Alterna-Flicks |



Burned by all the gross-out tactics and jar jar antics? Then chill out with these cool summer movies

Run Lola Run

It starts with a phone call. A girl has to find 100,000 deutsche marks (just over $50,000) for her boyfriend in 20 minutes or he’s a dead man. Off like a shot, she tears through the streets of Berlin in search of the dough, reliving each failed attempt to find it until she gets it right.

Kinetic, fun, and featuring the coolest heroine in recent memory (think Mia Hamm in combat boots), Lola has run roughshod over Europe, so far grossing $12.4 million in Germany alone, and struck a ringing blow against the misperception of German film as a Sprockets-esque mess of black turtlenecks and humorless non sequiturs. ”Lola is philosophical, but you’re not pushed into it,” says director Tom Tykwer, who cast 24-year-old Franka Potente (now his girlfriend) in the title role. ”You can enjoy it, but there’s something to think about afterwards. This is the kind of movie that we should be producing — generating a new new wave.”

In Tykwer’s native Germany, the film racked up awards, made cherry red Lola haircuts the hipster rage, and inspired the mayor of Berlin to use the logo and graphics in a campaign poster (Tykwer went to court and prevailed). Foreign success is no guarantee that the phenomenon will catch on Stateside, but so far, Lola’s numbers make it one of the year’s top-grossing foreign-language films, and its biggest days may be yet to come.

”No matter how many raves we get, it’s still a German film,” says Michael Barker, copresident of Sony Pictures Classics, which has deliberately omitted the fact that Lola is subtitled from its marketing campaign. ”But we’ve made $2.2 million and could make $10 million, which would be the second-highest U.S. gross for a German film ever, behind Das Boot.” Indeed, there are already signs of Lola on the domestic pop-culture landscape. ”I heard that at a rally for Hillary Clinton, there was a ‘Run Hillary Run’ sign!” chortles Tykwer, who is readying his next film with Potente. ”My God, it’s incredible!” — Daniel Fierman

Arlington Road

Without so much as a single diarrhea reference, Arlington Road, a grown-up thriller about a man (Jeff Bridges) who suspects his neighbor (Tim Robbins) of being a terrorist, has managed to find favor with critics and discerning moviegoers in recent weeks. But even though it’s showing on more than 1,600 screens and has a handful of appealing stars (the cast also includes In & Out’s Oscar nominee, Joan Cusack, and indie fave Hope Davis), the movie is a Road less traveled during this summer of the poop joke. ”We’re the black jelly bean amongst the super-colorful sweet ones,” says director Mark Pellington of his film’s place in the box office candy jar. Even with a bit of don’t-reveal-the-ending buzz, the critically acclaimed thriller has grossed just under $15 million in two weeks.

Why is the movie flying under the radar? ”It’s not your typical summer escapist fare. It’s actually the opposite,” says Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, adding that Road is likely to find a more profitable niche in foreign markets and on video. The fact is, the film wasn’t meant to be a summer movie at all. Financed by PolyGram, then virtually orphaned after the company’s merger with Universal, and finally sold off to Sony’s newly created Screen Gems, a division intended to release mid-budgeted movies (the first was Limbo), the film was finally set for a late-spring release; then fallout from the Columbine High School shootings and potential conflicts with the release of The Phantom Menace forced it into July, when it opened smack in the face of Universal’s American Pie. Being stuck in the middle of the biggest box office summer in history isn’t easy for an alternative movie, even an alternative mainstream movie; but Pellington says he’ll take what he can get. ”I’d love for it to be called a sleeper,” he says. ”That would imply that people actually like it.” — David Hochman and Cheryl Klein