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The 9 Indie Films You Must See This July

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire July 3, 2013 at 10:38AM

July is about to offer quite the selection to movie-goers, and not just if you're into superheroes and sequels. As an extension of our recent summer movie preview, Indiewire is offering the third of four monthly summer indie "must-see" lists to make cinematic decision-making as easy as possible this summer.
TWC "Fruitvale Station."

July is about to offer quite the selection to movie-goers, and not just if you're into superheroes and sequels. As an extension of our recent summer movie preview, Indiewire is offering the third of four monthly summer indie "must-see" lists to make cinematic decision-making as easy as possible this summer.

From Woody Allen to Ryan Gosling to a whopping four films of (at least partial) Danish descent, check out Indiewire's picks for your 9 best options, and then check out July's full calendar, as there are many worthy films that didn't end up making this list (including some studio efforts).

1. Fruitvale Station (July 26)

Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ahna O'Reilly, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

Criticwire Average: 22 critics gave it an B+ average.

Why is it a "Must See"? The film formerly known just as "Fruitvale" heads into its release with the considerable status of having won both the grand jury prize and audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The Weinstein Company -- who acquired the film at the fest -- pushed up its date from October to July, a strategy that certainly helped last year's big Sundance winner "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (which also went to Cannes before heading to theaters, which "Fruitvale Station" will do next month). The film tells the story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, and his experiences on the last day of his life, before he was fatally shot in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2009. Of all the films of the summer it's perhaps the one most likely to be remembered come Oscar season time (save maybe "Before Midnight"), particularly for the standout performances of Jordan, Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz. [Peter Knegt]

Check out he trailer below:

2. The Act of Killing (July 19)

Joshua Oppenheimer (co-directed by Anonymous and Christine Cynn)
Distributor: Drafthouse Films

Criticwire Average: 29 critics gave it an A average.

Why is it a "Must See"? One of the (if not the) most acclaimed and controversial documentaries of the past year's festival circuit arrives in theaters this month, "The Act of Killing" examines a country where death squad leaders are celebrated as heroes, challenging them to reenact their real-life mass killings in the style of the American movies they love. Executive produced by doc legends Errol Morris ("The Fog of War") and Werner Herzog ("Grizzly Man"), the Danish-British-Norwegian co-production blew away audiences in Toronto, Telluride, IDFA, CPH:DOX and Berlin (among countless others), winning award after award after award. Indiewire called it "the most unsettling movie about mass killing since 'Shoah.'" Sure, that doesn't sound like feel-good summer movie fare (because it is the opposite of that), but don't let that stop you from taking in one of the most inventive documentaries to come along in some time. [Peter Knegt]

Check out the film's trailer:

3. Blue Jasmine (July 26)

Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Louis CK, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Peter Sarsgaard
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Criticwire Average: No critics have scored it yet, but check back.

Why is it a "Must See"? It's been a good long while since Woody Allen's name alone simply made something a must see. For every "Midnight in Paris" there's a "From Rome With Love," though his latest feature -- his whopping 43rd -- offers a cast that exceeds even Allen's standards for hard-to-argue-against: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Louis CK, Bobby Cannavale and, well, Andrew Dice Clay. It also returns Allen to a Stateside film for the first time since 2009's "Whatever Works." The story of the final stages of an acute crisis and the life of a fashionable housewife (Blanchett), it's set in both New York and San Francisco. Sony Classics is releasing it as summer counterprogramming, a tactic that worked wonders with "Midnight in Paris" and -- to a lesser but still respectable degree -- last year's "To Rome With Love." [Peter Knegt]

Check out the trailer below:

4. Only God Forgives (July 19)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm
Distributor: RADiUS-TWC

Criticwire Average: 16 critics gave it a B average.

Why is it a "Must See"? Danish director Refn and omnipresent heartthrob Ryan Gosling's last team-up, "Drive," has since become one of the most hotly debated films of the last few years; a slick, stylized blood fest that has earned lovers and deriders in equal measure. Their second outing seems to be delivering more of the same, with its neon-dappled cinematography and hip Cliff Martinez score. But after two dazzling trailers, we can't really blame them. A revenge thriller set in the world of underground Thai boxing, we'd expect Gosling to be back in silent, brooding anti-hero mode, but early screenings make it clear that Kristin Scott Thomas steals the show as Gosling's bloodthirsty gangster mother. The film debuted Cannes, but US audiences thankfully only have to wait until July 19th to see if Refn's latest helping of pulp is as sweet as the last (both in theaters and on VOD). [Mark E. Lukenbill]

Check out the trailer below:

5. The Way, Way Back (July 5)

Director: Jim Rash, Nat Faxon
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, AnnaSophia Robb, Amanda Peet, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, Liam James
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Criticwire Average: 15 critics gave it a B+ average.

