Movies: the underdogs

Paul Benedict

“Bend It Like Beckham”Box Office Gross: $31.4M

“Bend It Like Beckham” actually happens to be one of the few independent films that the general public went to see this summer ($31.4 Mil is great for an indy). It also happens to be an extremely enjoyable and intelligent film that should attract all audiences, not just adults and teenage girls. “Bend It Like Beckham” is, and I hate this phrase more than just about any other, “the feel-good movie of the year.” However, in this case, it’s true and it really needs to be emphasized. I can’t stand that people are comparing it to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” because of the mild and warm nature of the film, and also the buzz it’s generated with the public. However, there’s a huge difference between the two films: “BILB” is an all-around kicker of a film, while “MBFGW” is more of a shank. My advice is to see this film, bring a date if you’re insecure about seeing a so-called “chick flick,” and enjoy yourself because this as good as summer films get.

“28 Days Later”Box Office Gross: $43.8M

Another film that managed to find the light of some multiplexes despite being a smaller production. Perhaps having the name Danny Boyle attached as director contributed to this, or maybe it was the fact that this was far and away the most frightening movie to hit theaters this summer. Boyle is able to leave a lasting effect on his audience as he did with “Trainspotting” only this time he has you looking over your shoulder in utter fear. Set in London, the film centers around a group of survivors who are on the run from a blood-infected plethora of zombies who have seemingly devastated humanity on Earth. Several grotesque and shocking scenes highlight the chills and thrills of this well-made horror flick that puts “Freddy vs. Jason” and any other recent Hollywood horror movie to shame.

“Swimming Pool” Box Office Gross: $8.3M

After receiving much appraisal for his last two films, “Under the Sand” and “8 Women,” French director Francois Ozon makes his first film in English and doesn’t lose a step on his rise to directorial stardom. This sexy, mysterious thriller boasts two Oscar-worthy performances from Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier as conflicting friends who develop the unlikeliest of bonds. Despite what the title might suggest, “Swimming Pool” is far from your run-of-the-mill summer movie, but the visual flair employed by Ozon combined with an unpredictable and chilling story give viewers an artistic and innovative film that distinguishes itself in style from the overdone shootem-ups and action-packed adventures that rule the box office.

“Dirty Pretty Things”Box Office Gross: $2.6M

A trademark of a Stephen Frears film is how well he crafts his characters and breathes life into their every move. With the help of astounding all-around performances from his internationally-acclaimed cast, Frears brings to us what might be the best ensemble film in quite a long time. Audrey Tatou (“Amelie”) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (“Amistad”) headline this suspenseful look at how two illegal immigrants discover the eerie peculiarities of a London hotel while also trying to flee from the constant pursuit of INS agents. The only aspect of this film that even remotely resembles the summer movies we’re so used to is the endearing romance between Tatou and Ejiofor that is essential to the emotional involvement of the film. However, unlike many of the convenient love affairs we see so often in Hollywood, this romance feels so real as it draws out intense emotions from its viewers. “Dirty Pretty Things” is a film that may not be conventional by any means, but still demands the attention of the general public.

“City of God”Box Office Gross: $4.6M

Okay, so this isn’t technically a summer movie since it was released earlier in the year, but it’s still playing in some theaters across the country. If you haven’t yet heard of “City of God” or just haven’t had the opportunity to go see it, I suggest you waste no time and go see this movie. What you’ll discover is what I believe to be the undisputed No. 1 movie of the year so far and what will hopefully be the beginning of a long line of gems from Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles. Set in the early 1980s, Meirelles depicts the vicious crime world of a small village in Rio de Janeiro in a harrowing fashion. Think “Goodfellas” in Rio de Janeiro with adolescents being the main protagonists. Though extremely difficult to watch at times, it proves to be very rewarding by the end and certainly the eye-opener of the year.