Five Movies I Didn’t Plan to Love

I admit it, guys. Sometimes I can be wrong about this whole movie thing.

No, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about when I prejudge a movie, assuming it’s going to be somewhere between boring and dreck, and it actually turns out to be something special.

In this age of publicity photos, character posters, trailers, trailers for trailers, internet hype, critic reviews, and everything else that comes before the release of a movie, it’s important to remember that, in the end, the only thing that matters is how you feel when you actually sit down and watch the thing from beginning to end.

Here are five movies that taught me that lesson.


I like Snatch as much as the next guy, but the Guy Ritchie thing had kinda played itself out for me. All of his British gangster movies started to run together for me, and even Sherlock Holmes (which came out later, but I saw it first) had been a mixed bag. When I saw the trailer for RocknRolla, all I really thought was “oh, another one of those.”

Somehow, though, RocknRolla became my favorite film yet from the iconic director. I’m not sure why. It’s not as funny as Snatch, or as fresh as Lock, Stock, or as flat-out entertaining as Sherlock Holmes. Certainly it has a great cast, what with established names like Gerard Butler and Tom Wilkinson and rising stars like Mark Strong and Tom Hardy, but I think the reason I dug it so much is that it’s Ritchie’s most well-balanced movie. It’s funny, violent, confusing, and cool in turn, without ever pushing too hard in any direction. If you missed this when it came out, go give it a chance. If you’re like me, it might be the Guy Ritchie movie you didn’t know you were waiting for.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Why would I have been looking forward to this? The entire story is, “Food falls from the sky.” Given how many bad movies get made from children’s books that actually have PLOTS, (Jumanji, The Cat in the Hat, etc), it was hard to imagine this one even being tolerable. Besides, the trailer just made it look like your typical animated comedy cash-in. Based on the theme of this column, you’re probably guessing that I liked it.

I really liked it. Cloudy is a joke-filled kid’s movie, for sure (among other things, it features a talking chimpanzee and flying pizza), but it managed to do two important things. One, it actually pushed the premise of a city subjected to meteorological food attacks further than it was taken in the book. Two, it created fun, relatable characters for the audience to grab onto once the story takes a turn for the bizarre. The nerdy outcast and the unappreciative father are cliches, but somehow in this movie they felt fresh again. Add in some outrageous visual humor and the occasional sharp bit of satire, and you’ve got a delicious family-sized cinematic treat (I’m so sorry).

Also, the visuals!


I’m usually not a huge fan of overcooked, herky-jerky action movies. There’s the odd exception to the rule (The Bourne Supremacy, for instance), but by and large I try to avoid them. So when Domino hit the streets, I was already a little hesitant, but the real kicker came when the reviews came in. RottenTomatoes: 19%. Ouch. Pass.

Imagine my surprise when I wound up not only watching this movie, but liking it. Far from the plotless noise I was expecting, Domino turned out to be so complicated that the movie actually brings up charts a couple of times to explain who everybody is. Keira Knightley owns as the title character (the polar opposite of Pride & Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet, who she played the same year). Even the sun-seared visual style fits, since a story as crazy as supermodel-turned-bounty hunter Domino Harvey’s deserves an equally insane movie. Screw the RottenTomatoes rating; this is the kind of flick that should make critics say things like “Buckle up!”

And then, Tom Waits! What more do you need?

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  1. I had the exact same thing with Hot Rod. I saw the trailer and thought, “Really SNL? Giving this newcomer a movie about stunts…yawn.” I never thought I would see it and totally wrote it off. A few years ago I said whatever and watched it. I don’t think I have ever turned on a movie so quickly for the better. That movie is truly a gem.

  2. Superman Returns is highly underrated. I don’t think the Superman character in general is very compelling (bland) but I really like that film. I’m also glad it kick-started Brandon Routh’s career (sorta).

  3. I think my movie I didn’t plan to love was Brother’s Bloom… I’m usually not into girly movies, but Adrien Brody.. anywho, love this movie and don’t mind getting stuck watching it anytime it comes on.

  4. After seeing Napoleon Dynamite with friends and thinking it was a total let down, I expected Nacho Libre to go in the exact same direction. My brother and I loved it and we were the only 2 people in the theater laughing.

  5. I’m going to go in a totally diferent direction…the documentary called Babies.
    I had heard good things but having not seen too many documentaries before (except for Michael Moore stuff and the guy who ate all the McDonalds food) I found the movie fascinating. I don’t even like babies/kids…maybe it was seeing 4 totally different cultures and the realization that babies are pretty much the same anywhere – even when parenting styles are very different.

