Indie Films

The Underwater Realm

Bonus points for ambition. It’s the absence of any big name stars (or massive crowd shots) that stands as the only hint that The Underwater Realm isn’t a tentpole movie set to light the summer on fire. It’s got high adventure with some excellent CG work, some tricky shots, and the whole thing was rendered in 4K. They’ve even got the blockbuster marketing formula down. With this kind of trailer, there’s no telling whether there’ll be a story to speak of or character we want to engage with, but it’s hard to deny that it’s incredible — a glimpse into the future of what a team can do with the right technology and the right effort. They’ve even kept a running log of how they pulled all this off. If this is what indie filmmaking can look like, the future is going to be bright. Check it out for yourself:

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The End of Love Trailer

While indie filmmaking is often thought of as one of the big frontiers of artistic experimentation, the uncomfortable truth is that formula has crept into the world of the indie drama over the last decade or so. If you’re going to see an indie film, expect for it to be about a creative twenty-something and their struggle to face an uncertain future all the while stumbling into what may be their life’s greatest love, and expect it to be quirky. At first glance, Mark Webber’s new film, The End of Love, looks like it fits neatly into this little box. A film about a single father trying to juggle the responsibilities of raising a son with his dream of becoming an actor and the glamour of hanging out at Hollywood parties seems like just the sort of thing that would sell a lot of tickets at that local arthouse theater in the hip neighborhood. It doesn’t take long for The End of Love’s trailer to sell you on the idea that it’s something different, however. Not only does this story turn the typical tropes on their heads by taking place after the loss of that great love instead of during the opening phases of it, it also injects far more open wound vulnerability into its proceedings than we’re used to seeing on the screen. Indie actors are often quirky, sometimes bumbling. Zooey Deschanel would even have us believe that she’s “adorkable.” But the sort of pained, lonely yearning that Webber […]

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The Comedy Trailer

Whether you like the work Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim do on their cable show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, or not, you have to admit that what they produce is so unique and absurd that it’s hard to explain to those who haven’t seen it. And the trailer for a new film that they star in, The Comedy, is exactly the same way. You can sit through over two minutes of this preview, you can get introduced to the lives and struggles of this group of characters, but when it’s all over, it’s still kind of hard to explain what you’ve watched. Despite the head-scratching nature of some of this material, The Comedy isn’t rampant silliness like Tim and Eric’s other work. It’s looks gritty, indie, kind of dark, and it sees the famous comic duo taking acting roles in a project that was the creative work of someone else. From director Rick Alverson and his co-writers Robert Donne and Colm O’Leary, The Comedy tells the story of an aging, trust fund hipster (Heidecker) who has begun to feel trapped by his life of convenience and irreverence, so he’s started to act out in destructive ways.

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Obamas America

The Expendables 2 and The Bourne Legacy continued to make money this weekend. In fact, the top 7 box office earners from last week all kept their spots this time around except for Sparkle which dropped to 11th place and allowed The Dark Knight Rises and Timothy Green to improve their positions. Premium Rush opened to 7th place with $6.3m on 2,255 screens – resulting in a per screen average that was on par with movies that have been out for two to three weeks and lower than some new offerings. It wasn’t an auspicious opening, but even as the top winners ossify in the August doldrums, the real winners are indie films, and at the top of the heap is 2016: Obama’s America. Based on the book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” by Dinesh D’Souza and co-directed by D’Souza and John Sullivan, the documentary takes a look at what the country and world might be like if the President were to earn a second term. After a limited run in July, the documentary had a successful weekend with $6.2m (which you’ll note almost beat out Premium Rush), vaulting to the number 6 spot on the list of highest-grossing political docs. Even more dramatic, it’s now the highest-grossing right-leaning political doc, beating out Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (which was produced by Sullivan) for the honor. It seems possible that Obama’s America might be able to increase its position on the overall list by earning $5.3m more to overtake Capitalism: A Love Story. Depending on how the expansion is handled, and how audiences […]

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As those who follow the film industry closely might already know, Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon released a passion project earlier this summer that went by the name of The Avengers. It was a fairly popular film, playing in over four thousand theaters, breaking a bunch of box office records, and making $1,461,891,916 worldwide to date. That’s not to say that it was a complete success though. It still hasn’t broken every box office record, it still hasn’t made all of the money…and now it may never get to because of a cocky young upstart named Mike Birbiglia. You may have heard of Birbiglia before: he’s a stand-up comedian, a writer, and a radio personality who has turned his memoirs entitled “Sleepwalk With Me” into a modestly budgeted indie film that will be given a limited release with minimal promotion. Enough promotion that it’s likely to ruin Whedon’s chances at being declared King of Hollywood though. As the Avengers director explains in this video, Sleepwalk With Me was only supposed to open on thirty-some screens originally, but due to a dogged campaign by Birbiglia and his dangerous, cult-like following, it’s now set to open on over 80. Simply put, this will help push The Avengers out of some of the 500 or so theaters it’s still playing in, and effectively take food out of the mouths of Joss Whedon’s (myriad) children.

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If there’s one thing that seems to be able to provide endless material for indie films to mine, it’s infidelity. There’s no need for special effects, fancy locations, or even big name actors to make a compelling human drama, all you have to do is set yourself up a good, old-fashioned love triangle, get a couple steamy shots of people doing it, and then take things to a place where everyone is crying a lot and yelling at each other. The results are instantly compelling, and instantly relatable to everyone watching. Nobody Walks has a leg up on your typical, indie infidelity movie for a few reasons though. Most apparent is that they actually have sprung for some big name actors. From indie darlings like Olivia Thirlby and Rosemarie Dewitt, to beloved TV stars like John Krasinski and Justin Kirk, to an up-and-comer like India Ennenga (Treme) and an old hand like Dylan McDermott, Nobody Walks is bursting at the seams with actors who you’ll recognize and have probably been impressed by at some point.

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Last Chants for a Slow Dance

Editor’s Introduction: With his first feature in 1974, Jon Jost launched a filmmaking career that can be proudly described as fiercely independent. His work has been seen at festivals all over the world, the MOMA in New York, AFI Film Theater in DC, and the UCLA Film Archive in LA. He’s made dozens of short films and dozens of features, although his most famous are probably All the Vermeers in New York and The Bed You Sleep In (for which he won respective awards at the Berlin Film Festival). And he continues to make movies at a furious pace. Normally we comb interviews and quotes for this feature, but for this entry, Jost himself contacted us with the desire to share a few tips. So, it’s with great honor that we present a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from an American indie icon. Now, in his own words (and with his own tough love)…

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Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan Cast in The F Word

It’s no secret that recent hockey comedy Goon is an FSR favorite, so it’s been with great anticipation that we’ve been waiting for word about director, Michael Dowse’s next project. Fortunately for everyone, that wait is over. Variety is reporting that the director is currently at work putting together a romantic comedy called The F Word, that comes from a 2008 Black List script by Elan Mastai. The story, which is based off of a play by T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi called “Toothpaste and Cigars,” sounds simple enough. It’s about a duo of twentysomethings who meet at a party and hit it off instantly, but are faced with the task of being “just friends” because the girl is already tied up with a beau. Again, simple enough, but the intrigue comes from the casting that’s already been done. In order to fill the roles of the two lovestruck young people, Dowse has called upon the talents of Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. Radcliffe, of course, is best known for headlining the Harry Potter franchise. His first foray outside of that mystical world was his starring role in The Woman in Black, where he somewhat ridiculously played a widowed lawyer with muttonchops. Perhaps this role as a young lover will be a better fit for the actor, and the easy transition he needs to get the public to stop thinking of him as a boy wizard.

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It seems as if Anna Kendrick is on a mission to prove to us that she’s the most versatile, multi-talented actress working in Hollywood today. Not just content to turn heads and get an Oscar nomination for her performance in Up In the Air, Kendrick has also been a tween idol in the Twilight series, made us laugh in the strange and hyper-stylized Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, straddled the line between comedy and jerking tears in 50/50, and she’s even set to prove that she can sing in the upcoming Pitch Perfect. When all is said and done, she will have appeared in five films over the course of this calendar year, and all signs point to the fact that she won’t be slowing down any time soon. Case in point, Deadline Deering has word of a new project that has scooped her up as its star, an indie comedy going by the name of Drinking Buddies. Set to be largely improvised and shot in Chicago later this summer, Drinking Buddies stars Kendrick and Ron Livingston (Office Space) in a story that’s said to be about a “fun and flirtatious friendship that goes off the rails.” It’s being directed by king of the micro-budget comedy, Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs, Nights and Weekends), and it will also star Olivia Wilde (that chick from your dreams) and Jake M. Johnson (New Girl, Safety Not Guaranteed) in undisclosed roles.

