This is typically the time of year when good movies are hard to find. At the multiplex, that is. Maybe there are normally some early awards-season hopefuls dropped into limited release, but stuff for the popcorn crowd tends to be... well, House at the End of the Street is a good example. But other than that widely panned thriller, we're seeing some abnormally terrific fare for the mainstream audiences this fall. While I haven't seen Looper yet, the response has almost been Christopher Nolan-level positive in the combination of geek and critical love.
If I do end up one of the Looper lovers, that won't be very surprising, because from what I'm hearing I expect it to be at least very good. Plus, it's written and directed by a filmmaker not known for bad work. But who saw all this love for Dredd 3D coming? It's a low-profile adaptation of a comic that previously led to one of the lamest action movies of the 1990s and is helmed by a guy whose last couple works were so-so at best. Yet audiences are loving it, because it's actually a fun, violent throwback that makes up for its mindlessness by only striving to be simple B-level entertainment.
Now, here's one that will really blow your mind: Pitch Perfect, the college comedy about rival a capella groups, is pretty enjoyable too. Rebel Wilson and Hana Mae Lee are hilarious, Anna Kendrick and Skylar Astin are a charming romantic pairing and, yes, much of the vocal-only pop covers is hard to resist. I went in expecting the worst, partly because I'm a cynic by nature but mostly because I thought it was just a Glee rip-off. But, as a character actually states with a wink and a nod, this is not high schoolers singing through their problems. Don't get me wrong, though. It's nothing exceptional, but it is surprisingly delightful. At times it's even a tad bizarre.
At the end of the summer, I wrote a couple discussion posts focused on movies that disappointed us. Here's the upturn, as I want to hear about the movies that surprised you. For me, the biggest surprise ever was definitely Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, a documentary that appeared to be aimed at solely yanking money out of the hands of the pop singer's fans yet was really a smart and well-crafted look at 21st-century stardom and today's democratic modes of success in the music biz.
Other movies that pleasantly surprised me out of the blue include the rom-com Going the Distance (if you also surprisingly enjoyed it, you may like Pitch Perfect as well), Mean Girls (I didn't know the worth of Tina Fey yet), Unbreakable (because I'd hated Signs) and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which, as a very altered take on my favorite children's book ever, was also my most dreaded film of all time.
Which movies were you most surprised to enjoy? To kick things off, here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
Join the next discussion on Twiter by following Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic) and Movies.com (@Moviesdotcom).