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The Playlist's 10 Most Anticipated Indie Films Of The Summer

by Oliver Lyttelton
May 1, 2012 10:01 AM
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Moonrise Kingdom Jared Gilman Kara Hayward

"Moonrise Kingdom"
Synopsis: In the 1960s, a New England island town is turned upside down when two children run away together.
What You Need To Know: A director so distinctive that he's practically become his own genre, it's now five years since we've seen a live-action picture from Wes Anderson, with only "Fantastic Mr. Fox" bridging the gap between "The Darjeeling Limited" and now. But May sees the director open the Cannes Film Festival with "Moonrise Kingdom," which then hits theaters a few weeks afterward, and all the signs are pointing to it being top-flight Anderson fare. The script, co-written with Roman Coppola, is excellent, and something of a progression from his more recent work -- the cast doesn't just include Anderson vets like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzmann, but also an eclectic mix of exciting names like Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton. Judging by the trailer and clips, this might not win over those with a dislike for the director, but we're certainly excited for what we hope could be Anderson's best film since "The Royal Tenenbaums."
When? May 25th.

Dano and Zoe Kazan in "Ruby Sparks."
Dano and Zoe Kazan in "Ruby Sparks."

"Ruby Sparks"
Synopsis: An author (Paul Dano) struggling to overcome writer's block following his successful first novel, writes about his ideal perfect woman, only for her to come to life.
What You Need To Know: It's been six long years since "Little Miss Sunshine," the popular, acclaimed and Oscar-nominated debut from Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, but the duo is finally back, with a script penned by, and starring, indie darling Zoe Kazan ("Meek's Cutoff"), and co-starring her real-life beau Paul Dano. We recently spoke with Dano about the film and he revealed that Dayton and Faris were the top choice to direct the high-concept picture. "They remained friends of mine from making 'Little Miss Sunshine' together. Every now and then when I'm out on the west coast, I would grab dinner with them or visit them and we'd keep in touch," he explained. "They're not only super talented at what they do, but they're also really wonderful people, and they're just so good with stories and with characters, and I think they're really special filmmakers and we thought, 'Why not aim high and just send it to them?' And luckily they liked it." Dano and Kazan are joined by an impressive supporting cast including Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliot Gould, Steve Coogan and Chris Messina, and the trailer looks delightful. Count us in.
When? July 25th

Safety Not Guaranteed
Safety Not Guaranteed

"Safety Not Guaranteed"
Synopsis: A journalist (Jake Johnson) and an intern (Aubrey Plaza) investigate a man (Mark Duplass) who placed a classified ad looking for a partner for time travel.
What You Need To Know: Do the Duplass Brothers ever sleep? The duo have already released one movie this year, the excellent "Jeff Who Lives At Home," they've got another coming in the summer, "The Do-Deca Pentathelon," and they've somehow found time to executive-produce (and in Mark's case, star) in this comedy, which became something of a crowd-pleasing hit at Sundance, and was snapped up by FilmDistrict for release. We've seen the film (you can read our Sundance review), and while it has its flaws, it's an impressive directorial debut from Colin Treverrow, and has a trio of very strong performances from Plaza, Duplass and Johnson. It looks like it will be a breath of fresh air, and with a winning, quirky premise, should be solid fare for those looking for something a bit different.
When? June 8th


Synopsis: Two friends (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) with a successful drug-dealing business go head-to-head with a terrifying cartel to rescue the girl they both love (Blake Lively).
What You Need To Know: The year of Taylor Kitsch hasn't quite gone to plan so far, with both "John Carter" and "Battleship" picking up violent reviews, and looking decidedly disappointing at the box office (although both did OK overseas). But, we hope that "Savages" will break the streak. Co-starring Johnson, Lively and a supporting cast that includes John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Demian Bichir, Emile Hirsch and Salma Hayek, the film marks Oliver Stone's return to the kind of pulpy crime fare that he's tackled before, with "Natural Born Killers," "U-Turn" and his script for "Scarface," and it looks like this will be significantly more fun, stylish and zippy than his last several movies. While we're cautiously optimistic, we hear the source material is excellent, and Universal moving the film into the heart of summer is a big vote of confidence.
When? July 6th

Steve Carell Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World skip crop

"Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World"
Synopsis: With only days left before Earth is wiped out by an asteroid, a man (Steve Carell) sets out to reunite with his high-school sweetheart, aided by his neighbor, a young woman (Keira Knightley) who wants to get back to her family.
What You Need To Know: While we haven't been short on the apocalypse at the movies these days, writer and debut director Lorene Scafaria (who penned "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist") is taking a different approach with her film, more Don McKellar than Michael Bay. We recently chatted with her, and she explained how the concept allowed her to delve into some deeper issues. "I sort of liked it as a metaphor to start for what it's like when people break up or go through a divorce or something, and you're in that place where you never want to get to know someone else," she said. "I just thought what if you really don't have somebody and there's three weeks left? Are you going in search of someone or chasing the past?" But don't worry, this is not "Melancholia." Scafaria has assembled a mean comic cast, including Melanie Lynskey, Patton Oswalt, Rob Corddry, Gillian Jacobs, T.J. Miller and many more, in a film that she describes as "a relationship film" that's both "romantic and funny."
When? June 22nd

