Look beyond summer blockbusters at a theater near you

By Evan Frank, Staff Writer

Since early May, there has been a big-budget film to hit theaters nearly every weekend. The result is that billions of dollars have been spent at the box office to see movies such as “Fast & Furious,” “Angels and Demons” and other blockbusters. What many people are not talking about, however, are the low-budget films that hit half as many theaters and make a quarter of what big-budget movies make. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad movies8212;far from it, actually.

Every year, the Sundance Film Festival, held in Park City, brings movies to art-house fans that come from all genres. This past year was no different, with one of the best films of the festival coming from the foreign language category. “Sin Nombre,” a film by Cary Fukunaga, brings an emotional tale about El Casper (Edgar Flores), a gang member who is looking for better things in his life, but doesn’t know how to leave his tortured past behind. El Casper tries to leave the gang, fleeing on a train roof to try to reach the U.S. border, which causes his former gang to put a bounty out for him. On the train, he meets an innocent girl named Sayra (Paulina Gaitan). They become attached and she realizes how fragile El Casper has become because of his horrible and violent past. This movie is riveting and heart-breaking. It tells a story of two people who are trying to get to the border for different reasons, and also shows the intense journey that they have to make to accomplish their goals. The film is produced by Focus Features, a popular distributor that has brought us films such as “Brokeback Mountain,” “Milk” and “In Bruges.” “Sin Nombre” takes you on a ride that you won’t want to get off.

Another movie that premiered at Sundance this past year is “Moon.” It is directed by newcomer Duncan Jones, son of musician David Bowie. It stars Sam Rockwell, who plays astronaut Sam Bell, along with Kevin Spacey voicing the character GERTY. Bell is nearing the end of his three-year contract from Earth, as he has been working for Lunar Industries, a company that extracts helium-3 from lunar soil on the surface of the moon. Bell is there to send it back to Earth, which provides power to billions of people. Only two weeks away from returning home, Bell spends his time watching taped video messages from his wife and baby daughter, along with talking to GERTY, a robot who assists Bell with his everyday life. As the days get closer to leaving, Bell suffers a freak accident and discovers that not everything is what it seems. Rockwell, who is acting by himself the majority of the film, does a fantastic job of bringing out the vulnerability of Bell and shows a person who is in serious need of human contact. This movie makes the audience think and has a refreshing take on the science fiction genre.

Also in theaters is “The Hurt Locker,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow made her presence known when she directed “Point Break” in 1991. This time around, Bigelow brings us a war film focusing on a bomb defusing squad stationed in Iraq in 2004. The film focuses on three young soldiers, Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner), Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), who risk their lives every day. Not only is this a fresh take on war films, but it also is driven by what is not in the dialogue. James, an off-the-wall soldier, takes his life into his own hands several times during the film, which causes the other members of his crew to question his wild tactics. The film is full of intense scenes of the three main characters trying to defuse bombs and keep unwelcome visitors away. Local onlookers roam the area as the team tries to make it safe by defusing car bombs or anything else that can explode and kill dozens.

The film has cameo appearances by Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse and Evangeline Lilly (Lost). These accomplished actors do not overshadow the three younger stars, but actually complement the fine performances throughout. Bigelow brings an exciting story about the people who work with deadly devices and risk not returning home to their families. “The Hurt Locker” is compelling and will give the audience a new appreciation for what our troops do on a daily basis.

In the end, you don’t need to go to a blockbuster movie every week to see a good film. Although big-budget movies can be exciting, art-house films bring a dynamic that is rarely seen in most big-budget films. The acting is superb, along with the interesting story lines and beautiful cinematography. Try an art-house film one of these days and see why festivals such as Sundance have become a hot spot for watching movies.

[email protected]