Top 25 SNL Alumni Movie Performances: Numbers 25-21

It’s time for another list on this here blog of mine and Saturday Night Live has been on the mind lately. With The King of Staten Island garnering solid reviews and serving as a launching pad for the film career of current cast member Pete Davidson, I’ve decided to compile my own personal list of top 25 performances from the 45 years of SNL alumni.

And this is sure to be a list where many moviegoers would have their own choices that do not reflect my own. Obviously SNL has a rich history of performers that have made the transition to the big screen and there are lots of notable comedic (and some dramatic) highlights.

A couple of notes before we start with numbers 25-21:

  • There are couple well-known actors that I chose to leave on the cutting room floor due to their very brief tenures on the show. Ben Stiller was a cast member for only 4 episodes and Laurie Metcalf was a not ready for prime time player for exactly 1 show. That didn’t seem like enough to include them. In short, if you lasted a season or more on SNL, you are eligible.
  • This list is undeniably dominated by men. That’s just a fact. On the other hand, if I did a list that included TV (which I may after this), you would certainly see a more substantial presence of former female performers. Think Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and their acclaimed small screen work.
  • We have a couple of cinematic legends like Eddie Murphy and Bill Murray and I could have chosen plenty of their roles for inclusion. I tried to limit that, but you will see them make quite an impact in the top 25.

And with that, let’s get to the list!

25. Jan Hooks, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

OK, maybe this is cheating a little bit since Ms. Hooks (who was brilliant on SNL) gets about three minutes of screen time in Tim Burton’s team-up with Paul Reubens for his iconic character. Yet her work as the cheery tour guide with the southern drawl is so memorable that I couldn’t leave it off. Six words: “There’s no basement at the Alamo!”

24. Bill Hader, It Chapter Two (2019)

Hader has been one of the most versatile cast members in recent times and has had memorable film roles in Superbad and Trainwreck, among others. I include this horror sequel because he was the undeniable bright spot in an otherwise inferior sequel.

23. Will Forte, MacGruber (2010)

Count me in as one of the ardent defenders of this SNL spin-off featuring Forte doing a feature length version of his idiotic MacGyver like role. MacGruber was a box office flop upon release but has since turned into a deserved cult classic (with a rumored sequel happening).

22. Tina Fey, Mean Girls (2004)

Before her fantastic work on 30 Rock, Fey wrote this hit comedy that has spawned a massive following and a Broadway musical. Her work as a teacher here served as a springboard to an impressive TV and movie career.

21. Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Crystal has certainly had his share of hits, but I’ll give the nod to his romantic leading man role opposite Meg Ryan in Rob Reiner’s blockbuster.

That does it for now, folks! I’ll continue the list with numbers 20-16 in short order…

Oscar History: 2013

Recapping the Oscar Season of 2013, a few things stick out. The big winners were 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, which cleaned up in the tech races. The big loser was American Hustle, which came away with zero victories despite 10 nominations (tying it for most nods with Gravity, which won 7 of them). Another take: it was a packed year for Best Actor with some deserving gents left out.

As I have done with previous years, let’s take a deeper dive in the 86th Academy Awards in the major races:

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave unsurprisingly came away with the Best Picture prize in a field that yielded eight other films. They were David O. Russell’s American Hustle, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Spike Jonze’s Her, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Philomena from Stephen Frears, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. 

That’s a solid grouping of pictures and there’s probably no obvious omissions from my end in 2013.. That said, many young girls may protest Frozen not making the cut though it did win Best Animated Feature. And certainly Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers had its ardent admirers.

There was a Picture/Director split with Cuaron emerging victorious for Gravity. The filmmaker would achieve the same feat five years later when he won for Roma but Green Book took Best Picture. Other nominees were McQueen, Payne, Russell, and Scorsese.I would argue that Greengrass and Jonze could have made the final five.

In the aforementioned crowded Best Actor derby, Matthew McConaughey took gold for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. The four other contenders were Christian Bale for Hustle, Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for Wall Street, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Note that all nominees came from Best Picture hopefuls.

Let’s start with Tom Hanks, who I absolutely feel should have gotten in for his remarkable performance in Captain Phillips. The clip I’ve included below proves it and then some. You could say the same for Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Others worth noting: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, and Robert Redford for All Is Lost. 

Cate Blanchett was the latest actress to be honored for her work in a Woody Allen picture as she took Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. The other nominees were Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and the ever present Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).

I’ll mention three others left out worthy of consideration: Brie Larson in Short Term 12, Julia-Louis Dreyfus for Enough Said, and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. For the latter, it was a bit unexpected that she was left out.

