We all know the drill by now: Movies are seasonal. Come winter, dramatic fare and Oscar hopefuls take center stage, demanding all the attention and boxes of tissues we can muster. Fall is a screamfest, while spring is ripe time for rom-coms. And come the dog days of July and summertime, you're gonna want to grab your fireproof suit and a pair of barbecue tongs to defend yourself: It's explosion time.
This year follows the trend perfectly: We have the monsters and robots of "Pacific Rim," hi-yos galore in the revamp of "The Lone Ranger" and sequels a-plenty with the trio of "Despicable Me 2," "Grown Ups 2" and "The Smurfs 2."
There's reason to hope, however, with this crop of four fantastic indies seeing July release, and one coming out so early in August that it's basically July anyway. Scout out your local art house and be ready for these decidedly different summer movies to break you out of your sweaty doldrums.
'The Way, Way Back' (July 5)
Just a warning: "The Way, Way Back" will make you want to pack your bags and head for coastal Long Island, where the film takes place. We know, we were surprised, too.
From the writers of "The Descendants," who also co-directed this film, "The Way, Way Back" stars Liam James as a kid going through a long awkward phase, which coincides with a forced summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her jerky boyfriend (Steve Carell). He finds refuge at the Water Wizz, a throwback water park where he finds a job — and camaraderie — amongst a band of misfits headed by Owen (Sam Rockwell).
The whole movie looks like it was shot through an Instagram filter, and is familiar and warm. Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph and Rob Corddry, among others, are supporting players. Plus, who could miss the chance to see the infinitely likable Carell play a total asshole?
'Fruitvale Station' (July 12)
It may be sunny outside, but prepare to get a little dark. "Fruitvale Station," which is based on a true story, follows the last day in the life of a young Bay Area man named Oscar (Michael B. Jordan). On New Year's Eve, Oscar goes about town getting a head start on his resolutions before a planned trip into San Francisco to watch the fireworks. Things take an unfortunate turn on the train ride home, where an incident with the transit police changes the lives of Oscar and those around him forever.
Directed and written by Ryan Coogler, "Fruitvale Station" made waves on the festival circuit earlier this year, where it won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award as well as Best First Film at Cannes.
'Girl Most Likely' (July 19)
It's that age-old story that everyone's familiar with: Girl suffers mental breakdown and moves in with her crazycakes second-youth-having mom and hooks up with youthful boy bander who lives in her mom's house while receiving questionable wisdom from mom's compulsive liar boyfriend. Happens to everyone, right? OK, maybe not. Either way, we can't wait for Kristen Wiig's post-"Bridesmaids" victory tour playing another hot mess, accompanied by Darren Criss, Annette Bening and Matt Dillon.
This one's directed by the husband and wife team of Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, who previously brought us "American Splendor." Wiig working through life's little issues, plus Criss dancing? We're in.
'The To Do List' (July 26)
Aubrey Plaza (NBC's "Parks and Recreation") drops the scowl and grabs some floral dresses for this '90s period piece about a college-bound goody-two-shoes determined to check several sexploits off her list before matriculating. "Friday Night Lights'" Scott Porter and Scott Porter's hilarious wig play the studly apple of Plaza's eye, while Johnny Simmons plays the hopeless nerd who'd like to share more than just chem notes with her. The ensemble backing Plaza is an embarrassment of comedic riches: Bill Hader, Rachel Bilson, Donald Glover, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele and more are supporting players.
Directed and written by Maggie Carey (to whom Hader is married), this movie is basically a unicorn, sans the purity that implies: a female-led, sex-positive comedy. Though it's been compared to "American Pie" and its ilk, expect a little more brain to go with the crass elements.
'The Spectacular Now' (August 2)
OK, yes, we know — early August isn't the same as July, but close enough. Buy your ticket for "The Spectacular Now" right (spectacular) now, because you're going to want to catch Shailene Woodley's breakout performance. Woodley's turn as Aimee (opposite Miles Teller's Sutter) is so authentic that you'll totally agree with the zillion casting directors rushing her door with offers (she's already slated to star in "The Fault in Our Stars" and "Divergent" next year, both pretty assured box office hits).
Teller is nothing to sneeze at, either: He plays a high school student sliding easily along on a mix of charisma and booze until he gets dumped. Hard. He collides with earnest, kind Aimee and falls into a sort of accidental relationship with her, all the while feeling out his totally uncertain future. The movie, which trails the duo through the end of their senior year, reads as totally true to life, not to mention funny, sad and charming. And did we mention it's pretty spectacular?