This is the second installment of the 50/50 series, celebrating the halfway point of the Movie March to 100. Don’t miss part 1!
Probably the best moviegoing experience one can have is sitting down in a theater with little to no expectations and then proceeding to have an outstanding experience. Maybe the reviews were bad. Or the marketing was unimpressive or drab. Or maybe you just had no clue what the movie was about. But walking away from a theater happy when you expected to be unenthused at best or outright disappointed at worst can really turn a day around. While there were other pleasant surprises than these, here are the Top Five Pleasant Surprises from January through June of 2016.
The reviews weren’t great. Lily James wasn’t able to help me enjoy Cinderella. And Victorian era period pieces aren’t exactly known for stimulating pace and excitement. But I had a blast with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The cast was captivating, the dialogue was interesting enough, the action was surprisingly well-staged, and the cinematography was gorgeous. I bought this one on 4k blu-ray and it will be one of the first ones I watch in that format (it also came with the standard blu-ray) once I upgrade my system.
Okay, again, forgetting my schoolboy crush on Emilia Clarke (she’s single at the same time that I’m single. That just can’t be a coincidence.), I wasn’t expecting much from Me Before You. I certainly thought that I would enjoy Emilia. And I did, because I’m not some sort of soulless demon. But I was even more impressed by her than I anticipated. And the rest of the movie made me laugh, made me feel the feelings, and generally entertained me from beginning to end. The dialogue was sharp, the storytelling was bold and confident, the cast stepped up to the plate, and everything hit the mark. This one is proving more favorable in the eyes of general audiences than professional critics but really, the audience is what matters more. So far, it’s made a worldwide gross of over $111 million on a production budget of approximately $20 million. That’s an unqualified – and much deserved – success.
I have seen very few movies that were as hated before they were even released as Gods of Egypt was. People complained about the casting, the effects, the premise, the economy, global warming, the presidential election, Brexit . . . all of it was Gods of Egypt‘s fault. Unlike many of these people, I decided to 1) actually sit down and watch it and 2) do so objectively. And I had a blast. The action scenes were unique and exciting. The tone was light and fun. The dialogue was tight and snappy. The cinematography was clean and bright, fully immersing me in the world. And the cast – despite what many want to claim – was charming and perfectly suited for their roles. I have since bought and enjoyed this one again on 3D blu-ray. I’m so glad I decided to make up my own mind.
As I mentioned in my initial post regarding The Nice Guys, this movie had a lot going against it from my own personal preference perspective. I’m not a fan of the seventies. I haven’t been thrilled with director Shane Black’s recent work. And the initial marketing campaign didn’t grab me. But, boy, was I wrong about this one. I enjoyed myself from start to finish and found that this was the sort of movie that just makes me smile. The comedy was on point, the action was fun, the pacing was brisk, and Crowe and Gosling worked perfectly together. I look forward to checking The Nice Guys out again in the future.
1. The Shallows
The Shallows is a little different from the others because I expected that I would like it to some degree. I like Blake Lively and the concept was refreshingly simple and guttural. As much as I like thinkers (Memento and Mulholland Dr. are two of my favorite movies), I also enjoy films that are driven by pure thrill and emotion. I wasn’t prepared for how much I was going to enjoy The Shallows, however. Thanks to the combination of Lively’s hypnotic performance and pulse-pounding action, I walked out of the theater considering this one as perhaps my favorite film of the year so far.