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Surprise Surprise

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Mark Kermode Mark Kermode | 16:52 UK time, Friday, 6 July 2012

I recently asked you which films you went to see with no expectations that turned out to be brilliant. Here are some of the gems you identified.

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Related Posts on Kermode Uncut
My Top Five Films Of The Year...So Far

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.



  • Comment number 1.

    Mark,i was expecting todays blog to be the film club, i've just rewatched the last film club post and you said first week of July, Fire Walk with Me. I have my copy and i'm sure everyone else does all we need is the introduction.

  • Comment number 2.

    I cant believe no one mentioned this, The Dark Knight. After greatly enjoying Batman Begins, my father thought critics were acclaiming it because of Heath Ledger's Posthumous Joker. But he was wrong. It was gripping, wonderful, with great proformences (even "bwasabwasa" Bale as Batman) and truly, My favorite film of all time.

  • Comment number 3.

    Sorry for hijacking these comments but when is the next intro for the film club, it was over a month since Dr K picked Twin Peak Fire Walk With Me and I need to return it to the Library soon!

  • Comment number 4.

    Pleasantly surprised there was not one mention of 3D.

    And I, too, was wondering why no Twin peaks: Fire Walk With Me blog entry. I did watch that abomination, so I was interested in hearing why you thought it was worth seeing.

  • Comment number 5.

    Dear Dr K,

    Unfortunately I've not been able to get a copy of Firewalk with Me but did find your latest blog very interesting.

    I have now requested Dead Presidents, Son of Rambow and Possession from lovefilm so am looking forward to seeing them as I know very little about them.

  • Comment number 6.

    The other day I received a copy of Donnie Darko from my aunt 'Bargin Bin' Caroline for my birthday. I hadn't heard of it, but the box said "It'll have your brain doing backflips!" and I couldn't help but just think 'Oh yeah, try me'. And, blimey Charlie, if my head isn't on the GB Olympics gymnastics team, there's been a major injustice. I've watched it three times in the past week and it's slowly making less and less sense, but I love it more and more.

    I couldn't help but think of the original post here as the credits rolled first time around.

  • Comment number 7.

    The first Bill and Ted was the most unexpected. Not only the biggest surprise but also had to grudgingly concede to my younger brother when he chose the film we watched with my Dad at the pictures.

  • Comment number 8.

    Theres a second hand shop called Phase 2, on strand street that sells DVDs for 99p ! needless to say it shamefully feeds my addiction.It amazes me the quality of DVDs people get rid of. This week I picked up The Crying Game in a ridiculously fast flick of the wrist, the week before Dead Presidents. Youv`e been banging on about it for years. I`m very glad to say it was every bit as great as you said it was,Oh yes ! my only criticism, it didnt know quite when to end.Great use of great music.

  • Comment number 9.

    Brian doesn't have to stop listening to the show. He can just do what I do: take so long to get around to seeing something that I've forgotten everything I knew about it to begin with. My mail from Netflix is a constant surprise.

  • Comment number 10.

    I watched 'Some Guy Who Kills People' and that turned out to be much more interesting than it needs to be, brutally abandoning narrative every time you think the main character has something to do.

  • Comment number 11.

    Did anyone else notice that the short appearance of the 'Dead Presidents' DVD cover was in fact a mocked up version with the faces of actors replaced by US presidents?

  • Comment number 12.

    The Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me blog will, according to Dr K on Twitter, go up on Tuesday.

    The last time I was extremely pleasantly surprised by a film was Enchanted when I went to Cineworld not knowing what was being shown and there were two films starting at the time: Bee Movie and Enchanted. I really didn't know where it was going at first, but left the cinema with a big smile on my face and since watched the BD quite a few times.

