2011 Top 10 Indie Summer Flicks

(Re-posted from limitémagazine.com)

X-Men: First ClassSuper 8Green LanternTransformers: Dark of the MoonHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2Captain America: The First AvengerCowboys and AliensRise of the Planet of the ApesConan the Barbarian.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the summer films that are on fewer people’s radars—the ones that won’t be #1 at the box office—yet, they’re primed to absorb some serious critical acclaim.

Last year, Limité launched its Top 10 Indie Summer Flicks as an alternate to all of the standard summer blockbusters. Many of those films went on to receive sparkling reviews and accolades, as well as Oscar nominations in several categories (including Best Picture, Best Documentary, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay, among others), so we kinda feel like we know what we’re talking about here.

We’re proud to present the second-annual summer film guide. Share your thoughts below by leaving a comment.


by Daniel Quitério

Michael Sheen and Maria Bello play Bill and Kate, a married couple that learns its son committed a mass shooting at his university before taking his own life. The two struggle through the grief and confusion as the media spill into their lives. Beautiful Boy is the winner of the 2010 Toronto Film Festival International Critics’ Award.

This chilling film is reminiscent of last year’s Rabbit Hole with threads of 2005’s American Gun interwoven. Both Beautiful Boy and Rabbit Hole explore a couple’s relationship as it struggles over the death of a son. In Beautiful Boy, however, the stakes are higher, as that son is also responsible for taking the lives of several others, which is a subplot in the heavy-handed message film American Gun.

This film’s got “Oscar performances” written all over it for both Sheen and Bello, two highly underrated actors who have been aching for and deserving of that spotlight.

Director: Shawn Ku

Screenwriters: Michael Armbruster, Shawn Ku

Cast: Michael Sheen, Maria Bello, Alan Tudyk, Moon Bloodgood, Kyle Gallner, Meat Loaf

Distributor: Anchor Bay Films

Genre: Drama

Site: beautifulboythemovie.com

Release Date: June 3


by Janice Perez

A Better Life is the moving portrayal of the relationship between a father and his son in gritty East LA, where an illegal Mexican immigrant father struggles to keep his adolescent son from falling into the lures of gang life, while evading the watchful eye of immigration agents.  

This film is a major departure for director Chris Weitz from his last project, the box office record-breaking Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), which shattered the biggest midnight opening in domestic box office history. This time, however, Weitz is taking on a very niche-heavy subject.

The dynamic of the estranged father and son is somewhat of a strength of Weitz’s, whose About a Boy (2002) propelled him to well-deserved recognition with the way he cinematically narrated the unfolding relationship between the characters played by Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult. Initial reviews of A Better Life have declared it to be something to keep an eye on come awards season next year with its heavy-hitting display of life’s most important relationship.

Director: Chris Weitz

Screenwriters: Eric Eason, Roger L. Simon

Cast: Demián Bichir, José Julián, Nancy Lenehan

Distributor: Summit Entertainment

Genre: Drama

Site: facebook.com/abetterlifemovie

Release Date: June 24


by Stephanie Dawson

In the British coming-of-age comedy Submarine, 15-year-old Oliver Tate has two big ambitions: to save his parents’ marriage and to lose his virginity before his next birthday. For the former task, he takes to forging love letters and monitoring his parents’ sex life. He must act quickly for fear of his mother cavorting with New Age guru Graham. The object of Oliver’s personal conquest is Jordana, a self-professed pyromaniac. Based on Joe Dunthorne’s acclaimed novel of the same title, Submarine sounds like a good story with an off-beat edge similar to films like The Squid and the WhaleRushmore, and Election.

Executive produced by Ben Stiller, Submarine is the feature directorial debut of British actor Richard Ayoade (The I.T. Crowd), who previously directed music videos for The Arctic Monkeys, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Vampire Weekend. Craig Roberts’s portrayal of the precocious and unique Oliver is his first lead role, and for it, he was named one of Screen International’s 2010 “Stars of Tomorrow,” along with co-star Yasmin Paige. Paige was also honored as Best Actress by the Children’s Entertainment Awards for her role in Tooth (2004). Veterans Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor, and Paddy Considine round out the cast. The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and continued along the festival circuit with stops in London, Sundance, and Hong Kong. The film was released in Europe in March and will bow for US audiences this summer.

Director: Richard Ayoade

Screenwriter: Richard Ayoade

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

Genres: Comedy, Coming of Age

Site: weinsteinco.com/sites/submarine

Release Date: June 3


by Morgan Goldin

The traditional father/son dynamic usually featured in coming-of-age movies gets a completely unconventional exploration in this unique film. After 44 years of marriage and now a widower, Hal (Christopher Plummer) reveals to his son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) that he is gay. Hal, now intending to live his life to the fullest, also gets diagnosed with terminal cancer. These two monumental revelations have a profound effect on Oliver, who now tries to pursue a life with as much passion, zeal, and vigor as shown to him by his father.

