12 Indie Gems You Can't Miss This Summer!
by Alex Billington
May 29, 2008
This may be arriving just a bit too late, considering we're already part of the way through the summer, but realistically, it's never too late to feature some independent gems that need every last bit of loving they can get. I don't know why the studios chose to release these during the busy summer season, but instead of complaining, I'm going to point you in the right direction. These are the 12 best indie gems that you'll find all summer long. If you've got a few extra hours, instead of renting some boring flick from last year, try and find one of these at your local art house theater - I guarantee you won't be let down. Each one is just as unique as the last and yet each one is also as entertaining as the next. We hope you enjoy!
When you browse through these films below, please look past just the photo, the director, or the cast, because there's something truly great about each and every one. And I may not be able to convey that in the photo or in my description alone, but if you get to chance to actually see one of these, you'll truly understand why it deserved to be mentioned on this list.
Son of Rambow
Written and Directed by Garth Jennings
Set in the early 1980's, Son of Rambow is a wonderful comedy about a boy named Will who takes it upon himself to remake Rambo: First Blood in the most childish of ways after watching a bootlegged version on VHS. This film is such an enduring and heartwarming tale that reminds everyone of the joys of cinema. While the promotional material describes it as "a comedy about friendship, faith and the weird business of growing up," it really is a film about the love of movies and free-natured spirit that only kids have. Not only do I love this movie, but everyone else who has seen it has fallen in love with it, too. Watch the trailer!
The Tracey Fragments
Directed by Bruce McDonald
The Tracey Fragments is a twisted Canadian drama about Tracey Berkowitz, played by Ellen Page, and her fragmented mind. I wouldn't call this film amazing by any means, but it's such a unique experience that I can't help but mention it. Filmmaker Bruce McDonald splits various scenes into fragmented shapes on the screen that represent Tracey's skewed thoughts. It's almost tiresome to watch, but I found myself simply sitting in awe most of the film. If you're in the mood for some very experimental filmmaking, The Tracey Fragments is one of the few that I'd suggest you check out. Watch the trailer!
Directed by Tarsem Singh
A visually stunning fantastical tale of a young girl's fascination with the stories about mythical heroes told by an injured stuntman. This is one of the few that I haven't yet had the chance to see, but have heard enough great things from friends (including our own Kevin Powers and Ken Evans), that I'm certain it's great. Tarsem Singh is an incredibly unique filmmaker and it took him 12 years to actually complete this film. It looks amazing and the story sounds twisted and compelling. While this may not be the easiest to sit back and enjoy, like a number of comedies on this list, I'm certain you won't soon forget it if you have the chance to see it - which I suggest you do! Watch the trailer!
The Foot Fist Way
Written and Directed by Jody Hill
The Foot Fist Way is a comedy about an inept karate instructor named Fred Simmons. Although I haven't actually seen this yet, it's garnered enough buzz to have me convinced that it's great. The film stars Danny R. McBride and was shot before he was as big as he is today. Apparently this is the comedy that put McBride on the map. Will Ferrell himself saw this and loved it so much that he personally brought it to the studio to distribute. Now, two years after its debut at Sundance, it's finally hitting theaters. It's supposed to awesome, so if you have a chance to check it out, I suggest you do. Watch the trailer!
Written and Directed by Martin Hynes
An experimental road trip film starring Lou Taylor Pucci as a teen who steals a car and drives from Oregon to Reno to Mexico. Hands down easily one of my favorites from Sundance in 2007, where it first premiered. The film hasn't really picked up much steam since it debuted, which is a shame, because it is such an great generational film, along the lines of Garden State or Napoleon Dynamite. It's not overly comical, but the experimental cinematography and enduring performances from Lou Taylor Pucci and Zooey Deschanel are what turn this from just another rock into a truly wonderful gem. Watch the trailer!
Written and Directed by Steve Conrad
In The Promotion, Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly star as two competing employees both looking to get the same management job at a new supermarket under construction. It's a corporate comedy that just came out of nowhere. I hadn't heard anything about it before I saw it, but went in and laughed my ass off the entire time. The chemistry between Scott and Reilly is amazing and the comedy is great. This is the movie that Employee of the Month should have been but wasn't. I could call this one of the best films of the year, but there are so many other good choices on this list alone (The Wackness, American Teen), that I won't say it completely beats out those. However, it is definitely one of the best corporate comedies I've ever encountered - on the same level as Office Space. Watch the trailer!
