Summer 2013 has been one for the record books as far as movies are concerned. There have been many success stories, as well as a surprising amount of failures, and now as the dog days of summer begin to wind down we think it’s time to reflect on the best films you’ve yet to see. Fall is fast approaching, and soon many of you will be back in school, but we’ve found ten films that will help make the final days of summer just a bit better (from the comfort of your own home, no less).
The rise of Video On Demand (VOD) services in recent years has leveled the marketing playing field in film unlike any advancement in technology since video cassettes were introduced in the early 1980s. Now, for the first time ever, new indie releases can appear alongside new major studio releases without facing the ridiculously high costs of theatrical distribution. Services like Amazon Instant Video and iTunes have created avenues for content distribution where every film is only as strong as the information displayed on the screen. Still, many truly great films get lost due to the sheer volume of titles released each week, and that is why we are here today. Whether you love horror, comedy, or a little bit of everything, we’ve got a movie (or two) for you. Click through to view the 10 Summer VOD hits you may have missed.
We’re well aware that this list could have been expanded to include five or ten more titles at least, but we wanted to limit ourselves to films we believe offer the maximum entertainment value for your dollar. If you feel there is a film we missed that people should rush out and see, please do not hesitate to share it in the comments below.
Jug Face (VOD/Limited Theatrical Run)
Somewhere buried in the woods of North America lies a small, tight-knit community of people who believe a mysterious pit controls the world around them. It feeds them when they’re hungry, protects them from danger, and when it’s hungry it requests a sacrifice be made of one of their own by communicating through jugs created by the resident potter. Living in this community is a pregnant girl named Ada who, upon learning that she may be the next to be sacrificed, begins weaving a web of lies that threatens everyone in her community. It’s a story truly unlike any other, but the beautifully thrilling metaphor of trying to outrun something you cannot control is one that will speak volumes to anyone willing to watch.
A Band Called DEATH (VOD/Limited Theatrical Run)
In the 1970s, three black teens from Detroit started a band out of a love for rock and roll that knew no bounds. They worked away on material and saved up to an album they knew was ahead of its time. When it was completed, they shopped their cutting edge style to the industry, and literally every person they met passed on their music (primarily due to their name, DEATH, which they refused to waver on). Some even told them they would never make it. Then, decades later, a stroke of wild luck leads their music to being discovered once more. Times have changed, as has music, and suddenly the boys no one thought had talent are considered pioneers who never got their due. This is their story, and it’s one of the greatest previously untold tales rock and roll has ever known.
The Battery (VOD)
You may think you have seen every idea for a zombie movie put to screen, but unless you’ve laughed and cried your way through The Battery I would argue that is not the case. Filmed on a budget well below $20,000, this film follows two friends in the near future who are left to wander the all-too-quiet remains of America following the zombie apocalypse. It’s not as much a story about zombies or survival as it is holding on to your sanity, friends, and sense of humanity in the face of utter chaos, but there are plenty of lighthearted and equally terrifying moments to be had throughout. Writer, director, and star Jeremy Gardner is already on a lot of industry radars thanks to this film, and I have no doubt his popularity will continue to grow in the years to come.
How To Make Money Selling Drugs (VOD)
There are at least a dozen new documentaries on drug sales and use in America released every year, and for the most part they all have pretty much the same information to present. How To Make Money Selling Drugs recognizes this, and instead of trying to pitch old information as new, offers an unbelievably fun and stylized version of documentary filmmaking that needs to be widely adapted as soon as possible. Starting with how people are introduced to drugs, the film is structured like a video game, with each level of criminal involvement being viewed as a progression in the ‘drug game.’ This adds an engaging sense of lightheartedness to what is admittedly heavy (and somewhat dull, at times) subject matter without taking away from the seriousness of what is being presented. It may seem like a game, but the film takes its sweet time explaining the punishments that await those who dare to ascend the hierarchy of the international drug trade. You may have seen other films about drugs in the US before, but I can assure you that you have never seen a feature quite like How To Make Money Selling Drugs.
