Summer Movie Preview: A Wide Variety of Independent Films Coming Soon

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For our Summer Movie Preview, we’re going to avoid going over the big flicks that you’re undoubtedly aware of. Are there people out there looking at Summer Movie Previews and going, “Oh my gosh, there’s a new Avengers?” So we’re placing our focus on the little flicks that might be drowned out by bombast of blockbusters. Most of these films are going to be distributed by Magnolia, Alchemy, Focus, and Roadside Attractions, which means that many of these will get a limited theatrical run and a VOD release. So let’s get to it.

Welcome To Me – Release Date: May 1, 2015

It’s hard to dislike Kristen Wiig and the upcoming Welcome to Me looks to channel the charms of its leading lady while simultaneously commenting at our society’s prevalence of narcissism and reality television. Produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, Welcome to Me looks to boost the profile of its director Shira Piven and its writer Eliot Laurence, both relative newcomers. The trailer for this comedy does look quite promising and having an excellent cast doesn’t hurt our anticipation.

Cast:  Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Alan Tudyk, Tim Robbins, Wes Bentley, Joan Cusack

Directed by Shira Piven

Screenplay by Eliot Laurence

Synopsis:

Alice, obsessed with television and fame, wins $86 million in the lottery and decides to spend all of her money on a TV show about herself. The show reflects Alice’s larger-than-life personality but as the show becomes bigger and bigger, the people in Alice’s life start taking their distance from her, leaving Alice to decide whether celebrity and recognition really brings happiness.

Maggie – Release Date: May 8, 2015

Since leaving the governorship of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s return to the cinema has be marked with a string of flops, though not all of the films were particularly awful. And with the upcoming movie Maggie, Schwarzenegger is entering into the world of the zombie movie. Now, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m just sick and tired of zombies. That being said, Maggie at least has a premise that might do something new with the very tired, decaying genre.

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson

Directed by Henry Hobson

Screenplay by John Scott 3

Synopsis:

When a deadly zombie virus sweeps the nation, a father will stop at nothing to save his infected daughter in this post-apocalyptic thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin.

Sunshine Superman – Release Date: May 22, 2015

Marah Strauch makes her directorial with Sunshine Superman, a documentary that explore the Xtreme origins of BASE jumping. Having little knowledge about Strauch or her subject Carl Boenish, this is a documentary that I’ll just have to take the plunge on.

Directed by Marah Strauch

Synopsis:

A heart-racing documentary portrait of Carl Boenish, the father of the BASE jumping movement, whose early passion for skydiving led him to ever more spectacular –and dangerous– feats of foot-launched human flight. Experience his jaw-dropping journey in life and love, to the pinnacle of his achievements when he and wife Jean broke the BASE jumping Guinness World Record in 1984 on the Norwegian ‘Troll Wall’ mountain range. Incredibly, within days, triumph was followed by disaster.  Told through a stunning mix of Carl’s 16mm archive footage, well-crafted re-enactments and state-of-the-art aerial photography, Sunshine Superman will leave you breathless and inspired.

Survivor – Release Date: May 29, 2015

Pierce Brosnan, the former James Bond, takes a turn for the villainous and sets his aim on Milla Jovovich in the new action thriller Survivor from the director of V for Vendetta, James McTeigue. There seem to be enough interesting elements within Survivor that it may just be more than a generic action flick.

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Dylan McDermott, Milla Jovovich, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster

Directed by James McTeigue

Screenplay by Philip Shelby

Synopsis:

After being mysteriously framed for a terrorist bombing, a Foreign Service Officer (Milla Jovovich) must evade government capture and death by a ruthless assassin (Pierce Brosnan) in order to stop the real perpetrators’ master—and much deadlier—plan. SURVIVOR is directed by James McTeigue and also stars Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett and Robert Forster.

Results – Release Date: May 29, 2015

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For his highly anticipated follow up to 2013’s Computer Chess, Andrew Bujalski appears to making his first attempt to crossover into the mainstream with Results. While I’m not expecting Results to be a mainstream crossover, it’s represents a change for Bujalski who has primarily cast no-name actors. For Results, Bujalski assembled a cast consisting of Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, and more. This is easily one of my most-anticipated indies of 2015.

Cast: Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi, Constance Zimmer, Brooklyn Decker, Anthony Michael Hall

Written and Directed by Andrew Bujalski

Synopsis:

Two mismatched personal trainers’ lives are upended by the actions of a new, wealthy client.

