Last year, thought-provoking independent film District 9 swept the box office and blasted its way into the Oscars. Was this a fluke, or could it happen again? Here are eight new science-fiction underdogs that could be the next sleeper hit.
To be sure, some of the films in this list have A-list stars, like Matt Damon and Robert Downey Jr. But they're still smaller projects, without the budgets of a Tron Legacy or a Transformers 3.
Oh, and there are minor spoilers in this post, but nothing major.
1) Source Code
This is Duncan Jones' next project after the critically acclaimed Moon. Source Code still hasn't released an official plot synopsis besides this: "A sci-fi story centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of a commuter who witnesses a train explosion."
Jake Gyllenhaal plays the soldier, whose detective work includes letting the government "insert" his mind into the body of a passenger on the doomed train. He keeps visiting the scenario again and again, until he uncovers the source of the accident. It sounds like an incredibly cerebral film, and hopefully after Inception, with its own brain-boggling premise, is unleashed on the masses, the general public will be more apt to be interested in mind-bending scifi films. It's got the makings of a great break-out film: a recognized actor, two buzz-worthy actresses (Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan), and a director who richly deserves his moment in the sun.
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2) The Darkest Hour
Emille Hirsch just signed on to star in this $40 million alien invasion flick. Hirsch, an exceptionally talented actor in spite of the negative Speed Racer buzz, joins director Chris Gorak. Gorak directed Right At Your Door, a brilliant genre film that never quite took off. This story takes place in Russia and follows a group of American tourists struggling to deal with the aftermath of an alien invasion. The film has a big-time producer, Timur Bekmambetov, to help give it wings. Let's hope they spend some money — and some brain-power — on making exciting but believable aliens.
3) The Adjustment Bureau
This film might not need any help from genre fans, since it already stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. But it does happen to be based on a Philip K. Dick short story, "Adjustment Team," about an affair between a politician and a ballerina and the mysterious forces keeping these two lovers apart. This film could stumble into a "Richard Kelly"-like mess, leaving it up to the cognoscenti to explain the ending to everyone else. But nevertheless, if you made a movie that was just Damon demonstrating how to recaulk your bathtub, people would still buy tickets to it.