Written and Directed by Jonathan Levine
The Wackness is a comedy about a pot-dealing teen named Luke Shapiro, played by Josh Peck, living in New York City in 1994. The film tells the story of how Luke's life changed over one summer all because of one girl named Stephanie, played by the charming Olivia Thirlby. This could be the year's best film. I've seen it twice already, all because it's just that good and I can't get enough of it. Sir Ben Kingsley turns out to be the funniest stoner psychiatrist ever and Josh Peck brings a hilarious innocence to the rather amusing story. While not as mainstream as Pineapple Express, this will bring about the revival of the stoner film in a way that Pineapple Express can't even touch. I encourage everyone to fall in love with this movie like I have - you'll thank me in the end! Watch the trailer!
Written and Directed by Nanette Burstein
American Teen is a documentary following the lives of four high school seniors over the course of their last year. This is this year's best documentary, hands down. I've seen it multiple times, like The Wackness, because the moment I leave the theater I'm already looking forward to when I'll get to see it again. It's got everything: drama, romance, comedy, hope, fear, everything! But it's brilliantly conveyed, wonderfully put together, and an experience that you soon won't forget. As much as it sounds like I'm explaining a fictional film, I'm not, this is still a documentary, a damn brilliant documentary. Watch the trailer!
Written and Directed by The Duplass Brothers
Baghead is a hilarious horror comedy mix about four wanna-be actors who spend a weekend together at a house in the woods. Before long, some creep with a bag on his head begins to scare them. I really wish I had heard of the Duplass Brothers before Sundance, because these guys are soon going to hit it big and I've only just caught up with them on the tail end. Baghead is an absolute blast. I had one of the most incredible experiences watching this for the first time at Sundance. It is the perfect combination of horror and comedy. In one minute you'll be gripping you chair in fear, the next you'll be falling out of it laughing. This is a horror film for those of you who don't even like horror! I strongly encourage everyone to go see this! Watch the trailer!
Written and Directed by Larry Bishop
Hell Ride is a grungy biker flick about two biker gangs who have it out for each other. If you loved Grindhouse, you'll love Hell Ride. It's that simple. It's hard to realize that this is an independent film, but truth be told, it is. Larry Bishop, the filmmaker who basically started the biker film era as a teen back in the 1970's, was brought back by Quentin Tarantino to reignite the genre. And let me tell you this film kicks ass in every possible way. It's loud, it's raunchy, it's violent, and it's just all out mayhem. It's not for everyone, but if you love badass biker flicks or anything grindhouse, then make sure you get your ass out to see it. Watch the trailer!
Written and Directed by Alan Ball
A drama about a young Arab-American who moves into an American neighborhood and struggles to deal with her own puberty and strict father. Although I've missed countless screenings of this, I've heard many of my friends tell me that it's superb. Their appreciation stems from the writing abilities of Alan Ball, who also wrote American Beauty and created the hit TV show "Six Feet Under". In Towelhead, his ability to manage a complex story involving multiple characters really shines through. If anything, this is one to keep your eye on for Oscar consideration as well as quite a bit of critical acclaim. Watch the trailer!
Written and Directed by Clark Gregg
Adapted from Chuck Palahniuk's novel, Choke tells the story of Victor Mancini - a sex-addicted con-man who works as a historical reenactor by day and chokes himself at restaurants to get innocent bystanders to become his savior by night. While this isn't the best Chuck Palahniuk adaptation (that will always be Fight Club), this is the next best. It's full of sex, it's hilarious, and it's downright dirty at times, but damnit, it's a good film! It has the chance to be as big of a hit as Juno, if Fox Searchlight markets it correctly, because its got the makings of a mainstream comedic success. That alone should convince you to at least check it out! Watch the trailer!
Summer Update! We're part of the way through the summer movie season and most of the films on the first half of this list should have spread to your local theater by now. If not, make sure you ask them when and if they're going to get that film. If so, please leave some feedback in the comments below. We want to hear your thoughts once you see any of the films on the list!
Have a great summer and enjoy! And don't forget to keep your eye out for these 12 independent gems as they make their way to your city soon enough!
Reader Feedback - 27 Comments
I've seen two of these...Son of Rambow (excellent) and The Wackness (great) I really want to see the rest of these, especially American Teen, The Tracey Fragments, The Fall... ah screw it... all of them look good.
