Six Speciality Films That Could Bring the Heat This Summer

Every summer a handful of plucky indie movies jump into the mainstream, thanks to filmgoers who want more nutritional value than that offered by the season’s popcorn pics. This year’s notable breakouts include Fox Searchlight’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which opened in March, but has continued to ride a wave of critical plaudits through May and early June to book $157.6 million worldwide; and Roadside Attractions’ “Chef,” which has cooked up a tasty $7.5 million since opening in limited release last month. Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League says summer can be a good time for indie movies. “There are a lot of cinephiles who aren’t as excited about the next ‘X-Men,’ ” he says. But Fox Searchlight co-president Stephen Gilula warns that in a genre in which films must be unique and distinctive, it can be tough to stand out amid the season’s flood of movies. Despite the challenges, here are six under-the-radar films that could see their profiles rise:

Begin Again 
(Weinstein)

Key Talent: John Carney (director), Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo

Release Date: June 27

Selling Points: “Once” director Carney returns to the music world with this romantic drama. Weinstein has positioned the film opposite “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

Danger Signs: History is paved with pics that left audiences swooning at festivals (in this case Toronto) only to fall flat theatrically.

Boyhood
(IFC)

Key Talent: Richard Linklater
(director), Ethan Hawke

Release Date: July 11

Selling Points:  Shot over 12 years, the film traces a boy’s coming of age. It’s funny, frank and groundbreaking.

Danger Signs: Linklater is an indie icon, but aside from studio films like “School of Rock,” his popularity is decidedly arthouse. “Boyhood’s” nearly 3 hour running time also could be intimidating.

Calvary
(Fox Searchlight)

Key Talent: John Michael McDonagh (writer-director), Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd

Release Date: Aug. 1

Selling Points: This dark comedy about an Irish priest threatened by a parishioner has earned rave reviews. Plus, Fox Searchlight (“Little Miss Sunshine”) has a track record of backing indie summer hits.

Danger Signs: Gleeson is sublime, but he’s no household name. Word-of-mouth will be crucial.

Magic in the Moonlight
(Sony Classics)

Key Talent: Woody Allen (director), Emma Stone, Colin Firth

Release Date: July 25

Selling Points: Allen has become a summer institution, with “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Blue Jasmine” all receiving a warm response.

Danger Signs: Accusations he molested adopted daughter Dylan Farrow resurfaced recently, and though they were never substantiated, it’s possible the film’s release will reignite the controversy.

What If
(CBS)

Key Talent: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan

Release Date: Aug. 8

Selling Points: Radcliffe has honed his craft and broadened his fanbase past Hogwarts by appearing on Broadway and in the horror hit “The Woman in Black.” Here’s the payoff.

Danger Signs: It’s been more than a decade since Julia Roberts made romantic comedies a summer tradition; recent attempts have fizzled.

Wish I Was Here
(Focus)

Key Talent: Zach Braff (director-star), Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin

Release Date: July 18

Selling Points: A crowdfunding phenomenon, Braff raised $3 million from fans to back this family drama. Some of those donors are bound to show up with friends, right?

Danger Signs:  The “Veronica Mars” movie also inspired fans to reach for their pocketbooks. But Kickstarter success didn’t translate into box office gold.

 

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