What were your movie great expectations?

Great Expectations is out this week. There have been precisely 736 film adaptations of Great Expectations, so that Dickens guy must be raking it in on the royalties front. I don’t mind the prospect of this latest version, and not because it has Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter, who seem to be in bloody everything these days.

The reason I welcome the film is because it is directed by Mike Newell. The football aficionados among you might ask what a former Blackburn Rovers and Everton striker is doing directing Dickens, while the non-90s football followers among you are probably wondering why I just made a lame gag that didn’t make sense. C’mon, it’s not as if it’s the first time.

Mike Newell the director – forget the footballer a second, will you – is one of my favourite filmmakers. While he’s no Kubrick or Aronofsky, Newell makes decent movies. Films you may not read about come awards time, but films that have great moments. And he is diverse. Newell directed Into The West, the best Irish film about a mystical horse every made. Newell directed Four Weddings and a Funeral, which magically retains its capacity to make you laugh nearly 20 years on. Newell directed the absorbing crime drama Donnie Brasco, in which he cajoled Al Pacino into playing a character instead of Al Pacino SHOUTING!! Newell directed one of the best of the Harry Potter movies, The Goblet of Fire. Newell directed Mona Lisa Smile. Ah heck, I can’t really defend Mona Lisa Smile in a logical sense, but I still love it.

The point is that Newell tends to make a film that is totally different to the last one he made. I think he’s a great director. But he’s not a name you hear bandied about when people talk about great directors. Maybe if his films were in black and white, or in Polish, he’d be more lauded. Not many people go into a Mike Newell film with great expectations, is what I am getting at, so it’s a bit ironic he’s the man at the helm of this particularly monikered Charles Dickens classic. Perhaps the lack of expectation is what makes me enjoy his films more.

So what are the films throughout my movie-going life which I had great expectations about seeing? When I went to see Batman in the late 80s, I thought it was going to be bloody brilliant. And it was. When I went to see Jurassic Park a few years later, it blew me away as much as I had hoped. Which is strange, because the more I watch it now the more I think it is a bit of a mess. A fun mess, but a bit of a mess. But then that’s probably down to the fact that a film’s continuing greatness is inversely proportional to the number of times it is shown on ITV2 (see the Bourne movies).

Movie expectations are all relative, however. Would I have been as blown away by Patrick Swayze in Road House had I seen it on a big screen first instead of a little one? Uh… yeah, probably, actually. Bad example. It goes without saying though that when you sit down to watch something you think is going to be a pile of crud, you tend to enjoy it at least slightly when it turns out not to be a complete and utter pile of crud. There are exceptions to this, of course. Something that is known as ‘The Transformers Sequel Equation’. No matter how bad you expected those two movies to be before the lights went down, their bone-crushing emptiness somehow managed to take all feeling out of the experience. So let me know what films you were really excited about that matched your expectations and which ones you were excited about that were unable to match the anticipation?



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