With its final Labor Day weekend approaching, the summer movie season is already a winner.
Hollywood’s blockbusters have boosted the box office nearly 14 percent from last summer’s disastrous showing, according to comScore, with hits such as “Deadpool 2,” “Incredibles 2” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”
The suddenly rediscovered formula? Great, appealing movies and memorable performances that will endure long after the dog days end.
Our winners and losers of summer films:
Best victory from utter disaster: Tom Cruise in ‘M:I Fallout’
Tom Cruise somehow turned a major stunt injury and expensive delay on “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” into a stupendous positive. The sixth installment of the 22-year-old franchise soared at the box office ($538 million worldwide) with its best reviews, with a 97 percent favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The well-told tale of the star’s broken ankle only adds a memorable chapter to Cruise’s legend.
Thanos (Josh Brolin) has designs on eliminating half
Thanos (Josh Brolin) has designs on eliminating half the universe in “Avengers: Infinity War” – though he’d rather do it with his adopted daughter by his side. (Photo: MARVEL STUDIOS)
Best villain: Thanos from ‘Avengers: Infinity War’
The wait for arch villain Thanos to take center stage was worth it for Marvel fans. Josh Brolin brought complicated, nuanced badness to the Dark Lord in “Avengers: Infinity War” – and clearly enjoyed beating The Hulk to a pulp. And that snap of Thanos’ fingers which led to mass superhero deaths is still reverberating throughout the Marvel universe, building anticipation for 2019’s “Avengers 4.”
Summer breakout: Awkwafina
There was a common thread linking the history-making female-led blockbuster cast of “Ocean’s 8” and the history-making “Crazy Rich Asians” – rapper Awkwafina (aka Nora Lum). From her pick-pocketing character Constance in “Oceans” to Rachel’s best friend Peik Lin, she stealthily stole both films.
Movie that shoulda got whacked: ‘Gotti’
Kevin Connolly somehow turned a John Gotti mob movie, which got a Cannes Film Festival premiere, into a movie everyone just had to refuse. With John Travolta chewing the scenery as the New York crime boss, “Gotti” earned a 0 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was swimming with the box office fishes after banking less than $5 million.
Best new superhero duo: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Mister Rogers
Audiences searching for decency in troubled times flocked to two inspiring documentaries. Director Morgan Neville shined a spotlight on the life of beloved children’s TV host Fred Rogers. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” wowed with a $21.7 million box office 50 years after the debut of his PBS series “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.” Meanwhile, “RBG” has ensured that 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be forever known by her rapper-esque nickname “Notorious RBG.”
Most surprising summer lothario: Andy Garcia
Garcia, 62, is the surprise contender as summer’s greatest lover after his role as Diane Keaton’s beau in “Book Club.” But he cemented the deal as the mysterious Fernando, sparking a long-dormant Latin flame with Cher’s Ruby Sheridan in “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. Their embrace sparked a fireworks-filled ending, even if their stiff dancing was awkward.
Biggest franchise wake-up call: ‘Solo’
Disney’s “Star Wars” factory has churned out anticipated hit after hit since 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” But offscreen drama from the high-profile director switch on “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” along with fan fatigue, proved that even “Star Wars” films can turn routine and forgettable. It’s a lesson we hope Disney will take to heart with future installments.
Movie that scared the crap out of us: ‘Hereditary’
Writer/director Ari Aster’s debut horror film “Hereditary” has pulled in a healthy $44 million. But the tale of a family (headed by Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne) dealing with their spirited – in all the wrong ways – teen Charlie (future child horror-movie icon Milly Shapiro) will live on for generations, keeping viewers awake in fear.