Summer at the movie theater generally means one thing: big-budget popcorn films packed with explosions, robots, superheroes, aliens, or a combination of all four. But even though we're currently in the middle of blockbuster season, that doesn't mean that action movies or outrageous comedies are your only option for summer entertainment. This also happens to be the best season for indie movies, and low-key, high-brow alternatives to the obnoxious, annoying and/or unintelligent blockbusters are flooding into theaters everywhere. So, when you're tired of being dragged along to yet another movie where superheroes punch each other or people (unrealistically) run away from explosions in slow motion, or you're forced to endure another onslaught of unfunny, overly-crude humor, why not take spend the afternoon with one of these indies (opening on or around the same dates) instead?
Instead of Tammy, Try Life Itself (Opens July 4) Melissa McCarthy makes her screenwriting debut in Tammy, a film about a woman searching for a new lease on life on a road trip with her alcoholic, diabetic, inappropriate grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon). But if you’re looking for a quieter – if no less cinematic – celebration of life, try Life Itself, the documentary about the life and career of the legendary film critic Roger Ebert. It’s an uplifting, fascinating look at a man who made film criticism accessible to the public and became the definitive voice of entertainment and cinema, even when he could no longer speak. Although it probably won’t have as many pratfalls as Tammy is likely to have…
Instead of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Try Boyhood (Opens July 11) In many ways, Caesar, the simian overlord from Planet of the Apes and Mason, the titular boy at the heart of Boyhood, are on a similar journey. Both are discovering their full potential, both are dealing with a growing sense of responsibility and pressure from the people around them and both are experiencing the joys and pains of growing up. It just so happens that Caesar’s growing pains have to do with the new monkey-led nation he’s establishing and Mason’s are the result of the ups and downs of the normal teenager experience.
Instead of Sex Tape, Try Mood Indigo (Opens July 18) At the box office, summer love is generally interpreted as a raunchy comedy, and this year’s offering is Sex Tape. However, there is a sweeter, more romantic alternative hitting theaters the same day: Mood Indigo. Directed by Michel Gondry, it’s a surreal love story about two newlyweds (Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris), whose relationship is tested when it’s discovered that a flower is growing in her lungs. A little offbeat, very dreamy, and wonderfully heartwarming, it’s a sweet summer treat. Plus, it has just enough special effects to satisfy any lingering desire for big-budget spectacle.
Instead of Lucy, Try Happy Christmas (Opens July 25) Summer movie season isn’t known for having a notable amount of female-fronted films, but 2014 has several lined up. The big-budget option is Lucy, which stars Scarlett Johansson as the only person in the world who is able to unlock and control the full potential of her brain’s capacity, but if you’re not in the mood for shooting, explosions and special effects, you can instead check out Happy Christmas, which opens the same day. Anna Kendrick stars as an irresponsible young woman who moves in with her brother (Joe Swanberg), his wife (Melanie Lynskey) and their infant son without any warning, and her slow, rocky journey towards adulthood.
Instead of Guardians of the Galaxy, Try The Trip to Italy (Opens August 15) Equal parts comedy and action, Guardians of the Galaxy is about a band of misfits who come together to save the universe. The Trip to Italy has a bit less action and a lot more impressions, but it too centers on a pair of misfits (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon), who are on mission to travel around Italy, review restaurants and annoy the crap out of each other. Watching these two trade jokes and attempt to one-up each other is quite possibly the most pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon.
Instead of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Try Love Is Strange (Opens August 22) Six years after the first Sin City hit theaters comes A Dame to Kill For, which sees Josh Brolin’s Dwight hunted down by the woman he loves (Eva Green), and brings back several of Frank Miller’s classic characters – well, the ones that weren’t brutally killed anyway. But if you’re in the mood for a more low-key love story, try Love Is Strange, a film about a middle-aged gay couple forced to live with friends after one of them loses his job at a Catholic school. Part love story, part family dramedy, part fish-out-of-water tale, it’s a funny, original take on the marriage plot, anchored by excellent performances from John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.
Instead of The Expendables 3, Try The Congress (Opens August 29) If you’re a fan of actors in a career renaissance and action films, but you’re looking for something a bit more inventive than Stallone and Co. blowing things up, The Congress might be the film for you. The sci-fi film centers on a fictionalized, down-on-her-luck version of Robin Wright agrees to allow a studio to digitize her likeness for a future Hollywood. However, the studio will have complete control over her image for the rest of time, and Wright has no say in what or who they turn her into. Just as exciting, but much more stimulating and creative, The Congress is a perfect alternative to your standard action fare.
