Summer 1988: The Top 10 Hits and More

We are in the midst of the blockbuster summer season of 2018. As I do every year on the blog, I’m recounting the summers of 30, 20, and 10 years ago with the top 10 moneymakers and other notable features and flops. We begin with 1988 and unlike the current 2018 crop that is dominated by big-budget sequels, it was surprising to find that there were a host of follow-up flops three decades ago. Sequels make up just 20% of the top ten here.

The seasons of 1998 and 2008 will be posted shortly, but here’s what what was happening 30 years ago at the cinema:

10. Bull Durham

Domestic Gross: $50 million

Writer/director Ron Shelton’s sports comedy came as Kevin Costner was experiencing a string of hits in the late 80s and early 90s. Considered one of the finest sports films ever made, it also featured showcase roles for Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

9. Rambo III

Domestic Gross: $53 million

The third go-round for Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo earned only a third of what Rambo: First Blood Part II achieved three summers prior and received mostly negative reviews. The star would revise the character 20 years later in Rambo.

8. Willow

Domestic Gross: $57 million

Ron Howard’s fantasy adventure (with a story conceived by George Lucas) was considered only a moderate success at time of its release and critical notices were mixed. It has since gone on to garner cult status.

7. A Fish Called Wanda

Domestic Gross: $62 million

This acclaimed heist comedy was an unexpected critical and audience darling with a screenplay from the legendary John Cleese. Both he and “Monty Python” cohort Michael Palin starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, in a rare comedic role that won an Oscar for Supporting Actor. Nine years later, the cast reunited for the less regarded Fierce Creatures. 

6. Cocktail

Domestic Gross: $78 million

Coming off his iconic role in Top Gun two years earlier, Tom Cruise propelled this bartender tale to major success despite poor reviews (even Cruise admitted it wasn’t so good years later). It did provide The Beach Boys with a big comeback hit in the form of “Kokomo”.

5. Die Hard

Domestic Gross: $83 million

It might be #5 on the list, but Die Hard is easily the most influential film of the summer of ’88. Rightfully considered the quintessential action movie, it served as a springboard for Bruce Willis’s film career and gave us an unforgettable villain in Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber. Four sequels and numerous knock-offs would follow.

4. Crocodile Dundee II

Domestic Gross: $109 million

Paul Hogan’s Aussie creation struck box office gold in 1986 when the first Dundee made $174 million and was an unexpected smash. The sequel didn’t measure up to the first commercially or critically, but it still managed to edge past the $100 million mark.

3. Big

Domestic Gross: $114 million

Tom Hanks earned his first Oscar nomination (several would follow) for Penny Marshall’s classic comedy about a teenager wanting to be an adult. It also earned an Original Screenplay nomination.

2. Coming to America

Domestic Gross: $128 million

Eddie Murphy was about the biggest box office draw in the world circa 1988 and this serves as one of his classics. There’s been long rumored plans for a sequel, but whether or not it ever materializes is a legit question three decades later.

1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Domestic Gross: $156 million

This landmark blending of live-action and animation from director Robert Zemeckis combined beloved characters from the Warner Bros and Disney catalogs, winning three technical Oscars. The title character would appear in some animated shorts in the following years, but a traditional sequel surprisingly never followed.

And now for some other notable features from the summer:

Young Guns

Domestic Gross: $45 million

This Western about Billy the Kid and his gang cast many of the hot young stars of the day, including Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Charlie Sheen. A sequel would follow two years later.

Midnight Run

Domestic Gross: $38 million

Serving as Robert De Niro’s first major foray into comedy (blended with action), Midnight Run found him brilliantly cast alongside Charles Grodin in this effort from Beverly Hills Cop director Martin Brest. Its status has only grown in subsequent years.

And now we arrive at some of the pictures that didn’t fare so well and we have 5 sequels that couldn’t match the potency of what came before them:

The Dead Pool

Domestic Gross: $37 million

Clint Eastwood’s fifth and final appearance as Dirty Harry was met with mixed reviews and lackluster box office. It’s got perhaps the best supporting cast of the lot, however, including Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, and Jim Carrey a few years before he became a phenomenon.

Big Top Pee-Wee

Domestic Gross: $15 million

While Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure earned $40 million and introduced moviegoers to Tim Burton, this sequel underwhelmed. Star Paul Reubens would, um, pick up notoriety three years later for another experience in a movie theater.