The second feature film after the surprisingly resonant Thumbsucker (2005), acclaimed writer/director Mike Mills returns with this autobiographical tale. According to Mills, “This script was developed with the belief that something this personal can become universal. The concrete details of my father’s life, the real struggles, and all the real humor gave the film an authenticity that I hope will make it more powerful and more emotional for all kinds of people.”

In addition to his filmmaking, Mills is a virtuosic music video director, having helmed imaginative pieces for Air, Blonde Redhead, Pulp, and Moby. The filmmaker brings a similarly idiosyncratic style to his feature film work—one that reveals unexpected depths and a truly soulful quality that is rare in indie cinema, which, as of late, seems more interested in being quirky and hip than telling more well-rounded stories.

Beginners is a Focus Features release and looks poised to be one of the summer’s top independent films.

Director: Mike Mills

Screenwriter: Mike Mills

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent

Distributor: Focus Features

Genre: Drama

Site: focusfeatures.com/beginners

Release Date: June 3


by John Lee

Adapted by David Nicholls from his 2009 best-selling novel and directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education), One Day tells the story of brainy, working-class Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) who meets wealthy playboy Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) upon their college graduation on July 15, 1988. They begin a friendship, and from that point on the story follows these two characters on that one day—July 15th—each year after, for the next 20 years.

The wildly popular book charts the maturing of these two Gen-Xers as they go through their relationships, fights, hopes, and missed opportunities, all the while not realizing that what they’re looking for is right in front of them.

There has been much Internet chatter over the casting of Hathaway, as many fans of the book think she is too attractive and glamorous for the role. Scherfig has admitted that Nicholls made changes to Emma in the film to be different from the character in the book. The book’s loyalists will have to judge for themselves this summer whether those changes enhance the story.

Director: Lone Scherfig

Screenwriter: David Nicholls

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson

Distributor: Focus Features

Genres: Drama, Romance

Site: focusfeatures.com/one_day

Release Date: August 19


by Morgan Goldin

The debut feature from Iranian filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz, Circumstance tells the story of a privileged, upper-class family dealing with the daughter’s (Nikohl Boosheri) burgeoning lesbian relationship and her brother’s (Reza Sixo Safai) sudden turn to fundamentalism. This clash of cultures and ideals—especially in an environment as politically and socially oppressive as Iran’s—is presented with fresh nuances and multifaceted details by Keshavarz, who based the narrative on her own personal experiences. Rather than relying on facile stereotypes, Keshavarz infuses her characters with rich, detailed layers. Along with some striking imagery and gorgeous cinematography, Circumstance is a remarkable first feature from a promising new director.

Like Mike Mills’s BeginnersCircumstance stems from personal life experiences. Both films attempt to take unique perspectives and present them to a wider range of filmgoers. Circumstance is the recipient of the 2011 Audience Award—Narrative at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Director: Maryam Keshavarz

Screenwriter: Maryam Keshavarz

Cast: Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazemy, Reza Sixo Safai

Distributors: Roadside Attractions/Participant Media

Genre: Drama

Site: takepart.com/circumstance

Release Date: August 19


by John Lee

Buck Brannaman is a respected horse gentler who travels the country for nine grueling months a year helping horses with people problems. Widely viewed as a real-life “horse whisperer” with magical powers, Buck gets riders to understand as much about their horses as possible.

First-time director Cindy Meehl met Buck at one of his clinics eight years ago. While observing his horse-training techniques, she was intrigued by his ability to instill the feeling of power in people when they were afraid and had given up hope—whether it was about their horses or their lives. It wasn’t until she learned of Buck’s personal story and how he overcame his abusive childhood that she became inspired to make this documentary.

Screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to much acclaim and winning the Audience Award—Documentary, Meehl’s film explores the animal-human relationship as a metaphor for the daily challenges of life. Stunning cinematography adds to the story of a decent man whose common sense cuts to the heart of the matter, an ordinary guy who’s made an extraordinary life despite the odds.

Director: Cindy Meehl

Cast: Buck Brannaman

Distributor: Sundance Selects

Genre: Documentary

Site: buckthefilm.com

Release Date: June 17


by Stephanie Dawson

In The Guard, Sergeant Gerry Boyle is a small-town Irish cop with a confrontational personality, a subversive sense of humor, and an unorthodox manner of upholding the law. When an international cocaine-smuggling ring brings FBI agent Wendell Everett to his seaside village, Boyle wants no part. Everett is an African-American by-the-book agent who is repeatedly turned off by Boyle’s racist and anti-American comments, but soon realizes that Boyle, though unconventional, is the best detective for the case. The two reluctantly must join forces against a smart and quirky set of bad guys in this buddy-cop genre-smashing small-town action comedy.

