Memorial Day weekend marks the last stretch of May, but it's only the beginning of the summer movie season. For those who spend the winter and spring months anxiously awaiting Hollywood's blockbuster playground, the time has come for three months of non-stop action. For filmgoers looking for a smaller, quieter cinematic experience, it's three months of staying cooped up inside catching up on whatever Netflix has to offer. The anxious waiting shifts.
But I'm here to tell you: the theaters still have something to offer those lacking emotional investment in the characters of comic book universes or whose interests don't involve the word "reboot." With slightly less fanfare than the common action flick, scaled back comedies and dramas continue to make their way into theaters during the summer months — one just needs to find them. To help, here's the rundown on a few of the movie alternatives that will help beat the heat and quench your movie-loving thirst. There's something for everyone!
So if you're looking for…
An Indie Comedy That Still Depicts the Apocalypse:
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Roland Emmerich knows how to destroy the world, but rarely do we get into the heads of the characters experiencing said destruction. Writer/Director Lorene Scarfaria hopes to take the story to the next level, pairing Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley to play out her pitch black comedic take on the end of the world. This may not be the movie for Michael Bay-lovers, but if you've ever wondered how people might handle an incoming asteroid apocalypse, this movie's for you. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World in theaters June 22.
An Auteur's Latest Whimsical Yarn:
To Rome with Love
The latest from director Woody Allen keeps his globetrotting sensibilities alive, jumping from France to the equally lovely and picturesque Italy. To Rome With Love weaves several stories of romance, all featuring A-List talent. Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Greta Gerwig and even Allen himself join in on the fun, a movie that looks overtly comedic in the wake of Allen's last, award-friendly effort. Arrives in theaters June 22.
A Sundance Breakout with an Epic Scale:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The debut film from writer/director Benh Zeitlin wowed audiences at this year's Sundance Film Festival and took home a handful of awards at Cannes. Rightfully so — the story of a rough, tough girl surviving the backwaters of Louisiana (in a swampland called "The Bathtub") Beasts of the Southern Wild captures the plight of a tangible, but otherworldly society with unprecedented beauty. Read our review from Sundance, or just see this one without prior knowledge. Either way, it's primed and ready to blow audiences away. Arrives in theaters June 27.
A Family Drama They Don't Make Anymore:
People Like Us
There was a time where Hollywood actively produced modestly-budgeted feel good movies. The Help is the most recent entry in the category; a little sappy, but with solid characters, great performances and plenty of passion. That's People Like Us, a movie from the guys who brought you Transformers that couldn't be further from robot sci-fi. Chris Pine plays a down-on-his-luck salesman whose whole life is turned upside down when he discovers he has a sister he never knew, played by Elizabeth Banks. Like movies from yesteryears, People Like Us delivers laughs, tears and the right amount of saccharine. Arrives in theaters June 29.
A Reality TV Riff with Emotional Depth:
The Queen of Versailles
Another Sundance darling, Queen of Versailles is a documentary that begins in the vein of a Real Housewives spin-off. But in the wake of the economic meltdown, a family of 1%-ers fall from their castle in Florida to the world of normalcy. A riches to rags tale that's surprisingly poignant, no matter your socioeconomic status. Arrives in theaters July 6.
A Romantic Comedy with Quriky Sensibilities:
From the people who brought you Little Miss Sunshine comes a fanciful tale of a novelist (Sunshine's Paul Dano) whose perfect woman (Zoe Kazan) is conjured into reality after he wills her into existence. It's been six years since the twisted LMS broke out with the mainstream and they've re-teamed with Dano for what looks like a honest romance with magical undertones. Ruby Sparks was penned by Kazan, who is Dano's girlfriend in real life. Should help the two create some genuine moments in a season full of fluff. Arrives in theaters July 25.
