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.
British comic Ronnie Corbett has no plans to retire from television despite ongoing health woes, according to his wife. Corbett was said to be bringing his entertainment career to an end following a recent health scare, but the funnyman's partner, Anne, has now spoken out to clarify the report, which was published in a British newspaper on Sunday (16Mar14).
She reveals the 83-year-old star was treated for an inflamed gall bladder last week (ends16Mar14), but will continue with his upcoming projects, including filming a T.V. pilot with British comedian Rob Brydon.
She tells Britain's Daily Mail, "He's got contracts and commercials that he is working on. This report makes him sound like he has died, that his career is over, which is absolutely not the case. I am f**king furious.
"He was taken to hospital on Thursday and doctors discovered he had an inflamed gall bladder. They put him on high antibiotics and he is now perfectly fine.
"There will naturally come a time when he will decide it is a time to call it a day, but that moment has not arrived. Life goes on for Ronnie, as it always has done."
Following the fantastic year of cinema to which we just bade farewell, 2014 offers up a pretty promising Sundance Film Festival lineup. We've highlighted the movies about which we are most excited — comedies, horrors, long-awaited dramas, documentaries, and whatever the hell Frank is.
THEY CAME TOGETHER
Why We're Excited About This One: Described as a "subversion/spoof/deconstruction of the romantic comedy genre," They Came Together is the latest film from David Wain and Michael Showalter, the minds behind the cult favorite Wet Hot American Summer, starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, and featuring a plot almost directly lifted from You’ve Got Mail. They Came Together promises to make fun of every single romantic comedy trope you could possibly think of, but because of the team involved, you can also guarantee it will be smart and funny in its own right. Poehler and Rudd have already proven that they have great chemistry, thanks to films like Wet Hot American Summer and his guest arc on Parks and Recreation, and frankly, we’re just surprised that it’s taken this long for them to appear in a rom-com together. - Julia Emmanuele
Why We're Excited About This One: Roger Ebert was the great populist film critic who brought movie criticism to the mainstream, and with a single hand gesture, he changed the industry forever. Ebert made caring about film cool, and when he loved a film, you felt that love penned into his words. Even his tongue-lashings were something to behold. Life Itself examines the life and career of one of film’s most legendary and popular figures. - Jordan Smith
Why We're Excited About This One: The directorial debut of William H. Macy, Rudderless is about a grieving father who comes across the songs that his son wrote before his death, and forms a band to play those songs and start the process of moving on. It stars Billy Crudup, Anton Yelchin, and Laurence Fishburne, and while it’s very likely that the film could veer into trite, overly-sentimental territory, the original concept and talented cast are enough to keep us interested. Macy’s already proven himself to be a talented actor and writer, so we have high expectation for his first film. Luckily, if his filmography proves anything, he knows how to pick a good script. - Julia Emmanuele
THE TRIP TO ITALY
Why We're Excited About This One: If you've seen The Trip, then you already know. The 2010 comedy paired Steven Coogan and Rob Brydon as at-odds pals enjoying (and lamenting) each other's company during a restaurant tour through the UK. The dry, soft, subdued comedy derived from Coogan's inflated boorishness and Brydon's mental vacancy, with a subtle dramatic undercurrent about loss and loneliness that kept the piece substantial (but never unfunny). A raising of the stakes could work... or, simply, another go 'round just as they did three years ago. - Michael Arbeiter
Why We're Excited About This One: What happens to the losers? That's the question the upcoming documentary Mitt tries to answer as it charts Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign from its hopeful beginnings, to its bitter end. While most of the time, politicians can seem like a mouthpiece for special interests or cogs in the political machine, this documentary promises to cut through to the very real man underneath the suit and tie and all-American smile. - Jordan Smith
Why We're Excited About This One: Because it's Michael gosh-darn Fassbender wearing a giant bobble-head mask for the entire length of the movie. He's playing some kind of musicially inclined weirdo, a superstar with more than his share of eccentricities. And we're particularly thrilled by the idea of seeing/not seeing Fassbender carry a role without the use of his face. - Michael Arbeiter