Jeff Warner on May 29, 2008
For less of a mind-blow but still kick-ass filmmaking (in my humble opinion), Bruce McDonald is currently filming his next feature, Pontypool, hopefully for inclusion in TIFF this year. (Filming slated to end on June 7th). Not to be all promo-like, just that I read some articles about it earlier; ought to be grand. Cheers.
Anonymous on May 29, 2008
I seen Son of Rambow a while ago (OK) but AVOID the Tracey Fragments!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ryan on May 29, 2008
I really loved the Tracey Fragments. It was an interesting approach to a complex story and I really love Ellen Page in almost anything she does. I'd definitely say it's worth seeing. I'm still waiting for the Go-Getter and Towelhead. Both look absolutely incredible.
Lexie on May 29, 2008
I've heard great things about Son of Rambow but I really want to see American Teen and The Wackness.
Janet on May 29, 2008
the tracey fragments... ick.
noshitdude on Jun 2, 2008
I really, really would like to see American Teen and The Wackness as well. I see most of you did not like the Tracey Fragments.
Antiques on Jun 5, 2008
I love innocent movies, Son of Rambow might be my pick.
email@example.com on Jun 9, 2008
I saw Son of Rambow a little while back and it's one of the best things I've seen in a long while. Well worth it.
Charbarred on Jun 18, 2008
I have to say, i did not enjoy The Tracey Fragments either. However i'm really lookng forward to everything else on this list, especially Choke. I'm a big Chuck Palahniuk fan.
Luna on Jun 20, 2008
I wanna see rambow but I think I might end up at that one by myself. But it looks really cute.
Jenny on Jun 22, 2008
How About Ten Inch Hero?
Vanilla on Jul 1, 2008
The Fall was magnificent. The most visually stunning movie I've ever seen.
Blake on Jul 2, 2008
Why would you include a movie in this list that YOU HAVE NOT SEEN. You are helping to destroy the internet, one top-10 list at a time.
Anonymous on Jul 17, 2008
Te Tracey Fragments is one of my favorite movies of all time. When I saw the title of the article, I hoped it would be on here. Kudos. - firstname.lastname@example.org
Alix on Jul 30, 2008
the wakness u gotta be shitting me? that was by far one of the worst acted movies with one of the most drab plots tht i have ever watched, u actually ended up hating the main character u were supposed sympathise with
vb on Oct 28, 2008
"While this isn't the best Chuck Palahniuk adaptation (that will always be Fight Club), this is the next best." it's actually the only other palahniuk adaptation out there so....it doesn't really have the option of being anything other than the second best.
rt on Oct 29, 2008
I defy anyone to sit through "Hell Ride," and I don't care how many nude women are in the movie. Just awful. Quentin should be ashamed of putting his name on it.
Christian Toto on Oct 30, 2008
Don't wish to be pedantic, but how can you call a piece "12 Indie Gems You Can't Miss This Summer" and then miss 3 of them. If you want to comment on a movie, it should be a required minimum that you see it first? Surely?
Buzzard on Nov 4, 2008
THE FALL. oooh man The Fall was amazing. It's my favorite movie. Although not a comedy, it is strangely uplifting in it's own way, but please please bear till the end! The whole movie is like going in a downward spiral but if you hold out you can be uplifted! I promise. 🙂 It's excellent. WELL WORTH SEEING, even if its like on the screen of an iPod, although it's much more impressive on the big screen.
Layla on Nov 9, 2008
yo, the wackness was just WACK. otherwise good picks. but seriously, if they put in another overt early 90's reference in that movie i was going to scream! "what song is that" "Oh, this is total featuring notorious B.i.g." SERIOUSLY!?!? I get it, it's 1994, you don't have to spell it out.
zu on Nov 10, 2008
Dude, watch the moves you post about before you review them. Otherwise you just sound like a mindless douche that says whatever your friends tell you to think. People like you are how bad movies get good reviews.
K on Apr 21, 2009
The Fall is the best out of all of those, watch it on blu-ray and yes, the wackness was, um, well... wack.
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blukehar on Oct 13, 2009
I The Wackness, and I must say, IT SUCKED... that is all i have to say about that.
Jacob on Dec 13, 2009
Watched The Foot Fist Way and The Promotion and they weren't anything special. Got bored of The Promotion half way through and it really didn't make me laugh at all, The Foot Fist Way was margionally better but still not something i'd recommend.
Tim on Feb 12, 2010
You are an Idiot. The Wackness sucked balls!
SAP on Feb 23, 2011
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