Arthur 2: On the Rocks

Domestic Gross: $14 million

The 1981 original earned Academy Award nominations and a fantastic $95 million domestic haul. By the time the sequel followed seven years later, audiences weren’t interested in the comedy starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli.

Poltergeist III

Domestic Gross: $14 million

The franchise began in 1982 with acclaim and huge dollars. A sequel diminished those returns and by the time part 3 hit screens, crowds were tuned out. Tragically, Heather O’Rourke (who famously played Carol Anne) died months before its release at the age of 12.

Caddyshack II

Domestic Gross: $11 million

Part 1 was a comedy classic. Part 2 was anything but. Chevy Chase was the only returning cast member to return and there was no repeating the magic with Jackie Mason, Robert Stack, Randy Quaid, and Dan Aykroyd.

And finally…

Mac and Me

Domestic Gross: $6 million

A notorious bomb, this E.T. rip-off received plenty of ink on account of its awfulness. There is a silver lining, however, as Paul Rudd has hilariously incorporated it into segments on Conan O’Brien’s show over the years.

And there you have the summer of 1988 in a nutshell! I’ll be back with 1998 soon…

Oscar Watch: The Disaster Artist

Back in March, The Disaster Artist premiered at the South by Southwest festival and it will soon screen at the Toronto Film Festival. The pic comes from James Franco, who directs, produces, and stars. Disaster is the story of the making of The Room, a low budget 2003 experience that is considered among the worst movies of all time. Mr. Franco plays its director and lead actor Tommy Wiseau. The supporting cast includes Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, and Jacki Weaver.

Very positive reviews followed its Southwest bow and it currently stands at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics have indicated this is Franco’s finest performance since 2010’s 127 Hours, in which he received an Oscar nomination. Could he do so here? I would venture to say that a Franco nod for Best Actor is probably the picture’s best chance at recognition. While Disaster has been compared to 1994’s Tim Burton pic Ed Wood (high praise), it’s worth noting that Wood wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.

The Disaster Artist opens wide in December and my Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Box Office Prediction

Nearly two years ago, Tim Burton had the second lowest grossing feature of his career (after 1994’s Ed Wood) with Big Eyes. To cushion the blow, that particular film was a low-budget drama that wasn’t expected to rank among his array of blockbusters.

Next weekend, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children finds Burton back in more familiar territory. It’s a fantastical adventure based on a well-known property (Ransom Riggs’s 2011 bestseller) with dark themes. Sounds like a Burton flick to me! Eva Green plays the title character with a supporting cast that includes Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Judi Dench, and Samuel L. Jackson.

It’s been six years since Mr. Burton has had a massive hit – 2010’s Alice in Wonderland (he didn’t direct this year’s flop of a sequel). This is also his first blockbuster hopeful not headlined by Johnny Depp in a little while. Even though it’s based on a novel with a solid following, I’m not convinced this will break out at the box office with its lack of star power and a director whose box office potency has waned.

My Peculiar estimate has this not reaching $20 million. This is under some other prognosticators expectations and would be considered a disappointment for Burton and company.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children opening weekend prediction: $19.6 million

For my Deepwater Horizon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/deepwater-horizon-box-office-prediction/

For my Masterminds prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/masterminds-box-office-prediction/

For my Queen of Katwe prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/23/queen-of-katwe-box-office-prediction/

Alice Through the Looking Glass Box Office Prediction

Nowadays, moviegoers are accustomed to a yearly live-action remake of a Disney classic in the form of your Malificent‘s, Cinderella‘s, and Jungle Book‘s. Yet it was six years ago that the ball really got rolling when Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland opened to a fantastic $116 million on its way to a $334 million domestic haul.

Now the Disney machine (who’s been having a banner 2016) has produced the sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass and it brings back Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter, Mia Wasikowska as the title character, Anne Hathaway as The White Queen, and Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen. Sacha Baron Cohen and Rhys Ifans join the party. Tim Burton opted not to return to directorial duties (he executive produces) and James Bobin, who made the Muppets reboot, fills that role.

