2013 Top 10 Indie Summer Flicks

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

Man of SteelStar Trek into DarknessWorld War Z. These are the movies we won’t be talking about in this summer movie feature. For the fourth year, Limité is taking a look beyond the standard blockbuster studio fare to bring you some of the most-anticipated independent films with a summer release date. Proving that a $100 million budget is not a necessity—and is often a hindrance—to deliver a powerful story, these 10 films masterfully transform a small budget into a big punch.


by Daniel Quitério

January 1, 2009. Oakland, CA. Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black male, was caught in a physical altercation on a train a mere two hours after celebrating the passing of the new year with his friends. Held at the Fruitvale BART station by the police, an agitated Oscar was restrained by the officers, held with his face against the ground. One officer then pulled out his gun and shot the unarmed Oscar in the back, ultimately ending his life. (The officer claims he was reaching for his stun gun.) Fruitvale Station tells the true story of Oscar’s last day alive. A conflicted young father, he was just trying to get by, and although he didn’t always make the soundest choices, he was loved dearly by his family and friends—none of whom believed he deserved his ultimate fate.

Ryan Coogler, a black man about the same age as Oscar, was in the Bay Area that night working security. He heard about the tragedy and the story remained with him. Thanks to a glowing recommendation from one of his USC film professors, Coogler was given a meeting with producer Forest Whitaker, and thus was the start of realizing Oscar’s story on the big screen. Now just 27, Coogler has demonstrated a knack for filmmaking in his debut feature usually displayed by veteran directors. His sentimental portrayal of a conflicted youth, with whom Coogler admits he identifies, has rocked the world of independent cinema, earning him the two biggest prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award), as well as the Best First Film award at Cannes.

Primed to become this year’s Beasts of the Southern Wild (in terms of an indie film’s ability to capture a mass audience and be catapulted into awards contention), Fruitvale Station would be nothing if not for the stellar, heartfelt performances by Michael B. Jordan (TV’s Friday Night Lights) as Oscar; Melonie Diaz (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, 2006) as Sophina, Oscar’s girlfriend; and Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (The Help, 2011) as Wanda, the grieving mother. There are obvious parallels between the stories of Oscar Grant and the very relevant Trayvon Martin; both men’s deaths add to the unfortunate statistic of violence against young, black men. However, Oscar—like Trayvon—was an individual first, with the same hopes and fears as anyone else. This is an important story—a very real story.

Director: Ryan Coogler

Screenwriter: Ryan Coogler

Cast: Melonie Diaz, Kevin Durand, Michael B. Jordan, Chad Michael Murray, Octavia Spencer

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

Genre: Drama

Site: fruitvalefilm.com

Release Date: Currently in theatres (limited)



by John Lee

The Bling Ring was a real-life group of mostly teenagers who, from October 2008 to November 2009, robbed a string of celebrity homes, including those of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and Lindsay Lohan. They allegedly stole close to $3 million in clothing, cash, jewelry, handbags, and more. In 2010, Vanity Fair chronicled the group’s escapades in an article by Nancy Jo Sales. It’s this article that is the basis of Sofia Coppola’s fifth feature.

Coppola cast Emma Watson as one of the rebellious members, which the actress saw as a departure from her previous roles. Watson said, “It was really important for me not to make her [the character of Nicki] a caricature. She had to be human. I wanted to get inside her head and see why she was so obsessed with fame.”

The film had its premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Playing Rebecca, the ring leader of the group, newcomer Katie Chang’s performance had audiences and critics buzzing and heralding her as a breakout star. Chang spoke of her character as “just a girl who desperately hates herself and thinks that these possessions are going to validate her.” Coppola hopes the film will be a biting commentary on our celebrity-obsessed culture without succumbing to satire or being judgmental. From the response at Cannes, it seems that she has succeeded.

Director: Sofia Coppola

Screenwriter: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, Leslie Mann, Gavin Rossdale, Emma Watson

Distributor: A24

Genre: Drama

Site: theblingring.com

Release Date: Currently in theatres



by Curtis John

After being dumped by his girlfriend, Sutter (Miles Teller, 21 & Over, 2013), a charming live-in-the-now-minded high school senior, decides to woo science-fiction-loving social outcast Aimee (Shailene Woodley, The Descendants, 2011), a girl fully removed from his in-crowd theatrics. He thinks he can change her innocence to match his wild style, but as they form an unexpected bond Aimee’s nature of dreaming and planning for the future instead changes Sutter’s drunken, delusional philosophy of a spectacular now.

