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‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘Wonder Woman’ and 14 other movies compete in this week’s Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown

Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) in the movie "Finding Nemo."
(Disney/Pixar)

Welcome to the fifth week of the L.A. Times Ultimate Summer Movie 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. You may vote for your favorites on my Twitter account, @JustinCChang; each week’s polls are posted at 5 p.m. PT Tuesday.

Our first three winners were “The Avengers” (Week 1, May 1-7), “Bridesmaids” (Week 2, May 8-14) and “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Week 3, May 15-21). Last week (Week 4, May 22-28) might have gone the way of a science-fiction classic (“Star Wars”) or a horror landmark (“The Shining”), but instead the victory went to a movie, “Alien,” that can justly be described as both.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, I will be hosting a live chat with “Alien” director Ridley Scott that will be streamed on the Los Angeles Times Classic Hollywood Facebook Page and YouTube as well as Twitter.

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And now we look ahead to Week 5, which covers movies that opened in U.S. theaters between May 29 and June 4, 1975-2019. Here they are, in chronological order:

“Poltergeist” (1982)
The behind-the-scenes story is one of Hollywood’s most notorious. The movie itself, and the strength of its PG-rated horrors, endure.

“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982)
J.J. Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” reboot cracked the semifinals three weeks ago. Let’s see if the series’ undisputed cinematic standard bearer can make it even farther.

“WarGames” (1983)
Matthew Broderick had one of his earliest screen roles in this still-entertaining comedy-thriller about computer hacking, nuclear warfare and Cold War unease. Director John Badham’s “Blue Thunder” and “Short Circuit” didn’t get far a few weeks ago; let’s see if this one fares better.

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“Big” (1988)
The many tributes to the director Penny Marshall after her death in 2018 were a reminder of how beloved this Tom Hanks comedy remains. That first glimpse of the Zoltar fortune-telling machine is still one of my own earliest movie memories.

“Dead Poets Society” (1989)
My own personal definition of “carpe diem” would involve pulling this one off the list, but my colleagues leaped onto their desks and shouted me down.

“Total Recall” (1990)
It was indifferently remade in 2012, but it’s the intense violence and rude satirical energy of Paul Verhoeven’s first U.S.-made feature that linger in the memory. Arnold Schwarzenegger too.

“Sister Act” (1992)
My sentimental favorite this week. Even after spawning a sequel, a Broadway musical and a still-in-the-works Disney+ remake, this mix of gunplay, gospel and Goldberg still sings.

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“The Bridges of Madison County” (1995)
Clint Eastwood took a widely reviled book and, in characteristically unfussy fashion, wrung from it a moving, beautifully acted love story. An unsurprisingly great Meryl Streep performance didn’t hurt.

“Finding Nemo” (2003)
Carp-e diem.

“The Italian Job” (2003)
This spiffy remake rivals the 1969 Michael Caine original as the greatest Mini Cooper commercial ever — and remains one of F. Gary Gray’s strongest films.

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004)
J.K. Rowling purists may take issue with some of its narrative excisions, but Alfonso Cuarón’s wondrous fantasy remains the most transporting and visually imaginative movie in the cycle.

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“Knocked Up” (2007)
Judd Apatow’s hit comedy premiered to warm reviews and huge box office. It also kicked off a rich and thorny cultural debate about women, abortion and how mainstream crowd-pleasers choose to represent them (or not).

“Up” (2009)
The “Married Life” montage is one of the emotionally purest passages of filmmaking in the Pixar oeuvre. The rest of Pete Docter and Bob Peterson’s lovely fantasy may not live up to it, but it almost doesn’t matter.

“X-Men: First Class” (2011)
Matthew Vaughn reinvigorated a flailing franchise with some much-needed Rat Pack energy and with a strong new cast led by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender.

“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” (2016)
“Bar none, I am the most humble-est / Number one at the top of the humble list”

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“Wonder Woman” (2017)
The moment in Patty Jenkins’ movie when Gal Gadot storms into a literal no man’s land — a moment that still brings viewers to tears — is one of those all-too-rare instances of a superhero film not just exalting its subject’s magnificence but actually living up to it.

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 that I will post this week. Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday, May 26
5 p.m.: Polls open for knockout round; voting ends at 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 27
8 a.m.: Polls open for quarterfinals; voting ends at 4 p.m.
5 p.m.: Polls open for semifinals; voting ends at 1 a.m. Thursday.

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Thursday, May 28
8 a.m.: Polls open for final vote.
4 p.m.: Final polls close; winner announced.

Happy voting — and keep an eye out for Week 6.


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