Why is it a "Must See"? The biggest buy at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Fox Searchlight has a lot riding on Jim Rash and Nat Faxon's directorial debut "The Way, Way Back." But the summer vacation family portrait should fit nicely as some midsummer counter-programming. The film follows 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) as he spends summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her overbearing boyfriend (Steve Carell) in a resort town.  To escape the dysfunction of that scenario, Duncan takes a job offer from Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of the Water Wizz water park... And coming-of-age ensues. [Peter Knegt]

Check out the trailer below:

6. Computer Chess (July 17)

Director: Andrew Bujalski
Cast:  Patrick Riester, Myles Paige, James Curry, Robin Schwartz, Gerald Peary, Wiley Wiggins
Distributor: Kino Lorber

Criticwire Average: 14 critics gave it a B- average

Why is it a "Must See"? "Computer Chess" is the first film in five years from writer-director Andrew Bujalski -- best known for pioneering the mumblecore genre with his 2002 comedy "Funny Ha Ha." The film follows a group of chess software programmers in 1980 as they converge for a weekend chess programming tournament. The film -- self-described as an "artificially intelligent comedy" -- was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Award at Sundance, honoring films whose theme is science or technology. Sounds a bit nerdy, but according to Indiewire's Sundance review, the film falls in line with Bujalski's previous work "while achieving much funnier, offbeat results." [Peter Knegt]

Check out the trailer below:

Computer Chess LLC 'Computer Chess'

7. A Hijacking (June 21)

Director: Tobias Lindholm 
Cast: Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling, Dar Salim, Roland Møller, Gary Skjoldmose Porter, Abdihakin Asgar, Amalie Alstrup
Distributor: Magnolia

Criticwire Average: 18 critics gave it a B+ average.

Why is it a "Must See"? Tobias Lindholm's story of a Danish ship attacked by Somali pirates, "A Hijacking," has won awards at festivals around the world.  A thriller with contemplative moments, the film teases out anticipation as the pirates must negotiate with officials in Copenhagen.  The film -- which leads with a fairly unknown cast from an internationally untested director -- has proven to be a breakout for Lindholm.  Whether American audiences embrace it remains to be seen, but we certainly recommend they do. [Bryce J. Renninger]

Check out the film's trailer:

8. The Hunt (July 12)

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Alexandra Rapaport, Annika Wedderkopp
Distributor: Magnolia

Criticwire Average: 35 critics gave it a B average

Why is it a "Must See"? Thomas Vinterberg's latest received a fair amount of critical praise upon its premiere at Cannes last year, including a Best Actor win for star Mads Mikkelsen. Now, almost a year later, the film has premiered in every major European market and has screenings at a variety of festivals since Cannes, including a North American premiere at Toronto, and its finally gearing up for a US theatrical release this July through TrustNordisk. Mikkelsen stars as Lucas, who after a rough divorce finally begins to get his life back together with a new girlfriend and a new job at a local kindergarten. But a random lie by one of his students quickly turns the town hysterical, with Lucas facing false claims against him and finding very few still standing on his side. While far from traditional summer fare, Vinterberg has crafted a harrowing portrayal of a torn community and a man fighting for his dignity against impossible odds, along the way landing on many 2012 end of the year lists. [Cameron Sinz]

Check out the film's trailer:

9. Crystal Fairy (July 12)

Director: Sebastian Silva
Cast: Michael Cera, Gaby Hoffmann, Juan Andrés Silva, José Miguel Silva, Agustín Silva
Distributor: IFC Films

Criticwire Average: 13 critics have it a B average.

Why is it a "Must See"? One of two Sebastian Silva films to both star Michael Cera and premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival (the other being "Magic Magic"), "Crystal Fairy" is based on a real road trip taken by Silva and his brothers, with dialogue 100% improvised from an 11-page outline. Essentially a drug-fueled road movie (isn't that the best kind?), "Crystal Fairy" earned high praise from The Playlist in their Sundance review: "Generally, unless you’re a master like Christopher Guest, films without scripts tend to feel like it. While 'Crystal Fairy' is loose, there’s never a moment where you’re taken out of the picture by realizing the actors might not know where they’re heading next." [Peter Knegt]

Check out the film's trailer:

This article is related to: Lists, Fruitvale Station, Only God Forgives, Blue Jasmine, The Way, Way Back