Hollywood enjoyed a sensational summer, thanks to a record-setting box office gross that topped $4 billion. Moviegoers, however, didn't always get their money's worth at the multiplex. Here's a wrap-up:
SEASON OF THE THREEQUEL
THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM? Between May and Labor Day, going for the tried (or is that tired?) and true, Hollywood launched six films that were third installments in blockbuster series. Easily the best was The Bourne Ultimatum, a knife-sharp thriller. Runner-up: a sleek Ocean's Thirteen. The worst of the worst was Rush Hour 3, a witless, wan embarrassment. Close behind: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, a mish-mash rehash saved only by impish Johnny Depp.
NEW KING OF COMEDY: JUDD APATOW
HERE COMES THE JUDD! A triple threat as a writer-director-producer, Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) knows funny. He was the driving force behind this season's two breakout comedy smashes: Knocked Up (top left) and Superbad (below left). Apatow's bodacious twofer served up sex and the witty for young adults, concentrating on the raunchy and rude, yet offering a surprising underlayer of sweetness. And all hail Seth Rogen (top, at right), who starred in both.
GOD DESERVES BETTER
SHIPWRECKED: Evan Almighty, a comedy about a modern-day Noah (Steve Carell, left), awkwardly mixed spirituality, poop jokes and—here's the flood!—digital wizardry. The result: a waterlogged letdown.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
GROWTH INDUSTRY: If there was ever any doubt, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix proved that Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (at left) can age well and act at the same time.
EVEN SUPERHEROES HAVE BAD HAIR DAYS
WORST HAIR: Jessica Alba was tressed to distress as Sue Storm (aka the Invisible Woman) in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Her every do—she had many—looked as if it had been combed through with industrial-strength glue.
DUDE, DID YOU FORGET YOUR PANTS?
BUFFEST ANIMATION: The single biggest, sustained laugh of the summer came when Bart Simpson, naked as the day he was first drawn, whizzed by on his skateboard in The Simpsons Movie. Give thanks it wasn't Homer.
Balls of Fury
Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, George Lopez | PG-13 | [2.5]
There are dumb comedies and then there are dumb comedies with smarts. Balls of Fury, written by Reno 911! creators Robert Ben Garant (who also directed) and Thomas Lennon, is the latter. Its improbable hero is an ex-Ping-Pong champ (Fogler) recruited by the FBI to help unmask a diabolical crime lord (Walken, making yet another of his droll visits from Planet Bizarro), who also happens to be a table tennis enthusiast. While thin and porous as a Ping-Pong net, Balls never takes itself too seriously—how can it when most male cast members are wearing tight short-shorts?—and breezes by in 90 minutes. Fogler, a stockier, frizzier-haired version of Jack Black, is no one's idea of a dashing leading man, but he brings such ardent comic conviction to his role that he easily wins you over.