Ten years ago, today, the #1 movie at the box office was 17 Again, a comedy starring Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Jim Gaffigan, Margaret Cho & Melora Hardin. Released April 17, it was directed by Burr Steers (Gore Vidal‘s nephew).
At 17 Mike O’Donnell is on top of the world: he’s the star of his high school basketball team, is a shoo-in for a college scholarship, and is dating his soul-mate, Scarlet. But, at what’s supposed to be his big game where a college scout is checking him out, Scarlet reveals that she’s pregnant. Mike decides to leave the game and asks Scarlet to marry him, which she does. During their marriage, Mike can only whine about the life he lost because he married her so, she throws him out. When he also loses his job, he returns to the only place he’s happy at, his old high school. While looking at his high school photo, a janitor asks him if he wishes he could be 17 again and he says yes. One night while driving he sees the janitor on a bridge ready to jump and goes after him. When he returns to his friend Ned’s house, where he has been staying, he sees that he is 17 again. He decides to take this opportunity to get the life he lost.
♦ Visual effects were not used when Zac Efron does the basketball tricks during the cafeteria scene. He really did accomplish them on his own.
♦ This is a remake of the 1986 Disney TV movie “Young Again” starring a very young Keanu Reeves in one of his earliest roles.
♦ In one scene, Mike wakes up and begins describing his “dream” of being in high school again only to find his daughter, Maggie, caring for him. This is an homage to the counterpart scene in Back to the Future (1985), in which Marty McFly wakes up and finds his teen-aged mother caring for him.
Fifteen years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was The Passion of the Christ, a biblical drama starring Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, Claudia Gerini and Sergio Rubini. Directed by Mel Gibson, the screenplay was co-written by Gibson and Benedict Fitzgerald. Released February 25, it was based on The Passion of Jesus in the New Testament and Clemens Brentano‘s The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the first volume of his records (notes) from conversations regarding meditations by Anne Catherine Emmerich, a canoness, mystic, visionary and stigmatist. John Debney was composer and cinematographer was Caleb Deschanel (father of Emily & Zooey Deschanel).
The Passion of the Christ focuses on the last twelve hours of Jesus of Nazareth’s life. The film begins in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus has gone to pray after sitting [at] the Last Supper. Jesus must resist the temptations of Satan. Betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Jesus is then arrested and taken within the city walls of Jerusalem where leaders of the Pharisees confront him with accusations of blasphemy and, his trial results in a condemnation to death.
From Roger Ebert:
If ever there was a film with the correct title, that film is Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” The movie is 126 minutes long and, I would guess that at least 100 of those minutes, maybe more, are concerned, specifically and graphically, with the details of the torture and death of Jesus. This is the most violent film I have ever seen.
What Gibson has provided for me, for the first time in my life, is a visceral idea of what the Passion consisted of. That his film is superficial in terms of the surrounding message — that we get only a few passing references to the teachings of Jesus — is, I suppose, not the point. This is not a sermon or a homily but, a visualization of the central event in the Christian religion. Take it or leave it.
David Ansen, a critic I respect, finds in Newsweek that Gibson has gone too far. “The relentless gore is self-defeating,” he writes. “Instead of being moved by Christ’s suffering or awed by his sacrifice, I felt abused by a filmmaker intent on punishing an audience, for who knows what sins.” This is a completely valid response to the film, and I quote Ansen because I suspect he speaks for many audience members, who will enter the theater in a devout or spiritual mood and emerge deeply disturbed. You must be prepared for whippings, flayings, beatings, the crunch of bones, the agony of screams, the cruelty of the sadistic centurions, the rivulets of blood that crisscross every inch of Jesus’ body. Some will leave before the end.
♦ On February 11, 2008, Benedict Fitzgerald filed a lawsuit against Mel Gibson and the production company Icon Productions, alleging the unfair deprivation of compensation and deception on the overall expense of the film production budget after the blockbuster box office success of the film The Passion of the Christ, including, but not limited to, “fraud, breach of contract & unjust enrichment” seeking unspecified damages.
♦ Jim Caviezel experienced a shoulder separation when the 150lbs cross dropped on his shoulder. The scene is still in the movie.