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The advertising for The Loneliest Planet seems to be selling it on the fact that, while you’re watching it, you’ll have no idea what’s going to happen next. If this is the strategy, then so far they’ve succeeded, because even after watching the trailer, it’s still not all that clear what this movie is about. Two young lovers (Gael García Bernal and Hani Furstenberg) are on a backpacking journey together. At first everything seems to be going great – there are images of people kissing in the soft glow of natural light, parading around in their panties, and frolicking together in the glorious majesty of nature; nice stuff – but then things take a turn for the worse. Suddenly there’s creepy whispering in the dark, people frolicking around in their panties, and a horrible, repetitious hacking noise playing in the background. What’s the source of the change in tone? That’s where the trailer plays coy. The promise it provides is that even a small incident, something that takes just a second or two to happen, could completely change our lives and alienate us from the people we love. Which, the suggestion seems to be, would inevitably lead to our lives being full of dread, horror movie imagery, and creepy things happening in the dark (but still plenty of girls in panties).

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We learned not too long ago that David Gordon Green has made a movie that’s so low budget and has so much indie cred, nobody even heard about it until it was already finished shooting. It’s called Prince Avalanche, it stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as a couple of road workers painting the lines on isolated and little used roads, and it’s a remake of a 2011 Icelandic film called Either Way. Since most everyone is in agreement that the David Gordon Green who makes small, experimental films is the best David Gordon Green there is, said news was generally accepted as being good news. But things get even better. Now there’s word that this new film will be bringing back memories of Green’s earlier, indie-r work even more so than we may have imagined. Consequence of Sound is reporting that Austin, Texas band Explosions in the Sky have agreed to make some time to score the film once their current tour wraps up in August. The guys from Explosions in the Sky and Green have all known each other for quite a while, as he’s already used a bunch of their music in his earlier works All the Real Girls and Snow Angels.

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While we were all busy lamenting the fact that David Gordon Green has given up making interesting indie films in favor of dumb comedies and arguing about whether or not his remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria is a good idea or sacrilegious, he went and made a new movie without even telling us about it. The nerve! And turns out, not only does it sound like his new film is going to be a return to smaller, more interesting storytelling, but it’s also going to be a preview of what it looks like when he takes a foreign film and adapts it. Green’s new project is called Prince Avalanche, but it’s a remake of an Icelandic film from 2011 called Either Way. In the original, two men played by Hilmar Guðjónsson and Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson spend their summer painting lines on the roads that stretch into remote parts of northern Iceland and end up meeting danger and experiencing personal growth. In Green’s remake the two men are played by Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, and apparently they’re going to be painting lines on roads that exist somewhere that looks a lot like Austin, Texas; because Twitch confirms that the film was shot there last month.

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Sports are an important part of childhood. They teach kids to work hard, they foster a spirit of healthy competition, they promote teamwork, and they give millions of people all over the world a dream to shoot for. At least, that’s the theory. They did nothing of the sort for brothers Jeremy (Mark Kelly) and Mark (Steve Zissis). These guys are out of shape, egotistical, they view competition only as an opportunity to put each other down, and there’s no chance athletics are taking either of them anywhere beyond their own back yards. They’re neurotic idiots, and the center of their neuroses are a series of games they’ve been playing against each other since they were kids called the Do-Deca-Pentathlon. This new film from writer/director brother duo Mark and Jay Duplass asks us to take pleasure in watching them behave badly. By now most people have an idea of who Mark and Jay Duplass are. They started off making very small movies that they acted in themselves and with their friends. They then went on to make more mainstream movies like Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home, but without compromising their indie aesthetic or their penchant for getting loosely scripted, improvisation heavy performances out of their actors.

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At first glance, Peace, Love & Understanding looks like your typical indie film. The focus is on characters – relationships between parents and their children, budding romances – and the humor mostly comes from a political place, throwing uptight suit-and-tie types in a confined space with characters who are on the extreme left and watching them all chafe against each other. Chances are you could watch its first trailer and feel like it was an advertisement for a film that you’ve seen a hundred times before. That is, if it didn’t have such an appealing cast. They kind of set the project apart. Well-worn material or not, it’s pretty hard to catch wind of a movie that’s cast Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, and Elizabeth Olsen as three generations of very different women and not get a little bit excited. With Fonda and especially Keener, you have a couple of acting veterans who always bring the goods in anything they do. And with Olsen you have a hot young performer who is going to have the eyes of Hollywood on everything she does, at least for her next few projects. Factor in that the leading ladies are being directed by a solid old hand in Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Mao’s Last Dancer) and Peace, Love & Understanding looks like it’s going to be a safe risk when you’re deciding what to hand your movie money over to.

