CATEGORIES Features

Fact: Microwavable popcorn doesn't taste quite as delicious as it does out of buckets at the cineplex. Not that certain filmmakers got that memo this year.

More than ever, first-run movies are being made available for viewing solely in the privacy of one's own home. Take, for example Edward Burns' latest, 'Nice Guy Johnny,' which has never been in wide release; yet it will stream directly to your TV set via an exclusive deal with Comcast On Demand beginning October 26. Even more impressively, many of these movies are as good as those that you'll find in theaters.

A trip to the local movie house remains a fun experience, no doubt. But shifting audience expectations, more powerful home theater systems, and commitments by studios -- particularly HBO -- to create engaging films solely for the small(er) screen have made not-in-theater films a growing medium. And that's just fine to those millions of people who only want to plop down on the couch and watch some boob tube.

Don't believe us? Moviefone takes a look at a handful of non-traditional 2010 releases that have separated themselves from the pack. Did we miss any? Disagree with our selections? Sound off in the comments section below.

Temple Grandin'Temple Grandin'

Anyone who watched this year's Emmy Awards telecast will recall 'Temple Grandin.' The HBO movie tells the story of the so-named woman who embraced the way autism shaped her vision of the world and her incredible auditory senses, and how Grandin used that unique perspective in her writings and work as a prolific animal scientist. Claire Danes, who won the Outstanding Lead Actress award for her portrayal of Grandin, depicts her as a woman who is captivating, "different," and above all, driven. The film was nominated for 15 awards and won seven, including Outstanding Made for Television Movie.


'The Two Escobars'

This film is part of ESPN's innovative '30 for 30' series, a collection of compelling documentaries about incredible figures in sports, popular culture and politics, and in the case of 'The Two Escobars,' about a magnificent criminal. The film opens and closes with the shocking "own goal" by Andrés Escobar, a captain of the Colombian World Cup team in 1994. Ten days after the infamous goal and heavily-favored Colombia's 2-1 loss to the U.S., Escobar was murdered in his hometown. The other Escobar (hardly the "other") is Colombian drug kingpin and ruthless killer Pablo Escobar, who, also murdered, was a huge soccer fan and a supporter of the Colombian team. Directed by Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist, the film explores the connections between two men with the same last name.


'Tinker Bell And the Great Fairy Rescue'
While this animated movie may not find a place on many of your Netflix queues, it is nonetheless proof of a changing movie paradigm. (And if you needed more evidence, Jennifer Love Hewitt is also a crossover to TV films with 'The Client List' and accompanying posters that highlight two assets her films customarily showcase.) The direct-to-DVD Disney release stars Mae Whitman as Tinker Bell and Michael Sheen as Dr. Griffiths, a science-obsessed father whose strained relationship with his daughter is repaired by the tiny fairy; indeed, the film has a lesson for adults, too.


You Don't Know Jack'You Don't Know Jack'
Who else but Al Pacino to take on the role of Dr. Jack Kevorkian (now 82 years old), the defiant, determined, egotistical physician-assisted suicide champion from Michigan. The film's title riffs the phrase that also serves as a theme for the doctor who, after he became a household name, also became a punch line. Also by HBO, the Barry Levinson-directed film, nominated for 15 Emmys and winner of two, captured excellent performances by Pacino, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon.


If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise'If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise'
Spike Lee picks up where he left off four years earlier in 'When The Levees Broke,' a heartbreaking account of disaster-ravaged New Orleans. Spike collaborated with HBO again on 'If God Is Willing' where life is still damn hard in the Big Easy as it continues to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Over 300 people shared their stories for the rich four-hour-long documentary, which wrapped up as another disaster struck: the BP oil spill. Lee and his crew returned for reaction; somehow, the people maintain their resolve to rebuild their beloved city.

'Cemetery Junction'
The Ricky Gervais-directed comedy was released theatrically in the U.K. but went straight to DVD on our side of the pond. Though the storyline is not unique -- three lifelong friends coming of age in the 1970s struggle to beat paths away from home -- the plot is easily identifiable and the script is warm and funny. Not fuzzy -- funny; this is Ricky Gervais we're talking about (who plays one of the three boys' fathers).


'Unthinkable'
If you thought it unthinkable that Samuel L. Jackson would headline a straight-to-DVD title in 2010 -- you were wrong. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but audiences have grown accustomed to seeing Samuel L. in heavily promoted, multimillion dollar silver screen productions; that, or shouting laughable obscenities about reptiles on aircrafts. But 'Unthinkable' is no slouch. It's a topical, psychological thriller about a white, Muslim, domestic terrorist (Michael Sheen) who claims to have planted three nuclear weapons set to detonate in undisclosed locations in the U.S. Meanwhile, Jackson and Carrie Anne Moss play a pair of skilled negotiators who desperately attempt to elicit information from the terrorist through increasingly extreme techniques.



'The Special Relationship'
Coupled with his portrayal of British journalist and entertainer David Frost in 2008's outstanding Frost/Nixon, Michael Sheen seems to be developing a monopoly on British political figures (as well as a monopoly on being mentioned in this article!). 'The Special Relationship,' by HBO Films, explores the bond between former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Sheen) and former U.S. President Bill Clinton (Dennis Quaid) and the unique challenges they both faced prior to and during their respective terms in office. The film, which could also be the title of Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, earned five Emmy nominations.