We’re choosing the ultimate summer movie. This week ‘Bridesmaids’ and 15 more compete
Welcome to the second week of the L.A. Times #UltimateSummerMovie Showdown, our 16-week contest to program the greatest summer movie season ever. Or at least since 1975, the year that “Jaws” forever changed the landscape of moviemaking, gross tallying and beach bumming forever.
To recap the rules: Each week, I will present you with a list of 16 movies from 1975 to 2019, all of which were released during a particular summer time frame. Last week, the contenders included such May 1-7 releases as “Sixteen Candles” (1984), “Dave” (1993), “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” (1997) and “Spider-Man” (2002).
The winner of that superhero-heavy bout — triumphing over fellow Marvel franchise installments “Iron Man” (2008) and “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) — was “The Avengers” (2012). At 6 p.m. Pacific on Thursday, my Times colleague Glenn Whipp and I will be co-hosting a live chat on “The Avengers” that will be streamed on the Los Angeles Times Classic Hollywood Facebook Page and YouTube as well as Twitter. The movie is available to watch in advance on Prime Video, Disney+ and most VOD platforms.
There are no Marvel movies in contention this week, which covers movies that opened in U.S. theaters between May 8-14 , 1975-2019. But there are some excellent movies, and even the also-rans commanded passionate support among The Times colleagues who helped me hash out the list. Here are the films, in chronological order:
“Friday the 13th” (1980)
It may have been a slipshod “Halloween” ripoff, but it was also ruthlessly effective enough to launch one of the most iconic (and endless) slasher franchises in movie history.
“Conan the Barbarian” (1982)
Two years before “Terminator,” John Milius’ sword-and-sorcery beefcake extravaganza propelled that Nietzschean super-warrior Arnold Schwarzenegger to global stardom.
“Blue Thunder” (1983)
Its politics may be as dated as its technology, but the thrill of Roy Scheider and Malcolm McDowell going head-to-head in helicopters never gets old.
“The Natural” (1984)
“Primordial hokum,” Pauline Kael called it. And like a lot of hokum, Barry Levinson’s lacquered ode to the majesty of baseball — and Robert Redford — is still hard to resist.
“Short Circuit” (1986)
After “Blue Thunder,” this runaway-robot comedy is the second John Badham-directed movie about government technology run amok on this week’s list. I haven’t seen it since childhood, but if it gets far enough in the voting, I’m curious to see how it holds up.
“The Crow” (1994)
Forever linked to the accidental death of its star, Brandon Lee, during filming, Alex Proyas’ comic-book adaptation endures as a work of feverish visual imagination.
“Crimson Tide” (1995)
Tony Scott’s submarine thriller pitting a cool Denzel Washington against a barking Gene Hackman arrives drenched in testosterone, warmed-over Cold War paranoia and the best faux clammy-Clancy atmosphere money can buy.
Helen Hunt and the late Bill Paxton starred in this gargantuan hit that put the “fun” in “funnel.” Be sure and catch its recently released spiritual prequel, “First Cow.”
“The Fifth Element” (1997)
It’s got a blond Bruce Willis. It’s got an orange-haired Milla Jovovich. It’s got flying cars, whizzing bullets and an engorged fireball of death. It’s got damn near everything you might want in a movie and a hell of a lot you don’t.
“Deep Impact” (1998)
Speaking of engorged fireballs of death: This is the first and more sensitively drawn of the two summer-of-1998 thrillers about an enormous chunk of matter on a collision course with Earth (the other being, of course, “Armageddon”). Téa Leoni and Maximilian Schell’s last scene still gets to me.
Adrian Lyne’s steamy, moralistic potboiler is never as smart or emotionally sophisticated as Diane Lane’s blazingly good performance, but she made it something to see and sometimes swoon over.
“Speed Racer” (2008)
A critical and commercial disappointment for the Wachowskis on initial release, this riotous blur of color and kinetic energy has only grown in cult stature over the years.
“Star Trek” (2009)
Led by a superbly matched Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, it’s the rare movie to turn a financial imperative (a reboot!) into an ingenious narrative loophole. It also remains, by light years, the best “Star” movie of any kind that J.J. Abrams has directed.
It was explosively funny, yes. Thanks to star Kristen Wiig (who wrote the script with Annie Mumolo), it was also a perceptive, emotionally lacerating portrait of friendship, class envy and midlife disappointment.
“The Great Gatsby” (2013)
In Baz Luhrmann’s very busy hands, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic became a gaudy carnival of maximalist kitsch. Love it or hate it (and I’m right in the middle), Leonardo DiCaprio remains a Jay Gatsby for the ages.
Nicholas Stoller’s sharp, raucous comedy of intergenerational warfare has Seth Rogen and Zac Efron giving it their all, but Rose Byrne is its secret weapon. (Between this and “Bridesmaids,” it’s clearly her week.)
The also-rans: Among the May 8-14 releases that narrowly missed our list were “A Knight’s Tale” (2001), the medieval-goblet-of-rock fantasy starring Heath Ledger, and “28 Weeks Later” (2007), an underappreciated sequel to “28 Days Later” and a terrific pandemic movie to boot.
How to vote: If you have a Twitter account (and if you don’t, you can sign up for one for free), you may vote in the polls I will post this week on my account, @JustinCChang. Here’s the schedule:
Tuesday, May 5
5 p.m.: First polls open; voting ends at 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Wednesday, May 6
8 a.m.: Quarterfinal polls open; voting ends at 4 p.m.
5 p.m.: Semifinal polls open; voting ends at 1 a.m. Thursday.
Thursday, May 7
8 a.m.: Final polls open; the winner is announced at 4 p.m.
Happy voting — and keep an eye out for Week 3.
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