15 Must See Indie Films of 2014
All of the films listed were released in theaters this past summer. Currently, you can find most of them at a Hastings or DVD store near you. These are the ones not to miss!
Here is to the Indie Producers and Filmmakers that released during the hot days of summer. A season when the money-laden, advertising-driven large studio films release their big blockbusters, taking over the cinema sometimes up to four screens at a time. It’s risky business for the indie filmmaker to have their films released during the summer (in lieu of the hot bed of fall) when indies lean toward releasing their films to the public after the blockbuster onslaught settles. Here’s to the risk takers this summer and to the artists that are indie. 15 must see indie films of 2014 —>
Chef – May 9th
Why a must watch? It’s not only a feel good film about the food industry but it’s set to a fantastic soundtrack of soul, groove, and Latin rhythms, and a film that reminds us that life is delicious. A critic Says: “Uplifting and joyful – and an ode to those who toil to bring us our food!” ~Angela Covo and Frederic Covo, Edible San Antonio Magazine
Synopsis: When Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) suddenly quits his job at a prominent LA restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman), he is left to figure out what’s next. Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), his friend (John Leguizamo) and his son (Emjay Anthony) to launch a food truck.
Director: Jon Favreau | Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey, Jr. | Distributor: Open Road Films
God’s Pocket – May 9th
Why a must watch? Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles, he was an incredible actor, need I say more. Keep in mind, this movie received mixed reviews at the Sundance Film Festival. A critic says: “It’s high praise when a film adaptation of a novel makes you want to go back and read the book.” ~ Kyle Smith, New York Post
Synopsis: When Mickey’s crazy step-son Leon is killed in a construction ‘accident’, nobody in the working class neighborhood of God’s Pocket is sorry he’s gone. Mickey tries to bury the bad news with the body, but when the boy’s mother demands the truth, Mickey finds himself stuck in a life-and-death struggle between a body he can’t bury, a wife he can’t please and a debt he can’t pay. – Courtesy of IMDb, Written by I.F.C. Films
Director: John Slattery | Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks | Distributor: IFC Films
The Immigrant – May 16th
Why a must see? Old fashioned and melodramatic; perfection for summer. A critic says: “The Immigrant is the film James Gray has been working toward his entire career. . . The Immigrant, is, finally, [Gray’s] masterpiece, a classical melodrama of high ambition and fulfilled promise.” ~Jordan Cronk from Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Slant Magazine
Synopsis: A Polish woman separated from her sister on Ellis Island struggles to survive on the streets of Manhattan in this period drama from writer/director James Gray (We Own the Night, Two Lovers). The year is 1921. Polish sisters Ewa (Marion Cotillard) and Magda Cybulski (Angela Sarafyan) are seeking a brighter future when they board a boat bound for New York City. Upon arriving on Ellis Island, however, Magda is placed in quarantine after receiving a grim and unexpected medical diagnosis. A stranger in a strange land, Ewa falls under the spell of the malevolent Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), who forces her into prostitution. Yet a ray of hope soon comes in the form of Bruno’s cousin Orlando (Jeremy Renner), a suave magician whose romantic interests in Ewa may be her ticket to a life worth living. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
Director: James Gray | Cast: Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner | Distributor: RADiUS-TWC
Malignant – May 22nd
Why a must see? This movie is running on the Top 15 iTunes Horror Genre list right next to The Shining for number of downloads. Not to mention, Academy Award-nominated Brad Dourif stars as the terrifying, turned mad and bad scientist. Plus, the stellar, must-see performance by Gary Cairns as the addicted and grieving protagonist. A critic Says: “This dark, ominous score helped set the tone of this very cool Indie.” ~ BLOG AND GUTS
Synopsis: Seven months after the death of his wife, Allex still copes by visiting the local dive bar frequently, and by wrapping up each booze-hazed evening with a memory-killing blackout. Allex doesn’t seem to be too interested in beating his addiction, although someone else certainly is. Without warning, a stranger with a scalpel in one hand and a hypodermic needle in the other mysteriously appears and offers Allex an unsolicited, and unconventional, solution to his drinking problem.
