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Unexpected Pleasures

Friday 22 June 2012, 13:31

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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I recently saw the Danish film A Royal Affair and was really surprised by how brilliant it was. Which movies have you gone to without expecting anything very much and then found yourself completely knocked out by how great they were?

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    Comment number 1.

    Headhunters, not so long ago.

    Missed whatever I wanted to see(can't remember now, says it all) and had a choice between Headhunters(which I'd never heard of before) and Battleship(which I didn't fancy and was a packed screening). Headhunters was virtually empty, had no expectations and first few minutes I was like "urgh...can't believe I've done this", but really got engaged by it. Mark is right, subtitles make no difference and I thought it was really good fun, a really solid movie and even better my review of it got read off on your radio show and Floyd and Boyd agreed with it!

    shame they're making an English version, just watch the original, great film.

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    Comment number 2.

    I saw Breaking Away last night - I'd say that

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    Comment number 3.

    It's a strange choice, but the film that I went into having low expectations and then came out thinking it was one of the best films I have ever seen was The Muppets (2011). I didn't know anything about the plot before I watched it, but I thought it was going to be awful. I thought it was going to be a case of the filmmakers taking something you loved in your chilhood and trashing it before your eyes. But after I had watched it, I had a big smile on my face. It had everything I wanted in it: fantastic characters, enjoyable songs, and a great story for everyone. In my opinion, one of the best family films of all time.

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    Comment number 4.

    It would have been 3 or 4 years ago when I saw In the Bedroom on TV. I had seen the posters online and due to the title I thought it would be a story about infidelity between a younger and older couple in a suburban setting a la American Beauty, how wrong I was. The film remains one of the most underrated and under discussed films of the last decade (despite the impressive Oscar nominations).

    It is one of the most fascinating and wonderfully subtle portraits of grief that I have ever seen on film. The way it approaches and represents suburban life is utterly refreshing and seemingly tries to do something new that we haven't seen before. It is also takes a few deeply unexpected turns that are still logical progressions of the narrative despite feeling out of left field, for example the film is by and large about vigilantism and asks brutal questions as to whether it is ever appropriate to take the law into your own hands. However there are no heroes nor clearly defined villains and when it chooses to walk down the dark path it keeps itself admirably low key.

    Performances are uniformly terrific featuring career bests from Tom Wilkinson, Marisa Tomei and the remarkable Sissy Spacek.

    In the Bedroom is a stupendous piece of work that has something to talk about but remains unfathomably not talked about.

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    Comment number 5.

    For me a recent example would have to be Drive. At first I thought the film would be yet another showreel of car chases backed up by a paper thin plot that's been done to death. However it turned out to be the total opposite, and the film was so surprising and impressive that it turned out to be my favourite film of 2011.

    A classic example that comes to mind would have to be The Hitcher (the original 1986 version) At first I thought it would turn out to be a cliched and cheap splatter-fest of a film. Instead it was a brilliant psychological thriller that avoids the gore and frightens the audience with its suspence and cut aways. The Hitcher is a film that lets the audience's imagination do all the work, and further proves that our imaginations can sometimes turn out to be far more frightening and disturbing than what we see on screen.

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    Comment number 6.

    I knew "A Royal Affair" was going to be solid. It's based on a terriffic novel, Per Olov Enquists "The Visit of the Royal Physician". The book has become required readings in high schools all over scandinavia.

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    Comment number 7.

    Drive.

    I went to see it without knowing anything about it. I had no idea where the film was going. Ryan Reynold's had me on edge to the extent that his merely helping Carey Mulligan carry her shopping made me tense. RR's character is supposed to be an enigma - but for me the entire plot was an enigma. The brutal, shocking moments were therefore even more brutal and shocking because they were so unexpected. I've never been so glad for not knowing anything about a film before seeing it, and I'm sure that, had I known the plot outline (which isn't too distinctive, to be sure), I'd never have been so engrossed and thrown by the film. I certainly left with a very large smile on my face.

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    Comment number 8.

    For me it has to be J.J. Abram's Start Trek from 2009. My step father took me to the cinema to see it and he was really excited as he liked the television series. Myself on the other hand having not seen any of the television shows, thought it was going to be a bit 'geeky' and rather lame.

    I was proved completely wrong. I left the cinema in utter awe with a huge smile across my face. Star Trek is without a doubt one of the best surprises and most enjoyable cinematic experiences I have ever had. Can't wait for the sequel!

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    Comment number 9.

    Watching The Shawshank Redemption for the very first time is something I remember vividly. I sat down in front of the telly at 10 o'clock on a Sunday night (with school the next day) knowing only that it was a film based on a story by Stephen King. I had no expectations whatsoever - not quite what was asked for I know - but the story, the characters and the filmmaking of Frank Darabont and crew were so utterly compelling I ended up staying up past midnight to watch the entire thing. Pure joy.

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    Comment number 10.

    Nice question... I do not go to the cinema much any more, so most of my discoveries are on video. Two films spring straight to my mind, as those I sat to watch with very low expectations, but ended up thoroughly enjoying.

    At cinema 1980s... 'The Terminator'. I had seen 'Exterminator 2' the previous week or so, and saw that 'The Terminator' was coming out that day at another cinema... I almost never went into the first screening in the town where I lived, but regardless of very low expectations - simply and ignorantly because of the similar names - and was completely bowled over by what is now a well known film.

