People often ask me for movie recommendations, as a fellow did the other day at an airport. When I replied, "Go see The Kids Are All Right," the look on his face told me he hadn't a clue what I was talking about. He expected an answer like Salt or Dinner for Schmucks, as he's one of those people whose world is confined to whatever opens on Friday at his local multiplex. It's a shame that millions of people just like him won't try anything else.
Fortunately, the box-office news has been relatively good for indie films this summer, and that's good news for filmmakers and filmgoers alike.
The 2011 Edition of my annual paperback Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide has just been published, and while we've added 300 reviews, and countless updates and corrections, I am proudest of the write-ups that I hope will lead people to seek out such worthy movies as Summer Hours, In the Loop, The Answer Man, The Tiger's Tail, Five Minutes of Heaven, Big Fan, World's Greatest Dad, That Evening Sun, The Maid, Trucker, Me and Orson Welles, and Skin. You can track my opinions of the latest releases at www.leonardmaltin.com. Here are my current picks from the indie crop now playing in theaters.
Robert Duvall gives a rich, cliché-free performance as a 1930s backwoods hermit who announces his intention to stage his own funeral--while he's still alive. Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek head a superb costarring cast in this film that was inspired by a real-life incident. It marks the feature directing debut of longtime cinematographer Aaron Schneider. Here's my REVIEW.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
Lisa Cholodenko, who's made such entertaining films as High Art and Laurel Canyon--with great roles for women--scores once again with Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a longtime couple whose teenage children are curious about the man (Mark Ruffalo) who donated the sperm that brought them to life years ago. No polemics here--just solid entertainment about a modern family. Here's my REVIEW.
LIFE DURING WARTIME
Not many writer-directors would tackle a sequel to their best-known film more than a decade after the fact--and recast all the leading roles--but then, Todd Solondz has never stuck to the rules. This follow-up to Happiness offers the same heady mix of deadpan humor and heart-rending humanity as it explores a myriad of interconnected lives. Here's my REVIEW.
HUGH HEFNER: PLAYBOY, ACTIVIST AND REBEL
If your only image of Hefner is that of an aging man surrounded by youthful babes, this compelling documentary--made, not incidentally, by a woman (Oscar-winning documentarian Brigitte Berman)--may open your eyes. With vivid archival footage, it chronicles his battles over censorship, freedom of speech, breaking the color barrier (on his TV show and in his nightclubs), and much, much more.
THE EXTRA MAN
Kevin Kline has one of the best screen roles of his career as a world-class eccentric who takes a younger man (Paul Dano) under his wing and introduces him to his cockeyed life in Manhattan. Writer-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini celebrate the oddballs who make New York City unique in this deft adaptation of Jonathan Ames' novel. Here's my REVIEW.