By Tony Phyrillas
Success in Hollywood is measured by box-office numbers. That doesn't mean good movies always make money. "The Hurt Locker" took in just $16.4 million in theaters last year, but won the Oscar for Best Picture. Conversely, really bad movies end up making a ton of cash. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" took in $220 million. Need I say more?
Below is a list of five very good movies you may have missed at the theater this year. All are available on DVD and come highly recommended.
"From Paris With Love" is a big-budget action film with top-name stars (John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers of "The Tudors") that inexplicably tanked at the box-office, earning a paltry $24 million in February. This is one of the best action films of all time, with Travolta perfect in the role of a resourceful, wise-cracking CIA hit man showing would-be spy Meyers the ropes. The plot involves stopping a terrorist attack on Paris. There's lots of shootings and explosions and some funny lines by Travolta reminiscent of "Pulp Fiction." There's also a shocking plot twist you'll never see coming.
"Daybreakers" made $30 million in its initial release in January, a far cry from the $296 million made by the lame teen melodrama "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," but "Daybreakers" is by far the best vampire film of the year. It's got action, really scary scenes and best of all, it's a thinking-man's vampire movie. In the not-too-distant future (2019), a plague has turned most of the world's population into vampires who rely on a shrinking human population for blood to keep them "alive." Ethan Hawke is a vampire-scientist trying to find a blood substitute not only to provide profits for the vampire-run corporation he works for, but he has a soft-spot for humans, who are hunted to provide a blood supply for the vampires willing to pay to price. Hawke's life takes an unexpected turn when he meets Willem Dafoe, the leader of a group of human refugees. Dafoe holds the key to saving both humans and vampires, but is being hunted by the evil corporation.
"Youth In Revolt" is one of the smartest and funniest coming-of-age comedies in years, but it tanked at the box office, earning just $15 million. Michael Cera plays the familiar teenage geek bouncing between divorced parents and their odd partners. His life takes on meaning when he falls for an attractive girl (Portia Doubleday) while hiding out with his mother and her shady boyfriend (Zach Galifinakis) at a campground. Steve Buscemi and Fred Willard are hilarious in supporting roles.
"Greenberg" is an acquired taste that drags at times, but stick with it and you'll never forget this film. Ben Stiller has had a string of box-office hits by playing the same character but he's never really acted until "Greenberg," which made just $4.2 million in limited release in March. Stiller is a revelation. He deserves an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of an unlikable person who is drifting aimlessly through life. Roger Greenberg (Stiller) is a 40-year-old New Yorker who has recently suffered a nervous breakdown and moves to L.A. to house-sit for his brother and "do nothing." His plans don't work out as he encounters people from his past and starts to fall for his brother's personal assistant, a 26-year-old free spirit names Florence (played by wonderful new actress named Greta Gerwig.)
"Chloe" made just $3 million in its March release despite an A-list cast that includes Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried. It's a sexy suspense thriller reminiscent of "Fatal Attraction." An insecure doctor (Moore) hires a call girl (Seyfried) to seduce her college professor husband (Neeson) because Moore suspects Neeson is cheating on her. The plan backfires. Seyfried has her own agenda and ends up seducing Moore — with tragic consequences. One note of waring: The film pushes the limits of its R rating with one of the most graphic sex scenes between two big-name actresses (Moore and Seyfried) ever shown in a mainstream film. This is director Atom Egoyan's remake of the 2003 French film "Nathalie..."