The Summer Blockbuster season is intended to be an early Christmas for fans of special effects and flashy action-sequences. However, what about those 12-month a year moviegoers who crave the sincere touch of independent films? While I spent part of April taking an extensive look at the big-named Summer Blockbusters worth getting excited over, I will begin May by examining the most noteworthy indie titles arriving in theatres this Summer.
My Top 3 Most Anticipated Summer Indie Releases
#3. Magic in the Moonlight - July 25th
Normally I wouldn't get so worked up over a Woody Allen release, yet two of his latest efforts (Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine) have been so good, I can't wait to see what Magic in the Moonlight has to offer. With details regarding the film kept to a minimum and a duo featuring Emma Stone and Colin Firth set to star, there's plenty worth getting excited about with Woody Allen's upcoming release.
#2. Boyhood - July 11th
Richard Linklater is best known for directing the indie romance trilogy that began with 1995's Before Sunrise and ended with 2013's Before Midnight. Although each installment of his trilogy has been lauded as a critical success, the filmmaker plans to change the face of cinema with his newest release, Boyhood. Dating back to 2002, Linklater began filming what would become a movie 12 years in the making by using the same actor from age 5 to 18 in order to tell the story of an adolescent boy growing up and maturing in a broken home with divorced parents. This tactic has never been done before and the first theatrical trailer for Boyhood looks remarkably impressive. Hence, I can't wait to catch the film on the big-screen this July.
#1. Chef - May 9th
Following a grand debut at the SXSW Film Festival in March and an Audience Award from the Tribecca Film Festival this past past week, I'm beginning to salivate over Jon Favreau's latest offering, Chef. The comedy centers around a prideful cook who leaves the restaurant business and opens a food truck to explore his creativity, all while reconnecting with his estranged family. Boasting an impressive debut trailer as well, I can't wait for Chef's theatrical release in a couple weeks.
Movies I've Already Seen
With unlimited access to the 2013 Philadelphia and the 2014 Sundance Film Festivals, I had the opportunity to get an early look into some of the Summer's most talked-about indie releases. God's Pocket (May 9th - 3 stars out of 4) stars the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as a Philadelphian who goes through hell trying to plan and pay for a funeral following the accidental death of his stepson. I appreciated all of the local ties scattered throughout the movie, however, there were character inconsistencies and other noticeable flaws in this wannabe gangster flick.
Cold in July (May 23rd - 2 stars out of 4) stars Dexter's Michael C. Hall as a timid man in 1980s Texas who shockingly guns down a burglar in his home one evening. Lauded as a local hero, things start going south once the victim's father is released from prison and shows up in town. While other critics praised this revenge film, I personally hated the shift in tone mid-way though the feature.
There are rumblings about how impressive Marion Cotillard's performance was in The Immigrant (May 16th - 2 stars out of 4) and I completely agree. We see the darker side of 1920s Manhattan when a poor Polish native is forced into prostitution to survive life in America. Also, two other Sundance crowd favorites were the 80s-era coming-of-age comedy Ping Pong Summer (June 6th - 2.5 stars out of 4) and Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul's single-father drama Hellion (June 13th - 2.5 stars out of 4).
Monthly Honorable Mentions
May: Jesse Eisenberg is driven into madness after he discovers his doppleganger in The Double (5/9). James Franco stars in Palo Alto (5/9) which follows a group of teens who stir up all sorts of trouble. Mia Wasikowska plays a young woman who treks 1,700 miles across the Australian desert in Tracks (5/23).
June: Sundance darling Jenny Slate generates the laughs as a Brooklyn comedian who gets knocked up after a one night stand in Obvious Child (6/6). Guy Pearce plays a man who's only remaining possession (his car) is stolen and he must force one of the robbers who was left behind (Robert Pattinson) to help him find the automobile in the near-future Australian drama The Rover (6/13). Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler find romance after a hate-fueled first encounter in the off-beat romantic comedy They Came Together (6/27).
July: Zach Braff returns to the director's chair and stars in Wish I Was Here (7/18), which centers around a mid-thirties father, husband and struggling actor still going through a bit of an identity crisis. Philip Seymour Hoffman also delivers one of his final performances in the spy-thriller A Most Wanted Man (7/25) which sees German and U.S. Security Agencies tracking down a suspected terrorist who illegally migrates to Hamburg.
August: The Comedy Love Is Strange (8/22) follows John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a married homosexual forced to live apart in New York. I heard from many pleasantly surprised critics after it screened at Sundance.