Surprise Packs

Ten movies that came up with a surprise, often due to low expectations or least favourable world of mouth and critical appreciaton; otherwise due to the nature of the movies and what it had inside.
*Qualification: 2013 and before.

I. Vampire Journals (1997)
Genre: Gothic Horror
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Cast: David Gunn, Jonathon Morris and Kirsten Cerre
There is no other movie which has surprised me like Vampire Journals. Its combination of the new world and the old, along with its spiritual and material sides of vampirism which acts as a dual-edged sword makes this one a rival to Interview with the Vampire, and our own protagonist himself is another Louis de Pointe du Lac in the making. It has a dark and gloomy world, and yet has controlled blood and gore as well as action. The serenity of this vampire movie is quite unbelievable and even the actors seemed to contribute to it. This is a gem for the true vampire lovers, and is surely underrated by a long way. If one doubts whether these are the best vampire character ever written as the protagonist and the primary antagonist, that doubt might be for real. There are quite a number of memorable lines and there is a lot to remember in this one other than simple dialogues; it haunts, not with its horror, but with an everlasting feeling of sadness which one can confuse with any other feeling which is more positive.

II. Dragonheart (1996)
Genre: Fantasy Action
Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Sean Connery and Dina Meyer
This surprise stars Dennis Quaid, Dina Meyer, and the voice of Sean Connery as Draco, the last remaining dragon in the world. It was one of those movies which could have been lost despite of having a near-perfect knight portrayed by Dennis Quaid and Dina Meyer being the rebel, the beautiful damsel in distress and later more than just that. This might be the greatest dragon story ever told on the big screen, and there are only a few things in the movie world more disappointing than the absence of this movie among the better fantasy adventures. The use of the background story of Avalon, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is well injected into the movie, not as a plot changer, but still an effective add-on and a powerful accelerator. As long as dragons keep running through our fantasy movies, this one also needs its rightful place as the rightful heir to the mythical stories having any kind of flying creature and all type of chivalrous knights.

III. Spring Breakers (2013)
Genre: Action Drama
Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine
This movie might look like just a random party show, but what does this tale come up with? It is a morality tale covered in bikinis, as it gives us a horrifying look into the present day culture which has gone to that path which is nothing less than the worst of all hedonism. It is a twisted allegory towards contemporary culture. There is a Don Juan and there is a Doctor Faustus in all humans beyond the ability for denial, but there is a limit to how far that takes one, and as long as Spring Breakers are concerned, they have taken it to the limits, from the monontonous life to seeking change, they have taken the forbidden path, but still, they are not judged. The new generation has been lost, as it would say, or the most of it. The inherent evil in man has taken control more powerfully. This one can’t work as a morality tale though, as there is a lot of strong outer covering. But what it can do is that it can shock the audience into taking a look into the contemporary world of late night parties, drugs and booze which has taken over the teenage girls, and its raw reflection is Spring Breakers (From my review here:

IV. The Patriot (2000)
Genre: Historical Action
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger and Joely Richardson
The first thing about The Patriot is that there are not many people I know who liked this movie, and none of my friends actually recommended it. But after watching Braveheart, I knew that Mel Gibson is going to be extremely good in such a role, but as the movie as a whole was considered, I was least confident about me liking it. But then the surprising part came up. It was not just a random glorification of one’s own world at the expense of the British, something which most of the formerly colonized world has been trying to do with their art and literature just to get the claps, as a good number of the so called experts find it difficult to find something new and innovative. They use the image of the British colonizer as the most evil thing on Earth, and the colonized as the poor, but lovely creatures who are good enough to be lifted straight to heaven as their goodness can’t be handled by the evil colonizers. Then they glorify the same in the name of patriotism, which is actually pseudo-nationalism. Yes, the depiction of antagonists follows the same route, but other than that, this a very good historical war movie with all the fine elements that you would expect.

V. Starship Troopers (1997)
Genre: Sci-fi Action
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer and Denise Richards
Yes, this movie surprised me and I am quite surprised about how it managed to do so. The most significant thing about this movie is that it had two of my favourite actresses of the past, Dina Meyer and Denise Richards, the 2Ds which I admired. The former took the glory though and is still among my favourites, and this admiration actually came after I watched this one. I guess I rented this one thinking that it was a war movie, and I got a science fiction movie with lots of action. Yes, it was one of the first movies I ever watched on VCD, even as Waterworld was the first among the two VCDs I rented on that day, and it was surely due to Jeanne Tripplehorn. The movie was not just all action, as there was so much of satire embedded in it. The bugs were also very good for the time when I watched this one, but nothing really matched the leading ladies. I had to watch the same movie again when it was available on DVD, and I found it difficult to avoid its inferior sequels too.

