Well kids, summer blockbuster is in full swing, and though we love a good blow-’em-up as much as the next moviegoer, it’s easy — particularly in this season — to overlook the smaller and more challenging flicks that are rolling into your local multiplexes and arthouses. So it’s time for another installment in our new monthly feature here at Flavorwire, where we take a look at some of the exciting indies of the month to a come, and a few smaller titles from previous weeks that you might’ve missed. Check them out after the jump!
Take This Waltz RELEASE: June 29 in theaters, on demand now DIRECTOR: Sarah Polley CAST: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman IN BRIEF: Actress-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley writes and directs this bittersweet story of a marriage jeopardized by attraction, and she tells it on a small scale, in private moments and loaded silences, in longing looks and observed behavior. It’s an intimate, deeply felt, incredibly moving portrait of a relatable, believable marriage, and how it crumbles almost in spite of itself. But it’s also not a downer; Rogen and Silverman are serious without being dour, and though Williams is certainly no stranger to on-screen heartbreak, she puts across her character’s dilemma with sensitivity and nuance.
Safety Not Guaranteed RELEASE: June 8 DIRECTOR: Colin Trevorrow CAST: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake M. Johnson, Karan Soni, Jeff Garlin IN BRIEF: There’s nothing quite like the thrill of discovering a movie that’s a genuine original, and that’s what Safety Not Guaranteed is — intelligent, utterly unpredictable and anchored by a marvelous lead performance by the great Aubrey Plaza (who we talked to about the movie at SXSW). There’s big laughs in her interactions with a possibly (okay, probably) crazy Mark Duplass, but the story shifts into contemplative pathos and genuine wonder in the third act with such skill that it’s almost a sneak attack — you’re surprised by how absorbed you’ve become in this nutty little picture.
Your Sister’s Sister RELEASE: June 15 DIRECTOR: Lynn Shelton CAST: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass, Mike Birbiglia IN BRIEF: Filmmaker Lynn Shelton follows up her sleeper hit Humpday with this three-handed rom-com, in which a screw-up (the busy Duplass) sleeps with the sister of his female best friend (Blunt) before discovering that she might have a thing for him. The set-up sounds sit-commy, but Your Sister’s Sister is an uncommonly smart and complicated romantic comedy, one that gets the laugh but doesn’t look away from the fallout. It’s funny, but it’s also raw and honest and occasionally uncomfortable; it could have easily fallen into broad, grotesque fraudulence, but is instead a delightful, brainy treat.
The Invisible War RELEASE: June 22 DIRECTOR: Kirby Dick CAST: Documentary IN BRIEF: Kirby Dick (whose previous film, Outrage, we recommended a couple of weeks back) is a bit of a bomb-tosser, and is thus the ideal director for this shocking look at the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. The numbers are stunning — over 20% of female vets have been sexually assaulted while serving our country, and 200,000 assaults and rapes had been reported by 1991 (and that was twenty years ago, and that only counts how many were reported) — but Dick goes further, putting faces with those numbers, interviewing dozens of veterans, from all branches of the armed services, each story more harrowing than the last. Dick puts it all together, and seems as astonished as his audience. The Invisible War is impeccably assembled, gathering force as the stories and arguments are collected into an indictment of a broken, victimizing entity. This bitter, powerful film is a howl of anger and a cry of injustice.
Beasts of the Southern Wild RELEASE: June 27 DIRECTOR: Benh Zeitlin CAST: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry IN BRIEF: Fox Searchlight snapped up this Sundance sensation before it won the Grand Jury and Cinematography prizes at that festival, but wisely held its release for the summer — perhaps so they could send it to Cannes, where it also went over like gangbusters. We missed at the ‘dance (OF COURSE), but we have yet to read a negative review; for that matter, we have yet to read a review that wasn’t over-the-moon rhapsodic. And more than one writer has surmised that Searchlight may very well position it as this year’s Slumdog Millionaire.
Neil Young Journeys RELEASE: June 29 DIRECTOR: Jonathan Demme CAST: Neil Young IN BRIEF: Oscar-winner Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) has kept a relatively low profile over the past few years, but he always seems willing to get back in the saddle to make concert documentaries for Neil Young. Journeys follows 2006’s Heart of Gold and 2009’s Trunk Show, and features the singer/songwriter going home to Toronto for a pair of shows at the famed Massey Hall. Demme intermingles the performances with scenes from Young’s road trip through Ontario, visiting his old haunts and reminiscing about his formative years. Young seems to have found an ideal chronicler in Demme; we can’t wait to see their latest collaboration.
Paul Williams Still Alive RELEASE: June 8 DIRECTOR: Stephen Kessler CAST: Paul Williams IN BRIEF: As singer/songwriters go, Paul Williams might not have endured quite so successfully as Young, but you gotta give the guy this: he composed “The Rainbow Connection” and we’re just going to have to keep watching that new Muppet movie until that part doesn’t make us cry anymore. Stephen Kessler’s documentary portrait was enthusiastically received at SXSW this year, and we’re genuinely curious to see what the Oscar winning composer (and, lest we forget, Swan from Phantom of the Paradise) has been up to.
A Cat in Paris RELEASE: June 1 DIRECTOR: Jean-Loup Felicoli, Alain Gagnol CAST: Animated IN BRIEF: Hey, remember when the Oscar nominations for Best Animated Film came out, and everybody was all, Hey, where’s “Tintin” and “Arthur Christmas,” and shouldn’t Pixar have at least gotten nominated even if nobody liked “Cars 2,” and what the hell are these two movies I’ve never heard of? Well, A Cat in Paris is one of those two movies — a hand-drawn (imagine that!) French-made cartoon thriller about a cat burglar. For its American release, it is being sent out in two forms: subtitled in its original French, or dubbed into English with a voice cast that includes Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston, and Matthew Modine. What we’ve seen looks enchanting, and the reviews are smashing so far.
Indie Game: The Movie RELEASE: Out now DIRECTOR: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky CAST: Documentary IN BRIEF: You might think that this documentary on the burgeoning independent video game scene would only be of interest to video game fans, but trust this skeptic — it made me care very much about a topic that filled me with indifference. There is plenty here (it could be reasonably assumed) that will interest those who play and make games, and the logistics of the industry will fascinate fans and neophytes alike. But the filmmakers wisely understand that, told right, this is a story that is about more than just pixels and controllers; it’s about creativity and accomplishment, and having (as well as harnessing) a passion for what you love.
Virginia RELEASE: Out now DIRECTOR: Dustin Lance Black CAST: Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Emma Roberts, Harrison Gilbertson, Amy Madigan
IN BRIEF: This comedy/drama from Milk writer Black has been knocking around and sitting on shelves for going on two years now, and probably for good reason; it’s hard to imagine either the suits or the marketeers making heads nor tails of it. To be sure, it’s a hard picture to pin down — it has the raw materials for a big, dumb farce (and it’s mostly being promoted that way), but it stakes out a claim in altogether more interesting territory. It is shambling, and uncertain, and more than a little messy. But this is not a film that can be regarded passively; it involves you, piques your curiosity, engages your interest. You’re never quite sure where the hell it’s going, and that’s something that doesn’t happen nearly often enough anymore. And it’s got Jennifer Connelly’s best work in ages.
Those are our picks and faves — what indie movies are you looking forward to this month?