After a freshly stitched surgical scar appears on his chest, Allex’s nightly blackouts end up accompanied by a dead body to dispose of each following day. Without any indication as to how or why, this mysterious scientist is inexplicably determined to teach Allex that addiction has consequences. And until Allex learns to control his inner demons, those consequences will continue to be devastatingly fatal. ~Culture Crypt Movie Reviews
Director: Brian Avenet-Bradley | Cast: Gary Cairns, Brad Dourif, Nick Nicotera | Distributors: iTunes, Vudu, Video on Demand
Ping Pong Summer – June 6th
Why a must see? Time to flash back to circa 1980, Baby! A critic says: “As Ping Pong Summer borrows faithfully from the oh-so-cheesy, coming-of-age films of the 1980s, Tully reveals an unabashed fondness for the genre’s formulaic conventions and standard touchstones.” ~Don Simpson, Smells Like Screen Spirit
Synopsis: “The year is 1985. Rad Miracle is a shy, 13-year-old white kid obsessed with two things: Ping-Pong and hip-hop. During his family’s annual summer vacation to Ocean City, Maryland, Rad makes a new best friend, experiences his first real crush, becomes the target of rich, racist local bullies, and finds an unexpected mentor in his outcast next-door neighbor. Ping Pong Summer is about that time in your life when you’re treated like an alien by everyone around you, even though you know—deep down—you’re as funky fresh as it gets. Writer/director Michael Tully creates the ultimate love letter to the 1980s coming-of-age comedy with this vivid cinematic time capsule.” – C.R., 2014 Sundance Film Festival Film Guide
Director: Michael Tully | Cast: Marcello Conte, Susan Sarandon, John Hannah | Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
The Case Against 8 – June 6th
Why a must see? This is the first of two documentaries I have on this list and it may not seem fitting to you. It is on my list because of what is going on in America today due to these courageous people and their fight for civil rights in their GLBTQ community. The Case Against 8, Ben Cotner and Ryan White’s award-winning gay rights documentary, received a U.S. theatrical release by HBO Documentary Films on June 6, followed by a June 23 premiere on the TV network. The Case Against 8 received an awards-qualifying limited release in New York and Los Angeles on June 6, and will expand to select U.S. cities June 13.
Synopsis: A behind-the-scenes look inside the case to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Shot over five years, the film follows the unlikely team that took the first federal marriage equality lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Directors & Writers: Ben Cotner, Ryan White | Distributor: HBO
Obvious Child – June 6th
Why a must see? Former SNL cast member Jenny Slate is a talented and rising star in her portrayal of a stand-up-comic, very flawed character, that has hard-core issues with booze and boys. A critic says: “Obvious Child is a fantastically frank and very funny comedy about the messy parts of life, for better and worse. With its unafraid approach and wonderfully flawed heroine, it’s brilliant and bright, and a perfect compliment to TV comedies like Inside Amy Schumer and Broad City.” ~ Kristy Puchko, Cinema Blend
Synopsis: A twenty-something comedienne’s unplanned pregnancy forces her to confront the realities of independent womanhood for the first time.
Director: Gillian Robespierre | Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, David Cross | Distributor: A24
Begin Again – July 4th
Why a must see? A film about different lives and music that pulls them together. “Begin Again” was previously titled “Can a Song Save Your Life?” A critic says: “A hipster Andy Hardy movie using many of the same moves writer/director John Carney employed in “Once.” Still, it’s a simple joy, simply enjoyed.” ~Keith Simanton, IMDb
Synopsis: A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents.