Seth Rogen Michelle Williams Take This Waltz

"Take This Waltz"
Synopsis: A young married couple (Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen) is tested when she falls for an attractive new neighbor (Luke Kirby)
What You Need To Know: "Away From Her," the first directorial effort from actress Sarah Polley, was a staggering debut, a wise, tender, achingly painful film with a central performance from Julie Christie that came within a heartbeat of winning an Oscar. For her follow up, she's stuck closer to her age group, for a story about twenty-something relationships that won us over when it debuted at TIFF last year (read our review here). The film's bracingly raw approach may turn some off (Michelle Williams' character is unsympathetic at times), but there's no denying the power of the performances, and the way in which Polley has grown as a director. One of the real films to cherish this summer.
When? May 25th on demand, June 29th in theaters.

Also In Theaters: On the more promising side of the limited release equation, we've got the theatrical release of Bobcat Goldthwait's "God Bless America" (May 11th), which has been on VOD for a while, as well as TIFF Audience Award winner "Where Do We Go Now" (May 11th). Soon after, the intriguing-sounding documentary "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel" (May 18th), period rom-com "Hysteria" (May 18th) and French docu-thriller "Polisse" (May 18th) arrive, while the month closes out with international smash hit "The Intouchables" (May 25th), set to be remade by Paul Feig and Colin Firth, and the excellent "Oslo August 31" (May 25th)

June brings West Bank documentary "5 Broken Cameras" (June 1st), the Duplass' "Do-Deca-Pentathelon" (June 6th), Robert Pattinson in "Bel Ami" (June 8th), the Greta Gerwig rom-com "Lola Versus" (June 8th), "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" with Elizabeth Olsen and Jane Fonda (June 8th), Lynn Shelton's "Your Sister's Sister" (June 15th) with Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass, and Jonathan Demme's music doc "Neil Young Journeys" (June 29th) while acclaimed Sundance film "The Queen Of Versailles" comes to theaters on July 6th.

The pickings are even slimmer in July but there are a few gems: hit festival documentary "Searching For Sugar Man" (July 27th), "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" (July 27th), Joel Kinnaman in the long-awaited hit Swedish thriller "Easy Money" (July 27th), and the raucous Danish comedy "Clown" (July 27th), which has a Danny McBride-led remake in the works. And the summer wraps up with Fernando Mereilles "360" (August 3rd) and Julie Delpy's charming "2 Days In New York" (August 10th).

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  • WeirdMovieFan | May 1, 2012 3:25 PMReply

    Funny how the two movies I'm least interested in seeing ("Magic Mike" and "Savages") are the two least "indie" on the list... I usually don't care how a movie was produced/distributed as long as it's good, though.

  • Big T0 | May 1, 2012 3:12 PMReply

    I don't care. Prometheus is my number 1 most anticipated film of all time. Its a return to the scifi genre from the greatest visionary director alive. Some of his films may be bad but everyone of them are just gorgeous to look at. plus whoever did this artical has listed hollywood production films lol fail.

  • Yod | May 2, 2012 12:47 AM

    I don't care about your comments. Take that!

  • a | May 1, 2012 4:49 PM

    First of all, why are you talking about Prometheus here? Secondly, "the greatest visionary director alive?" This is his oeuvre: two (maybe three) well-regarded classics (Alien, Blade Runner, maybe Thelma and Louise), a few considered good to okay (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, American Gangster), and the following: Legend, Someone to Watch Over Me, Black Rain, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, White Squall, G.I. Jane, Hannibal, Kingdom of Heaven, A Good Year, Body of Lies, and Robin Hood. You may very well like some of those movies, but are they really the products of "the most visionary director alive?"

  • Huh? | May 1, 2012 1:59 PMReply

    Odd definition of SAVAGES as an indie film? Especially since it's a Universal release that I believe has a budget north of $60 million.

  • punch drunk fool | May 1, 2012 1:58 PMReply

    I think James Pondolt's Smashed with Aaron Paul should be included... It sounds good! Or I might just be obsessed with breaking bad...

  • cirkusfolk | May 1, 2012 11:07 AMReply

    Killer Joe...Lawless???

  • Brad | May 1, 2012 10:28 AMReply

    I am excited for Savages, even though I am sure it will get trounced by whatever it is up against its opening weekend. Still if the cast all brings there A games which given the talent caliber is highly possible. I hope this movies is one of the surprises of the summer.

  • Josh Borton | May 1, 2012 10:16 AMReply

    How in the world does Magic Mike and Savages, two film released by major studios, qualify as "indie" movies?

  • John75 | May 1, 2012 10:34 AM

    Excellent point! These all look like studio/hollywood movies to me. Only true indies appear to be relegated to the Also In Theaters section at the bottom.

  • Alan | May 1, 2012 10:16 AMReply

    Don't you people have editors? Ugh there's so many errors in this story

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