VI. Wild Things (1998)
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Director: John McNaughton
Cast: Matt Dillon, Denise Richards and Neve Campbell
If I was not to be surprised by Wild Things, I was never to be surprised by anything throughout my life, and therefore I decided to extend this surprise to the three sequels which followed this one, and I have to admit that it is the final sequel to this one, Wild Things: Foursome which has kept the standards of the first movie. Well, once again, there is one of our favourite Ds, Denise Richards and Neve Campbell is with her to spice up things. The movie has an unbelievable amount of quality with its suspense and everlasting thrills. Even when we think that everything is over, some new twist comes up and takes control. There is no point of this movie worth missing because you will never know when another huge twist of fate makes an entry. There is twist or twist, as treachery rules over the characters of this movie, and it is very difficult to know who is cheating whom and who is on the receiving end. This is more of a reflection of the contemporary world than the time when this movie was released, thus leaving this one ahead of its time.

VII. Now You See Me (2013)
Genre: Caper Thriller
Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher and Melanie Laurent
So, this year adding to the surprise hits list, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco steal the show as the four horsemen who entertains not only the audience inside the movie, but also those outside with not only the thrills, but also the funny lines. They don’t really connect to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation directly with Conquest, War, Famine and Death, even as they do bring a disclosure, an uncovering which might come up more clearly in a possible sequel, as there is the concept of “The Eye” to add to it. I would suspect not only an upcoming apocalypse, but also a final judgement. It is stylish and also sure fun, and its use of CGI has been real appropriate as well as inspiring. Melanie Laurent has come a long way since Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, and successfully portrays her suspicious character and so does Morgan Freeman whose character remains in doubt of being the fifth horseman. There has always been something special about magic, and here it is. (From my review here:

VIII. John Carter (2012)
Genre: Sc-fi Action
Director: Andrew Stanton
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Samantha Morton
The story goes an year back, when I felt the horrible lack of respect to one movie which was better than another movie which was released in 2009. This better movie was John Carter and the inferior movie was Avatar. Even as the box office results and the critics say the other way around, the truth is not to be hidden. John Carter is superior to Avatar in each and every aspect, and unfortunately, the brainwashed audience go for movies reading the biased reviews of the so called critics. John Carter is actually a movie of a revolutionary in many ways – and that man is Carter himself who fights for the people to whom he doesn’t belong, the land to which he is not part of, and brings justice and equality not only to the human-like Martians, but also the oppressed subaltern in the form Tharks. He is that Earthling who changes a world for good, thus becoming a man of the cause. If there is any story that can inspire one, this is it. With that ending which the movie has got, there is no reason why one wouldn’t watch it on Star Movies, every time it makes an entrance. On a parallel Earth, this would have been a grand success, but not here. (From my review here:

IX. Orphan (2009)
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and Isabelle Fuhrman
I came to watch Orphan without having any prior knowledge about the movie, and I have to say that I was surprised indeed. It was a great performance by Isabelle Fuhrman who plays the orphan Esther who is adopted into a family and the mystery concerning her is slowly revealed with its own share of twists. The terror gets more and more extreme for the parents as well as their two other kids. It is a clever movie, and its use of psychological terror is highly effective. There is one little girl and there are deaths. That one little girl has more mystery behind her than the whole town combined. Here, you have a child from the depths of the abyss located in inferno, and here is the one Claudia you wished to see after watching Interview with the Vampire or reading the novel. It needed to have evil and portray it with the mask of innocence, something which Isabelle Fuhrman has accomplished in style, as if nobody else could have. This is one movie for the soul’s own horror, and there is a lot in this movie for the exact same thing.

X. Chloe (2009)
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson
There are a few movies which come across one’s way accidently, and Chloe is one of them, otherwise there would be absolutely no reason why a movie would come to light in this part of the world. Yes, this movie has Liam Neeson and he is very good in this one, not something unexpected from a fantastic actor like him. It also has Julianne Moore who plays the wife who is suspicious of her husband and sends a young call-girl to test him, but ends up falling into the girl’s trap herself. But the best of them all is Amanda Seyfried as Chloe Sweeney, the young girl who is hired to test a much older man’s loyality, but ends up being herself rather than even making an attempt to go into his world. I thought this was going to be some random drama movie concerning a wife doubting her husband, but it turned out to be more than that. Chloe is one movie which surprises in layers, and within those layers of suspense are the elements which bring this movie to this list.


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