‘Tenet’ has been delayed … Could this be Christopher Nolan’s week in the Showdown?


Welcome to Week 12 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 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.

We start by pitting the 16 films against each other in eight head-to-head matchups. Eight films will compete in the quarterfinal round, then four in the semifinals, followed by a final showdown between the last two movies standing.


Our first 11 winners are “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), “Jurassic Park” (Week 6, June 5-11), “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (Week 7, June 12-18), “Jaws” (Week 8, June 19-25), “Do the Right Thing” (Week 9, June 26-July 2); “Back to the Future” (Week 10, July 3-9); and “Die Hard” (Week 11, July 10-16).

At 6 p.m. this Thursday, I will be hosting a live chat with Jan de Bont, the cinematographer of “Die Hard” and the director of popular Showdown contenders like “Speed” and “Twister,” that will be streamed on the Los Angeles Times Classic Hollywood Facebook Page and YouTube, as well as Twitter.

This week’s lineup, which covers films that opened between July 17 and 23, is dominated by Christopher Nolan movies: “The Dark Knight,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Dunkirk.” Think of it as a fitting if unplanned tribute to Nolan in the wake of this morning’s news that his hotly anticipated new thriller, “Tenet,” has been delayed indefinitely by its studio, Warner Bros. (Nolan’s “Inception” came up short in the semifinals last week, but I have a feeling he’s going to do better this week.)

The Burbank studio did not set a new release date for the Christopher Nolan film, which had already been pushed back twice due to theater closures.

July 20, 2020

But there are other trends too, among them the abundance of sharp female-centric comedies (“Clueless,” “Trainwreck” and “Girls Trip”) and scary female-centric horror-thrillers (“The Conjuring,” “What Lies Beneath” and “Aliens”).

What will you choose, readers? Forced to guess, I’d lean toward a final showdown between “Aliens” and “The Dark Knight,” with the latter having a slight edge. (Notably, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” already won Week 4 of the Showdown, although whether that helps or hurts the James Cameron-directed sequel remains to be seen.) But given the Paul Verhoeven love that was shown for “Total Recall” a few weeks back, I wouldn’t count out “RoboCop.”

Or “Clueless.”


Here are our eight opening matchups:

“Arthur” (1981) vs. “Midnight Run” (1988)
Would you rather tool around New York with Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli, or ride cross-country with Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin?

“Aliens” (1986) vs. “Arachnophobia” (1990)
Would you rather be attacked by screaming spiders or seething Xenomorphs? I couldn’t answer myself, but I smell crossover potential.

“RoboCop” (1987) vs. “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004)
Two killing machines programmed against their will, and two brilliant directors named Paul.

“Clueless” (1995) vs. “Trainwreck” (2015)
Alicia Silverstone vs. Amy Schumer. Could “Clueless” lose? (As if.)

“The Mask of Zorro” (1998) vs. “Dunkirk” (2017)
Antonio Banderas and Tom Hardy look good in masks.

“What Lies Beneath” (2000) vs. “The Conjuring” (2013)
Scream-queen haunted-house freakouts par excellence.

“The Dark Knight” (2008) vs. “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)
Probably unfair to pit a zeitgeist-defining triumph against its respectable but inevitably disappointing follow-up. That said, “Rises” has its fans and could fare (a little) better here than expected.

“Girls Trip” (2017) vs. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (2018)
“Mamma Mia!” also opened in this exact time frame, but it’s too dreadful, and I much prefer its vastly superior sequel. And speaking of sequels: I can’t wait for “Girls Trip 2.”


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:

Monday, July 20
5 p.m.: Polls open for knockout round; voting ends at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 21
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.

Wednesday, July 22
8 a.m.: Polls open for final vote.
4 p.m.: Final polls close; winner announced.

Happy voting — and stay tuned for Week 13.