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Eight Underrated Films From The Last Eight Years And Where To Watch Them

Sebastian Hunt, The Forum's Head Writer Of Film & TV

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Oscar season has come and gone, and you may have noticed I didn’t bother to offer any sort of coverage. This wasn’t out of disenchantment with the ceremony, nor some bogus boycott reason cooked up by uneducated manbabies.

Rather, I’ve just found that this year I had virtually nothing new to add. Almost every point that could be made about this year’s show had been covered by other, probably better writers. So, I sat in the sidelines. I still made predictions, watched/rewatched nominees, the whole charade. But I didn’t bother to cover the event.

Which brings me to what I’m doing today. The Oscars so often highlights the films everyone knows is great: the critical darlings, the festival breakouts, etc. What it doesn’t usually do is shed light on great lesser known films. Films that flew under the radar, films that faced unfair critical reception, or otherwise haven’t received the attention they deserve.

Which brings me to this. Here, I intend to do what the Oscars didn’t and shed light on those films. I’ve chosen one from the last eight years, and I’ll also include where to watch them. So without further ado, here are eight underrated films from the last eight years:

 

2011: Real Steel

Don’t ask me how, but a film starring Hugh Jackman centered around boxing robots (!) completely flew under the radar. Again: boxing robots. That’s got the appeal of Rocky, RoboCop, and I, Robot all rolled into one. So how did it underperform so drastically?

Middling reviews could be a factor, which led audiences to believe that Real Steel was just another lowbrow, Transformers-grade robot affair. That’s hardly the case. It’s fairly character-driven: Hugh Jackman delivers more than just a perfunctory performance, really sinking his teeth into the complexities of his character.

Real Steel may not be a masterpiece, but it’s a more-than-serviceable sci-fi/action adventure that deserves your viewership.

Real Steel is available to rent on Amazon Prime

 

2012: The Dark Knight Rises

“It wasn’t as good as The Dark Knight” is the single most infuriating as well as the single most common criticism of The Dark Knight Rises. It’s also a criticism that was utterly inevitable. When you’re the follow-up to a film like The Dark Knight – a film among the greatest of all time – meeting expectations isn’t just a hard task, it’s an impossible one.

So, no. The Dark Knight Rises isn’t as good as The Dark Knight. It was never going to be, lightning just doesn’t strike twice like that. Got it? Good. Now we can move on, and recognize The Dark Knight Rises for what it is: a flipping-awesome superhero film and the best trilogy capper of all time, save for perhaps Toy Story 3 (although, Toy Story 4 is soon to be released, so perhaps that doesn’t count).

Tom Hardy’s Bane is a startlingly brilliant successor to the late Heath Ledger’s Joker, the spectacle spectacular, and Christian Bale again delivers a fantastic performance as the Caped Crusader. Considering the often hyperbolic connotations, I rarely use this word, but it really is a masterpiece.

The Dark Knight Rises is available to rent on FandangoNow and the Google Play Store

 

2013: Pain & Gain

Michael Bay is a director hated with such visceral passion among film critics that I genuinely believe that he could produce a film on equal-footing with The Godfather and still receive poor reviews. Or worse, be given no credit for his achievement.

Pain & Gain is my prime reason for this assessment. At first glance, Pain & Gain certainly appears to be typical Michael Bay shlock: it’s ripe with crude humor, over-sexualized stars, etc. But take a closer look and you’ll find that it’s a stunning deconstruction of the American Dream, and a film with far more layers of nuance and complexity than some other, better-rated blockbusters.

Michael Bay is not a poor filmmaker, this makes that much certain. Pain & Gain is a great, intelligent film leagues above typical blockbuster affair.

Pain & Gain is available to rent on Amazon Prime

 

2014: Edge of Tomorrow

Of all the unpopular or otherwise unusual opinions of mine I’ve made public in this piece, this has got to take the cake for my most strange. Not that I like Edge of Tomorrow (although I do). Rather that I believe it is the best film of Tom Cruise’s entire career.

I’ve never really cared for the actor. Top Gun, the Mission Impossible films, and the other well-known films of his career never really did it for me. I didn’t find them to be bad, per-se. Just rather light on substance, and pretty indistinguishable from most films within it’s genre.

But Edge of Tomorrow? I actually really enjoyed that. It takes advantage of its highly creative concept, and extracts strong central performances. It’s a true shame that it underperformed so horribly.

Edge of Tomorrow is available to rent on FandangoNow and the Google Play Store

 

2015: Macbeth

Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth opened to a tepid critic/audience response and a middling box-office gross, but don’t let that put you off it. With Macbeth, Kurzel delivers one of the best Shakespeare adaptations ever produced. At the very least, it’s the most aesthetically and atmospherically faithful adaptation the Bard of Avon has ever seen, so never ceases to be an interesting viewing experience.

As some of you may know, Macbeth is a tragedy – thus, it has an incredibly dark tone. That and the keeping of Shakespeare’s language may turn some off this film. But please, I urge you – even if you’re not the biggest fan of Shakespeare or bleak films, give this a chance. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Also, Michael Fassbender totally owns as the titular character.

Macbeth is available to stream on Amazon Prime

 

2016: The Founder

McDonald’s is such a powerful entity in American culture that it’s hard to imagine a time without it. Even harder is imagining that in the beginning, it was just the creation of one man: Ray Kroc. Kroc came bursting onto the fast-food scene in 1955, when he opened the chain to the masses and ushered in years of Happy Meals, Big Macs, and climbing obesity rates. It’s an American success story for the ages.

Or is it? The Founder takes a look at the whole picture, shedding light on some of the uglier aspects of the restaurant’s past. Kroc, played expertly by Michael Keaton, is an anti-hero for the ages as we watch him steal the growing business from a pair of brothers, played by John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman.

Some critics have dismissed this as a lesser version of The Social Network – and while it’s definitely similar in some regards, The Founder is overall a terrific biopic that absolutely deserved the awards recognition it missed out on.

The Founder is available to stream on Netflix

 

2017: Logan Lucky

Despite opening to largely positive reviews, Logan Lucky feels like a film that was  forgotten almost immediately following its release.

Why was it so overlooked? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. Logan Lucky is a fast-paced, wickedly funny heist film that extracts strong lead performances from Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig. It’s got all the workings of a runaway hit in the vein of 21 Jump Street; something that unfortunately never materialized for this film.

If nothing else, you’d be far better off giving this a chance than rewatching a Seth Rogen or Adam Sandler film you’ve already seen countless times.

Logan Lucky is available to rent on Amazon Prime

 

2018: Searching

With a highly creative aesthetic (the film is entirely set and filmed on a computer) and compelling characters, Searching could be cited as a game-changer. Or at least, if any of you actually saw it.

Unfriended, a 2014 film that pushes the same ‘set on a computer’ concept, may have had a part in Searching’s failure. For those of you who didn’t see it, Unfriended was a visually creative but narratively empty slog of a film that left a sour taste in a lot of audiences’ mouths. Perhaps it turned people off the aesthetic altogether.

I really hope that’s not the case. Searching nurses not only a compelling viewing experience but an active evolution of film language; some visual instances left me floored. That alone makes it a fulfilling viewing experience.

Searching is currently unavailable

These films deserve recognition. Moreso, you deserve them. They’re all great, unique films that you’ll be happy you watched. At the very least, they’re all a lot better than Green Book (this year’s controversial Best Picture winner).

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Eight Underrated Films From The Last Eight Years And Where To Watch Them