♦ In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Jim Caviezel spoke about a few of the difficulties he experienced while filming. This included being accidentally whipped twice, which has left a 14-inch scar on his back. Caviezel also admitted he was struck by lightning while filming the Sermon on the Mount and during the crucifixion, experienced hypothermia during the dead of winter in Italy.
Twenty years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was The Matrix, a science-fiction action film starring…Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster and Joe Pantoliano. Produced by Joel Silver, it was written and directed by The Wachowskis.
[The movie] depicts a dystopian future in which humanity is unknowingly trapped inside a simulated reality called the Matrix, created by thought-capable machines (artificial beings) to control humans while using their bodies as an energy source. Hacker and computer programmer, Neo, learns this truth and “is drawn into a rebellion against the machines”, which involves other people who have been freed from the Matrix.
The film is an example of the cyberpunk subgenre. The Wachowskis’ approach to action scenes drew upon their admiration for Japanese animation and martial arts films and, the film’s use of fight choreographers and wire fu techniques from Hong Kong action cinema, influenced subsequent Hollywood action film productions. The Matrix is known for popularizing a visual effect known as “bullet time“, in which the heightened perception of certain characters is represented by allowing the action within a shot to progress in slow-motion while the camera’s viewpoint appears to move through the scene at normal speed. The film contains numerous allusions to philosophical and religious ideas, including existentialism, Marxism, feminism, Buddhism, nihilism and postmodernism.
From Roger Ebert:
“The Matrix” is a visually dazzling cyberadventure, full of kinetic excitement but, it retreats to formula just when it’s getting interesting. It’s kind of a letdown when a movie begins by redefining the nature of reality and ends with a shoot-out. We want a leap of the imagination, not one of those obligatory climaxes with automatic weapons fire.
I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of these exercises in violence, which recycle the same tired ideas: Bad guys fire thousands of rounds but, are unable to hit the good guy. Then, it’s down to the final showdown between good and evil…a martial arts battle in which the good guy gets pounded until he’s almost dead, before he finds the inner will to fight back. Been there, seen that (although rarely done this well).
“The Matrix” did not bore me. It interested me so much, indeed, that I wanted to be challenged even more. I wanted it to follow its material to audacious conclusions, to arrive not simply at victory but, at revelation.
From Darren Aronofsky:
“I walked out of The Matrix with Jared and I was thinking, ‘What kind of science fiction movie can people make now?'” Aronofsky says. “The Wachowskis basically took all the great sci-fi ideas of the 20th century and rolled them into a delicious pop culture sandwich that everyone on the planet devoured. Suddenly Philip K. Dick‘s ideas no longer seemed that fresh. Cyberpunk? Done.”
From M. Night Shyamalan:
[…] Mr. Shyamalan is not much of a cinema historian. Among the directors he admires are Peter Weir, Cameron Crowe, Alfred Hitchcock and the Wachowski Brothers. “Whatever you think of ‘The Matrix,’ every shot is there because of the passion they have! You can see they argued it out!”
♦ For the cell phone conversation scene between Neo and Morpheus in the MetaCortex office, Keanu Reeves actually climbed up the window without a stuntman, which was 34 floors up.
♦ Will Smith was approached to play Neo but, turned down the offer in order to star in Wild Wild West (1999). He later admitted that, at the time, he was “not mature enough as an actor” and that, if given the role, he “would have messed it up”. He had no regrets, saying that “Keanu was brilliant as Neo.”
♦ In an online interview when the film was first released, the Wachowskis revealed that they’d both take the Blue Pill when given Neo’s choice.
Twenty-five years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was Major League II, a sports-comedy starring Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, Dennis Haysbert, James Gammon, Omar Epps, Alison Doody, David Keith, Bob Uecker, Jay Leno (as himself), Jesse Ventura (as himself), Randy Quaid (uncredited) and Rene Russo (uncredited). Released on March 30, it was a sequel to Major League (1989). David Ward directed both and most of the same cast remained. Omar Epps replaced Wesley Snipes in the role of Willie Mays Hayes.
After winning the division the previous year, the Cleveland Indians return the following season with a new-found confidence. Their previously ragtag players are now stars. Roger Dorn has gone from player to owner, removing the unhealthy management and influence of Rachel Phelps. New players have been contracted and the team roster looks stronger than ever. What could possibly go wrong?
