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MOST UNDERRATED FILMS OF 2015 BY MARK SULLIVAN

Tom Hardy plays both Kray brothers in LEGEND in an article by guest contributor Mark Sullivan
BY MARK SULLIVAN: Now that we're nearing the midpoint of 2016, it feels appropriate to look back on last year in movies. There's always a temptation in January and February to hustle out a bunch of "best of" lists regarding the previous year, but sometimes it's best to let a few months pass and gain some more perspective on the year that was. And in that spirit, I wanted to take a look at some of the films I'd label as the most underrated ones of 2015.  

DOPE 

DOPE got some respect in certain circles and was recognized by many as one of the better indie films of the year. However, it didn't get the kind of major publicity it probably deserved. In fact, the biggest story about the film, as written on The Wrap, was that it was the first major movie to accept Bitcoin for ticket purchases. That's all well and good, but this project deserved recognition on its own merit as well. Starring relative unknown Shameik Moore, who's sure to get more feature roles in the near future, it's a bizarre and distinctly modern coming of age story that's equal parts funny and impactful. The quirky script will be too much for some viewers, but it's ultimately a well-made film.  

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA 

The story of Moby Dick never seems to go away. It influences countless works of literature, and believe it or not, it even has a modern impact on Internet gaming. Betfair's platform features a "Great Blue" slot reel that focuses entirely on a great whale from the deep sea. It's not explicitly a Moby Dick game, per se, but given that the site's other casino games often involve known characters and works of fiction, one can imagine the influence. And slot reels aside, there's also a Moby Dick flash arcade game that bounces around different gaming sites online. But IN THE HEART OF THE SEA might be the most notable film based on, but not explicitly about, Moby Dick. It earned poor reviews, but if you like intelligent storytelling, wild visuals, and a sense of adventure, it will probably appeal to you. Not to mention Chris Hemsworth is terrific.  

LOVE & MERCY 

This might take my award as the most under-appreciated film of 2015. LOVE & MERCY was a biopic about the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. While critics loved it, the movie never received a wide release and it was left out of most award shows. The film starred Paul Dano and John Cusack playing Wilson at different points in life, and more than anything delved into the psychological issues Wilson famously dealt with even as he uncovered his own genius. Fans of the band will probably buy in more than others, but anyone who appreciates a good film can find something to enjoy in LOVE & MERCY.

BONE TOMAHAWK 

Western savagery is pretty well documented, not only in real history but in countless films, TV shows, and video games. With Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar pretty much brought the idea of violence in the Old West to life for fans in a way that should have made us all pretty immune to this particular brand of treachery and savagery. But BONE TOMAHAWK may have re-set the bar. Overshadowed by Quentin Tarantino's THE HATEFUL EIGHT (because both starred Kurt Russell and the latter got the wide release), this was an action-packed, Old West gunslinger.  

EX MACHINA 

It may have been nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars, but EX MACHINA still felt largely overlooked in 2015. It may just be that the subject of artificial intelligence is overexposed in Hollywood. However, rather than being yet another tale of how AI becomes dangerous and threatens to overthrow humanity, EX MACHINA presented a smaller and more sophisticated take. Oscar Isaac played a major tech mogul hiding away at mountain retreat perfecting humanoid AI machines. When he recruits an employee (Domhnall Gleeson) to "test" his latest masterpiece simply by interacting with her, however, the ethical conflicts of creating consciousness take center stage. It's a beautiful, fresh, and intelligent take on a subject that's largely been worn out.

LEGEND:

This Signature Reads article called Tom Hardy 2015's most underrated actor, and it's a fair point considering how little attention he got for his quiet but excellent work in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. But LEGEND, a story about two notorious British gangsters who happen to be identical twins, might have showed off Hardy's talents more than any other film to date. The movie does drag at times, but Hardy's work is enough to keep you engaged, just as it always is. Several of these films actually did very well with critics, but in terms of popular opinion, award recognition, and in some cases box office numbers, it feels as if they all deserved more. Mark Sullivan is a film fanatic and part-time movie blogger. He hopes to become an indie screenwriter when he completes his MA in creative writing.

By Guest Contributor Mark Sullivan
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