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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

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Summer needs a good soundtrack.
Summer needs a good soundtrack.

The songs of summer

Oh the joys of summer songs! The more I think about it, the more I want to start a list. These are some of my favorites and a line or two about them.

In no particular order:

Hot Fun In The Summertime, Sly And The Family Stone: There are times I am convinced Sly Stone came from a different planet. I find most of his music other-worldly in its brilliance and execution. This one has more hooks than velcro, but the main one for me is the rhythm. It's 4/4 with a heavy triplet feel but I could just as easily say it's a fast 6/8. It makes me think about time in many different ways.

In The Summertime, Roger Miller: There was no end to Roger Miller's inventiveness and this song is a testament to it. A brilliant funny man at the height of his power, he managed to make a broken heart sound like the more fun than a day at the beach.

Summertime, The Gershwins: This song is so good, I would be hard pressed to find a bad version. I suppose that award would go to any revival of the original opera. I don't like that style of singing, but I love opera singers because they have so much dang confidence!

Almost any song by the Beach Boys: They own summer in a way no other group has or ever will. Can you think of one Beach Boys song that reminds you of winter?

Summer In The City, The Lovin' Spoonful: Rock's answer to Roger Miller, John Sebastian probably could match him song for catchy song. This is the first "summer" song I learned and it conjures up a lot of fun with its day-versus-night structure.

Rain On The Roof, The Lovin' Spoonful: Hitting the list twice, the Spoonful are a close second in the race for summer dominance. This song, if you haven't heard it, is Google-worthy. The joy you will experience is worth the short 20-second search on the internet. I'm guessing it inspired the next song.

When It Rains At The Drive In, NRBQ: An exquisite pop melody that conjures steamy windows and a B-movie nobody will be able to recall the next day. Again, Google…

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Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy star in "Hysteria."
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy star in "Hysteria."

"Intouchables," "Hysteria" give off pleasant, safe vibrations

I doubt anyone would be flabbergasted if I said that independent cinema has grown wildly in popularity. The fact that auteur Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" can not only be released in the middle of the summer blockbuster season but be the most buzzed movie of the weekend should be adequate proof.

It's become the place to see new, unique stories and feel emotions normally screen-tested out of most mainstream films. It was the place where writers and directors could take risks, where Tarantino could write fresh dialogue unheard of before or where Nolan could tell a story backward.

"The Intouchables" and "Hysteria," currently playing at the Downer and Oriental Theatre respectively, do not showcase any risk. There's very little in either film to challenge viewers or inspire debate. They are about as edgy as a marshmallow and contain just about the same amount of substance. But, like a marshmallow, they're both enjoyable as light, fluffy filler between more challenging cinematic dishes.

Based on a true story, "The Intouchables" (which, minus the definite article and translated into French, means "untouchable") follows the unlikely friendship between Driss and Philippe. Philippe (Francois Cluzet) lives a life of extravagant wealth, but a paragliding accident has left him without any feeling below his neck. He needs a caretaker, which is where Driss (Omar Sy), an inner-city ex-con, comes in.

The rest of the wildly popular French film's plot will not come as a surprise to anyone. The two struggle to bond at first, especially Driss, who mainly views the job as a paid holiday. As the film goes on, however, the improbable pair grows to respect one another and maybe even teach one another a few life lessons.

It's all predictably crowd-pleasing, especially the movie's continual amusement with the lifestyles of the rich and famous which comes off as pandering to recession-weary audiences. Thankfully, the movie never tugs on the audience's …

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"That's My Boy" isn't the best Father's Day weekend movie choice, so here are five solid options.
"That's My Boy" isn't the best Father's Day weekend movie choice, so here are five solid options.

Here's to you, dad: Five great father/son movies

As much as I normally like to feign objectivity in my reviews, there's simply no way I can pretend that I'm intrigued by "That's My Boy." Adam Sandler and I have never seen eye-to-eye when it comes to comedy, save for a few rare, planet-aligning instances.

If "That's My Boy" is to be congratulated for one thing, however, it's that the film's paternal plot caused me to take a look back at five great movies with father-son relationships.

"Field of Dreams"

To call "Field of Dreams" an emotional movie is like calling Joyce's "Ulysses" a complicated book. Phil Alden Robinson's Best Picture nominee is the ultimate guy weepie film, capable of pulling even the manliest of bodybuilders' heartstrings. The tale of Kevin Costner's Ray Kinsella and his seemingly absurd quest to build a baseball diamond in his Iowa cornfield based on voices his head could easily be the plot to a psychological thriller (in fact, last year's phenomenal "Take Shelter" is remarkably similar, except with a tornado shelter instead of a baseball diamond ... and terrifying). In the hands of Robinson and Costner's pre-"Waterworld" everyman charisma, "Field of Dreams" is a beautifully sentimental, yet never cloying, slice of warm Americana. And when Costner asks his father to "have a catch," I hope your eyes are prepared for a lengthy rain delay.

"Frequency"

I know I said that I wouldn't put "Frequency" on this list since I used it on my Best Time Travel Movies piece, but it wouldn't be honest to leave it off. The second half of this 2000 family drama/thriller gets surprisingly dark, so it might not be the best film to top off a Father's Day celebration with the family. The first half, however, is a touching tribute to the connection between father and son. The concept, a son connects with his dead father in the past via a ham radio and a convenient space-time wormhole, could've pushed audiences' suspension of disbelief too far, but nuanced performances by Dennis Quaid and …

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Charlize Theron and Idris Elba star in "Prometheus," in theaters now.
Charlize Theron and Idris Elba star in "Prometheus," in theaters now.

"Prometheus" shoots for the stars and almost gets there

You certainly can't say that director Ridley Scott set his sights low with "Prometheus," his long-anticipated return to science fiction. Apparently, it wasn't enough to attempt a prequel to "Alien," arguably the most revered sci-fi film that doesn't feature "Star" in the title. The movie also strives to be more philosophical than the first two "Alien" features.

The result could either be heralded as a cinematic marvel or yet another entry in fanboys' ever-growing file of worst movies ever. "Prometheus" falls safely between both categories. It doesn't quite reach the high bar set before it, but it still works as an intense and impeccably made space thriller.

Noomi Rapace (the Swedish actress who dominated the screen in the foreign "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" films) plays Elizabeth Shaw, an archeologist on a quest through space to find the origins of mankind. A cave painting in Scotland appears to hint at a far-off planet as the birthplace of our creators, or "engineers" as Shaw and her fellow archeologist/lover Charlie ("Devil"'s Logan Marshall-Green) call them. After a revelatory discovery on the moon, ominous things start happening to the crew, and it becomes clear that our creators, as well as some members of Shaw's crew, may have other motives for their visit.

I tried to keep the synopsis as vague as possible in order to sanitize this review of spoilers. In fact, one of the best attributes of "Prometheus" is the sense of discovery and the invigorating idea that you and the characters are learning about the planet and its inner workings at the same time. It would be a shame to ruin that for the audience (though some recent TV advertisements have done a decent job of that on their own).

Luckily, "Prometheus" has a lot to enjoy that can't be wrecked by revealing TV spots and spoilers. For one, the film is a visual sensation. The special effects, especially for the spaceship, look almost completely lifelike. Several shots of the ship coming toward the planet to…

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