Summery books, movies, and music for Memorial Day

Bill Murray stars in a summer-camp romp in 1979 called “Meatballs.”
Bill Murray stars in a summer-camp romp in 1979 called “Meatballs.”

Here are ideas for memorable summer fun — despite the pandemic.

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, the season of music festivals, sleepaway camp, baseball games and vacation getaways. But, not this year. Even though businesses are slowly opening back up and people are beginning to break quarantine, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to curtail activities, especially where large groups of people and travel are concerned. Summer camps and music festivals are canceled, blockbuster movie debuts and Major League Baseball are postponed, and most of us are reluctant to get on an airplane if we can help it.

Still, fun and good times can continue. Pivot is still the buzzword of the year, and we want to help. Here are recommendations from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for summer-related books, movies, and albums that we hope will take the sting out of missing your favorite pastimes of the season.

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What to read

The beauty of a good book is it can transport you to another world. Here are three not-so-recent books that boast vacation-worthy settings and fascinating storylines sure to whisk you away on a mental getaway.

Explore‘Sea Creatures’

A houseboat docked in Miami and Stiltsville, a community of houses built on pilings one-mile offshore in Biscayne Bay, Florida, provides the wet and wild setting for this novel by Susanna Daniel. Georgia Quillian is a wife and mother desperately trying to hold her family together, including her husband, Graham, who has a severe sleep disorder, and 3-year-old son Frankie, who is mute. Things come to a head when a devastating hurricane approaches South Florida. ($25.99 hardback, HarperCollins)

'Untamed.' The wild natural beauty of Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia is the setting of Will Harlan's incredible true story of Carol Ruckdeschel. The 78-year-old, fiercely independent naturalist from Atlanta has lived on the island for decades in a house she built with her own hands, eating only what she can catch, kill or grow. A self-taught scientist and conservationist, she has dedicated her life to preserving the island from development and protecting the sea turtles that breed there. In the process, she has made many enemies. When a violent encounter with one of them ends tragically, it reverberates across the island. ($17 paperback, Grove Press)

“Untamed” by Will Harlan. Contributed by Grove Press
“Untamed” by Will Harlan. Contributed by Grove Press

'Where You Can Find Me.'Dwell for a spell in the cloud forest of Costa Rica in Atlanta author Sheri Joseph's gripping novel about a family that takes refuge in a rundown hotel precariously perched on a mountain in Central America. When 14-year-old Caleb Vincent returns home three years after being kidnapped, his mother Marlene escapes the media circus by taking her children out of the country to heal in peace against her estranged husband's wishes. There they try to figure out how to fit the pieces of their family back together again. ($7.99 e-book, St. Martin's Press)

“Where Can You Find Me” by Sheri Joesph. Contributed.
“Where Can You Find Me” by Sheri Joesph. Contributed.

What to watchThe holiday is an ideal time to sit, stream and binge-watch movies, so we've got a few suggestions to put on your must-see-TV radar. We start with the oldies and then share more recent films.

“Meatballs” (1979)

Free on Vudu, Tubi, YouTube

This early Bill Murray hit made him a star. He plays Trooper, an immature summer camp counselor who somehow inspires his fellow counselors and campers to greater heights against a snooty rival camp with an epic speech that ends in the chant “It just doesn’t matter!”

Bill Murray stars in a summer-camp romp in 1979 called “Meatballs.”
Bill Murray stars in a summer-camp romp in 1979 called “Meatballs.”

“The Money Pit” (1986)

On Netflix

This ridiculous Tom Hanks/Shelley Long comedy hits the hammer on the worst home renovation ever, hopefully making you feel good about whatever home improvement project the pandemic has forced you to face. Expect no shortage of outlandish pratfalls and heavy objects (and people) falling through floors and walls and out windows.

“Mr. 3000” (2004)

Free on Vudu

Miss baseball? “Mr. 3000” stars Bernie Mac as an unpleasantly entitled baseball player who quits when he hits the magic 3,000 hits. But three of those hits are invalidated and he comes back, with diminished skills at age 47, to get those hits with the Brewers. It’s a comedic road to redemption.

