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Alternative Tentpoles: a Preview of Indie Summer 2012

By tt stern-enzi · April 25th, 2012 · Movies
The beginning of May has heralded the dawn of summer at the box office for nearly a decade, which means that by now, thanks to the rise of the movie trailers, we are all overly familiar with the blockbusters of the season. Marvel’s The Avengers kicks things off for the superheroes, with The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises to come. Ridley Scott has been teasing audiences with Prometheus and the its eternal question — is it really an Alien prequel? There’s a third Men in Black with a time traveling Agent J (Will Smith) jumping into the past to save Agent K (Josh Brolin as the younger Tommy Lee Jones, quite inspired casting actually), a Battleship on the horizon, a Tim Burton-Johnny Depp collaboration to sink our teeth into (Dark Shadows), and a pair of animated aces (Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and Ice Age: Continental Drift) to up the family-friendly ante just a bit.

But what’s the more discriminating audience member to do to cool off after all of this blaring summer heat? Why, retreat to the art-house for a bit of well-needed sunscreen. Here’s a sample of the best likely indie summer treats, but beware — one or two of these picks might generate enough heat to challenge the brighter lights of the season. (All release dates are based on limited platform release scheduling and are subject to regional adjustments.)

Lola Versus (June 8) Lola (Greta Gerwig) is the quintessential twentysomething New York It-Girl of the moment, cut loose by her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman from The Killing) weeks before their wedding, and set adrift in a world of casual hook-ups and binge behavior that runs counter to her otherwise straight-laced nature.

As dark as it might get, Gerwig will certainly make it through to the new dawn.

Your Sister’s Sister (June 15) Lynn Shelton’s latest, starring Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt, sounds like the kind of twisted love story that the late Jeff Buckley might have penned if he had set his mind to film rather than music. A slacker-in-mourning (Duplass) winds up sharing a family cabin with a friend (Blunt) and her half-sister (DeWitt) who happens to be getting over a bad breakup. Let’s say lots of feelings get stirred and shaken along the way.

Take This Waltz (June 29) A personal favorite of mine from last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Take This Waltz, Sarah Polley’s directing follow-up to Away from Her, stars Michelle Williams as a young wife shuffling between the comfort and stability of her hubby (Seth Rogen) and a hot neighbor (Luke Kirby), just waiting to see who she ends up with once the music stops.

Savages (July 6) While it is hard to consider a new film from Oliver Stone an undiscovered indie gem, Savages, based on a novel by Don Winslow, about an unconventional trio — a pair of independent pot entrepreneurs (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson) and the girl (Blake Lively) they both love and share — who cross a Mexican drug lord (Salma Hayek) and her main henchman (Benecio Del Toro), potentially has the kind of meaty cerebral thrills that could get overshadowed by the shock and awe of the CGI explosions and green-screen mayhem overplaying its way in the multiplexes.

Killer Joe (July 27) Another Toronto title, one I sadly missed during its festival appearance, this Joe is anything but average. Emile Hirsch plays a sad sack who hires a killer (Matthew McConaughey) to knock off his mother. The buzz centered on McConaughey’s devilishly ruthless turn, a welcome departure from his long string of low-wattage easy-on-the-eye (but oh so hard to stomach) rom-com/action power plays.

2 Days in New York (Aug. 10) Julie Delpy skips from Paris (she hooked up with Adam Goldberg for a couple of days there) to the Big Apple and settles down with Chris Rock … yes, I said Chris Rock. The sun seems to rise and set with her, so why not give her a couple of days to find love again. 

Lawless (Aug. 31) Raise a glass to the latest from John Hillcoat (The Proposition), another tale of siblings on the wrong side of the law. This time, it is Prohibition and the outlaw brothers (Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, and Shia LaBeouf) traffic in moonshine with a less than honest federal agent from Chicago (Guy Pearce) breathing down their necks. The Wild West is slowly dying and in its wake, we’ve got the birth of the age of gangsterism. Strong stuff.

CONTACT TT STERN-ENZI: letters@citybeat.com



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