Typically, summers at the movies are filled with run-of-the-mill sequels, mindless story-lines, and action flicks that have so many explosions and sexcapades that viewers' minds are spun into oblivion; but is this really what we should anticipate when Memorial Day kicks-off? Yes, the upcoming months should include a few escapes from reality; but during this free time audiences should also reflect on the reasons they have the opportunity to enjoy these lazy days through introspection on our lives/ those of others. The patriotism embedded in these months ahead, with Memorial, Independence, and Labor Day; moviegoers should seek summer films that respect these hard-fought battles by witnessing on-screen couples attempting to live the American Dream/reap the benefits of their hard-work. In the same vein, audiences should Fandango tickets to movies offering insight into the struggles of others, both familiar and abstract, to appreciate our seasonal blessings and gain clarity of others' experiences that aren't so carefree. With each hazy, summer month ahead, viewers should use films as storytellers of how others earned their "free" time through American enterprise/rag-to-riches motifs; as well as how these lazy months aren't so relaxed for others facing dire circumstances. Below are the films to entertain and educate for the four summer months ahead, along with one blockbuster we can spin into relevance.
May: Celebrate Memorial Day with a comeback kid trying to make it big in the indie dramady, Chef, starring John Favreau and Sofia Vergara. (5/9)
The message that summer movies should have more depth, other than counting how many times Spiderman web0sprays his way out of sudden death, is even more apparent when the director of the Marvel tent-pole, Ironman, is making insightful summer fare. The film, directed by Favreau, commemorates the American spirit with an all-too-familiar story of starting over on one's own terms and creating personal success. As a once-decorate chef takes his skills to the streets, by starting a food truck business, he volleys between self-doubt and hope to succeed in rekindling his professional status- along with strengthening his familial relationships. A film that embraces the "self-made man" spirit, and food, goes perfectly on a day when we celebrate our American pride and hotdogs.
June: Take a break from the sunny days and boardwalk experiences to hear about others' experiences in The Fault in Our Stars. (6/6)
This lovable-novel-turned- anticipated-film stars Shailene Woodley as cancer victim, Hazel Grace Lancaster, who develops a relationship with a fellow patient, Augustus Waters (played by Ansel Elgort), while in support group together. The two battle normal relational problems with an added third party involved, that pesky cancer threatening every move they make towards the future. This film might have been audiences' summer novel in 2012, but see the film to get a refresher on the struggles and strength this couple has. When thinking about how summer love can be so difficult to hold onto when leaving the confines of the beach, put life into appreciative perspective by reconsidering that distance- and not possible death- are what stand between seasonal sweeties.
July: Commemorate the freedom of the Fourth by liberating our sorrows for the fallen actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, by witnessing one of his final films. (7/25)
A Most Wanted Man tells the intimate tale of Gunter Bachmann, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a German intelligence agent who loses himself while staking-out a possible Islamic terrorist in Hamburg. Bachmann (a character created by author, John le Carre) becomes reclusive and trapped by the endless endeavor to capture an elusive target; directly mirroring Hoffman's spiral into relentless internal struggle. Director, Anton Corbijn, noticed the intersecting of the character Hoffman was playing, and Hoffman himself; there was not freedom or separation of the two entities which, in hindsight, could've been a cry for liberation from his personal demons. When considering the tangible freedoms that were won this 4th, audiences also need to celebrate the release from internal pain that imprisoned Hoffman- even though death didn't need to be the only relinquishment.
August: Ok, so Labor Day isn't until September; but the Labor-of-Love film, Get On Up, deserves to be recognized in relation to this final summer holiday. (8/1)
The long-time-coming cinematic depiction of James Brown, starring Chadwick Boseman in the lead role, re-enacts the torrid journey taken- and success created- by the Godfather of Soul. With Brown's early struggles as an orphan without a true identity, to becoming an icon for African-American representation via the infamous track "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud", the climb to this proclamation was a constant battle against personal doubt and self-medication. The internal and external labor Boseman enacts when playing Brown, gives further insight to the many hurdles he overcame to have a staple in American musical culture for eternity. As moviegoers commemorate the fruits of our labor at the end of this season, we can also empathize with the overbearing hardships faced by some of the most decorated citizens.
Finally, let's head back to June to endorse one Summer Blockbuster, Transformers: Age of Extinction, that gets viewers in-touch with reality via the unrealistic. (6/27)
Although this film might seem like an anomaly, as it is filled with nothing but frivolous characters and a destruction-based storyline; the fact that this installment is seen as a trilogy reboot, makes it a redemption story worth noting. Director Michael Bay replaces LaBeouf with Wahlberg and adds the new (or old, as Marvel fans would say) autobot character, Dinobot, who shifts from machine to T-Rex, to orchestrate a new hero element for the dystopian world created by the last 'botted blowout. Although a world where machine vs. human is fictional, the depiction can be a metaphor for reality and how the will of a few can bring liberation and peace to society. Furthermore, with this latest Transformers installment attempting to create a prolific turn for the autobots, the underlying message is based on the underdog spirit and cultural harmonic intent amongst all elements of society. This is audiences one free pass to have a typical American movie-going summer as long as you read between the comic book story-lines.
This summer doesn't have to be just about furthering moviegoer's relaxation with the ridiculous, it can also be a time of meditative reflection on the lives that embrace the spirit of the season/create their own freedom- which is just as soothing.