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Summer Movie Preview: The 40 Indies You Must See

By Indiewire | Indiewire April 23, 2014 at 1:39PM

The summer movie season isn't exactly best known for independent film. With billions of dollars set to be spent on a vast amount of sequels and remakes ("The Amazing Spider Man 2," "X-Men: Days of Future Past," "22 Jump Street," "Step Up All In," "Transformers 4," "The Expendables 3," etc, etc, etc.), one has to wonder: How much space is left for the little guys?
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Boyhood

The summer movie season isn't exactly best known for independent film. With billions of dollars set to be spent on a vast amount of sequels and remakes ("The Amazing Spider Man 2," "X-Men: Days of Future Past," "22 Jump Street," "Step Up All In," "Transformers 4," "The Expendables 3," etc, etc, etc.), one has to wonder: How much space is left for the little guys?

But, while summer as a season will never equal the indie film hotbed that is the fall, in recent years there have actually been quite a few smaller scale breakouts during the studio's favorite months. Last year, for example, summer brought eventual best actress Oscar winner "Blue Jasmine" and best documentary Oscar winner "20 Feet From Stardom," not to mention "Mud," "Fruitvale Station," "Before Midnight," "The Bling Ring," "The Spectacular Now," "Frances Ha" and "The Way, Way Back."

That said, summer can be a particularly risky time to release an independent film, partially due to the mass of studio pictures with huge advertising budgets that are bogarting three or four screens (or more) in some multiplexes. So it's also important to look outside the box office. A lot of great films are going to come and go this summer and even if they are destined for meager grosses, they might still deserve moviegoer attention. It just could be hard for some to find that attention, given the plethora of "Transformers 4" ads blocking the view.

In an attempt to help remedy that, Indiewire is offering this list of 40 specialty films coming out this summer that demand moviegoer consideration, a supplement to Indiewire's film calendar that additionally mentions a few dozen more (including studio offerings).

We realize heading to the theater 40 times in four months is a bit excessive, but there's really something for everyone listed below, so you can narrow down to a more reasonable personally specialized list yourself. From your annual to dose of Woody Allen to a 12 year project from Richard Linklater to two posthumous films starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, here are 40 films we think you should see (note: all release dates are for theatrical):

Begin Again (July 4)

Director: John Carney
Cast: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

Criticwire Average: 5 critics gave it a B average

Why is it a "Must See"? Director John Carney is the artist who gave us "Once" in 2006, the subtle drama about the variety of lives and music that draws them together. It's safe to say that "Begin Again" (previously titled "Can a Song Save Your Life?") was placed in good hands. Also in this film is a chance to see period-drama champ Keira Knightley singing all over modern day New York, guitar in hand. A chance encounter leads to her collaboration with washed-up music exec Mark Ruffalo as they start on a new album, recording everywhere except inside an actual studio. 

Watch the trailer here:


Belle (May 2)

Director: Amma Asante
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Felton, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Criticwire Average: 2 critics gave it a B average

Why is it a "Must See"? Let's clear this up right away: the title character is not Belle from "Beauty and the Beast," despite the billowy dresses and hairdos. Gugu Mbatha-Raw takes center stage in the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate, bi-racial daughter of a Royal Navy admiral in 18th-century Britain.

Watch the trailer below:


Boyhood (July 11)

Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Tamara Jolaine, Nick Krause, Jordan Howard, Evie Thompson
Distributor: IFC Films

Criticwire Average: 35 critics gave it a A average

Why is it a "Must See"? Twelve years ago, Richard Linklater started production on a movie following the development of a child from the age of seven through the end of his teenage years. If there was ever project that demanded to be informed by the history of its making, "Boyhood" is it. Epic in scope yet unassuming throughout, Linklater's incredibly involving chronicle marks an unprecedented achievement in fictional storytelling — the closest point of comparison, Michael Apted's "Up" documentaries, don't represent the same singularity of vision. Shot over the course of 39 days spread across more than a decade, "Boyhood" is an entirely fluid work that puts the process of maturity under the microscope and analyzes its nuances with remarkable detail.

The film has yet to release a trailer, but be sure to check back for it.


Calvary (August 1)
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Criticwire Grade: 14 critics gave it a B+ average

Why Is It A “Must See”? Irish Black Comedy seems to be on the rise as of late, and even though “Calvary” looks like another entry into the genre, it is anything but. In his follow-up to the uproariously funny “The Guard,” John Michael McDonagh takes on a more somber view of the world. One in which Brendan Gleeson plays Father James Lavelle, a good man who works to make the world a better place. However, he is repeatedly shocked and saddened by the confrontational nature of the inhabitants of his small town. One day, his life is threatened during confession, and the forces of darkness begin to close in around him. Featuring a supporting cast led by Chris O’Dowd, the film will be released August 1st.

Watch the trailer below:


The Case Against 8 (June 6)
Director: Ben Cotner and Ryan White
Distributor: HBO

Criticwire Grade: 4 critics gave it a A- average

Why is it a "Must See"? Shot over five years, "The Case Against 8" offers an incredible inside look at the legal battle behind overturning Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California back in 2008. Directed by Ben Cotner and Ryan White (who won the directing prize at Sundance for the film), it makes for an inspiring and emotional cinematic journey about a moment in history that will and has dramatically changed the legal rights situation for gay and lesbian couples in the US.   Acquired by HBO, their confidence in the film inspired them to release "Case" in theaters in New York and Los Angeles June 6 and then expand it to select cities June 13 (thus qualifying it for the Oscars). The film will also play on HBO on June 23, in time for the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's overruling of Proposition 8.

The trailer isn't available yet, but watch this Q&A from the film's Sundance premiere:


Chef (May 9th)

Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey, Jr.
Distributor: Open Road Films

Criticwire Average: 9 critics gave it a B average

Why is it a "Must See"? It's nice to see Jon Favreau apply the same brand of comedy, wit and fun that audience welcomed in his "Iron Man" trilogy to the much smaller-scale "Chef," which places the actor/writer/director in the role of an embittered chef struggling to figure out how to progress with his cooking career. But where the film lacks in "Iron Man"-style action sequences, it more than makes up for it in sentimental charm that always encompasses a bit of vulgarity to prevent it from ever going into the territory of schmaltz, which is an all-too rare talent these days and is certainly enough to merit Favreau a place on this list.

Watch the trailer below:

This article is related to: Summer Movie Preview, Wish I Was Here, What If, Boyhood, Two Faces of January, The Trip To Italy, Venus in Fur, Obvious Child, A Most Wanted Man, Love is Strange, Magic in the Moonlight, God's Pocket, The Rover, Happy Christmas, The Double, The Case Against 8, Begin Again






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