It’s that time of year again: The summer blockbuster season kicks off on Friday with The Amazing Spider-man 2, which means three and a half months of empty spectacles that we will all consume voraciously, like butter-filled popcorn topped with butter layered in a bag made of butter. (Especially Godzilla: I’m gonna eat the crap out of that movie and feel terrible afterwards, then I’ll recover and watch it again.)
As we do every year, we present the ten most anticipated anti-blockbuster films, the indie flicks we’re most excited about this summer. Thanks to VOD and iTunes, access to these kinds of movies has become easier than ever. Unfortunately, exposure has completely dried up. There are no marketing budgets anymore, and unless one of these films breaks out as an awards contender, you’re not going to hear much about them outside of a few films reviews and the listings of new releases on iTunes (that has actually become a go-to-source for me to find out what’s popular in th indie world lately).
So, as you prepare for the onslaught of raucous comedies and superhero movies, please put a few of these on your radar for the summer. We’ll alert you again closer to their release dates, hopefully with glowing reviews, so that you can get a little substance with your movie candy.
10. Trust Me — Trust Me gets the nod because it’s Clark Gregg’s (Agent Coulson) follow up as director to his sorely underappreciated Choke. He reteams with Sam Rockwell again, as well as Amanda Peete and Allison Janney for a film he wrote about a struggling agent for child actors and former child star himself, Howard Holloway, who spends years losing his most talented clients to his slick, arch-nemesis. Gregg vs. Rockwell? I’m in.
9. Wish I Was Here — This is a list of the most anticipated independent films of the summer, and not necessarily the best, as reviews out of Sundance were not exactly kind to Zach Braff’s Kickstarter funded feature, a spiritual follow-up to Garden State. But there are enough of us who still have love for Garden State and are curious enough, and smitten enough with some in the cast (Braff & Donald Faison, holla!) to ensure that we’ll make the trip to theaters for it.
8. The Double — It’s another movie, like Jake Gyllenhaal’s Enemy, concerning doubles who are not related. This one stars Jesse Eisenberg, and that along with the stellar reviews so far make this premise sound all the more compelling: “Eisenberg plays Simon, a timid, isolated man who’s overlooked at work, scorned by his mother, and ignored by the woman of his dreams (MIa Wasikowska). The arrival of a new co-worker, James (also played by Eisenberg), serves to upset the balance. James is both Simon’s exact physical double and his opposite - confident, charismatic and good with women. To Simon’s horror, James slowly starts taking over his life.”
Richard Ayoade directs. Also, watch this trailer.
7. Hellion — I don’t really know what to expect from this movie, which comes from a lot of first timers (the lead kid Josh Wiggins making his screen debut for Kat Chandler, making her feature directorial debut). But it was good enough to convince Aaron Paul to sign on as an emotionally absent father who must join forces with his delinquent son to bring the other brother home, who had been taken to the house of their aunt (Juliette Lewis) by child protective services. Need for Speed notwithstanding, I’m still gonna get excited about anything with Aaron Paul in it.
6. Life of Crime — Characters played by Mos Def and John Hawkes (how’s that for a buddy combo) hit it off in prison, where they were both doing time for grand theft auto. When they get out, they join forces for one big score. Here’s why it’s compelling: Jennifer Aniston, Will Forte, Isla Fisher, Mark Boone Junior, and Tim Robbins also star, and it’s based on an Elmore Leonard novel, which is being brought to the screen by Daniel Schechter. That cast, that source material, plus strong reviews so far make this need-to-see.
5. Calvary — Martin McDonagh’s brother, John Michael McDonagh, wrote and directed it, and he also wrote and directed The Guard. If that’s not convincing enough, McDonagh-brother regular, Brendan Gleeson, also stars with Chris O’Dowd. Oh, and it’s sitting at 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
4. What If (The F Word) — Oh, it sounds twee as hell — Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan star as two friends who, despite their mutual attraction, give friendship a try in this romantic comedy — and it has a cast that is also twee as hell (Oona Chaplin and Adam Driver also star). But 1) I got nothing against twee, and 2) it comes from Michael Dowse, who directed the opposite-of-twee movie, Goon, and 3) reviews have been stellar.
3. Happy Christmas — Joe Swanberg reteams with his Drinking Buddies star Anna Kendrick, and brings along Lena Dunham, Melanie Lynskey, and Mark Webber in a movie about an irresponsible 20-something who moves in with her older brother and shakes up their domestic tranquility. I think the key words here are: Anna Kendrick.
2. Snowpiercer — Joon-ho Bong’s film with Chris Evans has already been released, to strong reviews, in many other parts of the world. It stirred much controversy when the Weinsteins ordered twenty minutes of cuts (though, those apparently are back in), which at least gave the film some much needed exposure. Tilda Swinton and Jamie Bell also star in the movie about the surviving members of humanity struggling to survive amidst a world covered in ice on a supertrain where the poor and the rich are constantly at odds.
1. Boyhood — TK will have his review up soon, but I will say this about Richard Linklater’s film — a fictional coming-of-age story filmed over 12 years that followed a six year and his family until he was 18: I say this without any hyperbole, it is legitimately the best movie I’ve seen in a decade, since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The “gimmick” is fascinating, if only to see these kids grow up on screen (and to watch Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette age over 12 years), but it’s the story — and the characters — that will blow you away.