THE RAID 2
Why We're Excited About This One: Every once and a while, Hollywood needs a swift kick in the pants when their films start to sag, and the Indonesian phenomenon, The Raid not only assaulted it’s way into western consciousness, but knocked the action film status quo off its axis and delivered a visceral, palpitation inducing, and best of all, joyous time at the cinema that roused audiences who were too busy being lulled to sleep by the umpteenth American blockbuster with too much shaky-cam, and too many pulled punches. How can we not be excited by a sequel that promises to deliver even more breathless action. - Jordan Smith
Why We're Excited About This One: The Voices centers around Jerry Hickfang, a factory worker whose relationship with a woman in accounting “takes a sudden, murderous turn,” he is guided down a new life path by his “evil talking cat and benevolent talking dog,” and stars Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, and Jacki Weaver. Need we say anything else? - Julia Emmanuele
Why We're Excited About This One: Because after 12 f**king years, it's finally here. Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke's father-and-son drama, more than a decade in the making, is finally hitting the public eye and revealing what mackerel of genius the fellows behind the Before series have been cooking up for so long. Even more sensitive to the heartstrings than that of their romantic trilogy is the subject matter here: the relationship between a dad and his kid as the latter enters, sustains, and exits childhood. Never before has a project like this been made — one that chronicles the life of not just its characters but its actors as they, too, grow; young Ellar Coltrane has been working on this movie as the titular boy for his entire life. God, there's so much to be excited about with this piece of dynamite. - Michael Arbeiter
Stereophonics rocker Kelly Jones has married his longterm partner in a star-studded ceremony in Ireland. The rocker exchanged vows with MTV worker Jakki Healy at St. Senan's Church in County Clare on Saturday (07Dec13), in front of guests including Ronnie Wood, Paul Weller and actor Dougray Scott.
Notting Hill star Rhys Ifans was also in attendance with his girlfriend Anna Friel, as well as Welsh actor Rob Brydon.
After the wedding, guests enjoyed a lavish reception at The Lodge at Doonbeg venue.
Welsh funnyman Rob Brydon picked up his Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) award from Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony at Windsor Castle in England on Friday (23Nov13). The actor was recognised for his services to comedy and broadcasting, and his charity work.
Funnyman Sacha Baron Cohen stunned guests at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts' Britannia Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday (09Nov13) when he pretended to murder an elderly, wheelchair-bound woman. His macabre skit began with actress Salma Hayek introducing the elderly woman as Grace Collington, the "oldest surviving actor to have worked with Charlie Chaplin in a silent movie."
The 87 year old then attempted to present madcap Brit Cohen with the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy, but he pushed her off the stage and Collington appeared to fall face down.
Audience members gasped as the elderly lady lay motionless as Cohen began with his acceptance speech.
He said, "Grace Collington is the oldest - sorry, was the oldest... I dedicate my award to her."
As the old lady's lifeless body was carried out of the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom, Cohen added, "It's obviously a tragedy, but on the bright side what a great way to go. She'll probably make the Oscars In Memoriam section... Anyway, tonight is not about her. It's about me."
Not everyone got the joke and host Rob Brydon had to assure guests that Collington was fine.
Other award recipients included Idris Elba, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Ben Kingsley, director Kathryn Bigelow and George Clooney, who was feted with the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film.
Rob Brydon risked upsetting fellow British funnyman Stephen Fry at the GQ Men of the Year Awards with a controversial joke about his suicide attempt last year (12). Writer/actor Fry tried to end his own life by swallowing pills and vodka during a bout of depression but was saved by a TV producer and hotel staff.
He attended the awards ceremony in London on Tuesday night (03Aug13), where Brydon kicked off the event by performing a comedy song containing a reference to his pal's mental health woes, drawing gasps from the audience.
Brydon sang, "The nation's favourite dinner guest with charm up to his gills, what a shame he can't be left alone with vodka and some pills."