From Peter Rainer (Los Angeles Times):
Except for the fact that it was a commercial hit, the 1989 baseball movie “Major League” was not the sort of film that cried out to be sequelized. But, a lot can happen in five years…for one thing, baseball movies seem to be hanging in there. So, here’s another go-round with the cloddy, come-from-behind Cleveland Indians sluggers who once again stumble in pursuit of the American League Eastern Division championship. Bob Uecker, as the Indians’ perpetually bedraggled play-by-play radio announcer, puts in another appearance, dressing down from his Liberace-like duds to a T-shirt as the Indians slide into the cellar. (His aghast expostulations are the film’s highlight.) We learn all sorts of homiletic life lessons about the value of sportsmanship and Being True to Yourself. Why do sports movies always have to devolve into civics lessons? To its credit, “Major League II” doesn’t go in for a lot of moony sentiment about America’s past-time but, it ends up tenderized anyway.
♦ Opened the same weekend as D2:The Mighty Ducks, a sports comedy sequel which starred Charlie Sheen’s brother Emilio Estevez.
♦ In the outfield during their second game there is a sign that says “Emilio’s Repo Depot“. Charlie Sheen’s brother Emilio Estevez was in the movie Repo Man (1984).
♦ One of two films released in 1994 to feature the Chicago White Sox as the arch-rival team. The other was Angels In The Outfield.
♠ Worst Sequel (David S. Ward & James G. Robinson/1994 The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards)
♠ The Sequel Nobody Was Clamoring For (David S. Ward & James G. Robinson/1994 The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards)
Thirty years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was Fletch Lives, starring Chevy Chase, Hal Holbrook, Julianne Phillips, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Libertini, Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb, Cleavon Little, George Wyner, Patricia Kalember, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Belzer, Phil Hartman and Noelle Beck. Released March 17, it was a sequel to Fletch (1985), a movie about an investigative reporter named Irwin Maurice “Fletch” Fletcher, a character created in 1974 by mystery writer Gregory McDonald. It was directed by Michael Ritchie with music by Harold Faltermeyer.
Fletch fans rejoice! The reckless I.M. Fletcher, investigative reporter, returns to the screen. This time, the chameleon-like reporter ventures to Belle Isle, a sprawling 80-acre Louisiana plantation which Fletch inherits from his aunt. Trouble begins when a lovely attorney mysteriously turns up dead, a neighborly lawyer warns him to leave town and a ravishing real estate agent comes calling with a persistent offer he may not be able to refuse. Fletch must unravel the reasons for the mad land scramble with his trademark bag of hilarious disguises.
From Chris Willman:
[…] a movie with a hero whose every other line of dialogue is a snide wisecrack directed at a fool. In this meager sequel, as in its popular predecessor, Chevy Chase demolishes every easy target in sight with a quip of the tongue. Some of the lines are funny but, after a while, you just want to smack him. […] Chevy, who isn’t playing a character (least of all the character first created by novelist Gregory McDonald) so much as reprising his nonplussed, punchline-spouting “Weekend Update” anchor role. […] Ritchie lets sophomoric scatology predominate over satire at every turn and, […] the gags are more crass than corrosive. […] moviegoers might think twice about signing on as the film makers’ partners in put-down when they’re clearly also its targets. Beware: [the movie] may assume that all Southerners are dim bulbs but, it doesn’t think you’re so bright yourself.
From Roger Ebert:
[The movie] is one more dispirited slog through the rummage sale of movie clichés […] If you were writing a screenplay, would you think a movie involving […] pathetic clichés had the slightest chance of interesting anyone? Chase’s assignment is to bring an angle, an edge, to plot materials that are otherwise completely without interest. And it’s theoretically possible for that to happen […] But, Chase is wrong for this material because of the pose of detachment and indifference that he brings to so many roles. He seems to be visiting the plot as a benevolent but, indifferent outsider. […] sometimes he seems to be covering himself, playing detached so that nobody can blame him if the comedy doesn’t work. In this film he seems to have no emotions at all […] Chase is at arm’s length from the plot, making little asides and whimsical commentaries while his hapless supporting cast does what it can with underwritten roles. A mystery is concealed somewhere in the folds of the movie’s plot but, one that will not surprise anyone who has seen half a dozen other mysteries. The identity of the bad guy can be deduced by applying the Law of Character Economy, which states that the mystery villain is always the only character in the plot who seems otherwise unnecessary. It admittedly takes a little more thought than usual to apply the law in this case, since so many of the characters seem unnecessary.