  • Comment number 13.

    swodder mentions brotherly film choices which reminded me of probably my most overwhelming unexpected gem.

    my older brother came to stay for the holidays and was given the task of choosing a video rental for the whole family. he returned with The Princess Bride and I was unimpressed. "isn't that some kids fairy tale?" I said unfortunately in front of our parents. he reassured us that it was so much more but they refused to watch it.

    me and my brother watched it together and i thanked him for what remains one of my favourite films of all time.

  • Comment number 14.

    So true, so true: the less you know about a movie and the lover your expectations are, the more your chances are of enjoying it.
    And the proof is in the pudding: look at the reactions to Prometheus. Certainly not a masterpiece, but because all of the hypes and expectations lots of people liked seemed to have liked it a lot less that they should have... ( I actually did enjoy it
    On the opposite side of the sprectrum there's a little film which I saw in a preview last week knowing absolutely NOTHING about and absolutely adored it:
    "Seeking a friend for the end of the world".
    Now, with hindsight I recognise that the film was certainly no masterpiece and if I had to pick it to pieces I would certainly be able to, but the surprise of it and the fact that going to watch it I was really going into the complete unknown, made me enjoy the experience more than I probably should have...

  • Comment number 15.

    I loved Happiness of the Katakuris. Loved it.

    Another film that really took me by surprise was Lukas Moodysson's Together. Knowing nothing about it when I went in and expecting it to be dark and angsty, I was delighted to find it to be a (more than 6 laughs) comedy with a genuinely feelgood ending. Ironically, I saw Lilya 4 Ever at the LFF a couple of years later hoping for the same kind of payoff. How wrong could I be?

  • Comment number 16.

    I love that bit in Possession where he has a blazing row with his wife, chases her into the street, causes a car crash then runs off playing football with a group of kids.

  • Comment number 17.

    A friend and I watched Summer Scars recently, an ultra low budget British film that was superb. I watched it very reluctantly but the story was well told and all the performances were excellent. Kevin Howarth was great, he really should be more widely recognised, a fine actor.
    Source Code was another recent one. Another friend told me that it was rubbish! How wrong he was, best scifi I've seen for ages,and far better than Prometheus!
    low expectations definitely enhances the enjoyment of a film that is surprisingly good.

  • Comment number 18.

    Mark - you were way too kind on "Luneta No. 1" - not only was this film a shocking miss representation of Havana but life in Cuba! The flip side to Rebeca Chávez's propaganda is in "The Waterfields" - unfortunately it's not yet a film but it is a novel in amazon. There you can see some of the real Cuba that Luneta No 1 wants us to believe doesn't exist! Have included the link - hope you don't mind. (

  • Comment number 19.

    Long time reader and fan, first time poster. I've seen many films that surprised me over the years, but I've learned that expectation is a cruel mistress. Just because you like a director or actor is no guarantee their entire back catalog will be to your tastes. As my username suggests, I'm a gamer as well as a movie fan, and I've tried to stop using the word "potential". All things - games, movies, TV shows - have potential. Judging something based upon its early potential only leads to abject disappointment when it doesn't quite live up to it. Going into most things this year with this mindset of judging on what something is, not what it could be, has definitely surprised me. I've enjoyed a lot more movies, games and tv shows than I did last year as a result.

    But to the subject matter, and one of my nicest surprises came in the form of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I caught on a certain Channel 4 last year - I am not usually one for romcoms, but the science fiction bent, truly barking story and stellar performances from familiar faces caught me off guard, with an ending that did feel predictable but right, that mistakes must be learned from, not forgotten - otherwise you are doomed to repeat them. I'd always assumed that sitting in the romcom genre, it would bore me senseless. How wrong I was. That'll teach me to judge an movie based on the genre it sits in...

  • Comment number 20.

    Zatoichi (2003) was a wonderful surprise for me.

  • Comment number 21.

    #9 Jon Delfin, oddly enough I made a similar remark under the Long Range Reviews thread, that the changes in the timing of how we view films now, mostly in their post theatrical releases, gives the time to forget much of the details from reviews.