Competition over Memorial Day weekend is considerable with X-Men: Apocalypse also debuting. The biggest hurdle Alice faces could be the six-year gap that it took to produce this follow-up. The original didn’t receive very positive reviews and the story for Looking Glass is even worse with a current 27% Rotten Tomatoes score. I could actually see this performing closely to what another long gestating sequel accomplished over Memorial Day 2012 when Men in Black 3 earned $54 million for the Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend and $69 million for the four-day holiday frame.

Alice Through the Looking Glass opening weekend prediction: $53.6 million (Friday to Sunday), $67.7 million (Friday to Monday)

For my X-Men Apocalypse prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/18/x-men-apocalypse-box-office-prediction/

 

The Superman We Never Saw

When you’ve got yourself a documentary about a major Hollywood production that never ended up being made and its director Tim Burton isn’t the most eccentric individual being interviewed, you’re probably in for something fascinating. And so it is with The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?, which tells the tale of why Burton’s proposed reimagining of the Man of Steel never made it to the screen.

The more eccentric character is by far Jon Peters, the mega producer who had successfully worked with Burton to bring Batman to the masses in 1989. The two were deep into pre-production on the late 1990s Superman Lives project before the plug was pulled and some of this doc’s greatest moments involve Peters being interviewed and, even more so, other people talking about him. Peters started out as Barbara Streisand’s hairdresser before becoming a major producing player. We hear tales of Peters’ insistence on having a giant spider featured in the film, his preference on having scripts read to him while he lays on the couch, his proclivity for putting employees in headlocks and trying out his jiu jitsu moves on underlings.

There’s a lot more to the story of how Superman Lives died and director/writer Jon Schnepp explores it in great detail here. This documentary has had its own difficult history in finally being released and it was partly funded through a Kickstarter campaign. The Supes reboot went through three screenwriters during its gestation: Kevin Smith at first, who brought his comic book geek sensibility before being jettisoned by Warner Bros brass, Peters, and Burton; Wesley Strick, who would eventually suffer the same fate; and its final writer Dan Gilroy, who would go onto direct my favorite pic of last year, Nightcrawler. Nicolas Cage was to star in the title role and there’s even fascinating footage of him trying on the iconic Superman costume, which the doc spends a lot of time talking delving into. In the late 1990s, Cage seemed like a fairly logical choice as he was coming off an Oscar for 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas and headlining A list action projects like The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off.  In other words, it was a few years prior to Cage seemingly accepting every single script that came his way. Other casting choices are discussed, including Sandra Bullock as Lois Lane, Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen, Christopher Walken as Brainiac, and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor (that actor would go onto play him in 2006’s Superman Returns).

What emerges from the documentary is a film about a film never made (it was three weeks away from shooting) that probably would’ve been something to behold. Would it have been good? Hard to say. The two subsequent Superman reboots that would follow years later (the aforementioned Superman Returns and 2013’s Man of Steel) were both rather disappointing in my view and many comic book lovers felt the same way. Burton’s track record over the last quarter century has been hit and miss. While his take on Batman was a rousing success, his “reimagining” of Planet of the Apes in 2001 left much to be desired. What’s clear is that it would have been a much different Superman than we’ve ever seen and would have looked a whole lot different (the long portions about its production design are quite intriguing).

One important through line that runs in the doc is the fact that Superman Lives was by no means guaranteed massive success in the late 1990s. We must remember that it wasn’t until the turn of the century that 2000’s X-Men truly helped usher in the golden age of comic book flicks that we’ve seen steadily over the last 15 years. When this project was gestating, 1997’s Batman and Robin had essentially killed that Caped Crusader franchise until Chris Nolan brought it back to life eight years later. Warner Bros. was nervous about a similar fate for Burton’s new project. Ironically, it was Batman and Robin director Joel Schumacher who killed Burton’s Batman series and helped pump the brakes on Burton’s budding Superman picture.

For comic book lovers, The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? will be a treasure trove of intel on why this project never saw the light of day. Yet for movie fans in general, it provides key insight into how movies are made… and how some aren’t made. And how its possibly crazy main producer was obsessed with spiders and jui jitsu.

Big Eyes Movie Review

Early on in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) pontificates that art is not about quality when it comes to whether it sells. It’s about being at the right place at the right time. For many years, Walter’s words couldn’t ring more true for himself. And he could’ve added meeting the right person.

