Are you sick of the bloated special effect budgets and perfectly polished one-liners of this summer's blockbuster movies? Independent films can provide a respite from this epidemic, promising natural films with small stories and even smaller budgets. Despite often slipping under-the-radar due to a low advertising budget, these movies feature brilliant actors and honest stories that are bound to sweep you off your feet faster than The Lone Ranger ever could. Here are a few indie movies you should definitely make an effort to see this summer.
1. Much Ado About Nothing
Synopsis: Directly from Shakespeare’s text, two burgeoning couples struggle with love, hate, and betrayal while at a lavish house party with friends.
Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Nathan Fillion
Why You Should See It: Finally, a way to put all your high school Shakespeare reading to good use. While the dialogue is taken word-for-word from Shakespeare's comedy, the acting is not Shakespearian but natural, and the story takes place in modern day (they even use cell phones!). Great performances by all, but especially Denisof, who plays the witty and arrogant Benedick with delightful liveliness. The film, shot in director Joss Whedon's sprawling mansion, doubles as porn for architecture and nature lovers as well.
In Theaters: Now, but not for long — see it while you still can!
2. The Way, Way Back
Synopsis: A coming-of-age tale that follows teenager Duncan's summer vacation and the friends he makes at his new job at a water park.
Cast: Liam James, Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph
Why You Should See It: Helmed by Oscar winning screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, this film is bound to be perfectly poised between hilarious and heartwarming. The water park setting makes it perfect for escapism on a hot summer day. Plus this movie features Steve Carrell in full-on silver fox mode — need I say more?
In Theaters: Now, in a limited number of theaters — more to come later in the month.
3. The Kings of Summer
Synopsis: Three teenage boys rebel against their parents by building a house in the forest and living there for the summer.
Cast: Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Megan Mullally, Moises Arias, Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso
Why You Should See It: Have you ever wanted to see two of your favorite NBC Thursday Night shows combine? Then you'll enjoy imagining Ron Swanson as Annie Edison's father as Offerman and Brie play out in this film.
In Theaters: Now, in a limited number of theaters.
4. Fruitvale Station
Synopsis: On the last day of 2008, a young man tries to turn his life around, before some tragic occurrences lead to his destruction.
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Chad Michael Murray
Why You Should See It:.Well-liked by both critics and audiences, this film won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance. It's also based on a true story from just a few years ago and is bound to provoke a much-needed discussion of racial profiling in this country. It's also the second released movie Octavia Spencer has done since her Oscar-winning performance in The Help, so there is no doubt it is well acted.
In Theaters: July 12
5. Girl Most Likely
Synopsis: A formerly successful playwright fakes a suicide attempt to get her boyfriend back, but her plan backfires and she is forced to go back home to New Jersey in the care of her embarrassing mother.
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon, Darren Criss
Why You Should See It: Previously titled Imogene, this dark comedy is being called Wiig's "passion project," and anything that Kristen Wiig is passionate about, I want to see. Also, for all two-dozen of you Gleeks out there, this is Darren Criss's first film role, in which he will play the much younger lover of Wiig's character. So if you want to watch Blaine Anderson seduce Gilly, this is the movie for you.
In Theaters: July 19
6. Blue Jasmine
Synopsis: A New York City woman moves in with her sister in San Francisco after she and her cheating Wall Street husband divorce and she becomes broke.
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Peter Sarsgaard, Sally Hawkins
Why You Should See It: Written and directed by Woody Allen, this film follows his current tendency for whimsical dramedies with excellent actors and plenty of incisive dialogue from messed up characters. The film features Baldwin, now an old pro at Woody Allen movies after To Rome, With Love, and C.K., who rarely graces the big screen with his presence. This casting cocktail of seasoned veterans and surprising additions will surely make an interesting — if not entertaining — trip to the movies.
In Theaters: July 26
7. The Spectacular Now
Synopsis: A popular high school senior falls for a shy, nerdy girl he meets, and together they teach each other to make the most of the present while also looking toward the future.
Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler
Why You Should See It: Yes, it is another coming-of-age story. But Teller and Woodley, who play the two young leads, won Sundance's Special Jury Award for their acting, so that proves that it’s not a juvenile growing-up story. Its popular-guy-falls-for-nerdy-girl plot is perfectly idealistic, while the tension derived from said contrivance grounds the film in reality.
In Theaters: August 2
8. Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Synopsis: A Texas man takes responsibility for his wife's crime, then later breaks out of jail to reunite with her and his daughter.
Cast: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Keith Carradine
Why You Should See It:. This film won the Cinematography Award at Sundance this year, so get ready for some stunning shots. It's also the rare summer indie that looks wholly dramatic and grown up, in case you're sick of watching bittersweet teens "find" themselves.
In Theaters: August 16