Being that it's New Year's Eve and the cinematic calendar year is on the verge of turning to a new chapter, I'll be offering my personal insight into what I encountered in 2015. First up is a look into the year's most underrated films. In order to derive my list I examine a wide range of criteria including my most valued variable, a film's box office performance, as well as a film's critical reception (via Rotten Tomatoes) and the ever-important moviegoer opinion (via IMDB). I also try to avoid including films that are recognized mightily throughout the awards season run to the Oscars. So here they are, 2015's most underrated films:
Honorable Mention: The Golden Globe and SAG recognized film (for supporting actor Michael Shannon), 99 Homes ... The female centered drama, Clouds of Sils Maria ... Thriller and Netflix stream option, Creep ... Irish war action/thriller, '71.
Box Office: NA - RT: 89% - IMDB: 6.7
Director Riley Stearns impressed audiences at the 2014 Philadelphia Film Festival with his indie psycho-thriller, Faults. Stearns' wife and lead actress, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, stars as a woman brainwashed by a cult-like group called "Faults". And when her parents approach a self-proclaimed "de-programmer" named Ansel to help reverse their daughter's controlled thoughts and behaviors, Ansel finds himself entranced by the young woman's seductive powers. Faults is an unknown that delivers odd laughs and cerebral thrills in Coen brothers-like fashion. The film may be difficult to locate, but it's worth watching on a few available online streaming options.
#4. Kilo Two Bravo
Box Office: Less than $1 million - RT: 100% - IMDB: 7.1
As an entry from 2015's Philadelphia Film Festival, one of the hidden gems in the programming was Paul Katis' true story war thriller, Kilo Two Bravo. The film follows a company of British soldiers stationed by the Kajaki Dam in Afghanistan in 2006. On a routine mission to approach some Taliban militants members of the company find themselves trapped in an active mine field. With the smallest of movements putting all of their lives at risk, these brave soldiers must navigate through the mine field in order to rescue their injured friends. Boasting a stern tension that almost puts the Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker, to shame, Kilo Two Bravo is a heart-pounding ride.
#3. The End of the Tour
Box Office: $3 million - RT: 91% - IMDB: 7.5
From the look of the film's specs, James Ponsoldt's The End of the Tour was adored by both critics and general viewers alike. The only problem is, not nearly enough people have seen this wonderful film. Jesse Eisenberg stars at Rolling Stone Interviewer, David Lipsky, who follows American author, David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), on the final 5 days of his book tour. There is a calm and peaceful aura surrounding this dialogue heavy and soulfully rich examination of a great contemporary artistic mind. Jason Segel gives a magnificent and overlooked turn that finds itself sadly omitted from any and every awards season discussion. Thankfully, though, this brief encounter between reporter and novelist poses as a beautiful microcosm of human interaction and personal relationships. The End of the Tour requires the viewer to open their mind and think for themselves, which is something I truly admired about Ponsoldt's latest success.
Box Office: $1.5 million - RT: 81% - IMDB: 7.0
I typically avoid placing Golden Globe nominated films into my Top 5 list, yet Infinitely Polar Bear is the ultimate exception to the rule. In a wild announcement that no one so coming at all, Mark Ruffalo finds himself as a Best Actor - Comedy finalist at the heralded upcoming awards show. Back in January 2014 when I had the pleasure of attending the Sundance Film Festival, many critics threw their support for an eventual Best Picture nominee, Whiplash, but I felt a stronger connection to Maya Forbes dramedy, Infinitely Polar Bear. Ruffalo is spectacular as Cam Stuart, a bi-polar father of two who is forced to play Mr. Mom while his wife ventures to New York for grad school. This hilarious and reassuring family drama is what feel-good movies are all about and I'm grateful that the Hollywood Foreign Press had the backbone to recognize the film.
Box Office: $7 million - RT: 83% - IMDB: 7.8
Generally, I'm able to find some films to add onto this list that critics panned, but I approved. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case in 2015. Instead, I was left to scramble and sift through well-received titles that came and went without an appropriately-sized audience to enjoy them. The most notable film of this type is the priceless coming-of-age indie drama, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. As the rare winner of both the Jury Prize and Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's adapted story is an absolute must-see! Thomas Mann takes center stage as Greg, a high school loner who keeps civil relations with each of his school's many cliques. And after Greg forms an unlikely bond with a female classmate (Olivia Cooke) suffering from leukemia, the relationship helps open his eyes to the world. Filled with superb direction, a trio of fantastic leading performances and a unique script that perfectly blends humor with dramatics, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is in a class of its own. It's currently available for rent on Redbox and, believe me when I say, this is one film you definitely shouldn't miss!