That person is Margaret (Amy Adams) and she’s a recent divorcee in the late 1950s (when it was quite uncommon) with a talent for painting portraits of her young daughter. Her signature look is our movie title on the face of her work. When she meets Walter, he seduces her with his plentiful charm and they’re soon married. He presents himself as a fellow painter, but his Paris landscapes don’t interest anyone. Margaret’s, on the other hand, begin to capture some attention and soon a confluence of circumstances lead Walter to claim credit for her work. Those circumstances (most completely Walter’s doing and some not) additionally lead his wife to go along with the deceit for a long time. As the years roll by, Walter becomes a renowned and celebrated figure, while conflicted Margaret paints their fortune in her secret studio in homes that grow in size.

Big Eyes is based on true events and the art filled subject matter is right up Burton’s alley, though with a majorly smaller budget than he’s used to. The 50s and then 60s San Francisco setting provides a vibrant look to the proceedings. Unlike most of the director’s recent efforts, the only special effects is some big eyes superimposed on human faces from time to time. The focus is on the relationship of Walter and Margaret. Recognizable faces like Danny Huston, Jon Polito, Krysten Ritter, Terence Stamp and Jason Schwartzman pop up in small supporting roles. Truth be told, the relationship dynamic between our two leads is often treading familiar territory. Margaret lives in an era where challenging her husband’s word is not easy. She even attempts to tell her huge secret during confession and the priest basically tells her to obey him.

The work of primarily Adams is impressive, as it almost always is. Creating a sympathetic character who still is not totally innocent in all her actions, the actress is fascinating to watch. Waltz is an exciting performer who’s earned two Oscars for his mastery of Tarantino’s dialogue. The role of Walter is a tricky one. He is painted in broad strokes in the screenplay and the filmmakers insist they actually downplayed him from real life. It may all be the truth about Walter’s world of non truth, but it is difficult to view him as anything more than a caricature on occasion.

Adams’ work and the legitimately interesting real life tale we see here are enough to recommend Big Eyes.  It is also refreshing to see Burton doing commendable work without a $200 million budget remaking something, like he did 20 years back with Ed Wood. Speaking of that effort, Big Eyes comes from the same writers (Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski). This isn’t as memorable as that fine picture about a terrible director, but it’s a good film about a talented artist who is directed into a heckuva big scheme.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Big Eyes

The AFI Film Festival shed some light this week on some Oscar hopefuls that I’ve written about on this here blog in the past few days. It gave Ava DuVernay’s MLK pic Selma some real heat in the Best Picture, Director, and Actor race while Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper gave itself a shot in the Picture race as well. The industry has also trained its collective eyes on Big Eyes, Tim Burton’s true life biographical drama/comedy. The result? Iffy at best.

Burton is used to dealing with gargantuan budgets, but Big Eyes is an exception. Reportedly it cost just $10 million to produce and it focuses on Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), whose paintings became a phenomenon in the 1950s yet all credit was taken by her husband Walter (Christoph Waltz).

Adams and Waltz are no strangers to acting nominations at the Oscars. Adams has been recognized five times in the past nine years but hasn’t won. On the flip side, Waltz has been nominated in the Supporting Actor race for Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained and took home the gold on both occasions.

For Waltz, some writers have said his performance is a bit over the top and he seems highly unlikely to get his third nod. Adams is the one who could sneak in, but she would appear to be behind Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything). That would leave Adams with the fifth slot and there’s still Emily Blunt’s work in Into the Woods that has yet to be evaluated. Factor in other actresses who sneak into spot #5 and the chances of Adams getting her sixth nomination is very much a question mark.

The picture itself is receiving decent reviews but they aren’t overwhelmingly glowing. Big Eyes appears on the outside looking in for Best Picture and Director for Burton, who’s surprisingly yet to get Academy recognition.

Todd’s Top Ten Most Eagerly Awaited Fall 2014 Movies

The summer of 2014 is heading towards its closure and that means school, football, and the Fall Movie Season is ahead of us! As many know, the months of September through December is when studios typically save up their major Oscar contenders and that is certainly the case this year. As for what’s been released pre-fall, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is the only shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination (it could win too) while Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel currently has a decent shot.

