7 Anti-Blockbusters You Must See This Summer

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Woody Allen, William Friedkin and documentary director Kirby Dick give something to get excited about this summer that's not about masked vigilantes or Bourne-again spies

It's not all masked vigilantes and Bourne-again spies filling the screens the rest of summer.

Between film festival hits, new controversy from Spike Lee and a devasting documentary about the military, there's plenty coming to the multiplex to keep you out of the heat.

Here are seven not to miss, in order of release date. More good news: two open on Friday.

TO ROME WITH LOVE (June 22)

Hot off his “Midnight in Paris” success — the Oscar-winning and highest-grossing film of his career — Woody Allen returns with another European venture.

This one follows an assortment of quirky characters and their experiences with love, sex and marriage in the great, ancient city of Rome. It also marks Allen's first onscreen appearance since 2006's "Scoop," playing the father of a bride-to-be who becomes an unexpected opera impresario.

Joining him in the cast: Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz and — somehow we knew this was eventually bound to happen in an Allen film — Jesse Eisenberg.

THE INVISIBLE WAR (June 22)

In the documentary “The Invisible War," director Kirby Dick tackles the harrowing rape epidemic in the U.S. military.

It follows the stories of dozens of female victims of sexual assault and the struggles they faced in their pursuit of justice. 

Even before its release date, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that major changes would be made in the investigations of military rapes, and a top general featured in the film who defends the military’s reaction to this issue was replaced. Justice has been, and will hopefully continue to be, served.

Also read: Military Rape Documentary 'Invisible War' Leads to Policy Changes Before Its Opening

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (June 27)

Director Benh Zeitlin’s fantastical, apocalyptic, coming-of-age survival tale follows six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) on her journey to find her lost mother in the wake of her father’s disintegrating health — and a series of environmental changes that unleash mythical beasts called the aurochs.

The film nabbed the Grand Jury Prize and Excellence in Cinematography awards in the U.S. dramatic competition this year at Sundance, as well as the Camera d’or Prize at Cannes.

Also read'Beasts of the Southern Wild' Rips Through Sundance

These top prizes are all the more impressive as the film — inspired by Hurricane Katrina victims who refused to leave their homes — stars an unknown young actress (Wallis) and was directed by a first-time filmmaker (Zeintlin) under fiercely real and difficult conditions.

TAKE THIS WALTZ (June 29)

Michelle Williams follows her Oscar-nominated turn as Marilyn Monroe with the charming Sarah Polley-directed tale of a woman caught in a love triangle.

Williams plays Margot, who must choose between two sweet, loving men: husband Lou (funnyman Seth Rogen) and mystery man-with-an-edge Daniel (eye candy Luke Kirby).

The choice is made all the more difficult as Lou loves Margot unconditionally but feels both too comfortable and unfulfilled. As a result, she pins everything on her constant desire for Daniel. 

In the end, the film has serious things to say about love, sex and relationships.

KILLER JOE (July 27)

Matthew McConaughey stars as a bad-ass hit man in Academy Award-winning director William Friedkin’s upcoming tale of murder, revenge, bloodlust and greed.

The plot revolves around a man (Chris Smith, played by Emile Hirsch) who will be killed if he can't repay a debt. So Smith hires McConaughey's Killer Joe Cooper to finish off his mother in order to collect her life insurance.

Naturally, all hell breaks loose: Killer Joe preys upon Smith's sister Dottie (Juno Temple) and catalyzes the destruction of the family.

This is not a guy to be messed with.

RUBY SPARKS (7/25)

From the creators of the 2006 surprise hit “Little Miss Sunshine” comes an eccentric rom-com about a writer with an incredibly active imagination.   

Calvin (the always interesting Paul Dano), a novelist struggling with writer’s block, makes a breakthrough with his Zooey Deschanel-esque fictional character, Ruby Sparks (screenwriter Zoe Kazan). Naturally, he falls in love with her; not so naturally, she suddenly appears in the flesh, acting as though they had always been dating.

As the writer in complete control of the situation, Calvin must determine how his great love with Ruby should unravel, and whether it will be a storybook ending.  

RED HOOK SUMMER (Aug. 10 in New York, expanding Aug. 24)

Spike Lee returns with another installment of his Chronicles of Brooklyn, which began with his breakout "Do the Right Thing" — a film that gets several nods in this latest work.

Also readSpike Lee's Sundance Tirade: Hollywood Execs 'Know Nothing About Black People'

An official Sundance selection, "Red Hook" follows Flik Royale (Jules Brown), a middle-class boy from Atlanta who is sent to Brooklyn's Red Hook projects for the summer, to live with his zealous preacher grandfather Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters). 

The summer seems to be a failure of epic proportions until Chazz Morningstar (Toni Lysaith) comes along to show Flik that there is an upside to Brooklyn.

But it's not all feel-good coming-of-age sweetness. "Red Hook" sparked a heated debate at Sundance over a sexual act involving Bible scripture. It could end up being Lee's most controversial yet.