatigue occurs (something which I believe is possible), don’t be surprised to see Bullock and McCarthy as the comedy champions of the season.