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This Summer's Movies for Grown-Ups

A guide to flicks with mature themes, venerable actors and plots you can relate to

By Chris Hewitt | July 23, 2014

With all the explosions, monsters, car chases and alien invasions at the multiplex this summer, Hollywood has something for everyone who happens to be a 13-year-old boy.

Some of these titles are fun for people who have retirement accounts and vegetable gardens, too. But the good news is that blockbusters aimed at teens are no longer the only options. Recent summer hits such as Mamma Mia! and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel have helped studios figure out that adult moviegoers will buy tickets when there's something aimed at them.

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Here is Next Avenue’s week-by-week guide to the many cinematic options this summer that feature themes and actors we can relate to:

Playing In Theaters This Summer

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn — Robin Williams, whose comedy always barely hides hostility for his audiences, is aptly cast as a guy who, told he has a short time to live, tries to reconcile with loved ones played by Middle Stagers Louis C.K., Melissa Leo, James Earl Jones and Isiah Whitlock Jr.

Chef — Fired from his job as an executive chef, a cook regains his creative mojo by opening a food truck. And if that sounds like a metaphor for writer/director/star Jon Favreau, who bogged down in big-budget Hollywood movies before crafting this charming independent film, you're on the right track.

Cyber-Seniors — Anyone who has ever walked his or her mom through Facebook will relate to the subject of this droll documentary, in which blithe teenagers show their elders the social-networking ropes.

The Love Punch and Words and Pictures — Think of these two mid-life romantic comedies as essentially the same: A wan script pepped up as much as possible by the zippy acting of overqualified stars (Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan in Punch; Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen in Pictures).

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A Short History of Decay — When do our folks stop having something to teach us? Maybe never? That's the lesson of a comedy in which a blocked writer stumbles on a wealth of material and a wealth of advice when he visits his retired parents (acting vets Linda Lavin and Harris Yulin).

Ping-Pong Summer — Susan Sarandon owns New York City's hottest ping-pong club, so she was a natural to cast as a former table tennis champ who tutors a prodigy in this '80s-set comedy.

I Am I — "Dementia" may not exactly scream "summer blockbuster," but it is viewed from an offbeat angle here: A young woman is vexed by her dad (Kevin Tighe), repeatedly mistaking her for her late mother until she decides to see what happens if she goes along with it.

Jersey Boys — Maybe the most intriguing aspect of this adaptation of the stage musical about the rise and fall of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is that ageless director Clint Eastwood apparently thought it was no big deal to have teen-aged Frankie played by a 38-year-old — John Lloyd Young. (He was wrong but you have to admire his gumption.)

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Snowpiercer — Action movies are not just for teen-aged boys, as Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, John Hurt and others demonstrate in this futuristic thriller, set on a train hurtling toward disaster.

Life Itself — Colleagues and Hollywood legends reminisce about the late Roger Ebert, revealing that facing death taught the movie critic a lot about living.

And So It Goes — The title comes from a Billy Joel smash, and the plot sounds a bit like Diane Keaton's '80s hit, Baby Boom. This time, though, the role of the career-obsessed parental newbie goes to Michael Douglas, with Keaton as a neighbor who helps him out. And, yes, "helps him out" probably means they fall in love, too.

Land Ho! — Your appreciation for the comedy about two sexagenarian pals on a trip to Iceland will depend on whether you think acting newcomer Earl Lynn Nelson is a Southern charmer or an annoying blowhard. But the unsparing portrait of aging is a winner, and the way the camera lingers over Iceland's spare beauty will make you want to book a trip to the land of the Blue Lagoon.

July 23

A Master Builder — The My Dinner With Andre team of Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory reunites, 33 years later, and this time they have a script, which is a loose adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play, The Master Builder.

July 25

A Most Wanted Man — There's lots of inspiring, behind-the-scenes reinvention in this thriller about the cost of terrorism. Robin Wright is hitting a career peak at 48, Willem Dafoe is one of Hollywood's busiest actors at 58, director Anton Corbijn recharged his creative juices by taking up movie directing in his 50s and writer John le Carre is still writing classics in his 80s. The flipside of that, though, is that the title role is one of the last performances from the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman.
 
August 8

The Hundred-Foot Journey — Richard C. Morais' novel must have been re-jiggered to make Helen Mirren the lead, but who's complaining? She plays a revered French chef who: A) is annoyed when an Indian family opens a bistro across the street from hers, and B) is even more annoyed to realize she loves their food.
 
August 15

The Expendables 3 — Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. Average age of those butt-kickers? 57.7.

August 22

Love is Strange — The love story of the summer is highlighted by restrained, career-best acting from John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a couple who marry after four decades together, with unfortunate results: Molina loses his job at a Catholic school, they're forced to sell their home and must seek shelter, separately, on friends' couches.
 
Chris Hewitt writes about movies and the arts for the Pioneer Press in St. Paul. His work has also appeared in MSNBC.com, Today.com and History magazine.