Written by Blake Peterson

January 1, 2016

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation 

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie 


I’m embarrassed by the amount of action on this list, but denying how much fun I have whilst watching an action movie is not something I can readily shrug off.  The Mission: Impossible series is perhaps the most

I’ve always liked Melissa McCarthy, but I’ve never really gotten the hype.  Save for Bridesmaids, a comedy favorite in which she steals the show, she’s mostly headlined crowd pleasers ultimately juvenile and forgettable.  Identity Thief still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  So Spy is the film that got me hooked on her talent — with a wickedly funny screenplay and a hilarious (and I mean hilarious in all-caps) cast to back her, she lets herself be known as a modern Lucille Ball and more.  I can’t think of any recent screen talent who can deliver a punchline, undertake a physical comedy routine, with so much devotion.  I haven’t laughed this hard during first viewing since Airplane!, and that’s saying something.

Spy Directed by Paul Feig 


I wish more films like Far From the Madding Crowd existed in the present-day: so sweeping and cinematic is it that we suddenly feel the need to read a centuries-old romantic stunner atop a cliff hanging over the ocean on a blustery afternoon, the wind blowing through our hair  

Far From the Madding Crowd Directed by Thomas Vinterberg 


We were fortunate to get both Spy and What We Do in the Shadows in the comedy genre this year.  Both are confident, sly, and heartily funny — but the latter is a thousand notches more subtle, with humor more

What We Do in the Shadows Directed by Jemaine Clement & 


Lots of people figure Amy Schumer to be one of their new favorite comediennes, but I’m proud to admit that I knew her before everyone else did, when she debuted her incredible TV series, Inside Amy Schumer, in 2013.  Thanks to a glowing recommendation from Entertainment Weekly, I took a chance, and fell in love.  While most are just discovering her, I’m pleased to see her go from hidden gem to worldwide phenomenon.  She is one of the funniest women in show business, and Trainwreck is the perfect coming out party. 

Trainwreck Directed by Judd Apatow 


I have a bad habit of discussing just how dead the horror movie genre is in nearly every single one of my modern horror movie reviews, but It Follows gives me looming hope that the days of Michael Myers and the Blair Witch are far from over.  Atmospheric, sensationally frightening (but not overtly so), and featuring a star making performance from Maika Monroe, it is something for the history books.  Take notes, kids.

It Follows Directed by David Robert Mitchell


Had this indie come out toward the beginning of award season, I’m confident it would have gained more traction, possibly getting Elisabeth Moss an Oscar nod in the process.  But things aren’t always so simple — maybe Queen of Earth, feeling like modern Polanski, will arise years from now as something of a cult classic.  Emulating a more aggressive Persona, it is an acting movie in every sense of the term.  The chemistry between Moss and Katherine Waterston is brutal and honest — so high is its tension we expect it to turn into a horror movie.  If only. 

Queen of Earth 

Directed by Alex Ross Perry 


2015 has hosted a number of documentaries revolving around tragic figures in music (What Happened, Miss Simone?, Kurt Cobain: Montage of HeckJanis: Little Girl Blue), but none captured my heart in the same way that “Amy” did, which so convincingly strips the inimitable Amy Winehouse of fame induced idealization that she no longer feels like one of the most important singers of the 2000s; she, instead, feels like a girl we grew up with that got lost, with us not able to do anything to change the tragedy waiting in the future.  Wisely staying away from face-to-face interviews with those who knew her (all our eyes see is rare archival footage and candid photographs), it is immersive, thoroughly crushing.

Amy Directed by Asif Kapadia 


I haven't seen everything - I'm not rich nor employed at a fancy magazine, so what am I supposed to do as a poor college student? Still, I saw enough movies this year to make a Best Of list, and it's my website.  (And I haven't seen RoomLove & Mercy45 Years, Brooklyn, The Big Short, The Revenant, or Sicario, so if I missed something you liked, I either didn't like it or I haven't seen it.)

dependable action series alive today, always improving and never underestimating the star power of Tom Cruise.  It is the best in the franchise, so energetic we’d question drug use if it weren’t backed by such massive talent.

as orchestral music chimes in the distance.  Its romance is understated, its acting excellent, its patient aura startling.  It is perhaps the most underrated film of the year, with Carey Mulligan providing us with a performance that knocks us off our feet.  

Taika Waititi

deadpan than The Office could ever provide.  Making for one of the strangest films of the year (it’s a mockumentary revolving around the daily lives of vampires), it is also among the most brilliant.  You’ll find yourself laughing days later, sometimes even at things you didn’t notice very closely before.

Carol is the kind of movie that sits with you long after it’s over, at first cold to the touch but increasingly warm the more you think about it.  A romance film of unusual beauty, it features career making performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, filmmaking finesse from the incomparable Todd Haynes.  

Carol Directed by Todd Haynes


I have a tendency to enforce the age old stereotype that movies “used to be” good, with only glimmers of promise in the New Age.  But that’s cynical thinking, not necessarily true because everything is a matter of taste, not fact.  So The Martian is a movie of celebratory pleasure — it’s a blockbuster based on cinematic intelligence alone.  We don’t flock to see it because of brand new, incredible special effects.  We see it because it’s funny, moving, and human.  

The Martian Directed by Ridley Scott 


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