‘Raiders’ or ‘The Lion King’? ‘Jaws’ or ... ‘Jaws’? It’s doubles week on the Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown.
Welcome to the seventh — and eighth! — weeks 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, grosses tallying and beach bumming forever.
And speaking of “Jaws,” that movie finally gets its moment in the sun this week, just in time for the 45th anniversary of its release. Can any movie beat it? Should any movie beat it? Doubtful — but stranger things have happened.
As those of you who have been following the Showdown may know, we hit pause on this series for two weeks in late May and early June out of respect for and recognition of the extraordinary protests against anti-Black racism and police violence nationwide.
We resumed the series last week, and now we’re catching up by giving you two weeks’ worth of movies in one. We’re doing this partly to get back on schedule, and partly because Weeks 7 and 8 naturally go together, with three Batman movies, two Superman movies and two “Fast and Furious” movies between them.
To recap the rules: Each week, I (ordinarily) present you with a list of 16 movies from 1975 to 2019, all of which were released during a particular summer time frame. This week, of course, there will be 32 movies, divided into two parallel sets of polls. 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 six 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), “Finding Nemo” (Week 5, May 29-June 4) and “Jurassic Park” (Week 6, June 5-11).
And now, let’s look ahead to the movies. You have a lot to choose from!
WEEK 7 (June 12-18, 1975-2019)
As you can imagine, “Chang chang changitty chang shebop” was always fun for young me to sing.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
It may not be “Jaws,” but Indiana Jones’ first and, by no small margin, best adventure remains one of Spielberg’s most beloved entertainments — and as quintessential a summer movie as the Showdown has yet produced.
A few weeks ago, “Alien” won. This probably won’t. So, that’s one debate settled.
“Bull Durham” (1988)
Kevin Costner in one of the all-time great sports movies.
“Dick Tracy” (1990)
One of my own earliest summer movie memories. I was a bit young for all the violent mayhem, but the gorgeous ’30s stylization and memorably grotesque villains are hard to forget. Warren Beatty and Madonna too.
“Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990)
As the critic Jason Bailey aptly put it in a recent appreciation for the Playlist: “Anyone who’s seen ‘Gremlins 2’ can’t help but wonder exactly how [director Joe] Dante got away with this kind of well-bankrolled madness unless everyone at WB was coked out of their gills.”
“Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991)
Kevin Costner in one of the all-time pretty good Robin Hood movies.
“The Lion King” (1994)
If last year’s dreadful, dead-eyed “photorealistic” remake served any purpose beyond hawking a Beyoncé single, it was to remind you of the original’s hand-drawn visual splendor. One of the week’s strongest contenders for sure.
“The Cable Guy” (1996)
“Silence … of the Lambs … ”
“Can’t Hardly Wait” (1998)
“You should never look back.” Still, I’m curious to see how this one — featuring a young Ethan Embry, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli and many others — plays today.
“The Bourne Identity” (2002)
Both of last week’s Doug Liman movies (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Edge of Tomorrow”) fizzled out before the big finish. His one and only contribution to the well-regarded Jason Bourne trilogy might fare better.
“Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” (2004)
It’s Ben Stiller’s week: He directed “The Cable Guy” and stars with Vince Vaughn and others in this goofily enjoyable comedy about the ultimate contact sport. I doubt the Lance Armstrong cameo holds up, though.
“Batman Begins” (2005)
“The Dark Knight” likely will pull more votes when it comes up in July, but don’t count out this pleasurably moody first chapter in Christopher Nolan’s artful trilogy.
“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006)
As we wait for “F9,” which was supposed to open this summer but has been postponed until next year, there’s no better time to revisit one of this durable series’ best and most distinctive entries.
“Toy Story 3” (2010)
“Toy Story 4” was fine, but the saga of Woody, Buzz and their plasticine pals achieved its truest emotional culmination here. The stunning finale — and the achingly wistful denouement — never fail to produce the sweetest tears.
“Man of Steel” (2013)
I don’t much care for this movie, and I don’t invite the passion of Zack Snyder obsessives lightly, but in this slightly underwhelming week, it seems churlish to leave it out.
WEEK 8 (June 19-25, 1975-2019)
It has to win. Right?
“The Blues Brothers” (1980)
The first full-length “Saturday Night Live”-inspired comedy, and probably the only one that will crack the Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown.
“Superman II” (1980)
This week’s look back at pre-Marvel, pre-Nolan comic-book filmmaking commences with Richard Donner’s outstanding Superman saga, a film with all the playfulness and pop buoyancy that went missing in “Man of Steel.”
“Blade Runner” (1982)
One hugely influential Ridley Scott movie (“Alien”) has already won the Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown. In a “Jaws”-free week, I’d expect this one to follow suit.
“The Thing” (1982)
Yes, John Carpenter’s horror classic opened the same day as “Blade Runner” 38 years ago — and both films took time to find their audiences. It’s safe to say they found them.
“The Karate Kid” (1984)
“Rocky” for runts — and it still works like a charm.
“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988)
Robert Zemeckis’ live-action/animated meta-noir is still a dazzlingly inventive entertainment 32 years later.
“Batman” (1989) and “Batman Returns” (1992)
Nolan’s trilogy may have eclipsed it in terms of hype, but the dark shadows of Tim Burton’s Gotham City endure. (And rest in peace, Joel Schumacher, whose much-maligned but undeniably memorable “Batman & Robin” also opened this week.)
“The Rocketeer” (1991)
Between this and “Superman II,” it’s quite a week for the airborne.
“Sleepless in Seattle” (1993)
This Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan perennial is a tribute to “An Affair to Remember” that has spawned more than a few tributes of its own. (If you can find it, check out the Chinese romantic comedy “Finding Mr. Right,” which is chock-full of “Sleepless” references.)
“My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997)
Forever, and ever, you’ll stay in my heart.
“The Fast and the Furious” (2001)
Did anyone expect this scrappy little muscle-car movie to spawn a gargantuan blockbuster franchise that’s still going strong 19 years later?
“Minority Report” (2002)
Not for the first time during a weekly Showdown, Spielberg competes against himself — and while “Jaws” has the obvious edge, this dazzlingly inventive (pre-)crime thriller is a formidable contender.
“The Notebook” (2004)
As good a time as any to wish the great Gena Rowlands a happy (belated) 90th birthday. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams aren’t bad, either.
“Inside Out” (2015)
Pete Docter’s brilliant deconstruction of human emotion becomes one of the most emotionally overwhelming movies Pixar has ever made.
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 23
5 p.m.: Polls open for knockout round; voting ends at 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Wednesday, June 24
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 25
8 a.m.: Polls open for final vote.
4 p.m.: Final polls close; winner announced.
Happy voting — and stay tuned for Week 9.
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