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Meeting Evil writer/director Chris Fisher joins us to talk about how necessary movie stars are to getting financing in the indie world (and how to talk to Samuel L. Jackson on set). Plus, we go beyond the headlines to explore the Alamo Drafthouse‘s expansion into New York City with CEO Tim League and to push the envelope of film festivals with Tribeca Executive Director Nancy Schafer. Download Episode #129

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If you live in a smaller town or city, far from any big cultural centers, the prospect of going out to the movies can often be pretty depressing. It’s likely that you’ve got at least one 30-theater multiplex nearby, which seems like it should do the trick, but when you look at their listings you find that 10 of their theaters are playing the new awful action movie, 10 are playing the new awful romantic comedy, and 10 are playing some sort of CG cartoon for kids. That’s fine if you go to the movies every once in a while, just to eat popcorn and play grabass in the dark with somebody special, but for people those of us serious about watching new movies, the multiplex can start to look like a bleak wasteland. Don’t give up though, there might be hope for us outlanders yet. Social tech start-ups have been changing the way we do everything over the past five years or so, from how we talk to our friends, to how we find someplace to eat, to how we catch a cab, to how we consume the news. And soon, thanks to a new service called Tugg, they might be changing the way we go to the movies. What this service does is let you set up an account, connect with other film fans, and start choosing what movies come to the theaters in your town. Think of it like a fundraising platform, but for movie screenings.

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Once again utilizing his low budget sensibilities and a few friendly faces, writer/director/producer/actor Ed Burns has crafted an impressive adult dramedy that feels blissfully familiar (and awkwardly familial). Newlyweds is a semi-documentary style film that relies almost solely on the talents of its cast – a true ensemble made up of Burns as Buzzy, the cocksure fitness instructor on his second marriage; Caitlin Fitzgerald as his sweetly sarcastic wife Katie; Kerry Bishé (seen above) as his self-destructive sister Linda; Marsha Dietlein as his opinionated sister-in-law Marsha; and Max Baker as Marsha’s perverted old husband (in his second outing as a character named Max for an Ed Burns film). Buzzy and Katie are the kind of couple you want to be best friends with. They’re pragmatic and funny, obviously looking at life through the sober and absurd lens that their first marriages afforded them. They are tonal opposites of Marsha and Max whose 18 years together have given them emotional crow’s feet and an aggressive bitterness that doesn’t make them flinch when it starts gnashing its teeth in public. They could be representations of different stages and styles of relationships as a means to put on display the human fragility of latching yourself on to another human being for “the rest of your life.” Or, you know, they could just be real people. Which is more likely.

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Can an indie filmmaker upset the apple cart twice in a career? Evidence seems to point to Edward Burns doing just that, quietly dominating a niche audience without the aid of big budgets (or any budgets really) and without the hollow aid of buy-the-bank advertising campaigns. His first bow on the scene was in 1995 with Sundance favorite The Brothers McMullen, and now he’s capitalizing on the same social networking tool that protestors are using to overthrow dictators: Twitter. At a time when Hollywood is struggling, post-movie star, to figure out what works, Burns is exercising a formula that involves tiny bottom lines and an audience that already trusts and reveres his work. It’s almost certain that few filmmakers will be able to rise to prominence through Twitter, but since Burns is a known entity dedicated to finding his fans and engaging with him, he’s been able to make back money with ease and tell the stories he wants to tell. His latest is Newlyweds, a slice of life written/directed/produced and starring Burns as one-half of a newly married couple whose lives (much like an apple cart) are upset by a half-sister coming on the scene. As the thorough Christina Warrren over at Mashable explains, Burns shot the flick for $9k and raised massive awareness for it and for his process using the little blue bird of tweeting. He also found talent through it. Her full article deserves a read, and in a time where mature adult situations are nearly […]

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, Ben Solovey explains why he’s personally restoring a 16mm print of Manos: The Hands of Fate, one of the worst movies ever made. Plus, I Melt With You director Mark Pellington talks drugs and demons, and it’s Fat Guy Kevin Carr versus Geek Tyrant editor-in-chief Jim Napier in a Movie News Pop Quiz that will change everything forever and ever. Download This Episode

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we spend some time outside the studio system with Bellflower writer/director/star Evan Glodell who talks about love and flamethrowers. Plus, we have a long-form conversation about film production with Greatest Movie Ever Sold producer Keith Calder and indie horror writer/producer Simon Barrett. Double plus, our very own Jack Giroux goes head to head with The Film Stage’s Jordan Raup in a Movie News Pop Quiz that leaves everything else in the dust. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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