This brings us to my personal top ten most anticipated films being released in the final four months of the year. Some of my choices are Oscar hopefuls while others are not. I’ll get to my first round of inappropriately early Academy Award nomination predictions very soon on the blog. In the meantime, here’s the pics that this blogger is most looking forward to:

10. St. Vincent

Release Date: October 24

This comedy/drama had me at the actor headlining the cast: Bill Murray. He plays an irresponsible war veteran who befriends a young boy. Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts costar. If it’s good, expect Oscar buzz for Mr. Murray and Ms. Watts in the Supporting Actress race.

9. The Interview

Release Date: December 25

When Seth Rogen and James Franco have teamed up, it’s led to two hilarious comedies: Pineapple Express and This is the End. Here’s hoping the trend continues where they play two journalists given the task of assassinating Kim Jong-Un.

8. Big Eyes

Release Date: December 25

Tim Burton has seemed to be on autopilot lately with lackluster pics like Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows. This could change that in the true life tale of a man (Christoph Waltz) who fraudulently claims credit for his wife’s (Amy Adams) bestselling paintings. Oscar buzz could follow if this one if it delivers.

**No trailer released at press time

7. Birdman

Release Date: October 17

Not a biography of the tattooed Miami Heat player – rather Birdman stars Michael Keaton in what could be a huge comeback role. He plays an actor most known for playing an iconic superhero, which shouldn’t be much of a stretch. Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifinakis round out the ensemble and it’s directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who brought us 21 Grams and Babel.

6. Dumb and Dumber To

Release Date: November 14

Whether or not the return of Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) nearly 20 years after the iconic original works is an open question, but you can be damn sure I’ll be in the theater to find out.

5. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

Release Date: November 21

Catching Fire improved upon an already first-rate original in the franchise so I’m pumped to see the series continue. It also serves as one of our final opportunities to see the great Philip Seymour Hoffman.

4. Inherent Vice

Release Date: December 12

Anytime Paul Thomas Anderson makes a film, it’s noteworthy given his filmography includes Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, and The Master. This private detective tale stars Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon.

**No trailer released at press time

3. Foxcatcher

Release Date: November 14

Director Bennett Miller has seen both his features, Capote and Moneyball, earn Best Picture nominations. Advance word is that this will as well. The true story of John du Pont’s (Steve Carell) obsession with a pair of wrestlers (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) is generating Academy Award chatter for all three actors.

2. Gone Girl

Release Date: October 3

One of the very best directors working today David Fincher adapts Gillian Flynn’s bestselling murder mystery novel. Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike (in a role likely to earn Oscar buzz), Tyler Perry, and Neil Patrick Harris star.

1. Interstellar

Christopher Nolan has given us the acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy and Inception. In his latest, recent Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey is tasked with no less than saving the world. Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and (of course) Michael Caine costar. Expect amazing visuals at the very least.

And that’s my top ten, folks. See you at the movies!

This Day in Movie History: January 9

This Day in Movie History – January 9 – Tim Burton’s Big Fish opened wide domestically and placed second at the box office behind The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The film was looked at as a potential Oscar contender, but it didn’t pan out. Still, Burton’s father/son tale with numerous fantasy elements managed a respectable $66 million domestic gross. It starred Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Billy Crudup, and Burton regulars Helena Bonham-Carter and Danny DeVito. Originally planned as a vehicle for Steven Spielberg, the project was transferred to Burton who at one time considered Jack Nicholson as the lead to play the roles both McGregor and Finney portrayed. That would’ve been done with some CGI magic. Obviously that plan was scrapped and since its release a decade ago, Fish has enhanced its reputation as one of the filmmaker’s better efforts in recent years.

As for birthdays, J.K Simmons turns 59 today. Known just as much for his television work on “Law&Order”, “Oz”, and “The Closer”, Simmons has also had a stellar career in film. He appeared in the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy as J. Jonah Jameson and had supporting roles in noteworthy pics such as The Cider House Rules, The Gift, Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Burn After Reading, I Love You Man, Up in the Air, and Jobs.

Joey Lauren Adams is 46 today. You may have first seen her in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused before she became a favorite of Kevin Smith, appearing in Mallrats and in the title role of his critically acclaimed Chasing Amy alongside Ben Affleck. Other roles include Big Daddy and The Break-Up.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the two:

J.K. Simmons was in Juno with Jason Bateman

Jason Bateman was in The Break-Up with Joey Lauren Adams

And that’s today – January 9 – in Movie History!