Family films to fill the summer with intrigue and adventure

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BY GRACE MCQUADE

“I know that you have rules, and when people break them you find it hard to forgive,” Cora Crawley says to her mother-in-law, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, about a lovers’ scandal that could ruin her eldest daughter Mary in the first season of the award-winning PBS television series, “Downton Abbey.”

“In this case, Mary has the trump card,” replies the family matriarch known for her wise and often wry retorts. “Mary is family.”

Ah, family, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. And in the world of television drama, there were no better familial fusses than the ones that played out in the sprawling English estate that gives the program its title.

The aristocratic Crawley family upstairs and their loyal staff of servants downstairs experienced firsthand their fair share of tragic events that unfolded on the world stage during the first half of the 20th century — from the sinking of the Titanic and the ravages of World War I, to the Spanish flu epidemic and the financial repercussions of the Teapot Dome scandal.

Amidst it all, there was plenty of juicy drama taking place inside the hallowed manor to fill six seasons of the beloved British broadcast. Along with the entertaining family dinner repartee, affairs of the heart, lavish celebrations, and a royal ceremony involving a prince, came sibling rivalry, bitter betrayals, social revolutions, a shattering rape, prison sentences, out-of-wedlock births, threats of bankruptcy and the unexpected deaths of several of Downton’s dearest.

“Downton Abbey” drew a worldwide audience who are surely delighted that the story will pick up where it left off in 2015 on the big screen with the upcoming release of “Downton Abbey,” the movie. The only downer is that fans will have to wait until the end of summer to discover the next chapter in the ongoing family saga.

Until then, there are many films either about families or made for families that will be released this season. The start of summer brought the eagerly awaited “Toy Story 4” that reunites Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) with familiar friends and a new toy called Forky (Tony Hale).

More animated films, along with the following comedies and dramas, await families and filmgoers of all ages that make enjoyable escapes on the rainy days of summer and perfect places to chill on those scorchers.

JULY

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” (July 2; PG-13; action/adventure/comedy): Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider Man return, with Tom Holland in the title role. In the aftermath of “Avengers: Endgame,” in which (spoiler alert) Tony/Iron Man is now gone, all Parker wants to do is enjoy a trip abroad with his high school buddies and crush played by Zendaya. But sometime antihero Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) enlists Spider Man on a crusade to save the world along with new superhero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).

“The Farewell” (July 12; PG; comedy/drama): Awkwafina, the breakout star of last year’s family hit, “Crazy Rich Asians,” stars in this dramedy about a woman who travels back to China to visit her ailing grandmother. In order to keep the family matriarch in the dark about her terminal diagnosis and give her one last celebration, the family stages a fake wedding in this story that the New York Times calls “poignant and funny.”

“The Lion King” (July 19; PG; animation/adventure/drama/family/musical): The story about a young lion prince who is banished from his kingdom after the death of his father has enthralled audiences since it first burst onto the big screen in 1994 and the Broadway stage in 1997. This long-awaited CGI reimagining features the voices of Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé as Nala, and James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa, as well as Elton John’s new arrangements of his original “Lion King” songs.

“The Muppet Movie” (July 25 and 30; G; animation/family/adventure): This 40th anniversary re-release of the animated classic in which Kermit the Frog embarks on a cross-country trip to Hollywood and meets a colorful cast of Muppet characters along the way, takes a fond look back at the magic of Jim Henson’s Muppets and features the memorable song, “Rainbow Connection.”

AUGUST

“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” (Aug. 9; adventure/family): The long-running animated TV series “Dora the Explorer,” about a girl who goes on jungle adventures, finally gets its big screen, live-action debut. Dora (Isabela Moner) is now a teenage explorer experiencing a new kind of jungle, high school in the city. But when her parents (Eva Longoria, Michael Peña) get into trouble while on a quest to discover a lost city of gold, Dora returns to the wild and uses her jungle prowess to save the day.

“The Art of Racing in the Rain” (Aug. 9; PG; comedy/drama): This film is based on the best-selling book by Garth Stein about a dog named Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner) who looks back at his life spent with his human companion, race car driver Denny (Milo Ventimiglia). Denny describes Enzo to his future wife (Amanda Seyfried) as “more person than dog,” illuminating many dog lovers’ belief that caring canines are not only man’s best friend — they are truly members of the family.

“The Angry Birds Movie 2” (Aug. 14; PG; animation/adventure/comedy/family): Red (voice of Jason Sudeikis) is the guy everyone hated in the first “Angry Birds” film, but he went on to save his island of flightless birds from the nearby island of scheming green pigs. War with Leonard (Bill Hader) and the pigs is still going strong until they discover a third, frozen island in their midst and the angry birds must work with the “squeal team” to foil a plot that could destroy them all.

“Blinded by the Light” (Aug. 14; PG-13; biography/drama/musical): This film is inspired by a true story about a British teen (Viveik Kalra) from a traditional Pakistani family who doesn’t fit in within the English community where he lives in the late 1980s. He finds solace by writing poetry until a friend introduces him to the music of The Boss. Through Bruce Springsteen’s empowering lyrics, the young man learns to live more freely, understand his family better, and find his unique voice.

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” (Aug. 16; PG-13; comedy/drama/mystery): Based on the runaway best-seller, a loving mother and former architect (Cate Blanchett) unexpectedly disappears out her home’s window and goes on a mission in Antarctica to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sacrificing herself for her family. Her leap of faith takes her on an epic adventure that jumpstarts her life.

“My Spy” (Aug. 23; PG-13; action/comedy/family): JJ (Dave Bautista) is a hardened CIA operative who has been demoted for his over-the-top violence. He finds himself at the mercy of a precocious 9-year-old girl named Sophie (Chloe Coleman) when he is assigned to surveil her family. In exchange for not blowing his cover, Sophie convinces him to teach her how to become a spy, placing the bullish secret agent in the dog-eat-dog world of middle school dodgeball games and playgrounds.

SEPTEMBER

“It Chapter Two” (Sept. 6; horror/thriller): The group of kids from Derry, Maine, who formed an inner circle called the Loser’s Club and battled the terrifying clown Pennywise 27 years ago, reunite as adults played by Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Skarsgard, Jess Weixler and Bill Hader when the evil force threatens their hometown and close-knit clan once again in this second adaptation of the Stephen King story.

“The Goldfinch” (Sept. 13; R; drama): Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel heads to the big screen to tell the story of Theo (Oakes Fegley/Ansel Elgort), who is 13 years old when his mother is killed in a bombing at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tragedy changes the course of his life as he searches for a place to call home — all the while clinging to the keepsake he quickly took from the museum on that fateful day of his youth, his mother’s favorite Dutch painting, “The Goldfinch.”

“Downton Abbey” (Sept. 20; PG; drama): During its six seasons on PBS television, the English estate called Downton Abbey, run by the titled Crawley family, was the grand setting that hosted countesses, earls, lords, ladies, dukes, duchesses, diplomats, dignitaries, artists and war heroes. In this big screen adaptation of the successful British series, the stakes are even higher as the Crawleys and their hardworking staff prepare for a visit from the king and queen while continuing their lives and loves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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