  6. I loved Hot Rod, too, but I don’t know why anyone would like Domino (outside Christopher Walken’s mini-rant about office supplies or whatever). I had high hopes for Domino, though.

  7. @Beorach

    I can think of one reason people might like it.

    You get to see Kiera Knightley’s boobs. Literally the only thing I remember haha,

  8. I too was pleasantly surprised by Superman Returns. I really like the idea of him returning to an Earth that more or less doesn’t believe in his type of heroics. “Truth, Justice, and the American way” is a joke to many people. I would have loved if they explored more of that.

    This was also the first time that Superman actually looked super. The plane crash and lifting the Kryptonite island were spectacular on the big screen.

    Also, Routh was a great Superman/Clark Kent. Much like how Chris Evans plays Captain America, these guys took characters that the audience could end up laughing at, and made them care.

    I was disappointed in the fact that Luther’s motives are the same as the original film. I remember Singer saying this movie was a pseudo- sequel to Donner’s films so maybe that is why. It just felt a little weak. And perhaps trying to tie in with the previous films was a mistake to begin with.

    I’m curious to see where Zack Snyder’s Superman goes. I think a complete relaunch of the character is necessary. Much like comic book artists putting their own stamp on the characters in print, I think having different directors step in a create their version of the character is interesting. Like how Nolan’s Batman is unique to this one contained storyline and at some point down the line, another team will come in and create a new version.

  9. @SHMEE

    Good point. There are a lot of stains on that franchise… I guess that’s what happens when you’re the first major Superhero and you’ve been around for so long.

  10. Harold and Kumar go to White Castle.

    My brother and I went to the movies late one night and it was between this movie and a different one (cant remember).

    We both said, in a disappointed tone, “I guess its Harold and Kumar.” We hadnt seen the trailers and had no idea what it was about but were cracking up throughout the movie. We ended up going out for burgers afterward.

  11. One such movie I’ve seen was Stay Alive. I know, I’m going to get a lot of flack for this, but I do like this movie. I’m not really into scary movies mainly, and the trailer for this one didn’t have convinced. Then I watched a cut up version of it free on SyFy, it was better than I thought it would be. For starters, it was kind of a ghost story, and I love ghost stories. Then there was the accurate representation of video games in the film, as opposed to mistakes like two kids playing FF8 at once in Charlie’s Angels, for example. And, as a gamer and survival-horror junkie myself, it connected with me on a somewhat deep level.

    Then there was Shutter Island, another confusing, boring movie starring Leo Dicaprio…or so I thought. Deep, thrilling, and that plot twist at the end, a mindfuck I didn’t see coming.

  12. The Last Samurai (one of Cruises’ best performances along with Ken Watanabe), Green Street Hooligans (Not a big fan of Elijah Wood but I find myself liking a lot of his movies-Everything is Illuminated, The Faculty, Sin City- other than LOTR.

  13. I remember wondering why I was even bothering to rent Detroit Rock City cuz I knew I was gonna hate it. Then it became one of my favorite movies. Funny how that works.

  14. Superman Returns is garbage and Jumanji is great.

    That being said: About A Boy. I never knew Hugh Grant was capable of such greatness. Also, Moulin Rouge.

  15. For me, the most surprising movie was most definitely The Avengers.

    I didn’t like the Captain America movie, I didn’t like the Iron Man movies. They absolutely destroyed Thor by turning him into a pretty boy, and I haven’t really enjoyed any of the hulk films either.

    However, I reluctantly went along to see the Avengers and was definitely pleasantly surprised. I went in there really expecting to hate it, but I’ve now been to see it 3 times.

    They really worked on the pretty boy issues that CA and Thor movies had created, and everything seemed to work together really well.

  16. Aliens 3.

    After so many little reviews here and there saying the first two were the best and the other two were crap I went into it expecting it to really suck. To my surprise I found the premise quite exciting, and the film being really interesting throughout. I honestly think of it as the best out of the four Alien movies, which I certainly was not expecting.

    Also, it’s already been mentioned on the sight but: The Signal.

    I was expected a crappy B-movie with no sense to it and really rubbish acting. And although it could be argued it still has an air of that about it, for me overall it was an excellent cinematic detour. Maybe a little messy at times but that only adds to its hectic nature. And the unexpected comedy also added something to it, making the comedy much more funny due to the relief it garnered, but also making the violence then more visceral due to the contrast in scene.

  17. Waiting: Ryan Reynolds fan, but my training as a chef completely turned me off with some of the trailers. I was at a friends house and she wanted to watch it so we did and I loved it.

