The Best Film, TV and DVDs for Summer

by PopMatters Staff

1 July 2011


Miami Vice and more...

Lost (2004-2010)

“We have to go back!” Indeed, we do. It’s been a little over a year and it is time to get Lost again. A year after it gracefully and soulfully bowed off of the air, it’s still amazing how good the series as a whole actually was, and that’s the best way to watch it: in it’s entirety. You can purchase it on DVD and Blu-Ray (thank you, Buena Vista) or stream it (thank you, Netflix), but you’ve got to watch it in healthy chunks until you’ve reached the end. It’s not a waste of time; it’s still that good and no TV show not called The Simpsons has ever demanded as much repeat viewing as Lost. Try and find all the hints and easter eggs you missed the first time around. or try to guess which episode was the first one written after the showrunners had gotten ABC to agree to end the show in 2010. My guess? “Expose”. Nikki and Paulo are killed in a merciless fashion and then the show takes off and doesn’t look back until it’s “Through the Looking Glass”. Gregg Lipkin

Miami Vice (1984-1990)

It’s been five years since Michael Mann’s Miami Vice failed to become a blockbuster summer hit, and the movie’s detractors are all too ready to list the reasons why it underwhelmed. Chief among them is the perceived frustration of audiences’ expectations for a slick and stylish update on the ‘80s television series. Yet in reality, Miami Vice offers every thrill one could want in a summer film: sports cars, go-fast boats, races, chases, shootouts, beautiful scenery, tough guys and gorgeous women. Mann’s insistence on going deep into his locations and creating high stakes for Crockett and Tubbs elevates the material beyond simple escapism and enhances the film’s examination of life undercover. The complex plot of Miami Vice—part police drama, part film noir, part forbidden romance—demands revisiting. In celebration of the film’s fifth anniversary, watch Miami Vice on Blu-ray to fully appreciate how Mann and director of photography Dion Beebe immerse us in the daring lives of detectives living on the edge between crime and justice. Thomas Britt

The Monkees (1966-1968)

Watching The Monkees always makes me think of summer. Maybe it’s because most networks only seem to add it to their schedules at this time of year, or because the series is set in Hollywood’s vision of a stereotypically sunny California, where it only rains nearby haunted houses. Depending on the episode, our four rock stars (who want a small, devoted following, not worldwide fame) might deal with bumbling spies or the devil himself, but they can always sing their way out of trouble. Zany musical interludes of classic hits like “Daydream Believer”, “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” are like music videos for the 1960’s. Look closely and you’ll catch celebrity cameos ranging from Frank Zappa to Batman’s Julie Newmar. In other words, it’s the perfect balance between those complicated plot-driven dramas and the brain dead reality shows that networks usually fill their summer schedules with. Jessy Krupa

Movies in the Download Mode

You probably hear your friends say it all the time and you may have uttered the sentence yourself: Streaming films and TV shows on Netflix is loads of fun. It’s also perfect for nutters such as myself who like to eat up single weekends watching the lesser works of Roger Corman (Yikes!), or all movies starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd (there seems to be more of them every time I turn around), and tracking down the dark corners of the Werner Herzog catalogue. Of course, you don’t need Netflix; you can consult your local DVD vender or another online streaming service. The point is, you need to eat up massive amounts of time focused on a single task that will leave you feeling equal measures of shame and accomplishment. Myself? I’m working through the first three seasons of Damages, the legal drama starring Glenn Close. The first season is, as they say, epic. I can’t wait to see if and when the show jumps the shark. Jedd Beaudoin

Red Dwarf: The Complete Series (DVD: 2006)

What good are the warm days of summer without the cold confines of space? From Star Wars to Star Trek, May through August is a perfect time for a visit to and through the cosmos. So why not laugh along the interstellar overdrive with this amazing British TV series. Still going strong after nearly 23 years (though, like most UK creations, they have taken long hiatuses in between productions) the show has become a source of much enjoyment—and debate—among confirmed fans (known as “Smegheads”). From the often less than successful special effects to the oddball storylines and continuity, it’s like a pantomime puzzle box layered with slapstick and satire. It may not always make sense, but it will always make you laugh. Bill Gibron

Scooby Doo Where Are You?: The Complete Series (DVD: 2010)

It may not be built around a summer theme, and the show itself is an often creaky bit of whodunit hooey, but there is something so ripe and reverent about this late ‘60s success that it’s hard not to think of a sunny Saturday morning without it. Just look at the Mystery Machine and its occupants: Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and the amazing dog known as Scooby Doo. They just scream carefree days when kids can go on adventures and solve local crimes, all while battling the supposed forces of the supernatural in the process. With its kicky pop theme songs, endless culture callbacks, and continuing popularity, this quintet will surely be ‘meddling’ well beyond this millennium. Bill Gibron

Six Feet Under (2001-2005)

I’m not sure a blackly comedic family drama set in a funeral home is everyone’s idea of shiny happy summer fun, but for me, nothing goes better with those oppressively humid, languorously inert summer days than contemplating my own mortality along with the Fisher clan. HBO’s brilliant Six Feet Under might not seem obviously evocative of summer, but remember—it debuted in the summer of 2001, wrapped up in the summer of 2005, and its three other seasons had at least a toe in the summer broadcast season. I don’t believe this to be coincidental: couple its broadcast schedule with the show’s setting in the perpetual, endless summer of Los Angeles, and the contrast between the fecundity of life we associate with summer, and the show’s relentless portrayal of the absurdity, abruptness, and absoluteness of death is thrown that much more into relief under the glare of the blinding southern California sun. And yet, in the end, Six Feet Under circles back around on itself to be one of the most life affirming, humane shows ever to air, one that reminds us that we must enjoy every teeming second—every simple thing in life—while we can. You know, things like spending the fleeting summer months on marathon sessions watching great TV on DVD. Jake Meaney

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