McConaughey’s Dallas Buyers costar Jared Leto won Supporting Actor over Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). Again, all nominees stemmed from Picture contenders.

Some others that didn’t quite make it: Daniel Bruhl in Rush, Steve Coogan for Philomena, Paul Dano in Prisoners, and Will Forte in Nebraska.

Another big 12 Years victory was Lupita Nyong’o in Supporting Actress. She took the prize despite competition from Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), and June Squibb (Nebraska).

Despite it being a voice only performance, I would say Scarlett Johansson in Her deserved a spot and the same could be said for Margot Robbie in Wall Street.

And there you have it, folks! My look back at the Oscar landscape in 2013. I’ll have 2014 up in due time…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 28th Edition

In these times, it’s certainly important to laugh and today’s Streaming Guide gives us two goofy comedies currently available on HBO’s viewing services:

2010’s MacGruber is a feature-length treatment starring Will Forte’s inept MacGyver type character that he originally debuted on SNL. It was not a hit upon release, but has found many fans over the past decade. I found it to be frequently uproarious with memorable supporting turns by Kristin Wiig and Val Kilmer. There’s also an, ummm, love scene between Forte and Wiig that won’t leave your psyche anytime soon.

2004’s Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was a blockbuster a decade and a half ago. Headlined by Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, this silly sports tale about something we all played in gym hits more than it misses. In hindsight, the inspirational scene with Lance Armstrong towards the end seems… dated. Yet this is certainly good for some laughs.

That does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Good Boys Movie Review

Yes, there’s an apt comparison to be made between Good Boys and 2007’s Superbad. This is kind of the middle school version of that movie from over a decade ago. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the latter and they serve as producers here. Both involve young boys with their dirty minds trying to make it to a party that they view as potentially life changing (all events are greatly elevated in status at these ages).

What both get right is portraying the naïveté of their central characters. They may talk a good game in their minds, but there’s a whole lot about sex and drugs that they simply don’t understand yet. There’s inherent humor in that. Plenty of raunchy youth comedies are simply in it for the gross out humor. Another layer exists here and it’s one of sweetness to occasionally balance out the R rated aspects.

Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon) have just entered the wild world of middle school. Their curiosity level when it comes to girls, beer, and after school get togethers is in peak form. They christen themselves The Beanbag Boys since a good chunk of their lives are spent playing games and conversing while sitting on them. Max has a crush on a fellow student and might have an opportunity to make his move at a party that the cool kids invite him to. Thor is more interested in excelling at the school musical (an ill conceived pint size rendering of Rock of Ages), but struggles with that since the cool kids don’t think that’s cool. Lucas has a happy life that’s disrupted by parental divorce. He’s unlikely to ever be the cool kid and doesn’t quite know that yet.

The boys friendship is tested over a long day where they skip school, steal Max’s dad’s fancy drone, and turn into amateur ecstasy dealers so they don’t get in deeper trouble (it all makes sense in context). The laugh ratio here is pretty high as the trio must learn about kissing (the porn sites they go don’t help much) and dealing with college kids to score drugs.

Tremblay is the famous kid of the bunch as he’s known for his impressive serious work in Room and Wonder. He gets to drop some F bombs for the first time and he looks precocious doing it. I would say it’s Williams, however, that shines the brightest. The couple scenes with his splitting parents are comedic highlights. They display what makes Good Boys work best. It’s funny, but with an undertone of these kids learning the real world for the first time. Like Superbad, the central figures come to discover life will exist beyond their childhood friendships. It takes plenty of crass jokes to get them there, but those gags work more often than they don’t.

*** (out of four)

Booksmart Movie Review

Booksmart is about intelligent people with a lot left to learn. It’s a teen comedy that exists within the confines we expect. Yet it does so with characters who are flawed and likable and not stereotypical. As a directorial debut for Olivia Wilde, it’s a stylish accomplishment with a keen eye for casting. Like Superbad from over a decade ago, it convinces us that the two leads are best friends with a long history.

Kaitlyn Dever is Amy. She’s been out of the closet for two years and is planning a summer sabbatical in Africa post graduation. Amy hasn’t been out socially in her formative years and neither has her BFF Molly (Beanie Feldstein). She’s the class president with a ticket to Yale and a crush on the hunky VP who’s Mr. Popularity. On the final day of school, the duo decide to finally attend the biggest grad party of them all. It takes various excursions to get there and it doesn’t help that they don’t know the address.