    At home during the early 1990s... there was nothing at the video library and I'd seen a video for rent there for a few weeks and not bothered renting it... so I rented 'Link' thinking it would be pretty awful... and, whilst it is not a major work of genius, it instantly became one of my favourite films... not because of quality (though it is not without merit) but because it was delicious to my taste and humour. It also made me a bit of a Terence Stamp fan - and actor who, at that time, I only knew from his turn as Zod in the theatrical 'Superman II' (which had underwhelmed me and still does)... I loved his turn opposite Elizabeth Shue in 'Link'... and a wonderful Jerry Goldsmith score too.

    I've only ever seen the American cut of 'Link'. I'd love to see the European cut which has more Stamp in it, I understand... but at present it is only a wish.

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    Comment number 11.

    I saw Sexy Beast at the cinema on its release because there was nothing else I wanted to see.

    It just blew me away to see a visceral Ben Kingsley verbal assaulting Winstone and knocking him down to breaking point.

    I remember the local write up said -
    "We haven't seen this. However it stars Ray Winstone, so there is guaranteed to be a few heads knocked together!"

    I was the only one who watched it at our cinema for the whole week of release

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    Comment number 12.

    The most recent example that springs to mind is The Raid, which I saw in February, a full three months before it came out on general release. It wasn't actually low expectations I had, rather that I didn't have any expectations as I had heard very little about it at the time.

    However, the film turned out to be a terrific surprise, and one of the best action films of the past decade. I would also add The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to the list, which I was very sceptical about having seen the trailer, but I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience, with some stand-out performances, particularly from Tom Wilkinson and Dev Patel.

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    Comment number 13.

    Oh, and only recently have I found a very real taste for the British New Wave... the words 'Kitchen Sink Drama' had put a false impression into my head - but some of these like 'Room at the Top' and 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner' are among the best films I have ever seen.

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    Comment number 14.

    My biggest pleasant surprise was the much underrated 'Adventureland'. I watched that on a flight from Denver to London, normally I wouldn't watch films on a screen about the size of a matchbox but I thought "Ahh, this will be obnoxious Judd Apatow style rubbish."

    Boy, was I wrong. It was one of the most heartfelt comedies about romance (and specifically young love) I'd ever seen and is now one of my favourite movies. I'd honestly put it up there right next Annie Hall. Magnificent film.

    Also Batman Begins, not because I didn't know anything about it, but you're just very suspicious how well a reboot would go down. Especially since the last outing had been so bad. And I came out thinking "That wasn't just a great superhero movie, that was a great movie!! This rewrites the rule book for superhero movies!"

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    Comment number 15.

    The Prestige. Hadn't read the book before hand and wasn't reckoning on a film about a rivalry between two illusionists to be up to much....but it turned out be hugely absorbing - and I still remember the stunned twenty seconds of held breath after the final scene ended and the credits started to roll.

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    Comment number 16.

    @7 It was Ryan Gosling, not Reynold. Reynold's the one who ruined Deadpool!

    I'd say for me it was The Avengers. Mainly because I'm sick of Comic book adaptations (apart from the Batman ones) and I have very little confidence in Joss Whedon (Just go back to Buffy and Firefly and just look at the way he ends the episodes. He has no idea of how a ending should be, plus the attitude he had to Alien 4 was "It was everybody else's fault but mine the film sucked". Your bloody writer you should taken some of the blame for it), but The Avengers I found quite enjoyable and succeeded my low expectations. It seemed like the filmmakers cared for the characters and knew where they were going with the plot.

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    Comment number 17.

    I have to be honest; I saw this on TV and not in the cinema but it's the best example of this happening to me and the film in question is "The Breakfast Club".

    It was the late-night film after Match of the Day one Saturday evening so inertia was the initial reason for me watching it but I was soon dragged in and it remains one my favourite films to date. Only afterwards did I learn that it was as famous and loved as it is. It has lead me to look a more films for earlier decades that I might not have otherwise watched, greatly enriching my overall film experience.

    I think this also says a lot for catching films on TV. Although you might lose out on the cinematic experience by being in your living room, it can be the best place to be pleasantly surprised by a film that you have no prior knowledge of. This also gives us non-critics to experience of seeing films without the financial pressure of going to the cinema.

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    Comment number 18.

    i remember sitting on my own in the cinema and been very impressed with 'Gangster No.1', having gone to see it based solely on the fact that "i thought the poster was quite cool".

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    Comment number 19.

    I approached 'Lars and the Real Girl' with great scepticism ... can 'Ryan Gosling falls in love with a sex-doll' be met with any other feeling?! I was however unexpectedly impressed with the film. It charmed me, it amused me and I even felt moved at times by such an unlikely concept! A very pleasant surprise!

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    Comment number 20.

    Dead man's Shoes blew me away completely. I was amazed how good it was and how much I enjoyed it. I had no expectations at all and knew nothing about it, which I think can be a good way of watching a film nowadays!

    The Mist also amazed me. It sounded crap and the poster didn't fill me with great expectations, but, despite the dodgy cgi,it really took me in and captivated me, right up until its shocking ending. It's now firmly lodged in my top 10 ever movies list!

    Knowing nothing about a movie before you see it (no reviews,trailers,etc) definitely helps to watch it with no preconcieved expectations and judge it purely for what it is.

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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