If you want a boating adventure
‘Romance on the High Seas’ (1948)
Swathed in pastel satiny gowns, Doris Day sparkles in this frothy musical as a Far Rockaway singer caught in a kooky love trap on a cruise ship faux-docking in Havana, Trinidad and Brazil. The aerial views of Rio de Janeiro put this Warner Bros.’ romp on the map, but its love songs like “It’s Magic” are equally transporting.
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This haunting film classic follows a group of wealthy, bored friends from Rome as they cruise the inky waters near Italy’s Aeolian Islands and anchor to hike volcanic terrain. The mood turns dark when Anna (Lea Massari) goes missing after wandering off.
‘Life of Pi’ (2012)
Ang Lee’s paean to nature provides a big picture-window on the world’s surreal beauty for those feeling cooped up. After a storm sinks a freighter carrying young Pi (Suraj Sharma) and his family of zookeepers, he finds himself stranded on the open sea with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Little by little, the odd couple forms an uneasy alliance, as the solitary teenager uses his wits and sense of wonder to persevere.
If you’d welcome a rural retreat
‘Smiles of a Summer Night’ (1955)
Ingmar Bergman’s fin de siècle farce revs up when a motley crew of friends, family and ex-lovers gathers at a magisterial country estate for Midsummer Night, an annual Swedish holiday celebrating the beginning of summer. Once the wine is uncorked, the saucy repartee gets salacious, and the seductions begin.
‘The Cabin in the Woods’ (2011)
Any respectable summer-movie list requires a horror flick, and this one with Chris Hemsworth offers shut-ins a quality fright night sans nightmares. Five friends head out in an RV for a weekend getaway. Unexpected guests—the living dead—show up, and bloody mayhem ensues. The goofy twist? Sleazy scientists, who covertly control the activities from afar and place bets on the outcome.
‘Into the Woods’ (2014)
When the Witch tells you to ‘go to the woods,’ you vamoose, especially if said sorceress is Meryl Streep. Thwarted travelers yearning for the British Isles—or even the Catskills—will find respite in the fantastical scenery in this film version of the James Lapine-Stephen Sondheim musical shot at London’s Shepperton Studios, as well as Dover Castle in Kent, the small village of Hambleden and Windsor Great Park. Brilliant casting—Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Chris Pine as Prince Charming—elevates this Rapunzel-like escape from a quarantine castle.
Summer by the Lake
If you’re a landlocked water-lover
‘On Golden Pond’ (1981)
“The loons! They’re welcoming us back!” cries Ethel Thayer (Katharine Hepburn) “I don’t hear a thing,” mutters Norman (Henry Fonda), her cantankerous husband. So begins this beloved summer movie filmed on Squam Lake in Holderness, N.H., an emotional ode to family, fishing, love and aging. The sun-dappled lake and its diversions—canoeing, swimming, fishing, skinny-dipping at sundown and back flips from the dock—capture the kick-back spirit of lakeside life.
‘Casino Royale’ (2006)
You expect luscious locales in a Bond film, and this taut thriller delivers. In his first outing as 007, Daniel Craig is all brute charm and chiseled biceps as he tracks terrorist financier Le Chiffre (“Hannibal’s” Mads Mikkelsen) across the globe, from “Madagascar” (actually shot in the Bahamas) to Paradise Island’s Ocean Club, foiling a bomb plot and winning a high-stakes poker game in “Montenegro” (filmed in Prague) along the way. Things get super ugly when the meanie loser tortures Bond; luckily, the intrepid spy comes to at Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como to recuperate with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), the ravishing keeper of the millions at stake.
‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ (2004)
More a road trip than a lake-based lark, this peripatetic biopic covers a lot of ground, both geographically and politically, following Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (Gael García Bernal) on his trip across South America on a Norton 500 motorcycle with his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna). Once the pair hits Argentina’s Lake District, the Patagonian scenery yields glistening bodies of water, from the deep-blue Nahuel Huapi glacial lake to the emerald depths of Lago Frías rimmed by mountainous forests.
If you can spare a few hours to be marooned in paradise
‘Cast Away’ (2000)
FedEx exec Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is headed to Malaysia when his plane crashes and he wakes up alone on a deserted island. Among the detritus is a Wilson volleyball that weirdly becomes a talisman and friend. Luckily for visually starved escapists, the chunk of land this hapless Robinson Crusoe roams is gorgeous Monuriki island in Fiji, with sandy beaches and clear blue sea from here to eternity.
‘A Bigger Splash’ (2015)
Set in a stylish villa on the Italian island of Pantelleria, this sensuous psychological drama stars a wordless Tilda Swinton as Marianne, a rock star resting her voice, whose lovers vie for her attention. When the sexual tension turns claustrophobic, egos clash, the police are called, and revelations tumble out.
‘Guava Island’ (2019)
Filmed in sunlit Cuba, this engaging parable begins with an animated bedtime story about the origins of mythical Guava Island. Fade to musician/dockworker Deni (ebullient Donald Glover) practicing for that night’s secret festival as his seamstress girlfriend Kofi (magnetic Rihanna) teases ”practice is perfection.” Multitasking Deni races off to work, only to get roughed up by a local tyrant. The threats are real, even tragic, but the outcome sounds an uplifting note about the way dreams can inspire the future.
For those hankering to hit the beach again
‘Bonjour Tristesse’ (1958)
Gamine Jean Seberg plays coy pleasure-seeker Cécile in this 1958 film about a tragic love triangle set on the dazzling Côte d’Azur. Alternating black-and-white scenes of chic Paris society with Technicolor vistas of turquoise waters and sunny beaches, its immersive pleasures include a hedonistic town square dance party and cool, refreshing dips in the ocean. “Look at that wonderful sea,” says Cécile’s playboy dad Raymond (David Niven). “High time we threw ourselves in.”
‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back’ (1998)
Everyone is concerned about work-obsessed stockbroker mom Stella Payne (Angela Bassett), especially good pal Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg) who suggests a Caribbean vacation to chill and rejuvenate. Next stop, first-class accommodations in Montego Bay where the hot sun, glittering waves and a fling with islander Winston Shakespeare (Taye Diggs), 20 years her junior, reset her sights (and groove) on what’s important in her life. This popular ’90s rom-com, based on the bestseller by Terry McMillan boasts sublime scenery at Round Hill Hotel and Villas and a killer soundtrack (Mary J. Blige, Soul II Soul, Stevie Wonder).
‘Riding Giants’ (2004)
The ocean is “like an uncaring God, endlessly dangerous” said William Finnegan in “Barbarian Days,” an idea underscoring this engrossing documentary about the history of big-wave surfing. Kingpins of the sport—Greg Noll, Jeff Clark, the late Mark Foo—stoke the mythmaking, but the real stars for beach-deprived viewers are the epic swells at Oahu’s Waimea Bay, California’s Mavericks Beach and the foam-churning 60-footers scaled by tow-in-surfing legend Laird Hamilton.
When you want to stream movies in your backyard—and avoid a tangle of cables—try one of these three smart, sleek projectors
The Budget Traveler
Built “splash-resistant” for poolside parties and creekside campouts, the durable 3.5-pound BenQ GS2 Wireless Outdoor Portable Projector relieves you of lugging around cords. It lets you beam the latest flicks for three hours per charge via your home’s Wi-Fi or mirror movies via your smartphone should you head into the wild, stretching the 720p image to 100 inches diagonal before things get blurry. With the embedded Aptoide TV app, you can stream the latest from Netflix, YouTube and more. The GS2 also easily doubles as a portable speaker. $599, benq.com
The Straight Shooter
The Epson F-100 Mini-Laser Streaming Projector, using proprietary MicroLaser Array technology, fires out a remarkably sharp HD image of up to 150 inches. A compact 6 pounds, it can be loaded with streaming apps including HBO Now, Hulu and WatchESPN. Even if you can’t find a flat surface, the EF-100 automatically corrects the vertical geometry to straighten your image. If you’re gathering in the backyard make sure you have an extension cord handy since you’ll need to plug the EF-100 in to access its power. $1,000, epson.com
The Heavyweight Champ
Thanks to the short-throw lens on the ViewSonic X10-4KE LED Projector, you need less than two feet of space to project its surprisingly powerful Ultra High Definition image. With a little more room you can expand your screen up to 200 inches. At 9 pounds, it’s a bit on the hefty side, but comes stocked with all the amenities of a top-of-the-line smart TV, can be voice-controlled via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant and is equipped with two 8-watt Harmon Kardon speakers for 360 degrees of crisp audio. $1,603, viewsonic.com
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RAISE THE SNACK BAR
Four homemade refreshments that cast movie classics in a starring role
Supersize Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies
Total Time: 40 minutes Makes: 10
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon ground ginger to a bowl and whisk to combine. In another bowl, beat 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature,¾ cup granulated sugar and ¾ cup brown sugar until pale, 3 minutes. Add 2 large eggs and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Add flour mixture to butter mixture a scoop at a time, beating until combined. Stir in 2 cups old-fashioned oats and 2 cups Raisinets. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop five large mounds of dough (about ½ cup each) onto each baking sheet, leaving at least 2 ½ inches between them. Gently flatten rounds with your fingertips. Bake until golden at the edges and chewy at the center, 20-25 minutes.
Reese’s Pieces Popcorn Puppy Chow
Total Time: 20 minutes Makes: 8 cups
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine ¾ cup milk chocolate chips and ¾ cup creamy peanut butter. Microwave on high in 30- second increments, stirring between each one, until mixture is melted and smooth, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Add 3 cups of plain popped popcorn to a large bowl, drizzle with half the chocolate mixture and toss to coat. Add 3 more cups popcorn and remaining chocolate mixture. Let cool 5 minutes. Spoon mixture into a large ziptop bag and add 2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Seal and shake until popcorn is coated. Stir in 1 cup Reese’s Pieces.
Cheese Ball Snack Mix
Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes Makes: 8 cups
Heat oven to 225 degrees. Melt ½ cup unsalted butter in a measuring cup. Add 1 tablespoon cheddar cheese powder and 1 tablespoon taco seasoning and whisk until smooth. In a large bowl, stir together 4 cups corn Chex,1 can (2.75 oz) cheese balls,2 cups cheese crackers (such as Cheez-Its) and 1 cup pretzel sticks. Drizzle in butter mixture and toss to coat. Spread mixture onto two parchment-lined baking sheets and bake, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and golden, 1 ½-2 hours.
Junior Mint Cookie Bark
Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes Makes: 4 cups
Arrange 1 box Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafer Cookies (or chocolate graham crackers) on a parchment-lined baking sheet so that they fill the whole pan in a single layer. Add 1½ cups white chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter to a small bowl and microwave on high in 20-second increments, stirring between them, until melted, about 1 minute. Stir in ½ teaspoon peppermint extract. Add 3 cups dark chocolate chips to another bowl and microwave on high in 20 second increments, stirring between them, until melted, about 1 minute. Spread the melted dark chocolate over the cookies in a thin layer. Top with white chocolate and swirl together. Chill until set, at least 1 hour, then break bark into small pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
—Recipes by Sarah Karnasiewicz
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