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Hollywood Fatigue? 10 Indie Movies You Should Check Out This Summer

Summer movies beyond Batman, from male strippers to a Depression neo-noir to Matthew McConaughey's big comeback.

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2. Your Sister’s Sister This irresistible indie rom-com from Seattle-based filmmaker Lynn Shelton may be less distinctive than her provocative bromance “Humpday,” but Shelton has stepped up her game, movie-star-wise, while retaining her sharp-edged dialogue and real-life characterizations. Mark Duplass plays a grieving loser who has a fun, drunken one-nighter with a lesbian friend (Rosemarie DeWitt) — but it’s her sister (Emily Blunt), the ex of his late brother, for whom he’s kept a torch burning. (Opens June 15 in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., with a wider release to follow.)

3. Beasts of the Southern Wild First-time director Benh Zeitlin’s magic-realist fable is already the year’s most acclaimed debut. Set in an isolated corner of Louisiana’s bayou country, where a six-year-old girl lives in a fantastical harmony with nature — at least until the big storm hits — “Beasts” has won both the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Caméra d’Or at Cannes, for best first film in any section of the festival. This is a genuinely visionary work, albeit one that will strike some viewers as a mite too precious. I simply can’t tell whether it’s a breakout hit waiting to happen or this year’s version of  “Uncle Boonmee” — a film loved by a handful of cinephile insiders but ignored by most. (Opens June 27 in major markets, with wider release to follow.)

4. Magic Mike Yeah, picking this one is probably cheating. It’s a studio film (at least at the point of release) that stars Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey as male strippers. In other words, it’s got obvious audience appeal and will probably be a hit, at least at some level — but it’s also a Steven Soderbergh film, meaning it was shot fast and cheap and close to the ground. (Soderbergh shot and edited the whole damn thing himself, as usual.) That also means it’s got at least a bit of clinical, borderline-misanthropic edge to go along with the ample humor and even ampler servings of beefcake. Honestly, what’s not to love? (Opens June 29.)

5. Take This Waltz Actress-turned-director Sarah Polley’s second film (the first was the wonderful  “Away From Her”) is an almost ruthless examination of one woman’s journey out of an apparently happy marriage into a stormy new relationship, featuring 2011 Oscar nominee Michelle Williams in what I think is her best role to date. (And Seth Rogen is so terrific as her jilted husband that I hereby forgive him his willfully dumb comedy roles.) By turns erotic, comic, tragic and even experimental, “Take This Waltz” has divided critics and audiences at festivals so far. I think it’s one of the year’s best movies, and it announces Polley’s arrival in the front rank of North American filmmakers. What will you think? (Now available on VOD; opens June 29 in theaters.)

6. Ballplayer: Pelotero Summer simply isn’t summer without an unconventional take on the baseball movie. In this acclaimed documentary, already a hit at numerous festivals, directors Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin and Jonathan Paley take us inside the rarely seen world of Major League Baseball’s training camps in the Dominican Republic, where teenagers from the poor island nation are bred to become future diamond superstars (or, more likely, to wash out somewhere along the way). The filmmakers follow two highly ranked prospects as they approach their 16th birthday — the moment they can sign professional contracts. (Opens July 13 in New York, with other cities and home video release to follow.)

7. The Queen of Versailles A Florida real-estate tycoon and his appealing, immensely flawed wife try to build the country’s biggest McMansion in photographer-turned-filmmaker Lauren Greenfield’s documentary, which is stranger than any work of fiction. Surrounded by controversy since well before its Sundance premiere (when subject David Siegel tried to sue the festival), “Queen of Versailles” veers from profound human compassion to domestic horror as Siegel’s wife Jackie wanders through her enormous but trashed home scraping dog crap off the carpets. It’s like a Theodore Dreiser novel for our time, infused with the vivid, vulgar spirit of reality TV. (Opens in theaters July 20; VOD release is likely but has not been announced.)

 
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