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!