The Eight Most Pleasantly Surprising Movies of 2008

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Last week I wrote a piece that talked about how there were many movies this year whose trailers got me all jacked up in anticipation, only to be let down when the final product was released. There’s nothing worse than having high expectations shattered, but the reverse is actually quite nice. Going into a film expecting nothing, and coming out glad you came doesn’t happen all that often, but this year, it actually was quite a common occurrence. Here are eight movies this year that were completely not what I was expecting.

1) Ghost Town


“I’m in a movie about hilarious ghosts? Have you seen my @#$#ing BAFTA awards?”

The Expectation: “Wait, so this is like a funny version of The Sixth Sense? Because no one’s ever parodied that before. Why would Ricky Gervais ever agree to be in this movie? Shouldn’t he be writing a new Emmy winning TV show and being the funniest man on the planet?”

The End Product: We never should have doubted Gervais for a second. He’s the most likeably unlikeable human on the planet, if that makes any sense, and that carriee over perfectly into Ghost Town. What could have been a complete throwaway was instead an enjoyable experience, a hard feat to accomplish with a completely absurd plot as a jumping off point.

2) Wanted


The “Loom of Fate”? Really?

The Expectation: “Why the hell are all these good actors agreeing to be in this movie? What are they talking about looms for? What do you mean they ‘curve’ bullets? That’s the most retarded thing I’ve ever heard. Angelina gets naked? Alright I’m there.”

The End Product: Once you learn to accept the absurdity of it all, Wanted was actually one of the most enjoyable movies of the year. The action sequences weren’t just cool, some of them will be thought of as downright legendary soon enough. Here’s hoping the inevitable sequel measures up.

3) Role Models


Yeah I think they were pretty skeptical going in too.

The Expectation: “OK Paul Rudd is pretty funny. Yeah Stifler is pretty funny. Is that McLovin? Where the hell did this movie come from? Is Judd Apatow directing it? No? #@%$ that!“

The End Product: The interaction between Chris Mintz-Plasse and Rudd made the movie worth watching. The integration of the fantasy role-playing league made for a bunch of memorable moments, and the entire script was far more smartly written than anyone ever thought it would be.

4) Iron Man


Shortly after Iron Man’s first FWI.

The Expectation: “Seriously, they made an Iron Man movie? Well, I guess they’ve beaten all the other good superheroes to death with a shovel, so it’s time to move onto the second tier I guess. Who’s Tony Stark? Robert Downey Jr.? Isn’t he in jail? God, this is going to be a CGI disaster.”

The End Product: Instead what we found was one of the most fun, carefree superhero movies ever. The Dark Knight was all grit and grime, but Iron Man was a wink and a martini, thanks to the rehabilitated Downey Jr. who this year is starting his life all over again.

5) Forgetting Sarah Marshall


I will use ANY excuse to post a picture of Mila Kunis.

The Expectation: “God, how many movies can Apatow crap out in a year? I remember when he only did one at a time…and they were good. Who the hell is in this movie? Who is Jason Segel? Who is this Jack Sparrow-looking British dude? Oh dear lord, Mila Kunis is smoking hot now. Alright, I’ll give it a shot.”

The End Product: Don’t doubt Apatow OR his Freaks and Geeks alumni. Jason Segel proved to be a most empathetic leading man, and the double eye-candy of Mila Kunis and Kristin Bell helped as well. Russell Brand made an unforgettable debut as Aldus Snow, but the highlight of the entire thing had to be one very elaborate vampire puppet musical.

6) The Midnight Meat Train


If you haven’t seen that guy on the subway, you ARE that guy on the subway.

The Expectation: “Some dude kills people on a subway. Wow I’m totally buying that as original. Oh it’s Vinnie Jones? He’s fallen along way since Snatch huh? And what’s that douchebag doing in there who’s from every chick flick ever? I hope he gets his face hacked in.”

The End Product: Probably the most startling and fascinating horror project of the year (#$%@ The Strangers). It was barely released anywhere, but if you can find it, you’re in for a gory treat. As an added bonus it’s even got a Shyamalan twist ending, but shockingly enough, it doesn’t suck!

7) Definitely, Maybe


Yeah, I volunteered at campaign headquarters too. The girls did NOT look like that.

The Expectation: “Babe, please do NOT make me go see this movie. I’ll do anything you want. I’ll go to the mall, I’ll go to the John Mayer concert, ANYthing. God you want to bang Ryan Reynolds don’t you? Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

The End Product: The people behind Love, Actually did it again (using a comma this time as well). The movie was charming, Ryan Reynolds was likable and Abigail Breslin was NOT Dakota Fanning. Plus it featured three superhotties in Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weiz and Isla Fisher. And in real life he’s married to Scarlett Johansson. DAMN YOU RYAN REYNOLDS!

8 ) Tropic Thunder



The Expectation: “God Ben Stiller, make something good since Zoolander OK? And…aw man is that Jack Black? It’s a movie about making a movie, is it supposed to be like an Apocalypse Now spoof? Seems like quite the budget for a parody. Hey, that black guy kind of sounds familiar. Wait…no way.”

The End Product: My vote for hands-down the funniest film of the year. The ensemble cast was amazing, and most noteworthy was Tom Cruise in his best role in years as a dickhead studio exec. And of course there was Robert Downey Jr. making his second critical and box office triumph of the summer. And he did it in blackface. Wow.

I think this is a pretty complete list for the year, that is unless ‘The Spirit’ rocks my #@%$ing socks off. Yeah, not holding my breath for that one.


  1. Dana December 18, 2008
  2. mokgohan January 19, 2009
  3. Jes January 29, 2009
  4. Rich April 15, 2009
  5. John August 30, 2009
  6. Matt January 26, 2010

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