‘E.T.’ or ‘Jurassic Park’? It’s a big Spielberg week on the Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown
Welcome to the sixth 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 timeframe. 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 five winners were “The Avengers” (Week 1, May 1-7), “Bridesmaids” (Week 2, May 8-14), “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Week 3, May 15-21), “Alien” (Week 4, May 22-28) and “Finding Nemo” (Week 5, May 29-June 4).
And now we look ahead to Week 6, which covers movies that opened in U.S. theaters between June 5-11, 1975-2019. It’s an unusually good week — how unusually good a week? So much so that we’ve decided to award you with a special jumbo edition of the Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown, starting with a staggering 24 movies. We’ll whittle them to 12 films, then six and then three, with a final three-way showdown.
While “Jaws” won’t be in contention for a few more weeks, consider this a Steven Spielberg-heavy prelude; he directed two of the biggest movies in this week’s lineup (“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Jurassic Park”) and served as an executive producer on two others (“The Goonies” and “Gremlins”). Here they are, in chronological order:
“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982)
Its place in the pop-cultural firmament is so secure that its reputation as one of Spielberg’s loveliest entertainments is in danger of being overlooked.
“Trading Places” (1983)
Christmas in June! To say that a lot of it hasn’t aged well would be an understatement, though as a topsy-turvy study in racial and economic inequality, this Dan Aykroyd-Eddie Murphy riff on “The Prince and the Pauper” is one of 2020’s most surreally fascinating rewatches.
“The Goonies” (1985)
I could easily file this week’s three “G” movies under “Staples of My ’80s Childhood That Mean Little to Me Today.” But they undoubtedly mean something to a lot of you, and it’d be churlish to leave them off.
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)
John Hughes’ “Sixteen Candles” made it pretty far in the Week 1 voting; let’s see if this perhaps even more fondly remembered comedy gets any further. The first movie in this week’s Alan Ruck double bill.
“The Untouchables” (1987)
In the year that gave us Tom Hardy’s lamentable “Capone,” spare an appreciative thought — and maybe a vote — for Brian De Palma’s stylish and satisfying crime thriller.
“City Slickers” (1991)
The movie we have to thank for Jack Palance’s one-armed pushups.
“Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” (1991)
The dishes are done, man! A terrific summer movie about a not-so-terrific summer, with Christina Applegate, Josh Charles and a terrific Joanna Cassidy as the boss lady from heaven.
“Jungle Fever” (1991)
With a new Spike Lee joint (“Da 5 Bloods”) now on Netflix, it’s a great time to rifle through the director’s catalog. This romantic drama is unfortunately hard to find on streaming services; if you get the chance, see it for Annabella Sciorra in her prime and for one of Samuel L. Jackson’s best performances.
“Jurassic Park” (1993)
A raptor-ous experience.
“What’s Love Got to Do With It” (1993)
Having previously worked together in “Boyz n the Hood,” Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett went on to earn their (ridiculously) only Oscar nominations for their tempestuous rendition of the Ike and Tina Turner story. Larger than life but indelibly human-scaled.
Still an exhilarating ride, and the one I’m rooting for most this week. Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are almost as combustible as the bus they’re trying to keep from blowing up. Also, the second movie in this week’s Alan Ruck double bill.
“The Rock” (1996)
Nerve gas on Alcatraz! This Nicolas Cage-Sean Connery action thriller, which features a memorably villainous turn by Ed Harris, is the last Michael Bay movie I remember unambiguously, wholeheartedly enjoying.
“The Truman Show” (1998)
Since “Dead Poets Society” made it in the previous week, this superior Peter Weir drama was a shoo-in. Its eerily prescient satire of our media’s 24/7 reality hunger may look a little quaint now, but it remains an ingenious piece of visual storytelling, led by one of Jim Carrey’s greatest performances.
“Napoleon Dynamite” (2004)
Vote for Pedro. If you must.
“Mr. & Mrs. Smith” (2005)
The first of two Angelina Jolie movies and two Doug Liman-directed movies this week. It’s remembered now primarily as a Hollywood supercouple’s origin story, but the beautiful stars still register amid the increasingly outlandish action.
“Kung Fu Panda” (2008)
Jack Black as a dumpling-loving, martial-arts-learning ball of fluff? However eccentric it may have sounded on paper, it spawned one of the better animated feature trilogies of recent vintage. It’s also this week’s other Jolie movie. Skidoosh!
“You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” (2008)
Adam Sandler and director Dennis Dugan may be responsible for such horrors as “Jack and Jill” and two “Grown Ups” movies, but they also gave us this genuinely inspired and even inspiring comedy about … the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve seen it.
“Super 8” (2011)
This week’s Spielberg salute continues with J.J. Abrams’ cleverly calculated tribute to “E.T.” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The movie’s just fine; Elle Fanning is wonderful.
“The Purge” (2013)
James DeMonaco’s sleek home-invasion thriller — and the hit franchise it spawned — is a grab-bag of visceral jolts and half-baked ideas. But the resonance of its core concept, about a society rising up to express its inner violence, is hard to ignore.
“Edge of Tomorrow” (2014)
This week’s other Liman movie places a well-matched Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in service of an ingenious “Groundhog Day” conceit, executed to near-perfection. That it should have been called “Live Die Repeat” has been confirmed by the title of the upcoming sequel: “Live Die Repeat and Repeat.”
“Bridesmaids” won several weeks ago, but this terrific reteaming of director Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy remains underappreciated for its uncommonly smooth emulsion of action and comedy. Jason Statham’s never been funnier.
A family disintegration worthy of Haneke and Bergman, Ari Aster’s artful debut feature is a reminder that great horror can devastate as well as terrify. Toni Collette’s performance does both.
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, June 16
5 p.m.: Polls open for knockout round; voting ends at 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Wednesday, June 17
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.
Thursday, June 18
8 a.m.: Polls open for final vote.
4 p.m.: Final polls close; winner announced.
Happy voting — and stay tuned for Week 7.
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