John Michael McDonagh is the bother of Martin McDonagh, who gave the world In Bruges, and is the screenwriter of the 2003 film Ned Kelly, starring Heath Ledger. Don Cheadle and Martin McDonagh served as executive producers on the film. The film bowed in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance where it garnered much buzz before being picked up by Sony Pictures Classics.

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Screenwriter: John Michael McDonagh

Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Rory Keenan, Mark Strong, Fionnula Flanagan, Dominique McElligott, Sarah Greene, Katarina Cas

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Genres: Action, Comedy

Site: sonyclassics.com/theguard

Release Date: July 29


by Janice Perez

First-time feature-length writer-director Gavin Wiesen weaves a coming-of-age tale by the unlikeliest connections we make in life. George (Freddie Highmore), a loner and cynic on the cusp of finishing high school, befriends Sally (Emma Roberts), the school’s popular girl who hides a very lonely soul inside. She recognizes George’s melancholy as her own, and so the two bond, giving George the inspiration to make something better out of his otherwise hopeless life.

Originally debuting under the title Homework at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Wiesen’s simple, yet all-too-familiar story was acquired by Fox Searchlight Pictures and renamed The Art of Getting By. According to Wiesen, writing this very personal story gave him the confidence to be able to direct something into which he could infuse more powerful emotions.

Michael Angarano, better known as portraying Jack McFarland’s son Elliott in Will & Grace, plays Dustin, an artist who mentors the unmotivated George to aspire for more in life. Challenges abound as graduation day draws nearer, but the strong, most unexpected connections in life prove to George that there’s still so much more to live for.

Director: Gavin Wiesen

Screenwriter: Gavin Wiesen

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Elizabeth Reaser, Alicia Silverstone, Rita Wilson, Blair Underwood

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Genres: Coming of Age, Drama, Romance

Site: foxsearchlight.com/theartofgettingby

Release Date: June 17


by Daniel Quitério

Twelve-year-old Chanda lives in a small village on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa. There, people talk. Soon after Chanda’s infant sister dies, a rumor ignites and spreads like wildfire. It tears Chanda’s family apart and her mother flees the village. Determined to find her, Chanda leaves her home in pursuit, searching for her mother and the truth.

Adapted from the 2004 award-winning novel Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton, Life, Above All has been earning chatter throughout the festival and awards circuits. The film, which is directed by South African filmmaker Oliver Schmitz, stars newcomer Khomotso Manyaka in what looks to be a stunning performance. Life, Above All screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and was South Africa’s official entry for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. It earned a spot on the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film, but fell short of a nomination. The film will open for American audiences on July 15 in New York and Los Angeles.

Director: Oliver Schmitz

Screenwriter: Dennis Foon

Cast: Khomotso Manyaka, Keaobaka Makanyane, Harriet Lenabe

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Genre: Drama

Site: sonyclassics.com/lifeaboveall

Release Date: July 15

The Best of the Rest


IMDb Logline: On the night of the discovery of a duplicate planet in the solar system, an ambitious young student and an accomplished composer cross paths in a tragic accident.

Director: Mike Cahill

Screenwriters: Brit Marling, Mike Cahill

Cast: Brit Marling, William Mapother, Jordan Baker

Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Genres: Drama, Sci-Fi

Site: foxsearchlight.com/anotherearth

Release Date: July 20


Yahoo! Movies Logline: An intimate portrait of late-night television host and comedian Conan O’Brien, focusing on the aftermath of his much-publicized separation from his former employer and his 32-city comedy tour, titled Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television.

Director: Rodman Flender

Cast: Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter

Distributor: Abramorama Entertainment (theatrical)

Genre: Documentary

Site: conanobriencantstop.com

Release Date: June 24


IMDb Logline: When a couple decides to adopt a stray cat, their perspective on life changes radically, literally altering the course of time and space and testing their faith in each other and themselves.

Director: Miranda July

Screenwriter: Miranda July

Cast: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky

Distributor: Roadside Attractions

Genre: Drama

Site: thefuturethefuture.com

Release Date: July 29


IMDb Logline: A story set in 19th century China and centered on the lifelong friendship between two girls who develop their own secret code as a way to contend with the rigid cultural norms imposed on women.

Director: Wayne Wang

Screenwriters: Angela Workman, Ron Bass, Michael K. Ray

Cast: Bingbing Li, Gianna Jun, Vivian Wu

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Genres: Drama, History

Site: foxsearchlight.com/snowflowerandthesecretfan

Release Date: July 15


IMDb Logline: Centers on a large 15-year-old boy in a small town as he struggles to adjust to his difficult life.

Director: Azazel Jacobs

Screenwriters: Patrick Dewitt, Azazel Jacobs

Cast: John C. Reilly, Jacob Wysocki, Creed Bratton

Distributor: ATO Pictures

Genre: Comedy

Site: terri-movie.com

Release Date: July 1

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