Top Story: Singer Brown Faces Battery Charges
Bobby Brown was charged with battery Wednesday, after allegedly hitting his wife Whitney Houston on Sunday, The Associated Press reports. A police spokesman told AP Brown, 34, turned himself in after the couple and their attorneys met with police. Houston called police Sunday to report that Brown had struck her on the left side of her face with his open right hand at the couple's home near Alpharetta, Ga., AP reports. Houston, 40, declined comment, but her lawyer, Mark Trigg, said, "She is trying to resolve the matter privately." Brown was in jail in August for violating his probation on a drunken driving charge, and in 2000 he spent 26 days in a Florida jail for violating probation on different charges. Authorities are now investigating whether Brown broke probation in Sunday's incident. Brown is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing Jan. 7.
Slater's Wife Not Charged
In related news, Christian Slater's wife Ryan Haddon will not face criminal charges for throwing a glass at the actor's head in a Las Vegas hotel room Nov. 10, AP reports. A Nevada court said there's no proof Haddon meant to hurt Slater, who received stitches for a cut behind the ear. "We did not feel we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she committed intentional battery," Clark County District Attorney David Roger told AP. "Both the victim and the defendant maintained that it was an accident." Police in Nevada investigate domestic violence cases even if the alleged victim doesn't want to press charges, AP reports.
Seacrest Takes Over Top 40
American Idol host Ryan Seacrest will become the new host for the weekly pop radio countdown show American Top 40, replacing veteran broadcaster Casey Kasem, AP reports. Seacrest, 28, will start Jan. 10. Kasem, who has hosted Top 40 since 1970, signed his own long-term agreement with Premiere Radio Networks, where he will continue hosting American Top 20 for adult contemporary stations across the country, AP reports.
Edwards To Get Honorary Oscar
The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has selected acclaimed director/writer/producer Blake Edwards to receive an Honorary Award at this year's Oscar ceremony. Best known for the Pink Panther movies starring Peter Sellers as well as comedies 10 and Victor/Victoria, Edwards also helmed the Audrey Hepburn classic Breakfast at Tiffany's. "For more than 50 years, Edwards has had an extraordinary career writing, directing and producing mainly his own material," Academy President Frank Pierson said in a press release. "And that puts him in a select and very small group of outstanding film makers."
Snoop Dogg's Mom Goes After Rapper Knight
Rapper Snoop Dogg's mother Beverly Green and rapper Delmar "Daz" Dillinger Arnaud's wife Maria Watkins have joined together in filing a slander suit against rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight, AP reports. The defendants claim the song "Tha Row" from the soundtrack of the film Dysfunktional Family contains graphic lyrics saying Knight was sleeping with the plaintiffs. "These plaintiffs are totally innocent victims being tormented as a means to force Daz Dillinger and Snoop Dogg to suffer personal anguish and to take retaliatory action," AP reports the lawsuit reads. "This is the same type of feud that led to the Tupac Shakur and Christopher 'Biggie Small' Wallace's death."
Pirates Rakes in Hefty Rental Booty
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl has broken the one-week record for combined DVD and VHS sales, topping 11 million units sold through to consumers and rental chains, as well as earning $19.5 million during its first five days on rental shelves, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Bruce Almighty came in a close second with an estimated $17.1 million in rentals for the past week.
LAPD Veteran Caught Pirating
MPAA's Jack Valenti should be feeling a little better. Los Angeles Police Department captain Julie D. Nelson was arrested Tuesday for allegedly selling pirated and counterfeit DVDs, Variety reports. After more than 100 pirated and counterfeit DVDs were found in her home and car, authorities told Variety, Nelson was arrested on two felonies: failure to disclose the origin of a recording or audiovisual work and possession and sale of a counterfeit trademark or registered mark.
Role Call: Congeniality 2 Gets Director
Director John Pasquin (Joe Somebody) is in negotiations to direct Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality 2. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Bullock will reprise her role as Special Agent Gracie Hart, but no other talent is attached to the Warner Bros. sequel. The 2000 original also starred Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt and Candice Bergen and cleared $100 million at the domestic box office from a budget in the $45 million range.