Imagine if the summer was truly owned by Hollywood blockbusters. Like, exclusively.
Every weekend, from now through August, would see the release of only movies about superheroes and demigods and giant robots and giant monsters and giant animated dragons, with the occasional star-studded comedy thrown in for an alternative option here and there.
Fortunately, that's not the case. There's plenty of counter-programming happening over the next four months for those of us who want something besides all the big sequels and sci-fi flicks. If there's anything released by the studios you want to avoid, there's sure to be another film worth seeing.
Below are our 12 most anticipated independent releases for this summer, and don't worry if you think you live somewhere that, at first, seems exclusively owned by the blockbusters: While many of the following films open theatrically in limited release, some of them will be available via Video On Demand either simultaneously or soon after. (Those we know about have been noted).
Gallery | 2014 Indie Movies Summer Preview
- If You're Avoiding 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'...
Go See 'Ida'
Release Date: May 2, 2014
While most of the world is watching an American superhero in a movie with state-of-the-art effects in which a web-slinging superhero discovers secrets about his family, you can see this old-fashioned-looking foreign film in which the main character discovers secrets about her family. Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (who helped make Emily Blunt a star with “My Summer of Love”), the 1960s-set “Ida” is about a young woman on the verge of becoming a nun who learns she’s actually Jewish, and the daughter of victims of the Holocaust. The film has been screening at major film festivals since Fall 2013, receiving glowing reviews along the way.
- If You're Avoiding 'Neighbors'...
Go See 'The Double'
Release Date: May 9, 2014 (also available via VOD the same day)
In “Neighbors,” Seth Rogen declares war on a house full of frat boys who move in next door, including Zac Efron, to wildly hilarious results. In “The Double,” Jesse Eisenberg declares war on an exact look-alike (also Jesse Eisenberg) who both moves next door and starts working in his office, to quirkily hilarious results. The wonderful Mia Wasikowska co-stars as their mutual object of affection in this strange sci-fi-ish Dostoevsky adaptation from British director Richard Ayoade (“Submarine”).
- If You're Avoiding 'Godzilla'...
Go See 'The Immigrant'
Release Date: May 16, 2014
It’s hard not to be curious about "Godzilla," the newest iteration of the iconic Japanese monster movie, given that it’s directed by Gareth Edwards, who made the excellent indie sci-fi flick “Monsters.” But if you’ve been following the career of filmmaker James Gray (“We Own the Night,” “Two Lovers”) and enjoy his collaborations with Joaquin Phoenix, it’s harder not to have high expectations for their latest team-up. Already a critical darling, particularly for the performance given by Marion Cotillard and the cinematography by Darius Khondji, this 1920s-set melodrama about a desperate woman just off the boat is a difficult one to turn down.
- If You're Avoiding 'X-Men: Days of Future Past'...
Go See "Palo Alto"
Release Date: May 23, 2014 (available on iTunes and via VOD this summer)
In the latest installment of the “X-Men” franchise, we get to see the future of our favorite mutant superheroes. But, in “Palo Alto,” we get to see the future of the Coppola family, as this teen drama is the directorial debut of Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola and niece of second-generation filmmakers Sofia and Roman Coppola. And it’s based on a short story by James Franco, who also stars as a teacher having an affair with a student played by Emma Roberts. Many critics have compared the movie to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” which featured the film debut of Nicolas Cage, Gia Coppola’s first cousin (once removed).
- If You're Avoiding 'Maleficent'...
Go See "Korengal"
Release Date: May 30, 2014
Disney’s “Maleficent” shows us “Sleeping Beauty” from a different perspective. Let's let the kids have it. Childless adults, meanwhile, can see Sebastian Junger’s “Korengal,” which shows us “Restrepo” from a different perspective. It’s hard to tell if the new documentary is technically a sequel to the 2010 Oscar-nominated feature, which Junger co-directed with the late Tim Hetherington, or something of a parallel look at events happening at the same time. Regardless, we’re certain that this follow-up will be another brilliant examination of the War in Afghanistan.
- If You're Avoiding 'Edge of Tomorrow'...