Director: John Carney | Cast: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld | Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Life Itself – July 11th
Why a must see? It’s been a full year since Roger Ebert’s death and film lovers and critics still feel his loss. A critic says: “It’s a love letter to Ebert from his friends and his fans, but it’s also as tough on the man as he was on the movies — as tough as he was on himself in his book.” ~ Sundance Film Festival: “Life Itself” says farewell to Roger Ebert by Rob Thomas, Madison Movie
Synopsis: In 2013, we lost Roger Ebert—arguably the nation’s best-known and most influential movie critic. Based on his memoir of the same name, Life Itself recounts Ebert’s fascinating and flawed journey—from politicized school newspaperman, to Chicago Sun-Times movie critic, to Pulitzer Prize winner, to television household name, to the miracle of finding love at 50, and finally his “third act” as a major voice on the Internet when he could no longer physically speak. ~ Synopsis courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
Director: Steve James | Cast: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert | Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Boyhood – July 11th
Why a must see? Director Richard Linklater followed the development of a child from the age of seven through the end of his teenage years, starting the project over twelve years ago. Shot in only 39 days over a decade this is a “literal” coming-of-age story. A critic says: “It’s the kind of movie that makes you answer the question, ‘What’s it about?’ with ‘Well…everything.'” ~Alonso Duralde, TheWrap.com
Director: Richard Linklater | Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Tamara Jolaine, Nick Krause, Jordan Howard, Evie Thompson | Distributor: IFC Films
I, Origins – July 18th
Why a must see? Mystery and the secrets of the Universe, questioning our beliefs and love that’s uncovered in a college dorm room during late night hours. A critic says: “An infinitely profound examination of the faith versus science debate, Cahill wraps his heady existential diatribe around the adage that the eye is the window to the soul, specifically utilizing the presumed uniqueness of an individual’s iris patterns in this contemplation of god’s existence.” ~Don Simpson, Smells Like Screen Spirit
Synopsis: A molecular biologist and his laboratory partner uncover evidence that may fundamentally change society as we know it. Courtesy of IMDb
Director: Mike Cahill | Cast: Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Steven Yeun, Archie Panjabi | Distributor: Fox Searchlight
A Most Wanted Man – July 25th
Why a must see? The thriller based on the best selling book by John le Carré with incredible acting by Robin Wright and William Dafoe. Not to mention, another final film of the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. A critic says: “Hoffman’s performance is a thing of wily, weathered beauty — his peculiar accent less a feat of mimicry than of character-based interpretation. Few contemporary actors have quite such a lock on bleary-eyed intelligence, and he plays Bachmann’s lone-wolf stature with just the right degree of ashy irony — his mordantly flirtatious exchanges with Wright’s semi-amused spy are a particular joy to observe.” Guy Lodge, Hit Fix: In Contention
Synopsis: A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror. Courtesy of IMDb
Director: Anton Corbijn | Cast: Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright | Distributor: Lionsgate
Magic in the Moonlight – July 25th
Why a must see? With this phenomenal cast how could we not watch this film? It also seems, from a few reviews, that Woody Allen may be on top of his game again. A critic says: “. . . Allen [is] going back to the knockabout farce and blithe May-December couplings that populate his lighter films.” ~ Ben Beaumont-Thomas, The Guardian
Synopsis: A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue. Courtesy of IMDb
Director: Woody Allen | Cast: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden | Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Two Faces of January – August 8th
Why a must see? A 1964 suspense thriller with Amini’s film noir eye with well written complicated characters. A critic says: “. . . Mortensen’s elegant Chester is a multi-layered creation with a beautifully enacted sense of moral ambiguity. Isaac shows a considerable amount of talent and maturity in this outstanding followup to his “Inside Llewyn Davis” performance, here showing a knack for foreign languages.” ~Tara Karajica, Indie Wire: Berlin review
Synopsis: A thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective. Courtesy of IMDb
Director: Hossein Amini | Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac | Distributor: Magnolia
Love Is Strange – August 22nd
Why a must see? The film is a sensitive domestic tragedy about the finite working of any marriage, and the actors Molina and Lithgow give out the most stellar performances their lives. To see Lithgow act at what some are saying is his best performance, that is a must see. A critic says: “I was in no way prepared for how much Love Is Strange would make me cry. I’d heard fantastic things from colleagues who had seen the romantic drama at its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. But no one prepared me for how deeply moving Ira Sachs’s latest effort–which boasts brilliant turns by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina–truly is.” ~Kristy Puchko, Cinema Blend
Synopsis: After 39 years together, Ben and George finally tie the knot, but George loses his job as a result, and the newlyweds must sell their New York apartment and live apart, relying on friends and family to make ends meet.
Director: Ira Sachs | Cast: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Darren E. Burrows, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez | Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Category: Indie It Film