Yes, we’re excited to see “Iron Man 2,” “Inception” and God help us, “Predators.” But what we’re really looking forward to spending a few hours in the company of an undertaking Bill Murray (“Get Low”), an Italian-speaking Tilda Swinton (“I Am Love”) and a toga-wearing Rachel Weisz (“Agora”) in the comfort of air-conditioned theater over the next three months. (Either that or we’ll be enjoying them from the comfort of home online, on demand or on DVD.)
There are no less than 114 independently produced movies arriving in theaters this summer to compete with the big studio blockbusters and we’ve compiled this helpful guide that covers all of them. Yet realizing that the latest arthouse and foreign fare is subject to changing dates, particularly if you don’t live in Los Angeles or New York, we’ve also included links to follow the films on Twitter, Facebook and release schedules where available, so even if something you’ve been dying to see doesn’t look like it will be coming soon to a theater near you, you can keep tabs and, in some cases, demand it. Whether you’re in the mood for John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill riffing in the new Duplass brothers’ movie “Cyrus” or the perversity of Yorgos Lanthimos’ Cannes winner “Dogtooth,” there’s a little something for everyone this summer.
Week Ending May 7th
Director: Thomas Balmès
The Gist: If you’ve seen the showstopping trailer that elicits “awwws” from even the most cold-hearted moviegoers, you’re already familiar with French filmmaker Balmès’ globetrotting documentary that follows the development of four infants in four separate countries. From the womb to the first time they stand upright, the film shows toddlers from Namibia, Tokyo, San Francisco and Mongolia during their first few months of life.
“Casino Jack and the United States of Money” (IMDb, Facebook, trailer, release schedule)
Director: Alex Gibney
Fest Cred: Sundance, Dallas
The Gist: Oscar-winning “Enron: The Smartest Guy in the Room” director Gibney has already ruffled some feathers over the title for his exposé of disgraced lobbyist (since George Hickenlooper also laid claim to it for his upcoming fictional account starring Kevin Spacey, and Abramoff was reported to have tipped him off to the title). But expect Gibney to ruffle some more with all the Washington higher-ups included in this look at Abramoff’s rise within the Republican Party as a trusted operative and bagman, including former U.S. representatives Bob Ney and Tom DeLay, who both sit down for interviews.
“DDR/DDR” (release schedule)
Director: Amie Siegel
The Gist: Conceptual artist Siegel’s latest arrives at New York’s Anthology Film Archives after premiering at the 2008 Whitney Biennial, condensing footage of dilapidated architecture, East German reenactments of Native American culture, interviews with psychoanalysts and Stasi security camera videos into a reflection on the fall of the German Democratic Republic.
“15 Minutes of Fame” (IMDb, Facebook, Twitter, trailer)
The Cast: Charles Malik Whitfield, Shiek Mahmud-Bey, Elisa Donovan, Alan Rosenberg, Richard T. Jones, Adam Rodriguez
Writer/Director: Jo D. Jonz
The Gist: Based on a real-life experience between buds Jonz and “Scrubs” star Donald Faison (who’s an executive producer), four friends in Los Angeles soon learn that it was a mistake to let their New York filmmaking pal into their home to shoot his latest movie. The comedy is getting a one-week run at West Hollywood’s Sunset 5.
“Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then” (Twitter, trailer)
Director: Brent Green
The Gist: Longtime experimental animator Green embarks on his first feature, a stop-motion production that blends live actors with wooden characters to tell the story of a man who built a sprawling home for his wife by hand in the hope that it would cure her of terminal cancer, based on the true tale of Kentucky hardware clerk Leonard Wood. The film’s one-week run at the IFC Center corresponds with a current exhibition of Green’s work at the Andrew Edin Gallery.
“Happiness Runs” (IMDb, trailer)
The Cast: Mark L. Young, Hanna Hall, Jessie Plemons, Laura Peters, Shiloh Fernandez, Andie MacDowell, Rutger Hauer
Writer/Director: Adam Sherman
The Gist: Following up his 2004 feature “Dead Doll” (notable for being co-written by “Momma’s Man” director Azazel Jacobs and starring “Wristcutters” director Goran Dukic), Sherman’s coming-of-age drama stars Young as a Victor, teen starting to question the principles behind the hippie commune he’s grown up in where free love and mind control (for the benefit of the men) rule. When Victor’s best friend Becky (Hall) returns to the commune to care for her sick father and he begins to have visions of her death, Victor attempts to leave the cult with Becky in tow, to the chagrin of the cult’s leader (Hauer, whose presence is probably worth the price of admission).