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“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008)

On Starz and for rental $3.99 on Amazon Prime, Vudu and iTunes, among others

Hankering for a great beach vacation and plenty of laughs? Jason Segel plays a sad-sack average dude who gets dumped by his girlfriend (Kristen Bell), who starts dating a British rock star (Russell Brand). They end up vacationing at the same Hawaiian resort, where Segel’s character meets the “right” girl (Mila Kunis) while still frequently sobbing over his less-than-deserving ex. The humor will go down as easy as a Mai Tai.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” (2011)

On HBO

If summer is the time to just enjoy the three words in the film title, welcome to this frothy concoction starring big-name actors such as Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei. Gosling’s Jacob plays the muse to Carrell’s bummed-out divorcée character, Cal, and it’s as amusing in execution as the setup.

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Contributed.
Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Contributed.

“Troop Zero” (2019)

On Amazon Prime

In true “Bad News Bears”/”The Mighty Ducks” fashion, this retro 1970s-era underdog story set in rural Georgia won’t challenge your brain but will warm even the coldest of hearts. An oddball, space-loving girl gathers a group of misfits for an off-brand Girl Scout troop in order to compete at a jamboree for a shot to have their voices featured on a record to be shot out in space by NASA. Bonus: Jim Gaffigan, Viola Davis and Allison Janney play key adults.

What to listen to

We’re not thinking too deeply or looking for high art – just a few tunes to promote a lighter heart at the unofficial start of summer. Here are a few musical favorites throughout the decades.

1960s

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, “Dancing in the Street” (1964)

Co-written by Marvin Gaye, it’s not only a signature Motown song, but transcended generations for a Van Halen cover in 1982 and a Mick Jagger/David Bowie combo special in 1993.

The Beach Boys, “I Get Around”(1964)

With Mike Love and Brian Wilson sharing vocals, it became the band’s first No. 1 hit.

1970s

Chicago, “Saturday in the Park” (1972)

A brass-soaked smile of a song literally inspired by a park visit. Founding member Robert Lamm strolled through New York’s Central Park and told his bandmates they had to put the scenes to music.

Donna Summer, “On the Radio” (1979)

The Queen of Disco and producing partner Giorgio Moroder combined strengths for another slick mirror ball singalong.

Singer Donna Summer in 1980. Contributed.
Singer Donna Summer in 1980. Contributed.

1980s

The Cars, “Magic” (1984)

Though the shimmery song will always be appreciated for its gleaming synthesizers and chorus, fans often remember it for the groovy video that featured singer Ric Ocasek walking on water.

Elton John, “I’m Still Standing” (1983)

This festive anthem of survival received an impressive reconstruction at the end of John’s biopic, “Rocketman.”

1990s

Len, “Steal My Sunshine” (1999)

The epitome of a one-hit wonder that nonetheless endures, thanks to its bouncy backbeat and a brilliant sample of Andrea True Connection’s 1976 disco classic, “More, More, More.”

Amy Grant, “Every Heartbeat” (1991)

Following her pop crossover smash “Baby, Baby,” Grant further demonstrated her deftness with a breezy chorus and sweet message.

2000s

Fountains of Wayne, “Stacy’s Mom” (2003)

It’s hardly the best representation of the pop music genius that was Adam Schlesinger (who died in April of coronavirus complications), but the power pop song became the band’s biggest hit based on a fun, simple chorus.

Outkast, "Hey Ya" (2003): The pride of Atlanta rap used the influences of bands such as The Ramones and The Smiths to craft this Polaroid-shaker.

2010s

Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe” (2011)

Nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2012, the No. 1 hit received an early endorsement from fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, who tweeted, “It’s possibly the catchiest song I have ever heard.” On this, the Beebs does not lie.

Jason Mraz, “Have it All” (2018)

The Prince of Positivity can always be relied upon for clever wordplay and mellifluous choruses.