Hollywood Fatigue? 10 Indie Movies You Should Check Out This Summer
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It may feel to you as if the summer moviegoing season has only just begun and many months of popcorn-munching delight lie ahead. That’s both true and not true. There’s a degree of pseudo-Calvinist predestination about the whole thing this year that’s unusual even by the standards of Hollywood, where conventional wisdom and guesswork-in-advance count for actual knowledge.
I mean, nobody knows for sure how much money the 1980s big-hair musical “Rock of Ages” will gross or whether “The Dark Knight Rises” will beat out “The Avengers” as the top box-office hit of the year. (My answers: Not enough to be a huge hit, and no.) But pretty much any idiot with a computer — me, for instance — can look at the calendar and figure out what the biggest hits of the summer will be. As I just mentioned, the summer’s No. 1 movie, in all probability, has already been released. (I’ll save the trollery about how it wasn’t really all that great for some other time.) After we get through “Prometheus” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” in June, followed by “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Dark Knight Rises” in July, well, that’s pretty much it. I exaggerate, but only a little — these days, blockbuster season commences in early May and is over by the end of July, with August reserved as usual for offbeat genre movies, the fourth chapters of trilogies, and the continuing careers of Sylvester Stallone and Jackie Chan. (In other words, the good stuff.)
Now, I’m not copping some elitist attitude — or at least not the one you’re thinking. I’m plenty excited to see Ridley Scott’s “Alien” prequel “Prometheus” later this week, believe me. And I have a funny feeling about Chris Nolan’s last “Dark Knight” chapter, which might wind up being a lot better, and tougher, than skeptics like me are inclined to expect. But there is a lot of smaller-scale summer movie goodness to look forward to, and arthouse-type specialty distributors have learned that packing the season with alternative fare aimed at grownups can definitely pay off. Please note that I do mean “summer movies,” that is, those possessing high entertainment value and ample sensual rewards. Of course I still love three-hour fillums from Turkey about the meaninglessness of existence (like that one some of you will never forgive me for), but I also agree they don’t go all that well with flip-flops, the smell of spray-on sunscreen, and those mind-altering cola-slush concoctions.
So here are 10 terrific blockbuster alternatives for the summer of 2012, ranging from some mildly offbeat studio fare to low-budget indies that will spread slowly and gradually across the country. (Several will also be available on-demand, and I’ve tried to note that.) I should mention that three excellent such options have already opened in major cities and should reach you soon if they haven’t already: Wes Anderson’s blissful, tragicomic mid-1960s fantasy “Moonrise Kingdom”; Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s heartbreaking one-man, one-day character study “Oslo, August 31st”; and Nadine Labaki’s “Where Do We Go Now?” a sweet-natured, mildly experimental retake on “Lysistrata” set in a Lebanese village.
1. Extraterrestrial A guy wakes up next to a hot chick after an apparent one-night stand — but why can’t he remember anything about it? And why is there a flying saucer hovering over their now-abandoned city? From Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo, who made the deceptively silly and thoroughly enjoyable time-travel heist movie “Timecrimes,” comes this appealing hybrid of indie relationship comedy and alien-invasion flick. (Opens June 15 in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Seattle; Austin, Texas; and on VOD. Other cities will follow.)