Europa Report (VOD/Limited Theatrical Run)
The age of digital film has increased the quantity of movies released in nearly every genre multiple times over in recent years. Still, science fiction films tend to lie in this odd fray of moviemaking where they are viewed as expensive, time-consuming efforts that don’t see release in a frequency anywhere near genres like comedy or horror. A few films have fought against this as of late, including Sam Rockwell’s amazing performance in Moon, and in July of this year Magnet Releasing delivered a new low budget space epic to our eager eyes with Europa Report. The film follows an international crew of astronauts as they undertake a privately funded mission to search for life on Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, which (spoiler alert) does not go as planned. It’s a strong story that is told wonderfully, but the real beauty of the film is just how damn well it is made. The shuttle our astronauts are on feels operational, and even though some exterior shots of Jupiter may leave you feeling like a big budget flick could do better, they are certainly nothing to complain about. If you’re the type of person who loves Aliens, but wishes it was just a bit more like Event Horizon, give this ‘found footage’ space epic a chance.
Drinking Buddies (VOD/Limited Theatrical Run)
The only thing that goes better with beer than best friends is the combination of best friends and poor decisions. Drinking Buddies follows two longtime friends who, in spite of their feelings for the people they are dating, cannot get the thought of being together out of their heads. They’re friends, yes, but could they be more? Even if they could, is it what the other wants? This film tried to find some resolution to those questions without resorting to cliche twists and hollywood style endings. It’s not the greatest love story ever told, but it’s one of the most honest to hit screens this year.
Rewind This! (VOD)
We have already covered this film at length, but it’s worth mentioning one more time because it’s just that awesome. Rewind This! is a film for people obsessed with movie nostalgia. Through interviews and classic movie footage the film tells the rise and fall of VHS, as well as the impact it made (and continues to have) on the movie industry. It’s the kind of film that could have the tagline ‘you may think you know the full story, but you have no idea.’ If you care about the history of film at all, you owe it to yourself to see and support this motion picture.
100 Bloody Acres (VOD/Limited Theatrical Run)
If you like comedy, horror, fun and gore all ground up into one bloody good time, then you’ll definitely enjoy the Australian film, 100 Bloody Acres. In the vein of films like Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, 100 Bloody Acres brings loads of dark comedy laughs with a great cast and simple yet entertaining ideas. The story revolves around small business owners, the Morgan Brothers, that run an organic fertilizer business and start using dead car crash victims that they find to bulk up their supply. When sources get low, well…desperate times, you know?
A Single Shot (VOD/Limited Theatrical Run Coming Soon)
David M. Rosenthal’s A Single Shot is just about as intense as a film can get. With apparent Coen Brothers influences in full force (think No Country For Old Men), the film, adapted from Matthew F. Jones’ novel of the same name, follows the effects of one shot that missed its target. With a stellar cast led by the always amazing Sam Rockwell and a score that will have you biting your nails through the entirety of its nearly 2-hour runtime, A Single Shot is not a film to be missed this year. Rockwell gives his best performance since 2009’s Moon and Rosenthal makes a statement as a director to keep an eye on.
The History Of Future Folk (VOD/Limited Theatrical Run)
The History of Future Folk, which currently sits at an impressive 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, is some of the most fun I’ve had watching a film this year. Equal parts hilarious and ridiculous, this film is more or less what you’d get if you put Tenacious D and Flight of the Conchords in a room and had the Duplass Brothers direct whatever ended up happening. The synopsis reads, “The possibly exaggerated origin story of the real life alien bluegrass band, Future Folk, that has been playing for NYC audiences for the better part of a decade.” The characters in this movie will make you laugh and work their way into your heart with an excellent story and equally excellent music. Hondo!
Written collaboratively by: James Shotwell & Brian Leak