"She was only fif... teen... years... old."
Perhaps the most iconic piece of dialogue in contemporary international cinema, depicting the climactic, shuddering horror in a man's descent from glory to grief. The philistines will no doubt associate this phrase with its origin in the '69 crime epic The Italian Job. But those with a more sophisticated palette will recognize the most artistic recitation of this line as that belonging to Michael Winterbottom's The Trip: a meandering wonder of nuanced comedy that starred Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as themselves on a tasting tour throughout England. After feasting primarily on their own senses of self-aggrandizement, Steve and Rob will return again for another road comedy send-up in The Trip to Italy, which Deadline reports has just been picked up for American distribution by IFC Films.
The Trip is one of those rare gems that was perfect in its individual form but whose characters and style are entirely condusive to another round of comedy. There are always more movies to quote and impressions to duel over. And now that Steve and Rob are high-tailing it to Italy, we wonder which residents of the boot will receive the Michael Caine treatment?
The obvious first choices are Robert De Niro and Al Pacino (impersonated in The Trip), but what about some authentic first generation Italians? Roberto Benigni, Isabella Rosellini, and Joel McHale (hey, he was born in Rome)? We look forward to each and every one of the pithy, passive-aggressive conversations shared by the contentious comedians in The Trip to Italy. And yes, we'll even take another round of nothing but Caine-isms.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
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Veteran British actress Joan Collins has publicly congratulated her novelist sister after she was feted in Queen Elizabeth II's birthday honours list. Popular author Jackie Collins was named as the recipient of an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal when the coveted titles were announced on Saturday (15Jun13) in honour of the British monarch's 2013 birthday celebrations.
Her actress sister has now expressed her well-wishes in a post on Twitter.com, writing, "Congratulations Jackie Collins on your well deserved OBE! Thrilled for you, sis!!!!! Will you be coming to get it? Must celebrate!"
Welsh comedian Rob Brydon also landed a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) medal and his funnyman friend David Walliams was quick to respond, joking, "Congratulations to my friend Rob Brydon who was made a Dame today."
Singer Adele and former Blackadder co-stars Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson were also among those honoured with titles from the Queen, who celebrated her 87th birthday with a parade in London on Saturday (15Jun13).
The British monarch turned 87 in April (13) but her birthday is officially celebrated annually in June (13).
Singer Adele and Mr. Bean star Rowan Atkinson have been named among the recipients of coveted titles on Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Honors List. The 87-year-old monarch has bestowed a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) medal on the Grammy Award-winning 25 year old, while funnyman Atkinson has been awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire).
Adele's MBE comes during a very special year for the new mum - she picked up her first Oscar in February (13) for co-writing the theme to hit Bond film Skyfall.
The two celebrities are among the nearly 1,200 people who have been recognised by The Queen on her birthday.
Atkinson's former Blackadder sidekick Tony Robinson has been handed a knighthood and will therefore be able to add 'Sir' to his name.
Upon hearing the news, Robinson, 66, told the BBC, "I'm thrilled, flattered and a little gob-smacked," adding, "I'll use my new title with abandon to highlight the causes I believe in, particularly the importance of culture, the arts and heritage in our society, and the plight of the infirm elderly and their carers.
"I also pledge that from this day on I'll slaughter all unruly dragons, and rescue any damsels in distress who request my help."
Meanwhile, one-time Bond villain Julian Glover, actress Claire Bloom and revered cinematographer Roger Deakins join Atkinson on the list of CBE recipients, celebrated sculptor Anish Kapoor has been given a knighthood, British comedian Rob Brydon and singer PJ Harvey have been honoured with MBEs and grown-up child star Aled Jones has picked up an OBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) medal.
The 42 year old Walking in the Air hitmaker says, "I'm delighted and deeply honoured to be recognised."
Authors Jackie Collins, Kate Mosse and Joanne Harris have also been recognised on The Queen's Birthday Honors List - Collins and Mosse pick up CBEs for services to literature, while Harris is among the MBE recipients.