Summertime is when Hollywood releases its biggest, flashiest films, and this summer has been no exception. Loud, noisy, and often dumb movies like Transformers 2, Star Trek, and G.I. Joe have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.
But some smaller films are deserving of your time and attention, too. Don't let these movies pass you by:
Sam Rockwell does double duty as the sole human inhabitant of a lunar-based space station, named Sam Bell, who's nearing the end of a three-year contract to mine for a source of clean energy. Living alone so far from home takes a psychic toll. It doesn't help that his only companion is a robot voiced by the always creepy Kevin Spacey. Suffused with atmosphere and a sense of paranoia, Moon is in the best tradition of low-budget, thoughtful science fiction.
The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker puts the lie to the glorified cartoons we call action movies these days. It follows a three-man Explosive Ordinance Disposal team in Iraq, whose job is to find and defuse homemade bombs. The team lead, Sgt. William James, is a risk-taker who only feels alive when he's facing death. This movie is frank about the drug-like pull of combat, without moralizing or taking a political stance on the war.
This one, at least, made some money. District 9 pulled in $37 million at the box office its opening weekend, which is good by any metric, but still about a fifth of what Transformers made in the same timespan. District 9 is an allegory about South African Apartheid, in which the oppressed class are newly arrived extraterrestrials. Funny, trenchant, and thoughtful, this movie has much more going on beneath the surface than the energy weapons and walking robots would lead you to believe.
Please note that all of these films are rated R, but could be appropriate for thoughtful teenagers. You may want to screen them for yourself first.