    As I don't expect anyone to scroll back through my remarks, the context of what I wrote, which, as a nice shout out, Mark has capped this video with (thanks, Mark): I wasn't bizarrely threatening to stop listening to Mark's show (as if that would matter to anyone), I was merely reflecting that the celebration in that thread of lack of expectations, made me think that even the well balanced information provided in Mark's reviews, and Simon's occasional slips regarding the unfortunate events, might be Too Much Information.

    Still, there's probably a few films that you need to have your expectations altered to the point that you avoid wasting time on them completely. It would probably be a whole 'nother thread if we listed the films that on paper had all the right ingredients, but were execrable nonetheless, which is a good reason to listen to Mark who's been paid to sit through them, and act as a early warning system. It's a public service, and it would be churlish of me to dishonour his sacrifice by ignoring it. At least until he gets an O.B.E., at any rate.

  • Comment number 22.

    I was bored the other night, and the only thing on TV that I hadn't seen was Mama Mia! I was expecting to hate it, but I ended up being swept up by it. I'm still not sure whether I hate myself for it or not.

  • Comment number 23.

    I recently watched Sundays and Cybele (1962). What a film. Disturbing, moving and character-led.

    I am so fed up with all the derivative stuff that's churned out nowadays, full of CGI; no depth and nothing to grab on to.

    I am on a quest to watch the most idiosyncratic films of the last 80 years, no matter where they come from.

    Any suggestions?

  • Comment number 24.

    Two that immediately spring to mind are "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang" with Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer: the banter between the two leads is simply a delight... and it's a good thriller too.

    Also Jeunet & Caro's "MicMacs": from the makers of "Amelie", full of a similar joyous innocence, complex plot strands woven together masterfully. And exquisitely filmed.

    I knew nothing about either of these beforehand, so it was just a case of "Oh well, I'll give it a go". I was very pleasantly surprised by both of them. No idea why either of them didn't do better...

  • Comment number 25.

    I dreaded seeing The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as my mum was going for the sake of the well-known cast. I'd been let down by Judi Dench's four minutes in Shakespeare In Love (play a queen, get an Oscar!) and expected this to be all luvvies doing very little for a hell of a lot of publicity.

    I was expecting a glorified It Ain't Half Hot Mum for the 21st century and was hugely surprised to see that Dev Patel wasn't just in as the token Asian. He was practically the boss of this poky little hotel. Ronald Pickup telling of his affair with an Asian boy long ago, and meeting up with him and his family later, was really touching.

    Celia Imrie sleepwalked through it all in the customary 'Miss Babs from Acorn Antiques' fashion though!

  • Comment number 26.

    Thanks Graphis

    I've seen KKBB and I agree with you, it's a really super film. Never fails to cheer me up on a grey day.

    I will search out Jeunet & Caro's "MicMacs" - a new one for me!

  • Comment number 27.

    Great to see acknowledgement for Son Of Rambow and Menace II Society, two very overlooked films. I'll take the time to acknowledge two films I had the pleasure of reviewing. Anvil! The Story Of Anvil and NEDS were two films I thought would be decent watches, but turned out to be respectively my Best Film of 2009 and second-best Film of 2011.

    Keep up the good work, Dr. K!

  • Comment number 28.

    "7. At 22:44 6th Jul 2012, swodder wrote:

    The first Bill and Ted was the most unexpected."

    Surely you mean most triumphant!

  • Comment number 29.

    Yeh! And let's all be excellent to each other!

  • Comment number 30.

    I need no convincing to love FWWM. Fell in love with Twin Peaks when it was on BBC2 when I was a teen, became a lifelong fan of Lynch, even his bad films are good. Going to rewatch it, and perhaps the first series of TP again on the back of this Mark.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ flixart, you wanted suggestions., off the top of my head
    Tampopo,Vigil,Martyrs,Ratcatcher,Electra glide in blue,The Crying Game,Harold and Maud, The Music Lovers

  • Comment number 32.

    oh I forgot ,if you like ideosyncratic you must watch Happyness ,andThe Fisher King

  • Comment number 33.

