The Underrated, Under-appreciated and Undiscovered of 2015
Every year end while making my Top Ten list, I inevitably try to cram viewings of as many indies that I didn't get around to seeing as possible in hopes of being as thorough as possible in my selections in that coveted list. This year as it turned out, I STILL haven't been able to watch everything that I wanted to (so if some underrated indie didn't make this list that you love, I apologize!), but I couldn't wait any longer once my list solidified itself.
Because I end up with so many obscure honorable mentions that I'd love for people to know about, last year I came up with the idea for THIS list. This list is an oddball collection of movies that for some reason or another, didn't really find their way to audiences (see last year's post about the underrated, underappreciated and undiscovered of 2014.) Last year I classified underrated as films critics gave a bad wrap. This year, these ones got more mixed reviews than down right terrible...but these also failed to catch fire at the box office. Last year I described the underappreciated films as ones that audiences failed to connect with, but generally knew about and the undiscovered were ones they hadn't heard of at all. This year, the line will probably blur between all three categories honestly. You might find that you haven't heard of any of them, or that you have but forgot about it. No matter. These are the films that I think deserved better last year....whether they got a bad wrap somehow or you just never heard of their existence to begin with. CAUTION: LONG POST AHEAD.
THE MAN FROM UNCLE
The Man from UNCLE did get a fresh tomato at Rotten Tomatoes, but no one was really that enthusiastic about it. A movie with as much beauty as this had definitely didn't deserve to be forgotten so fast, and boy would I eat up a sequel.
I hadn't heard much about Woody Allen's latest, except that it seemed to focus on a relationship with an older man and a younger gal, as well as the fact it got incredibly mixed to poor reviews. Allen can occasionally be pretty hit (Midnight in Paris) or miss (To Rome with Love) but perhaps there was a chance that this was unfairly hated similar to last year's other Emma Stone starrer Magic in the Moonlight. Turns out that's exactly what happened...except in this case I can understand why not everyone loved it. This is definitely an acquired taste, as it's a dark comedy...but somehow a light, breezy flippant one. It's Crime & Punishment accompanied by nice cinematography, a jazzy soundtrack and likable actors. The subject matter surely put some off, and while it certainly is a strange concoction, I really enjoyed the surprises it had for me.
Joy was not welcomed by critics who loved the last two collaborations Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and David O' Russell. Joy was also not welcomed by a good majority of the film world I follow on Twitter. Reaction to this movie was incredibly mixed, and while I understand why, this film certainly has a lot going for it. The problem is, the movie tends to be two movies. One which is the biography of a hard working, down on her luck woman (that part I REALLY enjoyed and resonated with) and the other the origin of her first invention (which on the other hand could sometimes be pretty tedious.) As a result, this movie is good when it could have been great, but it has more positive than negative (Jennifer Lawrence once again under the direction of O' Russell gives a wonderful performance) so I don't understand the pure hatred it's getting.
Krampus eventually settled on a positive score at Rotten Tomatoes, but it was pretty close there for awhile that it would be rotten. Not everyone loved Krampus as much as I did, because the movie played it pretty straight. To me, that made it all the more goofy and lovable. Original review HERE.
Like Krampus, The Visit's tomato score took awhile to settle as well. I myself was incredibly put off by the first 20 minutes, so it's easy for audiences to write this off and not give it a chance. However, if you love a good horror comedy, you're making a mistake. Having seen it twice and really admiring what Shyamalan went for, I really hope this is the film that marks him turning a corner.
The screwball Sundance comedy Mistress America came and went from art house theaters. I never really saw it talked about much by anyone, as most people preferred to talk about Noah Baumbach's other film released this year (While We're Young.) I had more fun with the kindred movie spirit of Frances Ha, and wished more people that did see it liked it or talked about it more. Original review HERE.
Last year, the acclaimed documentary The Wolfpack won the best documentary prize at Sundance. But somehow that wasn't enough for anyone to go see it. It doesn't seem like documentaries are the easiest things to market, but they had a lot of hype that went wasted. Original review HERE.
The Walk was a pleasant film and a breath of fresh air coming from Robert Zemeckis who had previously been in a slump (though I never did get around to Flight, so apologies there.) I remember seeing preview for it for months, but when it finally came out it wasn't a blip on anyone's radar. For all the beautiful 3D in this movie, no one went to see it. The Walk was essentially forgotten in the hype of The Martian. It's too bad audiences couldn't embrace them both. Original review HERE.
Even though some movies can have as strong performances as all the other oscar bait out there, they just don't have the pull to be anything more than a solid drama. 99 Homes pulled at the heart strings of all who watched it, but somehow can't make it further than that in the collective conscience. This certainly isn't the easiest movie to sit through, but it's an important one about human nature.
I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS
I really loved I'll See You in My Dreams. It was a breath of fresh air in a very dull summer. It's a shame to me that Blythe Danner didn't get more attention for this performance which to me, one of the most truly whole characters I'd seen in a long time. Her character is lived in and so very real. She wasn't doing anything flashy, she just was showing us a woman and what she'd been through in her life. I really wish more people had seen this.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS
The first time I saw The Last Five Years, I was really put off by how straight musical it was and how unprepared I was for that. And then, just one of the songs caught in my head and the moment the movie ended...I wanted to watch it again. The movie basically goes in a perfect circle so when you're at the end, you're basically at the beginning again. This is basically like the musical equivalent of my all-time favorite (500) Days of Summer, a film that dissects a relationship and gives you insights into every stage of it. It released to no fanfare last February, so besides musical buffs, I'd be surprised if anyone has heard of it. If this is your thing, definitely check it out.
THE FINAL GIRLS
The Final Girls is one of the rare horror films (also a comedy and a parody) that can actually be labeled as delightful. If you love the horror genre, you can't help but have a blast watching this movie that pays homage to all the classic tropes in horror. It's so much fun, this movie was so very close to making my top ten list. Seriously, next Halloween check this one out!!
QUEEN OF EARTH
This movie was so unbelievably close to making my top ten list. I really really really loved it. It's a strange little film that somehow makes you feel on edge the entire time as it compares and contrasts two summers that two best friends spent together in a lake house. The first year, one of the friends (played by Elizabeth Moss) has everything together while her best friend (Katherine Waterston) is completely depressed. But in the other, their situations have completely reversed and the friend who once had everything together is now on the verge of a mental breakdown. The dialogue in this is fantastic and I must say, it features one of the most epic verbal slams I've ever seen in a movie!
Like Mud before it, Cop Car is about two boys on an adventure, who get into a lot more trouble than they bargained for. On a walk, these two little lads come upon what they think is an abandoned cop car and decide to take it on a joyride. When they look in the trunk though, they discover the situation might be a lot more dangerous than they supposed. The great thing about this movie, is that it really only examines a certain moment in time. What came before doesn't matter, and what comes after can only be imagined by the audience. Instead, we are treated to this brief moment in time, and what it means for these two kids.
Phoenix is basically the World War II version of Vertigo. A woman, who was betrayed by her husband and sent to a concentration camp had to undergo facial reconstruction surgery. When she returns, he does not recognize her one bit...but thinks she looks familiar enough to pass as his wife so that they can both claim some of her money. To make her believable, he makes her over to look just like his wife. Phoenix was absolutely riveting and heartbreaking. Check it out!
So that's all for now, but trust me... I have about a dozen more I need to watch and even more that could have made this list. Feel free to share yours below. And be sure to come back next week when I finally reveal my Top Ten AND give you a preview of what's in store at Sundance.