“The Infidel” (IMDb, Facebook, trailer)
The Cast: Omid Djalili, Richard Schiff, Archie Panjabi, Igal Naor, Amit Shah, Matt Lucas
Director: Josh Appignanesi
Fest Cred: Tribeca
The Gist: After years of bit parts in films like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “The Love Guru,” British-Iranian comic Djalili gets a star turn in this comedy about a Muslim cabbie who discovers late in life that he’s actually Jewish, leading him to seek out lessons in Judaic ways from his fellow driver (Schiff). Also available on VOD, the film is following up its recent debut at the Tribeca Film Festival with a one-week run at New York’s Tribeca Cinemas starting on Wednesday, May 5th.
“The Lightkeepers” (IMDb, Facebook, trailer)
The Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Blythe Danner, Mamie Gummer, Tom Wisdom, Bruce Dern, Julie Harris
Director: Daniel Adams
Fest Cred: Palm Springs
The Gist: Although it was unsuccessful in its bizarre bid for Oscar nominations at the end of ’09, this turn-of-the-century romance stars Dreyfuss as a crusty seaman and lighthouse operator in Cape Cod whose vow to never fall in love again after the death of his wife is threatened by the arrival of two women (Danner and Gummer) who take residence in the neighboring cottage.
“Mother and Child” (IMDb, Facebook, trailer)
The Cast: Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, David Morse, Shareeka Epps
Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Fest Cred: Toronto, Sundance
The Gist: Touted as a possible Oscar contender for Bening’s performance after it played Toronto, Sony Pictures Classics picked up the latest femme-centric drama from “Nine Lives” director Garcia that takes a few notes from its executive producer Alejandro González Iñárritu in weaving together the stories of a nurse (Bening) who gave up a baby as a teen, her grown-up biological daughter (Watts) and a woman (Washington) who is looking to adopt since she can’t conceive. Smits, Morse and Jackson play the men in their lives.
“Multiple Sarcasms” (IMDb, Facebook, Twitter, trailer)
The Cast: Timothy Hutton, Mira Sorvino, Dana Delany, Mario Van Peebles, India Ennenga, Laila Robins, Stockard Channing
Director: Brooks Branch
Fest Cred: AFI Dallas
The Gist: First-time writer/director Branch has collected quite the cast for this ’70s-set character study of a New York-based architect (Hutton) who is dissatisfied with his job and rededicates himself to writing a script about his life, inspired by his afternoons of escapism at the local movie theater, which in turn causes him to reflect on the decisions he made that have led him to such personal disappointment. Delany and Ennenga co-star as the wife and daughter, respectively, who try to cheer him up.
“The Oath” (IMDb, release schedule)
Director: Laura Poitras
Fest Cred: Berlinale, Sundance, New Directors/New Films, True/False, SXSW
The Gist: Following the Oscar-nominated “My Country, My Country,” Poitras completes the second in her so-called post-9/11 “New American Century” trilogy with an investigation into the lives of Abu Jandal and Salim Hamdam, brothers-in-law who became involved in al Qaeda during the ’90s and saw their lives change dramatically, as the rest of the world did on that fateful day.
“Ocean of Pearls” (IMDb, Facebook, trailer, release schedule)
The Cast: Omid Abtahi, Heather McComb, Ron Canada, Navi Rawat, Ajay Mehta, Todd Babcock, Brenda Strong, Dennis Haskins
Director: Sarab Neelam
Fest Cred: Miami, Fèstroia-Troia, White Sands, Sedona
The Gist: A talented Sikh surgeon (Abtahi) faces a crisis of conscience when his insistence to adhere to tradition with a full beard and turban threatens to derail his chance to become chief of surgery in Detroit, though his decision to abandon it could have a ripple effect on his friends and family back home. If that isn’t enough to sell you, “Saved by the Bell” fans can expect a rare dramatic turn from Mr. Belding himself, Dennis Haskins. Opens at the Big Cinemas in New York for a one-week run.
“OSS 117: Lost in Rio” (IMDb, Facebook, exclusive clip)
The Cast: Jean Dujardin, Louise Monot, Rüdiger Vogler, Alex Lutz, Reem Kherici
Writer/Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Fest Cred: Seattle, PiFan, Palm Springs
The Gist: For fans of the swinging super spy Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath (a.k.a. OSS 117), Music Box Films is bringing the second adventure in the French spoof series Stateside, picking up a dozen years after the events of “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies.” This time around, the top secret agent (Dujardin) is teamed with busty Mossad agent Dolores Kuleshov (Monot) to help retrieve a compromising microfilm of French Nazi sympathizers from the clutches of a Third Reich blackmailer.
