Tradition says that summer doesn’t begin until Memorial Day, but Hollywood has always played by its own rules. In the movie business, summer begins the first weekend in May. This past weekend, for example, Iron Man 3 clanged and banged its way to instant blockbuster status at the nation’s multiplexes, raking in $174 million.
Iron Man 3 is just the opening salvo in a four-month assault by movie studios as they open many of their most expensive, action-packed films. Summer is when Hollywood earns a massive chunk of its money — last year’s beach-weather flicks grossed more than $4 billion — and studios aim most of their fare squarely at adolescents and young adults.
This summer will see the launch of yet another reboot of Superman in Man of Steel (due June 14), a bevy of sequels (including The Hangover Part III and Fast & Furious 6) and a score of movies featuring comic book superheroes, robots, aliens, vrooming cars and massive firepower. Wake me when it’s over, please.
Films aimed at thinking adults, much less those over 50, are in short supply. But all is not hopeless. There are a few movies targeting boomers and other mature people lurking in the summer mix, especially if you include documentaries.
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Here’s a look at 10 films due to open this summer that will be of special interest to Next Avenue readers. Not all will open widely; you may have to seek them out in art houses or Video on Demand, but they’ll be there. (Click on highlighted titles for trailers):
The Internship (June 7) It could be just another dopey comedy, but this early summer entry has a plot that will resonate with today’s older job seekers. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, the stars of The Wedding Crashers, play middle-aged salesmen who lose their jobs when new-fangled technology renders them obsolete. The two find themselves working as interns at Google, competing with a bunch of fresh-faced, tech-savvy hotshots for a couple of permanent positions.
Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself (May 22) Whether you consider him a polymath or a professional amateur, George Plimpton held a special place in popular culture, particularly in the 1960s and '70s, until his death in 2003 at age 76. A New York-born aristocrat and writer, he helped found the high-toned Paris Review but became a household name for his sports exploits, which included climbing into a boxing ring with Sugar Ray Robinson, pitching in a major league exhibition baseball game and training as a quarterback with the Detroit Lions, experiences he turned into magazine articles or books. This documentary uses interviews with Plimpton and those who knew him to build a portrait of the literary jock-of-all-trades.
20 Feet From Stardom (June 14) This is a rousing, fascinating documentary that looks at backup singers, the mostly unknown, supremely talented performers who toil behind and sometimes alongside some of the music world’s biggest stars. The film pays special attention to such '60s and '70s backup singers Merry Clayton and Darlene Love. The movie gives them their due and looks at what it takes to last in the business and the special drive it takes to become a star. Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen show up to talk about the backup singers they’ve worked with over the years.
Unfinished Song (June 21) If it catches on, this small British comedy could be this summer’s crazy old coots crowd pleaser. Terence Stamp plays a grumpy old man in London who, at the behest of his ill wife (Vanessa Redgrave), reluctantly takes her place in a senior citizens choir that specializes in performing rock and rap songs, including Salt-N-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex.”
The Hot Flashes (July 12) Want to see a bunch of middle-aged gals hoop it up? This female-empowerment comedy follows the Hot Flashes, a team of female basketball players who, several decades after their glory years as high school basketball champs, reunite to raise money for charity by pitting themselves against a team of teenage girls. Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Camryn Manheim and Virginia Madsen star, along with Wanda Sykes, who alone would be reason enough to see this movie directed by Susan Seidelman (Desperately Seeking Susan).
Still Mine (July 12) New Brunswick, Canada, is the setting for this wry comic drama, based on a true story, about a man in his 80s (James Cromwell) determined to build a new home for his beloved wife (Genevieve Bujold), who is in the early stages of dementia. He soon finds himself running into trouble with regulations-obsessed local bureaucrats, but is far too stubborn and wily to let them get in his way.
Red 2 (July 19) Bruce Willis stars in a shoot-'em-up, jokey sequel to his 2010 surprise action-hero success, Red, which grossed nearly $200 million worldwide. Once again, the 58-year-old Willis leads a bunch of retired spies who find themselves back in business. Their ranks include Helen Mirren, 67; John Malkovich, 59; and Anthony Hopkins, 75. The plot? The mature operatives have to track down a missing nuclear device. Hey, it beats playing shuffleboard.
Blue Jasmine (July 26) Age hasn’t slowed Woody Allen, who at 77 is still turning out a movie a year and had his biggest-ever hit two summers ago with Midnight in Paris. Allen is back on U.S. shores in his latest comedy, Blue Jasmine, the story of a privileged New York housewife (Cate Blanchett) who, after getting dumped by her longtime husband (Alec Baldwin), goes into a tailspin and heads west to San Francisco.
Lovelace (Aug. 9) Remember Deep Throat, the 1972 porn film that was probably the only dirty movie that most boomers will admit to paying to see? The movie became a cultural phenomenon, launching the whole “porno chic” movement and grossing at least $100 million. Its star, Linda Lovelace, is the subject of this biopic, which tells a chilling story about how the actress was an abused woman forced to take part in sex films by a domineering husband. Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard star.
Cutie and the Boxer (Aug. 16) Every long marriage is a story unto itself. This absorbing documentary is about the late-blooming tensions between 80-year-old action painter Ushio Shinohara (he often paints by punching a canvas with boxing gloves) and his artist wife, Noriko Shinohara. The two have been married and working together for more than 40 years in New York. Noriko, who had long been her husband’s assistant, suddenly decides that it’s time to pursue an art career of her own, a decision that leads to more than a little conflict between the pair.