Insidious: Chapter 3 – Release Date: June 5, 2015

With James Wan, director of the first two Insidious movies, having moved on to Furious 7, Leigh Whannell takes over the director’s chair for Insidious: Chapter 3. It’s an appropriate move as Whannell was the writer of each film in the Insidious saga.

Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Hayley Kiyoko, and Lin Shaye

Written and Directed by Leigh Whannell

Synopsis:

The new chapter in the terrifying horror series is written and directed by franchise co-creator Leigh Whannell. This chilling prequel, set before the haunting of the Lambert family, reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl (Stefanie Scott) who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity.

Love & Mercy – Release Date: June 5, 2015

The Beach Boys cast a long shadow over American pop music with their combination of appealing melodies and psychedelic experimentation. Brian Wilson, the troubled genius behind these immortal pop songs, is now the subject of his very own biopic Love & Mercy, which has Paul Dano taking on the role of the pop icon. If Dano’s casting is any indication, Wilson will likely be beaten up at some point during the movie. The story of Wilson’s rise and breakdown is a fascinating story, but I only fear that Love & Mercy may fall into every single trap that befalls the rock biopic. Am I right? God only knows.

Cast: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti

Directed by Bill Pohlad

Screenplay by Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner

Synopsis:

LOVE & MERCY presents an unconventional portrait of Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys. Set against the era defining catalog of Wilson’s music, the film intimately examines the personal voyage and ultimate salvation of the icon whose success came at extraordinary personal cost.

The Wolfpack – Release Date: June 12, 2015

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No, The Wolfpack isn’t a Hangover spin-off. The directorial debut of Crystal Moselle, The Wolfpack is a story that sounds intriguing based upon its synopsis, though I have no other information to gauge my interest in this project.

Directed by Crystal Moselle

Synopsis:

Locked away from society in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Angulo brothers learn about the outside world through the films that they watch. Nicknamed the Wolfpack, the brothers spend their childhood re-enacting their favorite films using elaborate homemade props and costumes. With no friends and living on welfare, they feed their curiosity, creativity, and imagination with film, which allows them to escape from their feelings of isolation and loneliness. Everything changes when one of the brothers escapes, and the power dynamics in the house are transformed. The Wolfpack must learn how to integrate into society without disbanding the brotherhood. Armed with unprecedented access into the subjects’ world, as well as their vast archive of home movies, director Crystal Moselle crafts a captivating portrait of an extraordinary family and inquires into the true nature of identity and creativity. By fully immersing herself into their world, she allows their remarkable story to naturally unfold without judgment. *The Wolfpack* resonates with the audience as it portrays people raised on movies.

Madame Bovary – Release Date: June 12, 2015

Director Sophie Barthes brings her adaptation of Madame Bovary to the screen with Mia Wasikowska in the title role. Based on the classic novel by Gustave Flaubert, Barthes’ film is the umpteenth adaptation of the well-told story.

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Paul Giamatti, Ezra Miller, Rhys Ifans, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Logan Marshall-Green, Laura Carmichael

Directed by Sophie Barthes

Screenplay by Felipe Marino and Sophie Barthes

Synopsis:

Gustave Flaubert’s classic story of Emma Bovary, a young beauty who impulsively marries a small-town doctor to leave her father’s pig farm far behind. But after being introduced to the glamorous world of high society, she soon becomes bored with her stodgy husband, and seeks prestige and excitement outside the bonds of marriage.

3 1/2 Minutes – Release Date: June 19, 2015 (TBD)

Recent protests have brought the use of lethal force by police against minorities to the forefront of public consciousness. However, questions surrounding abuse of power aren’t anything new, they’ve just reached a boiling point. The new documentary by Marc Silver 3 1/2 Minutes sheds light on the 2012 shooting of Jordan Davis, who was killed following an argument about loud music. Davis’ killer, Michael Dunn, was found guilty in 2014.

Directed by Marc Silver

Synopsis:

On Black Friday 2012, four middle-class African-American law-abiding teenagers stopped at a gas station to buy gum and cigarettes. One of them, Jordan Davis, argued with Michael Dunn, a white man parked beside them, over the volume of music playing in their car. The altercation turned to tragedy when Dunn fired 10 bullets at the unarmed boys, killing Davis almost instantly. The seamlessly constructed, riveting documentary film 3 1/2 MINUTES explores the danger and subjectivity of Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense laws by weaving Dunn’s trial with a chorus of citizen and pundit opinions, and with Jordan Davis’s parents’ wrenching experiences in and out of the courtroom.

While Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown’s stories join a wretched, enduring cycle in the American social narrative, 3 1/2 Minutes portrays Davis’s murder and its aftermath as anything but generic. Instead, the intimate camera particularizes each character as singular, as if to say: The more we see each other as human beings, the less inevitable will be violent outcomes from racial bias and disparate cultures colliding.

The Little Death – Release Date: June 26, 2015

An Australian sex comedy from writer-director-actor Josh Lawson, who was in this year’s Growing Up and Other Lies, The Little Death looks like a promising exploration of the struggles to keep the spark alive in the sex lives of committed relationships.

Cast: Josh Lawson, Bojana Novakovic, Damon Herriman, Kate Mulvany, Kate Box, Patrick Brammall, Erin James

Written and Directed by Josh Lawson

Synopsis:

THE LITTLE DEATH, which marks the arrival of Australian writer-director Josh Lawson, is both an edgy sex comedy and a warm-hearted depiction of the secret lives of five suburban couples living in Sydney. Lawson’s searing and sometimes shocking screenplay weaves together a story that explores a range of sexual fetishes and the repercussions that come with sharing them.

Tangerine – Release Date: July 10, 2015

tangerine

Tangerine, the latest film from Sean Baker earned some of the strongest praise at Sundance following its premiere earlier this year. The tale of two transgendered prostitutes roaming the streets of L.A., Tangerine has been building solid buzz and looks to be one of the breakout indie hits of the summer.

Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, Alla Tumanian, James Ransone

Directed by Sean Baker

Screenplay by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch

Synopsis:

It’s Christmas Eve in Tinseltown and Sin-Dee is back on the block. Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend hasn’t been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up, the working girl and her best friend, Alexandra, embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the scandalous rumor. Their rip-roaring odyssey leads them through various subcultures of Los Angeles, including an Armenian family dealing with their own repercussions of infidelity.

Director Sean Baker’s prior films brought rich texture and intimate detail to worlds seldom seen on film. TANGERINE follows suit, bursting off the screen with energy and style. Exhibiting fierce chemistry with his actors to fashion a dazzlingly distinctive film filled with humor and heart, Baker’s talent is on full display. A decidedly modern Christmas tale told on the real streets of L.A., TANGERINE defies expectation—a veritable cinematic jolt.

Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot – Release Date: July 10, 2015

For NBA fans and especially fans of the Dallas Mavericks, Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot is probably the must-see documentary of the year. The film by Leopold Hoesch aims to tell the story of how Dirk Nowitzki became one of the most dominant players in the modern NBA and explores the relationship between the superstar and his mentor.

Directed by Leopold Hoesch

Synopsis:

Thirteen time All-Star, League MVP, Finals MVP, NBA Superstar Dirk Nowitzki is one of the greatest and most famous athletes of all time as the first non-American to lead his team to a NBA victory. NOWITZKI. THE PERFECT SHOT was produced by Emmy® Award-winning filmmaker Leopold Hoesch and features exclusive NBA footage and interviews with NBA legends such as Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Jason Kidd, Rick Carlisle, Mark Cuban, David Stern, Don Nelson and former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt covering the incredible success story of Dirk Nowitzki, from second league German basketball to one of the top athletes of the NBA. It’s the story of the fascinating relationship between Dirk Nowitzki and his personal coach and mentor Holger Geschwindner. Holger, the German basketball legend and scientist recognized Nowitzki’s talent early on and helped Nowitzki invent a perfect jump shot.

Strangerland – Release Date: July 10, 2015

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There’s not much information to go off of concerning Strangerland, the new film starring Nicole Kidman and directed by Kim Farrant. Of the little information available, the early word out of Sundance wasn’t exactly kind, making this possibly another ambitious dud for Kidman, who has had a lot of those lately.

Cast: Nicole Kidman,  Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Lisa Flanagan, Meyne Wyatt, Maddison Brown

Directed by Kim Farrant

Screenplay by Michael Kinirons and Fiona Seres

Synopsis:

Newly arrived to a remote desert town, Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matthew (Joseph Fiennes) are tormented by suspicion when their two teenage children mysteriously vanish into a dust storm that leaves only cryptic incriminations and family secrets in its wake.

