Not everyone is dying to see “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Avengers” and “Prometheus.”
Summer movies are often big, loud and proud of it, but the season is prime time for smart counter-programming moves. And sometimes they pay off. Remember how “Once” drew a crowd that just wouldn’t disperse back in the summer of 2007?
The following features promise something more than 3-D excitement, fiery explosions and men wearing tights.
“Moonrise Kingdom” (May 25) – Director Wes Anderson’s style falls squarely into the “love it or hate it” category, although even die-hard fans probably squirmed throughout “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.” Now, Anderson is back in full quirk mode, following a pair of lovestruck pre-teens who get lost in the woods. Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, the uber-influential Tilda Swinton and Bill Murray, of course, flesh out Anderson’s latest mercurial romp. Highbrow Potential: 7 – Anderson’s “Rushmore” earned all the praise it received, and the same can be said for “The Royal Tenenbaums.”
“Your Sister’s Sister” (June 15) – Director Lynn Shelton took a weak premise in “Humpday” – two straight dudes decide to have sex with each other on a dare – and made it into a revealing character study. Now, she’s got the beguiling Emily Blunt and “Humpday” co-star Mark Duplass in a new love triangle promising plenty of improvised dialogue and meaty revelations. Highbrow Potential: 6 – Romantic comedies, indie style, aren’t Oscar catnip. But they sure can be refreshing after enduring “What’s Your Number”/”New Year’s Eve” and their ilk.
“To Rome with Love” (June 22) – Woody Allen’s ridiculously over-hyped “Midnight in Paris” was still better than most of his recent films. So, it’s shrewd to anticipate his latest production with a glimmer of realistic hope that we won’t see another clunker like “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” again. His latest features another all-star cast (Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page and Allen himself) in a series of loosely connected tales. Highbrow Potential: 8 – Allen’s work is typically Oscar bait, and while Allen doesn’t attend Oscar ceremonies it’s a safe bet he appreciates the golden glow the awards offer and wouldn’t mind being in the Oscar buzz category once more.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (June 27) – Need quirk, and not just a little but a whole lot of it? Check out “Beasts,” a Sundance favorite which sounds like a mashup of “When the Levees Broke” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” Highbrow Potential: 7 – It’s got that Sundance cred already, plus the Katrina angle more than nullifies the outlandish creature elements.
“Ruby Sparks” (July 25) The team behind “Little Miss Sunshine,” the film that practically defines indie cinema, returns with a summer entry that dips more than a toe in the magic realism pond. Paul Dano plays a writer who types up his dream woman, and then his romantic vision comes to life in the form of Zoe Kazan (Dano’s real-life squeeze). Highbrow Potential 4 – The fantasy element must be played just right to win over the critics. Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” is an exception to that rule.
“Celeste and Jesse Forever” (Aug. 13) – Anyone who missed director Lee Toland Krieger’s “The Vicious Kind” should go see/stream/rent it soon. Krieger’s latest film finds “The Office'” Rashida Jones writing a juicy role for herself as a newly divorced women trying to remain pals with her ex (Andy Samberg of “Saturday Night Live” fame). Highbrow Potential: 6 – See “Your Sister’s Sister” for an explanation.