The Latest Chris Rock Sequel That Doesn't Involve a Talking Zebra, Try:
2 Days in New York
A follow-up to writer/director/actress Julie Delpy's 2 Days in Paris, 2 Days in New York picks up with Delpy's Marion, who broke up with her former flame and is now living with Chris Rock's Mingus and his daughter. With her own son to care for, couple's relationship is put to the test when Marion's family arrives from Paris for an extended visit. The movie's a little corny, but Delpy has an ear and an eye for situational comedy, while Rock injects each scene with his signature brand of real world style. They're an unlikely match, but Delpy and Rock light up the screen. Arrives in theaters August 10.
A Rom-Com for the 60+ Crowd:
Summer is a slice of Hollywood's planning that's targeted directly at the 18 to 25 demographic — but occasionally, someone makes the smart move to counter program with a movie from the other end of the spectrum. Enter: Hope Springs, a dramedy starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as an aging couple looking to get their moo back. With Steve Carrell as their counselor, the movie looks appropriately silly and emotional, putting aside comedy's usual R-rated gags for a light-hearted examination of the later years in life. Arrives in theaters August 10.
A Fairy Tale without Battle Scenes, Try:
Odd Life of Timothy Green
A few months after Snow White and the Huntsman graces screens comes another larger-than-life tale, the story of a couple who dream of having a child and get their wish one when on mysteriously appears in their backyard. Starring Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton, the movie comes from the mind of Dan in Real Life writer/director Peter Hedges, whose carved out a career making medium-budgeted movies that wear their hearts on their sleeves. The fantasy element is a hook — can anything really be as easy as making a wish? — but with Hedges at the wheel, the story should be uniquely human. The Odd Life of Timothy Green arrives in theaters August 15.
Woody Allen's To Rome With Love Trailer — WATCH!
'Beasts of the Southern Wild' Trailer: Worthy of All the Buzz?
Steve Carrell, Keira Knightley Prepare for the Apocalypse in 'Seeking a Friend' Poster
As with seemingly every other tentpole release to hit the multiplex this summer the action thriller Cowboys & Aliens is based on a comic book – albeit a lesser-known one. It’s directed by Jon Favreau whose previous comic-book adaptations Iron Man and Iron Man 2 proved how much better those films can be when they’re grounded in character. Unfortunately his latest effort is grounded not in character but a hook an alt-history scenario best expressed in the language of the average twelve-year-old: “Like wouldn’t it be awesome if like a bunch of 1870s cowboys had to fight a bunch of crazy aliens with exoskeletons and spaceships and super-advanced weapons?”
Like perhaps. The hook was compelling enough to get someone to pony up a reported $160 million to find out and the result is a film in which the western and science-fiction genres don’t so much blend as violently collide. After the wreckage is cleared both emerge worse for wear.
Daniel Craig stars as Jake Lonergan a stranger who awakens in the New Mexico Territory with a case of amnesia a wound in his side and a strange contraption strapped to his wrist. After dispatching a trio of bandits with Bourne-like efficiency he rides to the nearby town of Absolution where he stumbles on what appears to be an elaborate Western Iconography exhibit presented by the local historical preservation society. There’s the well-meaning town Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine) struggling to enforce order amidst lawlessness; the greedy rancher Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) who really runs things; his debaucherous cowardly son Percy (Paul Dano); the timid saloonkeeper Doc (Sam Rockwell) who’s going to stand up for himself one of these days; the humble preacher Meacham (Clancy Brown) dispensing homespun spiritual advice; et al.
Jake of course has his own part to play – the fugitive train-robber – as we discover when his face shows up on a wanted poster and a sneering Dolarhyde fingers him for the theft of his gold. The only character who doesn’t quite conform to type is Ella (Olivia Wilde) who as neither a prostitute nor some man’s wife – the traditional female occupations in westerns – immediately arouses suspicion.
Jake is arrested and ordered to stand trial in Federal court but before he can be shipped off a squadron of alien planes appears in the sky besieging Absolution and making off with several of its terrified citizenry. In the course of the melee Jake’s wrist contraption wherever it came from reveals itself to be quite useful in defense against the alien invaders. Thrown by circumstances into an uneasy alliance with Dolarhyde he helps organize a posse to counter the otherworldly threat – and bring back the abductees if possible.
