Himesh Patel in Yesterday and Robert Downey Jr. in Avengers: Endgame (Photos: Universal; Marvel)

With the glorious summer season exiting stage right, it’s time for one final curtain call for the movies audiences enjoyed (or endured) over the past four months. Here, then, are some of the seasonal highlights and low points.

DARK PHOENIX
Jessica Chastain and Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (Photo: Fox)

Biggest Disappointment: Dark Phoenix. As someone who rates the X-Men franchise as highly as the MCU canon — four of the previous six installments were flat-out terrific — I was floored by the wretched quality of what amounts to a series slayer. The New Mutants arrives next spring, but, given the moribund nature of this entry, will anyone care? Runner-up: The Dead Don’t Die.

Best Sequel or Remake: Avengers: Endgame. It’s certainly not the best superhero movie ever made, but even with its scattered flaws, this all-star entry in the MCU is a towering achievement. It’s also the #1 international moneymaker of all time and #2 (under Star Wars: The Force Awakens) domestically.

Worst Sequel or Remake: Child’s Play. The competition was fierce (The Hustle, Men in Black: International, etc.), but this reboot of the Chucky franchise — the one that began back in 1988 with an exciting and innovative original — was the formulaic follow-up fodder that most made me want to upChuck.

Better Than You Expected: Will Smith as the Genie in Aladdin. No Robin Williams, but Mr. Smith was engaging and energetic and acquitted himself quite nicely.

Worse Than You Expected: Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in Dark Phoenix. A bored Lawrence was clearly done with this franchise even before it was done with her.

Best Cameo: You-know-who in the mid-credits sequence in Spider-Man: Far from Home (or maybe you don’t know, which is why I’m not revealing it here).

Worst Cameo: Lena Dunham in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood.

Movie That Deserved to Do Much Better at the Box Office: Dora and the Lost City of Gold. Here’s a family film full of imagination and heart, and yet it barely broke even financially. Runners-up: Blinded by the Light; Late Night.

Scariest Dolls: Toy Story 4. Annabelle and Chucky? Pshaw, mere amateurs. Far more menacing are the Vincents, those silent ventriloquist dummies haunting the dusty corridors of that antique shop.

Most Cringe-Worthy Political Moment: A MAGA hat-wearing moron (Steve Buscemi) killing an African-American zombie in The Dead Don’t Die. If Jim Jarmusch was hoping this would line up nicely with the classic ending of Night of the Living Dead, he flubbed it. Runner-up: The “There are good people on both sides” discussion between Fred (Seth Rogen) and Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) in Long Shot.

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Quentin Tarantino (right) on the set of Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood (Photo: Columbia)

Whiniest Fanboys: Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood. Normally, this dishonor would automatically go to a superhero movie, but the online kvetching surrounding Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far from Home was comparatively mute compared to the bellyaching from Quentin Tarantino fans triggered by criticisms of this film. Indeed, QT groupies are much like Trump supporters in that they refuse to believe that their hero can do anything wrong and get miffed when anyone suggests otherwise. Online comments were particularly amusing for this picture. (A personal fave found someone suggesting that if you don’t love OUATIH, then you don’t like movies, period. Um, OK?) I’ve long been an admirer of Tarantino and the majority of his films (including this one), but even I know he’s not God … or Hitchcock.

Best Single Laugh: Seth Rogen’s Captain Crunch wisecrack in Long Shot.

Best Sustained Laughs: The entirety of Booksmart.

Best Vocal Performance: Kevin Costner in The Art of Racing in the Rain. The movie didn’t amount to much, but casting Costner as the voice of a philosophical dog worked more often than not. Runner-up: Ryan Reynolds in Pokémon Detective Pikachu.

Worst Vocal Performance: The cast of The Lion King. With few exceptions (like Seth Rogen and returning James Earl Jones), nobody distinguished themselves with their flat line readings, making us miss the likes of Nathan Lane and Jeremy Irons all the more.

Most Depressing Vocal Performance: Harrison Ford in The Secret Life of Pets 2. Sigh… Has it really come to this?

[SPOILER] Best “The Dead Don’t Die” Movie: Yesterday. Yes, Quentin Tarantino allowed Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) to live at the end of Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, but that was somewhat expected (at least to anybody who saw Inglourious Basterds). More startling — and thus more satisfying — was the late-inning appearance of John Lennon (Robert Carlyle) in this alternate-reality odyssey. Imagine, indeed…

Worst “The Dead Don’t Die” Movie: The Dead Don’t Die. Even the combined talents of Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Danny Glover, etc., couldn’t bring this DOA zombie flick to life.

Best Male Performance: Taron Egerton in Rocketman. If Rami Malek can win an Oscar as Freddie Mercury, then Egerton should at least get nominated for his dazzling turn as Elton John. Runner-up: Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood.

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Awkwafina in The Farewell (Photo: A24)

Best Female Performance: Awkwafina in The Farewell. After stealing scenes in her supporting stints in last summer’s Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8, the rapper-cum-actress handily demonstrates that she can carry a movie. Runner-up: Florence Pugh in Midsommar.

Worst Film: The Intruder. Generic thrillers featuring imbecilic protagonists and hammy villains are a dime a dozen. This laughable time-waster made them feel like a penny a dozen. Runner-up: UglyDolls.

Best Film: Yesterday. It says a lot about the state of modern movie criticism that stale rehashes like Annabelle Comes Home, Child’s Play and The Angry Birds Movie 2 all have better Rotten Tomatoes scores than this enchanting ode to The Beatles. No matter: Those who needed a break from the same-old same-old this summer movie season found it in this unique and uplifting piece, turning it into an unexpected but wholly deserving sleeper hit. Runner-up: Booksmart.

Top 12 Moneymakers

1. Avengers: Endgame – $858 million

2. The Lion King – $523 million

3. Toy Story 4 – $430 million

4. Spider-Man: Far from Home – $385 million

5. Aladdin – $354 million

6. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – $170 million

7. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – $159 million

8. The Secret Life of Pets 2 – $157 million

9. Pokémon Detective Pikachu – $144 million

10. Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood – $131 million

11. Godzilla: King of the Monsters – $110 million

12. Rocketman – $96 million

(Source: Box Office Mojo. All grosses are for U.S. only. Grosses as of Sept. 2.)

1233076 - MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL
Men in Black: International (Photo: Columbia)

Biggest Stateside Underachievers

(Domestic losses of $20+ million)

1. Dark Phoenix – Cost: $200 million; gross: $65 million; loss of $135 million

2. Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Cost: $170 million; gross: $110 million; loss of $60 million

3. Men in Black International – Cost: $110 million; gross: $79 million; loss of $31 million

4. The Kitchen – Cost: $38 million; gross: $11 million; loss of $27 million

5. UglyDolls – Cost: $45 million; gross: $20 million; loss of $25 million

6. Anna – Cost: $30 million; gross: $7 million; loss of $23 million

Note: Both Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw and The Angry Birds Movie 2 presently qualify for this list (based on cost-to-gross ratio) but both were left off as they’re still playing in over 3,000 theaters and still earning significant bank. Also note that some of these films, such as Godzilla: King of the Monsters, earned noticeably more in the rest of the world, thus avoiding overall bomb status.

(Source: Box Office Mojo. All grosses are for U.S. only. Grosses as of Sept. 2.)

 

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