Best and worst of Summer ’17, from ‘Apes’ to ‘Alien’

With the summer movie season coming to a close, we look back at the season’s winners and losers

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

The calendar says we still have four more weeks of summer, but as far as Hollywood’s concerned, summer’s over, baby.

And this is a summer Hollywood would rather put behind it. Admissions and grosses are way down, flops piled up like flapjacks, and Tinseltown’s habit of cranking out more-of-the-same, more-of-the-same (“Transformers 5!”) is finally starting to backfire.

Not that there weren’t things to celebrate. “Wonder Woman” smashed expectations and became the season’s highest grossing film, and “War for the Planet of the Apes” pushed blockbuster filmmaking in a bold, daring direction.

And then there was, well, “The Book of Henry.”

Here’s a look at the best and worst of Summer 2017 as we put this season to bed:

Best summer movie: “War for the Planet of the Apes.” The third chapter in the rebooted “Apes” series is a button-pushing, thought provoking artistic statement, all descriptors we rarely associate with summer fare.

Best performance, male: Robert Pattinson, “Good Time.” As a lowlife hood on the run in New York, Pattinson gives his best screen performance to date, slipping so thoroughly into his character’s skin that you forget there was ever a Team called Edward.

Best performance, female: Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip.” Stealing the screen from her costars Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina Hall, Haddish is a lightning rod of laughter, and would receive an Oscar nomination for her work if the Academy had any respect for comedy.

Best sequence: The crazy stairwell fight sequence in “Atomic Blonde.” Charlize Theron beats the tar out of some bad dudes — and takes quite a whooping herself — in this jaw-dropping, must-see fight sequence that keeps managing to top itself until it can’t go any further.

Most head-scratching movie: “The Book of Henry.” So let’s get this straight: Naomi Watts plays a mother who acts like a teen who follows her son’s instructions to try to take out her neighbor with a high-powered assault rifle? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in this whacked out family drama.

Most forgettable movie: “Annabelle: Creation.” Like a bump in the night that you forget about once it turns out to be nothing, this movie that fills in the backstory on a creepy doll magically drifted from my mind as soon as I exited the theater.

Best surprise: “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.” What could have been a lame excuse for 90 minutes of flatulence gags and toilet humor winds up being a well-told tribute to imagination and friendship (and, okay, flatulence gags and toilet humor, too).

Worst argument for mining old TV shows for content: “Baywatch.” This movie cast the Rock in the iconic David Hasselhoff role and ran out of ideas there. Uh, let’s have him chase down a drug cartel? Let this be a lesson: not all properties exist to be remade for the big screen.

Worst sequel: “Transformers: The Last Knight.” Tying the Transformers into the legend of King Arthur made for an even more jumbled adventure than we’re used to from the world’s dumbest franchise.

Best costumed performance: Casey Affleck, “A Ghost Story.” Is that even him in the ghost costume? If it’s not, props to the ghost double who was able to ape Affleck’s sad, slumped walk and emotional dejection while shuffling around underneath a white sheet.

Best masked performance: Tom Hardy, “Dunkirk.” A master of acting with his face obstructed — see also “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” — Hardy gives another searing performance in Christopher Nolan’s WWII drama, even though you pretty much only ever see his eyes.

Best impression: Demetrius Shipp Jr. as Tupac Shakur in “All Eyez on Me.” He has the look down, but Shipp Jr. also gets the cadence, the madness and the wild charisma of Tupac in his starring role as the slain rapper.

Least fun experience: “Detroit.” Summer is popcorn season, right? Not in Kathryn Bigelow’s riveting, intense drama, which is like being punched in the stomach for two hours straight.

Least subtle movie: “Beatriz at Dinner.” Salma Hayek plays a have-not who teaches a group of rich snobs a thing or two in this obnoxious, heavy-handed fantasy that both sides of the political spectrum can hate equally.

Most valiant effort to make something work: Tom Cruise, “The Mummy.” You can see the gears turning in that head of his, but not even Cruise can make this old pile of gauze work. Cancel those franchise plans while you’re at it.

Best cameo: Ethan Hawke, “Valerian.” Playing a garish space pimp, Ethan Hawke brightens up Luc Besson’s cosmic opera and brings the sort of wacky comic energy that’s missing from Dane DeHaan’s and Cara Delevingne’s lead performances.

Most distracting cameo: James Franco, “Alien: Covenant.” He shows up briefly in a video watched by one of the ship’s crew members, and it’s so random that you think that can’t be it, he has to show up again later, right? He never does.

Best Woody Harrelson performance: “War for the Planet of the Apes.” As a bald-headed baddie known only as the Colonel, Harrelson channels Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now” in this delicious villian role.

Worst Woody Harrelson performance: “The Glass Castle.” It’s not that Harrelson is bad — although his toupee certainly is — but this treacly biopic calls on him to be a monster in scene after scene until it’s time to feel warm and fuzzy about him at the end. It’s a waste of Woody.

Worst ending: “It Comes at Night.” Trey Edward Shults spends 90 minutes building suspense and heightening tension in his wooded thriller, then lets all the air out of the bag as it sadly whimpers to a close. Ask any gymnast: if you want your routine to work, you have to stick the landing.

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Big hits

“Wonder Woman”: Summer’s box office champ grossed a wonder-ful $404 million, clobbering last year’s macho slugfest “Batman V Superman” (which earned $330 million) and giving much-needed life to the DC Comics Universe. If you build it, they will come, but if you build it better, they’ll keep coming back.

“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”: The sequel took in $389 million, besting the 2014 original ($333 million) to become the highest grossing movie ever to star a talking raccoon.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming”: It couldn’t best any of the entries in Sam Raimi’s original trilogy, but the $314 million gross of this latest take on the Spiderman story proves the webslinger still has plenty of life left in him.

“Girls Trip”: The year’s top-grossing comedy is one of summer’s biggest surprises, earning $103 million from a modest budget of $19 million. Expect these girls to take another trip soon.

“Baby Driver”: Edgar Wright’s action caper grossed $103 million (on a budget of $34 million), besting the combined grosses of his previous films “Shaun of the Dead,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “The World’s End” and “Hot Fuzz.”


“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”: An interplanetary adventure about magical space pearls starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne? What could go wrong? Well, a loss of some $140 million, for starters.

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”: On a budget of $175 million, Guy Ritchie’s wild re-imagining of the King Arthur legend stalled out at under $40 million. Consider the king slayed.

“The Dark Tower”: The Stephen King series had a rocky time making it to the big screen, and judging by this film’s tepid reception (it grossed $41 million and tanked with critics), perhaps it should have stayed in the literary world.

“The Mummy”: Tom Cruise injuring himself on the set of the next “Mission: Impossible” film was only the second biggest hit he took this summer, after this non-starter (gross: $80 million domestic) may have stalled plans for a planned series of Universal monster movies.

“Alien: Covenant”: This “Alien” prequel was the series’ most uninspired entry yet, and its $74 million domestic gross (on a budget of $97 million) showed fans’ waning interest in the series.