Fresh off the critical success of last year’s Smashed, director James Ponsoldt returns with his newest film about an odd couple, a theme that seems to be his expertise. Despite a seemingly familiar plotline, critics have noted that the script, adapted from the Tim Tharp novel of the same name, has an unaffected portrayal of teenagers that combined with deft acting shows the uncertainty of decisions we make as adolescents.

In an Entertainment Weekly interview following the film’s Sundance Film Festival premiere, Ponsoldt sums up and counters people’s initial expectations about his film, stating, “Films that have teenagers, people assume have to have an adolescent value system. [The Spectacular Now] isn’t that. It’s really honest, it’s really romantic.”

Director: James Ponsoldt

Screenwriters: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miles Teller, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Shailene Woodley

Distributor: A24

Genres: Comedy, Drama

Site: spectacularnowmovie.com

Release Date: August 2 (limited)



by Saidah Russell

The Way, Way Back is a coming-of-age story set during one summer in the life of a teenage boy named Duncan (Liam James, 2012, 2009), a self-conscious and socially awkward outsider. After his mother (Toni Collette) and her domineering boyfriend (Steve Carell) decide to vacation at their beach house, Duncan finds an unexpected friend and mentor in Owen (Sam Rockwell), manager of the local water park. As a way to avoid his family, Duncan begins to spend more of his time at the park bonding with Owen and the other employees while picking up valuable life lessons and self-confidence along the way. The Way, Way Back falls into a long tradition of films dealing with teenage self-discovery against the backdrop of summer vacation.

There is much talent behind this movie. Beyond the more obvious quality cast selections (i.e., Carell, Collette, Rockwell) the film is co-written, co-directed, and features performances by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the Oscar-winning screenwriting duo behind 2011′s The Descendants, as well as actors in TV sitcoms Ben and Kate andCommunity, respectively. With comparisons to 2006′s Little Miss Sunshine (which also stars Carell and Collette), this indie seems to capture the spirit of the summer and is definitely a must-see this season.

Directors: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Screenwriters: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Cast: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Rob Corddry, Nat Faxon, Liam James, Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, Jim Rash, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph

Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Genres: Comedy, Drama

Site: foxsearchlight.com/thewaywayback

Release Date: Currently in limited release



by Daniel Quitério

Perhaps once or twice in a generation an entrepreneur comes along and forces the world to think different. What began in a Los Altos, California garage in the mid ’70s went on to affect the world in a profound way—in the way we listen to music, the way we watch movies, and the way we communicate with others. Steve Jobs is the reason we have Mac computers, iTunes, iPods, iPhones, and iPads, and although his name is known worldwide, his early successes and tribulations may not be as well known. This summer, his biopic will reveal the long road Jobs journeyed as a young California hippie to his co-founding of Apple Computer, his famous ousting from the company, and his celebrated return.

Directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote, 2008) with a debut screenplay from Matt Whiteley, Jobs (formerly jOBS) stars Ashton Kutcher in the title role, breaking from the light comedic fare on which he’s built his career. The movie first reached the silver screen as the closing night film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and has since received mixed reactions. Jobs opens in theatres on August 16, and it likely won’t be long before audiences will be able to enjoy it on their Apple-branded mobile devices.

Director: Joshua Michael Stern

Screenwriter: Matt Whiteley

Cast: Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, J.K. Simmons, James Woods

Distributor: Open Road Films

Genre: Drama

Site: thejobsmovie.com

Release Date: August 16



by John Lee

A much buzzed-about feature at this year’s Sundance Film Festival,Ain’t Them Bodies Saints tells the story of Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2011) and Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck, Gone Baby Gone, 2007), two young impoverished lovers who commit a crime of desperation that spirals into violence. Bob goes to prison while Ruth gives birth to their child. When Bob escapes to reunite with his young family, he can’t imagine the consequences that are put into motion as a result of his actions.

With its beautiful cinematography and hushed voiceovers, Ain’t them Bodies Saints evokes the work of filmmaker Terrence Malick, though it was other aspects of the film and its shoot that stand out most to its two stars. Mara cites the no-frills shoot as adding to the authenticity and tone. She said, “It was blazing hot while we were filming and there was no air-conditioning. We just had to suffer through it, which I think helped keep our performances genuine and true.”

Affleck was most captivated by the film’s richly detailed script, stating, “Usually, as an actor, you want to mix it up and try different things. With this script, since it was so beautifully written and layered I never felt the need to improvise. It’s a rare thing to stick to the script to a T.”

