7 Summer Movies for Grownups
If you've been to the multiplex lately, you've probably suffered sensory overload from the horrific violence, gross-out humor and loud, garish computer-generated special effects -- and that's just from sitting through the coming-attractions trailers.
Summer is the season when studios unleash a fusillade of would-be blockbusters, aimed primarily at adolescent and young adult moviegoers, and that can make the theaters seem like an air-conditioned no-man's land for forty- and fifty-somethings who like their entertainment to be a little less over-the-top and a little more artistically and emotionally satisfying.
But if the prospect of The Expendables 2 or the latest Adam Sandler comedy is enough to make you want to hunker down in your living room with a bunch of Downton Abbey DVDs, don't despair. Fortunately, this summer also features new releases by directors Rob Reiner, Spike Lee and Woody Allen, whose Midnight in Paris was last year's surprise warm-weather hit, and a handful of what look to be sophisticated and challenging indie and foreign films, as well.
Here are seven of the most promising prospects for grownup moviegoers:
1. Moonrise Kingdom
Director Wes Anderson's quirky comedies -- starting with Bottle Rocket and Rushmore in the 1990s -- have developed such a devoted following that the trailer for Moonrise Kingdom, which emerged earlier this year on the web, garnered more enthusiastic reviews than most entire films get. (Watch it, and you'll understand why.) Moonrise tells the story of two free-spirited 12-year-olds, portrayed by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who decide to escape from suburbia and run away together -- and the panicky search for them by well-meaning but clueless adults. Anderson has assembled a cast that includes Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzmann from Rushmore, plus Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis. In theaters May 25.
2. To Rome With Love
Woody Allen not only directed the film but also returns in his first acting role since his 2006 film Scoop. As with Midnight in Paris, Allen's choice of an exotic, romantic European locale reminds us that while he's one of the most acclaimed American movie auteurs, he's really closer in spirit and aspirations to the great European directors of the 1950s and 1960s -- Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and the like -- who influenced him in his youth. Allen's gifts for comedic dialogue, which won him an Academy Award in 2012 for his Midnight in Paris screenplay, are a powerful attraction to veteran actors. For Rome, a set of intertwined stories vaguely reminiscent of Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1971 film The Decameron, Allen has assembled a talented cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page and Roberto Begnini. In theaters June 22.
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Director Benh Zeitlin's film, which Indiewire praises as a "gorgeous, lyrical fable," was a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival. Beasts of the Southern Wild tells the tale of a 6-year-old girl (Quvenzhané Wallis) in Louisiana, who, when the levee breaks, goes off on a desperate search for the mother she knows only from her father's tall tales. In theaters June 27.
4. The Magic of Belle Isle
Director Rob Reiner is reunited with The Bucket List star Morgan Freeman in this tale of a cranky novelist in decline and how he rediscovers his love of storytelling. Virginia Madsen, Kenan Thompson and Fred Willard also appear. In theaters July 6.
5. Chicken With Plums
I'm a huge fan of graphic novelist turned movie director Marjane Satrapi, who adapted her book Persepolis, about the misadventures of a girl growing up during the Iranian revolution and its aftermath, into a wickedly funny and painfully moving animated film in 2007 with the help of co-director Vincent Paronnaud. Satrapi and Paronnaud are back with a live-action retelling of another Satrapi story, this one about a violinist and his lover. In theaters August 17.
6. Red Hook Summer
As a filmmaker, Spike Lee is occasionally brilliant (1989's Do The Right Thing, his 1992 biopic Malcolm X and the Peabody Award-winning 2006 documentary When The Levees Broke come to mind) and consistently provocative. Red Hook Summer, the gritty urban drama of a Brooklyn preacher and his visiting grandson from Atlanta, aroused a lot of controversy at this year's Sundance Festival, in part because of its shocking ending. This Los Angeles Times story calls it "one of his most audacious films in years." Intriguingly, Lee also brings back Mookie, the character he portrayed in Do The Right Thing, who is still delivering pizza. In theaters August 10.
7. The Woman in the Fifth
Polish-born director Pawel Pawlikowski's film got my attention because it stars Ethan Hawke as an angst-ridden American writer who flees to Paris -- a premise that initially sounds a bit like Before Sunset, the 2004 romantic comedy he made with Julie Delpy. This time, though, instead of encountering an old flame from his youth, Hawke's character is trying to win back his estranged wife and young daughter. Instead, he becomes involved with a mysterious femme fatale portrayed by Kristin Scott-Thomas. When the film was released in the UK in 2011, Telegraph movie reviewer David Gritten described it as a classic 1960s art-film style mystery, and "a rare film that leaves you wondering where it's going, how it may end -- and afterwards, even questioning what actually happened." In theaters June 15.
SecondAct asks: What's on your summer movie list? Please share your picks in the comments section.
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