As we suspect, Amy and Molly’s bond is tested as crushes are explored and unexpected romantic interests materialize. Both performers do a remarkable job with their chemistry and individual moments. A heated argument between them is shot to perfection. With a screenplay from four female writers, their interplay seems heartfelt and real.

That’s not to say some cliches aren’t overdone. Of course they’re going to be accidentally drugged, but the animated sequence accompanying that occurrence is a joy. Wilde’s hubby Jason Sudeikis shows up as the school principal/Lyft driver. Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte are Amy’s parents. These are well known comic actors, but the young adults playing high schoolers in the supporting cast truly stand out. This includes Billie Lourd as a rich girl who seems to be everywhere at all times and Skyler Gisondo as her best bud who tries too hard but has his heart in the right place.

That description applies to Booksmart as a whole. Like many of the best pics in this genre, it’s happily R rated. The writers don’t pigeonhole the kids as know it alls or morons, but as genuine seniors who make mistakes and do the right thing often when tested. Booksmart doesn’t always break the mold in this well worn genre, but it provides plenty of laughs and sincerity as Amy and Molly turn a page.

*** (out of four)

Good Boys Box Office Prediction

Good Boys is looking to become this summer’s Superbad when the raunchy comedy debuts next weekend. Marking the directorial debut of Gene Stupnitsky, the film centers on three preteens doing R rated shenanigans. The kids are played by Jacob Tremblay of Room and Wonder fame, as well as unknowns Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon. Costars include Will Forte, Molly Gordon, and Lil Rel Howery.

Keeping with the Superbad theme, Boys comes from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s production company, who wrote that 2007 hit. The pic was first unveiled in March at the South by Southwest Festival to positive reaction. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 78%.

That said, the buzz for this doesn’t seem as high. The chance for this to over perform is there. Yet I’m skeptical this earns half of the $33 million achieved by Superbad, which premiered over the same late summer weekend a dozen years ago. In fact, its debut might be in the preteens just like its stars.

Good Boys opening weekend prediction: $14.3 million

For my The Angry Birds Movie 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/06/the-angry-birds-movie-2-box-office-prediction/

For my 47 Meters Down: Uncaged prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/08/47-meters-down-uncaged-box-office-prediction/

For my Blinded by the Light prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/blinded-by-the-light-box-office-prediction/

For my Where’d You Go, Bernadette prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/whered-you-go-bernadette-box-office-prediction/

Booksmart Box Office Prediction

The best known actress involved with Booksmart is making her directorial debut and is not in front of the camera. Yet the pic is riding a wave of critical kudos since its premiere at South by Southwest in March. The comedy is centered on two teenage girls and their last day of high school. Olivia Wilde makes that aforementioned first turn in the captain’s chair. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein (best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in Lady Bird) are the two graduates. Costars include Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis (Wilde’s hubby).

Booksmart stands at a super fresh 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It could still face hurdles when it opens over the long Memorial Day weekend. Opening on approximately 2300 screens, I’m skeptical as to its awareness factor among general audiences. This could be a slow builder if word-of-mouth takes off or become a cult hit following the theatrical release.

I’ll say a debut in the upper single digits is where this starts out at.

Booksmart opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million

For my Aladdin prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/14/aladdin-box-office-prediction/

For my Brightburn prediction, click here:

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

Oscar Watch: Booksmart

Critics focused on the raunchy high school comedy Booksmart as one of the highlights coming from this year’s South by Southwest Festival. The film marks the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde. It stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in Lady Bird. Costars include Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis.

The film doesn’t open until Memorial Day weekend, but the loud buzz could certainly assist in making it a sleeper hit. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 100% currently. Could awards voters take notice? It’s doubtful. Feldstein is said to have a breakout role here. If there is any nomination chatter, it could center on the Original Screenplay from its four screenwriters – Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silverman. That said, if last year’s acclaimed Eighth Grade couldn’t gain any traction, that doesn’t bode well here.

Bottom line: Booksmart is one to watch out for when it comes to box office surprises. Academy nods would surprise a lot more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

A Futile and Stupid Gesture Movie Review

David Wain’s A Futile and Stupid Gesture centers on a Golden Age of comedy while attempting to tell a conventional biopic story line somewhat unconventionally. At times, it succeeds. In others, it strains itself. The overall effect is a retelling of moments that led millions of us to some of our biggest laughs in print and onscreen, even if the humor here is hit or miss.

