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35 Limited Releases To See This Summer

Written by on May 3, 2012 

The main reason we enjoy doing what we do here on TFS is to share our love for great independent films that may not be on your radar. It’s why we focus our efforts on film festivals and it brings no greater joy to recommend these films once they come out in theaters. While other summer countdowns focus on all the films you’ve been hearing about non-stop for the last year, we’ve got a comprehensive list of the worthwhile independent, limited release features to take note of.

While a few, namely one from Focus Features and another from The Weinstein Company are set to go wide initially, they won’t be as hitting as many multiplexes as The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers, therefore making for a worthy mention. Check out the list below, which also includes what you may want to skip over blockbuster-wise at the theaters that same weekend, and let us know what you’re looking forward to this summer.

35. Bel Ami (Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod; June 8th)

Instead of: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and Prometheus

Synopsis: A chronicle of a young man’s rise to power in Paris via his manipulation of the city’s most influential and wealthy women.

Why You Should See It: Carving out his post-Twilight career, Robert Pattinson will be getting into the demented mind of David Cronenberg with Cosmopolis arriving at Cannes this month and soon after he’ll be romancing half of Paris in Bel Ami. In our review we praised the stellar performances, meticulous art design and an absorbing atmosphere and a certain poignancy found here, livening up what could have been a stale romantic tale. – Jordan R.

34. The Woman in the Fifth (Pawel Pawlikowski; June 15th)

Instead of: Rock of Ages and That’s My Boy

Synopsis: A college lecturer flees to Paris after a scandal costs him his job. In the City of Lights, he meets a widow who might be involved in a series of murders.

Why You Should See It: By most accounts, writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski (Last Resort, My Summer of Love) has yet to swing and miss — that it’s been a whole seven years since his last outing only makes expectations higher. This adaptation of Douglas Kennedy’s 2007 novel promises to pack a worthwhile mystery plot, but the real high hopes stem from the juicy central pairing of Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas. The latter couldn’t strike a wrong note if she tried, and it’s been far too long since Hawke has been able to show off his serious chops. – Danny K.

33. Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap (Ice-T; June 15th)

Instead of: Rock of Ages and That’s My Boy

Synopsis: A documentary on rap music and its rise to global prominence.

Why You Should See It: Prior to his career in acting and producing, Ice-T made his mark as a solo rap artist in the late ‘80s hip-hop scene (if you don’t know that much, this film will school you in more ways than one). In this documentary, he pulls together all this experience to investigate the origins of hip-hop, as well as the inspiration and craft behind the movements most enduring performances. With appearances by Grandmaster Caz, Eminem, Kanye West, Run-DMC, and Snoop Dogg, this doc gives any music lover much to salivate on. – Kristen C.

32. Killer Joe (William Friedkin; July 27th)

Instead of: Step Up Revolution and Neighborhood Watch

Synopsis: When a debt puts a young man’s life in danger, he turns to putting a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect the insurance.

Why You Should See It: Killer Joe is a dirty, violent dark comedy that is not for everyone. William Friedkin‘s second collaboration with Pulitzer surprise winner Tracy Letts may not be as accomplished as Bug, but it’s another sign these two madmen were made for each other; both interested in showing the ugliness and strange beauty to the unlikeliest of leads (and heroes). Killer Joe is a deranged romantic comedy, the type we don’t get as often as we should. You’ll laugh, with the film or possibly at it, but either way you’ll still be laughing. – Jack G.

31. Trishna (Michael Winterbottom; July 13th)

Instead of: Ice Age: Continental Drift and Ted

Synopsis: The story of the tragic relationship between the son of a property developer and the daughter of an auto rickshaw owner.

Why You Should See It:  Coming off his road trip movie The TripMichael Winterbottom is switching gears yet again, with an adaptation Thomas Hardy‘s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Featuring Slumdog Millionaire star Frieda Pinto, Trishna is a well-shot and strong portrayal of dangerous romance, but the slow pacing and repetitive may turn off some. Still, Winterbottom effortlessly captures a frenetic environment of India, making this one worth a view. – Jordan R.

30. The Magic of Belle Isle (Rob Reiner; July 6th)

Instead of: The Amazing Spider-Man, Savages and Katy Perry: Part of Me

Synopsis: In an effort to tap into his original talent, a wheelchair-bound author moves to a rural town, where he befriends a single mother and her three kids, who help reignite his passion for writing.

Why You Should See It: The early marketing for Rob Reiner’s latest could hardly be filled with more forced messages of life-affirmation, but the director’s little-seen Flipped managed to be a rather agreeable charmer despite similar early-bird warning signs. Here’s hoping he’s able to strike the right note of poignancy working with a story centered around the absolute opposite demographic. The film also marks Morgan Freeman’s first legit leading performance since 2009’s Invictus — that ought to count for something. – Danny K.

29. Easy Money (Daniel Espinosa; July 27th)

Instead of: Step Up Revolution and Neighborhood Watch

Synopsis: A three-tiered story centered around drugs and organized crime, and focused on a young man who becomes a runner for a coke dealer.

Why You Should See It: Our first look at Daniel Espinosa‘s work here in America was the Denzel Washington/Ryan Reynolds thriller Safe House earlier this year, but his previous film, Snabba Cash (or Easy Money) is finally getting a proper release. The crime drama is already getting turned into a trilogy and we’ll able to see just how our future RobocopJoel Kinnaman, caught Hollywood’s eye with this slick drug thriller. – Jordan R.

28. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass; June 6th)

Instead of: The Amazing Spider-Man, Savages and Katy Perry: Part of Me

Synopsis: Two brothers compete in their own private 25-event Olympics.

Why You Should See It: I have yet to see anything disappointing come from Mark and Jay Duplass, who have a tendency to get a lot of work out of their actors. For fans of the duo, this should offer no less, as the two character brothers compete shamelessly, before their plan is discovered by the rest of the family. Expect big laughs, with some heartfelt family moments, as the filmmakers deliver their trademark blend of witty humor and deep emotional resonance. Check out our SXSW review. – Kristen C.

27. Farewell, My Queen (Benoit Jacquot; July 13th)

Instead of: Ice Age: Continental Drift and Ted

Synopsis: A look at the relationship between Marie Antoinette and one of her readers during the final days of the French Revolution.

Why You Should See It: Premiering to strong reviews at the Berlin Film Festival, this period drama will grace theaters this summer in limited release. Ghotocol baddie Léa Seydoux teams with Inglourious Basterds star Diane Kruger for what should be an elegant, reserved portrayal of a character that has been featured in more than 80 films. – Jordan R.

26. Celeste and Jesse Forever (Lee Toland Krieger; August 3rd)

Instead of: The Bourne Legacy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and Total Recall

Synopsis: A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.

Why You Should See It: Coming off the overlooked drama The Vicious KindLee Toland Krieger doesn’t quite live up to that effort with his follow-up Celeste and Jesse Forever, but it’s still difficult not to be charmed by Rashida Jones. The unique structure provides a good mix of laughs and drama and SNL vet Andy Samberg surprisingly pulls off  a lead role, one much different than something like Hot Rod. – Jordan R.

25. The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield; July 6th)

Instead of: The Amazing Spider-Man, Savages and Katy Perry: Part of Me

Synopsis: A documentary that follows a billionaire couple who live in a 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by Versailles, built on the success of the time-share industry.

Why You Should See It: It’s an interesting, personal story, showing the inner struggle of a family, as they try to cope with situations they’re not used to. It both humorous and infuriating, told from the view of one of the richest families in the country, an even smaller fraction of the 1%. And yet, despite the obscene amount of wealth displayed, one does feel sympathy, as filmmaker Lauren Greenfield does well to capture the complexity of their struggle. Check out our Sundance review. – Kristen C.

24. 2 Days In New York (Julie Delpy; August 10th)

Instead of: The Campaign and Hope Springs

Synopsis: Marion now lives in New York and when her family decides to come visit her, she’s unaware that the different cultural background held by her new American boyfriend Mingus, her eccentric father, and her sister Rose who decided to bring her ex-boyfriend along for the trip, added to her upcoming photo exhibition, will make up for an explosive mix.

Why You Should See It: With her follow up to 2 Days In Paris, Julie Delpy presses fast-forward on her life and finds herself with a new man in her life (Chris Rock). Serving as writer, director, producer and star again here, Delpy returns with her witty, fast-paced dialogue as she examines more language-barrier, social situation comedy. While the last act doesn’t live up to the first two, the film is a consistently funny intellectual examination of ignoring cultural norms. Check out our Sundance review. – Jordan R.

23. Indie Game: The Movie (Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky; May 18th)

Instead of: Battleship, The Dictator and What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Synopsis: Follows the dramatic journeys of indie game developers as they create games and release those works, and themselves, to the world.

Why You Should See It: While Hollywood is still trying to crack the code of a successfully videogame adaptation, this month we have a documentary that takes a look at the nitty gritty of actual development of these games. Instead of big developers, the doc takes an insightful look at the struggles of independent creators. Read our review from Sundance and look for the film in limited release this month. – Jordan R.

22. Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow; June 8th)

Instead of: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and Prometheus

Synopsis: Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.

Why You Should See It: Director Colin Trevorrow and screenwriter Derek Connolly took a note from Steven Spielberg and all the great sci-fi filmmaker’s playbook: the story isn’t the high-concept, but the human drama that comes from it. When people consider the possibilities of time travel, they usually jump to the conclusion of going back 100 years or beating up Hitler. In Safety Not Guaranteed, it’s about fixing your past mistakes. What the film ends up saying about the mistakes of the past I won’t spoil, but the film ends up taking on a warm and sweet quality, without ever glossing over the serious drama at hand. Check out our Sundance review. – Jack G.

21. Klown (Mikkel Nørgaard; July 27th)

Instead of: Step Up Revolution and Neighborhood Watch

Synopsis: After making a wrong move, resulting in his brother-in-law falling off a ladder, Frank must take care of his nephew Bo and include him in an all-male canoe-trip, which was planned before the accident.

Why You Should See It: The trailer – which is, really, just an excerpt – is bizarre, offensive, and funny in equal measure; if that worked for you, I imagine Klown will deliver as an overall piece. Otherwise, it’s best to avoid and forever move on. (Maybe Todd Phillips and Danny McBride developing the remake should tell you something, too.) Those who have seen Klown attest that it goes some pretty unbelievable places and, for that alone, I’m up for a viewing. – Nick N.


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