We all know they’re coming, we hear the announcements months, or sometimes years, before their actual release dates, we hear every casting rumor and plot leak, we’re perfectly content sitting in an air conditioned theater and enjoying the spectacle before us, it’s the summer which means blockbuster season is here. The summer blockbuster is a force to be reckoned with at the box office, of course for every digital effect heavy retread, reboot, or sequel there is an alternative, more independent, option. With smaller budgets, more practical effects, and original thought provoking concepts, the world of indie cinema has given us alternatives to the same old blockbuster. Every month I’m going to give you three or four blockbuster motion pictures and then give you an indie alternative that I think you’ll enjoy just as much, if not more. These indie options could be showing in theaters, could be available for home viewing, or maybe even coming to the Alamo Drafthouse for Film Club 3.0. Regardless of where you can find them I’m just hoping you do, so let’s get started.
I’ve chosen a theme for June and it’s sequels, some are blockbuster sequels to horror franchises that don’t know when enough is enough, a long awaited sequel to an effects heavy classic that left us all in awe back in 1993, and a low brow comedy about a talking teddy bear. While I’m sure all of these will make plenty of money at the box office, and I don’t discourage anyone seeing these films if it’s something you’re interested in, but they are all proof that Hollywood is running out of original ideas. Here comes indie cinema to the rescue.
First up is Insidious: Chapter 3, this sequel, while entirely unnecessary, falls victim to a finished concept from it’s predecessors and the absence of it’s creative force writer/ director James Wan. With all that working against it let’s look at an indie alternative to get you scared. For a similar concept of a malevolent presence tormenting a family I’m going to a film from last year that we actually did feature as part of Film Club 3.0 and that is The Babadook. Rather than watch another retread of the same general story with Insidious Chapter 3 dig deep into the original concept of a single mother trying to raise her troubled son all the while trying to determine if there truly is an evil stalking them or if there’s something more to it. Rather than telling the same story The Babadook harkens back to horror films like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, allowing the audience to take the ride and determine for themselves what is happening rather than spoon feeding every plot point to you. Incredible performances by both Essie Davis who plays Amelia, the struggling single mother, and Noah Wiseman who plays Samuel, her son who is either troubled or quite perceptive, help make this film both frightening and intriguing.
The next blockbuster I’m looking at is Jurassic World, the newest chapter in the Jurassic Park series that started so strong back in 1993 with the original. While I am personally looking forward to seeing this film I also acknowledge that it could go very wrong very easily by giving in to the common tropes of monster movie blockbusters, so rather than take that risk I’m going to recommend a film from 2010 that is available on home media and shows that you can make a pretty awesome monster movie with very little budget, Monsters from writer/director Gareth Edwards. Starring Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able this monster movie shows us very well that less is more. Allowing what you don’t see to frighten you while making our two leads develop as characters and make you fear for their well being. Why go for spectacle when you can instead go for substance with Monsters.
My final big budget film for this month is the “comedy” sequel Ted 2. I personally wasn’t a fan of the first film in the series so I don’t have any interest in a sequel that will continue the same immature jokes as it’s predecessor, instead go for genuine laughs with 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer. David Wain’s ode to summer camp is everything we should look for from our summer cinema comedies, with a great cast of comedy actors including Janeane Garofalo, Michael Ian Black, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, and future 3 time Academy Award best actor nominee Bradley Cooper, this film hits you with true comedy and nostalgia for all of us who grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s. Why labor through a foul mouthed talked teddy bear when we can revel in young love and summer camp. If you haven’t seen this film please seek it out, you won’t be disappointed.