As vacation plans have been put on hold and getting together with friends and family just ain’t what it used to be, the start of summer could feel rather disappointing.
However, let’s all remember where we live and take advantage of the good weather how we can, while we can. Because you know it won’t last long.
So fire up the grill, ice down the beer, and get outside safely if you can. Or if you cannot, if you already think it’s too hot out there, here are some cinematic options I recommend as mental warmups to get you in the mood. Some are inspirational, some cautionary, but all of them revel in that unique spirit of the season — no sunblock required.
1. Point Break (1991)
People often ask me, “What’s your favorite movie?”
I could tell them, “Well, that’s very hard to say and my choice varies with my mood or what I’m hoping to feel or experience when I sit down with a flick, and actually it depends on your definition of favorite, doesn’t it?”
But usually I just tell them “Point Break.”
If favorite means the movie you could watch every single day and never get sick of it, if favorite means the movie that makes you glad to be alive and makes you look at yourself and the world and the human condition in a new light, if favorite means the movie you helplessly freak out about upon learning an acquaintance has never seen it … like I said, “Point Break” is my favorite movie.
Granted, it’s not the best offering in either the director or primary cast’s respective filmographies (except maybe Anthony Kiedis). It’s not the best movie about falling in love. It’s not the best movie about undercover cops or bank robbers or surfing.
But here’s the thing: It is unquestionably the best movie about an undercover cop who surfs while falling in love with a bank robber. Consider these layered, almost mystical lines of dialogue, practically scriptural in their applicability to real life.
Back off Warchild, seriously.
You know nothing. In fact, you know less than nothing. If you knew that you knew nothing, then that would be something, but you don’t.
The Ex-Presidents rip off banks to finance their endless summer.
Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.
It’s not tragic to die doing what you love.
Vaya con Dios.
2. A Goofy Movie (1995)
Single father, Goofy is worried about his son Max, now in high school, and decides the way to reconnect is to take him on a fishing trip this summer. Thing is, like so many teens, Max is embarrassed by his dad’s fumbling antics and had his own plans for the break. Hilarious, heartfelt, surprisingly touching, and with a way-too-good soundtrack (courtesy mostly of Tevin Campbell) this movie was rescued from obscurity after a middling performance upon release when it hit home video and a whole cult of ‘90s kids found its mix of relatable teen angst and well-meaning parental insistence irresistibly charming.
The duo’s roundabout road trip to the family fishing hole takes them to an opossum-based theme park, camping, face-to-face with Bigfoot himself, and the Grand Canyon in a chaos-filled itinerary that would make the Griswold’s envious.
Technically, it’s based on The Disney Afternoon TV series “Goof Troop” and serves as a standalone follow-up to the show, but you don’t need to be familiar with any of that to enjoy the film, which features (remember, it was the ‘90s) a wonderfully weird and somehow uncredited supporting performance by Pauly Shore (“It’s the Leaning Tower of Cheesa!”).
Fun for the whole family and highly recommended.
3. Adventureland (2009)
Ah yes, the uniquely American shared experience that is the terrible part-time job. However, if you’ve had your fill of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and can’t stand any more “Clerks,” I’d recommend this slightly more thoughtful exploration of one young man’s less-than-ideal summer.
It’s 1987 and Jesse Eisenberg plans to vacation in Europe after having graduated with a comparative literature degree before moving on to study journalism in graduate school at Columbia University. A few days after his graduation, however, his parents advise him to seek a part-time job rather than going to Europe when they unexpectedly announce their money problems mean they can’t support him.
Well, it shatters this guy’s world and, adding insult to injury, the only place that will hire an overeducated, under-qualified intellectual like him is Adventureland, a rather shabby local amusement park. He meets the characters that own and run the place, is forced to deal with horrible customers and, obviously, ultimately learns something about himself and the joys of life not exactly going according to plan — though the film is far from sentimental.
Eisenberg is good, but the real joy of the film is the supporting cast, led by a shockingly good Kristen Stewart, who before this was mostly known as the “Twilight” girl. Ryan Reynolds plays against type as the park’s handsome and impossibly cool (but very clearly shady) maintenance man. Martin Starr, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Wendie Malick are all their usual wonderful selves, too.
It’s funny and sad and atmospheric in the way of all good summertime youth movies of this type, with less of the puerile or wincingly of-their-time hijinks so common in previous films of the subgenre.
4. Knightriders (1981)
What could be more summery than a Renaissance Faire?
How about a Renaissance Faire on motorcycles?
Zombie maestro and undisputed master of the macabre George Romero stepped way outside his usual box with this one, a strange road/drama film about a traveling Arthurian performance troupe that jousts on motorcycles, led by the rigidly moral and idealistic Billy, aka King William (Ed Harris).
Financial pressures and the temptation to sell out to an unscrupulous promoter are beginning to strain the group and Billy is plagued by a recurring dream of a black bird, which he believes is the omen of death. But who is doomed? Maybe, it’s all of them.
There’s not a ton of plot beyond that, as we follow a rift in the troupe (the deserters led by special effects wizard Tom Savini, who plays Sir Morgan, The Black Knight), and Billy’s increasingly fatalistic adherence to an impossibly outdated code, which puts him ever more at odds with a world he feels out of place in.
It’s a beautiful, dreamy movie around segments of brutal, gritty combat (although staged, no less dangerous). Also, look for appearances by horror icons Ken Foree and Stephen King (as the obnoxious spectator “Hoagie Man”).
5. Rogue (2007)
Though it’s perhaps the quintessential summertime movie, and practically invented the modern blockbuster, I’m not including “Jaws” on this list. If you have not, obviously you should see it. However, if you have, consider this alternative from the Outback for your tense, sweaty animal-attack fix.
In it, a group of tourists, including one travel journalist on assignment, get more than they bargained for when their boat is attacked by a giant, man-eating crocodile in Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory.
That’s it. But remember, “Jaws” is pretty simple, too.
This is a fantastic indie movie, the sophomore offering from Greg McLean, man behind the 2005 Aussie slasher “Wolf Creek.” The acting is generally great (especially Radha Mitchell as the wildlife researcher leading the tour and John Jarratt as Russell, a tourist with a secret), the effects really hold up, and there are several moments that are legitimately frightening wherein (a la “Jaws”) we don’t even see the beast — an amazing amount of restraint from the director whose debut was infamously violent.
But please, fans of bloodshed, do not worry. Many, many people will be eaten by a giant crocodile before the credits role.