    The films that really were a genuinely pleasant surprise to me recently were the first Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr being really watchable) Kick Ass (a 'proper' comic book movie) & the most surprising was District 9 - such a growing plot, a mash-up of styles & genres & a genuinely thrilling move - love it!

  • Comment number 34.

    Thanks babyfacemichael

    Seen four of those, but not the rest!

  • Comment number 35.

    I thought Pan's Labyrinth was great! :0

  • Comment number 36.

    MicMacs strangely sweet

  • Comment number 37.

    You got me thinking
    Bubba Hotep,Equus,The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover,Kontroll,The Tin Drum,Wings of Desire,the Night Porter,Distant Voices Still Lives,Heartless
    The FourthMan,TheHairdressersHusband,Delicatessen,Exotica,Love and Death,The Station Agent
    and I`m sure there are many more exotic delights i havnt seen

  • Comment number 38.

    There were some good suggestions mentioned: Noted! TU.

  • Comment number 39.

    Hi babyfacemichael

    Hope we won't p anyone off using this as our film exchange (!) but lots of stuff there I have not seen...although I don't like violence done casually or horror.

    Now, if you haven't seen Sundays and Cybele, please see that. Super film.

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi flixart.
    This threads a bit old so we should be O.K. If you dont like horror you might want to give Heartless a miss ,but i love it, and in its own way, its quite sensitive. The others should be o.K. Ive never heard of Sundays and Cybele, so its now on my Christmas list.I just drowned in DVDs on my bithday,Top of the list was The Devils,just as great as i remember it.I didnt suggest it because if youve followed the blog,you knew about it anyway. Wonderful extras with Ken R.I.P.

  • Comment number 41.

    Can I say a documentary? New York Doll.
    I didn't know the first thing about the new york dolls and wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into when I sat down with this. I guessed the man on the front was in the new york dolls and was probably a jaded rockstar arseh*le.

    The persona in question, Arthur 'Killer' Kane, turns out be a big friendly giant of a character, who's gentle reserve and the subsequent heart wrenching events, had me in tears near the end.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'd probably go with The Hunter and The Grey as well. Oh, and Beneath hill 60.

  • Comment number 43.

    Sorry Flixart,
    But I Forgot to say dont watch Martyrs as it has violence and horror aplenty, not your cup of tea me thinks.

  • Comment number 44.

    A film I had hardly any expectations for was Source Code. I was allowed to borrow it along with The Hurt Locker. I expected the Oscar winning war film to blow me away, which it didn't. However, Source Code did. I loved almost everything about this film. How it didn't get a nomination for Best Original Screenplay is beyond me. As for a film I had high expectations for that weren't met. Quantum of Solace springs to mind

  • Comment number 45.

    caught the 9th company by chance on tv..gripped

  • Comment number 46.

    and yes the grey was very good and in an expected way too.

  • Comment number 47.

    I picked up a copy of North Face a while ago- the German film about the famously catastrophic 1936 attempt to climb the Eiger's infamous Nordwand. I watched it with absolutely no expectations at all, and I spent 2 hours with the sensation that I was about to be swept off the face by an avalanche. I did not like Johanna Wokalek's character much, although I thought she played it as well as could be expected given the script, but the film was overall very engaging

  • Comment number 48.

    John carter was a movie that surprised by not being what should been.Let's get this straight was not overly even though it cost 250 million just to make the movie I still had hopes for it and I thought to myself of all the possibilties this film could have even with a not well known cast but an oscar winning director.But it turned to be a medicore adventure to amars that didnt look like mars.

  • Comment number 49.

    This was a very useful summary: Made a note of some of these films "to be viewed". A good way to get reliable recommendations from people, ask them for films that surprised them; logged!



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