  18. The Dish. Thought it might be a semi-decent comedy at best, turned out it was a whole lot more than that.

    Also , Kung Fu Panda – went in without any expectations, wound up as my favorite DreamWorks film.

  19. Secondhand Lions. “Family movies,” are usually so preachy and sucky that I avoid them like the plague. However, this movie was BRILLIANT. Robert Duvall should have won an Oscar for this one, and Michael Caine and the kid from Sixth Sense were fantastic as well. There was a lot more depth to this than I expected, and it was funny, sad, and exciting all at the same time. Even my husband thought it was great.

  20. One movie my friends told me about for years(literally, years) before I finally saw it was The Matrix. The problem was Keanu Reaves. I was not a fan of his performances and flat out didn’t believe I would like the movie because he would bug me so much. Not only is the movie rich with subtext and wonderfully shot, but Keanu himself turns in a very appreciated performance. I still can’t believe I stayed away for so long.

  21. Superman Returns was and remains to be not only my favorite Superman film, but my favorite superhero movie in general, and I’m really glad to see someone else defending it for once. I’m always shocked by how much hate that movie stirs up, especially from other Superman fans. It’s such a beautiful and inspiring film with one of the most mature, grown-up incarnations of the character I’ve ever seen. It’s a film about Superman dealing with some very heavy, mature issues and rising to the occasion, as all the best Superman stories do.
    I can never understand what exactly people think makes it so terrible. I mean, for some the problem is that there’s not enough action, but those same people are going to whine about how superhero movies are all action and no substance and will undoubtedly lambast the upcoming Zack Snyder reboot as the worst film of all time. For others the problem is the kid, which as I said was an element of the film that challenged both the man of steel and the audience with a complex adult problem, and was handled in the best possible way. Is it a terrible movie just because the child subplot is there? Is it that the kid exists or that, as many people have complained, Superman is a deadbeat dad for not knowing about the kid’s existence? How does not knowing someone had a child while you were thousands of lightyears away make you a deadbeat dad? And finally a lot of people complain that the film gets kryptonite completely wrong, because they actually didn’t pay any attention to the movie or give it any real logical thought at all.
    Those are three major complaints I always hear about with the film and not a single one of them makes any rational sense unless you’re the kind of person that watched the film in only the most superficial way without letting yourself actually think about it at all.

  22. I have three: Despicable Me, Kung Fu Panda, and The Emperor’s New Groove. From the description, I expected the latter to be a hot mess, but it turned out to be one of my favorite of the Disney animated films.

  23. Dude, I’m so on board with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I saw the trailer ad just thought how stupid it looked, then my nephew wanted to watch it one night for movie night, and I don’t remember laughing that hard since MST3K, or Cinematic Titanic’s “Doomsday’s machine”. The best part about it is the very serious dramatic moments of the film punctuated by these outlandish moments of just sheer insanity. Plus, the amount of big name celebrities doing voices in it just make it that much more enjoyable. I absolutley love that movie. Another flick like this that I really love is Titan A.E. Awesome plot, and once again, so many celebrities doing voices, it just makes it feel more real.

  24. I agree on MacGruber. I laughed so hard I cried.

    And Michael? Not trying to start a fight, just telling you the reason I hate Superman Returns because you seem to think the only way to dislike it is by not thinking about it or mischaracterizing it: It’s boring. It is so absurdly boring I can’t even stand it. I’ve tried to make myself like it through forced watching at least four times, as I like every single other Superman movie (yes, even 3 and 4; I like goofy comics so goofy comic book movies don’t bother me at all), but I just COULDN’T like it. It’s just plain boring, at least to me.

    That being said, if you like it then keep on liking it. Don’t let geek peer pressure get you down. I mean, like I said, I like 3 and 4. In fact (I can’t believe I’m admitting this. . .) I like them the best. It doesn’t make me wrong, it just makes me the minority. And since when was being a geek about conforming to a majority?

  25. Skyline.
    I thought it was going to be just another low budget alien invasion movie about a bunch of 20-somethings, and it kind of was, but the alien designs were absolutely brilliant and the last ten minutes was one of the best endings I have ever seen, and actually (gasp) relatively original.

  26. The Thing, the prequel. Both my dad and I were not very willing to watch this film. As huge fans of the first one, we weren’t expecting the newer one to be as awesome as it is. We didn’t even know at the time that is was a prequel. We just thought that it was a remake. In fact, it is soo wonderfully made that Prometheus should have been what The Thing prequel is. Pure Awesomenessness, thats what it is.

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