Go See 'Obvious Child'
Release Date: June 6, 2014
Hmm, another Tom Cruise sci-fi movie that looks to be as confusing as it is entertaining, or this year’s most notable breakout hit of the Sundance Film Festival? Here’s some info that’ll help you choose: the latter stars funny lady Jenny Slate (TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) as a crass, Brooklyn-based comedienne with an unwanted pregnancy and an unwanted new suitor (Jake Lacy of TV’s “The Office”). Writer-director Gillian Robespierre is being heralded as a fresh, bold voice, one who isn’t afraid to tackle taboo subject matter. In case you haven’t heard, her movie deals with abortion in both a realistic and humorous manner.
- If You're Avoiding '22 Jump Street'...
Go See 'Ivory Tower'
Release Date: June 13, 2014
In the sequel to the hit comedy “21 Jump Street,” Jonah Hill and Channing Tatu go undercover at a college. But is there really anything to laugh about regarding real-life higher education these days? For a reality check, seek out “Ivory Tower,” a documentary from Andrew Rossi (“Page One: Inside the New York Times”) that takes a hard look at the cost and value of American universities. The director doesn’t need to go undercover to illustrate the notable flaws in the system, and what sounds especially intriguing is that Rossi spotlights alternatives to the traditional college plan and experience.
- If You're Avoiding 'Transformers: Age of Extinction'...
Go See 'Snowpiercer'
Release Date: June 27, 2014 (also available via VOD the same day)
Another “Transformers” movie directed by Michael Bay sounds kinda redundant. But if you’re still craving a sci-fi fix the weekend it opens, you could go with the English-language debut of Bong Joon-ho, director of South Korean monster movie “The Host.” Filled with a great cast, including Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, and John Hurt, this post-apocalyptic movie is about a train traveling the world and the class conflicts that still exist in spite of most of humanity being wiped out by a failed attempt to stop global warming.
- If You're Avoiding 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'...
Go See 'Boyhood'
Release Date: July 11, 2014
In the follow-up to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” you'll likely see another extraordinary, effects-driven cautionary tale in which a man (Andy Serkis) embodies a great ape. But, in "Boyhood," the highly acclaimed new movie from director Richard Linklater, you can see the extraordinary effect of watching a little boy (Ellar Coltraine) become a young man. Only with “Boyhood” it's not special effects that age him, because the movie was shot over the course of 12 years in order to authentically depict the coming-of-age story of a child of divorce, from ages 6 to 18. Linklater regular Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play his parents.
- If You're Avoiding 'Jupiter Ascending'...
Go See 'Life Itself'
Release Date: July 18, 2014 (also available via VOD the same day)
It’s been a while since the Wachowskis made a truly satisfying movie, while, on the other hand, it’s been a long time since documentary filmmaker Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “The Interrupters”) has made anything worth avoiding. His latest is another must-see piece of nonfiction, this one a biography of Roger Ebert, who died while it was being made. Since its debut at Sundance, the film has been met with a deluge of tears coupled with plenty of applause from fans of the late film critic. If you’re a lover of movies, you’ll find it impossible not to love Ebert in this doc.
- If You're Avoiding 'Guardians of the Galaxy'...
Go See 'Calvary'
Release Date: August 1, 2014
As amusing as it looks, there’s no guarantee that outer space-set Marvel movie "Guardians of the Galaxy" will be good. Whereas seeing anything starring Brendan Gleeson and directed by one of the McDonagh brothers is one of the safest bets this summer. “Calvary” is directed by John Michael McDonagh (helmer of “The Guard” -- his brother, Martin, made “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths”) and is a dark comedy in which Gleeson plays a priest whose life is threatened for something a deceased colleague did long ago. Set in a small town, the movie promises a robust ensemble piece filled with amusing locals, played by Chris O’Dowd, Dylan Moran, M. Emmet Walsh, Isaac De Bankole, Domhnall Gleeson (Brendan’s real-life son), and Kelly Reilly ("Eden Lake"), who plays the priest’s daughter.
- If You're Avoiding 'The Expendables 3'...
Go See 'The Trip to Italy'
Release Date: August 15, 2014
The gang is back together for another awesome adventure. No, we don’t mean the cast of “The Expendables” franchise. We’re talking about Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon -- OK, so they’re only a duo, not a gang, unless we count returning director Michael Winterbottom, too. Following the hilarious success of 2010’s “The Trip,” Coogan and Brydon, again, play versions of themselves, and although they have a new destination this time (Italy, obviously), it’s said to be a lot of the same, in a good way, including more of their distinctly different and equally side-splitting Michael Caine impersonations.
Article photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight