I Know It's Summer When 

1. I start looking for new mojito recipes.

2. I start drinking more mojitos.

3. I dig the old box fans out of the garage.

4. It's hard to hear anything in my house because of all the old box fans running.

5. I spend a great deal of time inside, lying around in front of all my fans, drinking mojitos and watching movies with the TV turned way up.

I prefer a life lived in the middle; I'm not much of one for extremes: I don't like food that's too spicy or too bland; I don't want clothes that fit too tight, but I don't enjoy wearing them too baggy either; and I can't stand cold weather and snow, but I'm certainly not much for scorching temperatures. I can watch what I eat and buy clothes that fit, but I have no control over the weather, which, living in Boise, means I'm often subjected to highs and lows I have to find ways to deal with. It's only May, and already the temperatures are beginning to climb into the lay-on-the-floor-in-front-of-the-fan ranges. With a little help from Amazon.com, here's my shortlist of must-watch films to help while away the halcyon, hot-as-Hades days of summer:

Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series narrated by Sir David Attenborough sells for $53.99. That may seem like a steep price for a little summertime distraction, but you'd spend that and then some taking a date to a movie just once a month during the season. And unlike a lot of summer blockbusters, Planet Earth is one of the best things to come out on a big or little screen in a long time. Attenborough, who has narrated some brilliant documentaries--his Secret Life of Plants helped me pass Biology 101--takes what could be very dry films and turns them into fascinating glimpses of our world.

Planet Earth is an amazing exploration of Terra Firma and all of the nature and wildlife she sustains. What makes the 11-part series on DVD even cooler are the 10-minute "Planet Earth Diaries" at the end of each 50-minute episode (exclusive to this DVD set), showing behind-the-scenes aspects of making the film, including "Into the Abyss" which features "the last filming ever officially permitted in the Chandelier Ballroom, a crystal-encrusted cavern found over a mile deep in New Mexico's treacherous Lechuguilla, the deepest cave in the continental United States."

Oscar-winning film Pan's Labyrinth hit the Amazon e-store shelf on May 15, and sells for around $22. Written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro, this film, set in 1944 fascist Spain, is the story of young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) who, in trying to deal with a sadistic stepfather and the harshness of reality, creates a world of fantasy in which she must survive difficult tasks to prove she is truly a princess.

The cinematography in this film is literally breathtaking: You'll find yourself gasping at the beautiful CGI work, as well as the surreal quality of the world Ofelia ventures into. That the film is in Spanish with English subtitles should by no means turn viewers away; it adds another exotic layer to the film, and the lyrical quality of the text is as lovely as the scenery.

The DVD includes a number of featurettes--"The Power of Myth," "The Faun and the Fairies" and "The Color and The Shape,"--Del Toro's interview on The Charlie Rose Show, a storyboard prologue by Del Toro and more. Purists believe much is lost when a great film is transferred from the silver to the small screen, but owning this one means I can watch it over and over again.

As Americans, we're often bewildered and fascinated by the reverence given to royalty who, though they're in positions of political power, are often seen as little more than figureheads. Hollywood has produced hundreds of films about queens, usually focusing on those matriarchs of yore whose struggles, court life and fanciful clothing and hairstyles are more titillating than the day-to-day life of the head of a dysfunctional, spoiled 20th-century family.

The Queen stars Helen Mirren--who garnered a well-deserved Oscar for her role--as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as she struggles to maintain the pomp and circumstance of her position while butting heads with Prime Minister Tony Blair after the death of her headstrong daughter-in-law, Princess Diana. The DVD includes commentary by director Stephen Frears, writer Peter British and Robert Lacey, a royals expert and the author of Majesty. And this one's only $17.99.

So, I have some of my summertime movies picked out. But there's far more available for my viewing pleasure than just feature films or documentaries. There are so many TV series!

Again, I searched through Amazon to see what's out there and was a bit overwhelmed, and a lot overjoyed, by my choices:

Along with contemporary shows like Frasier, Scrubs, The 4400, House, Everybody Loves Raymond and The Venture Bros., there are some series surprises that I didn't even realize I wanted until I saw them on the list. There are enough classic TV series available on DVD to guarantee 30-something viewers like myself will be awash in a sea of nostalgia. For example, I can own the Rockford Files, a late '70s show starring James Garner as Jim Rockford, an ex-con turned private eye, solving crimes on the tough streets of L.A. At around $30 a season, this one isn't cheap, but Amazon usually offers a price break when buying two at a time.

If I need a reprieve from crime and car chases, I can always pop in a copy of The Waltons, a show that ran from 1972-1981. The Waltons showed the day-to-day life of a large family living in Virginia's Blueridge mountains in the 1930s, as seen through the eyes of its eldest son, aspiring novelist John-Boy. In each episode, viewers were promised a big dose of family values and a few tugs on the ol' heartstrings, but the show managed to avoid becoming pablum, instead offering a sincere view of simple, albeit difficult, family life. Again, at $30-$40 this one seems expensive, but with 24 episodes per season, it's really a bargain.

I was also excited to see Twin Peaks, The Larry Sanders Show, Martin, WKRP in Cincinnati, Cagney and Lacey, and Dinosaurs, (an early '90s live-action series with Jim Henson-esque giant puppets as dinosaurs living in a modern world. The series boasted the voices of Michael McKean, Jason Alexander, Tim Curry, Sherman Hemsley and more. Also available are Banacek (starring the A-Team's George Peppard), Bewitched, Perry Mason, Beauty and the Beast, Hawaii Five-0, The Wild Wild West, One Day at a Time, Maude and Mystery Science Theater 3000, just to name a few.

So, my Amazon shopping cart is full. I've got fresh mint growing in my herb garden, I've placed the fans strategically throughout the house, and I'm ready to settle in for a long, hot summer bathing in the cool glow of my TV.

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