Low Budget films have potential for breakout success

The summer box-office season is usually the time when Hollywood unleashes big-scale and big budget films such as Star Trek and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which predictably become huge hits.

Sometimes, however, a movie like The Hangover goes on to become a surprise success, despite a much smaller budget and less initial promotion. Here are a couple of films that might not be as highly anticipated as the new Harry Potter movie, but could become “sleeper hits.” More importantly, they could turn out to be good movies that might make a worthy alternative to the typical summer fare.

July 10

Moon

On the far side of the moon in the near future, Astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is about to complete a three-year contract with Lunar Industries to mine for Earth’s new alternative energy source. Sam has no way to communicate with anybody outside of the moon station other than Gerty (Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey), a robot that expresses emotion through a cartoon smiley face displayed on a computer screen.

As he has weeks before he can be reunited with his wife and young daughter, Sam starts to have frequent headaches and hallucinations and suffers from a lack of focus. This causes him to have a near-fatal crash in a lunar rover.

While recuperating at the base while suffering some memory loss, he meets a younger and agitated version of himself that turns out to be a clone.

July 17

(500) Days of Summer

When an unlucky greeting card copy writer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is suddenly dumped by his girlfriend (Zooey Deschanel), he looks back at the past 500 days when they were together to try to figure out what specific event led to their break up. Ultimately, his reflections on the great time they spent together lead him to fall in love with her all over again. (500) Days of Summer marks director Mark Webb’s first full length feature film after directing several music videos.

July 24

The Hurt Locker

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break), The Hurt Locker is a fictional tale inspired by real events in the life of journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal, who was with a special bomb unit in Iraq in the summer of 2004. In this movie, three members of the Army’s elite Explosive Ordinance Disposal squad (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty) battle insurgents and each other as they disarm several roadside bombs on the streets of Baghdad. The movie features cameo appearances from Oscar-nominee Ralph Fiennes (The Reader), David Morse (“John Adams”), Evangeline Lily (“Lost”) and Guy Pearce (Memento), and was filmed in Amman, Jordan and the cast was provided with security from the Jordanian military at the hotels where cast and crew were staying.

July 31

Thirst

A priest (The Host’s Song Kang-Ho) volunteers for a secret vaccine development project intended to stop a deadly virus. The priest comes in contact with the virus and a blood transfusion is given to him. Unfortunately, the operation turns him into a vampire. Already a box office smash hit in Korea, Thirst was honored with the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

Aug. 14

Paper Heart

You may not have heard of Charlyene Li, but you might remember her from her role as Seth Rogen’s roommate’s girlfriend in Knocked Up. In Paper Heart, Li travels the country to make a documentary about love, a subject she is skeptical of. With her friend (and director) Nicolas Jasenovec, they talk to several friends and strangers on the diverse views of modern romance.

As soon as filming begins, Li begins to fall in love with actor Michael Cera and their relationship develops in front of the cameras. Paper Heart premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for its writers, Jasenovec and Li.

Taking Woodstock

Directed by Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) and inspired by a true story, Taking Woodstock tells the story of Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) and his family, who played a pivotal role in the making of the famous Woodstock Festival. In 1969, Tiber moves from Greenwich Village, New York upstate to help run his parents’ motel in White Lake, New York. When the bank is about to foreclose on the motel, Elliot hears about a hippie festival getting a permit pulled from a neighboring town.

He convinces the producer to come to their town instead in order to attract guests to the motel and prevent the bank’s foreclosure on the family business. The festival that comes to his small hometown ends up attracting half a million people and becomes a defining moment for a generation.

Taking Woodstock has a cast that features Oscar-nominee Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Eugene Levy (American Pie), Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) and Live Schreiber (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). It was nominated for the prestigious Palm D’Or award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Aug. 21

World’s Greatest Dad

Fresh from the 2009 Sundance Film Festival is writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait’s film about a man (Robin Williams) who dreamed of becoming a famous writer, but settles for being a high school poetry teacher. His son (Daryl Sabara) treats him with contempt and the fellow faculty member he is dating (Alexie Gilmore) is ashamed of their relationship.

In the wake of a freak accident, he is faced with the possibility of having all the fame, fortune and popularity he’d always dreamed of while living with how he got into that position.

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