Welcome back to Alt Weekly, a column in which we shine a spotlight on the independent films brave enough to open opposite Hollywood’s behemoth blockbusters before rolling out in wider release.
This week, string quartets, teenage lesbians and creepy isopods take a stand against "Flight," "Wreck-It Ralph" and "The Man with the Iron Fists."
‘A LATE QUARTET’
Filmmaker Cred: Director Yaron Zilberman's only other film is the 2004 documentary, "Watermarks."
Star Power: Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Imogen Poots, Wallace Shawn.
Festival/Awards Buzz: This drama about a dysfunctional string quartet made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. Here's our review.
Release Details: These nine theaters as of this Friday.
See This If… You are literally willing to watch this cast do anything for 105 minutes. (The film, it's a bit on the dry side.)
‘A LIAR'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY’
Filmmaker Cred: Monty Python compatriots John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones were enlisted in order to tell the story of Graham Chapman's life in the form of a 3-D animated biography of sorts.
Star Power: In addition to the above, Cameron Diaz gets a voice credit as "Sigmund Freud." Go figure.
Festival/Awards Buzz: This film similarly bowed at Toronto to less effusive buzz.
Release Details: NY, LA and Seattle this Friday.
See This If… You're a Python die-hard.
Filmmaker Cred: Director Barry Levinson ("Diner," "Rain Man," "Wag the Dog") has his first go at found-footage horror.
Star Power: Kristen Connolly ("The Cabin in the Woods"), Christopher Denham ("Sound of My Voice," "Argo").
Festival/Awards Buzz: Again, this one bowed at Toronto to fairly positive reactions. Check out our review by yours truly.
Release Details: These two dozen screens in addition to nationwide On Demand availability.
See This If… You're up for a well-crafted cross between "Contagion" and "Jaws."
Filmmaker Cred: Writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes previously helmed 2004's "Mean Creek."
Star Power: Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Kerry Washington.
Festival/Awards Buzz: Well-reviewed out of its 2011 Sundance premiere.
Release Details: In select cities this weekend while also available On Demand.
See This If… You're down for a dark comedy about infidelity and other pests.
‘JACK & DIANE’
Filmmaker Cred: Bradley Rust Gray previously directed the 2010 drama, "The Exploding Girl."
Star Power: Juno Temple, Riley Keough, Kylie Minogue.
Festival/Awards Buzz: Premiered last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival to understandably puzzled buzz.
Release Details: NY and LA this weekend. The film is also available On Demand.
See This If… You’re in the mood for a low-key lesbian romance occasionally interrupted by a monstrous metaphor for bodily transformation.
Filmmaker Cred: Grandmaster Y.K. Kim co-wrote, co-directed, produced and starred in this lost 1987 martial-arts whatsit.
Star Power: No.
Festival/Awards Buzz: Drafthouse Films dusted off this bit of unintentional hilarity in time for its 25th anniversary and premiered it at Fantastic Fest this fall, where we reviewed it or at least gave it our best effort.
Release Details: These cities and more beginning this Friday.
See This If… You share an active interest in taekwando, rock-n-roll, sleeveless shirts and "stupid cocaine."
‘THIS MUST BE THE PLACE’
Filmmaker Cred: Director Paolo Sorrentino earned much acclaim for "Il Divo" a few years back.
Star Power: Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Harry Dean Stanton, Shea Whigham.
Festival/Awards Buzz: This dramedy about a retired rock star (Penn) hunting down a Nazi war criminal has been baffling audiences since its Cannes debut last year. We caught up with it at Sundance earlier this year.
Release Details: NY/LA this Friday.
See This If… You're on board for Sean Penn's feature-length Robert Smith impression.
Filmmaker Cred: Writer-director Amy Heckerling is best known for 1995's "Clueless."
Star Power: Alicia Silverstone, Krysten Ritter, Sigourney Weaver, Wallace Shawn (him again!), Malcolm McDowell.
Festival/Awards Buzz: Hardly any, to be honest.
Release Details: We're still trying to determine the actual theater count for this comedy, but it is already available On Demand.
See This If… The notion of two single girls trying to make the most of joining the ranks of the undead sounds amusing to you.