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Readers weigh in on the best of the best

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It was a season of unintended pregnancies, odes to rain gear, and a Joey Fatone-led karaoke game show. Not to mention horny high schol seniors, plain white T’s, and a Wayne Brady-led karaoke game show. But who’ll be remembered after Labor Day? We’ve weighed in on the biggest entertainment battles of the summer nad asked EW.com readers to do the same. Here are the results…

Best Threequel
Spider-Man 3 vs. Shrek the Third vs. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End vs. Ocean’s Thirteen vs. The Bourne Ultimatum vs. Rush Hour 3

More explosions! Better special effects! Even more villains! The summer of the threequel is thankfully behind us. But bloated scenes, murky plots, and superfluous characters didn’t stop this six-pack from generating $1.4 billion (and counting) at the box office.

And since Hollywood won’t leave a property until it’s as skin-and-bones as Nicole Richie in a bikini, expect to see fourquels of most of these franchises. Not even ballooning budgets — Spidey and Pirates cost north of $200 million — will prevent the studios from resurrecting these beloved characters for another go-round (with or without their current free-agent stars). Sony’s confirmed a writer on Spider-Man 4, DreamWorks has set a summer 2010 opening for Shrek 4, and though Disney won’t comment on Pirates 4, Johnny Depp has expressed interest.

Was it a good idea to unleash six threequels in one summer? No studio will admit it wasn’t. Not even Warner Bros., which moved its successful Ocean’s franchise out of the fall to garner better reviews but weaker returns for Ocean’s Thirteen. ”All these films grossed more by being in the summer than any other time,” says Paramount distribution president Jim Tharp. ”Though certainly we wish there had been a better spread than having three in the month of May.”

Indeed, moviegoers had to wait until August for a true payoff: The Bourne Ultimatum was the only one of the ’07 threequels to outgross its predecessors (its box office stands at $185 million). Though Matt Damon joked on The Daily Show that a fourth film should be called The Bourne Redundancy, Universal is discussing the possibility. And given Ultimatum‘s strong reviews and kick-ass action, we don’t blame them. You say Bourne; we say Bourne.

Song of the Summer
”Umbrella,” Rihanna vs. ”Hey There Delilah,” Plain White T’s vs. ”Beautiful Girls,” Sean Kingston

Don Henley once sang about ”The Boys of Summer,” but how could he have predicted a girl would rule this season’s airwaves? With the beyond-ubiquitous single ”Umbrella” (”ella, ella…”), 19-year-old Caribbean export Rihanna owned the airwaves and spent seven weeks at the top of Billboard‘s Hot 100. Nipping at her heels were 17-year-old Jamaican R&B upstart Sean Kingston, whose old-school ”Stand by Me” sample made his ”Beautiful Girls” a smash, and Illinois-based emo outfit Plain White T’s, whose gentle ”Hey There Delilah,” an ode to a real (if not reciprocating) girl, eventually knocked Rihanna off her perch. It’s a close call, but we’d stand out in the rain with Ms. Rihanna anytime. You say ”Umbrella”; we say ”Umbrella.”

Best Hit Musical
Once vs. Xanadu vs. Hairspray vs. High School Musical 2

Even before it became the most-watched basic-cable program ever, High School Musical 2 seemed destined for a happy ending (cue the telegenic sprinklers). Some credit goes to Zac Efron, the moptop pinup who also lends his Pepsodent smile to the big-screen Hairspray, which lured moviegoers even though it makes no Chicago-style attempt to disguise the fact that its characters are singing. (Or to convince us that John Travolta is a woman.) Back on Broadway, a stage version of the cheesier-than-Velveeta disco-era movie stinker Xanadu scored. But none measure up to Once, a no-star, no-budget indie film starring two real-life songwriters making music (and friends) in Ireland. It’s grossed a stunning $8 million and raised fresh possibilities for the entire genre — with nary a jazz hand in sight. You say Hairspray; we say Once.

Best Lyrics-Based Game Show
Fox’s Don’t Forget the Lyrics! vs. NBC’s The Singing Bee

Talk about the perfect pitch: A game show meets…karaoke! So perfect, in fact, that not one, but two summer hits — Don’t Forget the Lyrics! and The Singing Bee — featured contestants completing pop-song lyrics for cash (or, better, mangling the words for our viewing pleasure). We’re in tune with Bee‘s 10 million viewers — 2 million or so more than Lyrics — for two reasons: the delightful cheesiness of host Joey Fatone (we cite his slight pop-music-cred advantage over rival host Wayne Brady) and those Honey Bee dancers. You say Bee; we say Bee.

Most Recall-Proof Toy Movie
Transformers vs. Bratz

It’s not fair, really. Transformers has grossed $309 million, broken some records, and transformed Shia LaBeouf from kid actor into the next Tom Hanks. Bratz reeled in some 6- to 11-year-olds who weren’t watching Disney’s Underdog. But even though 125 million Bratz dolls have been sold since 2001, the movie has grossed only $9 million. You say Transformers; we say Transformers.