The film’s central figure is Doug Kenney (Will Forte) of Chagrin Falls, Ohio (as he constantly reminds us). He grew up in that affluent Ohio suburban setting in the 1950s with uppity parents and a family tragedy that seems to inform his feeling of self-worth. However, he’s got one whip smart sense of humor and it translates to his time at Harvard. He partners with fellow humorist – the ironically pipe smoking Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) and they excel at producing the “Lampoon”, the university’s premier comedy publication. While this Ivy League duo could pretty much get any job, Doug convinces Henry to expand the magazine nationally. Hence the “National Lampoon” and the treasure trove of history that follows.

Kenney and Beard’s venture turns out to be a runaway success that provides a platform for brilliant writers such as Michael O’Donoghue and P.J. O’Rourke and performers Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Bill Murray to shine. It’s obvious to say that “Saturday Night Live” never would have existed without Kenney and Beard and that’s acknowledged here. Some of these later famous faces are given seconds of screen time and others considerably more. In a movie about the advent of ironic comedy in many respects, there’s some casting irony here. Joel McHale is Chevy Chase, an actor who dealt with the well-documented difficult nature of Chevy himself on the set of “Community”. Martin Mull is the narrator of Gesture as the older man who Kenney himself never became. The screenplay gleefully acknowledges the many clichés that come with making a biopic. The drug use, strained romantic relationships, and family drama are presented here, but with a winking eye.

The picture often plays like a greatest hits of Kenney’s accomplishments. His contributions to the big screen were short but monumental with National Lampoon’s Animal House and Caddyshack. The screenplay doesn’t linger long on either and perhaps it could have benefited with more minutes spent on the party atmosphere of the former and the coke fueled chaos of the latter.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is clearly made by a team who reveres its central subject. It doesn’t delve too far into Kenney’s considerable issues in an attempt to keep the tone fairly light. Yet it also doesn’t fully enjoy the opportunities to spend time with these young upstarts who would become comedy legends. That creates a sometimes unwieldy mix. Forte certainly impresses in the lead and there’s a few memorable supporting turns, including Matt Walsh as the magazine’s beleaguered financier and Ed Helms in a brief, but devastatingly biting scene as interviewer Tom Snyder.

There are segments of Gesture that remind us to thank our lucky stars for the existence of the people chronicled here. It doesn’t fully succeed as a stand-alone movie that ironically apes the biopic genre that it finds itself in, though it tries hard. In fact, it sometimes tries a little too hard to be ironic. The makers of the “Lampoon” shown here probably would have known how to make it a little funnier and let the serious moments be a tad more subtly rewarding.

**1/2 (out of four)

Keanu Movie Review

It may be called Keanu with an adorable kitten named after the actor who gave us Neo/Johnny Utah/John Wick, but the debut feature starring Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” could’ve been titled George Michael as well. The iconic 1980s British crooner gets his props throughout this action comedy that may have felt right at home in theaters when “Faith” and “Father Figure” were burning up the charts.

The duo’s basic cable program was a rather groundbreaking show with some truly inspired bits. You won’t really find that here. Instead, Keanu is a breezy if rather forgettable tale of the tail of the cat who captures the hearts of everyone who comes in contact with it. Jordan Peele is Rell, who’s depressed after his girlfriend broke up with him when that darn kitty comes into his possession. His best bud/cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) is stuck in a dull middle class existence with a bored wife (Nia Long) who’s out of town for the weekend. The pair soon learn that Keanu is actually the property of a drug kingpin whose employees were recently mowed down by assassins known as The Allentown Boys (also played by Key and Peele). Before you know it, Rell and Clarence are posing as them in an effort to get the kidnapped Keanu back.

Their journey brings them to the underground L.A. drug scene and a crew led by Cheddar (Method Man) and Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish), who Rell has the hots for. Of course, they need nifty nicknames, too. Tectonic and Shark Tank suffice. As they try to find that fabulously cute feline, the guys teach some criminals the joys of George Michael in a humorous bit that just keeps going and going.

Maybe that’s part of the problem here. The shark out of water premise of Keanu barely can sustain itself for 100 minutes. There are moments sprinkled throughout that work well. An unexpected cameo from Scary Movie lead Anna Faris is amusing. Key and Peele do succeed in proving that their charisma on the small screen translates to the big one. And, yes, that kitten really is a gem. Yet the concept of these guys having to “get hard” (to borrow a phrase from a far worse Kevin Hart vehicle that uses similar plotting) is a rather familiar one. This is a talented pair at work, though. I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up when they get “One More Try”, as that hit song says from Mr. Michael.

**1/2 (out of four)