Cowboys & Aliens has many of the ingredients of a solid summer blockbuster but none in sufficient amounts to rate in a summer season crowded with bigger-budget (and better-crafted) spectacle. For a film with five credited screenwriters Cowboys & Aliens’ script is sorely lacking for verve or imagination. And what happened to the Favreau of Iron Man? The playful cheekiness that made those films so much fun is all but absent in this film which takes itself much more seriously than any film called Cowboys & Aliens has a right to. Dude you’ve got men on horses with six-shooters battling laser-powered alien crab people. Lighten up.
Craig certainly looks the part of the western anti-hero – his only rival in the area of rugged handsomeness is Viggo Mortensen – but his character is reduced to little more than an angry glare. And Wilde the poor girl is burdened with loads of clunky exposition. The two show promising glimpses of a romantic spark but their relationship remains woefully underdeveloped. Faring far better is Ford who gets not only the bulk of the film’s choicest lines but also its only touching subplot in which his character’s adopted Indian son played by Adam Beach quietly coaxes the humanity out of the grizzled old man.
The Tribeca Film Festival starts in a couple of days -- and to say the least, we're pretty excited. The festival features premieres of numerous films, including Troll Hunter, Newlyweds, a Kings of Leon documentary, and quite a few others. Now, the festival has announced the 38 lucky folks -- including David O. Russell, Whoopi Goldberg, Rainn Wilson, and numerous others -- who will judge these fine films. For more details, see the official release below:
New York, NY – April 18, 2010 – The Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), presented by American Express, the Founding Sponsor of the Festival, today announced its jurors – a diverse and talented group of 38 individuals, including award-winning filmmakers and screenwriters, celebrated actors, respected journalists and media pioneers. They will be divided among the six competitive Festival categories and will announce the winning films, filmmakers and actors in those categories at the TFF Awards Night ceremony on April 28 hosted by Gideon Yago, which will be streamed live on TribecaFilm.com. The 2011 Festival runs from April 20 – May 1.
“This year’s jury is made up of a range of accomplished individuals in their respective fields, bringing a fresh and well-rounded perspective,” said Jane Rosenthal, Co-Founder of the Tribeca Film Festival. “It’s an honor to have a jury of such caliber watching and discussing the films in competition this year.”
Following is a list of all 2011 Festival jurors and their respective categories.
World Competition Categories:
The jurors for the 2011 World Narrative Competition are:
Souleymane Cissé: Noted Malian director; films include the 1995 Cannes Palme d’Or nominee Waati, 1987 Cannes Jury Prize Winner Brightness and Tell Me Who You Are.
Scott Glenn: Actor; films include The Right Stuff, The Silence of the Lambs, The Virgin Suicides, Freedom Writers, The Bourne Ultimatum, W., Secretariat, Sucker Punch and TFF 2011 selection Magic Valley.
David Gordon Green: Independent Spirit Award nominated director/producer; films include George Washington, All the Real Girls, Great World of Sound, Pineapple Express, the recently released Your Highness and the upcoming film The Sitter.
Rula Jebreal: Journalist, author, screenwriter and actress: books include The Bride From Assuan, Rejected and Miral, which was adapted into a film of the same name.
Art Linson: Gotham award winning producer; films include Singles, Fight Club, Lords of Dogtown, Into the Wild, What Just Happened and The Runaways.
Jason Sudeikis: Actor. Best known for roles in Going the Distance, Hall Pass and 2011 TFF selection A Good Old Fashioned Orgy. Also a cast member on television’s Saturday Night Live.
Dianne Wiest: Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG award winning actress; films include Hannah and Her Sisters, Edward Scissorhands, Bullets Over Broadway, Synecdoche, New York and the upcoming The Odd Life of Timothy Green.
The jurors for the 2011 World Documentary Competition are:
Amir Bar-Lev: Documentary filmmaker and producer; films include Fighter, My Kid Could Paint That, The Tillman Story and the upcoming Garcia.
