2011 Summer Movie Preview: 50 Movies to Watch Once It’s Hot – ‘Dramas and Indies’


Welcome to Part Three of my 2011 Summer Movie Preview, if you haven’t yet checked out parts one and two you’ve missed a lot already. I’ve linked to my look at the “Comedies” of the 2011 summer movie season, but if you wanted to click over to those articles before diving into this one I don’t think anyone would blame you.

Oh, it looks like you’re still here, well, for the moviegoer more interested in the dramatic and art house movies, this summer doesn’t offer only blockbusters, explosions and animated characters. There’s a healthy dose of the dramatic available as well as evidenced by the following 14 films I’ve chosen to highlight.

Now I know I mixed in images and trailers in the first two installments, but I am going strictly with trailers this time, because some of these aren’t as familiar as those bigger films I mentioned in the Blockbusters and Comedies preview. So hopefully you’ll watch a few and find some to look forward to.


I’ve decided to start with a film that doesn’t open until June, but I saw it recently and it is excellent. Beginners (6/3) stars Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) and Christopher Plummer and tells a story of love, loss, family and, more simply, life.

Written and directed by Mike Mills (Thumbsucker), the story centers on Oliver (McGregor) following the death of his 71-year-old father (Plummer) who came out of the closet as a gay man four years earlier, immediately after his wife’s death. The film flashes back and forth between Oliver’s life with his father as well as his new relationship with Anna (Laurent) and finds Oliver confronting everything that’s kept him from committing to someone to this point. It’s elegantly told, funny and charming. You’re going to really like it.

I’ve also seen the upcoming Will Ferrell drama Everything Must Go (5/13) which deals primarily with alcoholism and shows a more dramatic side to Ferrell, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its share of quieter laughs. It also proves Ferrell can really pull off a dramatic role. The film co-stars Michael Pena, Rebecca Hall, Laura Dern and Christopher Jordan Wallace whom you may not recognize by name, but is in fact the son of the late Notorious B.I.G. He played his father at ages 8-13 in the biopic Notorious.

I’ve also already seen Jodie Foster’s The Beaver (5/6), which is good, but also quite depressing. The focus is sure to be on Mel Gibson as a result of his telephone tirade, but those familiar with Gibson’s work won’t be surprised to see he turns in a moving performance as a man on the verge of suicide who finds his only way of coping is through an alternate personality that manifests itself in a beaver puppet. The Beaver will hit limited theaters on May 6, but it has also been given the honor of hitting the Croisette at Cannes even though it will already be in theaters stateside. Quite an honor.

Other films that will be at Cannes and will be hitting theaters shortly thereafter include Woody Allen’s next film Midnight in Paris (5/20) which will open the fest and Terrence Malick’s long-awaited The Tree of Life (5/27), which is sure to be the fest’s hottest ticket. The two films boast the work of directors that couldn’t be more opposite, one delivers a film nearly every year and the other is delivering his first film in six years. Nevertheless, both are hotly anticipated and I’m happy to say I’ll be in Cannes to see them both.

Based on the best-selling novel by David Nicholls, Lone Scherfig (An Education) directs Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in One Day (8/19), a film that seems to have already fallen under a bit of scrutiny just as the first trailer debuted. The story centers on Emma (Hathaway) and Dexter (Sturgess), two people who meet on the night of their college graduation – July 15th, 1988. For the next two decades, every July 15th reveals to us how “Em” and “Dex” are faring, as their friendship ebbs and flows with the passing of the years.

One big complaint seems to surround Hathaway’s accent, but even more importantly it seems the trailer was cut to appeal to a wide audience rather than the dedicated audience that fell in love with the book. Most often with films sure to have a scrutinizing audience, a studio will cut the first trailer that sells the film as it truly is and then begin cutting follow-up trailers and TV spots to appeal to the masses. Based on the response I’ve read on this site and elsewhere, let’s hope they are marketing this one backwards.

A film that looks like it may feature another performance from Kristin Scott Thomas to rival her work in the stellar 2008 feature I’ve Loved You So Long, Sarah’s Key (7/22) centers on Julia Jarmond (Thomas), a journalist commissioned to write an article about the notorious Vel d’Hiv round up, which took place in Paris, in 1942. As a result, her search leads her to the family of Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski and their daughter Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski family to survive. I was upset when I missed this at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, but this summer the wait is over.

In June a pair of Sundance stand-outs will hit theaters, Submarine (6/3) from the Weinstein Co. and The Art of Getting By (6/17) (formerly known as Homework) from Fox Searchlight. I’ve heard good things about both as they were both snatched up rather quickly.

Submarine was another one I missed at Toronto and it played to equal acclaim at Sundance. It stars Sally Hawkins, Craig Roberts, Paddy Considine and Yasmin Paige and centers on Oliver Tate (Roberts), a 15-year-old with two objectives: to save his parents’ marriage via carefully plotted intervention and to lose his virginity before his next birthday. As for The Art of Getting By, it looks a bit more run-of-the-mill as it stars Emma Roberts and Freddie Highmore and tells the story of the relationship between the two characters each plays. What interests me most about it is seeing that Highmore is no longer the little boy from Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

As we get near the end we’ll move to a couple of studio features starting with Larry Crowne (7/1), a second chance at life story starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. I really have no idea what to think about this film as Hanks and Roberts seemed to have left their more interesting roles in the past. Hanks used to talk to volleyballs, grow long beards and run across the country. Roberts used to whore it up with Richard Gere and talk dirty to Clive Owen. What they’re doing here seems more fitting for a retirement home, but hopefully it will be more interesting than it looks.

Next is The Help (8/12) from DreamWorks Pictures which boasts an impressive cast and is based on a best-selling novel. However, the marketing material looks a bit tame, sort of like it’s a film that will center on heady topics, but won’t try and hit the audience in the gut until the final reel. Nevertheless, I’m interested in seeing Emma Stone in a different kind of role and Viola Davis is always good for a great performance.

A few others you may find interesting include Chris Weitz’s A Better Life (6/24), Hesher (5/13) starring Joseph Gordon Levitt, Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson and the YouTube creation Life in a Day (7/24) in which producer Ridley Scott and Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald asked the world to submit footage they shot on July 24, 2010. The world responded with over 80,000 submissions, totally 4,500 hours of footage and Macdonald turned that into a feature film to be released this July 24… Early word is that it’s great and I’m looking forward to seeing it. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, have a look directly below.

If you liked this installment be sure to check out the rest of my preview at the following links: