05/06/2011 01:39 am ET | Updated Jul 05, 2011

5 Indie Films Worth Seeing This Month

With the arrival of Thor and those Pirates of the Caribbean, summer movie season is upon us, even though the calendar says it's still spring. I have nothing against popcorn movies, so long as they're good; I get upset when they're successful just because they show up. If you want to strike a blow for individualism, have a craving for 3-D, and you're lucky enough to live in one of the few cities playing Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams I encourage you to see it.

Beyond that, there are a number of worthy films in theaters around the country, including such holdovers as Tom McCarthy's Win Win and a charming French film I missed in time to review called Queen to Play, written and directed by Caroline Bottaro, with Sandrine Bonnaire and a French-speaking Kevin Kline.

As for my monthly selections, the current crop includes a pair of amusing documentaries, an Oscar nominee, and the latest drama from a world-class filmmaker. Any time there are five pictures this good playing on theater screens, I take heart, even against the influx of Hollywood's mega-movies.


Kelly Reichardt is the ultimate minimalist, as anyone who's seen Old Joy or Wendy and Lucy will attest. Here she focuses on three pioneer families making their way through Oregon in the mid-19th century. I can't think of another film--traditional or otherwise--that makes an audience feel as if they're experiencing the hardship and challenge of such a journey so vividly. Click HERE for my full reivew.


Writer-producer Phil Rosenthal was asked to help Russian television producers re-create his hit comedy Everybody Loves Raymond--and was smart enough to bring a pair of camera crews along to document his experience. The results are highly entertaining, but also offer some quiet wisdom about personal diplomacy, especially when dealing with a clash of cultures. Click HERE for my full review.


World-class French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier makes this 16th century costume drama seem vivid and immediate, from its opening bloody battle scene to the intimate portrayal of a young woman who has no say in her own future. Newcomer Mélanie Thierry is radiant in the title role, with Lambert Wilson (who is so memorable in Of Gods and Men) as a warrior-turned-pacifist who becomes her tutor. HERE's my full review.


Denis Villeneuve's impassioned drama (which he adapted from a play by Wadji Mouawad) was a contender for this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and it's easy to see why. It begins with a young man and woman--who are twins--learning that their father is still alive, which sends the woman on a journey of discovery into her late mother's tumultuous past in the Middle East. More a personal film than a political one...and it packs an emotional wallop. My full review is HERE.


Cheerful muckraker Morgan Spurlock, who made his name with SuperSize Me, explores the ubiquitous nature of advertising in our lives--in particular, the practice of product placement in movies and TV shows, and cleverly uses his latest film as a guinea pig. The results are often hilarious but also provide ample food for thought. Click HERE for my review.