by Stefan Abrutat
It’s rare a decent movie gets by me; I pay too much attention to the movie press and sites like Ain’t it Cool News and Rotten Tomatoes. My obsessive need to entertain myself (or rather, insist other people do) thus becomes your celluloid revelation.
These three movies combined made less than US$100 million domestically, which is a shocking reflection on how good they are. All three are available for rent right now.
I can see the pitch to the studio now: “Combine Quantum Leap and Groundhog Day. Liberally season with Inception. Bung it on a train about to explode from a terrorist bomb. Rinse and repeat.”
Such a plot would have most studio execs reaching for the aspirin or whiskey bottle, but somehow, this wonderfully complicated cloud of ideas won through to the silver screen. I love movies that make me sit forward in my seat and think. It doesn’t happen often, because studio scrota tend to dumb down anything intriguing given half a chance.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Cpt. Calter Stevens, a dying soldier commissioned for one last task, (via some stretching gobbledygooky science, I must confess) to enter the mind of one particular commuter on a doomed train bound for downtown Chicago. Stevens mission is to find the bomber so clues can be garnered for an even bigger promised dirty bomb attack on the city’s downtown. Repeat ad infinitum. To tell you more would risk spoiling the plot.
Rating: PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes. Box Office: $54.7 million. Released on DVD: July 26, 2011.
Another uproarious comedy from the British Pegg & Frost stable, previously responsible for such movies as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
Two British fantasy/sci-fi geeks attend the huge Comic-Con in San Diego, then rent an RV to tour the famous alien-landing sites of America. On the way they pick up a bona fide, wonderfully-CGIed alien called “Paul”, beautifully underplayed by Seth Rogen, as he escapes the authorities and needs help to rendezvous with a ride home.
There’s a cascade of subtext inhabiting this story, both of the pleasant Brit abroad (dashing stereotypes therewith), arrogant big US government ineptitudes, and some fairly blatant science vs. America conversations.
Of course, we know our plucky-but-unassuming heroes are going to win out, but the journey is where the comedic gold lies.
Rating: R. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. Box Office: $37.4 million. Released on DVD: August 9, 2011.
The title tells you what it is, and it doesn’t disappoint.
A miserable $300,000 totaled this movie’s US domestic box office, which I attribute to scandalous lack of transatlantic marketing. This Norwegian vérité-style movie has English subtitles, which I’m sure put a lot of people off, but the movie itself rocks as a much as a troll exposed to sunlight.
We’re not talking about the knee-high trolls that permeate the American movie mythos, folks, we’re talking the trolls of Tolkien’s borrowed lore; tall as a tree, dumb as a stump, and ready to rain down destruction like an honest-to-goodness monster should.
A trio of film students hook up with the eponymous secretive Norwegian government Troll hunter, who roams the Scandinavian forests like a wildlife ranger, managing populations and studying their habits. The effects couldn’t be better and the atmosphere is palpable.
It’s a helluva concept, and pulled off with great panache. At times both scary and hilarious, it’s one of the greatest unknown treasures of the movie world over the past couple of years.
Rating: PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes. Box Office: $0.3 million. Released on DVD: August 23, 2011.