10 Most Anticipated Anti-Blockbuster Movies of the Summer

Blockbuster season opens today. Blockbusters season makes me cranky and jaded, as I look ahead to a summer filled with huge action spectacles that will dominate the box-office and usurp all the multiplex screens. But the 4th of July, most people will be left with 5 movie choices, all of which will be playing on three screens. And, as is our moral obligation to the Hollywood machinery, we’ll be spending an inordinate amount of time covering those movies. There’s not much else to cover for the next four months, sadly.
And, indeed, most movie blogs and pop-culture publications have been coming out with their Summer Movie Previews over the last few days and weeks, and for the most part, they’re focusing most of their attention onto the eight or nine tentpole movies that honestly don’t need any more attention than they are already receiving. By last February, most people had heard about or seen a trailer for most of these summer’s blockbuster movies: Wolverine, Public Enemies, Terminator Salvation, Transformers 2, G.I. Joe, Land of the Lost, Bruno, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Year One, The Taking of Pelham 123, Angels and Demons and Star Trek. By the time those actual movies come out, you’ll probably have seen 40 percent of them in the trailers. You’ll still see them, of course, because we’re all blockbuster whores who like to bitch about how bad most of them will be while holding out a glimmer of hope that our expectations will actually be met.
This preview isn’t about those movies. I want to highlight some of the lesser known titles of the summer — movies that aren’t directed by A-list directors and sport $20 million actors (in fact, most of these movies were produced for under $20 million total). Some of these you’ve already heard about here, but to the extent that it’s possible, I’d like to redirect your attention away from Christian Bale and Michael Bay for a few minutes and tell you about the ten non Blockbuster movies I’m most excited about this summer.

10. In the Loop

In the Loop, which stars James Gandolfini, as well as a mostly British cast, is a political comedy from Armando Iannucci (“The Thick of It”) described as “The West Wing” meets “The Office.” It’s about the U.S. President and British Prime Minister’s efforts to start a war and their political underlings attempts to prevent it. The movie debuted at Sundance this year, and if Cinematical can be trusted (it usually can), it’s “achingly, wrenchingly, dizzyingly funny, with a bleak, bitter sense of humor that makes each laugh feel like the people behind In the Loop are not so much tickling your funny bone as they are going at it with an ice pick. “— July 24

9. Cold Souls

I’ll be honest: I don’t know a ton about Cold Souls yet. It premiered at Sundance, and was well received. It’s very Charlie Kaufmanesque. Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti who … let’s just let the official description try to explain this: “Rehearsing to play Uncle Vanya on a New York stage, Paul Giamatti feels that his emotional life is getting in the way of his performance. After consulting with the affable Dr. Flintstein (David Strathairn), he decides to try an experimental service called “Soul Storage,” which provides relief from man’s existential burden through the extraction (and cold storage) of the soul. Yet the side effects - he’s now bizarrely buoyant and blithely callous - send him back to “rent” the soul of a Russian poet, salvaging his Vanya but leading to disturbing visions. Plans to reclaim his soul are dashed when a mysterious, soul-trafficking Russian “mule” (Korzun) steals Giamatti’s stored soul for an ambitious, but talentless, soap-opera actress (Winnick) in St. Petersburg. Suddenly thrust into the middle of a twisted black market of international soul trafficking, the actor journeys halfway around the world to reclaim what he’d so readily given away.”
Weird, right. But weirdly cool. It’s Sophia Barthes first feature movie. There’s not yet a trailer for it, but Collider has a few clips, including the one below. — August 15

8. Dead Snow

Dead Snow is a Scandinavian flick, which debuted at Sundance earlier this year, that features a no-name director and a no-name cast. So why am I excited about it? Two words: Nazi Zombies. It looks like absolute, unrelenting zombie bliss. — June 12

7. Taking Woodstock

Ang Lee’s American follow-up to Brokeback Mountain is based on a true story about a guy (Demetri Martin) who was in charge of granting the concert permit for Woodstock. Obviously, the concert was much bigger than he’d planned. It’s got a mostly great ensemble cast (Emile Hirsch, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Liev Schreiber, Dan Fogler, and Paul Dano), and it looks like a hell of a lot of fun. — August 14

6. Away We Go

Directed by Sam Mendes, working from a script by Dave (freakin’) Eggers and his wife, Vendela Vida, Away We Go is about a couple (John Krasinki and Maya Rudolph) expecting their first child. They decide travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family. Along the way, they have misadventures and find fresh connections with an assortment of relatives and old friends who just might help them discover “home” on their own terms for the first time. It’s also got a killer supporting cast: Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Allison Janney, and Caterine O’Hara, among others. — June 5

5. The Boat that Rocked

It’s already opened in the UK and Australia with mixed reviews, but it sports such a solid cast (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Nick Frost, Bill Nighy) that it’s hard not to get excited about this Richard Curtis crowd-pleaser about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960s. It looks unrelentingly cheery — which is sort of Richard Curtis’ thing, and after a summer of big action spectacles, The Boat that Rocked seems an ideal August release. — August 28

4. The Hangover

The Hangover is the only studio comedy that looks worth a damn this summer, and harkens back a little to a pre-Apatow world, inasmuch as you consider Old School pre-Apatow (The Hangover comes from Todd Phillips, who directed Old School and Road Trip). It’s refreshingly about drinking too much and, from the looks of the trailer, isn’t saddled with any of that heart that’s been weighing down some of Apatow’s films, of late. It looks like a straight-up, balls-out morally depraved twisted comedy with Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, and Zach Galifianakis. — June 5

3. The Hurt Locker

From everything I’ve seen and heard (and Dan has already seen it), The Hurt Locker will blow the snot out of the back of your head and you’l thank it for it. Kathryn Bigelow’s (Point Break) film about an Army bomb-squad in Iraq looks like the rare action-explosive film with an honest human element, and not just a tacked-on one. The cast includes Jeremy Renner, Guy Pierce, Anthony Mackie, David Morse, and Evangeline Lilly, and a lot of fucking explosives. It looks gritty and hard and suspenseful and painful and great, and maybe the best action movie of the summer. — June 26

2. Brothers Bloom

The Brothers Bloom is the magnificent, melancholy, borderline-screwball love story about the lives of two con men, Bloom (Adrien Brody) and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo, from Brick’s Rian Johnson. Their target? Penelope (Rachel Weisz), an eccentric millionaires and a lonely, epileptic photographer who “collects hobbies.” The Brothers Bloom is a smart and fast-paced Wes Anderson-style con movie / love story that is equal parts suspenseful and heart-breaky. — May 15

1. (500) Days of Summer

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, 500 Days of Summer is a story about love, but it’s not a love story. Like few movies I’ve ever seen, accurately captures the range of emotions that accompany falling in love and then having your heart shattered. And while the dialogue is witty, and real, and funny, and smart, it’s director Marc Webb’s attention to the details that make 500 Days of Summer such a deeply authentic movie. There are a lot of movie about love, and even more that think they are, but very few successfully capture that helpless uncertainty attendant to a new relationship — the overwhelming need to pin it down, to label it, to gain a sense of security, to know that what he or she is feeling is not fleeting. You must see this movie.— July 15

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