Ardor – Release Date: July 17, 2015

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Gael García Bernal and Alice Braga working together gives any project a bit of promise. Neither actor is complacent in choosing simple generic movies. Usually, if they’re in a starring role, the film has a certain level of ambition behind it. There’s no reason to think otherwise with Ardor, which was written and directed by Pablo Fendrik, whose work I’m unfamiliar with.

Cast: Gael García Bernal and Alice Braga

Written and Directed by Pablo Fendrik

Synopsis:

Working together for the first time since their collobaration in Fernando Meirelles’ *Blindness*, Award-winning actors Gael García Bernal (*Babel*, *Motorcycle Diaries*) and Alice Braga (*I Am Legend*, *City of God*) star in *Ardor*, a visually sumptuous adventure about a mysterious man who emerges from the Argentinian rainforest to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a poor farmer. Written and directed by Pablo Fendrik (*Blood Appears*, *The Mugger*), the film’s magical realism, jungle setting and social context put a fresh, contemporary twist on the western genre.

When fires sweep through the rainforest near their property along the Parana River, a poor tobacco-farming family goes on high alert. The head of the family, João, (Chico Díaz) correctly suspects the fire is a result of slash-and-burn tactics by ruthless land-grabbers intent on acquiring the farm he shares with his lovely daughter, Vânia (Braga), and her partner, Jara (Lautaro Vilo) Help arrives in the form of Kaí (García Bernal), an enigmatic man, bearing indigenous tattoos who comes out of the jungle with the grace of a jaguar.

But the violence of the land-grabbers’ assault catches Kaí and the farm dwellers off guard. In short order, the men shoot Jara and force João to sign over his land just before killing him and kidnapping Vânia. Undetected by the assailants, Kaí goes on the offensive. Using his animal-like abilities, he rescues Vânia, retrieves the bogus bill of sale and thwarts a counter-attack by the now-reinforced band of mercenaries—all without taking a life. But with the hornet’s nest now stirred, Kaí, Vânia and Jara must decide how far they will go to preserve the farm and their vanishing way of life.

Mr. Holmes – Release Date: July 17, 2015

Normally my natural instinct upon hearing about a new tale with Sherlock Holmes grappling the ravages of aging would induce groans and a massive eye-roll. But since Holmes will be played by Ian McKellen and directed by the usually reliable Bill Condon, there’s a glimmer of hope that Mr. Holmes might actually look to be something more than a familiar tale told with a respected character now in public domain.

Cast: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker

Directed by Bill Condon

Screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher, based on the novel “A Slight Trick of the Mind” by Mitch Cullin

Synopsis:

HOLMES is a new twist on the world’s most famous detective. 1947, an aging Sherlock Holmes returns from a journey to Japan, where, in search of a rare plant with powerful restorative qualities, he has witnessed the devastation of nuclear warfare. Now, in his remote seaside farmhouse, Holmes faces the end of his days tending to his bees, with only the company of his housekeeper and her young son, Roger.  Grappling with the diminishing powers of his mind, Holmes comes to rely upon the boy as he revisits the circumstances of the unsolved case that forced him into retirement, and searches for answers to the mysteries of life and love – before it’s too late.

Best of Enemies – Release Date: July 31, 2015

The legacies of Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley can be felt throughout our current political climate in America. Their on-air bickering gave way to channels that dedicate the entirety of their 24-hour programming to cheap, vitriolic name calling under the guise of political debate. The new documentary by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon, Best of Enemies, looks to explore the relationship between the two polemicists. While the source material is undoubtedly interesting, having to watch any movie that features William F. Buckley would likely cause my blood pressure to rise to dangerous levels.

Directed by: Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon

Synopsis:

In the summer of 1968, television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley, Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Armed with deep-seated distrust and enmity, Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they pummeled out policy and personal insult—cementing their opposing political positions. Their explosive exchanges devolved into vitriolic name-calling. It was unlike anything TV had ever broadcast, and all the more shocking because it was live and unscripted. Viewers were riveted. ABC News’ ratings skyrocketed. And a new era in public discourse was born. Directed with consummate skill by filmmakers Robert Gordon and Academy Award-winning Sundance Film Festival alum Morgan Neville *(Twenty Feet From Stardom), Best of Enemies* unleashes a highbrow blood sport that marked the dawn of pundit television as we know it today.