Michael Cera: BAFTA and SAG Award nominated actor; films include Superbad, Juno, Youth In Revolt, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Currently filming The Untitled Mark Webber Project.
RJ Cutler: Oscar nominee and Emmy Award winning director/producer; films include The War Room, Thin, and The September Issue.
Abigail Disney: Film producer and philanthropist; films include 2008 TFF Best Documentary Winner, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Children of Invention, Sons of Perdition and the upcoming narrative feature Return.
Whoopi Goldberg: Moderator on television’s The View, and actress, comedian, humanitarian with Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, Tony and Grammy wins. Recent films include Toy Story 3, For Colored Girls and the upcoming A Little Bit of Heaven.
Louie Psihoyos: Oscar and DGA winning director; films include The Cove and the upcoming The Singing Planet.
Peter Scarlet: Executive Director of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, former Artistic Director of TFF and former Director of the Cinematheque Francaise.
Emerging Competition Categories:
The jurors for the 2011 Emerging Narrative Competition are:
Paul Dano: Independent Spirit and SAG award nominated actor; films include L.I.E., Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood, the recently released Meek’s Cutoff and the upcoming Another Bulls--t Night in Suck City.
Atom Egoyan: Oscar, Golden Palm and Independent Spirit Award nominated director/producer; films include Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Felicia’s Journey, Where the Truth Lies, Adoration, and Chloe.
Zoe Kazan: TFF 2009 Best Actress winner for The Exploding Girl; other films include Me and Orson Welles, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, It’s Complicated and the recently released films Happythankyoumoreplease, and Meek’s Cutoff.
Anna Kendrick: Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe , SAG, Independent Spirit and Tony award nominated actress; films include Rocket Science, the Twilight series, Up in the Air, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and the upcoming Live With It.
Rainn Wilson: Emmy and SAG Award nominee for television’s The Office; films include Juno, The Rocker, Hesher and the just completed Few Options.
The jurors for the 2011 Emerging Documentary Competition are:
Margaret Bodde: Documentary producer and film preservationist; films include No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, Time Piece, Public Speaking and the upcoming Living in the Material World: George Harrison.
Jared Cohen: Director of Google Ideas, Adjunct Fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations and Author of One Hundred Days of Silence: America and the Rwanda Genocide, and Children of Jihad: A Young American's Travels Among the Youth of the Middle East
J.D. Heyman: Executive Editor of People and former editor at Us Weekly. Held editorial positions at Cosmopolitan and the New York Daily News. Author of books include Get a Life: A Guide to Jobs, Money and the Real World, and The Singled Out Guide to Dating.
Lauren Hutton: Fashion icon, actress, television host and beauty industry pioneer. Film roles include American Gigolo and, more recently, The Joneses. Guest star on television’s Nip/Tuck and host of several shows, including a late-night talk show.
Annie Sundberg: IFC and Sundance award nominated director; films include The Trials of Darryl Hunt, The Devil Came on Horseback and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.
Short Film Competition Categories:
The jurors for the 2011 Narrative Short Film Competition are:
David O. Russell: Oscar, Golden Globe nominee and Independent Spirit Award Winner: films include Spanking the Monkey, Flirting with Disaster, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, The Fighter and the upcoming Nailed.
Nora Ephron: Multiple Oscar, Golden Globe nominated and BAFTA winning writer-director; films include Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally …, Sleepless in Seattle and Julie and Julia.
Ceci Kurzman: Founder of Nexus Management Group, whose clients include Shakira, and consultant for the Global Philanthropy Group.
Denis Leary: Golden Globe and Emmy nominate actor/writer/producer; work includes Rescue Me, In Search of Ted Demme and the Ice Age films.
Fran Lebowitz: Author noted for her social commentary, recently the subject of the HBO documentary Public Speaking, directed by Martin Scorsese.
Paul Schneider: Actor and screenwriter; films include All the Real Girls, The Family Stone, Lars & the Real Girl, Bright Star, Away We Go & the upcoming Water for Elephants.
