Profiling the small-profile summer films

Even with two months left in the summer, moviegoers may already be suffering from “blockbuster fatigue” and looking for something less mainstream.

Yet Tampa stands as a tough place to find any independent cinema, especially as the Tampa Theatre devotes much of its screen time to old Hollywood favorites like “Casablanca” for its Summer Movie Classic Series.

Several small movies – such as the zombie flick “Survival of the Dead” and Colin Farrell’s fairy-tale “Ondine”- have even been released simultaneously on Video on Demand (VOD) just to increase their chances of being seen.

Nonetheless, opportunities remain to catch limited-release films in the traditional setting of a darkened theater. The Oracle suggests five indie movies worth seeing during the upcoming weeks:


“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”
Now in theaters
Playing at: Tampa Theatre

Those who only know Joan Rivers from her red carpet commentary or extensive plastic surgery will surely be surprised by a few moments captured within this documentary.

“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” follows the 77-year-old comedienne for a year, covering both her show business lows and her current touring as an audaciously offensive stand-up comic.

The movie features the work of two USF alumni – producer Seth Keal and cinematographer Charles Miller – who were on hand to answer questions at this weekend’s hometown premiere.

“It feels like I’m on the right track, and it’s an ode to people in Tampa that helped me get to that spot,” Keal said to the St. Petersburg Times about showing the film in Tampa.

“Solitary Man”
Now in theaters
Playing at: AMC Veterans, Regal Citrus Park

Michael Douglas stars in this comedy-drama as a once-successful car salesman and womanizer who must re-adjust as he grows older – though not necessarily succeeding at it.

“Solitary Man” covers thematic ground well-worn by movies like “The Weather Man,” and is directed by the duo who wrote “Ocean’s Thirteen.”

Despite being an independent release, the film also boasts a long list of other bankable performers, including Jesse Eisenberg and Mary Louise-Parker.

For these reasons, “Solitary Man” should serve as a fairly accessible entry into independent cinema’s world of character studies – particularly since the film is now playing in several multiplexes.

“Winter’s Bone”
July 9
Playing at: Tampa Theatre

“Winter’s Bone” combines noir sensibilities with rural mountain surroundings in its mystery story.

When her absentee, meth-dealing father puts the family house up as bail, 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) must trek through the Missouri Ozarks to find him.

The movie won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and has already received some of the year’s best reviews after its initial release two weeks ago.

The film’s intimate, artistically authentic cinematography – shot on location – should soon receive a fitting backdrop once it is projected onto Tampa Theatre’s screen.

July 16
Playing at: Regal Citrus Park, AMC Woodland Square

Director-screenwriter brothers Mark and Jay Duplass finished their most high-profile movie yet when Fox Searchlight Studios picked up “Cyrus.”

The film brings big-name comedic actors like John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill to “mumblecore” – an indie film movement that transposes the um’s and uh’s of everyday conversation into its dialogue.

The story inverses the plot of Reilly’s popular comedy “Step Brothers.” Longtime divorcee John (Reilly) finally finds romance with Molly (Marisa Tomei), but must deal with her overgrown live-at-home son (Hill).

The Duplass brothers already gained acclaim with their previous mumblecore films “The Puffy Chair” and “Baghead,” but whether they can achieve commercial success as well with “Cyrus” remains to be seen.

July 16
Playing at: Locations TBA

Audiences looking for flourishes of visual inventiveness or special effects outside of Hollywood blockbusters might want to check out director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s latest film.

The mind behind “Amelie” and “The City of Lost Children” tells this new tale of a man who joins a junk-heap commune and plots revenge on a weapons manufacturer after being struck with a stray bullet.

The film’s action has garnered comparisons to such diverse material as “Toy Story,” heist films and silent-era slapstick.

Of course, the plot also acts as a platform for Jeunet’s elaborate, whimsical set pieces – with a character cast that includes a contortionist named Elastic Girl and a human cannonball.