Meet the Patels – Release Date: August TBD, 2015*

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYGW_rsKjd4

Over the years we’ve seen numerous documentaries that feature a single filmmaker document their quest for love. With Meet the Patels, Geeta V. Patel and Ravi V. Patel seem to have a found a new avenue with which to explore this familiar topic — that of the culture clash. The film follows Ravi as he tries to find love and still appease his strict Indian family that wants him to wed within their cultures rigid tradition.

Directed by: Geeta V. Patel, Ravi V. Patel

Produced by: Janet Eckholm, Geeta V. Patel

Synopsis:

Unlucky in his own modern quest for love, a first-generation Indian American agrees to surrender His heart—and all of his online dating accounts—to the unabashedly eager and often riotous schemes of his more traditional parents.

People, Places, Things – Release Date: August 14, 2015

In People, Places, Things, Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords is a single father trying to put his life back together following a disastrous breakup with the mother of his twin daughters. Written and directed by Jim Strouse, director of Grace is Gone and The Winning Season, People, Places, Things looks to capitalize on the winning streak of Jermaine Clement coming off this year’s indie hit What We Do in the Shadows.

Cast: Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Stephanie Allynne, Gia Gadsby, Aundrea Gadsby, and Michael Chernus

Written and Directed by Jim Strouse

Synopsis:

Will Henry (Jemaine Clement) is a graphic novelist, a professor at the School of Visual Arts and the father of beautiful twin girls (Gia and Aundrea Gadsby).  His seemingly picture-perfect Brooklyn life is turned upside down when he walks in on the mother of his children, and longtime girlfriend, Charlie, (Stephanie Allynne) with their friend Gary (Michael Chernus) at his daughters’ over the top fifth birthday party.  Flash forward one year later, Will is a single father, living alone in a tiny studio apartment in Astoria, trying to put his life back together. In this thoughtful comedy, Will is forced to navigate the unknown landscape of single fatherhood and dating in New York City, while remaining an inspiration for his students and coming to terms with himself both as a father as an artist.

Z for Zachariah – Release Date: August TBD, 2015

After breaking out with the indie hit Compliance, director Craig Zobel is back with Z for Zachariah, which stars Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Chris Pine. The film was a massive success at Sundance, generating solid buzz. Of course, anything with Margot Robbie is a must-see as the actress is just this lethal combination of talent of charisma.

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, Chris Pine

Directed by Craig Zobel

Screenplay by Nissar Modi, based on the book by Robert C. O’Brien

Synopsis:

In the wake of a nuclear war, a young woman (Margot Robbie) survives on her own, fearing she may actually be the proverbial last woman on earth, until she discovers the most astonishing sight of her life: another human being. A distraught scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor), he’s nearly been driven mad by radiation exposure and his desperate search for others. A fragile, imperative strand of trust connects them. But when a stranger (Chris Pine) enters the valley, their precarious bond begins to unravel.

Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine – Release Date: August TBD, 2015

steve-jobs

Call me old fashioned, but I don’t have any particular fetish for makers of electronics — any makers of electronics. Since the day Steve Jobs died, there’s been this massive upswell in sentiment to somehow turn a guy who made toys for adults into some kind of idealistic visionary. But the guy founded a company that created gadgets. You could even argue that those gadgets have had a negative impact on society. Before the Aaron Sorkin-scripted Steve Jobs film gets released and years after the Ashton Kutcher biopic called Jobs, Alex Gibney, the insanely prolific documentarian, will release Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. Gibney, whose documentary on Scientology just aired on HBO last week, is a smart filmmaker and will likely avoid making this a work of blind hagiography. Or at least that’s what I hope. Heaven knows there’s already enough Steve Jobs hagiography in the world already.

Directed by Alex Gibney

Synopsis:

In his signature black turtleneck and blue jeans, shrouded in shadows below a milky apple, Steve Jobs’ image was ubiquitous. But who was the man on the stage? What accounted for the grief of so many across the world when he died? From Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, *Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine* is a critical examination of Jobs who was at once revered as an iconoclastic genius and a barbed-tongued tyrant. A candid look at Jobs’ legacy featuring interviews with a handful of those close to him at different stages in his life, the film is evocative and nuanced in capturing the essence of the Apple legend and his values which shape the culture of Silicon Valley to this day.

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