Jimmy Wales: Internet entrepreneur and Co-founder of Wkipedia.
The jurors for the 2011 Documentary and Student Short Film Competitions are:
Ahmed Ahmed: Comedian and director; noted for his directorial debut Just Like Us, an official selection of the 2010 Tribeca and Doha Tribeca film festivals. Other films include the UAE film City of Life and Iron Man.
Agnes Gund: President Emerita of MoMA, noted philanthropist, and collector of modern and contemporary art.
Zoe Kravitz: Actress; film roles include The Brave One, Birds of America, The Greatest and the upcoming Beware the Gonzo (a 2010 TFF selection and upcoming release by Tribeca Film), Yelling to the Sky and X:Men: First Class.
Nicole Lapin: Anchor of CNBC’s Worldwide Exchange, contributor to Today, Morning Joe, Daily Rundown, and Jansing & Co, as well as the Huffington Post. Former anchor at CNN.
Lisa Shields: VP of Communications and Marketing, Council on Foreign Relations.
Christine Vachon: Independent Spirit Award winning producer. Films and television projects include Mildred Pierce, Safe, I Shot Andy Warhol, Boys Don’t Cry, Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, and Cairo Time.
Patrick Wilson: Golden Globe nominated actor; best known for Little Children, Watchmen, Hard Candy and Angels in America; upcoming films include The Ledge, and Young Adult.
Together, the six TFF juries will award $175,000 in cash and prizes. Festival winners will also receive a piece of original art by an acclaimed artist as part of the Tribeca Film Festival Artists Awards program.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
Essentially about the offbeat relationship between two very distinct people with anything but normal families Gigantic centers around the search for meaning by Brian Weathersby a 29-year-old high-end mattress salesman who is looking for something to anchor his life to. He becomes determined to adopt a baby from China but soon gets involved in an unexpected and wholly different kind of romance when the quirky and pretty Harriet aka Happy wanders into his showroom and falls asleep on one of the beds. Along the way he must deal not only with her loudmouth father Al but also his own dippy parents and two older more successful brothers.
WHO'S IN IT?
When describing the charms of Gigantic all roads lead to Paul Dano who underplays Brian in a wonderfully droll deadpan-style reminiscent of the great Peter Sellers in Being There. Dano who has done this low-key kind of act before in Little Miss Sunshine is truly winning without expressing visible emotion and letting others play off his blank canvas. As Harriet Zooey Deschanel also takes what could be a one-note character and invests her with complexity and quirky humanity. You can't take your eyes off of her when she's on-screen. Veteran actors Edward Asner and John Goodman play the pair's fathers and both adapt their oversized personas beautifully to the precise rhythms established by the stars. Goodman gets great mileage out of his character's bad back problems and is better than he's been on screen in years. Jane Alexander as Brian's mother also has a couple of wonderful moments. Hot comedian Zach Galifianakis takes on the film's oddest role as a mysterious homeless man who keeps showing up to attack Brian.
Co-writer and first-time feature film director Matt Aselton takes a cue from directors like Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude Being There) and Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel in creating a tone and distinct minimalist sandbox for his actors to play in and it works beautifully for those in the audience who don't need every little detail explained. By dialing it way down he gets an aura of originality not attempted in many comedies these days.
By crossing the line between fantasy and reality and intentionally blurring his main character's emotional well-being a unique device is used throughout that will require patience and suspension of belief before its ultimate payoff toward the end. The less adventurous viewers may not want to make the investment.
A restaurant double-date between Dano Deschanel plus Goodman and his date is brilliantly written and acted as Brian is grilled in vivid detail by Harriet's take-no-prisoners dad.
BEST GREETING BY A STONER:
A slacker friend who has probably already smoked his lifetime supply of weed asks and answers his own question with every hello: "Hey dude What's up? Not much."
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
If you can find this indie gem in theaters go! But it should be hitting the video shelves before you can say "Hey dude. What's up? Not much."