Director: David Lowery

Screenwriter: David Lowery

Cast: Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Rooney Mara

Distributor: IFC Films

Genre: Drama

Site: ifcfilms.com/films/aint-them-bodies-saints

Release Date: August 16



by Morgan Goldin

A contemporary facelift is applied to this classic Shakespeare comedy chronicling two pairs of lovers in their trials and tribulations concerning matters of the heart. The original setting of Messina, a port in Sicily, is transplanted to modern day Los Angeles. The governor Leonato hatches a plot to convince his officer Benedick to fall in love with Beatrice, while his other officer Claudio has fallen for Beatrice’s cousin, Hero. All the while, madcap miscommunications ensue and external forces conspire to keep these lovers apart.

It is a good time to be a resident of the Whedon-verse. No longer the misunderstood visionary toiling in the medium of television, the man behind BuffyFirefly, and Angel is currently one of the mainstream studios’ reliably bankable filmmakers, as is evidenced by his box office smash hit The Avengers (2012). Joss Whedon sought to apply his take on this timeless tale of the battle of the sexes. Applying iambic pentameter to a modern setting has been done before to varying degrees of success, but with his own unique, witty flavor, Whedon seems poised to deliver something vastly entertaining. He assembled an alumnus cast from his various TV shows to create a deeply romantic ode to all of love’s hopes and promises.

Director: Joss Whedon

Screenwriter: Joss Whedon

Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz

Distributor: Roadside Attractions

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Site: muchadomovie.com

Release Date: Currently in theatres



by Morgan Goldin

The latest foray into the vampire sub-genre, Byzantium tells the story of a mother-daughter duo of bloodsuckers on the lam from a cabal of male vampires. After 200 years on the run, they seek refuge in a sleepy English seaside town. The older of the pair, Clara (Gemma Arterton, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, 2013) convinces a local to manage a brothel and provide shelter at his rundown hotel, Byzantium, while the daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) strikes a friendship with another youthful outsider. As the other residents of the town discover their dark origins, a series of tragic events begin to transpire.

Director Neil Jordan is no stranger to this horror sub-genre. A modern poet with startling command of imagery, Jordan previously breathed new life into these pictures with the masterfully elegiacInterview with a Vampire (1994). Casting the gifted young actress Ronan, who showcased a similar disposition to violent tendencies in the underrated thriller Hanna (2011), was a masterstroke. Early reports state that this film is like no other in recent vampire film lore. With his assured vision and lush style, Jordan is able to do something that is growing increasingly rare in horror movies—treat them seriously.

Director: Neil Jordan

Screenwriter: Moira Buffini

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Caleb Landry Jones, Daniel Mays, Saoirse Ronan

Distributor: IFC Films

Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Thriller

Site: ifcfilms.com/films/byzantium

Release Date: Currently in theatres



by Saidah Russell

In Austenland, a woman named Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is so obsessed with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that no real man she meets can ever compare to character Mr. Darcy. Out of love and desperation for the world Jane Austen created, Hayes decides to spend her life savings and take a trip to the English resort Austenland, where Regency-era England and Austen’s works are literally brought to life. There, Hayes finally comes face to face with the man/character she’s obsessed over for so long.

Based on the novel of the same name by Shannon Hale, Austenlandwas brought to the big screen by director Jerusha Hess, who was one of the minds behind the 2004 cult classic Napoleon Dynamite. In addition to having origins and subject matter oriented in the literary world, Austenland is also produced by the wildly successful Stephenie Meyers (author of the Twilight series), something that is sure to attract a loyal audience. After a successful premier at Sundance, the film will begin its limited release in mid August.

Director: Jerusha Hess

Screenwriters: Jerusha Hess, Shannon Hale

Cast: Jennifer Coolidge, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Keri Russell, Jane Seymour

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Genres: Comedy, Romance

Site: sonyclassics.com/austenland

Release Date: August 16 (NYC)


by Curtis John

When a once-wealthy New York housewife (Cate Blanchett) suddenly finds herself financially and emotionally ruined, she is forced to relocate to San Francisco to live with her sister. In order to regain her sense of self worth, she must accept who she is and, most importantly, accept the Bay Area as her home in this romantic comedy from legendary filmmaker Woody Allen.

As per usual for Allen, beyond this pieced-together plotline from various sources, all is mum about this project except for the casting, which also includes Alec Baldwin as Blanchett’s ex-husband, Peter Sarsgaard (An Education, 2009), Sally Hawkins (Jane Eyre, 2011), and comedians Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay. What we do know aboutBlue Jasmine is that Allen, after focusing his most recent movies in Rome, Paris, and London, finally returns to America and once again makes the city he films in specific to the plot, making it its own distinct character along with his other cynical and wayward brand of characters.

Director: Woody Allen

Screenwriter: Woody Allen

Cast: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Genre: Drama

Site: sonyclassics.com/bluejasmine

Release Date: July 26 (limited)

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