Sickest Summer Reality Hit
Sicko vs. The Hills

Michael Moore’s moderately successful shock doc (gross: $24 million) exposes the not-so-hidden problems of the U.S. healthcare system, but the perma-drunk party girls on MTV’s reality-lite soap (gross: OMG! Totally!) show us a simple, affordable solution to ailments as wide-ranging as friend fights, broken hearts, and appletini hangovers: Pinkberry, the low-cal panacea. You say Sicko; we say The Hills.

Most Nobly Suffering Spouses
Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart vs. the cast of Army Wives

Given A Mighty Heart‘s pitiful box office ($9 million), Lifetime’s Desperate-ish Army Wives has the edge in popularity, drawing 3.7 million viewers each week. But Jolie really shows her acting chops playing the wife of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was abducted and slain in Pakistan — so our heart goes to Heart. You say Jolie; we say Jolie.

Most Potterific Potter Project
Movie 5 vs. Book 7

Order of the Phoenix, the shortest film from J.K. Rowling’s longest book, is on track to become the second-highest-grossing Harry Potter movie. But no mere movie can compare to the achievement of Deathly Hallows, the final volume in Rowling’s epic Harryiad. After all, U.S. booksellers sold a stunning 8.3 million copies in the first 24 hours of its July 21 release. That works out to a one-day gross of roughly $166 million — bigger than any Hollywood blockbuster has managed. And thwarting both naysayers and Voldemortish online leakers, Rowling delivered a truly magical finale. Our Sorting Hat is off to her. You say Book 7; we say Book 7.

Best TV-Slumming Movie Diva
Holly Hunter in Saving Grace vs. Glenn Close in Damages

Hunter’s badass, cigarette-smoking Grace in TNT’s Saving Grace may have incensed more viewers (5.4 million versus 2.6 million). But Close’s ball-busting litigator, Patty Hewes, in FX’s Damages is so convincing that she’d make us believe otherwise, no matter what those pesky folks at Nielsen say. You say Close; we say Close.

Best Use of Circular Food
Onion rings in The Sopranos‘ finale vs. doughnuts in The Simpsons Movie

Props to The Simpsons for hanging its marketing campaign on a frosted doughnut with sprinkles. Plus, the film’s plot kinda-sorta hinges on the toroidal treat: Homer creates a toxic crisis in his haste to get to a doughnut shop. But The Sopranos takes its love of sinful rounded squares to esoteric heights during that final diner scene. And when AJ mutters, ”Mmmm…onion rings,” you realize that these tough guys just beat The Simpsons at their own game. You say doughnuts; we say onion rings.

Biggest Lindsay Lohan Bomb
Georgia Rule vs. I Know Who Killed Me

Georgia Rule, which features high-cred costars Jane Fonda and Felicity Huffman, stalled out at $19 million. But I Know Who Killed Me, arriving after tabloid staple Lohan’s second drunk-driving arrest, scared up less than half that. Plus, she out-skanks herself by pole dancing in the film. You say I Know; we say I Know.

Best Seth Rogen Vehicle
Knocked Up vs. Superbad

Rogen injected his burly, bong-toting, F-bomb-dropping charm into two movie hits. The high school raunchfest Superbad delivered more outrageous laughs (and a bigger opening weekend), but the $148 million-grossing rom-com Knocked Up heralded the birth — complete with icky afterbirth — of an unlikely new comedy star. You say Knocked Up; we say Knocked Up.

Best British Commonwealth Export
Flight of the Conchords vs. Beckhams

While David and Victoria rule in looks, he’s barely scored for the L.A. Galaxy and her NBC reality special tanked. But the New Zealand folk-parody duo of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie use their HBO comedy series to showcase quirky love songs with lyrics like ”You’re so beautiful/You could be a part-time model/But you’d probably still have to keep your normal job.” You say Beckhams; we say Conchords.

Most Explosive Scene
Car vs. helicopter, Live Free or Die Hard; Rosie O’Donnell vs. Elisabeth Hasselbeck, The View; Carrie Underwood vs. her boyfriend’s car, ”Before He Cheats”

In Die Hard, even Bruce Willis’ John McClane seemed nonplussed after taking down a chopper with a flying car (”I was out of bullets,” he quipped). And anyone with a TV set knew the Rosie/Elisabeth tinder would eventually ignite. (Granted, no one could have predicted Alicia Silverstone’s best onscreen role in years as she dodged Elisabeth’s hug in favor of Rosie’s.) But for pure unexpected fury, the nod goes to Carrie and her crossover hit for putting all philanderers on notice with a Louisville Slugger. You say Rosie/Elisabeth; we say Carrie.

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