♦ The original character from the novel was a Marine veteran.
♦ Though there were eight sequels, and prequels, written by Gregory McDonald that could have been used as the basis for the second “Fletch” movie at the time, Universal decided to write a completely new story.
♦ The last name of televangelist Jimmy Lee Farnsworth is the same as that of the widely acknowledged inventor of television, Philo T. Farnsworth.
Thirty-five years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was Splash, starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Dody Goodman, Shecky Greene, Rance Howard, Cheryl Howard, Clint Howard and Bill Smitrovich. A Rom-Com fantasy, it was directed by Ron Howard, produced by Brian Grazer and, the story was developed by Grazer and Bruce Jay Friedman. The screenplay was written by Lowell Ganz and Marc ‘Babaloo’ Mandel with music by Lee Holdridge.
Alan [sic] Bauer nearly drowned as a child but, has memories of being saved by a young mermaid. He manages his family’s wholesale fruit and vegetable business and, continues his search to find true love. Along with his feelings, Allen must also contend with his womanizing older brother Freddie, who takes love less seriously than his brother. When he is jilted as an adult and loses his wallet in the surf, the young mermaid tries to return it. They are soul mates who have been meant for each other but, Madison fears how he will react when he finds out she is not human.
From Brian Grazer:
“Tom came in wearing these 501 Levi’s and construction boots and a T-shirt. He wasn’t nervous at all – and here’s a guy who had never had a major movie. I thought, why is this guy so calm? But we read him and we liked him and we hired him right away.”
On Hannah’s abilities, Grazer states “[…] while we were testing Daryl [Hannah] in her tail underwater, we noticed how well she swam. Then we realized that she was as good, if not better, than her stunt doubles. Her endurance was actually better than theirs. We began wondering if Daryl couldn’t do all the scenes herself and she happily agreed, which certainly helped the movie’s credibility.
From Tom Hanks:
“They’re very, very funny guys (Candy & Levy). But my job in Splash was not to be particularly funny. That’s what Ron [Howard] kept drilling into me.”
Learning a valuable lesson from Howard, he recalls being unprepared…”It took longer to shoot than it should have, and when we were done with the scene, Ron said, “You know, you should have been a little more prepared.” He didn’t yell at me. He probably knew that if he had yelled, I’d be paste for the rest of the day. He just let me know in no uncertain terms that I was starring in this movie and with that comes huge responsibilities, and one of them is to be ready to go. I’ve never forgotten that.”
From Daryl Hannah:
[…] having to lie still for three hours every day for technicians to put her into the 35 lbs. rubber fin, she states “At lunch they’d yank me out on a crane and plop me on the deck. I couldn’t eat because I couldn’t go to the bathroom. I just lay there shivering with barnacles in my hair, soaking wet. And underwater it was difficult because I was not able to see since I couldn’t wear a mask. I had to trust the guys to get air to me. It was difficult and we worked long hours but, it seemed more like playing than work. It was real magical down there.”
♦ This film was the first to be released by the new Touchstone Films.
♦ According to the Biography Channel, Bill Murray and P.J. Soles (Stripes) were considered for the roles of Allen and Madison, but Murray turned it down.
♦ Daryl Hannah swam with the mermaid tail so fast that her safety team could not keep pace with her.
♦ A vegetarian, Hannah refused to eat real lobster for the restaurant scene. The crew scooped out the insides of real, cooked lobsters and filled them with a thick, tofu-like paste. Ron Howard said [she] cried after each take over the deaths of the lobsters for their shells.
♦ Tom Hanks had trouble with the water scenes, partly because he was a smoker.
The movie received twelve nominations including the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. It won a National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) award for Best Screenplay and Daryl Hannah won the Saturn Award for Best Actress.
Love Came For Me Theme Song by Rita Coolidge