Summer, the time of year we all flock to the multiplexes as the season plays host to the year’s biggest and most anticipated blockbusters and big-budget sequels. This season, a surge of superheroes hit the big screen, starting with the recent release of Iron Man 3 to the upcoming releases of The Wolverine and Man of Steel, and a heavy stream of sci-fi and action flicks like Star Trek: Into Darkness, Elysium, Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D., World War Z, Fast and Furious 6, and White House Down, all which are set to dominate the summer box office.
Among the crop of big budget blockbusters however are a number of overlooked, smaller films that are most definitely worthy of the same attention. These films, which feature some incredibly talented ensembles, show that the summer isn’t solely reserved for superheroes and alien fighting robots. For those moviegoers looking for something a little different this season, I present to you my watch list of summer indie films:
The Iceman (May 17, 2013)
Before you watch Michael Shannon take on Superman in the Man of Steel, watch his portrayal of the real-life Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski, notorious American contract killer and family man in this grim crime thriller. Other notable names among the impressive cast include Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder, David Schwimmer, and James Franco. Prior to his arrest in 1986, Kuklinski claimed to have murdered over 100 people, all the while maintaining a seemingly normal life as a devoted husband and loving father. Shannon is a major talent who truly won me over with his phenomenal performance in the 2011 drama-thriller Take Shelter, so I have no doubt that he will not only play a convincing and monstrous murderer, but will bring some real humanity and emotion to this double life role of hitman/family man in this criminal biopic.
The Kings of Summer (May 31, 2013)
A film that is set to deliver charm, humor and a lot of heart, The Kings of Summer is the story about Joe, (played by Nick Robinson) an adolescent teenager frustrated by his single father’s (Nick Offerman) controlling ways. Joe escapes into the woods with his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso), also frustrated with his parents (played by Megan Mullally Marc andEvan Jackson), and a strange kid named Biaggio (Moises Arias) to spend the summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. This film is an original piece that I think everyone will find appealing and relatable, as it a story rooted in the idea of finding freedom and creating your own destiny. I think it’s destined to be this summer’s gem.
Only God Forgives (July 19, 2013)
Ryan Gosling (need I say more?) teams up again with Nicolas Winding Refn, the man behind such films as Bronson and Drive, to deliver this dramatic thriller. Julian (played by Gosling) is an American citizen hiding in Thailand, running a Thai boxing gym as a front for drug-smuggling, and is forced by his mother (played by Kristin Scott thomas) to seek vengeance for his brother’s recent death. Judging by the synopsis, and the unique, artistic cinematic styles of Refn, this dark and violent film may struggle to find steady appeal among mainstream audiences (then again, it is starring Ryan Gosling). But for any fan of Refn’s previous work, this film is a must see.
Drinking Buddies (July 25, 2013 on VOD and limited theatrical release August 23, 2013)
According to the official synopsis, Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde), co-workers at a Chicago brewery who spend their days drinking and flirting with one another, are perfect for each other. Of course, they are both seeing other people; Luke with nearly-his-fiance-Jill (Anna Kendrick), and Kate with older, successful music producer Chris (Ron Livingston). The heavily improved romantic comedy is a story that examines how the lines between “friends” and “more than friends” is blurred by drinking on the job, flirting, marital pressures, late nights, and weekend trips. Although the plot was originally scripted, director Joe Swanberg heavily encouraged the actors to improvise their lines in order to create a level of spontaneity within the film, and to allow the personalities of the actors themselves to shine through the characters.
Prince Avalanche (August 9, 2013)
Writer-director David Gordon Green (director of Pineapple Express, Your Highness, All the Real Girls, and Snow Angels) takes a step back from his latest works to present this low-budget, odd-couple, minimalist indie dramedy about two very different road workers (Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch) who spend the summer away from the city on an isolated Texas highway to the repaint yellow road lines. This warm-hearted comedy has received some great reviews on the festival circuit for its visual beauty and complimented by an original soundtrack from the band Explosions in the Sky and composer David Wingo, the character chemistry between Rudd and Hirsch encapsulates a perfect balance between comedy and touching drama.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (August 16, 2013)
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a tense, character-focused drama about a bleak and broken love story, caught between the past and present. Four years after being apprehended in a shootout, Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) escapes from prison to travel across the hills of Texas to reunite with wife Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) and the daughter he never met. Unfortunately, while Bob serves his time in prison, Ruth grows close to local officer, Patrick Wheeler (played by Ben Foster, an extremely underrated talent), resulting in a reunion that Bob had not anticipated. The level of talent alone in this film should be enough to convince anyone to check it out.
Feature and Included images sourced on Google.