Movies

The Most Underrated Films Of 2015

We recently published our list of the year’s best films, comprising everything from unconventional indies like Tangerine to Oscar shoe-in Room. But the story of any given year in film goes beyond the movies about which everyone — or almost everyone — can agree. Sometimes it’s the outliers — the little-seen, the critically-ignored — that we remember most, that help to define a year. (Someday others will see War Horse as one of Spielberg’s best films, right?) We asked our writers to pick one film from this year they consider underrated or misunderstood. The question yielded some fascinating and unexpected responses.

The D-Train
Subtly subversive comedies never get their due come awards season (or really any comedies, for that matter). Comedy, by its very nature, doesn’t tell you how important it is, and awards voters generally aren’t smart enough to notice anything that isn’t shouting. (The only comedies that ever win Oscars are the ones that are full of inside jokes about the movie industry, like Shakespeare in Love or The Artist). Luckily I’m a hero, and I’m here to tell you that one overlooked gem you probably missed this year was The D-Train. It seems like every studio comedy of the last few years has had to include at least one gay panic or cutesy, gay-but-not-really-gay bromance joke like it was a legal requirement. The D-Train takes one of those bromance subplots and treats it like a real thing, rather than just some throwaway joke. Which, paradoxically, ends up being way funnier. If you like a comedy that isn’t afraid to “go there,” check out The D-Train, which is much more like an Alexander Payne movie than a “Jack Black movie.” — Vincent Mancini

Maggie
This film was more than overlooked: It never got the lift it deserved at all. Ahhnold does a fine job conveying somber emotion, and the story offers a fresh take on a bloated genre. Many zombie films today are recycled bloodbaths. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Maggie slows things down, homing in on one father/daughter relationship (between Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin)  as a zombie outbreak unfolds. We get to see a lot of the pain and profound implications other zombie films brush over. On top of that, it’s suspenseful and pulls off a successful slow burn without ever being boredom. If nothing else, it’s a reason to look forward to more screenplays from John Scott 3. — Jameson Brown


Vacation
People didn’t really like the new Vacation all that much. But, even in the sometimes cynical crevasses of movie and culture writing, I’ve found a faction of people like me who think this movie is really funny. (We meet twice a month in secret, in the shadows.) Yes, I can objectively say the new Vacation has a lot of problems, but I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. (I should add I saw it twice. After seeing it once at an early press screening, I paid money to see it again.)

Its problem is that the big, bombastic “laughs” are terrible. No one needed to see Christina Applegate vomit multiple times while running a sorority obstacle course. But it nails the small humor: There’s a scene where a local yokel has a rat sitting on his shoulder. When Rusty Griswold (a game Ed Helms) comments that he likes this guy’s pet rat, the guy says, “What?” Then looks at his shoulder and freaks out, saying, “I don’t know him,” as he swats the rat away. (Okay, I realize this description is not helping my case, but please just know I found this funny.)

So, whatever! It’s not a great movie. But I laughed a lot. And I’m not the only one who laughed. There are a few of us out there. I’m here to let you know that you are not alone. — Mike Ryan

Meet the Patels
Ravi Patel and his sister, filmmaker Geeta Patel, team up on this rom-com documentary with a somewhat gimmicky premise — “What happens when an Indian-American guy lets his parents try to arrange his love life?” —  and manage to turn it into a surprisingly moving exploration of one’s obligation to family and heritage. Aziz Ansari rightly got a lot of credit for his portrayal of the Indian-American experience on his Netflix series Master of None, a show on which Ravi Patel appears. But Meet the Patels certainly also deserves some attention for its nuanced look at what it means, for both parent and child, to have a soul split between two cultures. — Jen Chaney

Crimson Peak
Universal clearly had no idea how to market Guillermo del Toro’s latest. The trailers made it look like a straight-up horror film, but instead viewers were treated to a gothic romance in the vein of the Brontës on cocaine and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. The lush film — seriously, every costume and set piece is exquisite — boasts a stellar cast and one Charlie Hunnam, and Jessica Chastain’s sister-in-law-from-hell in particular is a delight to watch. She chews through so much scenery that it is an absolute marvel that the house is left standing in the end. While it isn’t a particularly scary or subtle film, it is a profoundly watchable one, ruminating on the twisted side of love and the dark underbelly of human nature. — Alyssa Fikse

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