If you’re looking for movies with a bit more substance—you know, the type that tickle your brain or simply have nothing to do with crazy special effects—then take a look at our alternative summer movie picks. Because let’s face it, comic book movies aren’t for everyone.
By Elisa Osegueda
Hesher | 5/13/2011
If you like edgy storylines then you’ll definitely enjoy Hesher. This dark fairy tale stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an eccentric drifter who has a soft spot for loud music, pornography and burning things to the ground. But surprisingly he becomes the shining light for a struggling family dealing with a loss. Natalie Portman costars in this unconventional drama.
Everything Must Go | 5/13/2011
For Nick Porter (Will Ferrell) things can always get worse. After a long career in sales Porter drops the ball one last time and gets fired but before he can go crying to his wife, he finds out she’s moved on. The locks to their home have been changed and all of his belongings are left in the front lawn. Having to face reality, he reluctantly holds a yard sale that becomes his survival strategy.
Midnight in Paris | 5/20/2011
Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson star in this eccentric Woody Allen film. Set in Paris the two play a romantic couple traveling the city for business with their family. While the plot is a bit of a mystery, the A-list cast is enough to spark interest with Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody and Michael Sheen rounding up the cast.
The Tree of Life | 5/27/2011
It’s been six years since Terrence Malick last directed a film but as expected The Tree of Life is already receiving grand accolades, being called aggressive, deeply personal, and spiritual. The film follows the life journey of Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world.
Beautiful Boy | 6/3/2011
A deeply moving story of two parents (Michael Sheen and Maria Bello) who, after finding out that their oldest son committed a mass shooting at his university, desperately try to piece their lives back together and learn the reasons behind their son’s deadly actions.
Submarine | 6/3/2100
Oliver Tate is one mischievous 15-year-old whose ambitions focus on sexual encounters. In an attempt to save his parents’ marriage he monitors their sex life and forges suggestive love letters from his mom. But this teen has plans of his own as he tries to woo his classmate, Jordana, in order to lose his virginity before his next birthday. Based on Joe Dunthorne's acclaimed novel, Submarine is a captivating coming-of-age story with an offbeat edge.
Page One: Inside the New York Times | 6/17/2011
Page One chronicles the transformation of print journalism as its greatest time of turmoil. The documentary highlights New York Times writers Brian Stelter, Tim Arango and David Carr as they aim to stay afloat and current while their paper struggles to stay vital and solvent.
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop | 6/24/2011
In 2010, after a much publicized departure from hosting NBC's "Tonight Show" and the severing of his 22-year relationship with the network – Conan O'Brien hit the road with a 32-city music-and-comedy show called the "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour." Conan Can’t Stop offers a window into the private writers room and rehearsal halls allowing us a glimpse of a man that can’t stop performing, singing, and pushing his staff and himself.
Larry Crowne | 7/1/2011
Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts reunite for a dramatic comedy about a simple guy who decides to risk it all and undergo a personal reinvention.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan | 7/15/2011
Inspired by the bestselling novel by Lisa See, the film is a timeless portrait of female friendship. Set in 19th-century China, two 7-year-old girls Snow Flower and Lily are bound together for eternity. Isolated by their families, they communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, nu shu, between the folds of a white silk fan.
Sarah's Key | 7/22/2011
Paris, July 1942: 10-year-old Sarah and her parents are taken by the French police as they imprison Jewish families. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released. Sixty-seven years later Sarah's story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah.
Another Earth | 7/22/2011
This sci-fi film explores the notion of what would happen if a second earth existed. A bright young woman accepted into MIT's astrophysics program aspires to explore the cosmos. Meanwhile, a brilliant composer, John Burroughs, has just reached the pinnacle of his profession and is about to have a second child. On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, tragedy strikes and the lives of these strangers become permanently intertwined.
30 Minutes or Less | 8/12/2011
Jesse Eisenberg (Nick) and Aziz Ansari (Chet) deliver laugh-out-loud moments in 30 Minutes or Less. Eisenberg plays a small-town pizza delivery guy whose dull life collides with two wanna-be criminal masterminds (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). The two kidnap Nick and force him to rob a bank. Nick enlists the help of his ex-best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari) and together they try to brave the police, hired assassins, flamethrowers, and their own tumultuous relationship.
The Help | 8/12/2011
The Help stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, Academy Award-nominated Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny—three very different, extraordinary women in Mississippi during the 1960s who build an unlikely friendship. Skeeter, a white, middle class, journalism grad student befriends two middle aged, black housekeepers Aibileen and Minny and together start a secret writing project that breaks societal rules and puts them all at risk.
Higher Ground | 8/19/2011
Vera Farmiga stars and directs Higher Ground based on Carolyn Briggs' memoir This Dark World.
One Day | 8/19/2011
Adapted from the bestselling novel, One Day charts an extraordinary relationship between Emma (Academy Award nominee Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess), who meet on the night of their college graduation – July 15th, 1988. She is a working-class girl who dreams of making the world a better place and he is a wealthy charmer who thinks the world will be his playground. For the next two decades, every July 15th reveals to us how "Em" and "Dex" are faring and somewhere along their journey they realize that what they are searching for is each other.
Colombiana | 8/26/2011
The beautiful Zoe Saldana plays a young Colombian woman who witnesses her parents' murder as a child in Bogota, and as a result grows up to be a stone-cold assassin. She works for her uncle as a hit woman by day, but at night engages in vigilante murders that she hopes will lead her to her parents' killer.
The Debt | 8/31/2011
The espionage thriller begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired secret agents Rachel (Academy Award winner Helen Mirren) and Stephan (Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson) about their former colleague David (Ciarán Hinds). All three have been venerated for decades by their country because of a mission they undertook back in East Berlin in 1966. At great risk the team's mission was accomplished - or was it? The suspense builds in and across two different time periods.