“Road, Movie” (IMDb, Facebook, Twitter, trailer)
The Cast: Abhay Deol, Satish Kaushik, Tannishthah Chatterjee, Mohammad Faizal
Writer/Director: Dev Benegal
Fest Cred: Toronto, Tokyo, Tribeca, Berlinale
The Gist: Poised to inherit his father’s hair oil business, Vishnu (Deol) sees an opportunity to become his own man when he is handed the keys to his uncle’s Chevy pick-up and sets off across the desert to deliver it to a museum, collecting a gypsy (Chatterjee), an entertainer (Kaushik) and a runaway (Faizal) along the way. “Lost in Translation” producer and “Taking Chance” director Ross Katz handled the producing duties on this drama that will be playing a one-week run at New York’s Tribeca Cinemas starting on Wednesday, May 5th.
“sex & drugs & rock & roll” (IMDb, trailer)
The Cast: Andy Serkis, Ray Winstone, Olivia Williams, Naomie Harris, Mackenzie Crook, Bill Milner
Director: Mat Whitecross
Fest Cred: Berlinale, Tribeca
The Gist: Andy Serkis gives a bravura, BAFTA-nominated performance as transgressive rocker Ian Dury in the solo directorial debut of Michael Winterbottom collaborator Whitecross. Williams and Harris co-star as the women in Dury’s life, which is shaped by an early bout with polio and the relationships he has with his father (Winstone) and his son (“Son of Rambow” star Milner), and brought to vivid life with pop art-inspired animated sequences, concert footage and underwater performances. Coming off its U.S. debut at Tribeca, the festival is bringing the film to VOD and a one-week theatrical run at the Tribeca Cinemas in New York starting Wednesday, May 5th.
“Trash Humpers” (IMDb, Facebook, Twitter, trailer)
Director: Harmony Korine
Fest Cred: Toronto, New York, Vancouver, London, AFI, Leeds, Oslo, Rotterdam, SXSW
The Gist: “‘Trash Humpers’ is very much literally what the title says it is: it’s a movie about people that like to hump trash,” director Korine told IFC News back in October when the film premiered at the New York Film Festival. According to the “Gummo” provocateur, we probably shouldn’t even be referring to it as a film, but rather found footage shot on VHS in which a group of mask-wearing voyeurs go around Nashville, indulging in various forms of antisocial behavior from smashing televisions to squatting on people’s doorways. Surprisingly, the most controversy it’s generated so far is when it won for best feature at Copenhagen’s prestigious documentary festival CPH:DOX last fall.
“The Trotsky” (IMDb, Facebook, trailer)
The Cast: Jay Baruchel, Geneviève Bujold, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Colm Feore, Emily Hampshire, Michael Murphy, Saul Rubinek
Writer/Director: Jacob Tierney
Fest Cred: Toronto, Tokyo, Whistler, Rotterdam, Tribeca
The Gist: Following turns in “She’s Out of My League” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” Ottawa-born Baruchel continues his streak by returning to Canada for this high school-set comedy about a revolution-minded student who believes he’s the second coming of Leon Trotsky and gets a rude awakening when his father (Rubinek) sends him to public school. An audience award winner in Tokyo and the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, the satire is crossing the U.S. border for a one-week run at New York’s Tribeca Cinemas starting Wednesday, May 5th, in addition to its ongoing VOD run.
“Welcome” (IMDb, trailer)
The Cast: Vincent Lindon, Firat Ayverdi, Audrey Dana
Writer/Director: Philippe Lioret
Fest Cred: Berlinale, Istanbul, Seattle, Karlovy Vary, Helsinki, Warsaw
The Gist: Simon (Lindon), a middle-aged swimming instructor, finds an unexpected kinship with Bilal (Ayverdi), a 17-year-old Kurdish refugee, in this multi-César nominated drama that sees the two men looking at uncertain futures when Bilal runs into the authorities while en route to reunite with his girlfriend in England as Simon faces the end of his marriage. When Bilal comes looking to train so he can swim across the English Channel, his quest inspires both to change their lives. The film will start an exclusive engagement at New York’s Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
“The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia” (IMDb, Facebook, trailer)
Director: Julien Nitzberg
Fest Cred: Tribeca, San Francisco Doc Fest
The Gist: “Jackass”‘s Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine used their discretionary MTV production fund to back this documentary about the Appalachia-based White family, the redneck clan whose criminal exploits were already exemplified in the 1991 doc “Dancing Outlaw” about mountain dancer Jesco White. Here, that film’s associate producer Nitzberg makes his feature-length doc debut by following the entire family for 18 months as they engage in armed sieges, pregnancies and jail bailouts. A year after its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, it’s getting a VOD release and a week-long run at the Tribeca Cinemas in New York starting on Wednesday, May 5th.