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 marks something of an indie blowout opposite the lone wide release: "Playing for Keeps."
'BAD KIDS GO TO HELL'
Filmmaker Cred: This horror flick is director/co-writer Matthew Spradlin's first feature.
Star Power: Judd Nelson!
Festival/Awards Buzz: Hardly a peep.
Release Details: Opens in these select cities this Friday.
See This If... You've always thought that "The Breakfast Club" could use more supernatural mayhem.
'CHEERFUL WEATHER FOR THE WEDDING'
Filmmaker Cred: This is Donald Rice's feature directorial debut.
Star Power: Felicity Jones, Elizabeth McGovern, Luke Treadaway.
Festival/Awards Buzz: This romantic dramedy premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Reviews have been mixed.
Release Details: NY this Friday, LA next Friday, On Demand everywhere now.
See This If... You're a fan of weddings, weather and/or cheer.
Filmmaker Cred: Director Stefan Ruzowitzky is best known for his Oscar-winning 2007 drama, "The Counterfeiters."
Star Power: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Kate Mara, Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek, Treat Williams.
Festival/Awards Buzz: A fellow Tribeca alum, this wintry thriller did not impress our own Laremy Legel.
Release Details: Currently available On Demand, and opening today in NY, LA, DC and Boston.
See This If... You're prefer your holidays snow-covered and blood-splattered.
'THE FITZGERALD FAMILY CHRISTMAS'
Filmmaker Cred: Actor Edward Burns has been writing and directing his own films since 1995's "The Brothers McMullen."
Star Power: Burns, Connie Britton, Kerry Bishe, Ed Lauter, Toby Emmerich.
Festival/Awards Buzz: We were left lukewarm by this sprawling family drama.
Release Details: NY this weekend, and already available nationwide On Demand.
See This If... You're never sick of Irish-American relatives bickering with one another.
'HYDE PARK ON HUDSON'
Filmmaker Cred: Director Roger Michell previously made "Notting Hill," "Morning Glory," "Venus" and "Enduring Love."
Star Power: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams.
Festival/Awards Buzz: Our critic wasn't exactly bowled over at Toronto earlier this year.
Release Details: NY/LA this weekend, and likely to expand wider in time for Christmas.
See This If... You're an FDR or Bill Murray completist.
'IN OUR NATURE'
Filmmaker Cred: This is writer-director Brian Savelson's first feature.
Star Power: Jena Malone, Gabrielle Union, John Slattery, Zach Gilford.
Festival/Awards Buzz: This low-key relationship drama had its premiere at South by Southwest in March. We weren't impressed.
Release Details: New York this Friday, then Austin next week.
See This If... You wished that the characters of "Carnage" would just chill out for a bit.
'LAY THE FAVORITE'
Filmmaker Cred: Director Stephen Frears is best known for "High Fidelity," "The Queen" and "The Grifters."
Star Power: Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vince Vaughn, Josh Jackson.
Festival/Awards Buzz: This Vegas romp premiered at Sundance, where we suffered through it. (I swear that we didn't plan on seeming so bashy this week.)
Release Details: Already available On Demand, this will be hitting about sixty screens across the country this week.
See This If... You just can't ignore that cast.
'ONLY THE YOUNG'
Filmmaker Cred: Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet co-directed this documentary, their first.
Star Power: Nope.
Festival/Awards Buzz: This look at teenage love and life has been (rightfully) garnering praise on the festival circuit since its May premiere at HotDocs.
Release Details: NY only this week for an awards-qualifying run.
See This If... You want to see the best teen movie in years and don't mind that it stars actual teens.
Filmmaker Cred: This is veteran actor Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut.
Star Power: Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon.
Festival/Awards Buzz: A gently enjoyable comedy about aging musicians, this made the rounds since premiering at Toronto in September.
Release Details: The Weinsteins quietly snuck this film's qualifying run in NY and LA to this week instead of the announced 12/28 release date. Expect them to bring it back around come January.
See This If... You don't mind a simple old-folks charmer.
Filmmaker Cred: Sibling directors Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross earned much acclaim for their previous documentary, "45365."
Star Power: Nada.
Festival/Awards Buzz: This non-fiction look at New Orleans, shot over nine months at night but presented as one continuous evening of young adventure, earned praise after its SXSW premiere.
Release Details: Like "Young," an NYC exclusive this week for awards qualifying.
See This If... You're flexible with regards to conventional narrative.