I don't know about you, but I cherish my summers. I have ever since I was a kid and found myself with full days to devote to burying my head in a book or seeing triple features at the local movie theater. These days it's a lot easier to stock up on pop culture to devour over the few short months-- whether it's catching up on multiple seasons of shows on DVD or online streaming sites, or loading up your tablet with books and new music for afternoons lying under the sun on the beach. Similarly, though, there's an abundance of media available these days, and that can make choosing and prioritizing tough. I have compiled my "Musts" of Summer 2013, but I encourage you to only use these as jumping off points. There's a lot of good stuff out there!
"Instant Mom" by Nia Vardalos - Part memoir, part helpful guide for prospective and new adoptive parents, this is one celebrity story that actually has something very real to say. There's such an obsession with the cult of celebrity and the glamorous lifestyles everyone assumes those in Hollywood have, and Vardalos certainly fits the bill as a successful writer and actor with lots of famous friends. But she is completely candid and open here, even when discussing sensitive topics like infertility or her new daughter lashing out at her. The book is short, but it is not a light read; any given page will make you laugh and cry, only sentences apart. It's an emotional ride from page one, but it an extremely refreshing and unique story that reaffirms what really matters in one's life.
"Someday, Someday, Maybe" by Lauren Graham - You'll enjoy this book about a struggling actress in New York in the 1990s whether you're reading it to try to figure out which characters are based on author/actress Graham's early industry friends or are identifying with the dreamer spirit of her protagonist, a young woman who doesn't always make the right decisions, go with her gut, or even stay true to herself as the promise of fame and fortune loom just out of reach. It's a novel, so the story is fiction, but the characters are ones we've seen countless times in this business, and therefore every word jumps off the page as if you're seeing it play out on a screen in front of you.
"The Woman Upstairs" by Claire Messud - You won't see another story as unique as this one on the market for a very long time. The protagonist is a self-proclaimed "woman upstairs," a woman doomed to be single and uninteresting, quietly unassuming, but not quite the cat lady of so many's cautionary tales. She had aspirations of being an artist, and this story explores those in a way that go from childhood interest and pure creativity to adult outlet and hobby due to lack of willingness to take many risks. But more importantly, it's a story that dives into a deep admiration that almost borders on an obsessive infatuation with a family she yearns to be a part of but is only kept on the outskirts of. The loneliness in this woman is palpable but never completely melancholy. This book taps into something so special and with such a delicate balance and caring hand that you come to understand this very unique woman without judging her, even relating to her most specific emotions and experiences.
Hollywood Game Night (NBC, starting June 23) - Happy Birthday to me! I love a good game night, and this one is all pop culture, all the time, with categories on television shows, celebrity mash-ups, and song lyrics alike. Hosted by Jane Lynch and featuring a rotating group of players as well as games, you can gather your own friends around the TV with some snacks to yell out the right answers and the appropriate the games for your own use later.
The Heat (in theaters June 28) - Is it wrong that I just really want this to be like the cap on a Miss Congeniality trilogy? It looks like mindless comedy, and every now and then, I'm okay with that, esepcially when I like the cast, and it only requires two hours of my time. I genuinely love both Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy and am eager to see how their individual styles of comedy compliment each other. This is one "sit back and just allow yourself to be entertained" film I'd happily duck into the air conditioning to check out one hot afternoon.
The Way, Way Back (in theaters July 5) - I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories, but when Jim Rash is the scribe, you know it's more than personal nostalgia or sentimentality that will make the project special. This one won over audiences at Sundance earlier in the year and also features a couple of the best in the business in key roles: Sam Rockwell and Toni Collette. Centering on a quiet and somewhat awkard teenager stuck on a vacation with his mother and her boyfriend, The Way, Way Back brings the kid out of his shell through an unlikely friendship with two older but barely role model material water park employees. And if you want to talk personal nostalgia, there are shades of Mud and Dennis (from Camp Nowhere) in Liam James and Rockwell's on-screen relationship, which made me smile a lot, too.
The To-Do List (in theaters July 27) - A comedic sexual romp is not really my kind of movie. But when it stars Aubrey Plaza as not-your-typical pre-college student who just wants to check off some life experiences before embarking on the next stage of her life, you know it's going to be clever. The rest of the cast (like Connie Britton, Alia Shawkat, Clark Gregg, and Scott Porter) certainly help, and the 1990s period element is always fun, too.
Falling Skies season three (starting June 9) - Since this show comes from Steven Spielberg, it's always been a little "everything will work out in the end" for me, but this year things are a whole lot darker. Tom making a deal to work alongside one alien race is ripe with trouble on its own, but add to that the fact that one of his kids is being controlled by something alien inside him while another one of his kids has lost his childhood completely and can't even see a life after this war, and the family drama is certainly amped up. There's also a new baby in the Mason household, but it is only half human baby, a hybrid alien species that no one can understand because apparently everyone forgot Tom once had an alien bug in his head, too. Whether or not this kid will be the future undoing of the human race isn't even the kicker. It turns out that one of their own is already working against them, plying the Mechs with information and actually killing those getting too close to finding out his/her identity. That kind of human-on-human crime is something I thought should have happened way earlier; how often do we see people riot and fight in the street after something as simple as an earthquake, let alone an invasion? But I'm glad it's finally happening now because it is adding all kinds of crazy rich, subtextual layers to this otherwise fantastical series.
CBS' adaptation of Under The Dome (starting June 24) - It's no secret I'm obsessed with Stephen King's works, and if you haven't already read this book, you should before tuning into the CBS series. It's over 1000 pages, so it might take you awhile to get through it, but you can even read it concurrently with the series, as enough details and characters have been changed that they live as alternative versions, and you won't have to worry about spoilers. The series was not initially designed to be merely a summer series, so we probably should not expect a resolution with the dome by the end of the season/summer, but what we are guaranteed is a very complex character drama for everyday people in extraordinary circumstances.
The final season of Dexter (Showtime, starting June 30) - The promotional photos for the eighth and final season of everyone's favorite serial killer drama more than imply this is it for Dexter Morgan as a man, in addition to a series. I'm going to cling to a shred of hope that it doesn't have to be that way; I'm sad enough the intense psychological show has to come to an end, but I want to be able to believe the character will go on and thrive without our prying eyes. Still, it proves to be a very twisty season, as Deb spirals, an old "colleague" returns, and a new authority on psychopaths enters Dexter's life, all threatening his ability to keep his secrets hidden.